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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XLVIII. The Cheeryble Brothers


IN our churchyard there is a stone with the inscription— "Erected by John Grant in Manchester to the memory of his father Donald Grant, late square-wright at Nethy-Bridge, who died 24th Sept., 1824, aged 52 years." This Donald was a first cousin of "the Grants of Manchester." His son John was taken into their employment, but died early. Another son, James, was being educated to succeed his brother, but was accidentally drowned while bathing in the Boat Pool at Cromdale in 1837. The only other connection of our parish with the Grants was through Mr John Grant, grandson of " Parson John," who acted as manager of the Estates of the Grants for many years, and who now resides at Dellachaple, Garmouth, The story of the Grants is quite a romance. William Grant, the elder, occupied the farm of "The Haugh" at Elchies of Knockando. He also engaged in droving,’’ buying cattle in the country, and taking them to the south for sale. This trade was precarious. When prices were good, it paid well, but in bad seasons, and when there was a sudden fall in the markets, it might be attended with serious losses. The year 1782-3 were notably bad years, already referred to as the Pease Years. According to one account, William Grant went south with a drove, but failed to sell at Falkirk. He crossed the border, but found no market. He pressed on to Lancashire, and there, weary and disheartened, he stopped for a night. In the morning he stood with his son William, a lad of fourteen, on the Top o’ the Hoof, overlooking the fair valley of the Irwell, and, charmed with the sight, he said, ‘‘ This is paradise. Here I would like to have my home." It seemed a vain wish. When Warren Hastings was a child, he had "wild fancies and projects" as to recovering the estates of his fathers. Once, when only seven years old, as Macaulay tells, the boy lay one bright summer day on the bank of the rivulet, which flows through the old domain of his house, to join the Isis. There, as three score and ten years later he told the tale, rose in his mind a scheme which, through all the turns of his eventful career, was never abandoned. He would recover the estate which had belonged to his fathers. He would be Hastings of Dalesford. And he succeeded. William Grant’s position was very different. He was a poor Highlander, in sore straits; he was a stranger in the land, which for him had no associations or hopes, and the wish, which rose from his heart, though natural, seemed a vain fancy, a castle-in-the-air, dim and unreal, and soon to die away and be forgotten. And yet, strange to say, the wish came true. In that very land he settled ; there he and his sons found a home, and there by honest industry they built up a large and prosperous business, so that in time they came to rank among the merchant princes of Manchester. and their names were enshrined with honour, as "the Cheeryble Brothers," in the immortal pages of Charles Dickens. There is another version of the story, equally romantic. We give it as it has been handed down in the family of the Macketizies of Achvochkie. The Grants, as already mentioned, got into difficulties from bad seasons, and failure in trade. In 1783, they resolved to try their fortune in England. They had little means, but they started with a horse and cart, and a stock of provisions. The first night they put up at Achvochkie. Next morning the goodwife, Mrs Mackenzie, was up early baking oat-cakes for them, which, with other supplies, were added to their stock. The journey was long and toilsome. By the time they reached the valley of the Irwell, their slender supplies were exhausted. Starvation in a strange land stared them in the face. That night, as they sought rest on the top of the hill, where the monument now stands, William Grant and his wife knelt down beside their cart, and prayed that of God’s mercy their children might be spared and, bread sent to them.

Next morning two gentlemen out shooting came upon the party, and, hearing their tale, gave Mrs Grant two sovereigns. This seasonable help they regarded as a direct answer to their prayer. They never wanted afterwards. William Grant got employment, and his wife started a little shop, by which she added to the earnings of the family. In the days of their prosperity, William and his sister came to Speyside, visited their friends, and sought out their father’s creditors, settling all their claims in full, with interest, in the most generous manner. Mr William Grant himself, the elder of the brothers, gives an account of the settlement in the Irwell Valley, in a letter to a friend, fifty-six years after the event, which, although it leaves out details as to their early history, is extremely interesting. It is as follows:—

SPRINGSIDE, May 17, 1839.

