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The Northern Highlands in the Nineteenth Century


Our third series of extracts from the columns of the “Courier” has come to a close, covering fifteen years in the annals of the Highlands. In course of our examination we have found several papers of interest, which may be given as an appendix. The first we have selected is entitled “The Letter-Book of an Inverness Merchant,1745-46.” The circumstances in which it came into the hands of Dr Carruthers are given below. No doubt the letter-book is still in existence, and might repay further examination. Dr Carruthers, however, appears to have skimmed all that was valuable in it. As the articles were first published in 1846, they are unknown to the present- generation.—'

[From “Courier” of August 1846.]

An old manuscript letter-book lately fell into the Lands of a gentleman of this town, who has obligingly furnished us with copious extracts from it. They illustrate the state of the town and trade of Inverness at an interesting time, and hence, though without any pretensions or historical importance— though neither learned, witty, nor romantic —they seem worthy of preservation in the pages of our Highland journal. The letters have no signature, but in one of them the writer tells his correspondent that his communication had been delayed in consequence of a wrong address; “it was directed to Major Grant, our Governor, whereas it ought to have been Dunoan Grant, merchant, Inverness.” This gives us the name of the careful Inverness merchant, whose letter-book has cast up after so many years’ oblivion. Another entry gives us his place of residence. There was no bank agency in Inverness at that time, and Duncan negotiated all his bills with the Royal Bank in Edinburgh, where he held a cash credit for £300. Mr Alex. Innes was one of the officials in the Royal Bank, and he usually transacted Mr Duncan Grant’s money matters in Edinburgh. To this gentleman accordingly Mr Grant applied on the subject of insurance, in May 1746, after the affairs of the Rebellion had disturbed the state of society, and rendered the property of a substantial merchant, staunch to the Hanoverian cause, somewhat perilous and insecure. Mr Grant writes to Mr Innes—

My chief design in this is to request you to get my house insured with the Sun Fire Office for £400, and my furniture for £200, without delay. Pay for the policy and a year’s insurance, and send me the receipt, with one of their lead stamps having the number on it My house is a slated one, built with stone, on the east side of Castle Street; one lodging in the back court is possessed by my mother, Margorie Grant, relict of Duncan Grant, late merchant in Inverness; another lodging also in the back court, is possessed by Mr Robert Barbour, professor of mathematics; and the forepart, looking to the street, is all occupied by myself. The whole, behind and forward, is three storeys high and garrets.


A good roomy house, like that of a man “well to do in the world.” And Duncan Grant appears to have been a man worthy of such a designation. He was not only a merchant carrying on a large trade, but he was a sort of military commissary, having had to supply the garrisons of Inverness and Fort-Augustus, and the troops at Bernera and Ruthven, with provisions and firing. The plodding, money-getting style of the letters, in the midst of .all the excitement of the Forty-five, makes Duncan Grant seem like a Bailie Nicol Jarvie in the Highlands; but he must have been a native of the north, for in one of his entries he alludes to his knowledge of the Irish language—the term by which the Gaelic was then known. Our first extract will relate to Air Grant’s doings as commissary, and the remainder of his transactions as a merchant. On the 8th ot Alarch 1745 he writes to General Guest, then Commandant of Edinburgh Castle: —

Dear Sir,—I received your favour of 28 past, and am glad to inform you that the barque from Portsoy arrived. I have wrote to the Governor to order down the galley, and I have ordered another lock to be put on the girnel, and David is to have but one of the keys; so that it will be bad luck indeed if any of this meal goes a wrong way. He was in arrear of meal on 31st December last, 324 bolls; he ha9 satisfied the troops ever since, which now reduces the arrear to 200 bolls; and I intend to beg of the Governor and Major Talbot not to allow a peck of this meal to be given out while David can supply them. When I was there, I brought him before the Governor, and desired him to declare whether or not he had received from me every boll charged, so that he might not imagine it was any fault of mine; he could not say that it was overcharged a peck, only complained of the inlake betwixt here and the girnel3 at Fort-Augustus, which he said was his only ruin. I am indeed very sensible it is so, having known 11 bolls of an inlake in 200. I am heartily sorry for the vexation that Fort-Augustus occasions you, and if I can do more to prevent it, may I not live to write you again.


