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Reminiscences of Cromar and Canada
Chapter VI - My Grandfather

THE echoes of the rebellion of 1745, had scarcely ceased from the highland hill, and the new order by which the feudal system had been replaced had scarcely begun to function, when in 1764 and on either the easterly or the westerly "half pleuch of Knocksoul," our grandfather Robert Farquharson was born. He would seem therefore to be representative of the last generation of Scottish men born into the old conditions. These conditions, as has been stated, implied the necessity of the co-operation of two independent tenants in operating one only plough, probably under obligation, in terns of their respective leases, to contribute two men and six oxen or their tractive equivalent in working the two farms fairly, justly and harmoniously as between themselves, awl yet without unity of interest.

Of my great grandfather who seems to have been the grandson of The Fairy Doctor I know nothing further than what has been already stated, except that he had two son; besides my Grandfather, one of whom, whose name I have forgotten, was the father of my father's cousins, William Farquharson of the Newton of Melguni, Donald Farquharson late of Tollyhill, and Mrs. John Forbes of Kinhattoch, who was the mother of Harry Forbes late of the Township of Tilbury East. His third son Andrew went to Jamaica as a young man, where he seemed to proper, but in a few years took ill and died.

The time of my grandfather's birth was momentous in the history of the world. In March of the next succeeding year was passed by the British government the unfortunate Stamp Act, which though only four months in operation became the occasion, though not the cause, of lighting a train of events that shook the world. First came the rebellion 1776 and the secession of the Thirteen American Colonies. From that rebellion issued the spark that produced the French Revolution whose repercussion roused to activity the awakening intelligence of the British people, among whom had already commenced murmerings of discontent. In earlier times the conflict for liberty in Great Britain had been carried on exclusively by the nobles against the king. Now had come to be heard the voice of the more wealthy of the untitled classes, who, with the extension of commerce and enterprise consequent largely on the introduction of laboursaving machinery, had been rapidly increasing in numbers, wealth and influence. On these had been falling increasingly the burden of taxation, and already they were knocking at the door of the House of Commons, loudly demanding a voice in its deliberations.

When the new inventions of the period are considered, the consequent growth of commerce is not to be wondered at, nor the increase of wealth amongst the manufacturing and commercial classes. In 1763, came into use Wedgewood's thermometer and his greatly improved methods in pottery. 1767 saw both Hargrave's spinning jenny and Arkwright's spinning machine; 1768 Watt's improved steam engine and Crompton's "mule," and 1779 Cartwright's power loom which, with the aid of the spinning machines, revolutionized the textile industries of the country and ultimately of the world.

At the first the French revolutionary method was applauded, and even from Scotland, whose own proverb, "Better the ill that's kent than the guid that's unkent," proclaims her caution, came approval, in the voice of her greatest poet,

"Syne let us pray that auld England may
"Sure plant this far-famed tree, man
"And blythe we'll sing and hail the day
"That gives us liberty, man."

As the French Revolution progressed, however, it became evident to the British people that the much extolled liberty that is absolute, means the negation of liberty that is real. They therefore wisely resolved thenceforth to avoid the short and bloody way of revolution, but with more determination than theretofore, to assert and maintain their rights and liberties as citizens, depending upon the slower process of evolution which had been found effective in the past.

I have no reason to believe that this agitation touched the district of Cromar or the upper reaches of the Dee. Newspapers were so dear that the subscription price of a weekly was beyond the purse of the common people. At that time no one in a parish, other than perhaps the parish minister or a resident proprietor, could be a regular subscriber to even a weekly sheet. Of the doings of yesterday in the distant antipodes we read today at our breakfast tables, and a common incident interests simultaneously the whole civilized world. The modern impact is instantaneous. To greater and more sudden and concerted heights rise the consequent tides. These, unless controlled by the voice that quelled the waves of Galilee, might well overwhelm the world in disaster.

It is well perhaps for humanity that the faculty for cooperation, as well as scientific attainment and equipment, have been in the past denied to immature and non-progressive peoples. The question at to whether or not the new powers of which we boast today, like a sharp tool in the hand of an irresponsible child, have been acquired by us ahead of the wisdom and moral character necessary for their proper and enlightened use without endangering our own safety or that of our neighbours, still awaits the answer of futurity.


