In 1795 Alexander Fisher was apprehended in the act of stealing wood by James Murray, overseer on the Breadalbane estate. Murray reported him to John Kennedy the factor who on 11 March 1795 wrote (NRS: GD112/74/70/18) to the Earl of Breadalbane:
I was confounded at the impudence of two men applying to be continued in their possessions, who deserved to be banished from the estate.
Donald MacGregor in Douallin, Lawers against whom there are presumptions too strong to be disbelieved of his having altered the mark of his neighbours sheep ................
The other is a man who was very little suspected for malpractices – Alexander Fisher in Alleckich, who was once a Wood Officer at Taymouth, about 70 years of age, was detected by the Overseer in the very act of cutting, with a saw, on the bank a little east of the porter's lodge about mid-night, a fine young ash tree of about 25 or 30 feet high and about 8 inches diameter. He was desired to go home and leave the tree which he seemed to comply with, but had returned and carried it away. When I sent a party to search for the stick and bring him before me, it could not be found – the overseer who was present and also P. Carmichael insisted that he was the man and at last after I had very seriously admonished him to confess he did so, but would not tell what became of the timber. From such a glaring circumstance I could not help proposing to make an example of him, and particularly of a man, who by his own confession can live independent on his money; I therefore intended giving his possession to some person who had little or none and who had given assistance to the Recruiting; I have two or three in my eye, but have not fixed yet, as I never do in a hurry. Fisher called today and hoped I would not dispossess him – I answered that I was afraid I could not help it. He then told me one of his sons was a soldier upon which I asked him if that gave him liberty to do as he pleased. He said he would apply to your lordship and asked my leave. I gave him leave if he thought proper to do so.
The fascinating correspondence which followed is preserved in the Breadalbane muniments.
Petition of Isobell MacDougall
Prior to discovery of this undated document (NRS: GD112/11/4/2/30) it was difficult to explain the 13 year gap between the birth of Alexander's children Donald and Isabel, why the tenancy of a Alekich was in the name of Isabel MacDougall and why the family suddenly left Acharn and moved six miles east to Murthly.
Alexander was 'removed' twice. The first in the 1760s was for unstated reasons and I can find no correspondence to explain why. Isabel states in her letter to Breadalbane that her husband, Alexander, was first sent away in 1765 and not permitted to return until 1783. I do wonder if he was actually removed in 1769 when Donald was conceived and returned in 1781 when he fathered Isabel who was baptised in April 1782. The tenancy of Alekich was given to Isabel as Croftnamuick was not large enough to support a family without Alexander's income as Officer of Taymouth.
On the second occasion, in 1795, Isobell knew that she and Alexander had no hope of avoiding eviction but her petition and the correspondence which followed show that she and her neighbours hoped that her son Donald might be able to continue at Alekich:
On 5th May 1795 Alexander's son Donald visited The Earl of Breadalbane pleading for mercy. This letter written by Breadalbane to his factor Mr Kennedy, portrays the Earl as remarkably compassionate, indeed he was said to be loved by his tenants (NRS: GD112/11/4/2/30/3 - pages 1 & 2).
Kinnaird May 6th, 1795
I received your letter yesterday and I am happy to find both the beef and veal will be in proper condition upon our arrival at Taymouth.
As I wish you to be at Taymouth about the 18th I request the collection of the rents may be delayed for a few days.
The bearer Fisher, son to the man who was detected stealing wood, came here yesterday. He expatiated much upon the unfortunate circumstances of the innocent suffering for the guilty and prayed if his father was removed that he might succeed to his possession. My compassion was moved a little with this address. I wish therefore some plan was fallen on to prevent his unfortunate family being thrown destitute. You may consider this request of his and if it would not alter the arrangements materially, that have been already made, the son might be allowed to continue at least for another year. At the same time I cannot well see how to act on this occasion with prudence, moved as I am with compassion, for I plainly see an example is necessary to put a stop to the crime of wood stealing.
I am sir your obedient humble servant
At the end of the letter Kennedy has written:
The transcript of a good heart but the father has a gilded purse & the son a gilded tongue. Who so proper to make an example of as a rich thief? - the son can be at no loss - the father is able to stock a farm elsewhere for him – instead of a loss he will be a profiter – for if he stays behind his father he may be cut off with a shilling – if he follows his father's fortunes he will have a better chance. A man who gave his son has already provided in part for Fisher's farm.
Donald's letters to Breadalbane 23 May 1795
Finding that his visit to The Earl had failed Donald wrote to the Earl (NRS: GD112/11/4/2/30/1):
Taymouth 23rd May 1795
Having come this day to wait on Mr Kennedy to enquire what was to become of us, and having met him, he told me only that we might dispose when we pleased or as soon as we pleased.
