Donald (also known as Daniel) - born 1769

Donald was the fourth child born to Alexander Fisher and Isabel MacDougall. Unlike his three older siblings he was baptized in Aleckach a farm tenancy acquired by his mother after his father had been removed both from his post of Officer of Taymouth and the 'country'. Isabel states in her letter to Breadalbane (see Alexanders removals) that her husband, Alexander, was first sent away in 1865 and that he was 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 baptized in April 1782.

It is not known what happened to Donald's two older brothers John and Alexander. It is most likely that they died in childhood.

Donald sent to Northumberland

Donald's letter to The Earl of Breadalbane in 1798 (NRS:GD112/11/6/4/81) is very revealing. He was clearly a capable young man. Well before he was in his mid twenties, having been selected by the Earl of Breadalbane, he had spent about 2 years in Northumberland to learn English and cattle management:

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.

Margaret McArthur in her introduction to the 'The 1769 Survey of Lochtayside' noted; In the year of the Survey the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge appealed to the Earl of Breadalbane for co-operation in their scheme to introduce improved methods of agriculture into the Highlands. (MS. Minute of Directors of Society, March 6, 1769, and MS. Minute of General Meeting, June 1, 1769.) In 1763 the Society had resolved that twenty Highland boys between the ages of 10 and 14 years should be bound as apprentices in the low country and return after apprenticeship. (M S . Minute of General Meeting, March 3, 1763.) Twenty one boys were nominated. In 1769 it was decided that apprentices were to be indentured to farmers, blacksmiths and other tradesmen either in Scotland or in England, and in the latter case improvers only were to be recommended. (MS. Minute of Directors, March 6, 1769.) It is significant of the spirit of the time that the recommendations made to the Society were mostly with regard to apprenticeship in the agricultural industry, and in occupations directly connected with it. In 1771 the Earl of Breadalbane nominated one apprentice to be sent to ]ohn Fiddon, farmer in the County of Cumberland. (M S. Minute of Directors, August 8. 1771)

Donald's petitions to Breadalbane after his family was removed from Alekich

When his family was removed from Alekich in 1795 after his father was caught cutting down a tree (see Alexanders removals), Donald was the member of the family that took on the task of repeatedly petitioning the Earl. He obtained a reference from the other tenants in the Taymouth Officiary and, when it was clear removal was inevitable, sought recompense for the improvements made on the farm. The family managed to obtain a part of the Mains of Murthly. Once there he appealed in 1798 and again in 1799 for a better possession for which he was prepared to pay a fair price.

Sadly all his efforts failed and they were left with only a small patch of land. The 1836 ground officers report suggests that to survive they had had to break the rules of outfield management.

A Donald Fisher from the parish of Weem was booked to marry Margaret McNaughtan from the parish of Dull on 24 June 1798. Was this our Donald? Baptism records, unlike marriage records, usually state parents address but there is no record of them having children. As a result it is not possible to know which of the Donald Fishers in the area this one was.

Fishers were still at Murthly in 1836 at the time of the ground officers report but by 1838 hundreds of years of Fishers farming on the Breadalbane estate had come to an end. They were victims of the removals from Easter Aberfeldy.

Donald as a trader of dry goods

Inventories made after Donald and his younger brother Patrick had died intestate in Mains of Murthly, within two months of each other in 1831, reveal that Donald had been living in Townfield in the Parish of Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland. He had diversified into trading dry goods with Hector Russell & Co. in Montreal. The term 'Dry goods' encompassed most things not categorized as groceries or hardware and would have been dominated by fabrics. Arbroath at the time was famous for manufacturing linen so it is likely that was what he was trading.

The inventories show that Patrick and Donald's estates were valued as follows:

Donald - died 2 June 1831

Deposit in Perth Banking Co £30 5/3
Bill of exchange drawn by Hector Russell & Co £500
Bill of exchange drawn by Hector Russell & Co £71 5/1
Household furniture and effects and wearing apparel £ 33 14/10

Patrick - died 23 July 1831

Household furniture and affects, wearing apparel, crop and stocking on his farm of Mains of Murthly £105 2/6
£740 7/8

A combined estate of £740 would have the purchasing power of at least £57,000 today. £571 of the £740 took the form of bills of exchange from Hector Russell.

My suspicion is that Hector Russell became insolvent and these bills of exchange were 'dishonoured by non-payment'. After marriage to Mary McLean in 1837, Patrick's son Alexander is reputed to have gone to Canada to claim a property and money left to them but after going out discovered the lawyers had spent it all. He returned to Scotland. A public notice in the Quebec Gazette, dated 10 December 1840, announced that the trustees of the property and estate of 'Hector Russell and John McKenzie, both of Montreal aforesaid, merchants, heretofore trading in partnership under the style and firm of Hector Russell', were planning to sell part of that property. All who had a claim on these assets were advised to contact the Prothonotary's office in Montreal. Was this why Alexander went to Canada? On his return to Scotland, his lifestyle would suggest he did not have money to burn. In 1851, Alexander's brother Robert was described as a pauper.

Donald's financial success might have oiled the wheels of a family forced to make a new start in life but his paper wealth was probably never converted into hard cash.

Page last updated - 23/10/16