By Peter Dickson (UK)
It was a passing remark of my father, some 40 years ago on a holiday in Jamaica, which was the beginning.
Not far out of Lucea, along the coast road to Negril and in convoy with my uncle Willie and cousins, my father waved his hand vaguely towards the inland hills as we passed some standing cane and said, quite out of the blue, “one time we used to own all this you know.
I didn't know and wasn't too sure who "we" included, but the conversation went no further at the time, my younger brothers and I being more pre-occupied with the thought of the day ahead - a new patch of empty beach to explore and one of our aunt Janet's chicken-curry lunches to look forward to. Besides, the idea of owning an expanse of land anything other than what was visible around a house was something beyond immediate childhood experience or interest.
The pattern of that particular journey was so often repeated, my father talking with an easy familiarity about the places we passed by on the roads, all the while unwinding an intimate knowledge of the parish and of the island in which he was born and grew up and which he clearly loved.
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Wherever we travelled in Jamaica each journey was similar, an informed but informal lesson. The immediate impact of those talks and of the places we visited was, at the time, selective and centred on typically boyish interests: forts, guns, romantic ruins, piracy, tall tales and larger than life characters. There was so much to absorb and so much else was new when talking with aunts, uncles and cousins who weren't often seen.
Most of it has since been forgotten but in the end, I suppose, I did form some idea of history in this part of the world. Not that we spent much time there. If our road travels on the island followed a particular pattern they also reflected the pattern of our living as the household travelled ever onward: Barbados, British Guiana (where I was born) West Africa, Jamaica, southern Africa and East Africa with England in between. Work for the Colonial Office meant a peripatetic family life: ever more journeys, ever more that was different and ever more to experience in the way of sights, smells and sounds. The only constant was school in England.
Typical sunset, Jamaica
So, that passing remark was buried in a crowd of newer experiences, including the usual rites of growing up and then getting on with one's own life and living, but it always lingered.
Its resurrection, a generation later, came about with the need to draw up of a simple family tree for a son's history project at school, a task that would have been quite difficult without my father's extraordinary contribution from memory and the brief note in an old family bible of my great-grandfather's birth in Jamaica, in 1831.
Following this, my father began to fill in even more detail over several years and then, at the age of 91, he decided to visit Jamaica again, and again; having gone with him, the urge to uncover yet more was irresistible, not least because there appeared to be essential differences between accounts of his boyhood in the early 20th century and the island today. The landscape had changed in more ways than one.
The question was, if a mere 90 years had seen such change, how much had altered in the preceding 150 years or more since my great-great-great-great grandfather's arrival? Apart from the general overview I had from my recollection of English history, it was all new ground; I wanted some detail of political and social intercourse in and about the island.
History is never black and white, never more so than in our own extended family, whose individuals vary in complexion from ground white pepper to a warm, grated nutmeg, from light rum to Navy rum. A simple chronology of what happened, when, where and to whom (if traceable) would be as inadequate as a family history, which in itself would be quite uninteresting to anyone else; what matters more is a framework of public and private events and the contemporary thoughts, words and deeds, wherever it may be possible to find them.
The delving has been helped in no small part by my father's collection of books, papers and articles on Jamaica, carefully hoarded for much of the last century, his astonishing memory for people and places and by my own abiding interest in history generally. Archive material - letters, commentaries and newspaper articles - is used to sustain or illustrate a kind of narrative.
My own comments here are kept to a minimum as there is no intention to judge, consign and categorise people according to 21st century sensibilities; they should be met on their own terms, heard in their own words and taken as they were. My only view is that none of the people on the island were in any way one-dimensional.
Notice re John Dickson's estate, Jamaica
The trail, occasionally signposted by contemporary sources, is of a John Dickson's C18th century venture from Midlothian to Jamaica and subsequent events. Connections and acquaintances there and in Scotland, trade, money, property and personal affairs detail the journey.
Some recollections of a great-great-great grandson of John Dickson, growing up in Hanover parish in the early decades of the 20th century, reprise the legacy of the previous one hundred and fifty years. As an account and as a collection of tidbits, what follows will never be complete as something new will inevitably turn up. Where notes are given, they are more of a reminder that there will always be other trails to follow.
A balance of accounts
The Adventure, out of Leith, its commander James Hamilton, slipped past the Apostle's Battery and into Kingston Harbour, Jamaica, with a new consignment for Scots merchant Hugh McLaghlan, in late June 1754.
With no trading premises of his own, McLaghlan sold his wares out of "Anthony Danver’s store, next door to Messrs. Hibbert & Sprigg", a practice not altogether unusual for merchants and traders whose interest was in disposable goods rather than fixed property, who were much travelled and who often entertained business on the move at home and abroad.
Men like the unnamed "gentleman passenger, since deceased", lately arrived from London on the Catherine (Note1) with a speculative assortment of fine fabrics and pocket watches in gold and silver; men like David Simpson, a rather more established merchant (Note2) with known connections at home and abroad whose world was his pocket book, a record of engagements, creditors, debtors and the balance of his accounts.
Simpson, originally from Dalkeith in Midlothian, "late of Jamaica but thereafter of London" wrote his will at Bath, on the Bristol road, naming executors in London and Jamaica and, on his death, at Wanstead in Essex in 1756, had "goods, chattels or credits in diverse Dioceses or Jurisdictions". (Note3)
Note1: The Jamaica Courant, 28th June 1754.
Note2: Register of Edinburgh apprentices [Scottish Record Society] David Simpson, son of William Simpson schoolmaster in Dalkeith and Anne Hamilton, prenticed to Robert Hamilton merchant in Edinburgh on 10 November 1731. There is an earlier reference  to Captain Robert Hamilton, merchant in Edinburgh [Register of Edinburgh Marriages].
Note3: Simpson's Will refers to accounts in London for duty on the import of hides.
