“As early as 1800 the Duke of Argyll made a concerted effort to eliminate illicit distilling on his estate by announcing his intention to receive rent by payment in kind. The Duke's main intention was to increase rents. As a consequence of the French wars, grain was both expensive and scarce, and therefore more valuable to him than cash payments. The practice of illicit distilling was a stumbling block to this end in that much of the local barley was used in the process. By forcing the people to surrender their barley as payment for rent, the Duke aimed to prevent it being converted into whisky. Unfortunately for the Duke, the policy failed to deter his tenants from their illegal occupations; in 1801, 157 people from his estate were convicted by the justices of the peace for illicit distilling.
Prior to the imposition of heavy licence fees by the government in 1786, there had been a flourishing legal whisky industry in Argyll, especially on Tiree. Farms there had at least one still, producing for both local consumption and
export to neighbouring islands. Farm rents were paid largely from the proceeds of whisky sales, some 200-300 gallons per annum according to the local minister. The increases imposed in 1786 crushed the Tiree distilling industry and inflicted serious economic difficulties for the islanders. The obvious option was to distill whisky illicitly despite the Risks.
With plans for improvement and increased rents thwarted, the following instruction was issued by the Duke of Argyll in June 1801 to the Chamberlain of Tiree, Malcolm McLaurin. This was accompanied by a list of the 157 persons recently convicted of illegal distilling:
It is his Grace's particular order that without delay you demand payment from these persons of every farthing they owe, and give notice to such of those who do not comply, that they must remove from their possessions...
The Duke of Argyll did not consider the evictions harsh because he had given ample warning of his intention to collect rents in barley. These tenants had chosen to break the law by refusing his request and making the grain into whisky. In addition, the Duke considered that in order to 'deter such improper conduct in future', further action should be taken. Therefore the Duke ordered that every tenth man of the 157 be deprived of their present possessions and of all protection from him in the future. The following year, McLaurin was ordered to export the barley and tomprohibit distilling. However, illicit distilling continued to some extent, and barley was shipped to Ireland in secret to be distilled there, and at least two ships smuggled spirits back into Argyll. The Chamberlain reported growing unrest among the tenants and called for a company of volunteers to be stationed on the island to maintain social order.” The Clearers and the Cleared: Women, Economy and land in the Scottish Highlands,1800-1900, Christine Lodge, B.A. Hons., M.A.,Doctor of Philosophy, University of Glasgow, Department of Scottish History, Faculty of Arts, December 1996
Malcolm's later life:
Dr. Malcolm McLaurin
Inveresregan is a Tack very close to Ardchattan Kirk where vicar Labhruinn lived in 1420, the beginning of a continuous lineage of McLaurins until the 1800s, that are related to the North Carolina and South Carolina McLaurins. Neill MacLaurine held the tack in 1774, upon his death son Dr. Malcolm McLaurin inherited the lease. Malcolm was also physician and confidant of Campbell of Glenure and Barcaldine. Lady Barcaldine complained that he had moved into their home and had run up accounts. Dr. Malcolm was the Factor of Isle of Tiree for a short time until he was fired. He must of been related to the Campbells by marriage.
‘Flight with the Fairies’ when people are transported great distances in a very short time. “Dr. McLaurin lived at Inveresragan near Connel Ferry in Benderloch. He was often visited by a man known as ‘Calum Clever’ from his musical skill and speed in travelling, both gifts of the fairies. The doctor sent Calum to Fort William with a letter, telling him to procure the assistance of ‘his own people’ and be back with an immediate answer. Calum asked as much time as one game of shinty would take, and was back in the evening before the game was finished. ‘He never could have travelled the distance without Fairy aid.’ Lore of the Scottish Highlands by Sophie Kingshill
Malcolm was visited in 1838 by Neil McLaurin from North Carolina, who was visiting where he grew up on Loch Etive.
Copyright Hilton McLaurin 2022 - All Rights Reserved