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The Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century
No. IV


There are several items of interest in the present instalment, but the only one to which we may direct attention is the death of Sheriff Fraser of Farraline. There is an interesting account of this gentleman in the late Mr Alexander Mackenzie’s History of the Frasers. Simon Fraser was the tenth of Farraline, and was appointed Sheriff of the County of Inverness in May 1781. At that time the Highlands were in a very unsatisfactory condition. Subsequent to the battle of Culloden a band of marauders infested the country, and Mr Fraser’s predecessors in the Sheriffdom, David Scrymgeour of Birkhill, and Alexander Campbell of Delnie, failed to extirpate them, although they made repeated endeavours to do so. Sheriff Fraser, however, ultimately succeeded. Mr Mackenzie thus describes his methods and their results: —

"When appointed be discovered that the existing police was insufficient for its purpose, and found in consequence that the only way to protect the property of the lieges was by an existing arrangement to pay voluntary blackmail in money or cattle to the bands of robbers who then scoured over the Highlands and did pretty much what they liked. Farraline, who for a considerable time served in the army, had left it for the law, and at the desire of his chief, General Simon Fraser of Lovat, set himself to work right earnestly to bring about the suppression of the unsatisfactory state of things which prevailed. With the assistance of a strong and courageous Highlander, well known in his day, John Mackay, messenger-at-arms, Fort-Augustus, and by unremitting personal and persistent efforts, Sheriff Fraser ultimately succeeded in effecting his purpose. Accompanied by his faithful and trusty henchman, he traversed the most inaccessible districts, often incurring great personal danger on his journeys. He was more than once fired at, and so imminent were the risks he anticipated and often incurred that he never travelled on these occasions without a brace of loaded pistols ready for immediate use. Acting on the well-known adage of setting ’a thief to catch a thief,’ he appointed Donald Mor Cameron, in Leckroy of Lochaber, himself reputed a notorious cattle-lifter, as one of the constables of the County of Inverness, and thus secured his services on the side of good order in his district. By Donald’s aid the whole tribe of Kennedies, who lived by tribute or blackmail over a wide range of country, were hunted down, one of them being hanged at Inverness, while several more were banished across the seas. John Mackay traced two notorious members of this tribe as far as Callander, and by a bold and masterly manoeuvre captured them while carousing there in an alehouse. Mackay suddenly entered the room in which they were drinking, and peremptorily called on them to surrender, telling them at the same time that escape was now impossible. They curiously enough believed him, thinking, no doubt, that he had never dared to come so far without a sufficient bodyguard. and quietly allowed themselves to be hand-cuffed, and carried away prisoners. Their mortification and rage may be imagined when they found themselves the outwitted victims of a bold and cleverly-executed stratagem by a single unprotected officer of the law.

Sheriff Fraser died at the age of 66 (Mr Mackenzie says he was drowned at the Longman while bathing), and was succeeded by his son John, an advocate at the Scottish liar and Deputy-Lieutenant of the County of Inverness, who sold the estate. John died in 1838. His only son, Simon, died in the same year, leaving no issue.

From the "Inverness Journal."
1810.

January 12—"The will of the late Dr Gray, of Elgin, whereby he bequeathed £30,000 to the town of Elgin for pious purposes, which was disputed by his friends, and has been for some time past the subject of a Chancery suit, has by a late decision of that Court, been declared valid, and the town of Elgin found entitled to the whole amount"

January 19.—A woman sentenced to transportation for stealing escaped from Inverness Jail by forcing one of the stanchions of the cell, and slipping down by a rope. Another prisoner escaped from the Jail of Wick. He was afterwards captured, but again escaped.

Ibid.—Married, at Dundonnell House, on the 10th curt.. the Rev. Thomas Ross, LL.D., minister of Lochbroom, to Jane, only daughter of George Mackenzie, Esq. of Dundonnell.

January 26.—A theatrical company drawing large audiences in Inverness. One special night the proceeds were £40.

Ibid,—The Inverness Regiment of Militia is appointed to do duty jointly with the Artillery of the King’s German Legion, over the French prisoners when they occupy Portchester Castle.

February 2—The Inverness Packet for London is advertised at this time as "armed by Government." The vessel was to leave Inverness on the 2nd, Fort-Georqe on the 3rd, and Cromarty on the 8th; and was to "call off Findhorn and Burghead as soon thereafter as possible." At this rate of progress she would have taken a long time getting to her destination, but it is stated in a subsequent issue that she arrived in London on the 15th, after a quick passage.

February 9.—The Inverness-shire Farmer Society adopted a resolution to wear cloth "of the wool of our own growth and manufactured at the Inverness Woollen Manufactory."

