The Willisons and the Buchans
Mary Willison 1805-c52 was the eldest child of John Wlllison 1772-1841.
She married William Buchan (1802-c64) in 1828.
Extracts from the Family papers and census reports
The Census report for 1841 shows that her father, John Willison 1772-1841 had died earlier in the year; his eldest son John was not yet married and his widowed mother Jean (Brown) was staying in the house, as were four siblings; Mary (aged 35), Marion (25), Elizabeth (20), James (15).
Mary Willison was already married to William Buchan. We know from letters that Mary wrote to her father that there were problems between her and her husband, and it may be that she was making a prolonged stay at Parish Holm with her brother. With her were three of her children, William (10), Jean (5), and Matthew (2). The Buchan children were not born in Scotland and are therefore not recorded in the Scottish birth records The 1841 census report for Parish Holm is inaccurate as to ages: those quoted do not tally with other records, and it may be that Mary's married surname was omitted in error, or she may have decided to revert to her maiden name during her estrangement from her husband.
On 21st November 1840 she wrote to her father from Edinburgh:
My dear Father,
I got your letter on Monday night with £6 stg. I got my rent paid in full on the Tuesday, which you will be glad to hear. I ought to have written before this but never could make up my mind how to answer your kind offer to me. Were there no disgrace attached to my leaving Wm, I would be most happy to accept of a much worse home than you have been so kind as put in my power at present, and if he does not do something more than he has done for long, of course I will be under the necessity of accepting of anything, or doing anything you may wish but in the meantime you know that the rent must be paid till Whitsunday, and at present I have 19/- without fire from Mr L...and Pritchard. There is a very good friend of Wms and also of mine has got a situation in London, and expects to go next week, and he says that he will not leave a stone unturned nor will not rest, till he gets something for him to do there, and I am sure he would thankfully accept of anything if it keep him living, in the event of him going there I might either keep the house on another year or put the furniture in to some place, and come out to Parish Holm till I see what he can do,… what you and my brother think best to advise me. I hope your cold is getting better and that my mother is in her usual way. I will send the boat out on Tuesday by the carrier; tell Betsy to send me in a bloody pudding. I ought to bless God that he has given me such a kind Father and other friends, that he may bless you and all of you is the sincere wish of your affect, daughter,
Six months later, on 26th May 1841, Mary’s father died of consumption at the age of 69. We have a detailed record of the subsequent financial arrangements made for the support of Mary and her children.
The record begins:
Memorandum: Mrs Buchan’s money in John Willson's hands 22nd
November 1846:
  • Father's legacy to Mary Willison Buchan
  • Her share of Ann's money
  • Her share of George’s money
  • £433. 6. 8
  • £250
  • 116. 13. 4
  • 66. 13. 4
  • Deduct:
  • paid Mrs Buchan off principal (26th June 1847)
  • £423. 6. 8
  • August 13th 1852: paid John Buchan his fifth share of the above 84. 13.
  • £338. 13. 4
  • 10.
  • 4
Ann (1812-39) was Mary’s late sister.
There was a brother George (born in 1809), who died about 1853. He may be the person referred to in the financial settlement or perhaps an elder George, a brother of the late John Willison who lived at Carmaceup (near Parish Holm) and was married to Janet Forsyth, is intended. This George and his wife had a son, still another George (born in 1806). John Buchan (born 1829) was the eldest son of Mary and William Buchan. The memorandum continues with half a page of details of principal and interest payments to members of the Buchan family, including William (born 1832) and Mathew, who had money paid to him through an Australian bank in 1834. We shall hear about Mathew's experiences in the Antipedes in due course. In 1857 money was paid in respect of clothes and school fees for George Buchan, another son of Mary and William. The third son, Alexander (1833-1914), known as Sandy, was to become the most successful of the Buchan family. He established a pottery in Portebello, Edinburgh. The pottery is still in existence (A.W.Buchan Ltd) but moved up to Crieff some years ago. There are no members of the Buchan family still in the business.
The Buchan money difficulties were to continue. On 26th Octeber 1851 William Buchan, Mary's husband, wrote from London (3 Albert Street, Cambridge Road, Mile End) to his brother-in-law John Willison asking for an advance payment of annuities being paid to the Buchan children:
To: Mr Willison,
Dear Sir,
I am sorry that my patience is not long enough to remain quiet till after the 26th of next month, therefore being very much prepared for a balance of rent and some other little payments I owe and as Mathew and George is very hard up for clothes new when the cold weather is set in...I am compelled to trouble you with a few lines and that is to ask the following favor, if you would be kind enough to send at present the ½ years interest which is due this day to Mathew and George. I shall esteem it a very particular favor as I do require it. Knowing that this cannot put you about to advance this a few weeks before it is due, I flatter myself that you will readily comply with my request; if you de this, don’t send a bank bill net payable for some time but a letter of credit or two Post Office orders so that I can get the cash en presenting the document. I have no banker and I would rather do anything than ask a favor again of this kind from Mr Bucknall. I think I have already troubled him 3 times to cash these bank post bills. It is now over 10 months since the Minister was kind enough to send me the interest due last May so you may consider by this time the boys are very naked; he sent John also about the same time. I have enclosed a few lines to Mrs Richard. Please forward to her; I had a letter from her a week yesterday. We are all in our usual health, and even at the best that is not first rate. I hope that yourself, Mrs Willison, all your family and all friends enjoy the first, the greatest and the best of all blessings (good health). All the boys unite with me in kind regards to all of you. I remain yours sincerely,
A few years later, on 2nd December 1858, William Buchan wrote to John Willison from another address in Mile End on the same topic, money for the upbringing of his son George. School fees had to be paid, and clothing had to be bought. A postscript to the letter reads:
If my son Wm's charge against Geo. exceeds 40/- he (Wm) has been imposed upon, all the clothes which Mr Hardy has yet paid for to Geo. is a top coat, also paid boots they were 7/-. I don’t know the price of the coat, there is also his schooling since the end of November 1857 and 4 small books the price of them to the other scholars from the teacher is 1/6d; that is all that is up to this date laid out upon Geo,
As we have seen, Mary was the eldest child of the Willison family. The seventh child (and youngest daughter) was Elizabeth (l8l6-c53). She was always known as Betsy and we see mention of her in many letters, - by her brothers John and Alexander, and by her nephews. She lived mostly at Parish Holm, but visited Dundonald frequently to stay with her brother Alexander, the Minister. The l84l Census records her as having been at Parish Holm at the time. We have receipts for payment of an annuity to Betsy by her brother John, for example: £2l.6s.7d. being one year’s interest on £483.6s.8d. (21st November 1849).
Mary and William Buchan had five sons. The third son was Alexander (or Sandy). In later years, as we have seen, he was to become the founder of the pottery firm of A.W.Buchan. In 1860, when he was aged 27, he wrote to his uncle John Willison (1806-84)
   3 Leopold Place
25 Jan. 1860

