Inside the 19th Century time capsule found in the Highlands

It holds some fine details of life for one Highland community during the late 19th Century - from the date of the first ripe strawberry of the season to a rent reprieve for crofters during Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee year.

Thursday, 18th January 2018, 11:26 am
Updated Thursday, 18th January 2018, 11:27 am
The time capsule gives a unique glimpse into the lives of those living around Loch Torridon in the late 1880s. PIC: Creative Commons/Flickr/Chris Combe.

The time capsule, from 1887, was found embedded in the wall of the old Coire Church, which overlooks Loch Torridon, Western Ross, and serves as a unique social document of those living in the area.

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The glass jar, packed with a collection of coins, newspaper cuttings, a local gazette called the Gladiator and a handwritten letter, was discovered in 2015 ahead of the church’s conversion by its new owner, from the United States, who transformed the humble place of worship into a modern residence complete with infinity pool.

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Coire Church, which overlooks Loch Torridon, was once at the heart of the community but has now been converted into a luxury home complete with infinity pool. PIC:

Analysis of its contents was carried out by AOC Archaeology with the time capsule now held by Gairloch Heritage Museum in Wester Ross.

The time capsule, which was recently included in a project to define Highland heritage in 16 objects, marks the building of the new church which was created in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year.

It contained a number of coins released to mark the occasion, including the short-lived double florin and a half crown, as well as a pamphlet about the new church, a handwritten letter about the time capsule, a series of press cuttings - from The Scotsman, The Times and the Inverness Courier - and a copy of a local news sheet called The Gladiator.

Coire Church, which overlooks Loch Torridon, was once at the heart of the community but has now been converted into a luxury home complete with infinity pool. PIC:

The Gladiator, which includes limericks and jokes, includes information on a whooping cough epidemic and the date of the first ripe strawberry appearing in the Loch Torridon area - June 26th.

An effort to tickle trout, when the fish is put in a trance by rubbing its belly before taking it from the water, was made in the River Corrie on June 20, according to report.

The main article, called The Yankeries, is a personal account from May 9 1887, of the

opening day of the American Exhibition in London. It focuses on the world famous

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with the writer describing the huge crowds in attendance.

Buffalo Bill and “two girls who make some really wonderful shots with repeating rifles” are mentioned in the story which is illustrated by a drawing which compares the headdress of a Native American chief and a Victorian lady.

Meanwhile, the newspapers report widely on the Golden Jubilee celebrations both at home and abroad with the Inverness Courier detailing how 300 local people held a parade along Loch Torridon before a speech was given on the Queen and the accomplishments of the British Empire.

A rendition of the national anthem followed.

A letter in the Inverness Courier written by Reverend Angus Fiddes, a Torridon resident, set out how the landowner, Duncan Darroch, had informed his tenants, crofters and cottars that no rent would be collected for the Queen’s Jubilee year.

The letter describes the good relationship Mr Darroch had with the Torridon people and the new post office, roads, medical officer and missionary he brought to the area.

The construction of the new church is also noted:

The letter said: “‘Nor will his [Mr Darroch’s] latest act be less appreciated. He has contracted for the building of a small church, in memory of the Queen’s Jubilee, for the use of the people, instead of the old dilapidated meeting place erected by a former proprietor of Torridon more than a hundred years ago.’.

Research by AOC Archaeology found that lands previously stripped from the local community for sheep farming in 1838 by the previous Estate owner, Alexander MacBarnat, was returned to the small holders by Mr Darroch.

Other news stories found in the capsule included troubles in Ireland and criticism of the explorer Henry Stanley who was sent to Africa to find Scots missionary David Livingstone.

A pamphlet on the new church details how the community came together to prepare the ground for the new place of worship.

It said: “In spite of ecclestiastical dog-in-the-mangerism, and all threats of spiritual penalties, the people of Alligin flocked to the ground with their picks and spaces and in an incredibly short time had the rough surface cleaned down so as to admit of the foundations being laid.

“This was their contribution to Her Majesty’s Jubilee, and a more hearty and praise worthy one there could not be.

“Friends at a distance have been most generous in giving their aid in money, for which the people

here are most grateful.”

The new church was free to be used by all Protestants with the Church of Scotland entitled to the first sermons, according to information in the time capsule.

A report by AOC Archaeology said the relic provided a “wealth of information to construct a picture of life in the Torridon area in the 1890s.”

It added: “The Victorian coins and The Times and The Scotsman newspapers add to an already comprehensive history of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, but the Inverness Courier, Gladiator gazette, Church pamphlet and letter add to a more personal history of Torridon.

“Without these documents, our knowledge of the Church is severely limited, as is the knowledge of the people who lived there at the time.

“The importance of a space for not only worship, but general meetings, is huge. The role it played in Torridon’s community cannot be overstated.”