© Noel Harrower 2018
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MERCHANTS AND MARINERS                                                By Noel Harrower                               (Continuing the story of Harrowers in Fife.) In previous editions of the Journal, I have written about the origin of the Harrower surname in Fife, about John Harrower the Covenanter and about farmers in Culross and Tilliecoultry. This is the story of seamen who bore the name. Several are buried in local churchyards, but probably the most prosperous was James Harrower of Inzievar, who married three wives during his long life at Torryburn. James began life as a farmer and later established himself as a brewer. In 1730 he married Margaret Steadman at Torryburn. She was the daughter of  the Rev. John Steadman (deceased.)  They had two daughters, Jean and Marion. It would appear that Margaret did not long survive the second birth, because in 1734, James married Ann Orrock, the widow of Robert Orrock of Burntisland. Three years later, another daughter, Christian, was born. At last, in 1741, a son was born, and christened James. One imagines that the father would have been pleased, as his businesses were prospering. James Harrower was now known as a shipmaster and was trading with the Low Countries and Shetland from his home port of Torryburn. Unfortunately, Anne did not live to see her son grow up. Four years later James married Margaret Campbell, daughter of Rev Archibald Campbell, Minister of the Gospel at Dalgetty. (This was the birthplace of John Harrower, the covenanter.) Was there a connection? When the shipmaster died in 1770, he left behind a substantial estate and the mansion house of Inzievar. The house had a long and interesting history, and was to remain in the hands of the Harrower family for two more generations. The name is ancient and its derivation obscure, but the house included the remains of the old Blackadder tower-house. In his book “Between the Ochills and the Forth”, David Beveridge, who was born there, (his father Henry having bought it from the Harrowers) says that he believes this was the birth-place of John Blackadder, the covenanting minister, who was often in close company with Rev. John Harrower. Is there any significance in the fact that John Harrower became a minister at the Scots kirk in Rotterdam, one of the towns, with which James Harrower’s ships did much trading in later years? A reference to this is given in Erskine of Carnock’s Journal. (Scottish History Society Volume 14.) Three years after the death of James Harrower, the shipmaster, one John Harrower, an impoverished shipping agent’s clerk based in Shetland, left his home to seek his fortune overseas. His diary tells us that he sailed to London, intending to go to on to Holland, but as he could not get a suitable passage, he changed his mind and signed to go to North America as an indentured servant. (This entitled him to a free passage, because the ship’s captain could sell him as a clerk to the highest bidder.) Almost two hundred years later, his diary was published by the Virginia Historical Society, because it gave a vivid portrait of that area just before the outbreak of the American War of Independence. Was John Harrower related to James, the shipmaster of Torryburn? I have no proof. But the shipping records at Lerwick give evidence of James’s ships trading there. Harrower is not a Shetland name, so some sort of relationship seems highly probable. Perhaps he went to Lerwick as an agent for James and left his employ when he decided to marry Anna Graeme, a local girl. There was another John Harrower, described as a shipmaster in Torryburn, who married Elizabeth Vint. They had two sons, Thomas and James, born in 1750 and 1751. This suggests an extended family with maritime links. Meanwhile, James’s son continued to live at Inzievar. He became an advocate, married and had children. His son, yet another James was probably the wealthiest of all. In 1809, he married Christina, daughter of William Hunt of Pittencrieff, and had advocate’s chambers at 18, Queen’s St. in Edinburgh and paid for a coat of arms, which is recorded in Burke’s General Armoury. David Beveridge recalled that around the year 1810 ”Mr Harrower went to the Caldren Linn waterfalls at Rumbling Bridge, and passing the very brink of the cascade, fell into the torrent.” He was rescued, however, and survived the accident. He died in 1822, leaving his estate to William, his young son and his two daughters, Janet and Catherine …“conferring on them all and sundry parts of Torrie, with the two enclosures of Windy Brae and Easter Long Bank…fued by the deceased John Erskine of Carnock to the deceased James Harrower, Shipmaster and Merchant, grandfather to the deceased.” (I cannot help wondering if either Windy Brae or Easter Long Bank might have been the farm where James started his career as a brewer, before his more prosperous shipping days.)   