Alexander Stewart in Knockgarry, Factor to John Stewart, 8th of Bonskeid

Cnocgharie (Knockgarry)

A map of the area around Knockgarry, showing Balchapel, Balinloin and Croftcarnach

Considering that Alexander Stewart became Bonskeid’s most trusted man, it is frustrating that nothing is known about his parentage. The first mention of Alexander Stewart comes from his marriage to Margaret Stewart in 1736 which is recorded in the Dull OPR. Unfortunately the Blair Atholl OPR, which usually provided more background information, did not record marriages before November 1743.

"Alexander Stewart in Blair Atholl parish and Margaret Stewart in Fincastle, Dull parish, married 12th April 1736. Witnesses: John Stewart and Neill Stewart" (Dull OPR)

Assuming that Alexander was aged between 25 and 30 years when he married, he probably was born 1706-1711. Likewise, assuming that he followed the traditional naming of children, his eldest son, Charles, was named after Alexander’s father.

After their marriage Alexander Stewart and his wife were farming at Balchapel of Borenich where their first child, Janet, was born, 10th February 1737, but things were about to change.

John Stewart, 8th of Bonskeid’s eldest son and heir, by his first marriage to Amelia Stewart, was John Stewart, younger, of Bonskeid who was living at Knochgarry (Cnocgharie) of Borenich at this time. This may have been the traditional residence for the heir of Bonskeid, as the 1705 ‘List of the Duke of Atholl’s Fencible Men’ mentions Donald McMartin in Borenich as being the servant to Bonskeid’s son.

John Stewart, younger, was alive at the end of December 1739 as he lent £200 Scots to Charles Stewart in Laightown of Duntaulich, and this bill is listed in his Testament, Dunkeld Commissariot, October 1740.

“Item: two hundred pounds, contained in a bill payable to the defunct, accepted by Charles Steuart in Laightown of Duntaulich dated 22nd December 1739, payable at Martinmass 1740”.

However the Dull parish OPR for 30th January 1740 reads:

“Charles son to John Stewart, younger, of Bonskeid and Isobel Stewart, both deceased, was baptised. John Stewart, elder, of Bonskeid, sponsor. Witnesses: John Stewart of Balnakeilly and Robert Stewart, younger, of Fincastle”.

To have lost both parents within 5 weeks is extraordinary and some sources have tried to link the two deaths with the destruction of Bonskeid House by fire. However there is no foundation for this hypothesis as Bonskeid House was burnt down in the aftermath of the failed ’45 Jacobite Rising and, in any case, the couple were living at Knockgarry, not Bonskeid House. Isobel Stewart may have died at childbirth, despite this being her sixth child, but the death of her husband remains unresolved.

Whatever the reason for his death, it was essential to settle his estate quickly for the benefit of his six children: John; Patrick; James; Charles; Jean and Sophia Steuarts. Alexander Stewart in Borenich was given this task and produced an inventory which, along with the testament dative, was recorded at Dunkeld in October 1740. It is highly unlikely that John Stewart of Bonskeid would have entrusted such a responsibility to one of his tenant farmers. It needed someone who was respected in the community and was literate, being able to read, write and calculate. This suggests that Alexander Stewart either was a kinsman or the son of one of the other local gentry.

The inventory comprises the livestock, household plenishings and farming equipment, valuing each but not as the outcome of a roup, where the buyer would be identified. Presumably this is the inventory for Knockgarry and as it mentions bedding, furniture, timber and stored food, there is no suggestion of a recent fire at Knockgarry or any other similar disaster. One can also gauge the size of Knockgarry as there was room for 3 feather beds and bolsters (head rests), as well as a chaff bed (presumably for the farm servant in an adjacent building).

The inventory shows the financial state of John Stewart, the younger, and it gives the impression that he was acting as a ‘banker’, but not just for his father’s tenants as it mentions local people on the Atholl and Faskally estates.

