Monday, 21 April 2014

Daniel Robertson -a "Lad o' Pairts "** - the local ploughboy who became a millionaire

Daniel Robertson - Monzievaird ploughboy and millionaire 

    NOTE :** Scottish idiom - A lad o' pairts is a youth, particularly one from a humble background, who is considered talented or promising.
I have researched  more than a few  families  from Strathearn as a professional genealogist .In common with the rest of  Scotland historic and economic  pressures  often  forced  families   to  depart these  shores  for the “ New World “ that is North America  or  perhaps to Australia South Africa or New Zealand  . There was  indeed in the  18th and 19th century a  pattern of  step migration as families  left  many of their rural or Highland roots  to head  for  the  burgeoning Central Belt locations  such as Glasgow or the  mining  towns of Ayrshire or Lanarkshire .

I blogged  some  months  ago about Lewis Miller  - the ploughboy from Balloch near Crieff who became a highly successful timber  merchant and operated  as far away as Sweden and Canada but still retained a strong connection  with his roots Apart from serving on the Town Council of Crieff , he was a Deacon in the Free Church of Scotland and  donated  the  cost of the steeple  for their  new Church in Strathearn Terrace Crieff directly opposite the Parish Church of St Michaels . Story tells  us  that so intense  was the rivalry between the two Presbyterian factions  that Miller’s  donation  to the Free Kirk was to enable it  to build the  steeple some  3 feet / 1 metre higher than that of the other building !

The steeple of the old North Free Kirk ( St Andrews) paid  for by Lewis Miller  to get one over the Established Parish Kirk  ! 

Another lad  from a similar  background was Daniel Robertson from the Parish of Monzievaird and Strowan  just to the  west of Crieff . Followers of this “ blog “ will realise that  my last  submission was a  brief history of that Parish written   in 1822 by the  then Parish Minister , a Mr Porteous . Daniel was  born on the 19th of October 1805 at Clathick in the Parish to a Peter Robertson and Margaret McGregor . His father  was a farm servant or labourer on the adjoining estate . Young Daniel proved  a bright spark and was  the “ Dux “ or top pupil at the small Monzievaird Primary School . He was  awarded a  scholarship to attend University  and studied law  but decided  to follow a banking career rather than that of the legal profession .

In around 1822 Robertson joined Commercial Bank of Scotland, working as a clerk at Kirkcaldy and later in the accountant’s office in Edinburgh. He joined the new Glasgow Union Banking Company in 1830 as an accountant in its Edinburgh branch, and became an inspector of branches for the bank in 1833.

In 1833 preparations were underway in England for the establishment of a new nationwide bank, to be named National Provincial Bank of England. It was to be a joint stock bank – that is, owned by a large number of shareholders rather than a handful of partners. Such banks had only been permitted in England since 1825, but they had a much longer tradition in Scotland. Indeed, joint stock banking was commonly referred to at the time as the ‘Scotch system’.

To ensure its success, National Provincial Bank of England needed managers who had experience of the Scotch system. A search was made for suitable candidates, and over 100 men were considered. Of these, 12 were finally appointed. Robertson’s name is said to have been at the very top of the list.

The original intention was that National Provincial would be formed as a federation of local, independent banks with a central management overview in London. This approach soon proved unwieldy, and in 1835 – the year after the venture had begun – the system of federated banks was abandoned in favour of a centrally-directed branch network. This newly-centralised bank needed a general manager, and Daniel Robertson became the first man to hold that post.

When Robertson became general manager in 1835, National Provincial had about 20 branches. In the next three decades, Robertson led the bank from strength to strength. He opened new branches and oversaw the acquisition of 19 small private country banks. By 1864, shortly after his retirement, the bank had 119 branches, and had proved that a national shareholder-owned bank could be a success.

Robertson earned the respect and loyalty of his staff by bringing in a series of (for that era) unusually progressive welfare measures, including payments to staff in sickness and old age, pensions for widows and bonuses when the bank enjoyed ‘more than ordinary success’. He promoted talent from within the bank and was reluctant to dismiss staff for trivial errors, if he felt a reprimand could suffice.

Robertson was also widely respected outside his own bank, for his broad and deep knowledge of banking. He was called to give evidence to the House of Commons committee of enquiry on joint stock banking in 1836.

Robertson retired as general manager in 1863. At that time Bankers' Magazine observed ‘Mr Robertson will be followed into his retirement by the sympathy and good wishes – of the shareholders of the bank, whose property his management has so greatly improved – of the directors to whom he was the long-tried and faithful adviser – of the officers, of whom he was the considerate friend; and by the esteem of the banking community, of which he was so long an important member.’ After his retirement he became an honorary director of the bank, and remained so until his death the following year.