The rebellion occasioned no small trouble to honest Duncan. He thus writes. November 1, 1745, to his faithful banker, Mr A. Innes, Edinburgh: —

Your favour of 18th past came to hand only Tuesday last. I see the bill of £80 I sent you is in the hands of Mr John Hay, who, as agent for the Prince, demands the payment as public money; but I cannot conceive how he thinks it to be such, when in truth it is not; it is my own private concern. As I thought that a Paymaster’s bill, bearing subsistence to a regiment, would be better than one drawn by a private person, so I gave my money and

took his bill; and any one that will force that money to be paid to any one but to my order, does in effect rob me of so much. I hope, therefore, the Prince, and the gentlemen about him, will reckon it a very great hardship to keep the bill from me. If you could see Colonel John Stewart, I durst venture to assure you he would see justice done to me. As to Sir John Cope’s bill of £26. I am much of your opinion, that the present situation of affairs renders it imprudent to return it; therefore, if you can get it safely transacted on your own account, do it, and I will allow the value in part payment of George Dunbar's 3 hods. of wine.

A fortnight later he writes to Mr John Crowe, Newcastle—

This will be delivered to you by my friend, Mr Hugh Inglis of this place, who, as his own vessel is to > small, goes to freight a larger one, to carry down coal for the use of the troops here. Now, as sugar is somewhat scarce here at present, and as we have no communication with Edinburgh or Glasgow—occasioned by the Highland army that lays betwixt us— please ship for my account 4 cwts. of finest loaf sugar, 4 cwt. of second sort, and 4 cwt. of lump do.; and if flour be good and cheap, 8 firkins of the finest, 16 of the second, and 16 of the third sort. Send me also six chests of window glass, a barrel of tar, and a good large fire-pan, such as you use to carry fire from room to room. Insure to the full value, so that I may he no sufferer, in case of capture or any other misfortune.

On the 7th of December he addresses Mr John Mowatt, Campvere, Holland: —

Exert yourself to the utmost of your power in getting me a good sufficient vessel, or none at all Your friend Lachlan Mackintosh, who came with you to my house, has given over our trade, and taken another by the hand. He is now with the Highland army fighting for Prince Charles. There has been no action yet between the King’s forces and the Highland ers in England. Several French ships have landed money and arms in Scotland, and some transports have arrived with Lord John Drummond’s regiment from France. We are alarmed here with an invasion from Dun kirk, and we are told that the Dutch troops which we have are to be recalled. Pray, what is all this? Favour me with your news.


There are no entries in the letter- book for three months previous to May 1746. On the arrival of the first portion of the Highland army in Inverness, on 18th February, poor Duncan Grant was obliged to fly. His loyalty to the reigning family and his situation as commissary, made him a marked man to the rebels. He hid the most valuable of his goods and left the remainder in charge of his wife, who seems to have been ai clever woman, for although the malt in town was seized to feed the rebels’ horses, she found means to secret about forty bolls till her husband’s return. His first letter is to his friend Mr Alex. Innes, of the Royal Bank, Edinburgh—it is dated 14thi May 1746: —

As I have not seen my own house from the day the rebels came to this place to the day the Duke of Cumberland made them leave it. I think it were high time for me now to look to some business; and yet I find difficulty in it still, for, by the great number of troops we have here, my house is so full that I scare can get room in it to write this. I send you enclosed Major Mackenzie’s bill on London for £150, and Major Grant’s, our Governor, ditto, for £68 5s, out of which I desire you to pay the sums on the other side, and place the balance to my credit with the bank. I have neither time nor room to look at my accounts, but when the town is somewhat thinner I will write again.

All his letters at this time complain of the disturbance and lose he experienced “from the day the rebels took possession of the town till the day that our deliverer, the Duke of Cumberland, made them leave it." In the following, addressed to Messrs John Coutts & Co., Edinburgh, 14th May 1746, he sets down his own losses at £400 : —

Never was a poor country so distressed as ours has been for some months past; for my own part, I did not see it, but felt it pretty much — £400 will not pay my loss by them. Was it in point of dealing, I should have myself to blame, but 't was by the most arbitrary robbery that ever was heard—and that too under the pretence of authority—all the world, as well as I, must condemn them. Our town is so full of troops, that my house, tho' a private one, is as full as ever you saw a tavern in Edinburgh. I have not opened out my books and papers, nor will I, till I can put them into their own places, so that I know not how I stand with your company, but I think I owe nothing. I hope in two or three weeks to be able to call part of my house my own, and then I shall satisfy you and myself about our account current. I have been all along very sensible of your good intentions to serve me, for which I shall al ways be grateful, and notwithstanding what i have lost, I thank God I have yet more left, so that I need ask neither discount or delay of anything I owe.