Of my grandfather's childhood and youth I have little or no information except that as a young man he left his home to find employment in the service of a Col. McPherson who owned a small estate in the County of Perth near Blairgowrie. There he met and married Elizabeth McPherson a distant relative of his employer. Her mother had been the daughter of a family of some standing in the community, but she in her youth had eloped with, and in the matrimonial bond accepted the lowly estate and fortune of an employee of her father. Of her the story is told that when a little girl, in company with her father on a neighbouring hill, the two were met by Prince Charlie—probably at the commencement of the insurrection,—accompanied by Lochiel and Cluny McPherson, a famous local rebel with whom her father was well acquainted, besides a number more of the Prince's followers. Cluny, on meeting her father, saluted him with the question, "How do you like to see me now," to which her father replied, "I always like to see you, but I should have preferred that you had remained loyal." That answer, Mrs. Duguid thinks, had reference to the fact that Cluny, who had been an officer in the King's army, had broken his oath in joining the Prince. Be that as it may, Lochiel shouted, "Shoot the old fellow!" "No," replied Cluny, "He has only given an honest answer to my question." The Prince was meantime taking some notice of the little girl, who, Mrs. Duguid says, had some berries in a coat, from which, at her father's suggestion, she handed some to the Prince. Before parting, the Prince, drawing aside his Highland plaid and showing the girl the star on his coat, bade her tell her grand-children whien she became an old woman, that she had seen "The Prince."

When in the employ of Colonel McPherson, grandfather in a humble way came in contact with some interesting characters who made occasional calls on his employer. One of these was the famous Captain Dhu (or dark) McPherson, whose story is told by James Grant in his "Legends of The Black Watch." I have no means of checking the particular of Grant's extraordinary tale, except its concluding part, the terrible recital of the last tragic scene of the life of his redoubtable hero. The Captain had invited a number of his friends to accompany him on a hare-hunting expedition on a neighbouring Hill. With the intention of renewing their sport on the following day the party had sought shelter for the, night in a rude sheiling high up on the bleak mountain-side. The party, with gillies and attendants numbered some twenty souls, who, together with their dogs, were crowded into this small retreat. During the night there arose a severe thunder-storm—something extremely rare in Scotland, in the winter-time,—the sheiling was struck by lightning, and the whole party, men and dogs, perished.

To this point my father's report corresponds exactly with Grant's. I am therefore of the opinion that there is no doubt as to the fact of the tragedy in its main essentials. My father remembered hearing the story discussed between his father and his maternal aunt, each version coloured with personal predilections. His aunt held firmly to the theory most common at the time, also that of the novelist in whose telling the story loses nothing of its horror, that Captain Dhu had sold himself to the Devil and that the assembling of the victims of the Christmas tragedy was part of his obligation in terms of that satanic transaction. That view, according to my father, was stoutly opposed by my grandfather, which fact, coupled with much else that I have heard about him, leads me to believe that he was more free than usual from the superstitions of his time. My own father's entire freedom from superstition is also confirmatory of that belief.


Relations between my grandfather and the Colonel appear to have been most cordial and mutually satisfactory, but grandfather had heard that "The Parks of Coldstone" was being offered for rent at what he deemed a bargain, and he determined to make an offer for it. His employer, however, like most of his class at the time, seems to have been living beyond his income, and being desirous to return to the army where he would be able to live at less expense, made him an offer of increased pay if he would remain and oversee the farm in his absence. Tempted by this fair offer grandfather consented to remain. But, unknown to the Colonel some new regulation had been made which barred his return to the army. Meantime the favourable offer for the farm of The Parks had been withdrawn, and grandfather found it necessary to negotiate a lease on terms less favourable to the tenant. It was a life lease, and the rent, as I remember it, was eighty pounds a year, which for that time was surely exorbitant. The farm contained about 100 acres, but at that time the part that could be cultivated must have been much less.
The exact year in which the lease commenced I have not been able to discover, but it could not have been earlier than 1793, because in that year is dated Rev. Robt. Farquharson's contribution to "The Old Statistical Account of Scotland," from which it is Iearned that the farm was then, as it had been for fourteen years previously, untenanted and laid out in grass parks (whence, by the way, the farm derived its name which had originally been simply "Coldstone").