He may or may not have been related to fellow Scot captain James Hamilton (Note4) but he certainly had useful connections both at home and over the seas. He was cousin to John Thomson, General Supervisor of Excise in Scotland whose brother, William, was yet another travelling merchant “abroad on his affairs” (Note5) and he counted among his London acquaintances David Barclay, "merchant late of Jamaica" and Alexander Campbell, “gentleman of the parish of St. Dunstan in the East”.
Note4: Another mariner on the Jamaica run in 1754 was David Hamilton, master of Pelham, a slaver, who may have been related to James Hamilton and to former captain Robert.
Note5: Simpson's last Will and Testament.
North-westward, on the opposite edge of the island, trade was also well established, growing and poised to grow more as almost every necessity for merchants, planters and their Negro slaves came by sea, even refined sugar. Green Island, Lucea and Montego Bay were the larger harbours receiving ships from Europe, Africa and the American colonies while local vessels busied themselves about the several smaller coves in between and beyond. Inland, Glasgow merchant John Wallace owned the adjacent plantations of Glasgow and Ruglen (Note6) in Hanover parish but he also ensured a ready reception for their produce, being a partner in the King Street Sugar House, Glasgow.
Lucea, Jamaica, today (2006)
Note6: Wallace later sold Ruglen (Rutherglen?) and acquired Cessnock, adjacent to Glasgow.
Like others, his colonial interests were wider than Jamaica, for he was also a partner in the firm of Somerville, Gordon & Co., trading in tobacco from Virginia. Although Wallace had returned home to marry by 1753 (Note7), other Scots who had lands in the Lucea-Green Island corner of the parish remained as resident owners: Campbells (Note8) Collin, James, Peter and Dugald and Robert Clerk. Campbell and Clerk relatives, Dugald Malcolm (Note9) and his cousins, the brothers Donald, George and Neill Malcolm (Note10), would also inherit, buy or marry into Jamaica property, particularly in these parts.
Note7: Register of marriages for the parish of Edinburgh, 1751-1800: John Wallace, late of Jamaica and now of Glasgow married. Jean, daughter of deceased John Porterfield of Fullwood, 4 April 1756 [his 2nd wife]. Son Robert, by his 3rd wife, Janet Colquhoun [m.1764] inherited Cessnock & Glasgow in 1805.
Note8: For detail see website, The First Campbells on Jamaica by Dan Byrnes.
Note9: Dugald Malcolm, son of Alexander Malcolm [of Glennan, d.1787] and Elizabeth Clerk, daughter of Dugald Clerk [Of Braleckan].
Note10: Neill Malcolm, son of John Malcolm [Of Knockalva, d.1773] and Margaret Campbell, married  Mary Haughton [nee Brissett] widow of Philip Haughton. The Haughtons were one of the largest landowners in the parish and marriage links with other landowners spawned the names Haughton-James and Haughton-Clarke. Tharp/Haughton and Campbell/Tharp were other unions of interest.
Land and its produce– sugar, cattle, coffee and pimento - were their main business, trade came by the way, but for them and for others it was kinship connections, of one sort or another, that laid the principal pattern for their dealings both on the island and with hands across the seas: Hugh Malcolm had employment as a Clerk of the Customs at Port Glasgow (Note11) before taking ship to meet business in Jamaica; John Clerk and John Campbell also became customs clerks at Glasgow; Alexander Campbell occupied the post of Deputy Comptroller of the Customs at Greenock; all were related. (Note12)
Note11: National Archives: PCC Will of Hugh Malcolm.
Note12: National Archives: PCC will of Hugh Malcolm.
1754 notice of a slave sale, Jamaica
Whilst ensuing arrangements ensured kinship control of island estates for many years to come, opportunity and necessity would lead extended family trails from Scotland to Jamaica to London to North America and beyond.
John Dickson was also located near Green Island, having arrived a few years before the Adventure most likely on a similar ship carrying similar cargo. He was from Lasswade, straddling the North Esk of Scotland, a mile or two upstream of the Simpsons in Dalkeith. Quite why he came to be in this particular part of the parish and at Salem on the Orange River, sometime called Blewhole and a Campbell property, is unclear. (Note13)
Note13: NLJ: to be seen on map of Jamaica, probably 1750. James Campbell at Salem, brother of Duncan Campbell (Kilduskland) retired to Kaims, Kilfinan parish, Argyll, about 1750 (incomplete ref. for archived papers at Inverness). On James's death in 1758, his brother Duncan inherited the island property.
The one tenuous connection to Jamaica is that Dickson's father, also John, held lands in Lasswade, by charter (Note14) from Robert Clerk's relatives, the Clerks of Penicuick (Note15), and Robert Clerk had owned Pell River estate, some eight miles north of Salem, which would eventually pass to his cousin Dugald Malcolm.
Note14: NAS: Register of Sasines, RS27/147 f.12, 19 April 1756. Dickson's original charter had been granted by George, Lord Ross in 1745.
Note15: NAS: Clerk of Penicuick papers [GD18/5239/61 & GD18/5239/71]; Dugald Clerk [Braleckan] had two brothers in Jamaica one of whom was Robert Clerk, a widower with no children. Dugald wrote to Sir John Clerk [Penicuik] 2 April 1751,that Dugald's son, John, was to manage the estate, bequeathed to him by his uncle Robert; he was to be joined by relatives Dugald Malcolm from Scotland and Daniel Clerk from Virginia, who was to be "overseer of the negroes". In the same letter Dugald Clerk mentions Sir John's nephew [unnamed] who was also destined for Jamaica. Dugald Malcolm later inherited the Clerk property Pell River from John Clerk , his mother Elizabeth's brother; it later  passed to his nephew, Neill Malcolm.
Word of mouth on prospects in Jamaica would certainly have reached Dickson's ears and his final destination was, perhaps, sealed by agreement or by letter of introduction. What is quite clear, however, is that Dickson had followed his father in business as a carpenter-wright and, in Hanover, was to establish skilled labour gangs of ‘carpenters, masons and waiting boys’ (Note16), most of them slaves, some of them indentured servants and two of them family members.
