SMUGLING DAYS THAT GAVE HOPEMAN ITS NAME.
by – “R. Munroe Gordon 1961” born 1873 and aged 88.
This article was written by Mr. R Munroe Gordon to record his knowledge on the origin of the name of ‘Hopeman’ for the benefit of his immediate family. He was a native of Hopeman, born during 1873 and lived there until 1903 when he moved away from the area.
HOPEMAN, situated about the middle of the stretch of coastline from Burghead Point to Covesea, makes no claim to be an old village with an historical background. Close inshore along the stretch I have mentioned there is a series of rocky reefs, more or less continuous, with occasional breaks which open into little bays, where if necessary a boat could be safely rowed into the shore line. From the landward side run high cliffs with deep water at high tide. In others little sandy hillocks fill up the space between the cliffs and normal high water mark. It is a dangerous coast and has always been reckoned as such.
My interest in the village centers round the fact that I was born there in 1873 and was intimately connected with it for twenty years, when I left the district for good. I have always been keenly interested in its history from my school days there.
I got my first bit of knowledge about it from a fellow pupil. It was, in effect, that the village of Hopeman was founded by a colony of fishermen from Avoch and Cromarty who came to Hopeman with the express purpose of starting a fishing village and pursuing their vocation there. That was in 1805 and they did it very successfully. However, it is a mistake to say they founded the village. When they arrived there was already a village in existence. Its size can only be guessed at, but it was prosperous and could be described as typical Scots village of its period. But its name was not Hopeman. That name was unknown until it became the official name given to the village sometime after the arrival of the Avoch fishermen. The name of the original village was “The Haudment.” Why the name was changed is a mystery which I have never got any explanation of, even at this date (1961).
68 Years Ago -1893
When I left the village in 1893 my own knowledge of it consisted in the little bit l have mentioned, also a knowledge of the original name, although in my day it was little used and to many living there it was unknown. There was a good deal of legendary lore one could hear about it but nothing that you could lay hold of to work up a definite theory, although I was certain there was something below the surface. Eventually I got some real information about it and though there is not a scrap of documentary evidence it fits so closely to the legendary lore that one cannot doubt it.
It came to me by chance. I was spending my annual holiday in the village and met a very old resident who knew me and my family well. Somehow the name of “The Haudment ” was mentioned and l was asked if I knew anything about it. I didn’t and said so, when I was treated to an explanation of the name which I believe to be correct and still do. My informant’s knowledge of Hopeman was very extensive and accurate.
The origin of “The Haudment,” it appears, is intimately connected with the sailors on the French sailing luggers who carried on an illicit smuggling connection which grew to great proportions. The goods smuggled in were particularly wines and brandies, but other items also came in very useful. Bordeaux was the chief port which provided the cargoes but there were plenty of others. The route was north by the west of Ireland and the Outer Hebrides, then through the Pentland Firth and south from Duncansby Head to the Moray Firth.
I am going to take a peep behind the scenes. When the final leg of the journey was well started, an air of alertness had come to the crew. All eyes were trained southward, and with a good wind behind them it was not long before there was a shout from the masthead look-out, “Le Haut Mont ! ” (The High Hill). Their landfall was at last in sight.
On board the routine orders were put in hand. On shore there were plenty of helpers who knew when the lugger was expected and were on the lookout for her. Contact was soon established and plans for discharging the cargo agreed upon. There were certain specific points where that could be done and one was about a mile from the present site of the village. At that point there was a large rock in contact with the shore, rising almost vertically from the water and making a very convenient jetty. At half tide there was sufficient water to float a lugger and the top of the rock was such that ponies could manage to get alongside. That gave them close on six hours to get the cargo discharged. The place was isolated and there was little fear of interruption. The caves close at hand provided convenient hiding places for items which required storing and the ponies quickly took other details inland. Later the lugger cleared off with such a cargo as could be collected, wool being one of the staple items, and made her way back to France. lt was profitable both ways, and there was always plenty of help at hand that increased with the increasing trade. The nucleus of a small village was there, and once started it would grow very substantially. A name naturally had to be decided on and one was chosen from what was the ‘landfall’ call from the mast head, “Le Haut Mont”. The French definite article gave way to the English one and ”Haut Mont” became “Haud-ment”. (My spelling is taken from the only occasion I have seen it in print. La Teste, I think, uses the same spelling in some of his local pieces). Its pronunciation would depend largely on the speaker, and the village came to be called “The Houdment” That name was carried on certainly until 1805.
The landfall cry of the French sailors referred to the hillock which was the highest point of the ridge about a mile inland from the village itself and which it still known as “The Tappoch of Roseisle.”
As regards the change of name which took place after the arrival of the Avoch fishermen there is no evidence available to account for it. In my own time there were three names more or less associated with the village. There was the old name of “The Haudment” which was rarely used except by the old folks and in many cases was unknown to the younger generation. (In Elgin I came across a family with very old connections with Hopeman. The head of the house invariably referred to the village as ‘The Haudment’ and insisted on the definite article as an essential part of the name. He said it was the correct name of the village in his time and his father’s before him and he would stick to it).