My dear Uncle,
During a short absence from town your obliging note of the 23rd reached me this y'day with the enclosure all right, and for which I annex a receipt with thanks. I don’t know what Mathew may think of the New Zealand offer £5O a year will no doubt be dazzling for a youngster like him but I question whether he will care to bind himself for 3 years; he cannot tell with what class of people he might be compelled to associate during that time. I for one would not advise him to such an engagement. Surely when your friends proposed such a thing they must have proposed to pay his passage out also, altho' it does not appear so from your letter. Uncle Mathew seems much opposed to his going abroad; like myself he would much rather see him doing well here. With klndest regards and compliments to Aunt and yourself.
I am, my dear Uncle, your affect.

John Willison Esqr.

PS: Poor Mackenzie Hislop is wrong in his mind again.
Attached to the letter is a receipt for £3.8s to John Willison, “as one of the trustees for my brother George J.V.Buchan, being the amount expended by me in 1859 as per vouchers sent, on behalf of the said Geo. J.W.Buchan. Alex. W. Buchan".
On 25th March 1863 Alexander Buchan wrote from Edinburgh to his uncle, this time about his brother George:
My dear Uncle,
From your favor to me of the 23rd I was glad to find that your usual promptitude has been exercised to bring George's swindling master to account. I do hope your example will be sufficient to galvanize Father into some little action. Depend upon it that a London Magistrate has abundant powers to settle all disputes between masters and indentured apprentices and the employment of a solicitor in this case should not be necessary unless it appears that Father is so far useless that he cannot tell the simple story of George's binding service and dismissal. No good will come of sending Father to Fleming I feel sure. Wm called on me last night; he believes that Fleming was a bankrupt a few months ago.

The Doctor tells me that it is bronchitis that has laid me off work just now; he is not to let me out to work this week. With the exception of two days before, Mr Shlels never lost my services through illness until now, that is during 16 years so he has no reason to complain and I have every reason to be thankful. About a month ago I drove from Callendar (sic) to Killin with a Hr McLachlan of Bucklivle who intended to offer for Leeks. I have not heard who got it, but I was told there were many offers much in excess of yours. From all I could learn it would be no great bargain at the money they were offering. The general impression seemed to be that you could work it to more advantage than most of the then offerers.

Wishing you again to remember Hester and me very kindly to Aunt and cousins. I am, my dear Uncle, your affect.

John Villison Esqre
William Buchan senior seems to have been incompetent (as well as short of money, as we have already seen). Leeks is probably Lixs there are three farms (Easter Llx, Mid Lix and Wester Lix) in Glen Dochart. Mathew Buchan refers to Lix farm in his letter of 7 June 1863 from Glenmark (New Zealand) see below. Hester is presumably Sandy's spouse.
The Family Tree merely shows Sandy as being married to H.S.Hardy. (Sandy was to have twelve children, the eldest of whom was also named Hester)
Two months later Alexander Buchan wrote to his uncle John Willison from 69 Constitution Street, Leith (probably the home of Alexander's brother, William):
29th May 1863

