James Esson and Isabella Gray

by Charles Esson

Jamie left Forvie at about 15 years of age and went to work as a shepherd in the Huntly area. Like his father, as a young man he worked at several different farms. He also got some work as a drover, before he was 20 years of age, he took his sheepdogs by train to Inverness, there he met a dealer and arranged to walk(drove) his sheep to Perth, a distance of about 100 miles. After Jamie arrived in Perth he went to a barber’s shop to shave off the beard he had started to grow. He said the barber told him not to have the beard removed because the Prince of Wales had one and it was the fashion, so Jamie didn’t have the beard shaved and was bearded the rest of his life.

One of the farms Jamie worked on was Mains of Mayen, Rothiemay. He always remembered his first night there. Ad s single man, he shared living quarters with other single men. At Mains of Mayen there is a long slope, several hundred yards, down to the river Deveron, but up at the farm there was a poor well. The single men were given a bucket with a small amount of water in it to wash themselves at night, when Jamie ot to the water it was filthy. After that, Jamie walked down to the river and washed himself there.

Isabella Gray worked as a domestic servant at Mains of Mayen. The farmer’s wife at Mains of Mayen was a distant relative of Isabella’s. Isabella’s father, William Gray, had been a farmer at Backside of Ardonald, Cairnie. Isabella’s mother, Jane Pirie, also came from Cairnie. Isabella was one of 8 children, but Isabella’s mother died when Isabella was still a girl. When Isabella’s father died in 1892, only 4 of his 8 children were still alive – Isabella, Mary (who lived near Elgin), George (who lived in Queensland) and William (who lived in Ireland). There are still descendants of this William Gray at Timolin, Ballytore, Ireland.

After Jamie and Isabella married, Jamie moved less often. They stayed at Wraes, Kennethmont for about 8 years, then moved to Brawlandknowes, Gartly, the farmer there built a new 3 roomed shepherd’s cottage for them in 1896. While Jamie continued to work as a shepherd at Brawlandknowes, he started to buy sheep and rented grass to keep them on.

In May 1914 Jamie gave up his job as shepherd at Brawlandknowes and returned to Slains, becoming a tenant farmer at Smiddyhill. Jamie and Isabella’s children had all left home by then.

Isabella died at Smiddyhill on 4th Feb 1926. She had slipped and scraped the front of her leg on the step of a gig. A blood clot caused her death a few days after she slipped.

Jamie continued farming at Smiddyhill until he retired in 1943. He stayed with his grandson,Sandy at Knapsleak(?) for about a year, then lived with his daughter at Blairythan(?). He died on 8th April 1951 and was buried in Ellon kirkyard with his wife Isabella and daughter Ella.