Note16: Cornwall Chronicle & General Advertiser: 1782, an advertisement following Dickson's death in June.
Precisely what Dickson was actually responsible for putting up will have been noted and long since forgotten in old estate accounts but apart from the appearance of newer and finer houses, which reflected proprietors’ growing ambition and status, improvements were certainly made to existing sugar works, even as new ones were also opened up.
Jamaica1 C18th Windmill, Jamaica
Salem had a water mill with which to thrash its cane by the 1760s and over the coming years, older, cattle driven machinery on the nearby Abingdon, Fish River, Kendall, Orange Bay and Salt Spring plantations was supplemented by windmills or watermills (Note17), a pattern which developed throughout the parish and, indeed, the county.
Note17: From a comparison of surveyed maps printed 1763 and 1804. Although water mills were quicker at thrashing a volume of cane, cattle mills were reckoned to be more efficient at extracting a higher percentage of cane juice - slower but surer [note from A Jamaica Plantation, by Michael Craton and James Walvin, 1970].
In the close world that these people occupied, Dickson was to become rather more intimate with planter family life and estate affairs. About 1756 he married Ann Crooks (Note18), daughter of James Crooks of Crooks Cove, mainly a sugar plantation of around 760 acres by the coast and some 11 miles from Salem.
Note18: The marriage was not recorded in Hanover but later entries in the parish registers refer to Ann Dickson as the spouse of John.
Note 19: National Archives: Jamaica Landowners 1754, CO 142/31
At the time, Ann's elder brother James, a minor when their father died in 1740, had just come of age to inherit the estate. Within the span of 11 years a daughter and seven sons were born to John and Ann Dickson (Note20) until Ann, "a tender mother and the best of wives" ... (Note21), died in 1769 aged 31, some 4 months after the birth of her youngest son, George.
Note20: Hanover Parish Register 1725-1825.
Note21: Tombstone at Cousins Cove, Jamaica, side by side with tombstone of father, James Crook[e]s.
Following this, the Jamaica born children were packed off to Scotland ‘to be boarded, educated and clothed…according to the most easy and reasonable rate (Note22) by their uncle William, John's younger brother; infant George, however, was either overlooked in accounts, died on the voyage or remained with his father in Jamaica. Apart from six year old Alexander being taken by the smallpox, which infected the children within a few months of arrival in Scotland, the arrangement seems to have worked agreeably for both parties. The "thriving school in the village of Lasswade, where English, Latin, writing, arithmetic and mathematics are taught with success (Note23) might well have served for the boys" education, but daughter Elizabeth's instruction in reading, and the genteel pursuits of music and dancing, was put to the care of private tutors.
Note22: NAS: CS18/438 William Dickson's petition to the Edinburgh Court of Sessions.
Note23: The First Statistical Account of Scotland (Parish of Lasswade), 18 years later.
William also acted as factor for the Lasswade properties which John had inherited (Note24) on the death their father, in 1761, and the rental income paid, in part, for the children's upkeep and education.
He was also the Thames River
Note24: NAS: Register of Sasines; RS27/159 f.164, 20 February 1762; John Pennycook, mason in Hillhead of Lasswade, acted as Dickson's procurator.
In addition, he received monies directly from his brother and then through Duncan Campbell (Note25), a London-based Jamaica merchant and ship owner who numbered among his relatives on the island cousin and brother-in-law John Campbell of Salt Spring, Hanover, and James Crooks, Ann Dickson's brother.
Note25: See Dan Byrnes, "The First Campbells on Jamaica", for detail of Duncan Campbell's Jamaica relatives, and "The Blackheath Connection" for detail of Duncan Campbell's activities and business connections: Campbell was a cousin of Ann and James Crooks. On this website, see the page on Duncan Campbell's business correspondents to 1775 at: Duncan Campbell to 1775
Greenock merchant Mr. Scott also sent money and, at the last, puncheons of rum arrived at Lasswade to be sold for cash. John Dickson may even have entertained thoughts of a return to Scotland at some future date for his brother had already been charged with the raising of a new house for him, at Hillhead in Cockpen parish. (Note26)
Note26: NAS: CS18/438: the instruction and £50 had arrived in December 1769.
By all accounts it was ready for the children's arrival in November 1770 and William, then still a bachelor, may well have lodged there with them before taking possession of the inn and brewery belonging to his brother. Five years on, however, affairs began to falter. While monies had gone to schooling, board, clothing for the children and other incidental expenses, including indentured servants for Jamaica, the tenanted properties needed continual repair.
From 1775, the flow of Jamaica money, seldom full and always decidedly sluggish, stopped altogether and the income from Dickson's tenants in Lasswade was never enough to fund the arrangement on its own; in comparison with the sums that could be turned out in Jamaica, however they were made, the rents were as a pint is to a puncheon. (Note27) Even though John Dickson had taken an interest in the Crooks estate– brother-in-law James Crooks the younger had just died and his heirs were minors - Duncan Campbell in London was declining to pay John's sugar bills (Note28), amongst those of other suppliers, and whatever Dickson was able to make he held back for his Jamaican prospects. Rising disaffection in the American colonies led to unpaid bills and the interwoven patterns of credit amongst merchants began to unravel as problems with debt shuffled along the lines. Those whose interests rested mainly upon American trade were quite broken and whilst merchants in Britain were the first to feel the full effect, those in Jamaica who still had connections with loyalist towns (Note29) and provinces were gradually pinched in the following years. By 1781, a "Gentleman from Georgia" felt obliged to warn a friend on the island about further losses to come:
Note27: At the time, the income annual achievable from Dickson's rents in Lasswade, was £111.16s. [extracted from CS18 / 438]; just one hogshead of sugar (say, 16 cwt.) might net about £23 and one puncheon of rum around £12.
