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TITLE
Warrant of Commitment against John Ross, alias Davidson p5
EXTERNAL ID
Z_GB232_L_INV_HC_9_27I_05
DATE OF IMAGE
1792
PERIOD
1790s
SOURCE
Highland Archive Centre
ASSET ID
5772
KEYWORDS
court papers
court records
Highland Clearances
punishments
Warrant of Commitment against John Ross, alias Davidson p5

This is a warrant of commitment against John Ross, alias Davidson, and others, dated 1792. It relates to the first incident of insurrection (and the only one to feature violence on the part of the "rebels") in the Ross-shire Sheep Riots, later known as the 'Year of the Sheep'. The riots represent the early stages of the Highland Clearances, when landowners were discovering that large-scale sheep farming was more profitable than renting out their land to tenants.

The accused are charged with repeatedly beating Allan Cameron, even to the extent of "vieing with each other, who should get a stroke at him", and robbing him. They are also charged with attacking his brother Alexander Cameron, overseer John Cameron and wife Catharine Cameron, and threatening to burn his house. They are accused of releasing their cattle which Cameron had impounded and threatening to kill him if he did not swear to leave the county and take his sheep with him, "swearing and explaining that they would extirpate sheep from the country".

As a precaution, the warrant instructs that the prisoners should be held at Inverness, rather than at one of the Ross-shire jails, "as there was reason to apprehend that attempts might be made to rescue them if confined at Tain or Dingwall". The five men who were later convicted of leading the riots and sentenced on 14 September disappeared while awaiting execution of their sentences and were never re-apprehended, despite the offer of £5 reward for each of them.

Allan Cameron, the victim of the attack by the "eighty or a hundred [who] assembled in a riotous and tumultuous manner" on 29 June 1792 is described here as "tacksman", but his position seems to be more that of factor or even tenant. He was a shepherd from Lochaber and had no clan association. In a sense, most tacksmen were tenants, but gentlemen tenants with a number of sub-tenants who worked the land. When many tacksmen emigrated to the Americas in a refusal to accept lower social status, they frequently took their sub-tenants with them. It appears that Cameron had no sub-tenants, only sheep. He repeatedly penned the cattle and horses which neighbouring tenants allowed to wander onto his pastures and demanded payment for them to be released.

Ironically, this warrant is dated 27 July, 1792, the day the Rosses of Strathrusdale were gathered at a wedding and resolved to carry out their threat to drive the sheep out. Four days later an estimated 400 men began driving sheep out of the Highland hills and by Saturday 6th August they had six thousand sheep or more heading towards Beauly, but the military were on their way and in the early hours of the morning arrested a number of Rosses who were still out on the hill, and also John Ross, Donald Munro and his sons William and George, who had returned home.


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Warrant of Commitment against John Ross, alias Davidson p5

1790s

court papers; court records; Highland Clearances; punishments

Highland Archive Centre

Inverness County Sheriff Court Records

This is a warrant of commitment against John Ross, alias Davidson, and others, dated 1792. It relates to the first incident of insurrection (and the only one to feature violence on the part of the "rebels") in the Ross-shire Sheep Riots, later known as the 'Year of the Sheep'. The riots represent the early stages of the Highland Clearances, when landowners were discovering that large-scale sheep farming was more profitable than renting out their land to tenants.<br /> <br /> The accused are charged with repeatedly beating Allan Cameron, even to the extent of "vieing with each other, who should get a stroke at him", and robbing him. They are also charged with attacking his brother Alexander Cameron, overseer John Cameron and wife Catharine Cameron, and threatening to burn his house. They are accused of releasing their cattle which Cameron had impounded and threatening to kill him if he did not swear to leave the county and take his sheep with him, "swearing and explaining that they would extirpate sheep from the country". <br /> <br /> As a precaution, the warrant instructs that the prisoners should be held at Inverness, rather than at one of the Ross-shire jails, "as there was reason to apprehend that attempts might be made to rescue them if confined at Tain or Dingwall". The five men who were later convicted of leading the riots and sentenced on 14 September disappeared while awaiting execution of their sentences and were never re-apprehended, despite the offer of £5 reward for each of them. <br /> <br /> Allan Cameron, the victim of the attack by the "eighty or a hundred [who] assembled in a riotous and tumultuous manner" on 29 June 1792 is described here as "tacksman", but his position seems to be more that of factor or even tenant. He was a shepherd from Lochaber and had no clan association. In a sense, most tacksmen were tenants, but gentlemen tenants with a number of sub-tenants who worked the land. When many tacksmen emigrated to the Americas in a refusal to accept lower social status, they frequently took their sub-tenants with them. It appears that Cameron had no sub-tenants, only sheep. He repeatedly penned the cattle and horses which neighbouring tenants allowed to wander onto his pastures and demanded payment for them to be released.<br /> <br /> Ironically, this warrant is dated 27 July, 1792, the day the Rosses of Strathrusdale were gathered at a wedding and resolved to carry out their threat to drive the sheep out. Four days later an estimated 400 men began driving sheep out of the Highland hills and by Saturday 6th August they had six thousand sheep or more heading towards Beauly, but the military were on their way and in the early hours of the morning arrested a number of Rosses who were still out on the hill, and also John Ross, Donald Munro and his sons William and George, who had returned home. <br /> <br /> <br /> For further information about this item and the collection to which it belongs, please <a href="mailto: archives@highlifehighland.com">email</a> the Highland Archive Service