The following article gives an insight into the connections between the founder of Evanton and slavery, the naming of streets after plantations, the naming of various plantations after local estates, the naming of slaves after local people and estates. Also a consideration of the historical context.
Local Connections with Slavery
’12 Years a Slave’ and ongoing news about international human trafficking have put slavery back in the spotlight. It is appropriate therefore, not least with the Commonwealth Games approaching, to take a new look at the local historical connections with slavery. In his Ferindonald Papers published in the Ross-shire Journal from 1963 to 1976 Frank Maclennan wrote of his understanding that the “street names Camden, Livera and Hermitage were names of plantations in the West Indies, where Alexander Mackenzie (he meant Fraser), owner of Balconie and founder of the village … is supposed to have made his fortune (p.96).”
The Evanton Oral History Project of 1991-2 was unable to adduce further information other than that Hermitage was and remains a popular name for private homes in parts of the West Indies. Research of this nature has since been greatly facilitated by the arrival of the internet and web allowing easier access to various slave registers. It has become increasingly clear that the local connections with slave plantations were in fact rather extensive. According to Rachel Lang, Project Administrator for the Legacies of British Slave Ownership at University College, London ‘The links between the parish of Kiltearn and the West Indies are astonishing.’ This is not to suggest that the general populace had any direct involvement but that the gentry were indeed well and truly involved.
In 1796 Donald Mackintosh wrote from Berbice (Guyana) to say there was “hardly any place where money may be made with more facility than here … and now that these Colonies are under British Government, they will be more advantageous for Adventurers of all denominations than before.” David Alston has documented many of these connections on his excellent website ‘Slaves & Highlanders’ – some readers may also have seen his exhibition in 2007, illustrated by John McNaught.
As stated by Alston, ‘in the late 1790s, Alexander Fraser (1759-1837) was in charge of the Ballies’ (of Dochfour) plantation Hermitage in Grenada, and was described, at this time, as a ‘planter of experience’ and was probably also a member of the Grenada Council’. He married Evan Baillie’s niece Emilia Duff of Muirton. In 1806 Evan Baillie, on behalf of Alexander Fraser, advanced £4500 for an instalment on the purchase of the Inchcoulter estate (a.k.a. Balconie).
Having bought the estate Alexander Fraser ordered the grid formation of the new village Evanton, which he named after his son Evan Baillie. It is clear that he named the initial 4 parallel streets - one after his estate, the other three after plantations with which he had close connections:
Camden: In 1813, Alexander Fraser and John Stewart, both of Crossing Square London, had purchased the Camden estate in Trinidad from the failed Boldero banking concern. There were 210 slaves in 1813 – including a creole boy Davy Campbell, aged 7, who worked in the grass gang; by 1836 85 slaves remained.
Livera: In 1835 there were 94 slaves in Levera (sic), Grenada. Alexander Fraser unsuccessfully claimed compensation for both Levera and Camden Estates upon emancipation – most of the money going instead to his wife’s Baillie cousins.
Hermitage: Alexander Fraser managed this plantation for the Baillies who had bought it in 1765. In 1836 there were 149 slaves in 1836 in Hermitage, Grenada.
The Berbice Slave Registers also tells of various other local connections: In 1817 a John Bethune owned 17 slaves in Lemlair plantation, West Corentyne; Robert Douglas 83 slaves in Fyrish; George Munro 318 slaves in Alness; Wm Munro 268 slaves in Foulis and Washington; also an Evan Fraser, who owned 96 slaves in Seafield. A George Robertson owned 83 slaves in Kiltearn cotton plantation on West coast Corentyne. This gentleman was the son of Dr Harry Robertson [1748-1815], minister of Kiltearn (author of the entry for Kiltearn Parish in the 1st Statistical Account for Scotland). 3 of his 4 sons went to Demerara and a daughter married a Liverpool merchant whose fortune had been made in the colony.
In addition to the plantation names having connections with Ferindonald/Kiltearn, so too did many names of the slaves themselves. We find one named Alness, aged 6 in 1818, owned by George Munro; a male named Fyrish, aged 36, owned by the same; one Culcairn, male, owned by John Fraser in Berbice in 1822; a Fanny Foulis, born around 1809, owned by Wm. Munro, Berbice – and many others by the name Foulis in Berbice and Jamaica.
Here in Kiltearn we can truly witness that ‘the slave trade and slavery is part of British history - it is part of the legacy binding Britons to the Caribbean and Africa - part of a connected, though structurally deeply unequal, history’ (UCL). At emancipation in 1833 Parliament awarded £20 million in compensation to slave owners - who had no hesitation in accepting. Alexander Fraser raised money for the Northern Infirmary in Inverness; we are fortunate that he also spent some of his fortune on creating the village of Evanton and indeed in planting Evanton Wood.
Camden St, Evanton
21 May 2014
You are invited to an illustrated talk by Adrian Clark on this topic in The Cornerstone on Wed 25 June 2014 at 8pm. Donations to Anti-Slavery International.