The losses occasioned by the rebels, and the presence of the King’s troops in tbe town, caused a general demand for provisions, and Duncan Grant, as usual, was on the alert. To Messrs Coutts & Co., Edinburgh, he writes as follows, June 3: —

I am glad to hear that corn comes from England in such plenty, and I daresay that for this summer and harvest this will be as good a mercat for it as any in Britain, not only for corn, but for anything that is eatable and drinkable; and had I money to pay for them I should soon commission for five or six cargoes of different kinds. If you will allow me to go halves with you for a cargo or two of articles, I will endeavour to be as punctual as possible in paying my share of it. Most of the cattle in the Highlands are, or very soon will be, destroyed by the army, which must occasion great scarcity; and as no doubt we shall have a great number of troops amongst us for some time, things will be in demand; and what would make a capital trip of it is, if you could, on application to the commissioners, obtain a license to import such cargoes for the benefit of the troops here, it would suit well; and if you think any interest I could make with the Duke of Cumberland, or General Blakeney, would contribute, I would try it. The articles chiefly in request will be beef, pork, butter, cheese, tallow candles, soap, bend-leather, linen from 8d to 2s 6d, 5 or 6 tons— good rum—yea, potatoes, rather than waste room in the ship

To Collector Cheape, Prestonpans, 11th June—

It is said Fort-Augustus will be repaired, and a new fort built in Inverness, but not on the ground of the former; but I don’t think we can know anything certain till the Duke reaches London. This is now the season for making peats, and as the men who used to supply us were all in the rebellion, I have sent to others to see if they will contract with me. When the Duke goes to Edinburgh, no doubt he will give you full directions, and you will find what number of troops we are to provide for next winter; if so, I think the following particulars ought to be adverted to. We have neither bedding, meal, nor malt, for them, nor will those things be got here for money; therefore, as Comissary Dundas got the last cargo of coal (which I am very glad of. as they were truely bad), you should send another cargo or two, for what with the wetness of the season and the want of hands to work at the peats, we must be scarce of firing this year; and as no grain was left us I would advise your sending 600 bolls of meal and 200 bolls of Dunbar malt.

There had been complaints that meal was not sent to the garrison at Bernera [Glenelg], a charge which Duncan indignantly denies. To Major Caulfield he writes—

T give you my word its not ten months since they had twelve months’ meal sent them overland from Fort-Augustus. In place of sending it under an escort, as General Guest ordered, I took it on me to trust it entirely to my namesakes of Glenmoriston, and, though it happened very well, I shall never do the like again. My reason was, I had some suspicion of the rebellion, and therefore thought if anything would save the meal it would be such a worthy honest guard.

Might not the Glenmoriston men have helped themselves to part of the meal by the way? It was seldom they had so good a pretext for levying black-mail on the Government stores. There was great difficulty in procuring meal, and Duncan Grant writes to Collector Cheape—

I know of no meal to be got in our neighbourhood, deliverable here, but Lord Lovat’s and Campbell of Cawdor’s. Koss-shire is a very good country for meal, but what we get there must be received at Cromarty. You may talk to Lord Ross, for his son’s estate of Balnagown affords very good meal. There is no such thing, I fear, as bargaining with Lord Lovat’s people for their meal on the spot, for unless some person is appointed factor to receive it they will never deliver it, so it will be lost to the King and private party.


With all old Lovat’s faults his people still clung to him. They preferred him, at least, to the Government, and were content to suffer loss for their clanship. Jacobite principles appear to have got in among some of the northern officials, which troubled honest Duncan, who cared for none of these things. He informs Collector Cheape of a renegade at Bernera : —

Watt, of the barracks at Bernera, has got into a scrape, by a soldier’s wife swearing that he drank the Pretender’s health as King James. The Duke has heard of it, and he is so very angry that he has intimated to me that he must be immediately turned out, and one Maclean (who I know nothing about) put into his place I wrote in the strongest manner to Major Caulfield, that if he was turned out be fore he cleared his accounts the General would be a sufferer by him. I have, in the meantime, wrote in the most pressing manner to Watt to come and clear his accounts, without letting cn anything of this.

