FIFTH MEETING---16th FEBRUARY, 1932 THE WRIGHTS OF LOSS: AN OCHIL FAMILY. (By R. T. YOUNG.)
Few things have more fascination for the antiquary than an old stone with marks upon it. Since the days when Monkbarns exulted at the sight of the supposedly classical letters A.D.L.L. on a stone that he had dug tip at the Kairn of Kinprunes, eager searchers into the time past have been led – and misled – to conclusions regarding some mystic lettering or hieroglyphic sign. Into the wall of the present house of Drumdruills there is built an old stone which has been a source of much speculation to the dwellers there. On the left side of its surface is an A and what looks like a defaced W. Then comes a date, 1652, and then the letters M. R. For long the stone remained a mystery till by chance there was recovered among old family papers one which made the stone a lamp shining into a dark place. And this is the story which the old parchment tells:
Away back in the time of James the First of Scotland; two gentlemen of the court were so left to themselves as to quarrel. One had the misfortune to kill the other. The slain man was a favourite of the King. So, like Moses when he had killed the Egyptian, this equally unfortunate slayer, John Wright of Burnturk in Fifeshire and “Atheray,” in what is now Stirlingshire, had to flee from the Royal wrath. He lost his estates and never returned to Scotland; but his son did, and endeavoured to regain the family possessions. Failing in this, he settled in Inverallan in our own neighbourhood, married well, and became the ancestor of a race from which finally emerged in the early years of the 17th century one James Wright, born about 1615, whose “habitat” was probably in or about Inverallan.
This James Wright must have been a person of means, for when he grew to man’s estate he made very extensive purchases of land. He bought the lands of Loss, Ashentrool, Cauldhame, Haughead, and Drumdroulls, a tract of country extending right over the Ochils from near Menstrie to the Wharrie Glen in the neighbourhood of Sunnylaw, Bridge of Allan. Doubtless any lady would have been “daft to refuse the Laird” of such a goodly heritage. At least Miss Elizabeth Linton, of the proud family which then owned the Pendreich estate, considered that when James Wright offered to make her the lady of the manor she would be by no means marrying beneath her. So they were happily married, and in due time begat a large family of sons and daughters. Of these, one was Archibald Wright, not the eldest son, but the man of whom the mysterious Drumdroulls stone speaks.
The old parchment which I have referred to, written by a Wright of a later day, says that Archibald Wright, though a younger son, “tricked” his father out of Drumdroulls. But this Jacob the Supplanter, like the Biblical Jacob, must have prospered, for he too made a good marriage, uniting himself to no less a person than Marion Row, a young lady of the notable Inverallan Family, and a descendant of John Row the Reformer. Then in the joy of his heart, and in the pride of good ancestry on the side of both husband and wife, he built him an house, and set in its walls his stone of remembrance, A.W. 1652 M.R.
And thus the old paper tells the secret of the old stone. The “trick,” whatever it was, must have taken place during the lifetime of Archibald’s father, who did not die till 1674. We must leave Archibald the trickster, however, and follow the fortunes of the main line of the family. Alexander, the eldest son of the James who purchased so many acres, though he did not inherit Drumdroulls, yet on the death of his father fell heir to the lands of Loss, Ashentrool, and Cauldquhame. All the Wrights seem to have had good sense and circumspection in the matter of their marriages. From a family paper, which is an extract from the Logie Kirk registers, we learn that Alexander Wright wedded in the year 1672 Mary Fergus, through whom as the heiress of her father he ultimately acquired, in addition to his already extensive possessions, the estate of Freuchie in Fifeshire. But in due time Alexander, too was gathered to his fathers. He died in 1708, and his son, James Wright, the oldest of a family of three sons and four daughters, reigned in his stead. This James, true to the traditions of his race, added greatly to the consideration in which the family was held. He saw that the lands of Lipnoch practically marched with the Loss lands near Menstrie. So he married Janet Galloway, the heiress of Lipnoch, and thus materially increased the territorial consequence of the Wright family.
