Bernice

John Fletcher, who was a natural son of Archibald Mac-an-Leister (Gillesp na Crannaich), was born about 1702 at Barravurich. He accompanied his father to Dunans when the family moved there in 1745 and in 1753 Gillesp deeded to him the lands of Bernice, including Stuckadow, Kenlocharkbeg and Achnaclach. The date of John Fletcher’s death is a little uncertain, the old papers giving it as 1774. However, in the MacGregor Papers there is a copy of a Deposition of Tailzie by John Fletcher, which was signed on the 24th July, 1780, at Bernice.

John Fletcher of Bernice had four sons, Archibald, Donald, Alexander and Angus. This last named is referred to as Andrew in the Deposition, but it seems fairly certain that his name was Angus. Archibald and Alexander died before their father, and Bernice went to Donald.

Donald had leased the house of Barravurich after his grandfather, Gillesp, died, and he lived there until John Fletcher died, when he moved to Bernice. He married a daughter of Patrick Campbell of Auch, who had been a witness at the trial of James Stewart in 1753 for the murder of Colin Campbell of Glenure, (the Appin murder). Patrick Campbell was a captain in the 42nd Regiment.

John Fletcher’s younger son, Angus (or Andrew), was born in 1742. He was educated at the University of Glasgow, gaining his M.A. in 1763. He was ordained in 1773 at Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan. He had married Ann MacIntyre on the 10th March, 1772, and she bore him two sons, James, born in 1773, and John, born in 1774. Angus died on the 6th February, 1775, leaving his wife to survive him a further fifty-five years.

Donald of Bernice, who died in 1830, left two sons, John, who became the fourth laird of Bernice, and Angus, who went to live in the United States. Before emigrating he had married twice. By his first wife he had a daughter, Wilhelmina Aird Fletcher, who later became the wife of Charles Howatson of Glenbuck. His second wife bore him several daughters, and a son, Nelson (also referred to as Andrew in some of the old documents). They went to America, calling their home ‘Bernice’. Nelson Fletcher was married to Caroline E. Calkins on 22nd April, 1863, just three months after enrolling in the Michigan Volunteers at Falmouth, Virginia. He signed on for three years, or the period of the war, and was mustered for service on 6th June at Louisville, Kentucky. The commander of the Michigan Volunteers was at that time Colonel Humphrey, and the company in which Nelson enlisted was commanded by Captain Morse of the 2nd Regiment. Nelson Fletcher was killed by the enemy whilst on duty, on the 24th May, 1864, near Oxford, at Anna River, Virginia.

John, the fourth laird of Bernice, had three sons. The two younger ones, both unmarried, are believed to have emigrated to Australia, and I can discover nothing about them. The eldest son, Donald, married a Miss McCallum, and they had two daughters. One of these, Agnes Johnstone (Laura) was married in 1884 to the Rev. Horman McLeod Macfie, the Minister of Tighnabruaich, Kyles of Bute. Donald Fletcher was unfortunately compelled by circumstances to part with the property, and Bernice was sold to Mr. James Duncan of Benmore. In 1891 the estate was again sold, this time to Mr. Younger of Benmore, and it now forms part of the Argyll National Forest Park. From the eastern shore of Loch Eck the house of Bernice is visible in a clearing amongst the pine trees, and in the early days of the Fletchers it must have been a lovely home. It seems a great pity that it should have been swallowed up by progress and become so comparatively insignificant.

© 1973 Margaret Mason

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