Firstly he was holding £69 Scots in ready cash (i.e. silver coins) which was a large amount of money considering that a good horse or a young cow was worth £10. Secondly he was holding bills (promissory notes) on behalf of his father in a Factorial role:

“Item: by bill granted by Charles Steuart of Invervack to Donald McLauen in Runmore, and endorsed by him to Bonskeid, dated 7th March 1730, nine pounds eighteen shillings, for which he obtained a decreet (warrant) the foresaid bill granted for meall due at Michaelmass or Martinmass 1740”

Basically, Donald McLaren in Runmore had an old IOU from Charles Stewart of Invervack which he signed over to John Stewart, elder, of Bonskeid in return for a promise that he would be given its value in oatmeal at the end of September or mid November.

In addition he was making short-term loans to individuals and groups of people:

“Item: thirty-two pounds thirteen shillings four pence per bill (granted) by Patrick Robertson of Trinafour dated 30th June 1739, payable Martinmass 1740.

Item: forty pounds per another bill granted by Patrick Robertson of Trinafour to the defunct of same date, payable Martinmass 1739.

Item: (bill granted) by John Murdoch in Shierglas, Malcolm McGregor there, Donald Cameron in Cuiltvuick, John Steuart in Tombuie and Patrick Steuart in Balnauld of Borenich, the sum of about twenty eight pounds”.

The last entry is interesting as the places mentioned are not close together, and there is no obvious connection between the people, so why were they needing to borrow money jointly?

At the end of the inventory there is a ‘list of the rents owing to the defunct’. So it would appear that John Stewart, elder, had given his son the rental income from some of the settlements close to Knockgarry.

“Item: by John Steuart, farmer in Croft, of his rent, crops, 1739, £7 4s 8d
Item: by John Steuart, in Balnaloan, £16 3s 4d
Item: by Alexander McGlashan, there, £14 6s
Item: by Alexander Steuart, in Balchaple, £11 12s”

Croft would be Croftcarnach, Balnaloan or Laightown later became known as Miltown of Borenich, and Alexander Steuart in Balchapel was the inventory writer himself.

Alexander Stewart’s second child, Margaret, was born 15th August 1743 but the Blair Atholl OPR just says at Borenich, so the family may still have been at Balchapel, but by January 1745 they had taken up residence at Knockgarry where their third child, Elspeth, was born 1st June 1746, and by this time Alexander Stewart in Knockgarry was Bonskeid’s trusted Factor.

As banks did not exist in Blair Atholl parish the Session protected some of their ‘Poor Fund’ money by giving it to John Stewart, 8th of Bonskeid. He paid annual interest on the principal (capital) which could be dispersed to the needy, and the Kirk Session minutes record this happening.

"The Session approved the Minister to draw a precept (warrant) upon Alexander Stewart in Knockgharie, Factor to Bonskeid, for 5 merks Scots, to be equally divided betwixt Patrick Robertson in Balnald of Borenich and Donald Stewart in Seomairban (Chamberbane), and upon a receipt of 5 merks more, to grant a discharge to Bonskeid of all bygone annual rents (interest) for that bill". (Blair Atholl Session Minutes, 6th January 1745)

"A precept was drawn upon Alexander Stewart in Knockgarry on Bonskeid's behalf to give to Donald Stewart in Seomuirban (Chamberbane), 2½ merks Scots as part payment due by Bonskeid's bill for Martinmass last 1745". (Blair Atholl Session Minutes, 1st June 1746)

"Alexander Stewart in Knockgarry, manager to Bonskeid, paid 22s 6d Sterling to the Session for the annual rent on the principal sum of £23 16s Scots, due by Bonskeid, per bill, since Martinmass 1736. Moreover he paid the odd 16s of the principal, and renewed Bonskeid’s bill for £23 Scots payable at Martinmass 1749". (Blair Atholl Session Minutes, 29th November 1748)

"A precept was drawn upon Alexander Stewart in Knochgharie on behalf of Patrick Robertson in Croftcarnach for 2½ merks Scots, in part payment of the annual rent due by Bonskeid to the Session at Martinmass last". (Blair Atholl Session Minutes, 12th March 1749)

Alexander Stewart’s last child, Robert, was born 8th June 1755 but the family was in Knockgarry up until about 1800, but which time the farm was being run by Alexander’s eldest son Charles.

