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Glenbuchat Heritage

177 James Gordon and the Snow Kirk Aberdeen
The Glenbuchat Image Library
177 James Gordon and the Snow Kirk Aberdeen

James Charles Gordon and the Snow Kirk Aberdeen

The photo above is of a grave, not in Glenbucket Church yard, but in the Kirk Yard of the old Snow Kirk in Aberdeen. I am grateful to Catherine Baghurst for the photograph.

The photos are (from the top):
The Grave of James Charles Gordon of Glenbucket
Parson Gordon’s map of 1661.Library of Scotland
An old engraving of the Snow Kirk before demolition from John Slezer’s 1688 ‘Theatrum Scotiae’
A 1850 Old Aberdeen Map
A Google Satellite View of the Graveyard today
Picture of Archibald Carmichael

Robert Curry kindly posted the above picture of Archibald Carmichael with the following comments:

‘I am pleased to attach a copy of the oil painting of my great great-grandfather. This is oil on canvas size 25 inches by 23 inches. There is no signature of the artist.

His daughter Jessie married Archibald McDonald and they had 3 daughters,
Christina Amelia my grannie, Mary and Jenny.’

Click for Glenbucket connections of the Carmichael family

In Memory



Wife of


Who died

At Blairs on 5th Aug 1874

Aged 63 yrs.


Also of her mother


Wife of


of Glenbucket

Who died at Blairs on 12th May 1844.




Who died at Bellshill on 27th June

Aged 84 yrs. RIP

Firstly some information about the people named on the Grave Stone and then more information of the hidden secret of the Snow Kirk and its graveyard.

James Charles Gordon. Family history
From Patricks People

James Charles Gordon was the great grandson of ‘Old Glenbucket’ who fought with for the Jacobites in the ’15 and ’45 rebellions.
William Gordon his son was a Roman Catholic priest who spent much of his career at St Andrew's, Glasgow.

John Gordon, Laird of Glenbucket,
Jacobite 1715 and 1745
Baptised: Abt 1675
Marriage: Forbes, Jean
Died: 16 June 1750, Boulogne, France
Forbes, Jean
Gordon, John younger of Glenbucket, Jacobite, 1745
Gordon, George in Jamaica, Dr
Gordon, David of Kirkhill, Jacobite 1745, residing in Delavorar
Gordon, Alexander
Gordon, Helen
Gordon, Isobel
Gordon, Christian
Gordon, Jean
Gordon, Clementina
Gordon, Cecilia
Gordon, Henrietta

John Gordon, younger of Glenbucket,
Jacobite, 1745
Born: 1693
Marriage: Ann Lindsay,
Died: Bef 1755
Ann Lindsay,
Gordon, Jean
Gordon, William Jacobite 1745, Captain

William Gordon, Jacobite 1745, Captain
Baptised: 23 December 1725, Aberdeen,
Marriage (1):
Hellen Reid,
Marriage (2):
Christina Macdonell,
Died: After 21 May 1770
1. Hellen Reid,
Gordon, John
2. Christina Macdonell,
Gordon, Alexander
Gordon, James Charles

James Charles Gordon,
Born: Abt 1769
Marriage: Stewart, Christina
Stewart, Christina
Gordon, Christina Amelia
Gordon, William Alexander RC Priest, Very Reverend Dean

"James Charles Gordon Feuar (Deceased)" was recorded as the father of Christina-Amelia Carmichael in her death certificate of 1874. 2

Christina Stewart,
Born: Abt 1775
Marriage: Gordon, James Charles

Christina Amelia Gordon,
Born: Abt 1805, Tomintoul, Banffshire,
Marriage: Carmichael, Archibald Wright on 7 January 1833 in Kirkmichael Parish, Banffshire,
Died: 5 August 1874 at 7.00 am, Blairs, Kincardineshire,
Carmichael, Archibald
Carmichael, Donald Rector of St Peter's Seminary, Bearsden, Glasgow, Canon
Carmichael, Margaret
Carmichael, Christina
Carmichael, Elspet
Carmichael, William RC Priest, Reverend Mr
Carmichael, Jessie
Carmichael, James, Dr
Carmichael, Archibald, Dr
Carmichael, Mary A.

