Donald of Camuslaimh

Donald, the third son of Archibald, the eighth chief, was born about 1685. He took as his wife one of the daughters of MacNaughton of Moghar, in Glenlyon, which is now known as Moar. They settled not far from Cashlie in Glenlyon, at Camuslaimh, which was close to the home of his younger brother, Angus (see Ch. XI.) I have endeavoured to locate Camuslaimh, but without success. The only solution seems to be that over the years the spelling has become altered, and it is my opinion that Donald’s home was in the vicinity of the burn which is marked on present day maps as Allt Camaslaidh.

Donald and his wife, Katherine, had four sons. First came Peter, born in 1721. He died in 1824, his tombstone indicating that he had a son, Angus of Inverbheach. Next was John, born in 1724. He was a member of the 42nd Regiment for twenty two years, serving His Majesty, George III.

In 1831 a book was published entitled “The Scottish Gael”, by James Logan, in which he quotes an account of a Highland funeral which took place some years before. This recalls the burial of “a respectable old man – Peter Fletcher, who had died at the age of a hundred and two, and relates the custom of providing refreshments for the mourners. The burial took place at Achallader “… a lonely spot, about seven miles distant from the village, on the confines of Glenurchy Forest, and singular, as being almost exclusively appropriated to persons of the name of Fletcher.” At the conclusion of the feast, which consisted of breed, cheese, and “a good allowance of something stronger than water to wash them down”, some wild deer emerged from the forest. Whilst the company were bidding each other farewell, the deer ate up the remains of the bread and cheese, an occurrence which boded evil in the eyes of the superstitious Highlanders. Each one present looked around, hoping to be spared from any impending disaster. One of their number, however, was doomed. John Fletcher, the ninety-nine year old brother of the man whose funeral he had just attended, was drowned in the River Urchy whilst on his way home. The graves of both Peter and John are still to be seen at Achallader, in the graveyard behind the castle ruins.

Archibald, the third son of Donald and Catherine, born in 1720 and married Ann, the daughter of Peter Campbell of Clashgower, to the west of Loch Tulla, and settled at Achallader. Ann died in 1830, having come from a long line of Campbells, going back to the famous Sir Duncan of Glenorchy (Duncan of the Black Cowl), through the Barcaldine line. Ann’s grandfather was the son of Patrick Campbell, the fourth laird of Barcaldine, and his wife, Lucia, the daughter of Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel.

Archibald was a lover of Gaelic poetry, of which he made a fairly extensive collection. He was unable to write much more than his own name, and he learned the poems by heart, gathering them from various sources in Argyllshire, and from time to time he dictated them to local scribes. He eventually took took a manuscript to an Edinburgh J.P., Archibald Menzies, who swore an affidavit of its authenticity in January, 1801. The collection was given a date of about 1750. It had been written on paper of different kinds, and in several different hands, and stitched into a limp cover of coarse brown paper. It was signed by Fletcher and Menxies, and was as genuine a collection of folk lore as any in the world. In November, 1871, the original was safe in the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh, and a copy was made of its contents. It is a most important collection, quite unique in the realm of Gaelic poetry.

Donald, the younger son, married Catherine Smith, and they settled in Cowal, Argyllshire. There is a headstone on their grave in Kilmodan (Glendaruel) Churchyard, which was erected by their son, Angus, a school teacher in Dunoon. Angus was well known in his day as a writer of Gaelic songs, the most famous of these being “Clachan-Glinn-daruail”, which although attributed to him appears to have possibly been written by Mr. John MacKinnon, the son of a Minister of Kilmodan, for a Miss Jean Currie. Angus died in 1852, leaving a son, Robert, and a daughter. Robert married a Miss Young, and had a son, also named Robert.

The family of Archibald Fletcher and Ann Campbell was quite large. Records in my possession have always referred to six sons, three of whom I have dealt with in separate chapters, a further two having died young. But according to the John MacGregor Papers it appears that there were also six daughters, although only their names and baptisms are recorded. This family, then consisted of Dorothy, born in May, 1753, Margaret, March, 1754, Mary, March 1756, Ann, April, 1759, Donald, born in 1766 (see Ch. VIII), Isobel, September, 1769, Helen, March, 1775, Patrick, born in 1775 (see Ch. IX), Angus, was born in 1779, (see Ch. X). and lastly, Archibald, born in 1783.

The youngest member of this family, Archibald, married Agnes Baxter, and they had one son, John, who was born in 1815 in Greenock. In 1823 they went to live in Canada, and John entered upon a mercantile career, at which he was quite successful. But he was to be remembered more for his military services to the country. He first volunteered for service in 1837, joining the Montreal Light Infantry, in which he served for two years, until the regiment was disbanded. The Militia was reorganised in 1846, and the Montreal Fire Brigade, of which John Fletcher was an officer, was formed into a battalion. By 1850 he had reached the rank of Captain, and after a varied career visited England in 1858 with the 100th Prince of Wales Royal Canadian Regiment. By 1862 he had become brigade Major of No.6 Military District of Lower Canada, and in 1865 was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, In 1870 Col. John Fletcher took part in the attack upon the Fenians at Trout River, for which he was created a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. He retired in 1893, and died in Montreal on the 7th June, 1902.

Lt. Col. John Fletcher married twice, having a son, Archibald, by his first wife. Archibald went to Australia, living in the small township of Bangower, New Gisborne, Victoria. John’s second wife, Mary Holmes, bore him six children, three boys and three girls. John, the eldest, settled in Boston; Norman the second, went to Quebec, and Gordon, the youngest, remained in Montreal.

© 1973 Margaret Mason

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