John Robertson of Dalno of Bohespic

Last remains of Dalno Last remains of Dalno

The stone enclosure is all that remained of Dalno Farm in 2011 (left). Same view as the plantation was cleared to make way for the pylons (right)

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This part of Dalno is let to John Robertson, late miller in Dalcroy, the greatest knave in that country.

This comment, written down by the Atholl Estate Factor in 1822, has stuck to John Robertson ever since, but who was he, and was he such a villain?

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In 1813 John Robertson had a dispute with his brother-in-law, over the tenancy of the Dalno farm. To resolve the situation John petitioned the Duke of Atholl, and this petition provides a wealth of information. Whether John's account can be relied upon totally is open to question, but it does provide a starting point.

John stated that his family had been tenants of Dalno for 150 years, since the time of his great-grandfather. The farm was presently split between him and his brother-in-law Angus Campbell, each having half, but when the tenancy had recently come up for renewal only Angus had signed the agreement. According to John, this was because he only understood Gaelic and had been led to believe that only one signature was required. After signing the tenancy agreement, Angus had taken the view that he now leased the whole of Dalno and could choose which parts he wanted to farm, and which bits would be left for his brother-in-law. John wanted the same half as before, and not some pendicle or cottage of Angus's choosing.

John informed the Duke that he had carried out many improvements on his half of the farm, such as clearing stones, clearing wood and draining the ground, which had cost him 100 Scots. Angus, on the other hand, he claimed, had neglected his half and was trying his hardest to acquire the arable land which he had improved.

John appealed to the Duke, saying that he not only had a wife and family to support, but had also cared for his six younger brothers and sisters from the age of twelve, when his father drowned in the river Tumble (Tummel). Not only that, but Angus Campbell, who was single with no dependants, had dispossessed his own father in the most inhumane manner after the older man had married John Robertson's widowed mother. As a result the elderly couple were now living with him.

The situation must have been resolved to John's satisfaction as, in 1817, he rented the mill and mill-lands of Dalcroy on a 15 years tack (lease) for a rent of 85 10s 3d. At the same time Robert Menzies took over one third of John's half of Dalno. The mill should have generated a good income, but there were problems within a year. Mr Graham, the Atholl Estate Factor, was claiming that the farm was under-stocked and that the rent was in arrears. John Robertson had already raised money by a public roup in January of that year, and he was given 48 hours to remove his family and belongings.

His only recourse was to petition the Duke, asking for time to settle his debts. This he did, reminding the Duke that he had a young family to support, one being an eight-year-old boy who was "stone blind", and that his inablity to speak the English language caused misunderstanding. He also claimed to be surprised to receive a charge to remove himself within 24 hours because of rents arrears, as all his rents were paid except for crops in the ground.

His petition was successful, but the situation did not improve. In 1820 he produced one load of coal and nineteen Kain hens as 'rent in kind', which the Factor valued at 11s 6d, and the following year was no better. Once again petitioning the Duke that he was unable to pay his arrears "due to unforeseen circumstances", he claimed to have exchanged barley worth 60 for goods which he expected to sell at a substantial profit. The goods turned out to be illicit and he was again penniless. It is quite likely that the 'illicit goods' were casks of whisky, which were discovered and destroyed by the excisemen. This time the petition fell on less sympathetic ears and new tenants were sought for the property.

Once again John Robertson petitioned the Duke claiming that his neighbours had agreed to lend him the money so that he could stay on for at least one more year, but the money was not forthcoming. Again he petitioned the Duke saying that he understood that his property was to be let to two other individuals, and that Alexander Douglas would let his family stay in one of the houses but was unwilling to do so without the concurrence of His Grace. Once again he reminded the Duke that he had stock with nowhere to graze them, a family of six children, the eldest blind. The Factor reported to the Duke:

This man I fear, will never pay any of his arrears. He is in a state of indolent poverty and appears regardless of anything.

In 1822 Dalcroy farm and mill were rented to W. Christie and Alexander Douglas, tenants of Bohally, for 92, but perhaps the Duke and Factor were not heartless towards the plight of John Robertson and his family as the 1822 rentings also relate:

This part of Dalno is let to John Robertson, late miller in Dalcroy, the greatest knave in that country, at a rent of 28.

Angus Campbell according to the same Factor was "a great scoundrel" and was in rent arrears by 70. The Factor noted that his stock amounted to: 2 horses; 4 cows; 2 one-year-old stirks and 50 ewes and hogs, with no victuals. Somehow he must have raised enough money to clear his arrears as, in the same year, he was given a five year lease on Dalno for 30 and also rented Tighnachoille. The later did not last long, with the factor complaining that Angus was "a very bad tenant".

Nothing is recorded about the families in the 1830s.