Remains of Saltspring today, part of the house
Note28: Duncan Campbell letter to John Campbell at Salt Spring, 15th January 1774, advice on accounts not being paid.
Note29: Ships continued to risk passage to and from Savannah, Charleston and New York.
... I am exceeding sorry to tell you, that I consider the greatest part of your and every other person's debts in Carolina to be totally lost; that country and this, except the very small part of them that our troops cover, have almost unanimously revolted and are become more violent, cruel and obstinate rebels than ever ... Note30)
Note30: Cornwall Chronicle, 6 October 1781: printed extract of a letter from Savannah dated 18 August 1781; writer unidentified.
Note31: Duncan Campbell to John Campbell, 25 January, 1775.
Duncan Campbell had already been left to fret about the unavoidable "stop of remittances from America" although he still had the lifeline of trade with relatives and their connections in Jamaica. To secure this further, he had initially hoped that brother-in-law and cousin, John Campbell of Salt Spring, might manage the Crooks Cove affairs - in much the same way that John had acted as factor for the Salem estate of yet another cousin, James Campbell of Kaims, sometime of Jamaica (Note32) who had returned to Scotland and died on the Isle of Bute in 1758.
Note32: NAS: GD 64/1/279/4, Factory & Commission of 1765; James Campbell's heir and brother, Duncan (Kilduskland) appointed John Campbell of Salt Spring his factor on the island to wind up James affairs there. [James' Will reveals one debt to his estate of £480 owed jointly by Glasgow merchant Alex. Wilson and Alex. Porterfield of Fullwood (dec.) brother to John Porterfield, father-in-law to John Wallace, Jamaica proprietor and Glasgow merchant.]
If family could be relied on for favours and support in good times, they could equally be relied on to look for redress when business affairs turned unexpectedly sour and losses appeared to be irretrievable in the ordinary way. William Dickson opened proceedings against his brother for arrears of some £688 which had accumulated over three years; judgement in his favour was made by the Edinburgh Court of Sessions and, in 1779, he was granted possession of the properties in lieu of the money owed. John would finally forfeit them altogether if the debt, with annual rent (interest) and £50 legal costs added, was not paid within ten years. William's reckoning (Note33), taken in part from his journals and ledgers (Note34), was full, detailed and left little doubt.
Note33: NAS: CS18/438, petition to the Court of Sessions.
Note34: NAS: CS96/1633-38, journals, ledgers and accounts.
To Board, Education & clothing of your sons John, James, William & Archibald from 1st July 1770 to 1st July 1773 by three at Twenty five pounds each per Annum £375.
To Do. of your son Alexander from 1st July to the 5th December when he died at said date £12/10s.
To Do. of your sons John and James from 1st July to 1st November 1773 at said rate £16/13s/4d.
To Do. your Sons William Richard & Archibald from 1st July 1773 to 1st July 1777 at said rate £300.
To your daughter's board from 1st July 1770 to 1st November 1770 being four months at £12 per Annum £4.
Paid Glass for Do. to your daughter from 1st November 1770 to 1st August 1772 being twenty one months at £32 per Annum 61/6s/8d.
To board for your daughter from 1st August 1772 to 1st February 1773 at £12 per Annum £6.
New Hope estate, Jamaica
Paid Arthur Mason and others Schoolmasters for teaching your daughter to read English from 1st November 1770 to 1st August 1772 at 12 Guineas per Annum £22/1s.
Paid a Musick Master for teaching your daughter the Spinet from 1st November 1770 to 1st August 1772 at same rate £22/1s.
Paid the hire of a Spinet said time at £2/8s. per Annum £3/4s.
Paid a Dancing Master for your daughter from 1st November 1770 to 1st November 1771 £6/12s.
To paid your son Alexander's funeral charges per Accompt Discharged £6.
To Mr. Simpson Surgeon for attending him and upon your other children during the smallpox & Accompt discharged £8/4s/11d.
To Do. for attending your children during a fever and a fee to Dr. Munro for your daughter £9/2s/6d.
Sum for the children £854/15s/5d.
To cash advanced to two Indentured Servants sent out to Jamaica to you by your orders in December 1770 & their Bills £10
To a superfine cloth coat sent you at said time £2/17s/10d.
To a fine hat sent you £1/1s.
To the expence of building your House at Hillhead & Measurement and Accompt of the same Anno 1770 £358/8s/2d.
To an Accompt of Repairs of your Brewery and other subjects at Lasswade Accompt and Measurements 3rd November 1775 £213/12s.
To an Accompt of Repairs for ditto from 1st October 1776 to 23rd August 1777 £25. 2d.
To painting and preparing two rooms and white washing other parts of the house at Hillhead per Accompt £2/18s.
1770 By cash received by you on my Accompt at different times £200
1771 By Do. £100
By Do. from Mr. Scott at Greenock £75
1773 By ditto received from Mr. Duncan Campbell £60
By Do. £80
1774 11th November By Do. £60
1775 13th November By 5 puncheons Rum at £12 £60
By Rent of the Brewery possessed by you for two years from 10th December 1775 to 10th December 1777 at £16/10.s per Annum per valuation £33.
By Rent of nine acres one rood thirteen falls at £1/15s. per acre from Cropt 1776 and 1777 at £14/6s/8d. this being yearly £32/13s/4d.
Rent of a House at Hillhead three months in Summer 1776 £3
Rent of Do. with a coal house near ditto a year to Whitsunday 1778 possessed by Mr. Wright £14/16s/8d.
Rent of half an acre near Mr. Fisher's property at £1/15s. possessed by Mr. Fisher 1776 and 1777 £1/15s.