"Dear Sir,—Allow me to acknowledge the receipt of your esteemed favour of the 10th. My father was a dealer in cattle, and lost his property in the year 1783. He got a letter of introduction to Mr Arkwright (the late Sir Richard), and came by the way of Skipton to Manchester, accompanied by me. As we passed along the old road, we stopped for a short time on the Park estate to view the valley. My father exclaimed, What a beautiful valley! May God Almighty bless it! it reminds me of Speyside, but the Irwell is not so large as the river Spey.’

I recollect Messrs Peel & Yates were then laying the foundation of their print works at Ramsbottom. We went forward to Manchester and called upon Mr Arkwright; but he had so many applications at the time that he could not employ him. There were then only Arkwright’s mill, on a small scale, and Thacary’s mill in Manchester. There was a mill on the lrwell belonging to Mr Douglas, two belonging to Messrs Peel & Yates, the one at Radcliffe Bridge, the other at Hinds; and these were the only mills then in Lancashire. My father then applied to a Mr Dinwiddie, a Scotch gentleman, who knew him in his prosperity, and who was a printer and manufacturer at Hampson Mill, near Bury. He agreed to give my father employment, and placed my brother James acid me in situations, where we had an opportunity of acquiring a knowledge both of manufacturing and printing; and offered me a partnership when I had completed my apprenticeship. I declined this offer, and commenced business for myself on a small scale, assisted by my brothers John, Daniel, and Charles, and removed to Bury, where I was very successful; and in the course of a few years I removed to Manchester, and commenced printing in partnership with my brothers. My brother Daniel commenced travelling through the north of England and almost to every market town in Scotland. In 1806 we purchased the print works belonging to Sir Robert Peel, etc., situated at Ramsbottom. In 1812 we purchased Nuttal factory. In consequence of the death of Mr Alsop, the work-people had been long short of employment, and were very destitute. We ordered the manager to get new machinery, of the first-rate construction, and greatly extended the building; and before we began to spin or manutacture, we clothed the whole of the hands at our own expense; prepared an entertainment for them, and observed that the interests of masters and servants are bound up together; that there are reciprocal duties to perform, that no general or admiral could be brave unless he was supported by his men; that we knew how to reward merit, and would give constant employment and liberal wages to all our faithful servants; and I am happy to say that they, as well as those at our printing establishment, with very few exceptions, have conducted themselves with great propriety.

In 1818 we purchased Springside, and in 1827 we purchased the Park estate, and erected a monument to commemorate my father’s first visit to this valley, and on the very spot where he and I stood admiring the beautiful scenery below. There is a fine view from there of the tower in a clear day, and the Welsh mountains can be descried in the distance.

We attribute much of our prosperity, under divine Providence. to the good example and good counsel of our worthy parents. They expressed a wish that I would build a Sunday school, and erect a church to worship God in, according to the ritual of the Church of Scotland, as a tribute of gratitude to Him for his great kindness to the family. I cheerfully complied with their request, and both have been finished years ago. We have done business, on a large scale, at all the places you have named, exporting our goods and receiving the productions of those countries in return ; but trade for some years has been very unproductive—profits being so small, and the risk great, that we have been very much inclined to retire on the moderate fortune we have acquired with great industry, were it not to give employment to our work— people; but we feel unwilling to throw our servants out of employment at a time when many are only being worked three days in the week."

William Grant, sen, as already mentioned held the farm of the Haugh, Knockando, so well known, in later days, as the residence of Mr Macconachie, the famous bone-setter, always familiarly called ‘‘Haughie." He had for his neighbour Alexander Smith, father of the present lord Strathcona, who was his first cousin. His wife was Grizel or Grace Mackenzie, who was born at Tombreek of Inveravon, and whose great-grand-nephew, Mr William J. Mackenzie, is now editor of The Northern Scot newspaper.