My dear Uncle,
Your note of the 25th enclosing cheque for f4. 5s. 6d. came duly to hand. I lost not a moment in forwarding the amt, less 1/- for expenses, to Father with a particular request for a receipt by return of post; he however lost a day so that I am only now in possession of it. You will find it enclosed. I must apologize for the soiled state in which it is, altho' this was not done by me. Your prompt action on behalf of Hathew pleases me not less than the terms you have made for him with Raffels. This family is one the most respectable in Liverpool, that I have long known. My minister is on intimate term with them. I was offered by Dr Raffels congregation the co-pastorate not long since. It struck me as rather odd that a member of this family should go afloat on a venture to New Zealand, and with the view of learning something about his disposition and habits had an interview with my minister who at first did not seem willing to be communicative on the subject I spoke of, but ultimately it came out that he has been somewhat of a "ne'er do weel"; this is the third time his family I have set him afloat, first in America, latterly in an Irish farm, and now as you knew. My Minister does not say that he is radically bad, on the contrary thinks it quite possible that good may come of this venture. Mathew, however, would do well to put no money into the concern but content himself with the very safe terms you have planned for him. Uncle Mathew sent for me to his house last night to speak about this offer to Mathew with which he seems pleased. His health is much as usual.
I hope Aunt, yourself and cousins are in the best of health and are well pleased with your new farm. We are all pretty well at home. I am, my dear Uncle, your affectionate nephew
John Willison Esqre
Uncle Mathew was probably a brother of William Buchan senior. The new farm mentioned at the end of the letter probably refers to Glenlochay. William Buchan (junior), who was working in the cork manufacturing industry, wrote to his uncle John Willison from Leith on 25th November 1856:
Dear Uncle,
I am now in receipt of your draft for the amount of Alex and Mathew’s interest and have enclosed receipt for Mathew, Alexander being away en a North journey. You will not be able to have his for two or three weeks. His wife is in London just new and will be until he returns. I suppose Uncle Alexander would tell you of Sarah having twins, both daughters. They are now three months old and doing first rate. Your letter I will answer in a few days, as I am scarcely knowing what to do first. I have fourteen hands in my employ. I shall be in Berwick on Tweed on Thursday first and Glasgow either this week or next (most likely next). We are all well. Love to all at Parish Holm. I am, dear Uncle, Your affect. nephew,
Uncle Alexander was the Rev. Alexander Willison. William Buchan was aged 24. Subsequently he had four children, one of them named Sarah, but it is net clear whether this is the person referred to in the letter: see further reference to Buchan twins ln George Buchan's letter of 20th November 1865. Dates of William’s children are net known. Mathew Buchan, the fourth son of Mary and William, was living in Leith with his brother William and family in 1856, as is shown by a receipt signed by William:
Lelth, 22 Nov. 1856
£4.4s. from John Willison, Parish Holm, being interest on £104.17.6 of trust funds in the hands of the said John Willison for behoof of my brother Mathew Buchan at present my apprentice or workman and residing with myself and family and under my charge.
(signed over a penny stamp)
We have seen that in January 1860 there was a proposal that Mathew should go to New Zealand. The offer of work there was accepted and the Willison Papers contain several long letters from Mathew to his uncle John Willison from that country. These were the early days of European settlement, although the country had had internal self-government from Great Britain since 1852. Mathew wrote to his uncle from Makinul Creek, Ashburton, Canterbury (on the east coast of the South Island) in 1862. Mathew was aged about 23 years:
27th October 1862
My dear Uncle,
Your kind and welcome letter of date 9th of last December I duly and gladly received. I excuse the delay I have exercised in answering firstly that after writing my aunt I delayed yours a few months for the sake of later news, and secondly and chiefly to try and time your own and my aunts letters so that I wont get both replies at the same time, as on the last occasion. Perhaps it is out of place my mentioning that circumstance to you at all, after knowing the amount of business at all times on your hands. I should be content with one whenever it comes. But I have turned a perfect glutton for friendly news and must if possible have it as often as possible, for when a long period elapses I do weary to hear from (or of) you all. I have been more benefited by the precept and example shown to me by yourself and my aunt while I was among you than you are aware of; even a letter from either of you has a good effect on my character yet, I assure you, I noticed all the chief news of your letter in the one to my aunt which I posted three months since so...say little more on that head now. Health and happiness is still and long may be with you I trust. The American war, I fear, indeed I see by the papers is reducing the manufacturing districts to a fearful state of poverty, and trade in general is suffering fearfully by it. You will probably feel it as well as others by a reduction in the price of Beef, Mutton and Cheese, but wool I should fancy will be in great demand which I hope will make this years balance sheets if not very favorable at least profitable. Even this remote corner of the Globe is feeling the sad consequences of that out-throat Yankee business. Drapery and cotton goods, the latter of which is chiefly used in all articles of dress in this climate is now I am told more than 100 per cent up in price. People with large families will feel it most here. I feel it to a certain extent having to pay 16/- per lb for tobacco. I should have kept my finger on that piece of news for I know it is objectionable the use of that weed to yourself and particularly my aunt, but although I know well the bad effects of the habit and have striven to conquer it, it gets the better of me in my solitude. My cousin John, I suppose, had another summer in Glenlochay and will be quite a young gentleman of business. I hope he likes the business and country. I fancy that Wm Little is still the same steady cautious servant as he was. still no doubt as active as ever. I hear from none in that quarter. Remember me kindly to both of them. I learn from a letter from Alex that my brother George’s master is in a debtor's prison, what I expected. That business was sadly mismanaged by my father. You acted no doubt for the best in advancing the premium money of £20, but if I had been at home my consent would not have been given to such a sum from his small and greatly diminished capital while the business is of the worst kind for one of George's constitution. What I said to my father and brother ere I left might have induced them to act differently. I advised that Geo. should for a few years get some employment where open air and exercise could be got. This would have strengthened him probably. Then if I saw my way clear I might get him out here, if not he would have been more robust to enter a trade, but it is past and regrets are useless. I know not whether the premium can be got back. I am afraid not. I am glad, however, that you have determined to pay no more of his money away. If you don’t watch his interest in that matter I am afraid there are none to do so for him, poor fellow. My father is incapable, and Sandy and Willie should have managed a matter of that kind better. For my...I am now finished the last day or hours of my...intolerable health, thank God, also...I wrote aunt I have had a ...and very near knocked up with sore feet and cold and cramp. I for two months back have been under canvas and each day searching through a swamp 7 miles square and entangled to the height of 7 feet with water vegetation to my knees in water for straggllng sheep that had been driven into it in bad weather. The weather was intensely cold and with ailments I told the master he must give one another job, but he said he had no-one to fill my place. I told him lf he did not give me some other job, any in his service, I would leave but he rode off and I have not seen him since; he sent me a helpmate, however, a newly arrived shepherd: the young man that helped John Wilson to drive his sheep from Doune market. The weather is now warm and fine and with the assistance of this young man my work has been more reasonable; still, 10,000 sheep keeps us both busy and I have to travel the swamp a good deal still, yet the water is warmer so I don’t mind it much. I expect to be kept constant here for the remainder of my time but after that I shall drop this amphibious life, if it don’t drop me before. Hr Moore's good opinion of me has given me harder and more disagreeable work than any other in his service; he has colonized me perfectly, I assure you. I could sleep soundly, I think, with only my nose and mouth out of water. My companion, poor fellow, has got his share of rheumatics already with wet feet. He is as stiff in the back as an aged man and groans fearfully with pain at night. He is a nice fellow. I am very sorry for him. In drying the paper over my lamp I have burned a portion but as I have no more it must go as it is. I think you will make out the thread of the story however. With warmest regards to yourself, my aunt and cousins, I remain, my dear uncle, your affect.
