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Gillanders of Highfield

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Gillanders of Highfield

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The Gillanders of Highfield papers contain a comprehensive record of the Seaforth estates in Ross-shire and Lewis in the late 18th century under two successive generations of Gillanders factors. George Gillanders of Little Sauchen, Aberdeenshire, became factor of Lewis in 1761 on the death of the former factor, George Mackenzie. He continued to receive advice and guidance from the late factor's brother, Dr John Mackenzie of Strickathrow, commissioner to Seaforth. One of the most informative sections is the series of correspondence from Strickathrow to Gillanders. By 1765 Gillanders had assumed joint responsibility for the mainland estates (GD427/141). Subsequently his son, Alexander Gillanders, succeeded him as factor of Lewis, baron bailie and admiral substitute, while he continued to run Seaforth's estates from Brahan Castle. In 1779 George Gillanders purchased the estate of Highfield, Urray, Ross-shire, which remains in the Mackenzie-Gillanders family. The general factor's papers and correspondence show the struggle particularly on Lewis - for economic survival. The range of activities described includes herring, ling and salmon fishing, trading, salvage of whale and ship wrecks, cattle dealing and attempts to improve agriculture and promote manufacture, despite the islanders' opposition to the spinning factory. The kelp industry is particularly well covered. Correspondence, mainly from Sir John Inglis of Crammond, deals with the employment of kelpers, production, transport and sale of kelp and hazards from privateers. These letters have been retained with the kelp accounts to which they relate (GD427/105-38). Correspondence from Dr John Mackenzie (GD427/213-15) reveals the extent of financial pressure on Seaforth's estates, the commissioner's attitudes to the tenants and Gillanders' disputes with the custom house officers. The correspondence, including that from Dr Mackenzie and the Rev John Downie (GD427/216-220), provides a particularly vivid picture of 18th century Highland emigration to America (GD427/203-7, 211, 214-7) and annoyance at Seaforth's refusal to use military force to halt it. Together the estate and legal papers and correspondence provide an insight into the way of life of Seaforth's tenants. They reveal clan loyalties in changing circumstances; poverty, discontent, disturbances, crime and punishment; health, epidemics and inoculation; the church; drinking and illicit selling of alcohol; fear of press gangs; army recruitment and education. The factor's personal and household accounts and vouchers (GD427/99-104) show food and drink consumed; plants and vegetables bought and grown; clothes, books and journals acquired. The military papers and correspondence (GD427/295-308) cover the period 1778-94 and reflect the contributions of three successive Seaforth chiefs. Kenneth Mackenzie, created Viscount Fortrose in 1766 and Earl of Seaforth in 1771, raised the 78th - later 72nd - Foot of Seaforth Highlanders and died on his passage to the East Indies with the regiment in 1781. Thomas Frederick Mackenzie Humberston, who purchased the Seaforth estates from his cousin, the earl of the new creation, held commissions successively in 1st Dragoon Guards, 78th Foot and 100th Foot. He raised men for a battalion of foot in 1780 and died from wounds received at Geriah in 1783. His brother, Francis Humberston Mackenzie, 9th earl but for the attainder of 1716, raised the 78th Regiment of Foot (Seaforth Highlanders) of which he was appointed colonel. He was created Lord Seaforth, Baron Mackenzie of Kintail in 1797. Source: L De J April 1988


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