Tyree 27th April 1866
My Lord Duke,
Probably Your Grace has been informed before now that I have intimated my intention of opposing Summons of Removing served upon me for Baugh, and as such communication would most likely blame me or at any rate lead Your Grace to do so I consider it very necessary to lay a Statement of the facts connected with the matter before Your Grace.
Since I understood Your Grace had agreed that Dr. Buchanan should settle down on the Island as our Doctor, I felt a strong desire to make Your Grace acquainted with his character, beleiving [sic] Your Grace could not have known it when Your Grace sanctioned his becoming a fixture among us, but no opportunity occurred, until I was served with what I consider an illegal summons to quit Baugh to make room for the Doctor. I resolved then to oppose the action and lay a true statement of my reasons for doing so before Your Grace.
I am sure Your Grace is not aware that Dr. Buchanan is given to drink, he is, which disqualifies him as the Doctor for an isolated place like this, where if we need the Doctor, and don’t find him sober, we have not another to go to. In such a place as Tyree, the utmost care should be taken that the Doctor is a sober man, which Dr. Buchanan is not, and as conjointly with Your Grace we pay a large sum to the Doctor, surely we ought to have at least a sober man. Did Your Grace know what we know in the Highlands of the foul deeds of drunken Doctors, Your Grace would always make a searching inquiry into the character of each of them wishing to settle down on any of Your Grace’s Estates. There was a drunken Doctor at Bunessan who to my knowledge killed three women by giving overdozes of medicine while he was under the influence of drink, and can we forget while we live what happened here when Dr. MacLean the late minister’s son had charge of the Parish, he was another drunken Doctor, he called one night on a man named Brown at Mannal, gave him a powder & he was scarcely out of the house when Brown was taken ill and continued getting worse till he died next morning. After leaving Brown the Doctor called to see a most respectable young married woman in childbed, he took it into his head she must be cupped, he used Turpentine in this operation with which the bed and body clothes of the unfortunate woman was saturated, the candle fell out of his hand & instantly the bed was in a blaze, he was too drunk to render any assistance & the poor woman was so burnt that she died within twenty four hours. When the Doctor (who had now recovered his senses) saw she was dead he took poison, and next day the three lay dead at the same time. After this it is no wonder we should see the danger connected with having a Doctor that drinks.
Drinking has become fashionable here now. The Doctor and I am sorry to say Mr. Geekie (who are close companions) have set a very bad example, which many were not slow in imitating. Strange as it may appear to Your Grace, it is yet quite true, that the Doctor and the Factor have been in the habit of going to drink on board of the steamers at Scarinish and seeing that the Factor, instead of trying to suppress their drinking propensities, encouraged it by his own example, a crowd met the steamer every trip to drink on board, and on these occasions scenes of the most disgraceful character have occurred, drinking in private houses began soon to get common and it was reported last spring that in one of the crofter’s houses at Heanish, which the Doctor and the Factor used to frequent, Fifteen Gallons of Whiskey had been used during the winter. A demand for Whiskey soon sprung up every where which soon produced a supply, one or two began to sell cautiously at first, others soon followed, and all of them having carried on the trade without being molested for sometime, their number rappidly [sic] increased and the quantity of drink now sold is enormous. An idea of the extent to which the evil has spread may be gathered from the fact that six or seven of them are in the district between the Island house and Heynish, a distance of about two miles and a half, and the impunity with which they carry on the trade may be understood from another fact, that one of them is scarcely a Rifle shot from the Island House, indeed there is nearly a total absence of law and order in the Island, consequently theft has increased as much as drinking and fighting, and unless something is done to meet the growing evil, I have no hesitation in saying (in saying) that very shortly property will not be secure, even now the Lambs are stolen off the Ewes in the fields, a thing unprecedented in the Island.
These are some of the reasons which obliged me to act as I have done. My course I know is not free from danger, for I run the risk of incurring Your Grace’s displeasure according to the light in which Your Grace may view the matter, it was necessary someone should acquaint Your Grace of the state of affairs here. I knew no one in the Island had the courage to do it, therefore I decided to do it & run all risks. Your Grace may suppose I am actuated by a vindictive feeling against the Doctor and the Factor, but I beg to assure Your Grace I am not, what I do is done with a view of benefiting the Island – as a duty I owe to Your Grace, seeing we are fast drifting to a condition in which every man will do as it may seem meet in his own eyes.
Your Grace will not be able to test the truth of my statements through Your Grace’s usual channels of information. The Minister will try and screen the Doctor if possible, and as for the condition of the Island I am sorry to say he cares little for it. Mr. Campbell late of Balephetrish brags much when here that he dines very frequently with Your Grace and that Your Grace talks much about Tyree to him, but he too will try to cover the Doctor’s shortcomings, his daughter having determined to marry Dr. Buchanan right or wrong. Mr. Campbell wishes to leave an impression upon us here that Your Grace is very kind to him, if this is true I conclude Your Grace does not know the man. He estimates every man’s character just as he is going to Gain or lose by them, just now now he says he has a promise of lands from Your Grace, and Your Grace is everything that is good, but when he lost Balephetrish, Your Grace was everything that was bad, he used language at that time so very disrespectful towards Your Grace that I feel were I to repeat his words, I should be guilty of disrespect too.
I write Your Grace confidentially, but should Your Grace find it necessary to use my name I leave that to Your Grace’s discretion, knowing it will not be done unless it is necessary.
I have the Honour to Remain
with Profound Respect
Your Grace’s Humble & obed Servant