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From the Archives: Wanderer was a well-known face


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A photograph of The Ross-shire Wanderer, Fearchair A Ghuna (Farquhar of the Gun). Image courtesy of the Joseph Cook Collection, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, High Life Highland.
A photograph of The Ross-shire Wanderer, Fearchair A Ghuna (Farquhar of the Gun). Image courtesy of the Joseph Cook Collection, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, High Life Highland.

Highland Archive Centre shares the story of a 'peculiar' pauper.

In the Contin Poor Register there is an unassuming entry, dated February 27, 1867, for Farquhar Maclennan.

He was recorded as a 76-year-old “Blaster of Stones” residing on the “Moor of Tarradale”. Described as “very eccentric and peculiar”, this elderly pauper is none other than Fearchair a Ghunna – “Farquhar of the Gun”, a well-known Highland character, sometimes named The Ross-shire Wanderer.

Farquhar Maclennan was born in Strathconon in the latter 18th century, belonging to a family of illicit whisky smugglers.

The presence of excise men resulted in the loss of the family business for the Maclennans and, in 1809, Farquhar decided to set out from home and lead the life of a wanderer.

An entry in the Contin Poor Register for Fearchair a Ghuna.
An entry in the Contin Poor Register for Fearchair a Ghuna.

Much of Farquhar’s wanderings were centred around the shores of the Beauly Firth. He became a well-known face in the locality as a character of great wit, if also seen by many as a fool.

He was a performer who people paid to hear his rendition of Urnuigh na Creubhaig, a Gaelic prayer.

He was also known for getting up to mischief and being a trickster.

His preference to wear a colourful collection of rags, and bonnet with feathers, made him quite the enigmatic personality, with a nickname, Fearchair a Ghunna, “Farquhar of the Gun”, owing to the home-made six barrelled gun he carried, along with several pistols and even a sword!

An entry in the Contin Poor Register dated February 27, 1867, refers to Farquhar’s stubborn refusal to accept relief.

A highlighted extract for Fearchair a Ghuna in the Contin Poor Register.
A highlighted extract for Fearchair a Ghuna in the Contin Poor Register.

Although he lived the life of a tramp, he always denied he was poor.

A local landowner once gifted Farquhar a £1 note, and people teased him for finally accepting poor relief, so Farquhar returned to the house of the gentleman and allegedly said, “Do you think, sir, it would be right of me, who am able to carry a hundred-weight of iron from Fortrose, by Beauly, to Inverness, to take parochial relief? I will do no such thing.”

The Ross-shire Wanderer died on the September 21, 1868, at the Northern Infirmary.

He had quite grudgingly refused to attend hospital when showing signs of frailty and was removed to the infirmary by cart. His dying request of being buried in Strathconon was overlooked, instead he was interred in Tomnahurich Cemetery.

We are fortunate a local studio asked Farquhar to sit for a photo in his latter years. It is said it was with great difficulty for the Wanderer to sit still long enough for the picture to be taken.

The Highland Archive Centre is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

To make a booking or to enquire about remote archive or family history research contact the centre at archives@highlifehighland.com, call 01349 781130. or see its website for further details.


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