Rent of a cellar from Whitsunday 1773 to Whitsunday 1778 at £2 per Annum £10
By cash received for building your house December 1769 £50
Seven years on from their arrival in Scotland, children Elizabeth, John, James, William and Richard had returned to the island whilst young Archibald, now eleven, remained and later seems to have headed for London to live with relatives and complete an education there. Although matters between Duncan Campbell and Dickson appear to have been resolved - there was personal correspondence again – further disappointment was to come John's way. The daughter for whom he must have had some hopes of an advantageous marriage (young women on the island were vastly outnumbered by men) died at twenty two, in 1779 (Note35), when her father captained the gun battery at Green Island (Note36) during increasing alarms at the threat of invasion by Spain and France; her uncle James, Dickson's younger brother, also on the island, made a slightly less untimely departure two years later (Note37), aged 36.
Note35: Hanover Parish Register 1725-1825.
Note36: Jamaica Almanac, 1779.
Note37: Hanover Parish Register, 1725-1825
It could, at times, be an unhealthy place where plans might come to a sudden end. Daniel McQueen, one of David Simpson's named executors in Jamaica, had taken up 800 acres "of indifferent land", but died before being putting anything on it. (Note38)
Note38: National Archives: CO 137/28, pp. 169-175, being a detailed return of land possessed in the parish of St. Andrew, 1753.
It seems quite likely that Elizabeth and her uncle fell to a "prevailing fever" during which, "if you sup with a man at night and enquire of him the next day he is ill or dead"... (Note39)
Note39: The Jamaican Historical Review, Vol 3 No.2, March 1959: 'Military Sidelights of the 1790s', article by Carson I. A. Ritchie.
Announcements of people in a "very indifferent state of health …desirous to leave the island" (Note40) were familiar to local newspaper readers and, perhaps, one reason for the fairly frequent brevity of some trading partnerships.
Note40: Cornwall Chronicle: Robert Campbell, Greenwich estate, 11 June 1794.
Announcements of death by fever may have been equally commonplace to residents but visitors and newcomers in particular, both then and later, could be caught unawares; Edinburgh Fever Powder, "the best febrifuge yet known" and regularly advertised by Thomas Brown, an apothecary-surgeon in Montego Bay (Note41), seems to have been of little help. In the early summer of 1800, two boys from the merchantman Simon Taylor, three officers from HM Sloop Bonetta, ten soldiers of the 83rd Foot, stationed in the parish, and a carpenter lately arrived from Scotland were buried in quick succession at Lucea. (Note42) John Dickson himself, in his fifties, died in late June 1782, so he never came to read the letter Duncan Campbell had written to him, in early August of that year, with news of his son in London.
Note41: Cornwall Chronicle, 1776-1784.Note42: Hanover Parish Register, 1725-1825.
... I am happy to have it in my power to tell you your Son continues well without any return of the fits he stays with his Cous: & attends an Academy near here where I believe will improve in his Education Viz Mathematicks writing &c full as much as at Enfield & I do believe is much better taken care of. I shall expect soon to hear from you with remittances for balance of my accounts which is increased since my last to above £200 ... (Note43)
Note43: Duncan Campbell, letter to John Dickson, 7th August, 1782. ‘Cous:’ may refer to Sarah Crooks, daughter of James Crooks who was staying with a Mrs. Stevenson [untraced].
Presumably this account was settled by Dickson's heirs in Jamaica. What had not been settled, however, was yet another debt. (Note44)
Note44: NAS: Court of Sessions, CS18/708 f.8.
The creditor this time was George Veitch, junior merchant in Edinburgh, who claimed some £985 for goods supplied to John Dickson of Salem after news of his death had filtered back to Scotland. Not surprisingly, this yet was another family matter as Veitch was the nephew of Dickson's sister Rosina who had married John Veitch, an Edinburgh baker.
View of Hanover Harbour, Jamaica
As the eldest son inheriting all his father's Scottish landholdings, John, who was about to set up practice as an attorney-at-law in Kingston, became the object of this petition to the courts. He and his surviving brothers on the island, William, Richard and James, the younger two still in their teens, took charge of family affairs in Hanover. Donald Malcolm at Lucea, older and wiser in the ways of the world, took the lead in winding up Dickson's estate (Note45) and there was probably additional help from older Crooks cousins and William Brown, proprietor of Richmond Hill at the time, occasional slave merchant and estate attorney in Lucea. (Note46) Duncan Campbell may have offered distant advice and, perhaps, continued to trade with the young men for while William Brown and John Dickson had taken on a responsibility for the Crooks children, Sarah Crooks, Dickson's niece by marriage, had been dispatched to London for an education. Campbell was responsible for her expenses and the Cousins Cove London account and, in February 1782, had written to cousin John Campbell at Salt Spring on matters which would have sounded only too familiar to John Dickson.
Note45: Cornwall Chronicle & General Advertiser, 10 August, 1782.
Note46: Cornwall Chronicle & General Advertiser, 12 December, 1777: William Brown– for sale, 325 negroes from Calabar lately imported in the Alexander, Capt. Fraser.
... I have more than once written to you respecting Miss Crooks' stay here, her Expence is enormous and more than the Estate can, or ought, in justice to the other children to afford; I must therefore insist upon being relieved from the payment of her Bills which are daily enhancing my advance on that Est Account. She is very desirous to return to Jama, her years and size require she should be taken from school & I cannot conceive what are Mr Brown's reasons for continuing her longer here; in this I hope you and Mr Dickson will not interfere without loss of time .... I have expressed the same desire repeatedly to Mr Brown without effect; he has forbidden her being suffered to visit anybody, even Mrs Campbell has been refused when she asked Mrs Stevenson to lett her spend a few days with her. However extraordinary this may appear it is nevertheless true ... (Note47)
Note47: Duncan Campbell, letter to John Campbell at Salt Spring, 6th February, 1782.