The sequel of this story is that Maclean turned out as bad as Watt! In a few weeks Duncan writes to his friend the Collector, that Maclean had proved to be a “rank Jacobite,” and was sent by General Campbell in irons to Fort-Augustus. With Lord Albemarle’s consent, however, the worthy Commissary put the delinquent’s son “to officiate in his stead.” Next in importance to the supply of meal was the supply of peats, and we have a curious letter on this subject, addressed to a firm named “Balnain and Leeks.” It is dated June 4th, 1746: —

It being now the proper season to make peats for Fort-Augustus, and as poor Ochtera is not in a way at present of doing it, I make the first offer to you. I shall first propose the terms on which I cm content to deal with you. I shall leave it to you to accept or not as you please, and then give you my private opinion in case of your not doing it. I want to have delivered, in the peat-yard at Fort-Augustus, 14,000 loads of good and sufficient peats, betwixt the date hereof and 1st Nov. next, each load to consist of 120 peats, for which I am satisfied to pay threepence sterling for each load. I don't tye you down to that precise number, but in your answer to me bind yourselves to what number you think you can give, only perform what you promise, and when I know what that is I shall provide the rest. Now, as to the consequence it will be this, if you undertake to do the thing it will be serving yourselves and the country; if not, then as the moss is looked on as the King’s now, cutters from all quarters will be put on it, and I am much of opinion that while there is a horse within twelve miles, they will be pressed to carry the King’s firing; so, in the first place, study your own interest, and then the good of the country around you. I know this principle prevails much with us, tho’, indeed, we ought to defer the public to the private interest at all times.

True, Duncan, but this balancing between the public and the private interest, and the hint about the moss being looked upon as the King’s own, say more for your pawkincts than for your patriotism


A vessel from Holland, laden with spirits, was taken by the Eltham, man-of-war, but was afterwards liberated, “As we have a great army here,” writes Duncan, “I thought if I bad interest to get my rum and brandy out, it would be better and quicker than exporting it.” He accordingly made application to the Duke of Cumberland, who ordered it ashore for the use of tbe troops, and gave an indemnity to the ship in the case of prosecution. Duncan obtained a general order to take out all the rum and brandy in the ship, by which means be was able to oblige his neighbours in trade, who also received their stores. General Blakeney, commander of the Royal troops in Inverness, took lodgings with Duncan Grant, and Ins business again got brisk. The General, he says, was an excellent judge of wine! His commissary accounts, however, were still in a perplexed state. On the 27th of May he writes to Collector Cheape at Preston-pans—

If David Baillie of Fort-Augustus does not come here in ten days to clear his accounts, I must go where he is. It’s true he was always backward with his accounts, tho’ I cannot blame him so much this year, for really our present commotions put a stop to all sort of business here, even with the most punctual men. Except it be some remains of some walls, there is not a vestige of either barracks or barrack stores left at Fort-Augustus or Ruthven, and when they got possession of our town and garrison, they did the same here, and fed the horses with our malt. . In short, there was nothing but ruin and destruction wherever they came. They often wished to lay hold of me to put me to death, on account of my correspondence with the General, some of my letters having fallen into their hands. The rebels got hold of Main’s coal ship, and carried off, I daresay, 70 tons. I am glad to know you are soon to be here, and if you will let me know your route, I will meet you on the road, and show you the way to my little house, where I assure you of most hearty welcome.

Our merchant, notwithstanding all his care, could not, in those disturbed times, conduct his affairs without the aid of an Edinburgh lawyer. There are several letters requiring advice. The following is dated 30th May 1746, and is addressed to David Munro, writer, Edinburgh: —

Some Highland scoundrel of a rebel is now wearing that piece of fine linen you sent north of mine; however, as it was for the best you did it, I cannot blame you. I have a debt of £40 against Glengarry, upon which nothing has past but a horning. Pray what ought I to do with it, for I think, by the manner in which he is used by the King’s troops, it looks as if his estate was to be forfeited, for all his country is ruined, and his castle and offices burned to the ground. I had at Fort-Augustus some rooms furnished for the officers there. When the rebels took it, they carried off, burnt, or destroyed all Major Caulfield’s furniture and mine. Some of the furniture (but whether his or mine I know not yet) was found in Glengarry’s house. Can I claim on his estate payment for my furniture? John Baillie of Torbreck is dead, and several of his creditors are applying to the Lords to get an order for W. Fraser, W.S., to set the lands.

