The Mcraes were a crofting family and after several attempts to locate them on the 1841 census, I have finally had success. What I discovered was very surprising. I had assumed that Margaret Mcrae was a young girl, possibly even younger than Andrew's 19 years but actually in 1844, Margaret was a woman who was 28 years old. She lived on the croft with her father, Kenneth Mcrae, 70 years, her mother, Mary Mcrae, 67 years and her sister Ann Mcrae, 33 years old.
I'm also fairly sure that I have found Ann Mcrae in the 1851 census. She has moved away from Bottacks and is living and working at Brahan which is a large country house. She is listed as a house maid and is living with Christopher Mcrae, aged 54, who may be a relation. In the household are two other young Mcrae children; Alexander, aged 6 years and John, aged 4 years. Ann is definitely not married to Christopher but perhaps his wife has died and Ann has agreed to move to Brahan to work and look after the young children.
The country estate of Brahan is built on the site of Brahan Castle and is famous for the Brahan Seer who made many predictions about the future and came to a sticky end when he was murdered.
Anyway, it's interesting to find out a little more about the Mcrae family as they had such an effect on young Andrew's life.
Mary Mcrae, mother took to the stand and had this to say about Andrew and the little brown mare -
"My husband who has been confined to bed for the last three months has a brown mare with which, one of our daughters, Margaret Mcrae, (unknown word) the croft. I saw the mare in the stable late in the evening of Friday last. The stable door was then open and I fastened it. It has no lock but is secured by two links of a chain, one of which is attached to the door, and the other passes over a staple in the door post. There is no other fastening and anyone could open the door. On Saturday morning, my daughter Margaret, came in from the stable and said to me that she had forgotten to shut the stable door the previous night and that the mare was away. She went out to the stable and said that the door was wide open and a stone placed against it to keep it so, and the mare was gone. The rope by which she was fastened was left.
I know Andrew Ballantyne, son of Walter Ballantyne, late shepherd at Bottacks. The last time I saw him was about to or three weeks ago. His father and family have often had loan of the mare. The last time they had her was a few days before Whitsunday last when they moved from Bottacks. She was returned the same day. I didn't in any way authorise Andrew Ballantyne to take the mare on Friday last or any day of last week.
The mare was this day returned to us by an officer of the name of MacPherson. All which is truth, I cannot write.
Andrew Ballantyne could not have spoken to my husband any day of last week without coming to our dwelling and he could not have done so without my seeing him. Which is also truth."