It seems that in the end, Campbell had got his way over the management of Crooks' affairs, his cousin John being included in an arrangement with Brown and Dickson. Shortly after Campbell's complaint Sarah Crooks returned to Jamaica and married George Malcolm (Note48), a close contemporary of Richard Dickson, his wife's cousin, in civil and militia affairs as well as a friend who later stood godfather to Richard's daughter by his housekeeper. (Note49)
Note48: Hanover Parish Register 1725-1825: marriage in 1786.
Note49: Ibid, baptism in 1803.
Within less than a generation, circumstance and choice had come together to commit John Dickson and his surviving children to a living in Jamaica. Nine months before his father's death, 18-year-old Richard had already ventured into trade, dealing in goods imported from London as Richard Dickson & Co.
Eldest son John, keen to conclude his part in Hanover affairs for the time being and get on with legal work in Kingston, put up for lease or sale some thirty of his late father's labour gangs; brother James, not long engaged "the mason's business", could not be expected to run this kind of work for some while to come and idle hands would have been an expense that brought no return. However, a living at this time, for young men in particular, was not necessarily fixed, finite and in one place; there was coming and going as opportunity and circumstance arose. John was back in Hanover seven years later, to put up in partnership with Alexander Smart a merchant in Montego Bay, where Smart & Dickson supplied "a large and general assortment of Dry Goods" (Note50) from London until John, for reasons unknown, temporarily left for Britain in early 1792.
Note50: Cornwall Chronicle: 17 December 1790.
Apart from this, he prospered over the years on his return to Kingston, married Sarah Gaywell (Note51) in 1797 and finally re-joined his brothers in Hanover. In common with other merchants, Richard took commissions as an agent and estate attorney (Note52) and, together with his brothers, built on his father's beginnings at the house, wharf, buildings and land at Davis's Cove. They undoubtedly had additional support from lawyer John in Kingston for monies had certainly passed through his office; the Royal Gazette of Jamaica for 19th September 1794 reported that:
Note51: Columbian Magazine, Jamaica, for March 1797.
Note52: An estate attorney could generally expect a commission of 5 per cent on a plantation's annual produce.
The office of Mr. Dickson, attorney at law, in Harbour Street, near the corner of Church Street, was broke open on Saturday night, but the money, supposed by the intended thieves to be lodged there, having been previously removed, their design was completely defeated.
The change of scene from Kingston to Hanover did little for John's health, he was buried at Davis's Cove in 1801 (Note53), the very year that his Scottish property was finally forfeited; his father, perhaps understandably, had never opposed distiller William's suit and neither had John, his heir, contested cousin George Veitch's claim. Brother James died the following year and William also found a grave at the cove six years later (Note54), leaving Richard in sole charge of Jamaican matters with the entanglement of Scottish affairs behind him.
Note53: Hanover Parish Register 1725-1825.
He was not quite alone, however, as relations with his uncle William, with whom the children had lodged in 1770, seem to have been restored (if they were ever truly severed) and young cousin William Augustus, had ventured over to Jamaica, about 1806; he would have been not yet twenty. (Note55)
Note55: Royal Gazette of Jamaica: Lt. in Cornwall Militia Foot.
This young man's family prospects at home had taken a downward turn two years before he was even born when his father had been bankrupted in 1784 and the properties he had taken over from his brother fell to the hands of a trustee, to be held until William's debts were discharged. (Note56)
Note56: NAS: Court of Sessions.
For his brewing and distilling at the Lasswade Inn, William had laid out money on a new malthouse and pump-well but, after two batches of liquor failed and with no immediate prospect of a cash return, his suppliers and creditors concluded that their patience had been exercised for long enough. The scarcity which afflicted the kingdom, in the years 1782, and 1783 (Note57) may well have contributed, in some way, both to the failure of William's liquors and to the calling in of his debts by the corn dealers, farmers, vintners, merchants and other brewers to whom he owed money; two of them, John Fair and Thomas Foulis, had him consigned to the Canongate gaol in Edinburgh.
Note57: The First Statistical Account of Scotland. Parish of Cockpen. As a result of the famine Parliament voted £10,000 towards the cost of sending "distressed persons" in Scotland to the Americas.
Hanover Parish Map, Jamaica
In the end the properties were sold, although some of the houses forfeited were fortuitously bought up Margaret Simpson, aunt to William's wife, Alison Murray (Note58), who was able to buy back two of them (Note59) as early as 1786 and add three more in 1795, all in her own right and in trust for her children.
Note58: Alison Murray, daughter of John Murray & Alison Thomson. Alison's sister Margaret Thomson, married(1754) David Simpson, an Edinburgh baker. (Edinburgh Par. Register.)
Note59: NAS: Register of Sasines.
Although Dickson still traded as an innkeeper in Lasswade, William Augustus, his youngest son, clearly had designs on meeting business of his own. Following sound 18th century practice, he found that family connections offered prospects as merchant and planter abroad, despite the fears of some at the time that "the Government of this country should be so bent upon the destruction of the West Indies colonies" ... (Note60) in its move to abolish the slave trade. Simon Richard Brissett, writing here to Simon Taylor, may have expressed the view of absentee proprietors and merchants in Britain and their estate attorneys in Jamaica but he takes little account of the resident families, continually growing, of smaller landowners and their dependants, by no means exclusively white, who had tied themselves to the island.Note60: Institute of Commonwealth Studies: Simon Taylor Archive Taylor VI A 64).
Apart from calm and a good crop, plantations most wanted easy, short road-access to a safe anchorage, preferably with deeper water under the protection of guns, given the habitually fraught relations with France and Spain. Even for plantations within reasonable reach of the coast that first, stave-shaking leg of the journey for valuable produce could test the most careful cooperage.
As well as road cartage by ox wagon, the bustle of busy, commercial wharves added to costs and to the risk of accidental spillage; it was a matter of the less manhandling the better. Lucea harbour, its mouth guarded by Fort Charlotte (Note61), was quite busy enough without the additional Royal Navy and Royal Mail packet traffic it had to serve.
