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More Letters as promised -- The Saga of Dunardry

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Patrick Thompson

Joined: 04 Feb 2006
Posts: 175
Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:12 pm    Post subject: More Letters as promised -- The Saga of Dunardry Reply with quote

The Saga of Dunardry

In September 1796, attorney for Lachlan MacTavish of Dunardry, James Ferrier, Edinburgh, wrote to Simon McTavish in Montreal, telling him of the death of Lachlan and the state of the family. Simon responded in the letter hereinafter.

Letter by Simon McTavish to James Ferrier.

Montreal. Jan’y 11th, 1797.

A few days ago I received your favor of the 20th Sept. last giving the unwelcome account of the death of my poor Friend Dunardry, and the embarrass’d situation of his affairs & Family; which I regret very much. He was not deceived in reckoning on my friendly disposition towards him, and it was my intention to have assisted him in paying up what he owed Mr. Malcolm on his little Family property, as soon as I could with conveniency spare the money. I find from your statement that but little has yet been paid on the account. I think you apprehend the Family may be injured in getting rid of the purchase to Mr. Malcolm—to prevent which, if it will suit that Gentleman to wait for his money ‘till May, 1798, I will pay him at that time, in London, with a years interest that will then fall due, and take the purchase on my own account; & perhaps at a future day one of the sons of my deceased Friend may be in a situation to redeem it; if this proposal proves satisfactory, or in case that Mr. Malcolm is pressing for his money—if any of the Friends of the Family can make it convenient to advance the purchase money till May ’98—I will reimburse them at that period, & authorize you to make the necessary arrangements—if you will undertake the management of the business; I therefore request to hear from you on this subject by the first opportunity, and as letters in time of War are liable to miscarry it may be necessary to write in duplicate. As your forms in Scotland are different to what they are in England—be so good as to send me a Copy of such power of attorney as may be necessary for me to send you, if my proposal is accepted of.—
You’ll please to acquaint the Widow that I will most cheerfully take charge of the second boy, whenever his is qualified to come into a Computing House, &wish a proper attention may be paid to his Education—until he is 16--& if the expense will be inconvenient for the Family I will pay it.

I remain very respectfully
Your Obedt. Humble Servt.
(Signed) Simon McTavish

Jas. Ferrier, Esqr., Writer to
The Signet, Edinburgh

As it appears in the above letter (1), Simon McTavish had a soft spot for his kinsman and “Friend Dunardry”, Chief Lachlan MacTavish, and family. Simon also states the exact reason why he is offering to pay the purchase fee to Neil Malcolm of Potalloch (Mr. Malcolm). He feels in loosing The Dunardry Estate ("the purchase") the Dunardry family (Lachlan and His family) has suffered injury, and he is taking on the purchase himself in order to retain it--with the sole intent of returning it to the sons of Lachlan MacTavish of Dunardry. It is of interest that Simon does not sign himself “of Garthbeg” for he had been granted cadet Arms by Lord Lyon in 1793. Plainly, Simon recognized Lachlan MacTavish as “Dunardry”.

Simon purchased Dunardry but he never occupied it, and this was likely due to his considerable business interests in Canada. He took John George MacTavish, second son of Lachlan MacTavish, into the North West Company, where he eventually became a high-ranking factor in that Company. Later John George changed the spelling of his last name to match that of his benefactor, Simon McTavish. John George later worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company where he was also considered one of its top traders.

In 1798, Simon paid a portion of the funds for Dunardry to Malcolm of Poltalloch for the Dunardry Estate. He later admitted to a friend that it (Dunardry) was a “hobby-horse”, noting that for him the purchase of such land was an layout of money that was disadvantageous (2). It seems that Simon was not too serious about the land of Dunardry, even though he had the purchase and later passed it to his heirs.

Both of Simon McTavish’s sons, William, and Simon, Jr. died young. However, years after William McTavish passed, Simon, Jr. asked Sheriff Dugald MacTavish, now living at Kilchrist House in Stewarton, Campbeltown, Kintyre, to assist him in clearing up his brother’s affairs in a letter written from Ramsgate, on 22 Jan. 1823, 3 years after Dugald obtained the land back from Simon Jr., but the affairs of William were still not settled. See the Letter from Ramsgate below. (3)

What happened was Dunardry returned to Dugald MacTavish by disposition, since neither Simon McTavish (Sr.) nor his heirs, had completed payment on the fees of Dunardry and it was under debt, and the estate (duthus) returned to the original owners, with a purchase price. William McTavish’s (Simon’s son) debts, chattels (associated with Dunardry) and the property of Dunardry, were sold at Roup (auction) under the jurisdiction of the Court in 1820 (4), and the property again passed to Sheriff Dugald who sold it to Malcolm of Poltallach, by Charter Sale of Sheriff Dugald MacTavish of Dunardry on 3 Nov 1820. On 3 May 1823, the legal disposition of the Lands of Dunardry was settled, naming Malcolm of Poltallach the owner, and Dugald MacTavish the seller (5). Sheriff Dugald could not have authorized the sale if he had no legal right to do so, nor could he have sold it without being the heritor of the lands.

