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Thread: Esvarasdal near Reay

  1. #1

    Question Esvarasdal near Reay

    Hello everyone,
    I'm new to this forum so look forward to reading all the posts. My Mackay ancesters were baptised in Reay but they lived in a place called Esvarasdal. I've seen this marked on a map from the late 1800's (it runs along the Achvarasdal Burn) but I'm trying to establish whether this was a farm or whether it was a settlement. I have 2 Mackay births in 1787 and 1792 from the same parents and another in 1807 from different Mackay parents but all from the same place. I'm trying to establish if they were related. Is there any way I can look at all the baptisms of children living in Esvarasdal from 1780 - 1820? Family search doesn't recognise it as a name and neither does Scotlands People.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Thurso, Caithness


    I am unable to answer as to whether this was a settlement or farm, but I have found a couple of entries which may be of interest.

    The website "" has Ordnance Survey Name Books available for viewing, and the Ordnance Survey Name Book (reference OS1/7/8/36 for years 1871 to 1873) lists Esvarasdal and gives the following description:-

    "This name applies to a ruin by the side of Achvarasdale Burn, not far from a waterfall called An Eas, hence the name." The waterfall is also recorded as being known as An t-Eas. Authorities for the spelling are listed as G. Brydon, Shurrery; William McDonald, Shurrery; G. Bain, Achnaclie.

    I also found a PhD thesis online written by Doreen Jennifer Waugh in 1985 whilst at the University of Edinburgh. The thesis was titled "THE PLACE-NAMES OF SIX PARISHES IN CAITENESS SCOTLAND". This thesis lists the following information:-

    One final example of this process of "translation" greatly intrigued me. Two names recorded on the 1876 6” OS map as An t-Eas and Esvarasdal (see R50(S)) have now been lost, and their replacement is the anglicised form "The Esses". My informant, however, gave an ingenious explanation of this replacement name, saying that it represented the plural of the English letter s to indicate the snaking movement of the stream. The source of the name, however, is much more likely to be the original G eas: a waterfall since the stretch of the burn to which the name applies is not particularly winding.

    ESVARASDAL NC 95 NE: 996598
    AN t-EAS NC 95 NE: 995595
    G eas m. : a waterfall
    This has been anglicised in the modern version of the name by the addition of the definite article and the English plural ending. The waterfalls occur on the Achvarasdal Burn (see R22(S)).

    It is interesting to note that the references R22(S) and R50(S) are translated as follows. "R" defines the parish as Reay; "22" and "50" define the place names as the 22nd and 50th identified and explained; (S) defines the name as belonging to a settlement. Possibly this would suggest the place names do indeed belong to settlements, but having checked the 1877 6 inch OS map (surveyed 1872), Esvarasdal does indeed seem to have very few buildings. So, possibly it was just a small handful of farm buildings, and the thesis reference to "settlement" simply defines a place where people are living, and not that it is a settlement of any considerable size.

    As a matter of interest, are you willing to share the names of your MacKay ancestors? Maybe a further search will throw up census records for them in 1871 and 1881 living in, or near, this area.

    Hope this is of some help to you.

    Kind Regards,
    Last edited by sgmcgregor; 03-Nov-17 at 19:32.

  3. #3


    Hello Steven, thanks very much for your reply. I too had found the references you speak of and this got me asking whether Esvarasdal was a farm or settlement. There appears to have been an archaeological survey done where they found a bronze dagger and an urn at the site, so settlement of the area may have been very much earlier than my relatives.

    Yes of course I am willing to share my research on my Mackays. I have James Mackay baptised in 1787 in Reay and William Mackay (my 3 x G Grandfather) baptised in 1792 in Reay. Their parents were William Mackay and Cath. Campbell who lived in Esvarasdal. Also living in Esvarasdal was Donald Mackay and Christian Macdonald who had a daughter Christian baptised in Reay in 1807.

    Below is the family information I have researched on my 3 x Great Grandfather William Mackay. If anybody has information on his brother James b 1787 or Donald Mackay as mentioned above, I would be very excited to hear from you.