Note61: During its entire commission the fort was not ever called upon to fire a shot in anger.
Its three principal wharves, Grant's, Malcolm's and Long Wharf (Note62) were for the use of lighters and cutters delivering ships at anchor in the deeper waters of the bay and, to absorb a burgeoning volume of goods passing through, two additional wharves had been added by 1790. (Note63)
Note62: William Bligh's chart of Lucea Harbour.Note63: Survey of Lucea Harbour, 1790, by Jonathan Leard & Stephen Seymour.
A private wharf and jetty, of which there were few and only for the fortunate, was, therefore, highly desirable; Kew estate, bought by William Brown in 1786, had the use of a small wharf below Barbary Hill, and Point (Dehaney's) had its own in the little cove behind the headland; both were noted on William Bligh's chart of about his time. Crooks' Cove also had one but the cove itself was small and with access discouraged by a long, off-shore reef.
Davis's Cove was ideally placed to serve several larger plantations nearby and John Dickson would not have been unaware of its advantages, both as a settlement for his working gangs and for business "in the mercantile way". Montego Bay merchant Edmund Parkinson had been well served by its location, his 35 hogshead shallops (Note64) plying local trade and delivering directly to those larger vessels which called at Lucea and Green Island.
Note64: Cornwall Chronicle, 10th May, 1777.
When he parted with the cove in 1776, the wharf and its land were to become Dickson's principal interest and an altogether better prospect than his property in Scotland; the debt to his brother could wait on time. Apart from its convenience, a small battery, mounting five guns on its westerly promontory, could cover the relatively deep harbour and sweep the approaches for half a mile off-shore, should any threat slip by the Royal Navy's watch on the Lucea station in times of war.
As such, the prospect of a safe anchorage, somewhat quieter than Lucea and nearer to two of their plantations in particular, was a tempting enough proposition for Neill Malcolm and his brother George to consider, even to the extent of stumping up for a neighbouring estate, if necessary, and even though brother Donald had premises of his own and a wharf at Lucea; Neill Malcolm wrote:
London 15th Jany. 1799
... I think you once told me that the road from P[ell] River and Paradise would be much shorter through Haughton Tower to Davis’s Cove than to Green Island; pray what was the point of distance and would it be an equal easy road. Was Haughton Tower Estate at market what do you think is the value of it according to your ideas of that property? does it come to the sea, or how near does it come to Dixons [sic] Wharf, and has it a separate shipping place belonging to the estate?..
Neill would have put the proposal to Haughton James (Note65), owner of Haughton Tower estate, as the most convenient route aimed across his land.
Note65: Haughton Tower had been one of Philip Haughton's plantations. The surname Haughton-James resulted from a marriage between the Haughton and James families. Tharpe, Clarke and Malcolm were other Haughton connections.
And a month later, wrote to George once more:
London 11th February 1799
…I told you that Haughton James had repented and Mr. D. Malcolm has never written me a single syllable about the new road that you so much recommended. Pray would not the new road be of service to Sir Simon Clarkes Woodchurch Estate for Lady Clarke has made it over to him, but I believe this road will not be attempted till your return to Jamaica . . .
There may have been something to Donald Malcolm's singular silence on the prospect of better access to Davis' Cove that Neill, after a long absence from Jamaica, had perhaps overlooked from afar. The business at Lucea had been Donald's alone for some six years, his former partnerships with George having been dissolved by mutual consent (Note66) before George's return to Britain, and he now had another associate in John Barton at Green Island. Faced with an establishment likely to be yet more easily accessible to nearby plantations, and one which was situated neatly between his own two outlets, he may have foreseen that, despite the favours and generous support hitherto experienced from friends and the public” (Note67), some of his custom would drift away.
Note66: On 1st August, 1793. Announcement in the Cornwall Chronicle
Note67: Ibid.Although Donald did not share his brother's enthusiasm, a decision on the matter was not long in coming for, arrived at Lucea in July of the following year, George replied to Neill that he would immediately set about the New road from Paradise to Davis's Cove. It will be nearly level and not much more than half the distance of the present road …
It was a situation handsomely used by John Dickson's sons especially, but not exclusively, to the advantage of the adjacent Samuels and Crooks estates and it was to remain the site of a family business well into the middle of the next century with a Great House, aptly named Dry Hill, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the wharf and the cove. Trade continued to prosper, although there was the matter of a small mortgage with Alexander Stewart of London (Note68) on Davis's Cove, for by 1811 Richard was also possessed of an enlarged Cousins Cove estate (Note69), sat between the hills and the sea, from Lances River to Davis's Cove River.
Note68: Alexander Stewart is untraced but see note 7, re Merit of Necessity.
Note69: Jamaica Almanac, 1812.
It combined the Samuels plantation and the original holding of James Crooks, his maternal grandfather who had died more than seventy years before, although the old Crooks house became home to the plantation's overseers. It is not known yet how Dickson acquired the two parcels of land, from John Chambers and the heirs of William Edward Samuells, nor what financial arrangements were made. An outright purchase of some 1,600 acres and 180 slaves seems quite improbable as it would have entailed upwards of £50,000, a prodigiously large sum by the standards of the day (Note70), and the mortgage on the Davis's Cove wharf buildings, land and slaves still had to be reckoned with.
Note70: The figure of £50,000 is assumed from average costs of £22/acre and £100/slave.
Having seen both his father and his uncle reduced by debts, Richard Dickson would have been well minded to heed Neill Malcolm's general advice to avoid the "system of too many of the Jamaica people in trusting too much to the returns of the next crop". (Note71) and to establish a tolerable good character for punctuality in ... payments. (Note72)
Note71: Neill Malcolm to Donald Malcolm, Duntroon Castle, 29 July 1801.
He would have remembered too, as a young man, that his father's contemporary, John Campbell at Salt Spring, although considered a thorough master of the planting business (Note73) had also died heavily indebted to his cousin Duncan who, like William Dickson against his own brother, resorted to law and claimed on the estate.
