2007 - 2022

Angus an the Slave Trade

carved head4Back in 2006 haein a tour o the Barrack Street Collections unit in Dundee, a biggin bein yaised then for the forthcomin flit back tae the MacManus Galleries, ane o the curators telt me thit they hud hud tae catalogue mair than six million items thit hud lain in the dunnie o the McManus at Meadowside, lang syne. Apenin a drawer tae kythe aw thit they had been thrang wi, ane o the mony eetems at caught ma een wis a piece wi a label oan it cried Westhaven Beach find. Growin up in Carnoustie a wis fell keen tae hae a luikie intill the wee box.

I was stamagastered tae see sic a bonnie ivory cairved heid o whit luiked like a African wummin. The daub-haunds oan ivory at The McManus an The Louvre in Paris telt me that it wis tached wi watter and wis mebbe a myndin brocht back in the 1960’s fae Africa? But naebody kent for shuir. Whit it did for me though, wis tae gar me ettle tae airt oot ony connections atween ma hame area an Africa, stertin wi the Angus archives whaur I diskivered mony links atween Angus and the slave trade.

I wis gey taen aback tae diskiver thit there wis mair than thirty ships insnorlt wi the Atlantic slave trade in the 18th and 19th century aw sailin fae Montrose. Only fower o thir ships wis direckly rowed in tae the traffickin o slaves fae Africa, but there wis mair nor thirty ships sailin fae Montrose tae Virginia tae coff baccie – a tred that lippend oan slave lawbour. A cargo o slaves in the mid 18th century, bocht in Africa costit near aboots 20 pund and wuid be selt for 140 pund tae slave merchands in the Americas. Aft times, siller wisnae exchynged but gear tae the vailyie o 20 pund wis yaised tae coff the slaves wi guids sic as ammuneetion, gunpouder, cowrie shells, airn and copper rods alang wi brandy, beads and claith. Muckle o the profits were then uised tae coff; sugar, rum, rice, cotton and baccie, for the hame-comin. In Montrose alane there war mair than 20 merchands registrate in the 18th century, aw makin hefty profits fae slave lawbour.

The list o fowk rowed intae the slave trade in Angus is a lang ane, but amang the maist kenspeckle sinsyne wis the likes o the Coutts faimily fae Montrose. Their siller made aff the back o the baccie trade, hinderly tuik chairge o the Strand bank in Lunnon and cheengit the name tae Coutts Bank . Anither noteworthy Angus chiel wis Hercules Ross wha returned fae Kingston, Jamaica in 1782 and bocht the Rossie Estate juist ootside Montrose whaur he bigggit a gawsie hoose in 1800. The day, the Rossie Estate and hoose are uised as pairt o a faceelity for the secure herbourie o bairns and young fowk.

In the Angus Archives amang the Bogardo Papers is an epistle writ by a lad cried John Langlands fae Jamaica in 1749 tae his faither at Haughs o Finavon Fairm, Bogardo, juist ayont Brechin. In this epistle John Langlands, fill wi faur awa news, telt his his faither aw aboot the fowk he micht ken oan Jamaica; includin mony fowk, in collogue wi the Jacobite cause:

… since the Peace commenced everything is grown vastly cheape and vast numbers of people coming from Brittain (sic) almost every day. But I have not seen any from the County of Angus since I came here save Mr Daker and one Bell a house carpenter who was born in the Parish of Tannadyce. He is brother of John Bell that was servant to Robt Henry when I left the country. He is a fit one when in Kingston and seems to be worth some money. Your old servant David Low is dead. But his brother Alex is still in being and doing very well. My school acquaintance Mr William Morgan a Grand Child of old Barnyards is dead also. Mr Dakers told me he lived scarce a year and a half in the country. … I imagine him to be a son of Carnegy of Balmachie near Dundee and am told Mr Charles Kinloch brother to Sir James is come to the Island. …

James Carnegie o Balmachie fae Panbride nearby Carnoustie, wis the ensign o Ogilvie’s regiment in 1745 and wis haudit prisoner at Dundee in 1746. Sir James Kinloch o Nevay wis the third Baronet wha mairit Janet Duff and took pairt in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. He wis fangit, tried, an duimed tae daith; the baronetcy and aw his lands wis escheat in 1746. The aiftermath o the Jacobite cause then, mebbe gaes some wey in explainin the flaucht atween Angus an the slave trade.