To the same gentlemen he writes on 11th June—

I return you thanks for sending me a note of adjudications against Torbreck, and as I find mine is the first by year and day, I hope I shall be paid, come of others what will. It is agreed that the estate is worth more than all the adjudications. If you think my money safe in the event, tho' not soon, I don’t care to be the first to insist in a process of mails and duties and of a sale; but if you think it contributes to my safety and interest, I’ll certainly do it; for as now I have got to windward of them all, it were a shame to allow myself to be distanced. You give me great pleasure in letting me know that there was a meeting to concert measures to recover payment, not only of debts due, but also damages done by the rebels. I have claims of both kinds.

The situation of Inspector of Fisheries became vacant at this time, and Duncan wrote to his friends requesting their influence to procure him the appointment. He writes as follows to Collector Cheape, October 21st, 1746: —

I am much indebted to you for the interest you take in getting me appointed Inspector of Fisheries. As to my asking President Forbes’s interest, it’s what I do not care to do, and that for the following reasons:—You must know that for the last ten or twelve years there has been a kind of political quarrel between the family of Grant and his; and as far as I could observe, ever since, my name is not the most agreeable to him. My next reason is, that I hear he has promised his interest to one John Frigg of Findhorn; but, according to the rules laid down by the Trustees, the person appointed must speak Irish, and he knows no more about it than I do of Arabic. It is, no doubt, a loss to me that Lord Elchies is not a member; but although he has no vote, yet I am sure there are votes he can get—solicit him therefor. My Lord Justice-Clerk and my Lord Advocate have done me the honour of promising me their votes. I look upon that as gaining the cause. This is a place that, if my friends were to think of one for me for twenty years, they could not hit on a more proper one—being a place that does not depend on Court or Ministry.

In another letter to the Collector, written a month afterwards, Duncan congratulates himself on obtaining the support of Grant of Grant, and he hints that it would be well if the Trustees could be got to appoint him “before the President comes down from London. We hope he secured the object of his ambition. We may here remark, that though Duncan does not seem to have looked on the excellent President Forbes as one of his patrons, the President was one of his customers. From the accounts still preserved at Culloden House, it appears that wine was occasionally furnished by Duncan Grant, merchant, at the rate of 18s per dozen for the very best claret. Another Inverness merchant, named Willison, charged 16s per dozen. The Bank directors in Edinburgh now began to look after Duncan’s security for his cash credit of £300. He writes to Mr A. Innes on the 11th of June 1746: —

I received a letter last post from Mr Baillie of the Royal Bank, acquainting me that the directors desired that I should find new cautioneers, in place of Lord Lovat and General Guest. I do not wonder at their not looking on Lovat now as a good man, but surely General Guest, tho’ he is gone to London, is as good as ever: and I hope the bank will think him. Evan Baillie. and myself, good for £300—yea, if it was £3000, the bank could not be sufferers by the two last, tho’ the General was not in the question. For my part, I am so ashamed to trouble my friends to join me for £300, that if the bank be not satisfied with the security they have, I believe I shall send them word to balance and shut up the account.


This threat had the desired effect—nothing more was said about the security. We shall now turn to the commercial letters. The commerce of Inverness was very different then from what it is at present. There were not more than two ships in the London trade, and each of them performed only three or four voyages in the year; while there were four vessels sailing regularly to Rotterdam, and occasionally they required to charter a fifth. Sometime previous to the Forty-five a considerable trade was carried on with Boulogne, Bordeaux, and Dunkirk; but this was superseded during the French war, and all wines and other commodities were sent to Holland and re-shipped for Inverness. Honest Duncan was a good deal of a freetrader, as appears from his frequent directions to his correspondents to give certain goods to “the particular care of the shipmaster, and let them have nothing to do with coquet or custom-house.” His plan of providing himself with Mogul cards (no doubt the English soldiers created a demand for this luxury) is an instance of his contraband traffic. He orders no less than twelve gross of packs to be purchased in London, free of duty, for exportation; to be shipped for Rotterdam, and re-shipped for Inverness, under the special care of the master. Duncan seems to have been a very correct man of business—always desirous to have the best article—and equally precise in his orders, whether for ten tons of wine or for “a few yards of very pretty flowered silk, for a gown to my little daughter, nine years of age.” The following letters illustrate, to some extent, the tastes and habits of the Inverness public. To Messrs James Smith & Co., Bordeaux, he writes on the 4th December 1745: —

