ROBERTSONS OF FEARNAN - 1343
by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot
The lands of Fearnan were obtained by Duncan de Atholia (our first chief) by charter from Duncan Earl of Fife in 1343. The thirty-merk land of Fearnan extended from the west side of the port on the north shore of Loch Tay and south of Fortingall in Atholl. Fearnan was included in the charter our 4th chief, Robert, received from King James II in August 1451 when all of his lands and estates were erected into a free Barony. This Crown charter was in reward for our chief’s capture of two of the regicides of James I in August 1437.
The barony of Fearnan was a self contained community made up mainly of Robertsons and MacGregors and consisted of nine properties. The lands were divided into the five-merk land of Kinghallin, the five-merk land of Stronfearnan and Margcroy, the five-merk land of Borland, the three-merk land of Croftnallin, the three-merk land of Balnairn, the three-merk land of Tomintyvoir, the two-merk land of Ballemenach, the two-merk land of Corriecherrow, and the two-merk land of Lagfern. A merk was a silver coin first issued in the 1570s, and was also a unit of value equaling 2/3s of a Scottish pound (13 shillings, 4 pence). The number of merks represented the annual income from a piece of property. In the year 1649, the rent rolls made out by order of Parliament for Perthshire state that the Fearnan estate produced an annual rent of 466 pounds, thirteen shillings and four pence.
The main village of Fearnan was located at Stronfearnan as was the ferry to get to the south shore of Loch Tay. The mill was at Croftnallin. A smithy was located at Balnairn and the marketplace was at Lagfern. The estate was also home to a healing stone, the "Clach-na-Gruich" (the measles stone) which was shaped like a chair with a natural hollow where rain water collects and children were still being taken to drink from it in the mid 19th century.
Fearnan contributed its share of men when our "poet" chief sent around the fiery cross to raise the clan in all three Jacobite risings. In December 1730, the pro-Jacobite Strowan sent the following letter to the Reverend John Hamilton, the minister of Kenmore, who was a strict Hanoverian. Strowan’s tenants had complained to him that the space in the church allotted to them was being taken up by others and that they were being compelled to stand during the service. Note the veiled threat in the following letter that if his tenants didn’t get their seats back, he would come and "Cause a Rupture amongst you"!
Since my tenants, I do not know by what inspiration, are willing to hear a person of your persuasion, I hope you will not see them dispossessed. Their seats in the Kirk are well known, pray let them sit easy and have Elbow room, Least a dispossession may Cause a Rupture amongst you, not for the Honour and Interest of that Unity, we ought to be visited in the People of God. You, who are a kind of Exorcist, cast out the Spirit of oppression, hatred, and malice, from amongst us, That every Man may possess his Paternal Inheritance from the Throne in Westminster Abbay to the Cobler’s sate in the Kirk of Kenmore. In doing this you will be Rever’d by Sr,
Your most hmble servt.,
Alexander Robertson, of Strowan
On Alexander’s death in 1749, the barony of Strowan was inherited by Duncan Robertson of Drumachune (14th chief), but in 1752 the Government took it from him. Sadly, the lands of Fearnan were lost in 1767 and never recovered. Fearnan was disposed by Act of Parliament to John Campbell, third Earl of Breadalbane, by the Commissioners of the Annexed Estates. Much of the remaining barony of Strowan was restored to Drumachune’s son Colonel Alexander Robertson in 1784.
"Lairds and Lands of Loch Tayside", by John Christie, 1892, pp. 36-38.
"Highland Perthshire", by Duncan Fraser, 1969, p. 93.
"The Earldom of Atholl", by J.A. Robertson, 1860, pp. 1-42.
"Coins and Tokens of Scotland, Seaby’s Numismatic Pubs., 1972, p. 73.