The Glenbuchat Image Library
No Contributor Year: 18981 Alexander Davidson Poacher
An article reprinted from an Australian Newspaper of 1898 shows that Scottish news was broadcast across the empire and also implies a close connection with Glenbuchat as Sandy Davidson was called “Roch Saunie of Glenbucket”
(‘Roch’ is the Scots for rough and ‘Saunie’ is noted on a web site “Sounds to me like your friend's name is a variant spelling of Sawney, the scottish pet form (nickname) of Alexander.” which would fit in this case.)
It gives a very colourful and romantic account of the life and death of Alexander Davidson.
Click for more details of the life of Alexander Davidson
From The Queenseyan Age (NSW : 1867 - 1904)
Saturday 17 September 1898 Supplement:
A Famous Highiland Poacher.
Roch Saunie's Romantic Career.
One day in the late autumn of 1820 Major Farquharson of Invercauld and a number of his guests were out shooting deer on the Braemar hills. The party suddenly came upon a man and a dog leisurely basking in the warm sun shine. The stranger was a tall broad shouldered man standing fully six feet, finely built, with sinewy limbs and iron frame, inured by constant exposure to the elements to with stand cold and fatigue. Vigour and robust manhood were expressed in every lineament of the bronzed face of this shaggy-haired, black browed Celt, who looked as though he had been hewn into shape by the hands of a Greek sculptor, so perfect had Nature moulded him. The sportsmen were somewhat puzzled at this strange apparition before them, attired in the costume of the Gael, with his dog crouching close to him. He did not, however, in the remotest degree flinch before the carious gaze of those round him, but seemed rather to enjoy the situation. The Major was a fierce, passionate man, with a deadly hatred towards poachers, and when he submitted the trespasser before him to a hurried examination, he ended by demanding sharply " Who are you, sir?' adding a vigorous epithet by way of emphasis. "Nopoty," the man answered without a trace of apprehension. “And what are you doing in my forests?" thundered the Major. “Nopoty," was again the laconic reply, a broad smile lighting up the poacher's rugged face. "Where the blazes do you come from, then?" “Nopoty," repeated the Highlander, with the most irritating imperturbability. This little comedy took place on the brow of a bill overlooking a mountain tarn of consider able depth and with steep banks. “Take the fellow," said the Major, now livid with passion at the daring coolness and impudence of the poacher, “and Duck him in the Loch, and that may probably make somebody of him." Two of the keepers, anxious to show their zeal in their master's service; seized the poacher roughly. He made no attempt to escape, and walked quietly between the two keepers, who held him firmly by both hands. Just within a few feet of the lake he suddenly sprang back a couple of paces, and taking an iron grip of his escort, threw them without any apparent exertion head foremost into the water. It was a master stroke, and evoked even the plaudits of the Major and his friends. He then, with the fleetness of the roe, skirted round the loch, and speedily disappeared. The two keepers wobbling in the water had a serious five minutes' struggle, and had to be aided to the bank by the sportsmen. The Major, who admired pluck and the ability to get out of a tight corner in an emergency, laughed heartily at the utter discomfiture of his keepers, remarking that Mr. Nopoty was after all a very smart fellow. “Do you know that man?” the Major inquired, addressing one of the droukit keepers. "Sandy Davidson, sir, the deadliest shut and cleverest deerstalker on Deeside," was the reluctant admission of the keeper. "You mean Roch Saunie of Glenbucket?” “That is so, your honour, none other." “Then why, in Heaven's name, didn't you tell me that before?”roared the Major. “Why, that man," turning to his friend,” is the most daring poacher in these parts. Only last year, sometime before Christmas, he coolly left the head of one of the finest stags in my forest in the doorway of lnvercauld House, with a note saying that as I was an admirer of superb heads, it afforded him, Sandy Davidson, poacher, smuggler, and social outcast, the greatest possible pleasure to present me with a trophy of the chase, shot in my own forest. That seemed to me the climax of impudence and cheek." Such was the Laird of Invercauld's introduction to
The Most Notable Highland Poacher
of the century; a poacher, too, who combined in his person in a very pre-eminent degree those qualities which in every age, and in every clime, ensure popular favour -fearlessness, generosity, and kindness of heart. The field of Davidson's poaching expeditions was a wide one, embracing in its scope the great pine forests of Aberdeen, Moray, and. Inverness, and wherever he went, strange as it may seem, he and his mongrel cur were always certain of a genuine Highland welcome. His career was a most eventful one, and to find a parallel to it one must go back to the twilight of Celtic civilisation, to those halcyon days when might was right and forest laws existed only in name. Even his bitterest enemies -the lairds and sporting tenants of his tune were compelled to acknowledge that in point of intelligence and even business tact he was considerably above the average native. In ordinary conversation he spoke the Gaelic, but when the language was unsuitable to the occasion he spoke English, and clothed his conversation in robust, vigorous Saxon. Through good and bad times he was invariably neatly dressed: In summer he wore a thin tartan coat and kilt, and when winter set in he exchanged the philabeg for the trouser. He was the most graceful dancer of Highland reels of his time. Davidson began life as keeper with Colonel Farquharson of Finzean. No one studied with better results the ways of the wild red deer, with its keen eyesight, acute hearing, and fear of its natural enemy-man- than Davidson. He was an excellent stalker and an unerring shot. The life, however, was not sufficiently exciting for him. Like the ptarmigan, the lone denizen of the bleak mountain upland, which revels in the storm and the fury of the blast, Sandy loved unbounded freedom and the keen, blood pulsating excitement of the chase. He was a man, too, of sturdy independence, who would not cringe nor crawl, to duke or earl.” Sooner be said, when he had severed his connection with game keeping, “than be in any way a flu key I would rather go and beg my bread." At this time the manufacture of illicit whisky was the only healthy and prosperous industry in the Highlands. Sandy Davidson threw in his lot with the smugglers, and elected the most hazardous and dangerous part of the undertaking namely, that of conveying the manufactured article to the market. For fully a couple of years he was a prominent member of a gang who manufactured sma' still on an extensive scale in the mountainous districts of the Highlands of Braemar and in the braes of Glenlivet. He withdrew from them when he could no longer tolerate their methods of warfare, but not before he accumulated a considerable sum of hard cash.
