Panoramic Firth of Dornoch edit

Dornoch and the East Highlands



David Maxwell-Fyfe's mother, Isabella, was born in Dornoch to Janet and David Fraser. Their house overlooked the square where in 1955, Maxwell-Fyfe was made a Freeman of the town. It is a beautiful village which has many attributes that we discovered when we visited. The village is built around Dornoch Cathedral, a 13th century cathedral, in the square and away from the main village, you find yourself at the sea and surrounded by golf courses. Dornoch was known to Maxwell-Fyfe as his place of holiday and held warm memories for him.

Creich, Croick and the Clearances


It is easy to be confused by the two places Croick and Creich. I certainly find the history of my ancestors on the Maxwell-Fyfe side confusing. We have mounted expeditions to the East Highlands  over the last few years to try and sort our Creichs from our Croicks.  


Croick is an area where in 1845, the inhabitants of Glencavie were evicted off their land to make way for sheep farming. They sheltered in the lee of Croick church and as a testament to the event they scratched their names on one of the church windows. However as we discovered, this story has nothing to do with my great grandfather, David Maxwell-Fyfe.  


In the Napier Commision at Bonar Bridge, 1883, A S Black read a letter of Hugh Campbell, describing the clearance of his uncle's land at Migdale in 1876. After a takeover of land by Mr Sutheland Walker from William Dempster 80 years previously, the land was taken from Donald Fraser, his uncle, which caused a premature death due to 'a broken heart'. At the time that Donald Fraser died, Isabel Campbell, David's mother, was 17 years old. She was going out with an old university friend of her brother's, William Thomson Fyfe. However around that time, they had a row and split up and William Thomson married Helen Grey and made a family with her. In 1898, Helen died and Isabel and William Thomson got married and had their only son, David. David being Isabel's only son at the age of 40,  she deeply impressed on David the importance of the history of his great uncle. Janet Fraser, his grandmother, also had been part of the Clearances helping give blankets to sheltering evictees at Criech not Croick.


Maxwell-Fyfe was inspired by the East Highlands and it isn't difficult to see why. In the landscape of sweeping hills dominating the huge sky, there is an innate sense of freedom. I hope I have captured some of these characteristics in some of my photography of the places we visited.  



The name Kilmuir is the one that Maxwell-Fyfe when he became first Viscount Kilmuir in 1954 and later 1st Earl of Kilmuir and Baron Fyfe of Dornoch in 1962. This has been a family mystery some time why he would call himself Kilmuir since it doesn't correspond to any of the places he was living when it was bestowed on him. There are several places called Kilmuir in Scotland, two of which we visited on our expiditions to the East Highlands - Kilmuir Easter and Kilmuir Black Isle.


Kilmuir Easter is a church and graveyard overlooking the Firth of Cromarty.  


Kilmuir Black Isle is a small settlement on the Moray Firth.  


However in the course of our discovery we came to the conclusion that it was unlikely that either of these places had influenced his choice of name. It is possible that he might have called himself Kilmuir as translated from Gaellic, means church of St Mary. The Cathedral at Dornoch is dedicated to St Mary and he was very attached to Dornoch as it was the birth place of his mother. We don't know which of these ideas might be right but it's enough that he was inspired by the area so much that he named himself after it.

View from the high street edit

The High Street, Dornoch

panoramic edit


Panoramic edit

Kilmuir Easter

Click on a small image to enlarge

'In April I had another experience which was very moving to me. Dornoch, the Royal Burgh in which my mother had been born, made me a Freeman...I drove to Dornoch and was piped into the centre of the burgh with my own music 'Kilmuir's Return to Dornoch'. The ceremony was in the open air, in the square between the castle and the Cathedral, on which the windows of my grandfather's house, where my mother was born, look out.'  

from David Maxwell-Fyfe's autobiography, Political Adventure

'I had thought of calling myself Creich from the little place in Sutherland with a ruined chapel, the graveyard of which contains the bones of my forebears. Sylvia said that she was not going to spend her declining years spelling her name to the butcher's assistants, so I called myself 'Kilmuir' with the 'of Creich' not part of the title.'

from David Maxwell-Fyfe's autobiography, Political Adventure

Click on a small image to enlarge

'To the imagination of my boyhood the countryside … had a magic of its own. I shall never forget the joy of walking over the heather, finding a place to bathe and later pulling a heavy boat in half a gale on Loch Shin and watching its length fade into the hills or further west seeing the mass of Ben Mohr Assynt climb into the clouds. To me the old tales were very close.’

from David Maxwell-Fyfe's autobiography,Political Adventure

Dornoch Firth