From the Atholl Estate Rentals, one might assume that very few families lived at Dalno, but an estate map suggests that Dalno had always been quite a large settlement with a number of cottar families in addition to the tenant farmers.

Plan of Dalno

The approximate positions of the buildings (shown in brown) have been superimposed on the 1867 O.S. map (above). Probably all of these were destroyed when the whole area was ploughed, prior to planting, by the Forestry Commission. The only structure to survive to the present day is a large stone-walled enclosure (shown in blue). The walls of this enclosure are extremely thick, which probably saved it from destruction, but the reason for having such thick walls is uncertain. The map shows that originally there was a house on the east side, but no trace of it remains, and the only entrance to the enclosure seems to have been at the southern end on the opposite side. The thickness of the walls suggest that the enclosure had been used to pen cattle, but the entrance would have been a tight squeeze for any large cow.

In 1841 there were ten families living at Dalno: three were farmers; four were agricultural labourers; one was a shoemaker; and the last two claimed to be of independent means. Both John Robertson and Angus Campbell were still living at Dalnoe, along with their wives.

Dwelling Name Age Occupation Birthplace
Dalno (7) John Robertson 50y agricultural labourer Perthshire
Jane 55y Perthshire
Angus 25y Perthshire
Dalno (9) Angus Campbell 60y independent Perthshire
Ann 50y Perthshire

The names of the two wives in the 1841 census returns match marriages entries in the Blair Atholl OPR.

Blair Atholl OPR (marriages)

John Robertson, Dalno and Jean Campbell, Dalno, 6th May 1810.

Angus Campbell, Dalno and Ann MacDonald, Dalno, 20th June 1819

In 1822 John Robertson had claimed to have a family of six children, yet neither John nor Angus seem to have had any of their children baptised. More of these missing children are recorded in the 1851 census returns.

Dwelling Name Relation Status Age Occupation Birth-place
Dalno (2) John Robertson head marr 62y ag. labourer Blair Atholl
Jane wife marr 77y Blair Atholl
Angus son u/m 36y Blair Atholl
Robert son u/m 32y tailor Blair Atholl
Janet dau u/m 25y dress-maker Blair Atholl
Catherine Campbell sis-in-law widow 79y Blair Atholl
Dalno (4) Catherine Campbell head u/m 24y Blair Atholl
Ann sis u/m 18y Blair Atholl
Duncan bro u/m 23y Blair Atholl
Donald neph u/m 3y Blair Atholl

John Robertson's wife Jane died at Dalno on 21st April 1857. Her death certificate describes her as a pauper aged 77 years, the daughter of John Campbell, farmer, and Barbara Robertson, and says that she was buried in the churchyard at Struan.

So Angus Campbell's parents were John Campbell of Nether Bohespic and Barbara Robertson of Dalno who married 26th March 1772, and the IGI lists the following children: Angus born 15th July 1772; Neil born 10th June 1774 and Katharine born 12th December 1778. Jane should have been born around 1780.

The way in which John Campbell lost Nether Bohespic is recorded in a petition to the Duke of Atholl dated 1805, and subsequent notes by the Atholl Estate Factor.

The Petitioner has been a tenant for upwards of forty years1. Three years ago the district was open to best offers2 and Peter and Alexander Robertson, his neighbours, sent their sons to Blair to get their farms again. The custom was that only one person would offer for the whole farm, and only the name of that farm would be in the rent book, this being old use and practice. Alexander Robertson gave his (Campbell's) farm to another son John, and told him that he would be obliged to give his up as he was to settle his two sons in the whole farm. He told him that he now possessed his farm as it belonged to him. The Petitioner said "They now stretch every move to dispossess him. May it please Your Grace to consider the poor oppressed state of the Petitioner".

1 Angus Campbell and Donald Robertson paid 3.15s.0d. for the rental of Nether Bohespick from 1764 until 1767. In 1778 the Factor noted that Angus had one son married and children. The last rental paid by Angus Campbell was in 1786. The following year an Alexander(?) Campbell was living at Nether Bohespic.

2 In 1801 James Stobie, the Duke of Atholl's factor, wrote "I made a neat division of Bohespike in the hill as well as the arable, forming the whole into regular farms and taken offers from the best of the tenants which amounts to about 260 - 40 more than double the old rent. I kept out from offering every person who had an indifferent character".

John Campbell was not easy to dislodge from Nether Bohespic as shown by two letters to the Factor, Mr Palliser.

He (John Campbell) can't declare his sentiment verbally, owing to his deficiency in the English language. He wants to stay in his house till he can make proper use of his crop. If he must move presently, he will submissively go without any further trouble or damage. He has made every effort to get another place, but has failed. He thought a party was coming to evict him, but he will go peacefully (1805).

