Diary offers insight into destruction of normal life during Jacobite rebellions
ITisasimplediaryofan ordinary working man and documents his everyday life asajoiner.
But the recently unearthed journal of an Aberdeenshire worker has provided new insights into the “devastating economic impact” caused by the Jacobite rebellions.
Historians say they have discovered a “unique source for the period” which shows how ordinary working folk suffered during the conflicts.
Joiner Alexander Smith was not involved in the rebellions and appears to have had no affiliation to either the Jacobites or Hanoverians. But his diary has provided historians with a glimpse into how everyday lives were affected by the uprisings of both 1715 and 1745.
The “truly fascinating account” was gifted to the University of Aberdeen by one of Smith’s relatives.
Dr Kirsteen MacKenzie, a lecturer at the university, said it will help historians “build a more detailed picture of life in Scotland at this time”.
She said: “It is a truly fascinating account, told from a perspective I’ve never come across before and about a region for which little information exists when it comestotheseevents.
“There has been a huge amountofresearchintothe Jacobitecause.
“But we still know little of how deeply they affected ordinary people with no direct connection to the rebellion.”
Smith, from Fraserburgh, wasborninthelate17th Centuryto“lowlystock”and is thought to have been poorly educated but he went on to excel in his apprenticeship as a square wright.
His woodworking skills attracted the attention of the Aberdeenshire elites and by 1715 he was earning enough money to live independently.
But when the uprising began, he describes how this quickly ground to a halt as economic activity in the area rapidly declined and soldiers came through the town.
Following the 1715 Rebellion, things for Smith improved greatly and throughout the 1720s and 30s his reputation flourished.
Bythe1740shewas running a successful business and was commissioned to build furniture for the Duff family, of Duff House in Banff, and the Frasers of Philorth.
He was also employed to buildmansesfortheChurch of Scotland around the area.
Then the 1745 rebellion occurred and the impact on Smith and his family was evenmoredevastating than it had been 30 years earlier.
His diary entries describe how the price of wood “shot up” and became in such short supply that he was forced to go on “long and arduous” journeys to source material.
Smithalsowroteofhis “temptation” to go to the black market to obtain material, an action that eventually landed him in court in Aberdeen when he was caught trying to take wood from a shipwreck off the Aberdeenshire coast.
He also recorded problems of maintaining a workforce with many of his colleagues abandoning their posts to jointheJacobitecause.
UPRISING: The rebellion in 1745, including the Battle of Culloden, caused joiner Alexander Smith great hardship as wood was in short supply.
DIARY: Joiner’s journal reveals how ordinary life was affected by uprisings.
KIRSTEEN MACKENZIE: Tells of account gifted to University of Aberdeen.