As from the kindness your Lordship was pleased to show me when at Kinnaird I expected better things, we did not dispose of our effects, and as the man and his son who is talked of to succeed us cannot purchase and pay them, I still hope that your Lordship will be so good as to peruse the enclosed petition and certificate and suffer us at least to stay for this year, and shall if your Lordship pleases remove next year with pleasure.
I sincerely beg your Lordship's pardon for using this presumption, which nothing but necessity would cause me to take, and I am with the most sincere humility.
Your Lordship's most obedient humble servant
PS I hope that at any rate your Lordship will allow us a house wherever we can get one in the country.
He enclosed a petition from his neighbours (NRS: GD112/11/4/2/30/4) and a certificate/memorial (NRS: GD112/11/3/4/3) which attempted to recover the costs of improvements to Alekich in the years since the last division. Much of these costs related to removing stones from fields. Thomas Pennant , following a visit to Taymouth in 1769, wrote - 'the ground is in remarkably fine order, owing to his Lordship's assiduity in keeping it free from stones, with which it was once covered. A blaster was in constant employ to blast the great stones with gunpowder, for by reason of their size there was no other method of removing them'.
Representation and Petition of Duncan McArthur crofter and boatman in Lawers (NRS: GD112/11/4/1/70)
While Donald was trying to hold on to his possession, or at least obtain some redress, Donald McArthur was clamouring to acquire the tenancy of Alekich.
May 13th, 1795
Most Humbly Sheweth
That the petitioner thinks it unecessary in this application, to insert, that he was amongst the first that had given his son as a soldier to your Lordship. The reason of this application, is, that upon giving said recruit to your lordship, you was pleased to promise to the petitioner the first vacant farm that might happen in the country.
That according to your Lordship's grant, the petitioner about eight weeks ago applied to Mr Kennedy your lordship's factor, who informed him that he was to succeed to the possession of Alexander Fisher tenant in at Aleackeadch in the Officiary of Taymouth, who was disturbed in stealing wood out of your Lordship's enclosure.
That the petitioner had already bought a considerable quantity of cattle for stocking said farm and therefore hopes that your Lordship will order him to succeed to the promise at the turn of Whitsunday first.
That the petitioner begs to set forth to your Lordship, that already a petition was addressed to your Lordship informing that at the time your Lordship was recruiting, one of the sons of said Alexander Fisher was flaunting and boasting in sundry companies invectives and scurrilities against your lordship and soldiers, which facts can be proven by the petitioner.
That the petitioner had voluntary given his son to your Lordship. Whereas the said Alexander Fisher, who has two sons had never given any, although both was then fit to serve your Lordship – that therefore the petitioner hopes that he may succeed to said Alexander Fisher's possession conforming to your Lordship and your Factor's promise.
May it therefore please your lordship to consider the promises in order that the petitioner may enter to the said farm at the turn of Whitsunday first according to Mr Kennedy's promise to him and the petitioner shall ever Pray JC
James Kippen made a similar appeal (NRS: GD112/11/3/4/7) but McArthur got the tenancy.
Petition by Donald Fisher in Mains of Murthly 11 July 1798
3 years later Donald was desperately trying to get a tenancy of his own ;
11 July, 1798 To The Right Honourable the Earl of Breadalbane The Petition of Donald Fisher son to Alexander Fisher late in Alleckich now in Mains of Murthly.
That the petitioner's father who gave a man in aid of the recruiting was removed from half a plow of the farm of Alleckich and could only obtain a small holding from one of the tenants on the farm of Mains of Murthly.
That agreeable to your Lordship's desire, the petitioner went to England, where he wrought for a considerable time with some of the most respected farmers in the county of Northumberland, and have acquired a good deal of knowledge of the farming beefsense.
That he is now desirous of settling in his native country and on your lordship's estate, and as none of the tenants of Errichhill gave your lordship any assistance, viz. John Campbell and William Stewart, he humbly begs leave to propose getting that farm to accommodate his father and himself, for which he will give any rent that the land surveyor shall think it worth to one tenant, which may be more than what two can pay.
May it therefore please your Lordship to consider the premisses, and to give the petitioner a grant of the farm herein above mentioned on the conditions proposed and the Petitioner shall ever pray JC.
Donald Fisher (NRS:GD112/11/6/4/81)
Petition by Daniel Fisher 1799
A year later Daniell (the names Daniel and Donald tended to be interchangeable) had another go. This time someone has written on the back of the letter "The petitioner's request will be considered when the rest of the tenants of the district are to be settled with".
Nearly 40 years later the Fishers were victims of the removals from Easter Aberfeldy.
Page last updated - 27/10/15