Taken from
Issue Number 41 Spring 1997


Frank Bigwood, M. A.

Scattered through the boxes in the Scottish Record Office 1 which contain processes of the Argyll Sheriff Court at Inveraray for the years 1760 to 1772 are a number of papers which appear to have belonged to Alexander McAlester who was a writer (i.e. a lawyer) and for some of the time Procurator Fiscal in Campbeltown during these years and also a merchant of some standing. Most of the papers are his business papers. Some refer to his work as a lawyer, to the court cases in which he was involved and his debt collecting activities; others are more concerned with his activities as a ship owner. He had an interest in four Campbeltown ships during the period: the Jean and Betty (41 V2 tons), the Alexander (33 1/2 tons), the Royal Bounty (52 tons) and the Edinburgh (79 1/4 tons), all built during the 1760s for foreign and coastal trading and participation in the White Herring Fishery. These ships traded round the coasts of Britain and Ireland, sailed to Spain and Portugal and to America and most winters went to the herring fishing in the North-West Highlands. His was a fairly modest holding at a time when other merchants had holdings in as many as 12 or 14 vessels, but we know from his papers that he was not only using the ships as an investment but that he was very actively involved in running them. The two lists of passengers, which are in Box SC54/2/106 in the Scottish Record Office, refer to two voyages by Edinburgh. One was to Cape Fear in North Carolina in 1770 and the other to the Island of St Johns (Prince Edward Island) in 1771.

Both voyages are recorded in the Customs Quarterly Accounts2 for Campbeltown. The first cleared out of Campbeltown on 29 August 1770, declaring a cargo of 22 loaves of refined sugar, 160 yards of linen, 6 pairs of shoes and 5 dozen thread stockings but no passengers. There was, however, a fairly large victualling bill which included 41 barrels of Irish beef and 80 cwt of bread - rather more than one would expect for a crew of 7 plus master. The second cleared out on the 27 July 1771. The cargo this time was 250 yards of woolen blanket, 46 cwt of iron, 5~ dozen women's shoes and household furniture, apparel and clothes. There were also said to be 20 passengers. The victualling bill was also quite large and included 11 tierces 21 barrels of beef and 2 1/2 .tons of biscuit. These two voyages are also mentioned by Archibald Campbell of Stonefield, Sheriff Depute of Argyll, in his report on emigration from the area which is included in a report by Thomas Miller to the Earl of Suffolk of 25 April 1774 on emigration from Scotland3. There was clearly great worry in official circles and among landed proprietors at this time about the number of people who were emigrating from Scotland. Archibald Campbell gives a figure of 120 for the first voyage and 100 for the second. The evidence of the lists which have just come to light raises a question about these figures.

The two lists, which are set out below, are rather different in character. The papers from which Table 1, referring to the voyage to North Carolina, is taken, are clearly part of an account book in which not only the amounts payable by the passengers is given but exactly how the payments were made. The listing of these payments has been omitted here as it adds very little to our knowledge of the people who went to America. These lists of bills, however, do raise the question of whether they represent debts being called in to pay for the passage, or subsidies from friends, employees or relatives. Eight passengers paid the full amount in cash. Most of these were paying for only one berth.

Table 2 also refers to the North Carolina voyage and apparently shows the arrangements for those traveling in the hold on that voyage.

Table 3 relates to the voyage to Prince Edward Island. It is a single sheet listing the names of the individuals or head of the group traveling with a column for the person paying the fare, the fare itself and the payment. Two columns containing only three entries have been omitted from the transcript. One entry records that Neill Montgomery is to pay " £3:11:7 of his fare at St Johns and the other two that Neill Shaw is to pay £5:8:8Y2 of his fares there together with £ I :4:6Y2 extra on the bills by ; which payment was made. It must be emphasised at this point that neither \~et of papers tell us who sailed; they only tell us who paid.

In the case of Tables 1 and 2 it is worth noting that two of the names are regularly found in two forms. The name McKendrick is frequently completely interchangeable with Hendry in Kintyre at this time and in fact Robert McKendrick signs his name as Robert Hendry in this document as having received repayment of the balance of the sum he had paid in the form of bills. In the same way McKergus and Ferguson are also used interchangeably.