PS: my respects to Mr & Mrs Affleck and Mrs Hunter.
This letter is written on both sides of thin, flimsy paper, and is very difficult to read, quite apart from burn marks referred to at the end of the letter. In spite of long involved sentences and irregular punctuation, the gist of the matter is clear.
Seven months later, Mathew wrote again to his uncle, this time from Glenmark:
Glenmark, 7th June 1853 -
My dear Uncle,
A few days ago I gladly get your own and my aunts kind letters of date 7th February. It gave the usual pleasure to learn that good health and comfort still remains with you all and likewise that the last season was a profitable one for the sheep farmers. The prices you quote for the home wools are surely something far beyond anything you remember. The cessation of hostilities in America will no doubt cause a reaction but with the fall of wool would come an increase in consumption of mutton and to keep up the profits. If you get Lix farm what between north and south you will have both hands and head full of business. You rather surprise me, when you tell that Mrs McTavish has offered for it also. It is surely a bulky undertaking for her, and the son, I fancy, is not the most promising of youths to make a steady persevering man of business, yet while the old lady lives I dare say he went be troubled much with the management. The agricultural farm in Berwickshire you were offering for is, as you say, better out of your hands. It being so far detached from your other holdings and the family being young it would no doubt have occupied more time to look after than you could well spare. It was very kind of my aunt to acknowledge my last letter. I wrote it somewhere about June last. By the same mail, I sent one to my uncle, Hr Buchan, and one to my brother Alexr, both of which arrived after being deposited and dragged up from the bottom of the sea. That same watery path is a disagreeable barrier between this and one's native land. I am again in Glenmark, having been brought up from the South station to get a share of the busy season of this as well as that station. The sheep in this station are scabby and the penalties being high if they are not clean at the expiration of four months from the date of the discovery; all the sheep have to be gathered and kept in hand and dipped 2 or 3 times. The time expires at the end of this month. From all my predecessors having left as their time expired and Mr Whyte not keeping up the supply, Hr M. is in a bad state for want of men and dogs, and that I know to my cost for a month back I with two other men (one a young gent above exerting himself and the other a new arrival with the dogs) have been herding about 27,000 twenty seven thousand wethers, putting them in a small park at night. The ground we have to feed them on is as bare as my hand, and you may fancy that we have our work to keep them together. I shall be at this job for at least a month to come and as the season is winter you may be sure that I am not in the best of trim over my prospects; however, my time will be up in October and then I will have more freedom. What course I will then follow I have not yet decided. I must get some more civilized and God-fearing life and associates than those with whom one meets in the bush here, or I shall forget there is either a God, Sabbath, or Eternity. If I can’t fall into anything where I at least might get church attendance occasionally, I must of course stick to the crook, as it wont pay to be idle. My uncle Mw. wrote me and most kindly and liberally offered me assistance either in a colonial or home undertaking but I answered that it would require more money than I could hope to get to start me in sheep farming here, and unless I saw a way of doing at home I would not return. It looks too much like flinching to return home to the same position one left. Although I feel the truth of the proverb “Home is home, be it ever so homely and all things taken into consideration there’s few if any place like it”, so far as my own experience teaches. I still feel strongly the effects of the confounded coughing I had last winter. Cramp and slight rheumatism in the legs when cold or wet are part of the wages I got for that seasons laborers. I was near 11 stone in weight but have fallen off considerably lately - only l0st 2lb when I weighed, but notwithstanding I can thankfully say I am able to face what many a stouter man would flinch at. I have not settled yet for my second years service with Mr Moore; since I last wrote you I can plainly see he is trying to punish me by hard work for the rebellious spirit I showed him last winter, but I take all and say nothing. It will be my turn perhaps to speak when October comes. Yet, I think he has still a favorable opinion of me. We will see by the Testimonial of Character he gives. The natives have again broken out by murdering five white men. The bulk of the troops are away and war is raging between the few hundreds left aided by volunteers and the black scoundrels. If the pay was encouraging, I should like to have a rifle against them. I am cold and sleepy so shall close with my warmest regards for yourself, my aunts and cousins. Remember me kindly to my uncle James, the Dalpeddar folk and also those at Dundonald.
Meantime I remain, my dearest Uncle, your affect.
PS: Give my respects to Mr and Mrs Affleck, Mr and Mrs Little, William Hunter and all other enquirlng friends.
PPS: lf you are inclined to favour me with any communications for a few months after the receipt of this, please address to Glenmark. They will find me. I wrote to my aunt either in Feb. or March. I almost forgot to thank you for the papers you kindly sent and which I got with your letters. At the end of my time will have on hand £150 so you see I have not been very prodigal. I arrived here with £20. MB
The following year (l864), Mathew decided to return to Scotland. He wrote to his uncle John Willison:
Glenmark, 4th May 1864.
My dear Uncle,
I have just received a very kind letter from my Uncle Mathew, in which he and Mrs Buchan desire me to return home and offers me a home with them until I can get something suitable at home. Taking into consideration the uncertain state of my health and the great distance that divides me from any being that would either care for myself on what little property I might possess in the event of serious sickness or death and willingness of my uncle to help me if I comply with his wishes, I have made up my mind to give up this life in the course of 2 or 3 months and return home by way of Melbourne where I will stay a few weeks with my cousin Jno Hislop that is settled there. I will by working 2 months longer be able to arrive among you with one hundred pounds more in my pocket than I left, if the Almighty pleases to spare us to meet again, as I pray he may. I hope this step may not be viewed as an unmanly step on my part for rather than that should be the case I'd face anything in any corner of the globe rather than hear that hinted. I hope you have not forwarded any money as I asked in a letter written in December. However, by next mail or the folllowlng one, I will either get the draft or know that lt is safe in your hands, but will not leave until satisfied it is not on the way. If you kindly favour me with a letter or my Aunt on receipt of (this) please address it to: care of Mr Hlslop, 51 Douglas Parade, Williamston, Melbourne, Victoria. I am sad to learn of the sad affliction my poor father was laid under. I do trust he is better. And doubly sorry to think that your kindness in offering to benefit Geo. Cannot be taken advantage of without such havoc in his poor father's frame. I am very tired. It is late. The mail leaves in the morning so excuse brevity. I will write you again ere I leave this. Meantime with love to each and all. I remain, my dear Uncle, your affect. nephew,
John Villison Esqr, Parish Holm.
PS: I have neither heard from nor seen Mr Raffles, so it is a good job that I did not build on that foundation. MLB
We have no record of exactly when Mathew returned home from New Zealand but he was probably in Britain when his brother George wrote the following letter to his uncle John Wllllson:
London 20th Nov. 1865
3 Queens Street, Cambridge Road,
Mile End, NE