Amang the Bogardo papers is a settlement balangin tae a John Langlands dated 1817. It’s maist like tae be anither John Langlands – mebbe faimily – o the lad wha wrote the epistle in 1749. By noo this ither John Langlands is a wealthy coffee plantation awner at Roseberry in St Elizabeth’s Pairish, Jamaica. He frees ‘a wummin o colour by manumission’ cried Susanna Bradford and taks tent o his son, by her, Charles Langlands ‘a certain Mullatto boy’ by fendin for thaim baith in his will. The settlement maks shuir they’re gien land, alang wi cattle and slaves fae Roseberry. We ken fur shuir at John Langlands has passed awa by 1819, and the Roseberry plantin wis guidit by mony ithers ower time, aw o thaim pruivin thowless.

The estate was vailyied for sale in 1829. Amang the Bogardo papers, is a leet o Roseberry slaves, wi gien names, sic as Aberdeen and Dundee. It maks the hert gey sair tae think oan aw they puir craiturs left withoot ony history or culture o their ain tae keep mynd o, let alane the stere an ugsome life they wad hae tae thole in thraldom alang the wey. The vailyie o 263 slaves oan The Roseberry Coffee Plantin in 1829 wis mair nor £10.000, a byordnar fortune it its day. The tice o makin sae muckle siller, lang syne, I’m gey shuir wis the main reason sae monie fowk airtit thaimsels tae the shamefu slave trade whase eftercome can be weel seen aw ower Angus doon tae the praisent day.


Lisa Simmons is a local historian fae Angus wha contreibutes tae programme seiven o Scotland’s Black History, tae be braidcast on November 16, at 13.32.

Scotland’s Black History runs ilkae Wednesday at 13.32 an ilkie Sunday at 6.04 on BBC Radio Scotland
The first twa episodes o Billy Kay’s archive series alang wi new introductions can be heard on the BBC iPlayer bi cleikin here:



Comments (5)

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  1. David ross says:

    Whit a bra story weel written
    Beh a guid scribe awfy braw

  2. Alf Baird says:

    Awfu thankfu fer a rare an bonnily scrieved airticle Lisa, sae weel pit thegither. Scots schuil bairns an aw wir fowk wid shuirly aw propine fi lairnin thair ain leid (an culture) e’en hauf as guid. English leid is nae surrogatum an anely knurls whit remeens o wir lowden Scots cultur.

    Rogues galore in thon sclave tred tho, wi mony o wir ruling ‘elite’ faimlies nae doot aye yet walthie acause o it – maist o thaim noo prood Scots-Unionists tae nae doot. Thon jubous chancers wid mak sclaves oot o onybody, e’en thir days, an thay dae tae, whit wi law pey, hie hoose rents an a widenin walth gap. Naw, sclavery isna duin, cultural owergang neither. Thon sclave-maisters still haud Scotland doun in aw weys.

  3. Joanna G K Fox says:

    Really interesting, fascinating and well written article Lisa. I am from Angus myself and had not realised slave trading had happened on my own doorstep all those years ago. I wish this had been part of our history lesson at school.
    What a bit if luck you happened to be at MacManus Galleries back in 2006 and saw the label Westhaven beach find.

  4. Billy Kay says:

    Dear Joanna, I agree. Gave a listen to episode 7 of Scotland’s Black History
    when it comes out for more on the subject – including an account of a slave voyage
    written by a sailor from Arbroath

    1. Billy Kay says:

      Apologies for the typo – it should have read Have a listen!

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