Note73: Robert Ruthven to his grandfather, 27th August 1771.
In 1787 the Jamaica Court of Chancery had ruled in Duncan's favour for a debt of some £11,700 "payable in Great Britain" and Duncan's son Dugald later arrived to take over the running of Salt Spring - as a leaseholder to his father.
A lone gun of the plantation Maggoty (not Barbican), Jamaica
Dickson also had the example of other large estates in the parish to follow; all now raised livestock (Note75) alongside cane, coffee or pimento, depending on suitability, or were worked mainly as cattle pens.
All the Campbell and Malcolm properties were managed so but it was not an entirely new departure as the use of land had been equally adaptable and diverse in the past: William Brown bought Kew in 1786 with just one third of some 490 acres put to cane; Peter Campbell sold 390 acres to the west of Fish River as a coffee and woodland concern in 1793; in the following June, Robert Campbell, intent on quitting the island for health reasons and leasing out his Greenwich estate for twelve years, was prepared to let any prospective tenant speculate on sugar, instead of maintaining the coffee and cattle already established. (Note76)
Although the land was considered best calculated for the Sugar Cane, Campbell himself had clearly chosen to settle cautiously, live within reasonable means and avoid the too rapid and ambitious development of a piece consisting of:
Note74: Cornwall Chronicle: reported proceedings of 11th June 1787: …£11,716.11s.10d sterling money of Great Britain with interest t…due to the complainant Duncan Campbell, from the Estate of John Campbell late of the parish of Hanover Esq. deceased …payable in Great Britain …I will on Monday the 5th day of November next …actually sell to the highest and best bidder all that Sugar Work …known by the name of Salt Spring …Hanover …slaves, stock and premises…included in the Indentures of Lease and Release by way of Mortgage dated 17th and 18th days of October, 1776 … George Murray, M.C.C.”
Note75: Jamaica Almanac, 1811.
Note76: All three estate references are from announcements in the Cornwall Chronicle.
... 320 acres of land, 60 of which are at present in Coffee, and made last crop 18,000 weight; 70 acres in Pasture, with an enclosure of 25 acres of stone wall fence …with a large body of water in the driest season running throughout it underground…there are 25 Negroes on the property, among whom are several Carpenters, Sawyers, Coopers and Masons…some Sixty to Seventy Head of Breeding Cattle, and a few Breeding Mares and Assess…an elegant Dwelling-House, almost finished, with several Out-Houses, Stone Platforms and Coffee machines: there is a great abundance of House Provisions now on the ground, with 1,500 Cocoa Trees in first bearing ... (Note77)Note77: Cornwall Chronicle, 11 June 1794.
Notice, 1790, Slaves per ship Vulture, Jamaica
A decade before Dickson's plantation purchase, Neill Malcolm, writing again to George and Donald in Hanover, could already comment on the value of income from sources other than sugar, especially during a period of uncertainty.
On …attention in every department with every reasonable effort to lessen contingencies depends in such critical times the wellfare of a proprietor. Mr. G[eorge] M[alcolm] tells me that the price of stock is greatly on the decline, this is a good hearing to most planters, but I was in hopes that the sales from my Penns would contribute greatly to reduce my contingent charges. (Note78)
Note78: Neill Malcolm to G. & M. Malcolm, 29 August 1801.
Established Hanover proprietors were, perhaps, not entirely seduced by notions of riches from cane, there could be other business in land. If they already understood, like Dugald Malcolm almost half a century earlier, that things are not so easily brought to rights on a sugar work as a farm at home (Note79), they relied on variety to answer their financial engagements.Note79: 1767, Dugald Malcolm to his father.
Whilst there was also commerce, in which most were involved, professions were open to those with a will. William Campbell of New Milns had turned to surveying (Note80) in 1783, wanting a person who can be recommended for honesty and sobriety to take over his still house, while Dugald Campbell, like Dickson's elder brother John, was admitted to practise as an attorney at the Supreme Court in 1790. (Note81)
Note80: Cornwall Chronicle, 3rd January 1783.Note81: Jamaica Almanac, Civil List 1790. Attorneys admitted to practice at the Supreme Court.
None of these men had wholly turned a back to agriculture but they had looked over the hill to a wider horizon.
As to Dickson's plantation produce, the Crooks Cove portion could, on its own, produce around 128 hogsheads of sugar (Note82) in a good year, the shipping and sale of which had been taken over from Bristol merchants by Duncan Campbell after 1770; he had written to James Crooks the younger that, in doing so, he had "a great desire to keep up [his] old connection and acquaintances." (Note83)
Note82: Duncan Campbell, letter to his brother, 6 Sep. 1770 on buying the plantation's sugar; the whole crop; would be about 160 tierces (about 128 hogsheads)
Note83: Duncan Campbell letter to James Crooks, 16th September, 1770.
Although the more productive Othaite cane, introduced to the island by William Bligh, might have increased the crop Richard Dickson's larger property may not have accounted much more than 200 hogsheads a year, if that. Although large in acreage it was short on labour with just over half the number of slaves who had worked the land when it had been two separate estates. The land unsuited to easy cane cultivation was given over to pasture for non-working livestock which had increased six-fold within the first two years of Dickson's occupation.
Road oxen were already used for the movement of all goods on and beyond the estate, cane oxen were worked in the fields and the plantation's sugar mill was also cattle driven, the situation on the…property being found ineligible (Note84) for water or wind power. The additional stock was for breeding or the butcher and although cattle rearing was also money laid out for a while before any return could be called upon, it was a little more secure than Sugar, as William Beckford had noted in 1790.
Note84: Dugald Campbell, Duncan's son, had discovered this for himself at Salt Spring, and put the mill up for sale at £500, in 1793.
(Ends Part One of Kin and Creole, Jamaica, by Peter Dickson.
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