John Campbell agrees that it is inexcusable for not removing at Whit(sun) following Mr Palliser's orders, and to prevent further trouble obliges to pay 50. All cattle and furniture shall be removed from Nether Bohespic before 6 o'clock on Tuesday evening, 23rd July (20th July 1805)

It is interesting to note the similarity between this event, and the unsuccessful attempt by John Campbell's son to remove John Robertson from Dalno eight years later.

John Robertson said that his widowed mother had married Angus Campbell's father, and this is recorded in the Blair Atholl OPR (7th August 1808), showing that John Campbell was living at Dalno at the time. This suggests that John's widowed mother had allowed the Campbell family to take up residence at Dalno after being evicted from Nether Bohespic. By 1808 the Atholl Estate rental book shows that John Campbell's son Angus had an equal share of the tenancy with John Robertson, each paying 15. How this came about is unclear, and the marriage of the two parents in 1808 would have made the Campbell grip on Dalno even stronger, leading to the tenancy dispute of 1813.

By 1860 John Robertson was an old man and the Factor was much more sympathetic to him.

John Robertson, upwards of eighty years of age has been all his life in Bohespic, for many years as a tenant. He has four sons and three daughters. They are all married with the exception of 'Blind Angus'. John is well known by the name of the 'Laird' and his pride has long kept him from becoming a pauper, but he is now so frail and so poor that he was glad to take a small sum of money from the Blair Kirk Session a few weeks ago.

Angus Robertson, aged forty, has been totally blind since he was nine years of age3 and has been all his life on the Athole property. He lives with his father, an old man of eighty, who once rented the farm of Easter Bohespic and whose forefathers were Lairds of Bohespic. Angus is now in delicate health and receives ten shillings a month from the Blair Parochial Board.

3According to the 1871 census, Angus had been blinded by smallpox.

Dwelling Name Relation Status Age Occupation Birth-place
Dalno (3) John Robertson head widower 73y formerly farmer Blair Atholl
Angus son u/m 48y pauper (blind) Blair Atholl
Jessie Campbell dau marr 36y housekeeper Blair Atholl
Jane Campbell g.dau u/m 8y scholar Blair Atholl
Ann Campbell g.dau u/m 6y Blair Atholl
Angus Campbell g.son u/m 4y Blair Atholl
John Campbell g.son u/m 1y Blair Atholl

John Robertson died at Dalno on 3rd July 1863. His death certificate describes him as a pauper, late hawker, widower of Jane Campbell aged 74 years, the son of Alexander Robertson, farmer, and Janet Robertson (same maiden name). The informant was Duncan Campbell, son-in-law.

John Robertson's daughter Janet (Jessie) married Duncan Campbell in the early 1850s, although the marriage has not been located in the OPRs. She died at Blairbuie in Strathtummel on 26th August 1900, aged 75 years. The death certificate was witnessed by her daughter Ann McGlashan.

Jessie's husband, Duncan Campbell, died at Blairbuie on 29th April 1887, aged 61 years. There is a monument to Duncan Campbell of Blairbuie in the churchyard of Blair Atholl which has the following inscription:

In loving memory of Duncan Campbell farmer Blairbuie, Strathtummel, who died 29th April 1887 aged 61, and his wife Jessie Robertson who died 25th August 1900 aged 75. Also his sons Angus who died at Loch Tummel Hotel 21st January 1890 aged 32. All interred at St Lukes Dunalastair. Donald who died at Logierait 7th December 1928 aged 84, and is interred here. At Rest

Duncan's death certificate gives his parents as Angus Campbell and Ann McClintoch, but his mother's surname is highly unusual for this area. A clue to the correct name of his mother comes from the monument inscription above, which mentions his son Donald who died in the Logierait Poorhouse (Cuil an Doraich), in 1928. Donald's death certificate gives his parents as Donald (sic) Campbell and Euphemia Cumming and his age as 85, so he must have been born around 1843, and this appears to be an illegitimate birth. The 1891 census for Blairbuie describes Donald as Jessie's step-son.

In the 1851 census for Dalno, Catherine Campbell the daughter of Angus Campbell and Ann McDonald has an unmarried brother Duncan aged 23 years and a nephew Donald aged 3 years. This strongly suggests that Ann McClintoch is really Ann McDonald, that Catherine's brother will marry Jessie Robertson of Dalno, and that the nephew Donald is Duncan's illegitimate son.

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The Children of Duncan Campbell and Jane (Jessie) Robertson of Blairbuie

Name Born Married Date Residence Died
Jane 1853 d.
Ann 1855 John McGlashan 1874 h.
w.
Angus Jul 14 1856 d. Jan 21 1890
John Apr 10 1859 d.
Jessie Mar 3 1861 d.
Barbara Jul 26 1862 d.
Catherine Jul 26 1862 d.
Elizabeth Sep 28 1864 d.

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