James Fisher 1847 - 1915
My great grandfather James was the sixth of ten children born to Alexander Fisher and Mary McLean. He was born, one mile up Glen Lyon, in Woodend. Two of his four older brothers died in childhood and the other two took over the rental of Culdaremore after the death of their parents.
James did not follow the family tradition and become a farmer. In 1871 he was working as a confectioner warehouseman in Glasgow, by 1878 he had set up a grocery and wine merchant business in Aberfeldy and in 1899 he built the Aberfeldy Laundry which would remain in the family for 105 years and four generations.
James served on the Aberfeldy Police Commission, the precursor of the town council. He was first listed as a commissioner in reports of meetings in January 1891 and the Courier reported that he did not intend to seek re-election in November 1896.
In September 1913 the Aberfeldy News and Visitor List reported that he was 'ordained and inducted an elder of the United Free Church of Scotland'.
On 6 August 1915 his death was announced in the Dundee Courier - 'Well-known Aberfeldy man dead. Mr James Fisher proprietor, Aberfeldy Steam Laundry, died yesterday morning at his residence, Novar, Home Street, Aberfeldy, after illness extending over several months. Mr Fisher who was 67 years of age was born at Culdaremore, Fortingall, and started business in Aberfeldy as a grocer more than 35 years ago. He opened Aberfeldy Steam Laundry in 1899 and under his capable management the business has extended very considerably. Mr Fisher served for some time on the town council.
Maggie died 3 years later in the 1918 flu pandemic.
In February 1879 James and 30 year old Maggie McNab were married in Burnside Cottage, Aberfeldy. Maggie was born in Lawers. Her father Alexander McNab was a farmer married to Margaret Walker. At the 1841 census Alexander was an agricultural labourer at Struan* but by 1851 the family had moved to Duallin. By 1861 they had moved a mile east to a farm called Drumglass* and he graduated from labourer to farmer. They were still there in 1871.
Between 1838 and 1843, after being removed from Murthly, James' parents lived in various addresses in Lawers including Duallin. Indeed one wonders if the McNabs moved into Duallin when the Fisher's moved out. The two families must have known each other years before Maggie and James became married.
Census records suggest Alexander McNab was born in the parish of Kenmore about 1811 but there is no old parochial baptismal record. An Alexander was born in Fortingall in 1811 to Finlay McNab and Catherine Menzies who were also the parents of James McNab, the father of Peter Alexander's mother.
By 1881 James Fisher and Maggie were living in Aberfeldy renting a house on Burnside from John Cameron. Maggie's mother was with them at the time of the census. Maggie's mother Margaret died of 'Old age' at Drumglass 5 years later on 4 February 1886.
By the 1891 census Maggie's 80 year old father Alexander and his 27 year old grand-daughter Isabella had moved to Burnside renting a property from Marshall Gow, a builder that owned six properties on the street to the north of those owned by John Cameron. Alexander died in November 1891 at Willowbank in Aberfeldy of cystitis. His death certificate confirms that his father was indeed Finlay McNab.
The gravestone for Alexander McNab (1810-91 and Margaret Walker (1810-86) stands in the old cemetary next the ruined village of Lawers.
*By the 1862 1st Ordnance Survey, Drumglass no longer appears. At the time of Farquharson's survey there were 3 farms between Duallin and Shenlarich (Lurroginbuie, Drummaglass and Marragintrowan). These farms had been amalgamated into a farm called Struan where Peter Alexander Fisher's mother came from. By the 2nd O.S. survey in 1898, new Drumglass farm buildings appear south of the road and Struan is disappearing.
After getting married to Maggie in 1879 he moved into the house she was renting on Burnside. The February 1879 marriage certificate gives James' address simply as 'Aberfeldy' so we do not know exactly where he was living before the marriage. The first 3 of their 10 children were born at this address.
James negotiated the tenancy of a house and shop in Dunkeld Street in 1882. By the 1911 census they were still there but all the children had left home or died except for Peter. James purchased Novar, round the corner in Home Street, in 1910 and moved there shortly after.
He died 4 years later.
In Kenmore churchyard lies a headstone dedicated to James and his family. Of nine children, five died before reaching adulthood, four of TB.
- Maggie born 1880 - Died age 16 of pulmonary tuberculosis.
- Alexander born 1881 -Died age 4 years 10 months of meningitis.