Daniel Robertson’s personal life  was tinged  with a great deal of sadness . He had married an Ellen McLachlan and was blessed  with four sons and a daughter . Tragically his wife and family all predeceased him and are buried in Nunhead Cemetery in Surrey England . He was  greatly affected by these tragedies and took early retirement from the Bank and turned his  energies to two projects . The first was the restoration of Dalnaglar Castle  in Glenshee, north of Blairgowrie and the second was  to build a house for himself in Crieff . It was on the Comrie Road and was  named Dalnaglar as well . It is  now a  substantial Nursing Home and part of the Balhousie Group . Although greatly altered and extended the original building is still clearly discernible  

The imposing memorial to Daniel Robertson in Crieff Cemetery Ford Road 

Daniel Robertson's  final resting place is a haven of peace and rural tranquillity

Dalnaglar on the Comrie Road Crieff - built  by Daniel as a summer residence 

Dalnaglar Castle Glenshee - renovated  by Daniel in the mid 18th Century but  dates  back to the 16th Century 

Daniel Robertson  never  recovered from his family losses and died  himself aged  59 years in Edinburgh on the 5th of November 1964 . His  will which is available on the Scottish Government Genealogy Web Site  “ ScotlandsPeople “ runs  to 43 pages and documents in detail the generosity of this man of such humble beginnings . He left over £ 5 million in modern terms  and is buried in the tranquil surrounds of Crieff Cemetery in Ford Road overlooking the hills and mountains of the Strath and Monzievaird  the little Parish where he was born .

Monday, 14 April 2014

History of the Parishes of Monzievaird And Strowan

Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 2
 By Society of Antiquaries of Scotland ( 1822 )

The Old Strowan Kirk closed to worship about 1802




History of the Parishes of Monivaird And Strowan

In the Archives of the Society


Mr Porteous , Minister of Monivaird

The united parishes of Monivaird and Strowan are almost in the midst of Perthshire , sixteen miles north west from Stirling and thirteen miles west from Perth ; to both which places small ships and the tides come . The inhabited part thereof is a parallelogram of four miles from east to west . , and two miles from north to south : but it has another parallelogram of the Grampian Hills and moorish ground on the north , of four miles in length , and two in breadth ; and a smaller one on the south , of moor , of the same length , but only half a mile in breadth ; and its is bounded on the north by the tops of high mountains; which lie betwixt it and Glen Almond . This glen consists of detached parts of the parishes of Monzie , Foulis and Crieff; these places being originally only sheals,  that is , places for grazing , to which the farmers in these parishes sent their cattle to feed in the summer , building in them annually huts for their herds ; but they have now become farms themselves .There is a rivulet or a large burn , rising out of these mountains named Barvick . After running two miles , it has cut through a rock , steep on both sides ; and going down a precipice for half a mile , has made very high and beautiful cascades , with deep linns below , which the fall of water has worn out of the rock . But it is only a few of them which we are able to approach owing to the steepness of the rock. This burn runs into the water of Turret , and with it , for some way , separates this parish from Monzie on the east ; and Turret moving on to the River Earn , separates it also from the parish of Crieff on the east . There is , on the south , a high ground from east to west , going over the top of Mount Turlam , the height wherof , or in the language of old papers , the place where wind and water sheers , separates it from the parish of Muthill . It marches on the west with the parish of Comrie ..

What is inhabited of these united parishes consists of two large valleys encircled by a high rising ground beginning near the east and running west all the way except where the river Earn breaks through it at Strowan .

The valley on the north has at the bottom of it the church and loch of Monivaird in the east part and the river Earn in the west with the King’s highway from Perth to Inverary on the south of the loch and the north of the river. The valley on the south has the river running from west to east in the bottom  with a road on the south side and another on the north from Crieff to Strowan .

In a particular description , we shall begin at the begin at the east  with the church of Monivaird . All the old names in the south as well as the north of Scotland being Gaelic and the author being ignorant of this language he must be often straitened to explain theirs meaning . Moni is frequently used in the composition of our names and signifies a plain hill or moss ; as Monimusk , Monteith , Monimeal , Monimoon , Moneidy etc . Vaird signifies bard , ) the Bard’s Hill or Moss ) . The neighbouring parish Monzie is , in old papers , called Monie Laggan .Laggan signifies low .The reason of this designation may be , that although the church of Monivaird be now as low as Monzie , yet the old house of the Toshachs of Monivaird was at Balmuck , in a very high place , where the foundations of the house and of a large garden wall are still to be seen . The under part of the walls of the church still bear the marks of the burning of a great number of Murrays there by the Drummonds , who , for this dreadful murder , suffered by the hands of justice , as mentioned in our histories .

