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Murthly History Group

Define 'Deserving Poor' . . .

Added on 29 August 2019


Dalpowie Lodge began life as The Hospital, bricks and mortar expression of the charitable nature of John Steuart (c1643 – 1720) 13th of Grandtully. [See also Dalpowie Through Time] A lifelong bachelor, ‘Old Grantully’ (as he is fondly recalled in the family history, The Red Book1) evidently felt the need to put his affairs in order when he reached his late sixties.

In 1711 he entailed his considerable estates of Grandtully, Strathbraan, Murthly and Airntully, stipulating the order of succession among his extended family. (Seven married sisters.) However, in this article our interest lies in one of the charitable provisions of his will: the grandly named Grandtully Mortification Trust. A principal sum of 20,000 merks (about £1,400 Scots) was to be set aside to provide a pension for the twelve poorest men across his estates. Men of ‘the episcopalian persuasion’, that is. The money would be in the gift of eight trustees, who had promised to enact Old Grantully’s vision: Thomas Fothringham of Pourie, Thomas Drummond of Logie Almond, Thomas Crichtoun of Ruthven, Mr John Carnegy of Boysick, Advocate, Alexander Carnegie of Balnamoon, John Stewart of Innernytie, Mr William Drummond of Balathie, and Mr Patrick Crichtoun, Surgeon in Dundee. A promise that would be binding on their descendants: 'And after their decease by the heirs descending of their bodies.’

And the vision? Steuart had also granted as much 'fit and convenient ground within the Parish of Little Dunkeld' up to two acres in extent, within half a mile of the House of Murthly for a dwelling and garden for the pensioners. (Grandtully Castle was then the main residence.) The selection of the happy 12 would have to be carried out in such a manner that one of them would ‘be fit and capable to read Prayers twice every day out of the Book of Common Prayer and to read a sermon out of any good Sermon Book on every Lord’s Day.’

And episcopalian? Well, Old Grantully was a dyed-in-the-plaid Jacobite, and was to have a last, unexpected hurrah at the age of 73. When James Stuart, seventh of his line, arrived in Dundee in January 1716, en route to Scone and a coronation, John Steuart stood at the Seagate in the biting cold to meet his king. After all the huzzahs, the cheering and unfettered joy of the citizens, who thus far had been spared any of the privations caused by the rebellion, John spared them further by offering his town house, but a few steps from the Seagate itself, as lodging for the king to be. (For which act of fealty he was fined £10,000 sterling by the Hanoverian government ‘for entertaining and harbouring the Pretender’, when the rebellion fizzled out and James fled to France, uncrowned.)

Steuart died in 1720. What with one legal thing and many another fiscal complication the trustees did not have control of the money until 1735. By which time, with interest added, the principal was £1,935 18/7d (about £412k today). They settled on a bit of ground near the farms of Dalpowie, on the west side of the Birnam burn, and the Hospital was completed by 1740. However, it appears the trustees were not successful in persuading 12 men to reside there under the conditions imposed. Certainly, it was empty when ransacked by government troops in 1745.

The narrative of the Hospital quickly and enduringly became that it was never used as intended. The writer and traveller Robert Heron (1764 – 1807) on his tour of the western counties of Scotland in 1792 2, bears this out: ‘ I learned, upon enquiry, that the pensioners of this house did not always choose to reside in it, but lived with their friends, and enjoyed more comfortably the benefits of the small pensions which had been assigned to them’. (Interestingly, Heron suffered the pauper experience at first hand and wrote the first volumes of his History of Scotland while in gaol, to pay off his debts. Literally, dug himself out of prison with a pen.)

In that same year the Hospital was regularly pressed into service as a temporary meeting place by the minister, Rev. Robertson, when the original church in Little Dunkeld was condemned as ‘ruinous’. He also repeated the narrative of a hospital-without-pensioners in his submission on the parish to the Statistical Account.

From another source 3 we learn that on Monday 17 December 1798, the Reverend Greville Ewing preached at the Hospital, ‘a large house [and] almost filled’. He took as his text Jeremiah Chapt. 17 verses 9 & 10, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ He recorded in his journal that the congregation ‘ were apparently very serious, and some of them much affected’. Nae wonder.

Ewing (1761 - 1841) was the leading Scottish Congregationalist of his day, author of ‘A Defence of Itinerant and Field Preaching’. He was on a short tour of Highland Perthshire, visiting and preaching in Dowally, Dunkeld and Auchtergaven, mostly in barns (making a point of avoiding kirks, where he would not have been welcome anyway) and drawing large crowds. In fact, Old Grantully’s episcopalian inspired hospital, with its ‘grate hall’, seems to have been the most salubrious gig on the tour. Ewing makes no mention in his journal of pensioners there . . . although he is often on the spiritual case of the poor and infirm throughout it.

The trustees were physically separated (Perthshire, Forfarshire, Dundee, Fife etc) and only rarely met as a body, even although three would make a quorum. There is no record of a meeting in the Hospital. The Stewarts of Balcaskie inherited the estates on the death of John Stewart of Innernytie and made Murthly Castle their main residence. Day to day supervision of the Hospital then fell to the Murthly factor, but financial matters were in the hands of a succession of Edinburgh lawyers. Using their discretion the trustees gradually extended the scope of the charity, giving annuities to both sexes, and by no means only to episcopalians, but it is significantly recorded in the Minutes that ‘ the Poor on the Grandtully Estate have always got a large share.’ (My italics) Within twenty years of the Hospital’s completion the trustees had given up on it being used solely by pensioners (if at all) and decided that the Proprietor of Grandtully, then Sir John Stewart (1687 – 1764), Third Baronet, should be allowed to let it and the grounds in tack; ‘the rent to be disposed of yearly . . . for such pious uses as he should judge proper.’ (Judging by rents elsewhere in Dalpowie and neighbouring Inschewan that would have been about £4 5/- cash plus a few hens.)