- Mary born 1881 - Alexander's twin, she died age 18 of pulmonary tuberculosis.
- Peter born 1883 - my grandfather
- Jane born 1885
- James Alexander born 1887
- Alexander born 1889 His older brother having died, the name Alexander was reused although on the headstone, and probably in life, he was known as Alastair. He died of pulmonary tuberculosis shortly before his 18th birthday.
- Robert born 1891
- John born 1893 Registered after birth as John the family subsequently used Ian, the Scottish form of that name. In 1896 his death certificate, and the headstone (above right), recorded that Ian died age 2 years and 8 months of tuberculous meningitis.
By the time of his marriage in 1879, James had left Glasgow and returned to Aberfeldy. There is no record of why he chose to become a grocer but we do know that his cousin Peter, who was seven years older, was a grocer and wine merchant in Dunbarton at least 10 years before.
The valuation roll for 1878 show that he was renting a shop from Margaret, Alexander, Isabella and Ann Stewart on the south side of Dunkeld Street next to the station.
While there he placed several advertisements in newspapers;
- 3 August 1878, Dundee Evening Telegraph - Wanted a Stout Active Lad to learn the Grocery Trade. Apply Jas. Fisher, Dunkeld Street, Aberfeldy.
- 3 July 1880, Scotsman – House to let near railway station – dining room, drawing room, five bedrooms, 2 stalled stable, coach house, garden, and other conveniences. James Fisher, family grocer, Aberfeldy.
- 31 January 1881, Dundee People's Journal - Pure malt whisky from first-class distilleries in 2 gallons and upwards from 16s per gallon. James Fisher, family grocer, Dunkeld Street Aberfeldy
In 1882 he moved his family from Burnside and his business across Dunkeld Street to a newly built shop with flat above. His brushes with the law (see below) would suggest he had fallen out with the Stewart family that owned the building, the relationship was becoming violent and he had to get out. That shop would remain vacant for the next 4 years.
James bottled his own beer which he purchased in barrels and my grandfather Peter recalled bottling beer before going to school in the morning. Leslie's County Directory shows that as early as 1889 he was also selling ironmongery and seeds.
The Scotsman 15 April 1911 - To let, the shop and dwelling house presently occupied by Mr James Fisher, grocer and ironmonger in Dunkeld Street, Aberfeldy. The house and shop can be let either together or separately. The licensed grocers (beer and wine) and ironmongery business, which has been successfully carried on by Mr Fisher for the last 30 years, is for disposal, as he is giving up this part of his business.
In 1897 there were 16 grocers and general merchants in and around Aberfeldy. After over twenty years in retail, competition from these other retailers must have influenced his decision to find an alternative source of income. At age 52 he bought a feu in Home Street on which he decided to build a steam laundry.
The laundry was opened in 1899 but for twelve years he carried on the grocery business as well. James's businesses in Aberfeldy are recorded in Leslie's County Directory for 1907-8. He was one of fourteen grocers and general dealers in the town, five of which were also wine merchants. He was also one of six ironmongers and one of seven seedsmen. In 1911 he gave up his retail business.
The following appeared in the Dundee Courier on 2 January 1911; 'Mr James Fisher, who up till the advent of the motor mail had acted as mail gig driver between Aberfeldy, Kenmore and Acharn on Loch Tayside for many years has been presented by the people of the district with a purse of sovereigns in recognition of his faithful services.'
Brushes with the law
A book of police reports in Perth arhive gives us two interesting accounts of James' encounters with Police Sergeant Allan in Aberfeldy. Both episodes occurred in 1881, the year before he moved into the shop on the north side of Dunkeld Street.
- On the first occasion he was assaulted, punched in the face and head and verbally abused, by George, Alexander, Isabella and Ann Stewart
- Ten months later he was accused of assaulting William Stewart with a large iron water key.
The Stewarts were James' landlords! The 1881 census shows all of the above living in one household on the south side of Dunkeld Street next to the station. 56 year old William Stewart, coal merchant, was head of the household. Margaret age 58 was a housekeeper, George and Alexander farm servants and Ann and Isabella were domestic servants. Ten years before they had all been at Gate House working on the farm, Alexander was the Toll Keeper and their mother widowed.
On 1st December 1897 the Dundee Courier reported that James was fined for selling spirits without a licence
Page last updated - 2/3/17