Ibid.—The Presbytery of Inverness sent to the British and Foreign Bible Society the sum of £178 19s 11½d. The collections are given as follows:—Inverness Parish Church, £32 16s 2d; Chapel of Ease, £35 10s 6d; Kiltarlity Parish, £30 7s 6d; Moy, £11 9s 6d; Petty, £20 0s 3½d; Daviot, £7 7s; Kirkhill, £32; Dora, £9 9s.

Ibid.—Died, on 21st January, aged 75, James Fraser, tenant in Tomovoidt, parish of Boleskine, "a man of modest manners and exemplary life." He was one of the Fraser Highlanders who distinguished themselves at the capture of Quebec (1759). It is noted that within three miles round Tomovoidt there were still surviving five more who had witnessed the capture, one of them being Captain Fraser of Bunchegaire, [Bunchegavie?] and another, Captain Fraser of Errogie.

February 23.—The Morayshire Farmers Club "entered into the patriotic resolution of wearing cloth of the manufacture of Messrs Johnson & Sim, of Newmill, the only woollen manufacturers in Morayshire."

March 2.—Complaints of sheep-stealing, and persons appointed as constables to search for and secure offenders. Four persons appointed for the County of Inverness. The constables were to be armed, and to watch the leading passes.

March 9.—The Committee of the Meikle Ferry Fund announce that a second dividend of £1000 will be paid to the relatives of the sufferers. The Committee further announce that when they have completed their arrangements, they intend to hand over their minutes and the list of subscribers, by whose generosity 170 destitute persons had been relieved, to the minister of Dornoch, "to be lodged with the Session records of the parish, that the whole circumstances attending that dreadful event may be preserved and handed down to posterity." It might be worth while to look for these documents. The Committee evidently carried out their work with business-like precision.

Ibid.—Died, recently at Craigag. in the parish of Kirkhill, at the age of 102, James Fraser, farmer. ‘His remains were attended to the grave by a numerous family, and upwards of 70 of his grand and great-grandchildren. He possessed the use of all his faculties to the last hour, had never been confined above two hours by illness, never wore any other dress than the Highland garb in the course of his long life, and was a man much esteemed by his numerous acquaintances for his singularly pleasing manners."

Ibid.—"Died, at Dornoch, on the 6th curt., aged 73, Bailie James Boog, of that place, a truly honest man."

Ibid.—Died, at Amat, Ross-shire, on the 2nd curt, Munro Ross, Esq. of Pitcalnie.

March 16.—A malignant outbreak of fever in the counties of Caithiness and Sutherland. Notices of this outbreak appear for weeks afterwards. It was of a severe type.

March 23.—Another prisoner in the Jail of Inverness, incarcerated for forgery, made his escape. The Magistrates offered a reward of 10 guineas for his apprehension. When he escaped he was wearing "a light green tartan coat of the Bannockburn manufacture, a blue waistcoat of home-made stuff, with artillery buttons; a dark green kilt with red stripes running through it, black Cadas hose, blue cloth bonnet, and a red comforter about his neck, home-made." He was not re-captured.

March 30.—The following advertisement may be quoted :—"Very speedily will be published by John Ballantyne & Co., Edinburgh, and may be had of J. Young, Inverness, and Ettles and Young, Elgin, "The Lady of the Lake," a poem in six cantos, by Walter Scott, Esq., embellished with a portrait of the author, engraved by Heath. Printed in quarto in the best manner by Ballantyne. A few copies are taken off on royal paper."

April 6.—Woollen factory of Mr James Melvin, dyer in Forres, burned to the ground.

April 13.—Little girl murdered at Speymouth on the previous Sunday by a man named Gillan.

Ibid.—"Colonel Macdonell of Glengarry was presented to his Majesty at the Levee on Wednesday se’ennight, in full Highland dress."

April 20.—" Died, at Errogie, on the 14th curt., in the 76th year of his age, Captain John Fraser; a most respectable and worthy character. He served as a Light Infantry officer during the whole of the immortal Wolfe’s campaigns, with whom his activity made him much in favour. He also witnessed his glorious death."

April 27.—Subscriptions of £105 intimated for the purpose of assisting and finishing an Episcopal Chapel in Dingwall, the building of which was commenced some years ago.

May 4.—A number of coins, mostly of Charles II. and Queen Anne, found in an old dyke at Dalmore, County of Sutherland.

May 11.—Report of a meeting of the County of Ross, which, among its other proceedings, resolved to petition Parliament for the repeal of an Act passed this session, entitled "An Act to prohibit the distillation of spirits from corn in Great Britain for a limited time." It was represented that from inability to dispose of grain, it had become very difficult, if not absolutely impossible, to pay the property and assessed taxes, as well as the stipends of parish ministers. There was a complaint of the great prevalence of smuggling. The meeting also asked for further powers in relation to the construction of roads and the commutation of statute labour, which Parliament afterwards granted.

