Old Molecatchers and tales from the Highlands of Scotland
Glenlivet - John McGregor, a quiet softly spoken man born in Glasgow around 1799 was more than a molecatcher - John was a famous whiskey smuggler.
John was caught red-handed with smuggled whiskey at the Spittal of Glenshee and was being taken by the Dragoons to face the consequents of his crime. He was seated upon a horse between two dragoons, his legs tied underneath its belly and his hands behind his back.
His hands were not tied very tightly and he managed to release them without being seen. Freeing his hands he held in the position till he could think of what to do. The evening was closing in fast which would aid his escape. The only chance he had was to jump over the Bridge at Calley. This bridge was a terrible height, about sixty feet to the water below. He had to get on to the ravel (parapet) but how to do this with a dragoon on each side and his legs tied beneath the horse. He thought if he could get his hand into his pouch and get out his knife he may have a chance. The light had almost failed with the evening and they were near the bridge, it was now or never.
He drew one hand around to his pouch keeping the other behind his back, he slipped his hand into the pouch and got hold of the knife, as they approached the bridge, he suddenly bent down and cut the cord that bound his legs and then gave a blow to the right and another to the left and knocked both the dragoons from their mounts. Then he jumped off the bridge into the water below. The water was deep enough to break his fall. He crashed into the water and swam amongst some roots. The dragoons came rushing down around the river poking and prodding with their swords into the water. They came very close but an officer called out that he must have drowned. John had struck his ankle upon a rock in his jump but managed to reach the house of a woman he knew just a few miles away. She tended his ankle for him and he was back to normal within a couple of weeks.
John was eventually caught and spent a year in Perth prison; 12 months that he said made him a good deal richer, his time behind bars had little effect on his smuggling soon he was making whiskey. John took to mole catching and was said to often go searching for casks he had to bury in haste in the dark and had forgotten the exactly where.
1851 - Strathmiglo Fife - William Muckarsie
1908 - Kintyre Richard Ellis
Kilmaurs Ayeshire- Peter Blane died 1889
1852- Lossiemouth- John Anderson and Alexander Gordon
Aberdeenshire 1851 James Brodie
Stirling 1851 George Sanderson
1841 and a guest in Scotland was an English Molecatcher, Daniel Means, who was staying with Mary Campbell and her three children at Netherton Cottage in the Parish of Buittle
Edinburgh 1842 Alexander Stewart
Houston - Craigends House. Andrew Burt lived in the west lodge on the estate as molecatcher, the lodge was described as having two rooms with one or more windows, Andrew originally came from Bothwell, Lanarkshire
1881 West Kilbride Ayr Thomas Wilson.
Robert Richardson was the molecatcher living on the estate of Lord Napier at St Marys Cottage 1708
AYRSHIRE- The Couperthwaites.
Robert was born in England in 1785 and died 1847 in Kirkoswald Ayrshire. He married Mary Calderwood in April 1812 and both lived at a house callee Bridgend at a place called Barr by Girvan. Later they moved to Balbegg of North Balloch Barr by Girvan then to a house called Ladymoor in Kirkmichael.
They had many children - in fact ten and three of his sons took to working the soil. Peter in the form of a molecatcher and ploughman and John and William who both were molecatchers.
John was living at Green wells Kirkoswald as the molecatcher then in 1851 moved to number 24 Main Street, Parish Straiton, where he lived with his wife Jane. They had a son John, sadly Jane died and John married Margret Gemmell with whom he had a further five children.
William married Janet and is recorded as the molecatcher living at Broomlands cottage Kirkmichael 1851.
The census in 1861 for Athelstaneford shows three molecatchers, John Grierson and his son Thomas and John Murray