Mrs Grant was a woman of rare strength of character and goodness, and the success of the family was largely due to her. As was meet, her sons held her in much honour, and cherished her memory dearly. Dickens has brought out this well in the account which he gives of the birthday festival of the "Brothers" to their confidential clerk, "Tim Linkinwater":—" Brother Charles, my dear fellow, there is another association connected with this day which must never be forgotten, and never can be forgotten by you and me. This day, which brought into the world a most faithful and excellent and exemplary fellow, took from it the kindest and very best of parents—the very best of parents to us both. I wish that she could have seen us in our prosperity, and shared it, and had the happiness of knowing how dearly we loved her in it, as we did when we were her poor boys—but that was not to be. My dear brother—- The Memory of our Mother." Rev. Mr Elliot says that, " as a matter of fact, that mother’s word or wish, to the end of her days, was the law of her sons." He also states, as mentioned in the biography by the Revs Franklin Howorth, that the brothers "seldom passed their mother’s picture without an inclination of reverence or an exclamation of gratitude.’’

Mr William Grant died at Grant Lodge, Ramsbottom, 29th June, 1817, aged 84 and his wife four years later, 16th May, 1821, aged 79. Of their sons, William, the eldest, died, in 1842. The following is the inscription on a marble tablet in St Andrew’s Church:—"Sacred to the memory of William Grant of Spring-side, Esquire—the Founder of this Church. Born at Elchies, Morayshire, Scotland, on the 16th April, 1769. Died at Spring-side on 28th February, 1842. Distinguished by vigour of understanding, spotless integrity of character, and true benevolence of heart. He lived a benefactor to his species, and died universally lamented." To his brother Daniel, his brother’s death was, as Mr Elliot says, a supreme bereavement. "The irrepressible sprightliness indeed still scintillated about the lithe and agile form, but the very genuineness of the man——the moral transparency—-made it impossible altogether to conceal the consciousness of how much had gone from him. A mellowing sense of solitude, with its deep deciphering oracle within,’ henceforth went with him through the busy haunts of men " Daniel died 12th March, 1855, aged 75 years, and less than two months after, on 6th May, 1855, John, the last of the brothers, passed to his rest. William was undoubtedly the business man of the family. One of his pet maxims was "Good masters make good workmen ;" and his favourite counsel, "Always be civil. Civility’s cheap. Always be civil."

The generosity of the Grants was proverbial. Once, it is said, a member of a well-known Liverpool firm called at the office at a time when they were in hard straits for money.

How much do you need?" asked Daniel. " From £6000 to £8000." Daniel at once signed a cheque for £10,000, for which he would take no formal security. " No, no," said the worthy man. ‘‘ Take them with you! take them with you! A thing of honour a thing of honour! Pay when you can! pay when you can! " In Smiles’ " Life of James Nasmyth," it is stated that Nasmyth, when beginning business, had an introduction to the Grants. He called at the office in Cannon Street, and was asked by Daniel to take "tiffin" at the house in Morely Street. The first thing Daniel did was to present him to "his noble brother, William," as he always affectionately called him. Some talk took place as to Nasmyth’s age, means, and prospects. He said he had but £63 to start with, amid William replied, "What! that will do very little for You when Saturday nights come round." But," he whispered, "keep your heart up," and added that if he wanted money to pay wages, he would find £500 at his credit in Cannon Street, and no security! Thus it was that the Grants helped many young men both in Lancashire and in their own country. One other anecdote may be given as illustrative of the benevolent spirit of these good men. Once a certain rival trader wrote a pamphlet, in which the Grants were spoken of in calumnious and abusive terms, William read it, and said the man who wrote it would be sorry for it some day. This came to the ears of the libeller, who took it as a threat. In the ups and downs of trade the pamphleteer became a bankrupt, and Grant was his chief creditor. He was advised to call upon him, but he said, I need not go to him ; I can expect no favour from him." Try him," said some one who knew him better. So he went to Mr Grant and told his sad story, and asked his signature to a paper already signed by others of his creditors. "Give me the paper," said Mr Grant, and after he had glanced at it, he said, "You wrote a pamphlet about me once," and without waiting for a reply he handed back the paper, having written something upon it. The poor bankrupt expected to find libeller or slanderer or such like. But no; there ‘was only the signature. "I said you would be sorry for the writing of that pamphlet," the good man said. "I did not mean it as a threat. I meant that some day you would know better, and see that I did not deserve to be attacked in that way." And he not only freely forgave him that debt, but did much to help him and his family in their time of need. ‘‘ Don’t lose heart I’ll stand by you," he said, and he was as good as his word.


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