My dear Uncle,
In case you have forgotten or lost the above address I thought it as well to let you have the address in time to save all bother. If I mistake not, I think my poor father got interred about the 16 November. I will feel obliged by your sending at time. I will send you the receipt as soon as I receive the interest. I got employment about two months after my poor father was buried, at a Fancy Trimming Manufacturers. I entered at 8/- now I am getting 10/- per week. He is a very kind Master. He is at times very passionate if anything puts him out. I have been living with John and his family ever since father died. It was a good thing for me that they came to live in the same house. I allow John's wife 2/6 per week for that she does my washing. I have my dinner on Sundays and sleep the weekdays I keep myself. John is in still at the cork cutting he has got plenty of work and is keeping steady himself wife and family are well. I had a letter from Mathew about 1O or 12 days ago. He was then suffering from Asthma he was under the care of 2 Drs. They had ordered him either the South of France or the South of England. I owe him and Aunt Isabella both a letter. Mrs Wm Buchan left here for Leith about 2 weeks ago. She does not seem to I know what kind of business to take when she was up in London. She took a small chandlery business; she was dolng very well in it after the twins got into the school she gave up the shop and took a house...then made up her mind to go to Leith. .... I must now draw to a close as I have no more news. With kindest love to yourself, Aunts, Cousins and nieces, hoping you are all well in which John joins. I remain your affect. nephew
PS: please send a PO order payable at Bethnal Green, as it will be handier for me as I pass it twice every day going to the City.
Mrs William Buchan was the wife of George’s brother. They had one son (William) and three daughters (Phyllis, Isabella and Sarah): see also reference to the twins in William Buchan’s letter of 25th November 1856. There is doubt about the dates of death and interment of William Buchan senior.
We have seen many letters addressed to John Willison (1806-84) by his relatives (or extended family, for he seems to have been recognized as a patriarch), but there are few letters written by John, simply because he did not keep copies of them (nobody did in those days) but his output must have been enormous. There are, however, copies of official or legal documents bearing John’s signature.
This is a statement about financial arrangements made with his son Duncan on 8th February 1883:
I, John Willison Senior, Parish Holm, have today been counting and reckoning with my son Duncan how money matters stand betwixt us and find from time to time I have advanced him the sum of Thirteen Thousand Five Hundred pounds for stock and arrears of interest due on the farms of Soccoth, Dalpeddar, Whltecleuch etc., and having given up all interest in those leases 12 years ago I hereby give him a full discharge as...part of year for the said thirteen thousand five hundred pounds, as clearing my said son Duncan of all claim and debts due to me up to 26th May eighteen hundred and eighty three, with the exception of my son giving me an annuity of seventy pounds annually during my life and failing that he pays the same sum annually to my widow Isabella Campbell Willison during her life I should she survive me, the first payment of said annuity to be made at Whitsunday 1884. Likewise that my son shall have a one fifth share of all the loose money in the bank after all my debts are paid.
This document is not in fact signed, as the original certainly would have been. John died the following year; his wife Isabella and son Duncan both died in 1887.
The next John Willison (1844-89) was the eldest of the five children of John Wllllson (1806-1884). He was born at Parish Holm and was brought up from his earliest years to be a sheep farmer. We have long letters from him written from Parish Holm, Glenlochay and Luing. Here is one written at the age of 18 years to his father:
Glenlochay, 17th Nov. 1862 I