1-The Beaver Magazine, a Hudson’s Bay Company publication, December 1941 Edition, Article by W.S. Wallace, “New Light on Simon McTavish”, p 49.

2-The North West Company, Marjorie Wilkins Campbell, Toronto, MacMillan, 1957, pp 116, 117.

3-National Library and Archive of Canada, Hargrave/MacTavish Papers, Letter Ramsgate (England), 22nd Jan 1823, Simon McTavish Jr. to (Sheriff) Dugald MacTavish, Esq.

4-Argyll & Bute Archives, Lochgilphead, Scotland: GD43/Parcel 23/10 Copy of the Minutes and Articles of Roup (Auction) for Dunardry in the action of Sale and Ranking against the Creditors of the said William McTavish 17 May 1820.Argyll & Bute Archives, Lochgilphead, Scotland

5-Argyll & Bute Archives, Lochgilphead, Scotland: GD43/Parcel 23/13 Charter of Sale of Dunardry by the said Dugald MacTavish in favor of the said Neill Malcolm, senior, and Neill Malcolm, Junior 3 Nov 1820.

Letter by Dugald McTavish, 29 April 1818, to David Caldwell - Edinburgh

Ugadale was yesterday favored with your letter of the 25th and its enclosure, when I desired himself to write to you on the subject of his money matters. I was aware of the necessity for your having his signature to show to the (Barrister). He is obliged by your attention to this matter.

I use the freedom to prefix a copy of three letters in which you will perceive I have personally a very deep interest in the hope that will take the trouble to call in my behalf on Major Plenderleath to ascertain what are the intentions of my young namesake in the subject. Neither of these parties have as yet returned any answer to my letters and as I understand that Mr. Malcolm Poltalloch has made an offer for the lands, I shall feel very unhappy until I learn how it has been treated.

It is not to be supposed that a party in my situation can divest himself of partiality in his views of a transaction of this kind. But after making every allowance for this feeling I can not for my soul conceive any good or honorable pretext that Mr. William McTavish can urge for putting me in a worse situation as to these lands than now [,] that from which his father voluntarily stepped forward and relieved me.

He should ask no more from me that repayment of the sum his father advanced with interest and any expense of management that may have been disbursed. He giving credit for the (Whitsunady tenants) with rents which latter from the date of the transaction have considerably exceeded 5 percent on the sum advanced.

Should the young man and his friend view the matter in a different light however here cannot possibly exist any apology for his selling to Mr. Malcolm and any other person without first putting it in my power to purchase an equal terms to secure my having an opportunity at some future time of redeeming his property. My curators price considerable under what could have been procured for at the time. This sacrifice was in fact considered no sacrifice such was the confidence of my friends in the generous motives and which they imputed Mc MacTavish voluntary interposition in behalf of my fathers family. As matters are now liked to turn out however I fear I shall have reason throughout life to curse the house in which my friends allowed themselves to be duped by professions of friendship which though certainly sincere on the part of Mr. McTavish have only had the effect of placing me at the mercy of a son who can not possess a spark of honorable feeling could not have hesitated for a moment as to the line of conduct he should pursue if there were a spark of honorable feeling in his disposition.

The state of this young mans health is said to be very bad. I therefore entreat you will not lose a moment in seeing Mr. Plenderleath and if your find (which I have little doubt your shall) that there is a chance of my getting this property at the sum Mr. McTavish favor me for it, I beg you will learn from Mr. Plenderleath at what price I may have it and if you can close a bargain by with Mr. William McTavish at any sum below six thousand guineas you may do so without waiting further authority from me. One half of the price payable at Martin Mass 1818 the other at Whits 1819. In case you get this transaction so closed tell Major Plenderleath that I entreat he will not let any human being know that the lands are sold for some months as I have very particular reasons for wishing to keep the transaction private.

Whatever may be the result of the negotiations I bet you will observe similar secrecy? The sum offered by Mr. Malcolm is £6000. If it can be kept from him that I am in the field he probably will raise it higher. Should he discern that I am looking after the purchase there will be the devil to pay as he can afford to give any price rather than lose it. You will therefore take care to commit yourself to paper with Major Plenderleath until you find that and Mr. William McTavish on the subject until you find that your doing so is to be conclusive as otherwise the document would be instantly shewn to Malcolm as a lever to raise his offer. I have lost all faith in the honor of these parties. It would scarcely surprise me that they should deny having received the letters of which I enclose a copy as it might perhaps suit their views to destroy the letter from the late Mr. McTavish (1) which they cannot peruse without feeling how inconsistent it is with their present conduct.

I shall expect to hear from you if at all possible by return of post. You will of course conceal your knowledge of Malcolm’s offer when feeling your way as to the price expected take care not to let it be supposed you have my intention of giving beyond £6000 until you ascertain that a little more is known unto the balance will settle the matter. In short you must let it be understood that nothing but any attachment to this spot would induce me to offer a sixpence above £6000 and that in asking more they will take a very cruel advantage of my feelings towards it, and of the circumstances in which they stand in consequence of the mistaken reliance on my curators on the assurance of a power of redemption held out to them by the late Mr. McTavish. I need scarcely add that it will be necessary to use fair words throughout the transaction.

