The Great Strathnairn Flood of 1829

Old James Mackintosh's Spectacles

The rain fell over the Highlands on the 2nd August 1829. It fell with full force, accompanied by high winds, until the 4th of the month. It destroyed parts of Nairn and sunk a ship from Sunderland just out in the Moray Firth, with the loss of all hands. Such was the combined power, it wrecked homes and crops, causing great misery.

A sigh of relief went up as the rain ceased and the winds fell. But they were soon back. We read, “a scene of deluge on the 27th as never raked down the valley of Nairn within the history of this ancient, weather-beaten home” (the home being Kilravock Castle).

As the river Nairn sped and rolled toward its mouth, it brought devastation from its sources high up in the mountains. As the rains drove down from the sky, the small feed burns became rivers, and the river became a raging torrent, sweeping down Strathnairn, taking with it homes and bridges, animals and crops.

High up in the Strath lived old James Mackintosh and his family. By the 4th of August their farm had flooded and washed away, their possessions ruined and the home uninhabitable. With courage and fortitude, the family began to clear up the mess. Then the almost unthinkable happened; the rain began to fall again.

By the 27th the family had fled on to the open hillside, and remained for three days, watching in horror. The waters of the Nairn roared down the Strath, pushing all that was left from the previous flood before it, taking down the stronger buildings, tearing up what was left of the roads.

From the hillside, old James watched. All of a sudden, he put himself in extreme danger by wading in and crossing to the walls of his ruined home. The old man forced his hand into a window space and extracted what to him was a precious item.

After the waters subsided, old James met with Sir Thomas Lauder, who asked him why he had risked his life for what must have been a small possession. Old James Mackintosh replied “I minded me of something I was wanting” “What was it you wanted so badly?” Sir Thomas asked.“My specs,” old James told him. “Your spectacles! How could you risk your life for a pair of specs?” “Truth sir,” he replied, “I could not read my Bible without them!”

Vintage Eyeglasses

It was not the spectacles that were the important part - even though his son had sent them from Canada. The important part to old James was that he needed them to read the Bible.

Why was the Bible so important to the old farmer? The Bible is the“Word of God”. It is unlike any other book, for in it God tells us of sin and judgement, life and death both spiritual and physical. He tells us of how Christ the son of God came to earth, how he lived his life upon this earth, how he suffered and bled and died as the redeemer for men and women. Just as importantly God teaches in the Holy Scripture how Christ not only died but that he rose from the grave and ascended into heaven.

Old James Mackintosh knew this, and being able to read such great things was beyond value. His soul was at peace and the danger from the waters was nothing - he needed his specs to know more of those things that were his stability in this troubled world.

Although old James lost his home, possessions, and his farm, such was the old man's faith that we find it reported:“No murmur of complaint escaped him and all his talk was of thanks to God for preservation of himself and his family.”

Have you read the Bible? Have you read in the gospel of John and chapter 3,“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”