Alexander Wright had a brother called Robert. In addition to making the usual good marriage – to Elizabeth Henderson, eldest daughter of James Henderson of Westerton, portioner of Airthrey – this Robert, was so happy as to win the liking of his uncle, Robert Wright, a Captain in the Guards, who died in 1729 unmarried, leaving to his nephew and namesake Robert, the sum of £2000, which in those days represented a very handsome fortune. With this the young Robert Wright purchased the estate of Foodie in Fifeshire, and became the founder of another branch of the Wright family. And now we see the Wrights, who originally came from Burnturk in Fife, re-establishing themselves, after an absence of 300 years, as people of importance in their original borne county. This fact is quite in keeping with the tenacity and shrewdness so characteristic of the family from generation to generation in all its branches.
Robert of Foodie, and his elder brother James seem to have amicably shared the Freuchie estate, which came into the family by Mary Fergus, their mother. In the year 1718, when James was thirty-two and Robert thirty, we find the brothers renewing a tack of the lands of Freuchie in the Parish of Falkland to various tenants, but with the rights of superiors and beneficiaries carefully preserved. For instance, the Duke of Atholl comes in as a superior, and it is a little ridiculous, but quite in accordance with the payment in kind which owing to the want of ready money was so customary at the time, to learn that His Grace is to get four cocks and two hens of feu-duty yearly, and is also to be paid in grain (Linlithgow measure), and the discharge for His Grace to be reported to James Wright. Various other local magnates we get a glimpse of. We think of the minister of Falkland drawing in to a comfortable fireside of a winter’s evening when we hear that the rev. gentleman is to be paid by Robert Wright in grain, and also by “three carts of coalls” carted to the minister at Robert’s cost. The schoolmaster’s claims must be attended to also, but as the only item in his favour seems to be £1.18s, we must hope that Freuchie was only one of many sources of emolument to the worthy dominie. As I have already mentioned, James Wright of Loss married Janet Galloway, the heiress of Lipnoch. When the marriage was already four or five years old, in 1722, James received a letter which strangely combines somewhat belated marriage congratulations with the maxim that after all “business is business.” The letter is from one Robert Murray, who writes from Edinburgh as follows:
“Sir,-Though I have not the good fortune of your acquaintance, yet hearing you are Joynd in marriage to a friend of mine, the heiress of Lipnoch, 1 wish you both much joy. But I must acquaint you that 1 have a bond of your frather-in-law’s assigned to my wife and her Brother and Sisters for 300 merks by John M’Gowan bearing annual rent from Candlelmas 1689. As the Bond is now very old it cannot be delayed any longer. Therefore I hope you will order the payment or come in and renew the security for some little time, rather than be put to the charges of a Constitution. I want your answer per first occasion, give my service to your spouse and accept the same for yourself from,
Then Robert Murray notes at the foot the principal sum and the annual rent calculated from 1689 to 1722, and ends up with the total of £566. 10s. If that sum was pound Scots, it would not be so formidable as it appears in sterling, and one cannot help thinking that Robert Murray might, have forgiven this very ancient debt and given his quittance as a wedding present to the young couple. But I must hasten over the story of this James Wright, and his heiress wife. Other papers of his time give us the picture of a country gentleman of the period, a busy landlord, and a man not untouched by the great events of his era, so soon after the ’15. There is no clear indication that any of the Wrights were Jacobite in sympathy, but perhaps an exception may have to be made in the case of this James Wright, for there are hints that he was troubled in conscience about the oaths required to be taken to the existing Hanoverian government. At any rate, there is a letter to him from Alexander Stewart of Stirling about the taking of the oath, which the scrupulous and anxious-minded James has endorsed on the back “In my defence God me defend.” Accompanying the letter is a detailed copy of the oath, which abjures the Pretender James III and VIII at great length and in unmistakable language, and acknowledges George I and “the heirs of the body of the Princess Sophia Electress and Dutchess Dowager of Hannover” as the only royal line in Britain. So the life of this Laird of Loss flowed on, and now, we see him nearing his end, and again we have evidence that he was a man of tender heart as well as of scrupulous conscience. He had two old servants, Janet and Helen Donaldson. Here then, a year before his death, we find him providing for the future of these humble dependants. There is an instrument, beautifully written on stamped paper in a legal hand by Thomas Duthie, writer in Dunblane, which bears to be an Obligation by James Wright of Loss “to make certain payments (blankets, wool, etc.) to his two faithful servants, Janet and Helen Donaldson, daughters of James Donaldson, late tenant in Torryburn; Also to pay expense of sending Janet to a sewing school for the space of quarter of a year.” His good works did follow him and gave his two faithful friends cause to bless his name for many years, for as late as 1766 there is another paper from a lawyer in Perth referring to the donation to Janet and Helen. James Wright died in 1745. His only surviving son was still a minor, and the father provided trusted friends as tutors and curators to the young James. One of these was the elder James’ brother, Robert of Foodie, and the others have names still familiar to every lover of Bridge of Allan and Logie, Robert Henderson in Blackdub, James Bryce, feuar in Logie (ancestor of the present possessors of Blawlowan), and James Ogilvie, smith in Bridge of Allan, doubtless a near relative of the “auld Paip” of Miss Steuart’s delightful book.