On receipt of this please send me a very exact account of last vintage, as to quality, quantity, and price of red and white wines: also, brandy and vinegar: to which add the prices of such other goods as we generally order, particularly rock indigo, prunes, playing cards, olive and jessamine oils, Hungary waters, capillaire, gloves, velvet corks, with such other articles as may occur to you. I find there is no such thing as sending you a vessel from here while this war continues; therefore, if you give me any encouragement to order any wine, you will tender me your best advice how to get it home, for I can think of no way at present but by Holland. Pray, how would the Isle of Man, or Ireland, or Norway, answer?

To Mr Alexander Livingston, Rotterdam, Dec. 4, 1745—

I writ you on 1st ult., copy whereof you have prefixed; I now confirm the same. This will be delivered by Donald Mackenzie, master of the Hercules, on board of which you will ship, on my proper account and risque, the following goods, taking care that not only the full value, but also the charges and discount, be insured, so that in case of capture or any other accident I may be no sufferer. 30 ankers brandy, 15 do. best rum, 1000 weight of sugar of four different qualities, 4 chests of lemons, and 2 do. of bitter oranges. If I can meet with a small vessel to freight, shall send her soon over. Amongst other goods I shall want 20 hhds. good claret. Will you undertake to get it for me? It must be racked off fine.

On the 4th June 1746, he writes to the same correspondent in Rotterdam: —

Messrs Brodie and Shaw of Elgin wrote me that if I wanted a few tuns of wine in addition to my last commission, I might have room for it in their ship. You will therefore ship it of the following kinds—2 hods of the very strongest port wine that can be got; 1 pipe of mountain malaga, and 2 do. of veritable sherry, without tendency to the least sweetness. You know the British and the Dutch differ much in their taste of wine; the one for sweet, the other for soft, smooth, silky wine. I beg, whatever wines you send me now, or at any other time, may be extraordinary good of their kinds, should it cost the penny more: I would rather have none than not have it really good. Insure to the full. I believe David Mackenzie and his ship will be soon over with you, by whom I shall trouble you with a commission for several things, which must be all very good; but what I shall chiefly recommend to your particular care will he about 20 hods. claret, and that at two prices; if you don’t think that 70 or 80 guilders can fetch such wine as I want, then let it be 80 and 90, for I shall leave you no excuse.


Our townsmen of that date must have been choice and select in their wines—the strong port forming a kind of foundation for the “extraordinary" fun claret! The Dutch guilder or florin is at present equal to Is 8d sterling. In two months after the foregoing (August 7), we have another largo order addressed to Mr Alex. Livingston, Rotterdam. In this commission Duncan plumes himself on his reputation as a wine-merchant, which the “Highland rebels” seem to have duly appreciated: —

On receipt hereof, I desire you may order to rack off, quite fine, the following wines, to be shipped by David Mackenzie, master of the Providence, which sailed from here yesterday:— 16 hods. claret, 2 do. best old port, and 1 good mountain malaga. I think the following prices, which I am content to allow, should bring me exceeding good wines; if not, I shall never put pen to paper to order wines from Holland. 8 hods. at 80 guilders, 4 do. at 90, and 4 do. at 100. I have for upwards of 20 years retained the character of keeping as good, yea, some will tell you the best, wines in the north; and I hope I shall not now lose that character through you. I think what you sent me last was very good at the price, and I thank you for it which is more than it yielded me—the blackguard Highland rebels having drunk it and paid nothing for it. I hope what I now get will be prime; it is partly intended for General Blakeney, who commands here this year, and stays at my house. He is a man of very nice taste, and I would not for the whole value that it did not answer his expectation. Clear out the ship from Lisbon and Rotterdam for Inverness and Bergen. I will write you fully by next post, when I must trouble you with a commission from my wife, for a thousand articles for aught I know; and she says she will trust neither you nor me with the choosing of them, but must beg Mrs Livingston to see them all, otherwise she will not be pleased.