Ibid.—"Died, at Lochbay, in Skye, 27th April, Mr Alexander Gray, officer of Excise; a truly honest officer, who had no pleasure in hurting the Revenue or fair trader; much and justly lamented by his numerous acquaintances."

May 25.—Legacies and donations to the Academy of Fortrose announced to the amount of £324.

Ibid.—Foundation stone laid of the bridge at Contin, in Ross-shire.

Ibid.—"The County of Nairn, in a very full meeting, which was held on Friday, the 18th curt., unanimously voted an address to his Majesty, expressive of their attachment to his person, and deprecating riotous and tumultuous meetings under the pretence of reform."

June 1.—The Freebolders, Commissioners of Supply. Justices of the Peace, and other heritors of the County of Inverness met on the 30th inst.’, and voted a loyal address to his Majesty.

Ibid.—Died, on Saturday the 19th May, in New Cavendish Street, London, Simon Fraser, Esq. of Ness Castle, in the 84th year of his age.

June 15.—A paragraph states that there was then standing in the house of Farraline, the seat of Simon Fraser, Esq., Sheriff-Depute of the County, rooftree, erected by one of his progenitors on the day immediately preceding the battle of Blar-na-leine, fought between the Frasers and Macdonalds at the head of Loch Lochy. The battle was fought in July 1544. The tree or beam, which was of birch, was therefore 266 years old.

June 22.—Notices of sheep and wool markets recently held at Beauly, Fort-Augustus, and Fort-William. Cheviot wool was sold from 36s to 37s per stone; common wool, 19s per double stone; Cheviot ewes at 36s and 37s; and Cheviot lambs at us 6d and 12s. Blackfaced wedders brought from 21s to 23s, and lambs, 7s to 9s. A later paragraph says that the price of blackfaced wedders should have been given as from 24s to 29s.

June 29.—The Glengarry Regiment of Local Militia marched into Inverness, led by Colonel Macdonell of Glengarry. The corps mustered between 700 and 800 men, and it was stated that there was not a man in it who did not understand and speak the Gaelic language, and indeed prefer it to any other—The Nairnshire Local Militia had previously assembled at Nairn, under command of Lieut.-Colonel Rose of Kilravock. They had two stands of colours, consecrated by the Rev. Mr Paterson, Auldearn.

July 6.- Appreciative notices of the 3rd Regiment of Local Militia, assembled at Portree, under command of Lieut.-Colonel Macleod, and of the 1st Regiment of Ross-shire Militia, assembled at Dingwall, under command of Lieut.-Colonel D. Munro.

July 13.—A handsome stand of colours, given by Glengarry, was presented to the regiment at the Longman by Mrs Chisholm of Chisholrn. The Rev. Donald Martin, minister of the Chapel of Ease, consecrated the colours.

July 20.—The Glengarry Regiment reviewed by General Lord Cathcart. This officer and his staff were afterwards presented with the freedom of the town. A dinner was given in the Northern Meeting Rooms, and a ball in the evening.

Ibid.—Foundation stone of the Tain Academy laid on 18th curt. by Mr Alexander Baillie, late Provost. The site was presented by the Hon. David Ross of Ankerville, one of the Senators of the College of Justice.

July 27. - The 1st Regiment of Inverness Local Militia assembled under command of the Hon. Colonel Fraser of Lovat.—The Easter Ross Regiment assembled at Tain, under command of Colonel Macleod of Geanies.

Ibid.—"Died, at Inverness, on the 19th inst., Mrs Catherine Rose, spouse of the late John Rose, surveyor of taxes, daughter of the late Duncan Rose, Esq. of Kindeace, and niece to the celebrated Duncan Forbes of Colloden, Lord-President of the Court of Session."

August 10.—Colours presented to the 1st Regiment of Local Militia by the Hon. Mrs Fraser and Mrs Macpherson of Cluny. Consecrated by the Rev. A. Fraser, senior minister of Inverness, and chaplain to the regiment. At a later date the regiment was reviewed by Major-General Scott, and there was a dinner and ball in the Northern Meeting Rooms.

Ibid—Mr Crombie, a dentist from Aberdeen, announces a visit to Inverness, and states that if he meets with encouragement he will come regularly once a-year.

August 17.—A large sum in aid of the Meikle Ferry Fund collected in Grenada, and sent by Mr G. G. Munro, son of Mr Munro of Poyntzfield. The amount in local currency was £546 10s 6d, and in exchange value, £276 14s 6d sterling.