The Final Corruption
Corruptions took place in the name of the old village and the definite article was dropped. Also certain alterations in its pronunciation crept in. giving ‘Houdmin’ or ‘Houdman’ according to the way it was spoken. Then there was the new official name of Hopeman, used mostly in writing. lt was rarely used in speaking, as that was tantamount to a charge of ‘gripping’ which was not very agreeable. The word mostly in use in the village was ‘Houpman’ and that was considered to be, and still is so considered, a Scots version of the official name. That certainly looks to be quite feasible.
Personally I am not prepared to accept that theory. To do so means that the name Hopeman was in existence before Houpman and that is contrary to all that is known about it.
Hopeman as a name was not known before 1805. I do not know when its first appearance was noted, but l have a definite record of my own which is marked October 1817. That I can vouch for. My own impression is that ‘Houpman’ is the final corruption of ‘Haudment’ and is older than Hopeman.
As for the name Hopeman itself, my theory is this: Mass migrations, like that of the Avoch fishermen, are not arranged on the spur of the moment and no doubt there was some investigation by some of the best of the Avoch men. These on their first arrival would likely get the name of the village as ‘Houpman’. In Avoch, Gaelic is the native language and the Scots dialect was practically unknown. Doubtless there were some amongst them better informed than the others and these would probably translate what they considered to be a Scots name, which meant nothing to them, into the English word ‘Hopeman’. Allowing that to be the case there is no difficulty about the derivation of the name. So we get the complete chain like this – Le Haut Mont: The Haudment: Houdmin (or man or mon): Houpman: the last being Anglicised to Hopeman, with the meaning which has always been associated with the village, “The High Hill”.
The Hare Stone
Thus the ‘Tappoch of Roseisle’ can still be reckoned a landmark for Hopeman by boats making for the Moray Firth. It is invisible from the village itself, but long before you come near it you can see it dominating the whole stretch of coastline from Burghead Point to Covesea. Even from the landward side it is very noticeable. On my last -journey from Inverness to Elgin I could see it very conspicuously at a distance which I estimated to be about twelve miles. I could also see the end of the plantation in line with it. ln between these two lies the Hare Stone, a huge block of stone weighing between 20 and 30 tons and entirely different in composition to the stones in the neighborhood. Rumour has it that it was carried there by a floating glacier which got stranded on the top of the ridge and when the ice melted the stone was deposited where it is now. For that you must pre-suppose a lake where the valley of Roseisle now is. That brings to my memory a story which was told me by a teacher in the Keam School, which I was attending.
I give it as I got it:
“Many years ago a small vessel was seen to be aimlessly cruising about the stretch of water between the estuary of the Findhorn and Burghead. Curiosity having been aroused, the vessel was boarded and was found to be in charge of an old man with a small crew. On being questioned about his movements, he said he was looking for the entrance to an inland lake which was in the neighborhood and which debouched into the sea about the point which he was cruising around. They laughed at his theory as being humbug, and he produced a very old map which, sure enough, had a lake outlined within the Roseisle area and opening into the sea”
I am not vouching for the accuracy of the story or anything about it. I simply mention it because it ties in with the Legend of the Hare Stone, and seems to show that at one time such a story was in circulation.
- An old map of ‘Rose Isle’ is included and shows the extent of the ‘Laich of Moray’ from Burghead Bay through to Lossiemouth.
- The large rock that rises vertically from the sea bed where luggers moored alongside may well be what we call the ‘Collach Pier’. It is not the safest place to moor a boat but I have taken my own boat there on several occasions where there are old steel pins sunk into the rock which may have secured a mooring system for the luggers. It is close inshore and not far from Cummingston caves also mentioned in the article.
- Houdman was also a name used by the older generation from Lossiemouth until the 1980’s and the cliffs and caves around Primrose Bay were also reported to have been used by smugglers. It may well be that the area between Covesea and Cummingston was called “Le Hout Mont” deriving through the years to Hopeman for the village itself when it came into existence in 1805.
- 2016 update by John McPherson – During a recent search of monumental inscriptions at St Peters church cemetery on the Gordonstoun road from Duffus there are the following headstones –
213 – Flat stone, emblems of mortality with large anchor and tiller
Here lyes one honest woman called ELSBET TAYLOR spous (sic) to WILLIAM BROWN who lived in Houdment & she departed this lyfe the 11 of June 1691.
215 – Flat stone, broken in two parts with Emblems of Mortality, anchor and tiller
Here lyes WILLIAM BROUN Skipper in Brughsea who departed this lyfe the 26 of November 1682.
These two stones are most probably for a husband and his wife and they lived in Houdment which was most probably a small settlement in or around what is now Hopeman. If I had to guess I would think that it may well have been in the area above the East beach (Braemou Bay) as there was good access to the beach for boats, fresh water from the Braemou well or the burn, it would be sheltered and with a road to Inverugie and the Keam farm where they may have been employed.
Up until the 1980’s the older generations from Lossiemouth through to Burghead called Hopeman ‘Houdman’ which adds to theory that there may well have been a settlement.