This letter was dated August 7th, 1746. The next is only one week later, and it also contains an extensive order to Mr James Livingston, Rotterdam. Duncan was rejoicing in a flowing trade. In this commission we have an order from the merchant’s wife, which is as varied and miscellaneous in its contents as ever lady dictated: —

fine fla\our and deep body. I know you can send me such, and if you do it not, a quarrel must ensue; I leave it to yourself, and as you serve me, so will I pay you. Meantime, for your encouragement, I send you enclosed James Taylor’s bill for 1000 guilders, with which credit my account. When I shall pay the rest of my commission, God knows; but be assured it will be as soon as possible. The exchange you draw at does not at all sit easy on me. I can buy many thousands of guilders at 21 and 22 per G.; therefore I hope you will resolve to draw on me at a lower exchange, or wait till I can remit you. You will add to my former commission—1 hod. best rum, 1 chest lemons, 1 do. bitter oranges, 1 firkin good hair-powder, a piece fine muslin for cravats, 2 pieces cotton handkerchiefs, a ream popatria paper, 1 ream London arms, do., cut in halves, 25 lbs. raisins, 24 lbs. currants, 1 lb. cinnamon, 1 lb. mace, 1 do. nutmeg, 6 large delft pots, 5 do. basins, 6 of the largest sponges that can be got, for drying tables, 1 cheat Seville oranges, a bushel of good fresh walnuts, 1 do. of chestnuts, a barrel of good onions, and 25 lbs. best and freshest clover seed. Now follows my wife’s commission, which gives me more trouble than all the rest, and if Mrs Livingston does not see and approve of most of it, I tell you beforehand they will not please: —8 lb. good Bohea tea, 12 lb. best Hyson, 20 lb. best coffee, and 20 finest chocolate, 2 firkins best butter, 6 lb. cucumbers, 6 do. capers, 12 do. anchovies, 6 bottles best pickled walnuts, 6 jars best green olives, 1 large coffee and 1 chocolate pot, 12 Dutch ells of pretty half-lace, of a narrow kind, but of three different patterns, a piece of the finest calico, fit for women’s aprons, and a piece India yellow taffetty for petticoats, with a piece of the very best and largest India silk handkerchiefs. “Mind cocks and hens, and see they be very large; we have plenty small ones here. My wife was to have made you a remittance of 60 or 80 crowns, which she has either stolen or robbed from me, but David Mackenzie going off uncalled for, the purpose is still extant.

This is a half jocular epistle—evidently proceeding from a comfortable citizen. Duncan was getting on bravely, notwithstanding his losses from the rebels; and his wife, as became the helpmate of such a thriving citizen, wished to have her little luxuries and ornaments. Some of these would, of course, be designed for their lodger, General Blakeney; but the pretty lace, the fine calico, and Indian yellow taffetty, were doubtless destined to adorn the person of Mrs Duncan Grant. The goods were duly sent from Holland, and gave entire satisfaction, as we find from the following to Mr Livingston, dated November 7th, 1746: —

The goods by the Providence arrived last week. It would be doing the wines injustice to pretend to give a character of them before they have time to settle in the cellars. I am sorry to tell you that a hod. of No. 5 ran out in the hold, occasioned by the insufficiency of the cask, per enclosed declaration. Upon whom that loss will come—whether on the insurers, on you, your cooper, or on me—I leave you to determine. You will have my sincere opinion of the wines in three or four weeks, and if it is truly good I will be as ready to acknowledge it. and thank you for it, as I shall be to condemn if it does not please: for I am as ready as any Scotsman to complain when I have rea son. Now, as to the articles sent my wife, shall only say, that if you do by me at. Mrs L. has done by her it will be impossible to find fault. The lace is vastly pretty, and the calico the best I ever saw, and everything good of its kind. I beg to return Mrs L. my hearty thanks, and my wife sends her ten thousand. The butter-dishes do not answer my purpose, and it’s my own fault. What I want is little dishes, or boats, I believe, they are called, to carry beat butter to table in; they are shaped very like a weaver’s shuttle, a stroop at each end and a handle at each side. Try and get such, of very pretty china. You will now send me by Captain Rodgers, 2 hhds. best port wine, and one best Bene Carlo, and ditto best promac white wine, brisk like champagne, and add 2 cocks and 4 hens of the largest breed in Holland : also, for my own use, a handsome joint of a cane, at least three feet long.


The cane “for my own use” is a decided mark of advancing prosperity and importance. _ We may conceive a little of pomposity in worthy Duncan’s manner, as he set out with this cane in his hand from his three storey house in Castle Street, to the parish church every Sunday. We have next a specimen in a small way of the manner in which free trade was carried on at that period: —

To Mr Alex. Gordon, London,—Sir, I am told that Mogul cards come very cheap in London, when bought for export, and still cheaper if not stampt; you will therefore purchase for me 12 grosses, and ship them, well packed, by first vessel for Rotterdam, consigned to Mr Alex. Livingston, to my account.