    Husband: William Mackay
    b: 08 Feb 1792 in Esvarasdal, Reay, Caithness
    m: 15 Mar 1822 in Wick,Caithness,Scotland
    d: Bef. 1841; Not found on 1841 Scotland census
    Father: William Mackay
    Mother: Catherine Campbell
    Wife: Catherine Henderson
    b: 1803 in Thurso, Caithness
    d: 31 Dec 1892 in Halkirk, Caithness
    Father: John Henderson
    Mother: Janet Sinclair
    Name: William Mackay
    b: 24 Jun 1824 in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
    m: 18 Jul 1843 in Granton, Edinburgshire
    d: Bef. 1861; Not found on 1861 Scotland census
    Spouse: Mary Ann Orrell
    Name: John Mckay
    b: 20 Apr 1826 in South Leith
    m: 20 Feb 1846 in South Leith
    d: 11 Feb 1900 in Poplar, London
    Spouse: Janet Brunton
    Name: Catherine Mackay
    b: 21 Mar 1828 in Thurso, Caithness
    m: 13 Feb 1852 in Reay, Caithness, Scotland
    d: 17 Apr 1889 in Reay, Caithness, Scotland
    Spouse: John Elder
    Name: Murdoch Mackay
    b: 1830 in Caithness, Scotland
    m: 1864 in Victoria, Australia
    d: 1906 in Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia
    Spouse: Johanna Hartnett
    Name: Janet Mackay
    b: 28 Jul 1832 in Thurso, Caithness
    d: 22 Feb 1856 in Sandside, Reay, Caithness
    Name: Elizabeth Mackay
    b: 02 Sep 1834 in Thurso, Caithness
    m: 27 Apr 1860 in Thurso, Caithness
    d: 1917 in Halkirk, Caithness
    Spouse: James Jack
    Last edited by MaggieSpeak; 04-Nov-17 at 00:43.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Thurso, Caithness

    Post Esvarasdal near Reay

    Sorry that the information wasn't new to you. Oh well, it was worth a try.

    I've also realised that as I had been looking at maps and OS data from the 1870s I somehow got it in my head that your family was there at the same time. It isn't until I read your reply, and read your original posting again that I saw that it was 1780s and 1790s that were of interest. Unfortunately no census records will help :-) Oops.

    Anyway, I started hunting round for satellite images and what not, and I have attached an image for the precise area where the buildings were. The OS maps show the main set of buildings on the west of Achvarasdal Burn, with a further structure to the east side of the burn. By the look of it there were very few buildings in the area. Interestingly, although the PhD thesis says the names Esvarasdal and An Eas are out of use, the name "An t-Eas" still appears on modern maps.

    I've marked on the attached image (rather crudely I might add) the areas where the buildings are shown on the historic maps.

    Kind Regards,

    Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #5


    That's very interesting Steven! Thanks for taking the trouble to mark on the image I notice that Esvarasdal is surrounded by spruce? plantations, which presumably wouldn't have been there in the late 1700's. I was trying to find the exact location from the RAF aerial surveys over Reay that were shot just after WW2 to see what the landscape was then, but I'm afraid I haven't located the exact spot yet from all the images. It's very interesting though! Have a look
    Kindest regards

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Thurso, Caithness



    I've had a look at the website you mentioned and it is very interesting. I'll be pottering around on there for a while.

    Frame 4372 is one of the money shots. When you look at it you will see the north end of Loch nan Clachan Geala. Approximately 2/3 of the way up the photo, slightly left of the vertical centre line of the photo, you should find the area you are interested in.

    I'm unfamiliar with the website, so I'm not sure whether you can search on the frame number. The full image credit is as follows:-

    Frame details
    Date: 09 May 1946 Date known
    Location: Achvarasdal Burn; Reay; CAITHNESS; SCOTLAND
    Coordinates (lat, lon): 58.516107, -3.722365
    UNI: NCAP-000-000-107-456
    Sortie: 106G/Scot/UK/0073
    Frame: 4372
    Image type: Vertical
    Scale: 10000

    The method by which I found the general area was to search for Loch Thormaid. Loch nan Clachan Geala is to the south and west of this. Hopefully this is enough to locate the area. I didn't want to post copies of the image as it is copyrighted.

    Kind Regards,

  7. #7


    Aaaah! thank you once again Steven. The surrounding area looked quite different 70 years ago and I can imagine that image wouldn't have changed much from the late 1700's. My 3 x Great Grandfather was a wright/joiner, so I guess he needed to move away from Esvarasdal to get work.
    I'm glad I have found something of interest to you (RAF maps) to reciprocate your kindness.

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