August 31.—"On Tuesday the 21st inst., died here, Simon Fraser, Esq. of Farraline, who filled the important offices of Sheriff-Depute, Vice-Lieutenant, and Convener of the Shire of Inverness, and by whose assiduity the public business was uniformly accelerated, and the tranquillity and welfare of the shire greatly promoted for the last 30 years. Perfect master of the language, and intimately acquainted with the manners and customs of the country, he was in the discharge of his duties eminently successful in obtaining the esteem and affection of all ranks; and being a zealous promoter of all public works and institutions, his loss will long be felt and his memory respected by a discerning public." This is the entry in the obituary, and a local paragraph in the same issue makes reference to an impressive discourse preached on the Sheriff’s death by the Rev. Mr Rose in the High Church. The writer adds:- In the character of a judge and in every other public situation, our late pious and worthy Sheriff was deservedly beloved and respected, while his goodness of heart and cheerfulness of temper will be long remembered among the circle of his friends." Mr Alexander Mackenzie, in his History of the Frasers, says that the Sheriff, who lived at Seabank, was drowned while bathing at the Longman. This is not mentioned in the "Journal," but the omission does not necessarily imply that the statement is incorrect.

Ibid.—Show of bulls at Strontian under the auspices of the Highland Society.

September 7.—"On Monday last a mare belonging to Captain Fraser of Brackla, trotted against time from Inverness to Fort-George, a distance of 14 miles, which she performed with ease in 49 minutes, being within 11 minutes of the time allowed. Several bets were depending upon the issue, which were won, of course, by those who betted in favour of the mare."

Ibid.—Died, at Ramagate, on the 26th August, in the 84th year of his age, Sir Alexander Munro of Novar, one of the Commissioners of His Majesty’s Customs in England.—Died, at St Thomas, on the 28th day of June last, Æneas Macbean, Esq., younger of Tomatin, merchant in Glasgow.

September 14.—William Fraser-Tytler of Aldourie appointed Sheriff-Depute of the County in room of the late Sheriff Fraser.

September 28.—James Grant of Bught elected Provost of Inverness in room of Thomas Gilzean of Bonauchton.

Ibid.—Three young men, sons of neighbouring gentlemen, drowned off Lochbracadale, Skye, by the upsetting of a boat.

Ibid.—"The highland piper, who so nobly distinguished himself in the battle of Vimiera, by playing on the bagpipes as he lay wounded, ‘Up and waur them a?, Willie,’ has again embarked with his regiment (the 71st) for Portugal."

September 28 and October 5.—At the Circuit Court, Alexander Gillan was found guilty of the murder of a girl at Speymouth. He was sentenced to be executed and hung in chains at the spot where his crime was committed. The culprit was only about 19 years of age, but the murder was exceedingly cruel and vicious.

October 5.—At the same Court several women from Elgin were convicted of theft and reset of theft. The sentence in one case was that the woman was to be imprisoned in Elgin Tolbooth for the space of one year; that she was to stand in the pillory on the second market day thereafter with a label on her breast denoting her a "Notorious Thief"; and then to be banished Scotland for life. The other women had the same punishment, except that the label which each of them had to bear was "A Resetter of Stolen Goods."

October 12.—Duncan, Munro of Culcairn elected Provost of Dingwall.

October 19.—Report of Northern Meeting. Announced that the Meeting is to hold hereafter on the third Monday of October, and to continue for the rest of the week agreeably to the regulations. For the previous year or two it began on Wednesday. On the motion of the Marquis of Huntly, it was unanimously resolved that all the members should appear annually in blue coats from the Inverness Woollen Manufactory.

November 9.—Captain Charles Urquhart, son of Mr John Urquhart, of the Ordnance, Fort-George, was killed at the battle of Busaco on 27th September. Two brothers, also officers, died some years before, one in Jamaica, the other at Portsmouth. Captain William Mackintosh, son of Mr Mackintosh, store-keeper at Fort-George, was killed at Busaco.

November 16.—Alexander Gillan, hanged at Speymouth on the 14th, for the murder previously reported.

December 7.—Opening of Crinan Canal recorded.

lbid—Died, on his passage to India, on the 29th April last, Lieutenant Allan Cameron, of the 78th Highlanders, son to Lieutenant John Cameron, of the 6th Royal Veteran Battalion. "When little more than sixteen years of age he carried the regimental colours at the battle of Maida, said though these were much torn by the enemy’s shot, he had the good fortune to remain untouched. He afterwards served with the regiment in Egypt, and as Adjutant to the Battalion of Detachments from the Isle of Wight in the Walcheren Expedition, where he unfortunately contracted the fatal disorder to which he fell a youthful victim."

December 14.—Duncan Grant of Bught resigned the office of cashier; and boxmaster to the six incorporated trades, which he had held for 54 years. His son, James Grant, appointed his successor.


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