Trustee discretion on who should benefit from the charity began seriously to drift with the next generation. Thomas Crichton, son of an original trustee, wrote from Dundee on 10th Nov 1767 that he couldn’t help thinking the trustees had made a mistake at their last meeting in not giving Mrs Orrocks an addition to her annuity. ‘You know she is a very near relation to the family, especially to the Mortifyer [actually a niece of John Stewart of Innernytie] consequently has a very good title to be supported out of these funds, nobody better.’ Well, actually, no: Leaving aside any question of Mrs Orrocks’ religious persuasion, Old Grantully clearly intended his money go to the very poorest on the family’s land holdings, not indigent middle class relatives. How fast was he birling then when the decision was made to award ‘ Mifs Charlotte Murray, daughter of Lady Elizabeth Murray, Holyroodhouse, one year’s allowance for Mifs Charlotte’s education: £16 8/- ?’

An estate pauper might receive between £2 and £4. A year.

The year 1814 offers an interesting snapshot of the way the trustees had moved beyond Old Grantully’s original vision, finding excuses to add people known to them, in their locality. Although they did not manage a meeting, David Watson WS of Edinburgh kept everything going in a series of circular letters. There would be a small surplus that year, after paying allowances to those already on the fund. Sir George Stewart (1750 – 1827) 17th of Grandtully and 5th Baronet, had proposed a list, ‘objects of real charity’ who could benefit from a one-off payment:

Widow of Robert Wallace, Dundee £3

Barbara Young in Burnbane £2

James Miller in Mortification Hospital £2

William Roger, near Burnbane £2

A poor woman deranged in mind, and dependent on the

humanity of her relatives, who are poor people

– Janet Gow in Meikle Obney £2

Mrs Knox of Keithock, trustee, offered:

Widow of James Somerville, Balgordie, in addition to her present allowance of £5 5/-, another £4 15/-

Colonel Fothringham of Pourie proposed:James Walker, a poor old man - £2

These allowances to be for one year, and Sir George suggested that the present allowances from the fund should be continued for the current year, except those to Mrs Stewart or Davidson and Euphemia Ogilvie, ‘both presumed dead, or in improved circumstances, having made no claim in late years on the fund.’

Mrs Knox replied that she had hoped for the augmentation of £4 15/- to the widow of Mr James Somerville, ‘but by no means at the expense of some more necestious person’. She added that Mrs Stewart or Davidson was still living, in Brechin, ‘ a very old woman and perfectly unable to do anything towards her own support.’ She asked that the £4 15/- be given to her instead as ‘a real object of charity.’ And if the funds could allow that to be five  guineas, she would be very obliged.

Major Fothringham replied on behalf of his brother, the Colonel. James Walker had died, so he wanted to substitute another pauper, William Fleming (presumably also from Pourie), and hoped he would get £4.

It ended up:

Widow of Robert Wallace in Dundee gets £3

Barbara Young being dead by this time, George Young of Muir of Thorn gets £2

William Fleming per Colonel Fothringham gets £2

Mrs Davidson per Mrs Knox gets £8

William Roger near Burnbane gets £2

James Miller (82) in the Hospital gets £2

In December 1814 two tenants living and farming a bit further east from Dalpowie signed the following receipt:

‘We Alex Logie in Broom park and Thomas Bullions in Sloganhole have this day received from Sir George Stewart by the hands of James Young [Sir George’s factor] twenty shillings Ster for behoof of William Roger, a poor man in New Houses Muir of Thorn. We shall give him meal for this and what Doctor Irvine gives, as he may stand in need.’ No Hospital for him. And £1 short, somehow.

John Bruntfield of Dalpowie bears the distinction of being the only named individual (as found so far) associated with helping a pensioner at The Hospital. There is a receipt (merely a scrap of paper) from him to Sir George:


I John Bruntfield your tenant do hereby acknowledge that I have received Two Pounds Ster to buy coals, shoes, & other things needed by James Miller a poor man who lives in the Hospital at Dalpowie. This sum I shall give him from time to time as he stands in need.

I am your obed. Serv’

Was James Miller the exception that proved the story, rattling around on his own? Between sermons.

The Grandtully Mortification Trust still exists. The Stewart line failed on the death without issue of Sir Archibald Douglas in 1890 (although he did have to contest one paternity claim, but that’s another story). Next in line according to Old Grantully’s chart of 1711 was Walter Fothringham of Pourie. (In due course he added ‘Steuart’ to the family name.) With the help of his factor, William Rae, he gradually influenced the trustees to effect changes so that the beneficiaries now more closely reflected John Steuart’s intentions: former estate folk, basically, whether episcopalian or not. But no more student grants.


Grandtully Mortification Trust Minute Book: Murthly Castle archive

Grandtully Muniments GD121/1/45/240: NRS, Register House, Edinburgh

1 The Red Book of Grandtully, W Fraser (2 vols. Edinburgh 1868)

2 Observations made in a Journey through the Western Counties of Scotland in 1792, 2 vols., (Perth, 1792)

3 Greville Ewing: A Memoir by his Daughter, Jessie J Matteson

( Griffin & Co., Glasgow.)

© Murthly History Group


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