A Kidnapping Adventure.
His severance from the smugglers came about in this way. One clear moonlight night in the late autumn, a cavalcade of smugglers' ponies and carts heavily laden were on the way to Aberdeen. Hounding a sharp boulder of a hill with the imperturbable and wide awake Sandy Davidson acting as leader the party were met by a large contingent of gaugers. A regular scrimmage took place, during which an excise man was shot dead. The occurrence caused quite a sensation, and one man was arrested on the capital charge. The only evidence that the Crown could adduce was that of a solitary witness, a gauger, who identified the prisoner, and would swear that the accused was the man who shot his colleague. The trial would take place in Aberdeen in a couple of months, and the result was looked upon as a foregone conclusion. The Crown witness must be removed by book or by crook, at least till the trial was over. Sandy Davidson was consulted. He would not listen to any plot that aimed at the eternal removal of the gauger witness. "Give him," he said," "a six months' holiday somewhere. That won't hurt him." A couple of nights after this, the fatal witness was kidnapped, and his sudden disappearance was set down as another smuggling murder. When the date of the trial came round there was a postponement for a month, but ultimately the charge had to be withdrawn, and the prisoner liberated. Late in the summer the missing gauger, fat and plump, turned up as mysteriously as he had disappeared. He bad, he said, been taken by easy stages to the remote island of St. Kilda, lying in The Western Main, by three masked men, who acted as kindly towards him as could be expected of them. He was hospitably treated by the natives, in fact, he had a good time of it. With the first boat that reached the island he returned to civilisation. Meanwhile the alleged murderer had taken refuge on the broad bosom of the American Republic, and was never afterwards heard of. The fierce bloodthirsty proclivities evinced by the smugglers was not at all to Sandy Davidson's liking, and when a favourable opportunity presented itself he quietly deserted them with £700 in his pockets as his share of the proceeds of the spoils. From that period till the grave closed over him, covering a period of more than twenty years, he was an inveterate and invincible poacher, a kind of Ishmalitish Nimrod of the hills, spending the most of his time in pursuit of game. He was frequently arrested.' and on one occasion he was caught napping by no less a personage than Sir George Macpherson Grant, father of the present Sir George. Sandy, while passing the time till Sir George and shooting party retired for the day to the lodge, fell sound asleep. He was suddenly awakened by the sound of approaching footsteps and by hit faithful dog " Charlie " whining and crouching: close to him. One of the sportsmen angrily' stepped towards the poacher stretched at full length in the heather. “I demand your name instantly, sir," He shouted. “My name, sir," the poacher said, with the utmost coolness, and remaining in his sitting posture, " is Alexander Davidson, of Glenbucket. What is yours, pray?" “My name, fellow, is George Macpherson Grant, of Ballendalloch, and I require you to follow me." Sandy was muleted in £5 for this little affair, but some time afterwards he said that the money was by no means lost, for the moors of Ballendalloch had to pay for it handsomely " I knew Sir George perfectly, and he knows me, but I thought it would not be every day I would have it in my power to ask the name of such a great man." For the consideration of from £5 to £10 Davidson could provide the southern stranger with one of the finest stag heads in the forest. Some of these trophies strange as it may seem, adorn at the present moment the residences of at least two well-known Edinburgh families. Even to-day the Northern poacher does not kill the stag so much for the carcase, which yields only from 4d. to 5d. per pound, as for the head, which almost invariably produces a return of £5, and a much higher figure if it is royal in the number of points. Sandy was held in the highest esteem by some of the foremost landed proprietors, and was often the guest of the late Duke of Gordon at Gordon Castle. An invitation from the present Duke of Gordon was found on his person at the time of his death, asking him to attend and take part at a supper and ball. He had often expressed the hope that when
The Final Act
in the romantic drama of his life closed be should pass into the undiscovered country among his beloved hills. Curiously this is exactly what happened. On the 25th of August) a party of sportsmen found the dead body of the poacher cold and stiff on the moors on Glencairney, in the wilds of Glenbucket, with the faithful dog " Charlie " seated on his this breast, watching over him. The remains of the last of the old Highland poachers were laid deep down in the throbless loam of the family burying ground, and the grave is marked by an undressed stone on which are cut in rude characters the initials of some of his turbulent ancestors, and bearing the date 1715.
Picture added on 03 February 2013 at 23:02
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