There is a problem about the relationship of Table I and Table 2. Table 2 appears to represent the disposition of berths in the hold of the Edinburgh. Yet it includes three berths for John Watson who had actually paid for two in the cabin and one in the hold. Archibald McEachern is credited with four berths although he apparently only paid for one. Duncan Kelly only paid for three berths but is credited with a wife and two children. Presumably the two children shared a berth. John Smith's daughter shared their part of the accommodation. John Smith himself had paid some of the fare but is not on this list with the rest of his family. Did the fact that he was £5:5:91/4 short in his payment mean that he did not sail? He may not therefore have sailed himself but sent one of his children. Robert McKendrick is credited with six berths although only two appear to have been paid for by him and one other by Elizabeth McVickar. Alexander McIlchere does not appear in Table 1 at all. John Lamont had apparently four berths but according to Table 1 paid for only three. Duncan Darroch does not appear in Table 1. Iver McKay appears as having four berths full although the only McKay in List 1 is John McKay who had three berths. John Fairley does not appear in Table 1. Equally difficult to explain is the fact that Neil McGeachy, Alexander Allan, James Caldwell, Flory Sinclair and Effy Kelly, all of whom had actually paid for single passages, do not appear. It is possible that they account for some of the berths which otherwise appear to be unexplained. The other family which does not appear on Table 2 is that of Neill McKergus. He was 7/1Y2 short in his payment, and therefore may not have sailed. Perhaps the only possible answer to these difficulties is that both lists are, for some reason, incomplete. The total numbers sailing in the hold are 50 on Table 1 and 57 on Table 2. If we subtract the seven berths attributed to John Smith and Neil McKergus and their families in Table 1, on the grounds that they did not sail, and add the 13 extra berths listed in Table 2, we get 56 passengers. It is quite likely that this is the number of those in the hold who actually sailed.

Table 3, which is for the Prince Edward Island voyage, gives us extra information about who paid for the fares. Provost Stewart who was responsible for so many of the emigrants must be Peter Stewart who emigrated later himself and became in time Chief Justice in Prince Edward Island. Peter Stewart was, like Alexander McAlester, a writer and merchant in Campbeltown and part-owner of the Edinburgh. The cargo was in fact cleared out in his name. Mrs. Robert Stewart was the wife of one of the owners of land in Prince Edward Island who had finally sailed out there the previous year on the Annabella. It had always been believed that she too had been a passenger on the Annabella but clearly this was not so and she avoided the experience of being shipwrecked with the passengers on that vessel. It is not at all clear from the Table 3 list how many of the people on it actually sailed but we may be fairly confident that most did. It will be noted that, if all those named in the table traveled, the numbers in the hold are very close to those for the voyage to North Carolina. There were 12 cabin passengers on the previous voyage, 10 on this.

We know a little about the Edinburgh of Campbeltown and her trading and fishing activities from the Carnpbeltown Shipping Register4, the herring bounty (subsidy) vouchers in the Customs Cash Accounts5, the Customs Quarterly Accounts for Campbeltown and a number of documents among Alexander McAlester's papers referring to repairs and insurance6. She was a brigantine of 791/4 tons built at Leith in 1765 I almost certainly to take part in the North Highland herring fisheries under ,I the Government's bounty scheme in the winter and to undertake general trading voyages for the rest of the year. She was 5.1 feet (15.54 m.) long and 19 feet 6 inches (5.94 m.) maximum breadth, as measured by the Customs officials7. The convention of the time on Scotland's West Coast was not to quote the depth of a ship but to assume that the depth was half the breadth. In practice, this was seldom the case and the likelihood is that the Edinburgh was about 9 feet (2.74 m.) in depth from deck to keel. She was therefore a very small ship by modern standards - the size of a not very large modern fishing boat. Yet ships of this size crossed the Atlantic regularly at this period. In 1770 and 1771 she had four owners: Peter Stewart, writer and merchant; Alexander McAlester, writer and merchant; John McAlister, merchant; and Alexander McDonald, merchant. Her master from the start had been John McMichael from Southend, who was about 32 or 33 at the time of these voyages. He continued as master in the 1770s after the Edinburgh had passed into the hands of Duncan Ballantine and Company in 1774. She had a crew of eight for trading voyages and seventeen when she went to the herring fishing. The size of these ships, however, must have put a limit on the number of passengers which they could carry on an Atlantic voyage. Table 2 provides us with some clues about how many people could be accommodated. The Table identifies 19 spaces in the hold which were presumably created by putting in temporary partitioning and bunks. four had no passengers and one space had only one passenger. One might suggest that these spaces may have been required for cargo and for the possessions of the passengers. However it is just possible that at an absolute maximum a further 20 passengers could have been carried if there had been a severe limit on the cargo. There is reason, therefore, to be very skeptical of the figures in the Report of Emigration to America of 120 emigrants on the Edinburgh for the voyage to North Carolina and 100 to Prince Edward Island the following year. What applies to the Edinburgh is also likely to be true for the other two Campbeltown ships quoted in the same report, the Hellen and the Annabella, which were almost exactly the same size. The figure of 70 passengers quoted for the Annabella in the Report seems to match fairly closely the numbers on the Edinburgh list. As the two new lists agree very closely in the numbers to be carried, they may well provide a fairly good indication of the true number of those taking passages in these ships at this time.

