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Merchant houses

Davidson, Graham and Barkly

Henry Davidson (1726–81) and his younger brother, Duncan (1733–99), were the sons of William Davidson, a lawyer from Cromarty [Ross & Cromarty]. Henry was educated at the parish school in Cromarty and was then apprenticed to George Ross (1708/9–86), a lawyer and native of Easter Ross [Ross & Cromarty] who had established himself in London as an army agent and representative of a number of Scottish bodies. Henry, also a solicitor and army agent, made enough money to acquire the estate of Tulloch, near Dingwall, in 1762, while Ross acquired the estate of Cromarty in 1767. At his death Ross owned property in the West Indies.

The younger Davidson brother, Duncan, was in business in a London merchant house with George Chandler (the senior partner) from the early 1770s and Davidson’s eldest daughter, born in 1773, was baptised ‘Sarah Chandler’ in honour of her godmother, Chandler's wife Sarah Chandler. They operated from 14 Fenchurch Buildings in the City of London and had substantial interests in importing West Indian sugar.

After Chandler’s death in 1779, Duncan Davidson formed a partnership with Charles Graham (d1806) of Drynie [Black Isle, Ross & Cromarty] still operating from Fenchurch Buildings. In 1781 he inherited the estate of Tulloch from his older brother, Henry, and served as MP for Cromarty-shire from 1790.

After Duncan Davidson’s death in 1799, his son Henry (1771–1827) replaced him as a partner of Charles Graham. The partnership was dissolved at Charles Graham’s death in 1806 and a new partnership, with Aeneas Barkly (1768–1836), was formed. Aeneas was the youngest son of Alexander Barkly of Mounteagle [Black Isle, Ross & Cromarty], who became the successor to his father on paying off his debts.

Two of Henry Davidson’s four sons – Henry (1802–86) and William (1808–93) – retained an interest in the West Indian sugar business and received compensation for the emancipation of their slaves. His eldest son, Duncan, inherited the Tulloch estate and served as an MP for Cromarty-shire (1826–30) and Nairn-shire (1832–34).

Aeneas Barkly’s son, Henry Barkly (1815–98), worked for his father before becoming a Member of Parliament (1845–48) and was afterwards governor of British Guiana (1845–53), Jamaica (1853–56), Victoria, Australia (1856–63), Mauritius (1863–70) and Cape Colony, South Africa (1870–77).

Charles Graham’s nephew, Francis Graham (1778–1820), who went to Jamaica in 1797, became the attorney and/or owner of 49 estates, with 13,000 slaves, including plantations belonging to Davidson and Barkly.

Links to Ancestry.co.uk (subscription needed)

Barkly family

Davidson family

Graham family

Barkly, Graham and Davidson in Surinam

By 1821 the 2000-acre plantation L'Esperance on the Surinam river was owned by Graham & Barkly, with a W Kennedy as attorney and A Cameron as manager. It passed a year later to Henry Davidson who then sold it to William Fraser of Goldstone Hall, Berbice.


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