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Alexander Ferrier (Cardross)

'. . . long notoriously and successfully engaged in this unhallowed traffic in human flesh.'

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Alexander Ferrier [1789–1848] was born in Cardross (Dunbartonshire) in 1789, the son of William Ferrier and Mary Fisher. In 1798 his father established a distillery at Cardross.

Alexander and his younger brother Robert [b1791] went to Surinam, possibly via Demarara or Berbice. Nothing more is known of Robert. Glasgow University Archive hold a collection of Alexander’s papers dating from 1831 until his death: GB/248/GB 248 UGD/075. He was in business in Surinam with Thomas Butler Parry. In 1844 the British consul in Surinam referred to 'kidnapped Africans' in the colony stating that: 'The estate of Alkmaar, possesses from 500 to 600, all of whom were imported by the firm of Thomas Parry and Alexander Ferrier (the agents of Sir William Young), the present owners, and persons who were long notoriously and successfully engaged in this unhallowed traffic in human flesh.' [General Report of the Emigration Commissioners, Volume 2, 1845]

He had many children in Surinam - eight born to Antoinette Johanna Kenswil [1789-1834] and one to Bernardine Elizabeth van Eyck [b1791]. In 1830, in Scotland, he married Margaret Pearson and had four legitimate children. About 1835 he build Bloomhill House in Cardross, which was shortly afterwards described as ‘perhaps the most beautiful villa on the Clyde’ [New Statistical Account of Scotland]

In 1842 he owned plantation Fredricksdorp on the Commewijnrivier in Surinam and his heirs were listed in a parliamentary investigation in 1859 into British citizens who were still engaging in slave ownership and trading [Parliamentary Papers, 1860].


Bloomhill House, Cardross c1910











Alexander Ferrier's daughter, Margaret Gourlay Ferrier (1832–1900), married Joseph Noel Paton (1821–1901), a Scottish artist, sculptor and poet, who was appointed Queen's Limner for Scotland in 1865 and knighted in 1878.

His painting ‘The Lullaby’, a portrait of Margaret and their infant son Diarmid from about 1861, has been described as embodying ‘the Victorian belief that . . . the ideal woman’s role [was] that of mother at the heart of the family . . . [as] the teacher and moral instructor of her children’.

She was one of the last slave-owners in Scotland.










'The Lullaby', private collection on long-term loan to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.


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