Alexander Stewart is mentioned in the testament of John Stewart, elder, 8th of Bonskeid who died 20th October 1767

“In payment to the said Alexander Stewart in Knockgarry of five pounds two shillings and six pence Sterling contained in the defunct's accepted bill to him dated the twenty-first day of March 1763 years, payable at Martinmass then next.

In payment likewise to the said Alexander Stewart of six pounds six shillings Sterling for the defunct's other bill to him, dated the thirteenth day of March 1765 years, payable at Martinmass then next.

In payment also to him of seven pounds ten shillings six pence Sterling money per the defunct's third bill to him, dated the fifteenth day of April 1766 years, payable at Martinmass then next.

In payment to him of twenty-seven merks Scots money contained in the defunct's fourth bill to him, dated the eight day of November 1763 years, payable at Martinmass then next, deducing seven pence paid thereof, marked on the back of the said bill”.


(Generation 2) The Children of Alexander Stewart and Margaret Stewart in Knockgarry of Borenich

Name Born Married Date Residence Died
Janet Feb 10 1737 . . Balchapel d.
Margaret Aug 15 1743 . . Borenich d.
Elspeth Jun 1 1746 . . Knockgarry d.
Christian 1748? John Stewart
in Balchapel
Mar 10 1774 Balchapel h.
Charles Jan 28 1750 Marjory Stewart
in Ardtulichan
Nov 19 1773 Knockgarry h.
Patrick Sep 17 1752 Jean Stewart
in Kirkton of
Feb 15 1776 Miltown of
Robert Jun 8 1755 Cecilia Stewart Feb 8 1786 Chamberbane
and Nova Scotia
h. ~1804
w. 5 Mar 1848


(Generation 3) The Children of John Stewart and Christian Stewart of Balchapel

There is no baptismal record for Christian Stewart, only the OPR marriage entry dated 10th March 1774 which links her to Knockgarry. However there is no evidence that Alexander the Factor was sharing Knochgarry with another Stewart family, and servant girls would be identified by their father's residence, not where they were employed.

Name Born Married Date Residence Died
Alexander Aug 20 1775 . . Balchapel d.
Donald Aug 9 1778 . . Balchapel d.
Patrick Feb 4 1784 . . Balchapel d.
Robert Sep 14 1786 . . Balchapel d.
James Dec 19 1790 . . Balchapel d.


(Generation 3) The Children of Charles Stewart and Marjory Stewart of Knockgarry

Alexander's son Charles married Marjory Stewart on 19th November 1773. She was the second eldest daughter of Donald Stewart and Grissel Robertson in Ardtulichan. All of the children, with the exception of Donald, were born at Knockgarry. Donald seems to have been born at Uchdnanetaig which is next to Knockgarry, so it is possible that the family were there on a temporary basis while Knockgarry was being rebuilt. There other oddity is that Elisabeth's birth is recorded in the Logierait OPR, but clearly states that the family are from Knochgarry in the parish of Blair Atholl.

Name Born Married Date Residence Died
Alexander Jul 8 1775 . . Knockgarry d.
Donald Oct 29 1776 . . Uchdnanetaig d.
John Nov 3 1778 . . Knockgarry d.
Margaret Aug 10 1780 . . Knockgarry d.
Patrick Jun 29 1782 . . Knockgarry d.
Donald Nov 7 1784 . . Knockgarry d.
Elisabeth Oct 19 1788
(Logierait OPR)
. . Knockgarry d.
Robert Jan 3 1791 . . Knockgarry d.
Duncan Mar 19 1792 . . Knockgarry d.


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