The same day he writes to Mr Livingston—

I have writ to Mr Alex. Gordon, London, to send you by first ship going over—12 grosses of Mogul playing cards, which, when they arrive, you will reship by David Mackenzie or David Robertson, but to the special care of the master. Send at same time 4 reams of London arms writing paper, and 1 do. gilt, cut in half sheets; send me a hamper or two of delft, viz.: —4 prettiest roast plates, 2 dozen soup do., and to each 4 dishes; an anker of the very strongest rum to be got; 20 dozen lemons, and 20 dozen oranges; and a piece of thick cambric, such as is used for ruffles.

The following to Mr John Hassell, London, 27th November 1746, shows that Duncan was not a man to be treated with neglect or suspicion : —

I wrote you some time ago to send me some porter by Captain Reid, which commission you was not pleased to obey, whether doubting my credit or for what other reason I know not; but this I believe, that General Guest (who desired me to deal with you or your brother the major) would not doubt me for a ship-load of porter. You will now send me, by Captain Hugh Inglis. of the Pledger, eight hhds. of the best fresh porter, which, if it is not very good, cannot sell here at present, for we have an army with us who are very good judges. Captain Inglis will pay the value; but if in your next you doubt me, let me know that my commissions, whether with or without money, are welcome to you; I’ll forbear giving you any more trouble.

Air Hassell sent the porter, as appears from the subjoined letter, addressed to Captain Hugh Inglis, at his house, Shore, Inverness : —

You have here enclosed Mr Campbell hia bill, at three days’ sight, on the Ordnance Office, Tower, for £30, out of which pay Mr Hassell’s account for porter, and with what remains you will buy the following articles—all of the best kind, though they cost the penny more. If the things you buy tor me exceed the value in your hands, in that event I allow you to draw on me for not only what you overpay, but also, if you have occasion for it, any sum you please within a hundred guinea®, and

I hereby promise your bill will meet with due honour. In reading over my commission, I find it contains more of my wife’s than of mine, so part betwixt you, for I have obeyed my orders. A handsome stone for the chimney of my little room that smokes, 18 inches in the ribs; a pieoe of arras hangings for the partition of said room, 31 yards by 21 high; a double dozen of ivory-hafted London bladed knives and forks, with a shagreen case to hold a dozen of spoons, 2 salts, and a marrow spoon; 2 jappaned drinking mugs, to hold a bottle each; 2 firkins best butter; 4 best Gloucester cheeses; 4 choppin bottles best eating oils; 4 firkins flour; 2 best steel snuffers; a handsome kettle, hard mettle, to contain about 4 Scotch pints; 4 dozen most fashionable wine glasses; 2 thick water glasses; 2 glass decanters to hold some more than a bottle; 1 dozen glasses for washing hands at table; 1 glass lamp to hang in the stair; a pretty lanthorn to hold 2 candles; 6 pair women’s largest best stockings, viz., 2 pair blue, 2 do. green, 1 do. scarlet, and 1 do. black; an iron toaster of plates, well polished—what I mean is that machine that stands before the fire full of plates to keep them till there is use for them; a table bell.


Two other letters relate to the embellishment of Duncan’s house in Castle Street, and from the first of these we learn that the merchant also had a farm and six cows. To Mr Ralph Carr, Newcastle: —

dairy with a sufficient stock of your earthern-ware, such as is used with you for holding milk, butter, &c, I should be much obliged to you.

To Messrs George Dunbar and Co., Edinburgh : —

I believe, by the time my wife gets the mournings I wrote you for, it were time for her to go out of them. I have a little daughter of nine years, who thinks the finest things she ever saw here not equal to the coarsest with you, so that I can have no peace till I get her a gown, shoes, and stockings from Edinbro’. Pray, at how much a yard can I get a genteel silk, light in colour? I believe a flowered one would please best, and I think a white ground would not be improper. Give me your advice, that I may send for it and get rid of her. Can shoes be got by her age without her measure?

Note.—This is the end of the quotations in the “Courier.” We hear no more of Mr Duncan Grant, but no doubt he continued to be a prosperous man.

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