My dear Father,
I received yours of the 12th last night, by which I was glad to learn you had got in all the corn. I am sorry to say we cannot give the same account, as there is not a stock of the corn here in yet, besides there is a good portion of it to cut. Duncroisk has his still standing in the field yet, although it was all cut before we left for Falkirk. We have not dipped a sheep since I wrote you last and the lnlshurach hogs are not away to the winterlng yet. I was down and saw the cattle yesterday, they are thriving most remarkably well since they came home, and have plenty of rough meal in the wood now. The snow is all melted off the high places, where it was drifted, especially on the sunny side, but there is still a good deal of snow lying, which is frozen almost as hard as a sheet of ice. The tups are all thriving very well and are always getting a little hay every day. I saw by the papers you had got a bad market in Glasgow last week. I have not heard yet when the Marquis of Breadalbane is to be buried. It is most likely on Thursday or Friday as tomorrow is Killin market day. It will take £83.10s to pay servants wages.
With kind love to Mother and yourself. I remain your affect.
Six days earlier, John had written to his father on his arrival at Glenlochay and had reported:
..All the Glenlyon, Benheskin, Tomochrocher, Kenknock and Botournie sheep are dipped now...On Sunday it fell heavy showers of snow and sleet. On Monday morning the ground was covered deep with snow. John said that if the snow continued, the sheep would be very badly off.
On 17th October 1863 John wrote again from Glenlochay about the movement of sheep:
We have just sent off Messrs Patersons wedders, but I am sorry to say not near the number we expected, as it has been misty every day since they commenced to gather. We still want about 60 of them so I that we could only send 1200 to Drumalbin. We went down and sorted Duncroisk sheep yesterday; they are all very good, especially the ewes, but very bad with the scab. We got 5 clad score top wedders from him, and 12 shots at 25/-, most of them being about the very top of the wedders but scabbed. We also got 164 ewes from him and 10 shots at 14/- each, which were also not free from scab.
The letter continues in this vein and detailed figures are given. John ends his letter:
As you did not see Mr McFarlane at Falkirk, I wrote his shepherd when his tups would be at Oban. When Mr Vere and I got the length of Stirling that night we found there was no train to Buchlyvie. Ve. however managed to get a dogcart for 8/- which was better than staying there all night. Duncroisk was in a most pitiful state. He had about 2OO of his sheep in yesterday to dip ill with the scab. I do not think he will live long; he is getting worse every day.
The last three sentences are slightly confusing: the farmer at Duncroisk (referred to by the name of his farm) was ill and not expected to live long; the sheep had the scab. Young John, at the age of 20, traveled a lot between Parish Holm, Glenlochay and Luing, and kept his father at Parish Holm in touch with activities on the farms, with any problems that arose, and with the state of the livestock markets. On 12th April 1864 he began a letter from Kllchattan, Luing, to his father:
I have just come over to the steading intending to meet the post, so that I might answer anything by return of post. I am sorry to say that within these few days we have had a worse enemy to combat against than even foxes, namely hoody crows. Five of amongst the best of our ewes have got an eye each taken clean out and one of them killed outright whilst lambing, besides the whole of their lambs killed and other 5 or 6 besides. If it was not the hoody crows now I think we would have a very good end to the lambing as the most of the ewes have plenty of milk and the grass is coming fast, as we have had a splendid weather since Saturday.
On 18th July 1868, he again wrote from Luing:
We were rather surprised when Hr Howatson arrived along with Mr Anderson on Thursday with the steamer. ...Mr Howatson left for home this morning. We could net get him persuaded to stay over till Monday. It seems he had bought Burnhouse property between Sorn and Muirkirk and he was in a great hurry to get home te give his wife all the news. He thinks he has got a good bargain of it at £6150. It is sadly out of order and there are about 45 milk cows besides a lot of young beasts and about 6 or 7 scores of sheep. The present rent is about £23O (paying all burdens) and he thinks it will be worth £300 with some improvements after the lease is out in 1870. He has not got the farm of Glenmuir after all.
It seemed that the lease of Glenmuir might be available, and John suggested that his father should make enquiries:
Now if it could be had reasonably and as I am sure to lose North Bottom when the lease is out, you might write Broom or Samuel McCall and hear what they expect for it. It will net take above £6OO or £7OO to stock it and it lies pretty well with Greenburn and would save the wire fence I imposed between it and Greenburn. Howatson thinks it will be let privately. It seems Joe Henderson would like to get it. I should not like to have him as a neighbour. Kinnox will likely be anxious for it too as it lies well into him.
John then spoke of movement of sheep and their transport to the mainland, and continued:
...We will commence at daylight on Monday morning and spean Ardluing lambs and will have them ready in plenty of time for the steamer. We had a geed deal of rain here through the night (Wednesday night and Thursday morning) and this morning looks wet also. It has done good to the turnips already. About half of the hay was get in capital condition on Wednesday and about a fourth of it yesterday so there is only about a fourth of it out now. I think it was rather long in being cut, as there is a great deal of seed left. We are all very well but baby has get a little cold and they have been giving her a geed deal of caster oil as they are afraid of croup. I am rather afraid the Corsair will not be able to take all the lambs and sheep but we will take as many as we can. Mr Andersen stays till Thursday next. It was a very dull market at Glasgow on Thursday.
Hoping to hear from you soon.
I remain your affect.
As we have already noted, North Bottom, Greenburn, Kinnox (or Kennoxhead) are all fairly close to Auchendaff. Glenmuir lies ever the county boundary in Ayrshire, about three miles south-west of Cairntable (593 metres, the highest hill in these parts). The baby referred to was probably John's niece Isabella (1868-1934), the eldest child of Agnes Andersen, John's only sister. Mr Andersen was John Andersen (born 1829), the child's father.
A week later John was writing from Parish Holm to his father, who was presumably at Glenlochay, to report that he had left Luing with 73 sheep. The animals had been taken to the mainland for sale, but the prices obtained were deplorable: 200 lambs at an average of 11/6d, 32 ewes averaging 25/6d, and 8 tups averaging 38/-. The following week, on 4th August 1868, John wrote from Lanark:
Duncan and I returned from the Yeomanry on Saturday night and found all things going on well and most of the hay up (of excellent quality and of about the same quantity as last year). We were at a great ball on Friday night in the town hall. A great turn-out of the nobility including the Earl and Countess and whole family about 250 in whole. We came down this morning to see the market at Lanark. It has been a very stiff market...Plenty of good fair lambs between £6 and £7. I helped Andershaw to sell his at 10/- on lot above £6. ...I must conclude as the train is about to start.
With love to all.
I remain your affect.
PS: I think Duncan will get £25 for his horse.
On 2nd June 1888 young John wrote from Parish Holm to his mother Isabella (at Luing) on family matters; farming was only briefly mentioned:
My dear Mother,
Your letter of Sunday last reached me this morning. We have been busy yesterday and today marking lambs, we commenced with Greenburn and Bottom and finished with Parish Holm today, and intend being at Whltecleugh and Carllngknowe tomorrow. The lambs and sheep are in splendid condition and a good number of them besides, enclosed are the numbers. I have been very ill with a very severe cold. I felt it coming on on Sunday at church and on Monday morning I was completely knocked up. I however went over to Bottom in the morning but had to go to bed once or twice. I tried the sulphur cure; it is a perfect humbug. I think it made me great deal worse (sore about the chest). I am all right again today though my nose is still dabbit. Sandy's box came on Sunday, and we will send it off on Thursday; it seems his cheese is done, we will send him a cut along with the eggs and scones. I was glad to hear by Father’s letter that Agnes and the wee thing arrived all right. It was a very stormy day of wind here. There has never been any intimation of rent collection for Glenlochay yet, so we don’t know who is our factor. I was looking at the hams; I don’t see anything coming out of the barrels; it must have dried up, but I will tell Marion to examine them all. I have heard no word of them commencing to the houses here but I have seen none of the officials since I came home. You will have a well-filled house at Luing for some time; you will manage well enough through the day but I don’t see how you will get on at night. Geordy will require to sleep with baby or Aunt Jane.
I remain, with love to all, your affect. son JOHN WILLISON
Sandy, John's brother, was aged 18 or 19 years. Agnes, their sister, was the mother of Isabella, the wee thing.
At the age of 28 John Willison (1844-89) wrote to his mother from Bolfracks, Aberfeldy. Bolfracks was the house of Breadalbane's factor, James Bett, who was John's father-in-law:
29th Sept 1873
My dear Mother,
Yours of the 19th reached me at Killln on Thursday on the show day. We can not part with the young grey horse now, as Mr Hope’s horse has been struck with lightning, and has been quite stiff since, I presume you are now at Queens Terrace and I sent a paper yesterday to Father with an account of the show. We got a good many prizes as usual, though not as many as we deserved. I had a telegram from George on Thursday saying that it was a bad Lockerbie and that he had not sold my lambs. 400 of Glenlochy wedders are to be trucked for Uncle James tomorrow. They are quite as good as last year. I intend going to Crieff tomorrow after wintering and to Glasgow on Wednesday night and home on Thursday after the market. Jessie will join me at Stirling on Wednesday. I enclose letter from Chas Howatson Esqr to Father, also one from J. Anderson. We are glad to hear Father is a little better. Hoping to see you all on Wednesday, I am your affect. son JOHN WILLISON Junr
John’s sister Agnes Anderson lived at 5 Queens Terrace, Glasgow. Uncle James was presumably James Paterson Willison.
On the 12th January 1885 John Willison made a Will, He was aged 40, had been married since 1872 to Jessie Ann Bett, and had begotten eight children. One more child was yet to be born. In his Will, John appointed Trustees as follows:

His wife, his father-in-law (James Bett), (falling James Bett, the latter's son Thomas Bett), and his two younger brothers Alexander and George. As a widow Jessie would receive two-thirds of the net profits of the farms (Glenlochay and Acharn). Allowances were to be made for the maintenance and education of his wife and children, and might vary in accordance with bad seasons or very large profits. If his widow should marry again, her allowance would be reduced. Provision might be made to help his sons to start in business. His eldest son John was to be given possession of Parish Holm and all other south country farms. His younger sons were each to receive £1000 more than his daughters would inherit. The daughters would get only the interest on their shares (presumably as a safeguard: at this time the Married Women's Property Act was not yet on the statute book). John Willison died nearly five years later, on 24th December 1889 at 5.10am, at Acharn, Killln. He was aged 45. He had been ill for one day only, and the cause of death was certified as diphtheric laryngltls.
Chapter 4
So far this account has contained few references to John Willison (1772-1841), spouse of Jean Brown, whom he married in 1804, and father of nine children, including Mary (Buchan), John (1806-84), Alexander (the Minister), and James Paterson (the farmer at Dalpeddar). Two letters addressed to this John Willison have already been referred to: one from his son Alexander on 7th June 1839 from Kllwinning, and the other from Mary Buchan on 21st November 1840. But we have three poems written in 1806 and 1809, which any have been written by John Willison, then in his late thirties. The poems are contained in a slim, very tattered notebook but it is impossible to say whether the handwriting is that of John. Indeed the poems may have been copied from a book, but this seems unlikely. Some of the words are illegible, the spelling is archaic (or John may have been a poor speller). Some of the verse is written in broad Scots and in the metre used by Robert Burns, and almost a parody in parts. The metre, however, is irregular. One of the poems is entitled:
On the Vanity of Human Life
If we could rightly take a view
Sure human life is vain
And theirs no solid comfort here
While mankind doth remain.

