Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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