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Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical and Social
(Second Series) Inverness-Shire, Parish by Parish
Chapter XIX. Bracadale


THERE was a good deal of litigation in Skye a century ago. Proprietors, large farmers, ministers, and others joined in conflict. One of the most famous litigants was Captain Neil Macleod of Gesto.

Many of the Skye clergy were too fond of farming, and thereby excited such ill feeling on the part of the regular farmers and crofters as to lessen their influence.

The Rev. Roderick Macleod, first minister in Harris, was licensed on the 1st of May, 1763, and settled there in 1765, being translated from Harris to Bracadale in 1768, where he remained until his death in 1812, and is described as having been "eminently zealous in the work of his Master." The letter after given was written by his clever wife, Janet Macqueen. Mr and Mrs Macleod were taken into Court by Gesto, in respect of a charge against them for falsely proclaiming him a liar at the church door of Bracadale, after divine worship. This was the ancient way of denying publicly a malicious and unfounded report, but only resorted to in grave cases. Mrs Macleod's letter to an Inverness merchant who had interested himself in their behalf is very forcible, and reflects much credit on the writer, who was an elderly woman having, however, all her wits about her. The name of the spinster, not young it may be inferred, who was too delicate or bashful to appear in Court, but could walk many miles to weddings, making a creditable appearance on the floor, is fortunately preserved. The writer died in January, 1817, leaving three daughters. The following is the letter :-

"Balgown, March 24th, 1805.

"Dear Sir,--I hope this will find you and family well, which will give me great pleasure to hear per bearer; he sends me word he won't carry anything home, but I hope you will prevail with him to bring me 1lb. of good tea and one pound tobacco twist. I had a letter from Dalness lately; he says Mr Home and him have agreed to cite witnesses by sheriff-officer, but Mr McDonell from Inverness does not mention this in a letter Mr Macleod had from him lately, but I'm sure he'll do what is best in that respect as well as in other respects. Upon receipt of this, please speak to him and tell him that if its a sheriff-officer that is to cite the witnesses we would wish to know without loss of time as we would wish to summon them early in April so as to prepare them, tho' we don't mean they should be examined sooner than the last of April, that they may finish their labouring. If any messenger came to the country (upon other business) he might do the business, but I hope you and Mr McDonell will do what is proper whether the business is to be done by a messenger or sheriff-officer ; we would grudge the money given Mr Murray and his attendant Stewart very much if one did not expect Gesto would be made lyable for it and every other expense his conduct has been the occasion of since that step. MacCaskill was one of the witnesses present when John Stewart was summoned and tho' a younger man than McCaskill he was five days later at Inverness than McCaskill, so what apology he made for his delay I know not, and I hear he got more than any other. I hear Mr Murray supported his claim, but the truth is Mr Murray kept Stewart on the Road to keep himself company, however its enough to suggest this to him when he makes the next claim, and if Gesto is brought in for it I would say nothing about it. Two or three witnesses are to go again, who I'm sure will claim horse fare, but I hope Mr McDonald and you will know pointedly who has a might to get this. I'm told none has but such as pay horse tax and keeps a riding horse. We are to summon a cousin of Gesto's. Every time she finds out any thing about her being summoned she turns sick. For this reason we keep it a secret untill we can get her summoned. Whenever Mr Macpherson summoned her she sent for a doctor who refused to answer her tho' she travelled some miles to meet him, but she was going about to dance at weddings when the people went off for Inverness. Consult Mr McDonell about this witness whether she is to be summoned over again or sent off as a prisoner, as she refused to answer formerly. Her name is Florence Macleod, residenter at Totarder. If she can be brought now at her own expense so much the better, as I am sure Gesto directs her excuses. Tell Mr McDonelI let us know if he has any objections against McCaskill's evidence, for he must be asked whether Mr McLeod or me ever desired him cause Malcolm McLeod proclaim Gesto a lyar or even mention Gesto's name to him on that subject one way or other, for if he desired Malcolm proclaim him a lyar it must be at the desire of some other person or to please himself, for neither of us never mentioned Gesto's name to him or the name of any other in that way to McCaskill or any other person alive. I'll expect to hear from you per bearer. Mr McDonell or you can expect no money till after the mercat, then you may be sure to hear from Mr McLeod. I hope you'll find Dr McCaskill's children good payers. Mr McLeod and Peggy joins me in respectfull compts. to Mrs Mcpherson, the young ladies, and you. Ever yours sincerely,
(Signed) J. MACLEOD.

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