Table 1. Voyage to North Carolina: Intending Passengers
C No. H No.        
    Samuel Watson Dr      
3   To 3 births in the Cabin @ £4:10 Str each £13 10  
  2 To 2 Do in the Hould £7    
    To Annualrent on Bills indorsed   15 5 3/4
    To Commission on £25 str for Negotiating the bills at 2 ½ per ct   12 6
      £21 17 11 3/4
    John Watson Dr      
2   To 2 Births in the Cabin at £4:10:0 Str each £9    
  1 To 1 Do in the hould 3 10  
    To @rent on Indorsed Bills   9 11 3/4
    To Commission on £15.Str at 2½   7 9
    To Cash pd by Alxr McAlester 2 2
      15 10 6
2   Thomas McMurchy Dr      
    To 2 births in the Cabin for himself and his wife at £4:10 Str each £9    
    To ½ Barrel ffreight more than his agreement   1 10½
      9 1 10½
3   Mary McMath Dr      
    To 3 Births in the Cabin at £4:10 Str each £13 10  
    To Com. on £5 at 2½ pct   2 6
    (click on Mary McMath to see comment on descendant, H.R.) 13 12 6
  3 Duncan McLean Dr      
    To 3 Births in the Hold at £3:10 Str 10 10  
    To @rent due on an endorsed Bill & Commissn   2 8 3/4
      10 12 8 3/4
  3 John Lamont Dr      
    To 3 Births in the Hold at £3:10 Str £10 10 0
    To @rent on Indorsed bills   2
    To Commission on £11 at 2½   5 6
      10 18
    John Curry Dr      
  5 To 5 Births in the Hold at £3:10 Str £17 10 0
    To @rent on Indorsed bills   4 10¼
    To Commission on £17:10 Str at 2½ per ct   8 9
      18 3
    Donald Curry Dr      
  5 To 5 Births in the Hold at £3:10 Str £17 10 0
    To @rent on Indorsed bills   1 10
    To Commission on £4:14 Str at 2½ per ct   2 4
      17 14 2
  1 Niell McGeachy Dr      
    To 1 Birth in the Hold paid in Cash 3 10 0
  2 Robert McKendrick Dr      
    To 2 Births in the Hold at £3:10 Ster each £7    
    To @rent on Bills Indorsed   7 5
    To Commission on £11:15 at 2½ per cent   5 10
      7 13 3
    John McMurchy Dr      
1   To 1 Birth in the Cabin at £4:10 Sterl £4 10  
    Archd Smith Dr      
1   To 1 Birth in the Cabin at £4:10 Sterl 4 10  
  1 Archd McEacheran Dr      
    To 1 Birth in the Hold at £3:10 Sterl 3 10  
  1 Alexander, Allan Dr      
    To 1 Birth in the Hold at £3:10 Sterl 3 10  
  1 James Caldwell Dr      
    To 1 Birth in the Hold at £3:10 Sterl 3 10  
  3 Duncan Kelly Dr      
    To 3 Births in the Hold at £3:10 Sterl each £10 10  
    To @rent on Bills Indorsed   4
    To Commission on £10:19 Sterl at 2½ per cent   2 6
      10 19
    Neill McKergus Dr      
  5 To 5 Births in the Hold at £3:10 Sterl each £17 10  
    To Interest on Bills Indorsed   2 3
    To Commission on £5:3 Sterl at 2½ per cent   2
      17 14
    Donald Buie Tenant in Shanecnoch Dr      
  5 To 5 Births in the Hould of the Edinburgh from Campbn to Cape ffair in America 70/- £17 10  
    John Smith Dr      
  5 To 5 Births in the Hold at £3:10 Sterl each £17 10  
    To @rent on Bills Indorsed   5
    To Commission on £12:1 Sterl at 2½ per cent   6  
      18 1
    John Mckay at Balachintuy Dr      
  3 To 3 Births in the Hould of the Edinbr Brigg from here to America st 70s 10 10  
    To @rent on Bills Indorsed   1 11 3/4
    To Commission on £9:16 Sterl at 2½ per cent   4 10½
      10 17 6 3/4
    Magnus McKendrick Junr in Kilocraw Dr      
  1 To 1 Birth in the Hould 3 10  
    To @rent on a Bill Indorsed   2
    To Commission on £5:10 Sterl at 2½ per cent   2 9
      3 15
    Flory Sinclair Dr      
  1 To 1 Birth in the Hold at £3:10 Sterl £3 10  
    Elizabeth McViccar Dr      
  1 To 1 Birth in the Hold £3 10  
    Effy Kelly Spouse to Archd Kelly in Dalrioch Dr      
  1 To one Birth in the Hold of the Edinburgh 3 10  
    To Interest on Bills   2 10