Yours always most truly

(signed) D.M. Edinburgh

29 April 1818

Above letter retrieved from The Fonds of M. A. MacLeod, University of Manitoba, from the collection of copies used to write of The Letters of Letitia Hargarve.

1- The copy of the Letter from the late (Simon) McTavish in regard to his obligations/intentions toward Dunardry, also referred to in the Letter of 27/30 April 1818 by Major Wm. Plenderleath.

This letter indicates that Sheriff Dugald was intending to buy back Dunardry, perhaps with the intent of selling it to Malcolm of Poltalloch, and that sale, in fact, was finalized in 1823 per records at Argyll & Bute in Lochgilphead, and the Canadian National Library and Archives.

Ugadale is” MacNiel of Ugadale.

-Martinmass is the old Hollantide Eve, the 11th of November.
-Whits is Whit Sunday or Pentecost.


Letter by Major Wm. Plenderleath to Dugald MacTavish – Edinburgh

Addressed to Dugald MacTavish, WS, “Edinburgh” (WS – Writer to the Signet.)

A notation on it in the hand of Dugald MacTavish reads:
“27/30 April 1818, Major Plenderleath about Dunardry”
Postmarked as April 27 & Dugald MacTavish evidently retrieved it on April 30.

27 April 1818

My Dear Sir:

I have to apologize for not sooner having answered your letter to our friend William McTavish who is at the moment extremely ill in my house and cannot be spoken to up business.

(// Very difficult to read – ink faded, it may read: “I have the copy(ies) of the letters regarding intentions toward Dunardary, written’’) of his late father and if ever I have an opportunity of laying them before him and aiding your views I shall be happy to do so, but I repeat that he is at this time very ill and I fear there is little hope of his recovery.

Mrs. Plenderleath desires me to offer her kind regards to Mrs. McTavish and yourself and to say she was much disappointed not seeing you at Hastings on a visit as your proposed.

And I am, My Dear Sir

Most sincerely yours,

(signed) William Plenderleath.


Above Letter from the National Library and Archives of Canada, Hargrave/MacTavish Papers.

Note that William McTavish noted above, who was indeed very ill, is Simon’s eldest son who died soon after this letter, on 4 May 1818, he was buried at Cheswich on 9 May 1818.

The Letter(s) of obligation/intention by Simon McTavish (Sr.) were mentioned in an above Letter to David Caldwell by Sheriff Dugald MacTavish.


Letter from Simon McTavish, Jr. to Sheriff Dugald MacTavish.

Ramsgate 22nd Jany 1823

As you are no stranger to the proceedings of the Creditors of my late Brother, against the Estate of Dunardry- I shall not trouble you with a long detail of all that has taken place, in the sale of that property, and distribution of the Proceeds - Mr. John Russell at his own suggestion soon after the death of my Brother, proposed that the usual process should be adopted, to have himself appointed my Factor Bonus in which capacity he has acted since the 4th of May 1818 - and to this moment - a final settlement of these affairs has not been effected - owing to some question which has arisen with the Crenan [Crinan] Canal Compy respecting a small portion of the Estate, which was by an Agreement of Parties surveyed, so far back as August last, but to this time no report fo the Survey has been got fro the Surbeyor, a document which was are informed, will decide the legality of the claim set up by the Crenan Canal Compy – why so much delay is occasioned, in getting the report, we cannot imagine- The Major & myself have written repeatedly to Mr. Russel – whose constant reply is - that Mr. Hope - has not received the report of the Survey - by which it would appear, that this point is entirely at the discretion of the Canal Compy- with this view, I hope you will excuse, my requesting the assistance of your friendly advice – when I was in London, some months ago, I consulted a Mr. Grant, as to what should be done- whose advice was, that I should go down to Edinburg[h], for the purpose of seeing that proper diligence had been used- and I regret much, that I did not follow his advice, which if it accords with your Idea, I shall certainly do so in. the course of the ensuing Spring- My Mother &. the Majr [Major] desire to be' kindly remembered to all with you, and to enquire what is become of John George, from whom they have not heard, since he paid them a visit in Berkshire- I shall feel greatly obliged by your sentiments, upon what I have here written, and

I am
My dear sir
Very truly Yours
(Signed) Simon McTavish

Dougald McTavish Esqr

Bracketed text added for clarity.

Ramsgate, County Kent, England, where the Pleaderleaths, and children of Simon MacTavish (Sr.) lived.

Crenan: should read Crinan, as in Crinan Canal Company.

The Major (Majr) is William Plenderleath, second husband to Marie Marguerite Chaboillez McTavish, who was wife to Simon McTavish (Sr.)
Simon who died, Montreal, Canada, 1804.

Simon McTavish, Jr. died at age 25 on 9 Oct 1828 at Ramsgate, England.

Heiritorship of Dunardry seems to have remained with the Family of Lachlan/Dugald MacTavish.


Patrick Thompson

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