Black mail

Few ancient customs are so generally, yet so imperfectly, known as that of black mail. It was, however, simply a lawful and beneficial service to the public which now falls to be performed by the police, or, in other words, money paid voluntarily by contract for the protection of property against the depredations of migratory freebooters who lurked on the borders of the Highlands.

One of the original documents still in the possession of the descendants of Mr. Dunmore of Ballikinrain is drawn up as a contract between James and John Graham, elder and younger, of Glengyle, and gentlemen, heritors and tenants, within the shires of Perth, Stirling, and Dumbarton. The latter put themselves under the protection of the Grahams for an annual payment of £4 per £100 of rental. For this sum, the cattle, sheep, and horses were practically insured against loss, as the Grahams agreed either to return the cattle stolen within six months or make payment of their true value.

Pickerey, such as the lifting of cattle or sheep in small numbers, was not to be considered as coming under the agreement, but any number above six was; and horses and cattle carried to the south, if not recoverable, were paid for by the Grahams at the discretion of the owners; the contract to be nullified in the event of war.

The contract concludes as follows:-

"In witness whereof, Robert Bontein of Mildovan, for my lands of Balglas, in the paroch of Killern, being three hundred and fifty pound of valuation: and lands of Provanston in the paroch of Balfron, ninety-seven pound seven shilling valuation.

James Napier of Ballikinrain, for my lands in the paroch of Killern, being two hundred and sixtie pound of valuation. And for my Lord Napier's lands in said paroch, being three hundred and twentie-eight pound of valuation, and for Culcreuch's lands in the paroch of Fintrie, being seven hundred and twentie-seven pound of valuation, and for said Culcreuch's lands in the paroch of Balfrone, being one hundred and ten pound valuation.

Hugh Buchanan of Balquhan, for my lands of Boughan and Brunshogle, in the paroch of Killearn, being one hundred and seventy-three pound of valuation.

Moses Buchanan of Glins, sixtie-six pound valuation.

Alexander Wright of Puside, one hundred and foure pound and six shilling and eight-penny Scot valuation.

Walter Monteath of Kyp, three hundred pounds valuation.

James Key, portioner of Enblioy, for sixtiey-six pond Scots valuation.

Robert Galbraith, portioner of Edinbelly, for thritie-three pound Scots valuation.

Archibald Buchanan of Cremanan, for my land of Cremanan, in the paroch of Balfron, and ...

... being two hundred and sixty-eight pound of valuation.

Witnesses: William Johnstone, William McLea, Gilbert Cowan, Alexander Yuill, John Paterson, Robert Dunn, Walter Monteath, John Buchanan, Thomas Wright, Archibald Leckie, Walter Monteath, Alexander Wright, Archibald Leckie, Walter Monteath, Walter Monteath, Robert Farrie, James Ure, John Buchanan, and James MacGrime.

Da. Graeme, Witness. Ja. Grahame.

John Smith, Witness. John Graham.

It would appear from the following letter that this contract was not disadvantageous to Mr. Graham:-

"Ballikinrain, May 25, 1743."

"Sir,- Notwithstanding of the contract entered into betwixt several gentlemen of the shyres of Stirling and Dumbarton, you, and I, anent keeping of a watch, whereby you was to pay yearly four per cent, of valuation; yet I now agree with you for three per cent, for the lands you have contracted for; and that the first term of Whitsunday, and in time coming during the standing of the contract. And I am, Sir, your most humble servant, Ja. Grahame."

The following receipt granted by Mr. Grahame of Glengyle to Mr. Robert Galbraith, for the payment of "watch-money" is probably the last of its kind. In the beginning of the following year (1745), the train of the rebellion was being laid. In July, Prince Charles had actually embarked for Scotland; and by Martinmas, Glengyle's hands must have been filled with more important concerns:-

"Hill, 12th Dec, 1744."

"Then received by me, James Grahame of Glengyle, from Robert Galbraith, portioner of Enbelly, fourtie shillings Scots money in full payt. of all bygone watch money due to me out of his portion of Enbelly preceeding Martimmas last as witness my hand place and date above written. Ja. Grahame."

There is marked on the back in the same hand, "Recit Glengile to Galbraith."