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A History of Rannoch
After the ‘45


The Rev. Duncan McAra, who was Minister of the Parish of Fortingall for about 50 years after 1745 and wrote the Old Statistical Account of the Parish, testified to the fact that the people of Rannoch were very badly off at the time of the Rebellion, but that their conditions had improved beyond all measure by 1791.  There were no roads or bridges previously and they lived in the most primitive and poverty-stricken fashion, as we have already seen, but by 1791 there were excellent roads and twelve bridges.  The people, he said, were now clean and lived in houses of stone with blankets and had sufficient food to keep themselves healthy.  As a result they were more law-abiding.  It was even reported earlier, in 1761 in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, that the notorious people of Rannoch were becoming greatly civilized, and no thefts or robberies had been heard of recently among the inhabitants.

However, it was a different story in the early days after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and the years immediately following, for Rannoch was in a sad state.  Not only were the people starving, but there seemed to be no alternative open to the returning warriors but thieving.  There were soldiers everywhere searching for the rebel leaders and trying to curb and capture the thieves.  These soldiers established themselves at Black Park, sing as their barracks the encampment built by General Wade’s men in 1730 when they were building the stretch of Military road from Tummel Bridge to Trinafour.  You can still see this today in a sheltered hollow near the burn Alt na Moine.  It is said to be similar in plan to Ruthven Barracks with the same type of central alleyways off which go to the small barrack rooms and enclosures for horses.  Quarters were also built at the west end of Loch Rannoch.  The Barracks, as it exists now, is a modern version built near the site of the old one.

The soldiers took over Mount Alexander but Struan Robertson, because of his age, was allowed to stay in a modest cottage at Carie from where he could see his beloved home.  Other leads who had not been killed had to evade capture, and that meant exile.  Their homes were burnt down as reprisals.  Crossmount, Innerhadden, Dalchosnie and Dall suffered this fate and their estates were forfeited to the Crown.

Against the thieves the soldiers had much more trouble.  A report sent in to General Blakeney at Fort Augustus asked for steps to be taken to protect such places as Banff, Aberdeen, Angus and Mearns from the depredations of the thieves of Rannoch.  In the same year (1747) a report from a detachment at Clova stated that they intercepted a band of Rannoch thieves and recovered forty head of cattle from them. There are dozens of similar reports which gave a fair indication of the problems facing the soldiers.  They patrolled enormous distances trying to intercept the stolen herds as they were driven into Rannoch, and some of the reports sound a note of pessimism and frustration.  A Captain Patton of Guise’s regiment said ’the people of this country (Rannoch) are the greatest thieves in Scotland and were all in the late rebellion, except for a few.  They have a great number of arms but they keep them concealed from us.’  They have a great number of arms but they keep them concealed from us.’ He goes on to say that he was sure a Captain Robertson of Carie had plenty hidden away but he doubted if he would find them.

If their reports are accurate these men deserved a Military Medal at least.  This same captain report patrolling from Dalnaspidal to Leargan (in Rannoch) where he found arms hidden in Duncan Stewart’s house although Stewart escaped into the hills.  He then went to Innerhadden where six Highlanders, dressed in the banned kilt and chased them to Tummel Bridge and searched all night.  From there he was ordered to guard the approaches and to apprehend a band of thieves who had lifted cattle from Braemar and were headed to Rannoch.  It is not stated what the result of this action was, but the report ends up with an account of his unit’s attempts to catch up with robbers who were reported to be heading for the foot of Schichallion after a successful raid in Glenlyon.

Similar reports from a Captain Hughes in 1749 tell of a party of fully armed Highlanders plundering at Killicrankie; they were chased as far as Aberfeldy where they escaped ‘as the soldiers could get no help from any of the local inhabitants’.  Shortly afterwards two of the men were captured at Killin but because of the large mob they were let off.  The report was handed in at Invercomrie…quite a mileage covered in one patrol!

The soldiers were kept very busy but it seems that by 1754 peace was beginning to reign in Rannoch.  Once the thieving stopped the soldiers were able to devote their energies to more constructive activities and there is no doubt about it but they were responsible for bringing about an improvement and stability to the place.  They built roads and temporary bridges, shops and school rooms.  Behind them was an officer who more than any one should be credited with the honour of bringing peace and prosperity to the area.  He was Ensign James Small of Lord Loudoun’s Regiment.  He had been stationed at Finnart and in 1754 he was appointed by the Commissioners for the Forfeited Estates to be factor of the estates at Rannoch, and he continued this office until he died in 1777, by which time he had improved the state of affairs at Rannoch beyond all recognition.