William ,  Master of Drummond , son of John first Lord of Drummond , a man of parts and spirit , being at variance with the Murrays , who had openly defied him and had actually gone in forcible manner to draw teinds on the Drummond lands in the parish of Monivaird , marched with his followers in order to prevent them  and was accidentally joined by Duncan Campbell , Captain of Dunstaffnage , who had come down from Argyleshire with a party of his men to revenge the death of his father in law , Drummond of Monie , whom , with his two sons , some of the Murrays had lately killed . Upon their approach , the Murrays fled to the kirk of Monievaird for refuge whither they were followed by the Drummonds party . The Master , being satisfied with driving them off the field , was returning home , when a shot , fired from the kirk , unluckily killed one of the Dunstaffnage men ; which so enraged the Highlanders , that they immediately set fire to the kirk ; and it , being covered with heather , was soon consumed to ashes , and all within burnt to death . The Master of Drummond was immediately apprehended .

Nigh to this place is St Serf’s well and the moor wheron St Serf’s market is held . He was the tutelary saint of the parish of Monivaird . This well is a plentiful spring of water . About sixty years ago our people were wont on Lammas day to go and drink it leaving white stones , spoons or rags which they brought with them ; but nothing except the white stones now appear , this superstitious  practice being quite in oblivion . It has been useful in a strangury , as any other very cold water would be ; for a patient taking a tub full of it immediately from the well , plunging his arms into it , which were bare to the elbows ,was cured .

St Serf’s fair is still kept on the 11th of July where Highland horses , linen cloth , &c. both from the south and north were sold . Ascending to the height of the sixth part of a mile from the church , a steep though arable brae , north east , we come to what we, who live amongst mountains , name a little hill, viz. the Sheers . On top of it are some short trenches , like those of the Romans at Ardoch  or Dalginross, rising in view of this last camp , although it is five miles distant . It seems to have been of the outposts intended to give warning to their army , by fires or otherwise , when the Scots should cross the mountains or come down Glen Almond . But if we give credit to a Gaelic song , they took another route by Loch Earn and the forest of Glenartney ; and, under a warlike lady or queen , beat the Romans and drove them out of Strathearn .

Although in the lower part of this parish there is plenty of game such as hares, partridges , wild ducks , snipes , plovers and wood cocks in their season, and a few foxes , till of late we had no rabbits ; for it is only about twenty years past since Sir Patrick Murray brought them and placed them in this high ground . They have multiplied much , nestled in the Knock of Crieff and in mzany places two or three miles distant from it . If lime were not so dear and so far from us , the , the inclosing  of this ground with stone and lime ditches over which the rabbits could not pass making proper divisions confining them to some of these inclosures and sowing turnip in others to feed them in winter , might be profitable . It is said an improvement of this sort has been made by an English gentleman in the parish of Ayton , and shire of Berwick to a very great advantage ; although he sends them to the Edinburgh and Newcastle markets . On this and adjacent places are abundance of whins  or furze which are burnt by our bakers and poor and turned by our farmers to a more profitable use . Their servants provide themselves with a  thick glove and a strong sickle . They cut their crops , carry them home in their carts , thrash them in their barns to take away their prickles ; or rather provide large troughs of wood and cross hatchets , the same tanners use in cutting bark ; and cutting the whins small , they give them to their horses or cows finding they feed as well as corn and hay . They are of great use to them when fodder is scarce .

Their ploughs here differ from that in our carse ground ; their timber and iron , are stronger and their horses go all in a breast . The man who guides them walks backwards immediately before them having all their halters tied , holding a rod of timber about five feet long in his hand . Their plough is stronger this way for tilling up hill and meeting many unforeseen large stones fast in the ground wherof their land is full ; and they say this method fully compensates for the injury which the horses trampling down the red land occasions . They only take a very high furrow when going up hill ; and notice that commonly they have the best crop on that part of the ridge which is tilled in this manner .

On the north of this brae is the mountainous parallelogram already mentioned . It lay in the middle of the Caledonian wood which extended from Callander in Monteith to Dunkeld , more than thirty miles . Many natural woods in the parishes of Muthill and Comrie , in this , and in Monzie , are not only the  remains of this forest but inall our mosses which are many , even in our highest hills , there are still found logs of oak , birch , fir and pieces of hazel , with the nuts. There is the appearance of many ridges  which have been tilled on the tops of our highest mountains , which are now so extremely cold that garss will not grow on them : but it seems that in old times , being inclosed with trees , they were kept warm by them .

Until about twenty years past , horses , cows and some small sheep and goats , pastured on them ; but now , very properly,  a great number of large sheep brought from the south have been put in their room .These are eating up the heath which gives liberty to the grass to grow .so that in some years most of the moors will be green .