Gilbert and George Rainy
For family tree see George Rainy on Ancestry (subscription required)
Gilbert Rainy was the eldest son of the Rev George Rainy (c1733-1810), minister of the parish of Creich in Sutherland. Gilbert was probably in Guyana from 1798 and in 1803 he was one of the executors, along with John Bethune and Gilbert Robertson, of the will of Doctor George Bethune, whose property - mainly a 'task gang' of 36 slaves - was auctioned at plantation L'Amitie in Demerara [Essequebo & Demerara Gazette, 8 Oct 1803].
Gilbert Rainy's sister, Margaret, was married to Gilbert Robertson's partner, and joint owner of L'Amitie, Charles Stewart Parker. Letters from Gilbert Rainy to Charles Parker (from 1798 to 1808) and from Gilbert to his sister Margaret (from 1803 and 1804) survive in the Parker papers in the Liverpool Record Office. Gilbert's death in Berbice in 1808 was reported in the Edinburgh Weekly Journal of 8th September.
Gilbert's younger brother George was in Demerara by 1818 (E&DRG 18 June 1808) and later became a partner in the Liverpool firm which from 1813 would be known as Sandbach, Tinne & Co. They traded with, and had property in, Demerara, where they were known as McInroy, Sandbach & Co. George acted on their behalf in Demerara between 1828 and 1832 [letters in Sandbach, Tinne and Co papers], and in 1832 was their attorney on plantations Edinburgh, Leonora and Tuchen de Vrienden [List from guide book 1832 reproduced in Land Claim papers, Colonial Office Library].
In his Journal J.C. Cheveley described a visit in 1821 to:
. . . the tall gaunt-looking store of Messrs McInroy Sandbach & Co., looked up to as the Rothschilds of Demerara, rich and influential. Many estates were heavily mortgaged to them, their whole business connected to the arrangements to which the mortgagers were strictly tied down. All the sugar must be shipped home in THEIR ships, under THEIR agency both here and at home, and so much every year; all plantation stores to be bought of THEM; and other pickings, highly profitable to the mortgagee, who got full rates and commissions: considerably more so than planting was to unfortunate mortgagers, who got about as much as would just keep them on their legs. Other produce such as coffee and cotton was subject to like conditions. Here I found the Executive of this formidable establishment, Mr George Rainey, whom Mr Pattinson had told me I would find ‘very keen’: slow-spoken, he had a sharp visage , high thin nose, and a cold quiet calculating grey eye. He and his coadjutor Mr George Buchanan brought enormous gains to the Liverpool House and to McInroy Parker & Co. in Glasgow, though they dealt fairly: their business was money-lending. [Journal, Vol 2, p124]
George Rainy returned to Britain, living in London, and was married three times. At emancipation he was the primary claimant for over £50,000 compensation for almost 1000 slaves and a secondary claimant on a number of other properties.
George Rainy and the Highland Clearances
In 1845 George Rainy bought the island of Raasay, where he later evicted many of the tenants. One of his policies in Raasay was to forbid his tenants to marry, a measure of control reminiscent of the slave plantations.
What became of the people?
—They went to other kingdoms—some to America, some to Australia, and other places that they could think of. Mr Rainy enacted a rule that no-one should marry on the island. There was one man there who married in spite of him, and because he did so, he put him out of his father's house, and that man went to a bothy - to a sheep cot. Mr Rainy then came and demolished the sheep cot upon him, and extinguished his fire, and neither friend nor anyone else dared give him a night's shelter. He was not allowed entrance into any house.
Donald Macleod, crofter aged 78, evidence to the Napier Commission, 1883
George Rainy died in 1863.
Gilbert and George's sister Ann married Robert Brown, a Glasgow merchant active in the West India trade. Their brother Harry became professor of forensic medicine at Glasgow University and his son, Principal Robert Rainy, was a leading member of the Free Church of Scotland. In 1883 Principal Rainy made a statement to the Napier Commission, investigating the condition of crofter in the Highlands & Islands:
The mass of the tenantry . . . find themselves, as each year passes on, coming within a few months or weeks of a day on which a single individual can successfully deprive any of them of their livelihood, and can ruin them if he chooses. To be in this position is really to be under a despotism. In many cases it may be a paternal and kindly despotism. But whatever the character of it may be, it is not a good or safe system either for those who administer it or those who are subject to it.