He decided that the huddle of houses at the east end of Loch Rannoch, erroneously called Kinloch, which means head of the loc, would make an ideal village.  He had the place chalked out and he planned the building of houses.  He provided for disbanded soldiers as crofters and householders; he brought in food for the inhabitants; he advised on improved agricultural methods; he had mills erected; he introduced flax and potatoes.  He prepared for the making of more schools, for erecting church buildings, for building bridges and for establishing centres for teaching people spinning and weaving.  He also brought in mason, joiners and wheelwrights to teach the younger generation useful trades.  In addition to the trades already mentioned he chose a Smith able to work with iron, copper and tin, likewise a Shoemaker and Tailor.  He also arranged for the soldiers to build a new village at the west end of the loch.  They put up ten houses but they chose an unfortunate name for the village…Georgetown, a name that is no more popular with the villages now than it was then.  The Stewarts brought nothing but bad luck to their subject but their subjects have remained loyal to them in spite of all. However, in spite of the name, King George’s soldiers brought peace and prosperity to the place.

James Small grew to like ‘his’ people and he did well by them.. He used soldiers to help the Braes folk (Georgetown to the soldiers) by draining their sheiling land on the moor.  They took part in a huge ditching operation in attempts to make something of the marshy grazing grounds.  It proved unsuccessful because as we know now, nothing short of a thousands of bulldozers working non-stop for years is likely to make any difference to Rannoch Moor.  However, the scheme became known as the Soldiers’ Trenches and the ditches can still be seen (just).  A more successful scheme he introduced was the use of lime.  He had a crushing machine made so that lime could be used to manure the ground.  He also introduced and encouraged the burning of lime for farming purposes.

It is to be hoped that the people of Rannoch appreciated his efforts.  I expect they did, although I know of one who did not.  She was Mrs. MacIntrye.  It was all to do with a pub.  Small felt that his ex-soldiers were in need of a Brew Seat.  So in 1757 he obtained an estimate.  The house chosen was built so close to a tree that it was supported very precariously. Eventually it became so dangerous that even the hardened drinkers refused to stay in it.  So a new house was built.  But whiles it was being built the storekeeper who was the wife of Sergeant MacIntyre, go the trade of the soldiers and ex-soldiers.  Once the new inn was completed the men started to frequent it, but not for long.  Mrs MacIntyre, finding that she had lost the trade, stormed down to the new inn and she beat up the soldiers until they returned to drink in her house.

A person of a different sort from James Small also devoted a large portion of his life to improving the lot of the Rannoch people.  He was the teacher, evangelist and sacred poet, Dugal Buchanan, and he laboured seventeen years to the benefit of all who encountered him.  It is likely that he was one of the first S.S.P.C.K. missionaries to the district.  He is heard of as teaching in his school at Drumchastle in 1748 and then at Bunrannoch at 7 per year. He was quickly established as a good teacher and in addition he was said to be a wonderful Catechist and ‘every Sunday had an audience of above five hundred people’.  James Small worked with him, building him a school and a free house in Kinloch Rannoch, the new village, where he taught the boys and girls in the forenoon and visited the tenants and other people in the afternoon, teaching them the Catechism for which his salary was increased to 15 a year.  His wife also taught Spinning to the wives and daughters.

He found time to write many poems, most of them on religious themes.  They all show a sensitivity of feeling and inspiration.  His most quoted one is called The Skull.  The incident which provoked it was when he was officiating at a burial in Lassintullich and there at his feet was skull.  Such an incident nowadays would be regarded either horror levity but in those days when many bodies were buried in the same grave such an incident was not uncommon.  However, Dugal treats the subject with awe and sacredness.

He was a frequent visitor to the houses and villages around the loch.  Some of his flock were wild and intractable but his kindness and patient manners won the hearts of all.   His name has been revered in Rannoch since those early days and a later generation of people showed their affection and respect for his memory by erecting a marble monument to him in the village square.  It says in Gaelic and English ‘Dungald Buchanan, Evangelist and Sacred Poet, Died 2nd June, 1763.’

Plenty has been written in this historical account of the ‘bad men’ of Rannoch and we have seen the outstanding work of two ‘good men’.  It behoves me to say now that in the early history of the clans of Rannoch, and indeed of Scotland itself, the Campbells are frequently execrated.  But when Rannoch needed ‘good men and true’ during the bad times around the middle of the 18th century, a clan that figured more than any of the others in the Rannoch story were the Campbells.  In the 1760’s we find Hugh and James Campbell are teaching in schools, Donald and James Campbell are flax dressers and linen weavers respectively, and Archibald Campbell is farming at Carie.  Robert Campbell works a saw mill at Dall, while in 1770 Helen Campbell is a midwife.  Captain James Campbell has a tack of two farms in the same year.  In the 1780’s there are many more Campbells recorded as doing task that promoted peace and industry in an area that needed such stability.  The final accolade must go to Archibald Campbell, the teach of Kinloch Rannoch School in 1773, for his work there when the Rev. Duncan McAra was President of Visitation.  What the Minister said of him sums up what accounted for the successful circumstances that changed Rannoch from a savage haunt of thieves to a place worthy of the highest respect.  He spoke of his outstanding ‘diligence and faithfulnesss’.  This was the quality that Small and Buchanan possessed and this was the virtue that made Rannoch into that admirable place it became.


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