Young William tragically committed suicide in 1840, whilst he was a student at St. Andrew’s University. At this point this branch of the family seems to die out, but the Coat of Arms, however, did not. An American version is also recorded in Burke’s Armory. Both sport three harrows, and the motto ‘Sedulo Numen’ ‘Purposely, by divine will.’ But the American version is crowned by a ship, whilst the Scottish one bears a wheat-sheaf . Some twenty years ago, Peter Harrower, a Professor of Music, then living in Georgia, Virginia, sent me a wax seal cast from a signet-ring which he had inherited from his great grandfather, the Rev. Peter Pascal Harrower, who has been born in New York, and in 1809. I have never quite found the connection, but if there is anyone out there with a clue, I would love to hear from you. The old house of Inzievar had its name changed to Fernwoodlee in Victorian times. After the Beveridges left, it passed into the hands of the Smith-Sligo family, who established the Forth Iron Works at Oakley. The ironworks has gone but to the best of my knowledge the mansion-house still stands. Perhaps the strangest tale about the seafarers, is that of Captain George Harrower of Drumny, Tillicoultry, who achieved the notoriety of a trail at the Old Bailey in February 1816 “on an indictment for marrying the daughter of Paul Giblet, the butcher, when his former wife was still alive, a lunatic in India.” In an account of the affair, he wrote “I left my father’s house at ten years old, without a shilling.” He probably sailed from Alloa or one of the other Fife ports as a ship’s boy, but somehow he prospered as a seaman. In 1794, he was living in India and trading with China on behalf of the East India Company. He became part owner of the “Donna Maria” (295 tons, built 1799) together with a merchant named De Souza. On February 5th 1794, he married Mary Usher, the daughter of a British family living in Bombay. Sadly, Mary’s health deteriorated and she later suffered a complete mental breakdown. Captain Harrower brought her to Scotland and the couple stayed with his sister at Saughton Hall, near Edinburgh. Help was sought from two surgeons, James Boyce and James Hamilton. For a period Mary was treated at a residential hospital in Scotland, but to no avail. Eventually, the couple returned to Bombay, and an allowance was paid to enable Mary to stay with some of her relatives. By 1812, Harrower had retired from the sea. He bought a farm called Micklefield Hall, near Stanmore, outside London. On 20th of October that year, he made the fatal mistake of entering into a bigamous marriage with one Susannah Giblet, daughter of a London butcher. The marriage was held at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square a London, a church with a reputation for hurried marriages in those times. It was sometimes jokingly called the Gretna Green of London. Paul Giblet did not only have an odd name, but also a dubious character. When he discovered about the earlier marriage, he started to blackmail George Harrower. Over a period of three years, he demanded £17,000. He threatened to give evidence against the sea captain and told him that the punishment may well involve imprisonment and transportation. Susannah stood by her husband and did not leave him. The case came to trial, but the Old Bailey court showed considerable sympathy for George Harrower. He was imprisoned for six months and fined £1.   After his release, Susannah returned to George Harrower, so their affection seems to have been sincere. They went to live in Scotland. He was buried at Restalrig, outside  Edinburgh on 14th August 1829, aged 62. She remarried one John Hutchison, a wood merchant, in Leith and eventually she died at Summerfield on 14th May, 1868, aged 72. She chose to have it recorded that her first husband had been Captain George Harrower of the British East India Service. So ends the sad story, which created something of a stir in its day, and would now be totally forgotten except for a pamphlet published by George Harrower to explain his side of the tale. I came upon it quite by chance in the Nottingham Public Library. There are some similarities between this story and the novel of “Jane Eyre”. Charlotte Bronte was born in the year of the trial. Whether the pamphlet ever came to her notice is a matter for speculation, but the yarn of Captain George Harrower of Tillicoultry makes fine material for melodrama and gothic novels. 1. “Between the Ochills and the Forth” by David Beveridge. 2. The will of James Harrower, Shipmaster, of Inzievar, Torryburn. 3. “The Journal of John Harrower, an indentured servant in Virginia 1773 – 1776” 4. (edited by Edward Riley.  Pub. Colonial Williamsburg  1963“) 5. An account of my Trial and Sufferings,” by Captain George Harrower.
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