[To top]
Table 2. Voyage to North Carolina: Passengers in the Hold
1 John Watson 4 Births only three in them
2 Archd McEachern 4 Do full 2s each more than common freight
4 Jno Curry 5 Do Jno Curry wife & three Daughters
5 Vacant  
6 Duncan Kelly 4 Do himself wife and two children & Jno Smiths daughter
7 Robert McKendrick 6 Do himself & family & Elizabeth McVickar
8 Alexr McIlchere 5 Do one vacant
10 Jno Lamon 4 Do full
11 Vacant  
12 Magnus McKendrick 1 Do to pay the skipper 1/10½ of over ffreight
13 Duncan Darroch 3 Do
14 Duncan buie 5 Do
15 Iver McKay 5 Do one of them Vacant > (see Message from descendant)
16 Donald Curry 5 Do full
17 Duncan McLean 4 Do one of them Vacant
18 Vacant  
19 Jno ffairley 5 Do

[To top]
Table 3. Account Passengers to St Johns per the Edinburgh and payment of the Freight
Passengers Names by whom paid cabin hould rate Total
(Click on Underlined passenger names to send email to a descendant) - - £ s d
Hugh Montgomery himself 5 70 17 10  
Neill Montgomery Hugh Montgomery 1 do 4 1 9
Joseph Mclean Provt Stewart 1 3 10  
Joseph Woodside himself 2 7    
Janet Finlay herself 1 3 10  
Alex McKay sailor himself 3 10 10  
Neill McKay for himself 3 10 10  
Archd McKay Neill McKay his broher 1 3 10  
John McVickar himself 1 3 10  
Hector McShenoig his ffather 1 3 10  
Dun: McWilliam himself 4 14    
Dugd Campbell in part per se 2 3    
Neill Shaw himself as under 4 10 3 10
Neill McCallum himself 4      
More Mckay indented 1      
Mrs Robt Stewart Provt Stewart 7 2 90      
Capt Jno Colvil himself  7 70 21 10  
Jno McLarty Provt Stewart 1 70 3 10  
Jno McGugan do 2 7 10  
Jno McKay sen do 2      
Archd McKenzie do 2      
Dugald Stewart do 2 90      
John McKay taylor do 2 70      
Mr Craig do 1 90
Hector McEachine          
Neil McLeonan          
Andrew Wilson          
Peter McDougall          

Post Script
Since the above article appeared in The Scottish Genealogist a little more information has come to light about the voyage of the Edinburgh to Prince Edward Island. From a petition by Peter Stewart in Campbeltown Burgh Court in 1773 concerning the insurance of the vessel we learn that she left Campbeltown on the 3rd of August 1771 and reached Prince Edward Island on 17th September. She failed to get a cargo of fish to take to Portugal which was the owners' intention and sailed on to North Carolina from where she brought back a cargo of flaxseed to Newry. This cargo had already been the subject of a petition by the master of the Edinburgh in Campbeltown Burgh Court in August 1772 because the merchants at Newry to whom the cargo had been consigned accused him of tampering with it and refused to pay for it.

------------------------------------- Published by permission of the Scottish Genealogy Society which is gratefully acknowledged.

Copyright belongs to the authors unless otherwise stated.

The Kintyre Antiquarian & Natural History Society was founded in 1921 and exists to promote the history, archaeology and natural history of the peninsula.
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