The island of Stroma is in the parish of Canisbay.
In the MS. diary of Bishop Robert Forbes, who visited Caithness in 1762, there is the following statement regarding Stroma and the Kennedys: -
"This island is famous for having dead bodies of men, women, and children, above ground, entire, and to be seen for 70 or 80 years, free of all corruption, without embalming or any art whatsoever, but owing, it is thought, to the plenty of nitre that is there. The bodies become very brownish with length of time, but so that the visage is discernible by any friend or acquaint. ance that ever had seen the person alive. I looked over the ferry of two miles (from John O' Groat's) often to the burial-place close upon the shore of Stroma, which is a small house like a dovecote, the roof being now off and the door broken to pieces, for being informed that the bodies were now under ground I did not cross the ferry to view it. This little repository for the dead was built by one Dr. Kennedy of Cairnmuck, as they term it in Caithness, but I take it to be Kenmuck, as there is such a place in Aberdeenshire, from which country it is said he fled to Stroma for homicide, having killed one Forbes of the family of Foveran. Upon this island the doctor made out a small habitation for himself by building a snug house of two stories and well slated, and he ordered his body to be deposited in the little house which he had erected for that purpose, standing by itself. His body was to be seen here for many years, and would have been so still had it not been for his son, Murdoch Kennedy, who played such wretched tricks on the body of his father, for the diversion of strangers, as in time broke it to pieces. He used to place strangers at his father's feet, and by setting a foot on one of his father's, made the body spring up speedily and salute them, which surprised them greatly. Then after laying the body down again, he beat a march upon the belly which sounded equally loud with a drum. William Sutherland of Wester particularly informed me that about forty years ago (about 1700), he was in Murdoch's house, the same built by his father, and with him went to the burying-place, where he witnessed him thus beating a march, and saw several other bodies entire, particularly some bodies of children, hanging by nails and pins upon the walls like dried haddocks, as he termed it. Wester's son (John Sutherland), a married man, told me that only about twelve years ago (1750) he was in Stroma and saw then Dr. Kennedy's body entire".
IN 1659 John designed as sometime elder of Kermucks, got from the Earl of Caithness a wadset of his lands in Stroma, including the Nethertown of Stroma, and the family of Kennedys remained in possession until 1721.
John Kennedy appears to have been a grandson of Lady Buchollie, and to have married Janet, eldest daughter of William Forbes of Craigievar. The wadset of Stroma was taken to him and his wife. He had several children.
In 1672 Margaret and Jean Kennedy, two of his daughters, disponed portions of the wadset to "John Kennedy, elder of Stroma"; and in 1685 John Kennedy, "younger of Kermucks", disponed the Nethertown of Stroma to John, "elder of Stroma", and his wife, Jean McKenzie, sister of Sir Alexander McKenzie of Broomhill.
The connection between the three John Kennedys, namely, John, "sometime elder of Kermucks", John, "elder of Stroma", and John, "younger of Kermucks", does not appear, but John Kennedy, elder of Stroma, seems to have acquired the whole wadset lands, and to have conveyed them in 1687 and 1688 to his brother-in-law, Sir Alexander McKenzie, In 1713 Sir Alexander disponed the Nethertown of Stroma to his nephew, Murdoch Kennedy, son of John, and about 1721 the lands were acquired by William Sinclair of Freswick.