For in his youth when he can go
He’s full of childish toys
While that he might enjoy ease
Sure little he enjoys

But when more grown he’s carried
Away wi' trifling things
Which neither solid comfort here
Nor consolation brings.

And when to manhood he arrives
He thinks he'll happy be
Because he his own master is
And from correction free.

But sure theirs no stage of man's life
More critical while here
For vanity in all its pomp
Will quickly now appear.

The passions strong for heedless youth
Is apt for to ensnare
And bring remorse in after time
If they are not aware.

The werld’s allurements and its smile
De also lead astray
Which often promises great things
But seldom aught doth pay.

He thinks in his advanced age
That he will now be wise
And his past folly now he sees
Oft on his mind it preys.

But yet alas he carries on
His foibles allways still
Which are mere suited to this stage I
More pleasant to his will.

New he's oer' whelmed wi' anxious cares
Both of body and mind
Some how to have a living here
And others wealth to find.

This few do mind their later end
Till death do them awake
Or if they do arrive at age
Till it them evertake.

And new the man’s bowed down at last
The sorrow, grief and pain
Which do him warn that to the dust
He must return again.

Thus his best prospects in this life
Are emptiness and vain
But prospects great await the just
where peace forever reign.
We have already quoted from the financial arrangements I made by John in favour of his daughter Mary Buchan and her children. The 1841 Census was presumably held after 26th May, when John died, as his name is not included in these staying at Parish Helm on census day. His widow. Jean, is listed as well as five children (Mary, John, Marien, Elizabeth and James), and three grandchildren (William, Jean and Mathew Buchan). [This is the only record of Jean Buchan. She is not included in the Family Tree.] We have seen letters written by James Paterson Willison to his brother John, and it will be recalled that JP Willison farmed at Dalpeddar near Sanquhar. He had already left Dalpeddar when he died in 1885. His nephew Duncan Willison (1847-87) was living at Dalpeddar in 1881 (according to the census of that year), but before that time, in the 1870s, Duncan farmed at Socceth, near Dalmally. Duncan’s financial affairs were a matter of concern to his father.
John Willison (l806-84), who made detailed provision in his Will for his sons and daughter and ether relatives. However, there followed a codicil at a later date by which he revoked the share of the residue for his son Duncan and assigned it to his other sons (John, Alexander and George) and to his son-in-law (James Andersen), who were to be trustees for funds in favour of Duncan's wife Alice Grieve and her five daughters.
On 14th July 1866, when Duncan was nineteen years of age, he wrote to his father from Parish Holm on farm business (weel, milk, lambs, turnips, potatoes and sale prospects).
He finished his letter:
Mr Andersen thinks we will have a dull sale for our wool this year (unless the war ceases). Andersen in Douglas has sold his lambs for 25/- each.
Hoping you are well.
I remain your affect.
PS: Carmacoup was threatened with apoplexy about IO days ago.
The reference to the war was presumably the American Civil War. The effect of that war on agricultural prices was also commented upon by Mathew Buchan in New Zealand in 1863.
The farmer at Carmacoup (about 2 miles from Parish Holm) was J. Paterson. He evidently recovered from his illness for on 27th May 1867 he wrote a very formal letter to John Willison at Parish Holm to complain about the straying of Parish Helm sheep onto his ground:
...It is quite intolerable; . . .they have been very troublesome for some time and are always getting worse. I therefore hope you will take some means to put a step to this nuisance as seen as possible.
There is a curious letter to John Willison (1806-84) from one J. Ross, writing from Milliken (near Johnston) on 14th September 1865:
My dear Sir,
I was sorry we had not time for a crack yesterday. As my wife won’t listen to my becoming a farmer now, in my old age, trusting to the management of a Grieve etc., I wish to put you into a good thing, seeing that new leases of sheep farms will be very precarious now and, as like me, an extravagant wife and family may have prevented you from saving much of your late gains - and at all events it may suit a son - I beg to inform you that a fine farm for wheat, potatoes, hops etc. is, or was a week or two age, to let in Kent some 25 to 30 miles from London and could be got as a great bargain, as the English farmers there don’t seem as yet to understand the value.
Mr Ross continued in this vein, quoting his sources of information, and ended by saying:
...and now to the point … of course I expect my commission in proportion to the success.
The proposal by Mr Ross was (unsurprisingly) not taken up.
Being a Lowland family, the Willisons were not Gaelic speakers. When some of them moved to Glenlochay and Acharn, west Perthshire was still Gaelic speaking, so inevitably some words and phrases of the language would have been picked up at school in Killin and from the shepherds. Douglas Willison (1881-1975) kept a notebook (dated December 1907) for exercises in Gaelic, containing for example:
  • Were you fishing today? : "An robh thu ag iasgach an diugh?"
  • No, but I was fishing yesterday: "Cha robh ach bha ml ag iasgach an de"
  • The shepherd and three dogs are at the top of the hill: "Tha an ciobair agus tre coin air mullach a'cbnu1c"
Amongst the Papers there is a booklet entitled Register of Sheep Marks in the South-western District of Perthshire and Eastern Argyleshire. It was published by the Breadalbane Farmers' Association for the Prevention of Sheep Stealing.
Many farms and their occupants are listed, together with lug and other marks on the sheep. Rewards are offered for information leading to the recovery of stolen sheep and to the conviction of thieves. The Convener of the Association was John Willison of Acharn. In Glenlochay District John Willison is shown as the occupant of the farms of Beinn Chalium, Coire-cheathaich, Batavaime, Badour, Lubchurran, Kenknock, Botaurnie, and Innischoarach. These 'farms' (or hirsels) covered in total the whole of the upper half of Glenlochay, down as far as the boundary with Tullich farm. The booklet is dated 1887 and cost sixpence.