They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided



St Drostan, Insch

Andrew and Jane Murdoch die within days of each other

Andrew and Jane Murdoch die within days of each other


They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and  in their death they were not divided

Their death notice in the local newspaper:

At Insch, on the 10th inst., after a lengthened illness, JANE GAULD, wife of Mr Andrew Murdoch, aged 63 years; and on the 12th inst, after two day’s illness, the said ANDREW MURDOCH for many years employed in Culsalmond Slate Quarries, aged 73 years.

The remains of this clearly devoted couple lie in St Drostan’s graveyard at Insch Old Church.

Repaired tombstone Insch

Repaired tombstone

The ruined kirk dates from the 18th century and is the remnant of one of several which occupied this spot from the 12th century during the reign of King William, Lion of Scotland. The land the church was built on was owned, or claimed, by David, the King’s brother.

12th century grave slab from Insch, Aberdeenshire 12th century grave slab from Insch, Aberdeenshire

Immediately facing you as you walk in through the iron gates is a sandstone gravestone thought to date from the 13th century. Note the remnants of a figure at the side.
The inscription reads:    Orate Pro Anima Radulfi Sacerdotis: Pray for the soul of priest Radulfus

Radulfus, a chaplain to the Bishop of Aberdeen, died in the late 1100s, making this one of the oldest lettered monuments in Scotland.

It may not belong to the churchyard as it was discovered in another part of Insch in the 19th century.

If you like you cemeteries crumbling and abandoned you will enjoy a walk around St Drostan’s; there are fallen stones all around the small graveyard. Evidently some have been in this state for years.

St Drostan's churchyard

St Drostan’s churchyard

There are few obvious stories to emerge from a visit – not least because many stones are in poor condition and the inscriptions indecipherable.

Among the more interesting are one or two freestone with a few decorations, others are in granite and slate.

The best graveyards contain stones which tell us something of the lives of the interred. The modern trend that includes only dates of death, omitting people’s occupations is a huge loss to the social historian and I wish people would add a detail or two that means something to others beyond the family. Remember in the future family members will be dead themselves and the sparse information will mean nothing to anyone.

Bellcote 17th century Insch

Bellcote 17th century Insch

If you look up you’ll catch a glimpse of the church bellcote. This pretty work in sandstone dates from the start of the 17th century, from 1613, and so considerably older than the ruined remains of the west gable it is perched upon. It sits on a base of worked stone.

17th century bellcote

17th century bellcote

The bell that used to hang there was removed in 1882.

The photographs are not great but you should be able to make out dog-tooth workings and scrolls among the uprights and finials. Bring up the photo and you will make out initials MIL carved into it – Minister John Logie

St Drostan's Church, Insch

St Drostan’s Church,

The wall, as you can see, is built of granite rubble and together with the bellcot and the various tombstones of sandstone, slate and granite we get an impression of the mixed geology of the area.

Slate tombstone

Slate tombstone

You might be wondering who St Drostan was – or you may not. You might guess he was another of those determined early missionaries who set sail from Ireland for Scotland to convert the heathens here to Christianity – and you’d be right.

Drostan was one of twelve, the Bretheren of St Columba, who travelled with Columba in 563 heading for Old Deer. What Old Deer does in the 6th century Insch gets around to eventually and so it was that in time Christianity reached this part of the northeast.

The land, as I said, was owned by David, brother of the King, and as was the fashion of the time for princes and such to go on crusades to sort out those who had beliefs different from themselves which involved much bloodshed he gave this piece of land to Lindores monastery in Fife with the proviso they would pray for his safe return from the East. As thanks, in return, the monastery then decided to build a church on the parcel of land.

One little story I found online. A local master baker heated bricks in his ovens on Saturday evenings and took them with him to church to heat up the family pew. Churches can be glacial places and a sermon might last hours with the body cooling just short of hypothermia.

Milne children die within a day of each other

Milne children die within a day of each other

The elderly couple who died within days of each other had their deaths recorded in the local newspaper but I couldn’t find any mention of the Milne children, Annie aged 9yrs and Peter 2yrs who died a day apart in 1863. There was, however, an epidemic of typhus in the Aberdeen area at the time. The couple John Milne and Elpet Tough had sadly lost baby twins five years earlier.

Note the Scottish tradition of married women retaining their maiden names throughout their lives.



A couple of inscriptions referred to a death at Motherwell Schoolhouse. I couldn’t find any local reference to such a place which doesn’t mean one didn’t exist but it’s strange all the same.


Another couple who died within a day of each other- Alexander Reid born in 1766 and died at 80 years a day before his wife, Ann Roger.

And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God

St Drostan's graveyard, Insch

St Drostan’s graveyard, Insch

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4 Comments to “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided”

  1. Interesting to find out about Insch and a possible link to Motherwell. My great grandfather moved from Oyne to Motherwell around 1890 to join the burgh police. This was when Motherwell was becoming a steel producing town, and perhaps others from Insch and Oyne moved there at the same time as Leslie Jaffrey.
    I enjoy reading your blogs about Aberdeenshire as I spent many hours listening to my Gran talking about family there and have several photos ( others are in NMS/ SCRAN website) of the croft at Hatton of Ardoyne

    • Thank you Christine. You might be right about the Motherwell connection. It’s curious. I’m going to take a look at NMS/SCRAN to see the photos. Thanks for taking time to read the blog and put in a comment. L.

  2. Hello there…. If you find the chance, can I suggest you visit Kirkcudbright graveyard in D & G where many of the sones have details of the interred’s occupations & some with information on cause of death…. also the small Tongland graveyard where there was once a monastry which relied on the sale of smoked salmon from the adjacent river to fund it’s purpose.

    Regards for the always interesting blogs… Sam Mitchell.

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