Carmichael, Archibald
Born: Abt 1801, Cargill, Perthshire,
Marriage: Gordon, Christina Amelia on 7 January 1833 in Kirkmichael Parish, Banffshire,
Died: 1885

In the 1851 census, Archibald was recorded as a house carpenter by occupation. He is also referred to in My Dear Nephew as a stonemason who took over the building of the RC Church at Tomintoul after the departure of Father Donald Carmichael in 1839.

Archibald Carmichael, husband, who had been present where his wife died, gave notice of Christina's death on 7 August 1874 at Maryculter.

William Alexander Gordon,
RC Priest, Very Reverend Dean
Born: Abt 1807
Died: 15 December 1880, Greenock, Renfrewshire,

"Christian's brother, William Gordon, was also a priest (they had five other siblings who did not survive childhood) and he is occasionally referred to in Carmichael's letters. William Gordon was educated at Aquhorties and Valladolid and was ordained in February 1831. He spent much of his career at St Andrew's, Glasgow, before moving to Greenock, as detailed in letter five. He died on 15 December 1880, aged seventy-three."

The Snow Kirk Grave yard in Old Aberdeen is one of Aberdeen’s well kept secrets. It was called the Snow Kirk as it was dedicated to St Mary Ad Nives (St Mary of the Snows)

August 5: Our Lady of the Snows (From RomanCatholicSaints.Com)
Improbable as it is for snow to fall during August, history tells of a snowfall that seemed more impossible, namely in Rome, Italy. August 5, 352, snow fell during the night in Rome.
There lived in the Eternal City a nobleman, John and his childless wife, who had been blessed with much of this world’s goods. They chose the Mother of God as the heir to their fortune, and at the suggestion of Pope Liberius, prayed that she might make known to them how to do this by a particular sign.
In answer, the Virgin Mother during the night of August 5, appeared to John and his wife and also to the Holy Father, Pope Liberius, directing them to build a church in her honor on the crown of the Esquiline Hill. And what would be the sign that John and his wife had requested?
“Snow will cover the crest of the hill.”
Snow rarely falls in Rome, but the flakes fell silently during that night, blanketing the peak of the historic hill. In the morning the news quickly spread and crowds gathered to throng up the hill and behold the white splendour. The snow had fallen in a particular pattern, showing the outline of the future church. When it became known that the snow was a sign from Mary, the people spontaneously added another to her long list of titles, Our Lady of the Snows.

Snow Kirk
(From “Heritage Trail Old Aberdeen”)
Properly called St Mary Ad Nives (of the Snows), this was founded as the parish church when Old Aberdeen became a Burgh of Barony. The parish boundaries for this church date from 1498 and specifically excluded the canons of St Machar’s who were to continue to attend service in St Machar’s Cathedral. The church went out of use at the time of the Protestant Reformation in 1560, although the building survived for the next hundred years or so. Burials continued however; this was a problem for the Protestant authorities at the time as the burials here were of those who had a strong adherence to the old Catholic faith. One of the flat grave markers is of Gilbert Menzies, a 17th century member of a very powerful local Catholic family.

“From “The Doric Columns - The Spital”

John Slezer’s 1688 ‘Theatrum Scotiae’ showed the Snow Kirk with a corbie-stepped gable in the lower foreground. Gordons Map (above) shows it West of the Spittal Road as Spired Ruins in 1661 just North of the Spittal Hills as was the Spittal Kirk further South and to the East

Our Lady of the Snows derives from Bishop Elphinstone’s veneration of the Virgin Mary and his familiarity with the second-ranking church in Rome – Sancta Maria Maggiore ad Nives. There is a chapel at Corgarff, still in use, named for the same miracle of snow in a Roman August. So much for the name, which has come down through five centuries as the Snow Kirk. It was built as the parish church of Old Aberdeen so that the Cathedral and King’s College Chapel could be left free for more ceremonial functions. The relationship can be described in terms of bells. St Machar boasted a peal of 14; King’s began with 15 but relinquished two of the smaller ones to the Snow Kirk. Sundays and feast days must have been joyful with these many chimes. Only the two Snow bells were popularly identified by name: ‘Schochtmadony’( meaning Shuggle Madonna) and ‘Skellat’, which simply means a small bell.