We have now come to the Wright of Loss, to whom far the most of the family papers refer, being written either to him or by him, and we may go on to consider his life and fortunes in a little more detail. Behold him then first as a young student in Edinburgh. The period was that of Edinburgh’s golden age, and young Wright must have known by sight at least such historic figures as Allan Ramsay, David Hume, and some very young ministers or students soon to become famous as William Robertson (afterwards the great Principal and Church leader) and John Home, the author of “Douglas,” and Alexander Carlyle. The young laird of Loss “boarded himself” at Mr. Macneill’s, the distiller’s, house at the head of the Grassmarket. He has as a “comerad” another young student, and each is to pay £5 a quarter. These details are to he found in a letter written by him to an old friend of his father’s and his own, a letter in which we see how high already was his ideal of what a country gentleman should be. In this letter he says that he would like “a tryall either of Geography, Logicks, or Mathematics, and also a month at the dancing school.” If he managed to take this last-mentioned relaxation from his severer studies, he may have seen Alexander Carlyle, who was very fond of dancing, figuring under the chaperonage of some inflexible Miss Nickie Murray, as a squire of the young demoiselles. In another letter of this period he writes to his late father’s friend, Mr. Duthie, the Dunblane lawyer, regarding a possible apprenticeship, thus showing that he had every intention of becoming a capable man of business. There is a letter, too, written very likely by Mr. Duthie to his young friend, in which the man of law says:
“Since you went to Edinburgh you have been busie, which is a very right thing for a young man, and will be absolutely necessary for you since you are to remove to Glasgow to serve an apprenticeship which since your inclination loads you to it must do well. And the studies you have been employed about is most necessary for a foreign trade.”
But it does not appear that he ever went to Glasgow or was a law clerk, for as we shall see he very soon returned to Loss and took up, in a most capable way, the management of his own affairs. But to revert for a moment to his student days. The country lad must have suffered from the close confinement of student lodgings in the Grassmarket and the crowded atmosphere of the shabby little rooms in the old University. I wonder if there is evidence of the effect upon the lad of this city of “the fine clothes and the foul smells” in a dismal document, an account from one Thomas Gillespie, an apothecary. Time would fail me to tell the nauseous tale of Thomas’s wares, “Ipecac,” “Elect Purg,” “Laxant,” “Decoct linguce pectoral,” innumerable “boluses repetted,” “emplastrum epispast mag” and “Sal glauber.” If he took all these doses and applied all these remedies, he must have reduced himself to the condition of the invalid, who emerging from the treatment of a doctor of the drastic school wrote of his physician:-
“To give him his due, however, I must he honest enough to own that what he left of me was quite cured; in fact, it could scarcely be otherwise, seeing that my complaint was neither a skin disease nor a bone one,.”
