One of the most noted writers of Scottish fiddle music, William Marshall was a butler and, later, Factor at Gordon Castle. His substantial gravestone gives a brief history of his life and an insight into the lives of some of his immediate family. He was born in Fochabers in 1748, the third son of a large family. He learned clockmaking and also entered the service of Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon, at 12 years old. He showed a great deal of natural talent for music but also made considerable progress in the study of astronomy, mathematics and mechanics. As a fiddler, he was well-known in the north but eventually became famous as a composer. In the course of his lifetime, he composed many beautiful tunes which are still featured in all the best collections of Scottish music.
The tombstone of William Saunders was lost for many years, but in 1956 it was discovered by Sir William M Calder, a former president of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, with the help of Miss I Brown of Dipple. It was buried beneath some six inches of topsoil, and has since been relocated. The inscription reads:
“Hic Iacent cineres Magiatri Gulielmi Alexander qui primus post reformatam ab errore oribus ecelesie Romane religio nem 77 annos huic ecelesi de Bellie pastor obiit AD 1663 aetatis sus 107”, which freely translated reads as: “Here lie the ashes of Mr William Saunders, Pastor of the Church of Bellie for 77 years, the first Pastor after the reform of religion from the error of the Church of Rome, who died in the year of the Lord 1663 in the 107th year of his age.”
The burial service for Lord Graham would most likely have been conducted by William Saunders.
The name Saunders is synonymous with the Alexander inscribed on the tombstone. There are obvious discrepancies regarding his age and length of ministry. If he had been 77 years as a minister then his age could not have been less than 100 years. The 77 years of his ministry must relate to the whole of his period of ministry, as he was only at Bellie from 1607 to 1663 (56 years).
We do not have much information about James Symon except that he died in Fochabers in 1868 at the age of 52. His grave is interesting because of the style of gravestone used at this time. Although the mid to late 19th century cast-iron tombstones were not uncommon in the iron-working areas of Central Scotland, it is rare to find one in a rural churchyard in the North East.
This gentleman was parish schoolmaster and Session Clerk in December 1838 when news arrived of the bequest of Alexander Milne of New Orleans for the establishment of a Free School in the parishes of Bellie and Ordiquish. He was over the following few years fearful for his position and livelihood, becoming a constant thorn in the sides of the school’s Directors.
Source : “A History of Milne’s Part1 Milne’s Free School” by Peter Dawson 1996
Rev Robert Cushney
For almost 40 years Minister of Bellie Parish Church and a Director of Milne’s Free School. Mr Cushny acted on most occasions as Chairman of the Directors and from the moment of his arrival in 1843 was a staunch friend and champion of the school.