So rapid has been the march of improvement during the period since intervening that it is difficult for the modern mind to realize how primitive were the conditions then obtaining. In extract from Graham's "Social life of Scotland in the eighteenth century," already referred to, gives an idea of the conditions throughout Scotland generally at that time, or a little before, and not unlikely fairly describe many farm homes of that day.

"The house's of the tenantry were very little better, in most cases than those of their ploughmen and herds, from whom the farmers differed little in egress, manners or rank. Even in Ayrshire, till long after the middle of the century, they were little removed from hovels, with clay floor, open hearths, sometimes in the middle of the room, with walls seven feet high, yet three feet thick, built of stones and mud. Only the better class of farmers' houses had two rooms, the house getting scanty light by two tiny windows, the upper part (only, glazed with small panes of bottle glass. It had been the practice in former times—but dying out in the early part of the century—for the out-going tenant to remove from the farm-house all the beams and rafters which he himself had put in; and consequently his successor came, not to a home, but to a ruin consisting of four broken walls, and had virtually to rebuild the house, which he, in turn, dismantled when it became his turn to leave. In these dismal, ill-lighted abodes, when night set in, the fitful flare of the peat fire was all the light they had, where the ruffles or split roots of fir found in the peat moss were only lit for set purposes such a: family worship."

From Burns Vision, he quotes in a foot-note, a verse illustrative of the dwellings above described:---

``There lanely by the ingle cheek
``Ì sat and eyed the spewing reek
``That filled with host-provoking smeek
``The auld clay biggin`
``And heard the restless rattans squeek
``About the riggin`

From Rev. Robt. Farquharson;s contribution to ``The Old Statistical Account of Scotland`` we may safely infer that by 1793 the retiring tenant had ceased to take with him the roof of his house, but instead received compensation according to appraisal for his whole dwelling, which presumably he had either purchased at the commencement, or himself erected during the currency of his indeterminate tenure.

On The Parks of Coldstone, so long vacant, there was no dwelling, and the new tenant, I understand, erected one for himself. No doubt it was small, clay-floored and unpretentious. It had, however, the but and ben with the usual box-bed accommodation. The barn, horse stable, cattle byres and hen-house were attached to it, stretching out in a single line, with I suppose the manure-heap not far removed. Entry was made on the new venture in high hope and with abundant courage.

Around the new tenant soon began to gather a family of boys and girls whose splendid physique and spirit gave promise of abundant help in days to come. He had brought with him an iron plough, the first seen in the district, and no doubt felt somewhat superior to the neighbours, well known in his boyhood, who were still plying the old ox plough of their fathers. But the times were hard, and all too soon the health and spirits of his faithful wife began to fail till, as time went on, it became evident that that fell destroyer of youthful life, consumption, had marked her for his prey. The end came in April 1814. Sorrow followed upon sorrow, and little wonder if hope itself should have failed as one after another of his family, assailed and vanquished by the same disease, followed their mother in quick succession to the grave. The stone in the family plot in the Coldstone churchyard briefly records the particulars of their passing. Allan died in 1817, aged 23; Isabel in 1821, aged 24; Elizabeth in 1824, aged 22; Robert in 1828, aged 27; and John in 1830, aged 25. They seem to have been a stalwart family, the boys standing not less than six feet in height, and intellectually gifted as well, and as my father would sometimes add, "very proud." My mother told us that John, the only one of them she knew, even after he was fighting the disease that was manifestly soon to carry him off, maintained a most cheerful demeanour and never allowed a word of regret to pass his lips. My father was assured that his mother had passed away in rapturous joy, in fullness of faith and in anticipation of the rest that remaineth. As to the others, I know less, only that they all seem to have performed well their part during their brief sojourn in the world.

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