Although built as a parish church, the Snow lost that function when its congregation was merged with St Machar’s in 1499. Although intended for students it continued to draw local people to worship, so that the merger had to be proclaimed again some eighty years later. The Rector of Snow was the University Grammarian who taught Canon Law as well as Latin. His position was described in the University’s founding charter: ‘Foreseeing and knowing that the fruits of the said church will be slender ... every student in our said new College shall pay to the Rector of St Mary and his successors ... at the Paschal feast four pence: and with the poor [students] the said rector or vicar shall compound amicably.’ In return for his church’s slender endowment the rector said mass once a year for the souls of King James IV and Bishop Elphinstone.

Catholic worship survived in an area where many influential people, starting with the Marquis of Huntly, were none too keen to carry through the intentions of southern politicians. And whatever state the Spital’s Church may have been in, the Snow was far from ruinous in the illustration of 1688. By then, however, the state of the walls was less important to the ‘Aulton folk’ than what had become hallowed as a place ‘within the whilk their friends and foirfathers were buried’.

‘Aulton Folk (Old Town Folk) ... secretly attending mass in its ruins... – balanced by the avoidance of St Machar burial fees and its ongoing use as a meeting-place, for children as well as adults.

Burying was controversial. Edicts of the local authority give us an idea of the battle for hearts and minds which went on for more than a century after Mary Queen of Scots was executed. Aberdeen Burgh Council repeatedly sought to limit the number of people attending funeral wakes, and to deny the bereaved family’s right to offer hospitality: the sweetmeats known as ‘drogues’ were banned, along with desserts, but it was the liberal offering of strong drink on these occasions which really offended the Burgesses.

17th-century Presbyterians regarded all burial services as ‘popish’, and more so when they took place by torchlight. The authorities took strong exception to the night-time burial at the Mither Kirk (St Nicholas) of the Laird of Drum’s daughter. The Irvines of Drum were prominent papists. Thirty-five years later (in 1705) the pressure was still on to discard old customs when the Council demanded ‘from each person who shall burn incense or perfume at the burial of their friends in church £4 Scots, or in the churchyard 40/- Scots’. As in medieval times, the gentry were buried indoors and commemorated by armorial monuments, while ordinary people lay in unmarked graves outside. In 1671 King’s College started to charge £8 for the Snow Church and ‘ane dollar’ for the cemetery beyond the walls.

No record of burials exists prior to 1776, but by the beginning of 19th century (when the charge was 13/4 for burial - within the walls only) 160 names were registered. All but 13 date from before 1880, and the graveyard was declared full in 1934 when an 85-year-old spinster was buried alongside her parents. G M Fraser the librarian, making an exception of the Pitfodels stone, dismissed the rest as having ‘singularly uninteresting inscriptions’. The members of Aberdeen’s family history society, currently undertaking a graveyard survey of north-east Scotland, would probably disagree. Bulloch’s discovery, through King’s College, of a Catholic record of burials made all the difference. This remarkable document can be consulted in the April 1906 issue of Scottish Notes and Queries. It is remarkable for the way it gives meaning to stones and even to unmarked graves. There can be nothing like it in north-east Scotland. One of the earliest recorded interments was that of Bishop James Grant. Previous bishops had been buried inside a roofless chapel near Fochabers, but he died in the Castlegate of Aberdeen.

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Picture added on 13 January 2015 at 17:29
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My great great grandfather Archibald Carmichaael and his wife and his wifes mother are on the gravestone as shown .I have an original oil painting of him handed downto my family by his daughter Jessie,my great grannie.
Added by Robert H Curry on 26 June 2015
Reference William Alexander Gordon ,brother of Christine Amelia Gordon ( wife of Archibald Carmichael)was a catholic priest as stated. He was very rev. Dean
I have a photograph of him.
I also have individual photographs of all nine children of Archibald Carmichael and Christina Amelia Gordon.
Added by Robert H Curry on 07 July 2015
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