It may have been some failure of health that led young James Wright to give up all idea of Glasgow and apprenticeship. There is a gap here, during which we may presume that he came of age, and content with the enlargement of mind that his sojourn in the capital had given him, and moreover having had some of the rusticity of a country lad rubbed off at the dancing school, where he would acquire an air and address more becoming his station in life, he determined to become the laird of Loss in very deed. About this time, too, he must have been looking with lover’s eyes at the young Jacobina Drummond, through his marriage with whom, though she brought him no accession of landed property, he was presently to become the close ally and friend of an honourable family, that of the Drummond Macgregors of Balhaldie, a property not far from his own lands of Ashentrol. We now see him married and thoroughly settled as Laird of Loss and other properties, living, at the house of Loss in the Ochils, and, young as he was, ‘becoming generally accepted as the friend and adviser of young and old, high and low, and arbiter in innumerable local disputes.
What interest he had in the affairs of John Mitchell of Bridge of Allan it is impossible to say; but perhaps his young wife had an eye to some of the articles put tip at the sale which I am about to describe, with a view to supplementing the household plenishing in her new home at Loss. For in 1751, John Mitchell of the Bridge of Allan died, and James Wright of Loss must have been concerned in his affairs and present at his funeral; else why should there be among James’ papers the receipts for the paid expenses of John Mitchell’s burial?-a coffin with rings and staples, “eall” and whisky supplied by Patrick Ogilvie of the Brigend change house, bread by Mary Morrison, “linnen” by Robert Paterson, spirits by James Alexander, and cheese and caudlo by Colin Kerr; all the requisites for the grim eating and drinking (with a long grace between each service of strong waters) so necessary.
Respecting the Name of Wright and the Wrights of Aithry, Drumdrouls, Loss and Foodie etc. (Written by Dr Peter Wright, Glasgow, August 30th, 1800)
Shem Wright was a Lieut. in a regiment of foot and was killed in Preston 1715.
Elizabeth married David Ogilvie of Peel in Angus by whom she had issue an only son, David, who in right of his mother succeeded to the half of Drumdrouls, Margaret had the other half where she resided & died unmarried.
6. Mary Wright born December 19th 1729 married James Anderson by whom she had 2 sons, Peter (house painter) & Robert on board a Merchant Ship from the Forth he was cast away & lost on the coast of America.7. William Wright was born 26th January 1732 & was killed July 9th 1755 being then a lieut in the Virginia Provincials commanded by (that afterward great man) Col. George Washington, when General Braddock was defeated at the Ottis. Wm. was then 23 years & promised Fair.
12. Jessie Wright, the 12th & last child of Robert Wright of Foodie, born September 18th, 1742. He married Phoebe Ruly of North America, with whom he had several children that died young, those that are now living are:-
Elizabeth Wright born at Woolich, August 14th, 1790
Caledonian Mercury – Wednesday 14 August 1771
1841 census - Loss MCFARLANE, John, M, 30, Ag Lab, Outside Census County MCFARLANE, Andrew, M, 20, Ag Lab, Outside Census County CAMERON, Hugh, M, 15, Ag Lab, Outside Census County MCALPEN, Janet, F, 20, Female Servant, Outside Census County
Wright James, Esq of Loss, 01/01/1771 Parish of Stirling Testament Dative and Inventory Stirling Commissary Court CC21/6/67 view (68 pages)
Smitton Janet 07/11/1776 Sometime servant to James Wright of Loss, Thereafter residenter in Stirling Stirling Commissary Court Cc21/6/73 view (2 pages)
Gray John of Loss, 10/02/1789 Residing lately at Fort William TD Argyll commissary court CC2/3/12 (5 pages)
Gray John of Loss, 05/01/1790 Residing late at Fort William Eik Argyll Commissary Court CC2/3/12 (6 pages)
Gray Robert of loss 23/07/1795 TD Edinburgh Commissary Court Wright James, Esq of Loss, 18/01/1797 Parish of Stirling Stirling Commissary Court CC21/6/94 (2 pages)
Glas William 09/10/1849 Merchant in Stirling, Spouse of (1) Janet Gray or Glas, Daughter of John Gray Esq of loss A barrackmaster at Fort William, And (2) Jane Moir or Aytone or Glas, Daughter of John Moir Esq of Hillfoot, Widow of John Aytone Esq of Kippo Inventory; 2 contracts of marriage; Deed of reconveyance and retrocession; Trust disposition and settlement and codicils; Bond of annuity Stirling Sheriff Court SC67/36/30 (49 pages)