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John Ross (Nigg)

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John Ross (1776-1806) was in partnership in Berbice with John Sinclair, of Halkirk in Caithness, from or before 1801 (Will of John Sinclair, PROB 11/1434). They were both merchants in New Amsterdam and involved in plantation Nigg, a recently established cotton estate on the east sea coast of the colony (London Gazette, February 1814). Before 1801 James Fraser of Pitcalzean, also in the parish of Nigg, was a partner (Will of John Sinclair) but the firm was known as Ross & Sinclair by 1803 when Lord Seaforth’s manager, Peter Fairbairn, dealt with them (National Archives of Scotland GD46/17/23 p283). John Ross died at the plantation, aged 30, on 16th July 1806 (Scots Magazine 1807).

John Ross was the brother of Walter Ross of Nigg (1760-1830), who named him as one of the trustees of a dispostion in favour of his wife drawn up in 1806 (NAS SC25/44/2). Their sister was Flora Ross (evidence from gravestone in Nigg kirkyard). Walter acquired the lands of Nigg in 1801 from a John Rose (NAS SC25/44/2).

Walter was factor on the Cromarty estate; and Flora married James Taylor, sheriff clerk in Cromarty.

In 1803 it was reported to the Kirk Session of Nigg that ‘Anne Taylor in Castlecraig [Nigg] who was reported to have removed from this parish in a state of pregnancy had now returned to the parish suckling an infant’. She refused to appear before the session, who were concerned that the child might be illegitimate and referred the case to the presbytery. She wrote to them stating that the child had been born in England and baptised, that she was a member of the Church of England and that she did not regard herself as subject to their authority. She was formally excommunicated but in 1807 she revealed that she had been married to Col John Ross and was now his widow - and was absolved. (Minutes of Kirk Session of Nigg and Presbytery of Tain.)

John Ross’s affairs in Berbice were not settled until 1814, at which point the curators of his estate were Thomas Fryer Layfield and Robert Douglas (London Gazette, February 1814). In 1836 Hugh Miller wrote to an old friend, Alexander Finlay, reminiscing about their boyhood in Cromarty and in particular the group who used to explore the caves on the shore: ‘But where are all our old companions, Finlay? Lying widely scattered in solitary graves! . . . Layfield in Berbice . . .’ (ed Michael Shortland, Hugh Miller’s Memoir). It is possible that Hugh's friend was the son of Thomas Fryer Layfield or John Layfield above. A John Layfield was manager of Plantation Nigg in 1815 [CS96/2151].

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