Friday, 15 April 2016

Fascinating Friday - Fetching Fencibles

Today's fascinating Friday takes us back to 1793 when Major Thomas Balfour (father of author Mary Brunton) was recruiting for the Orkney and Shetland Fencible Battalion. This list pertains to 19th July - 24th November of that year.

This list contains names of men, their age, height, colour of hair, eyes and complexion, trade, where born and date of attestation. The description of the men helped in the gruesome but necessary task of identifying them if they died in battle. But now this information is highly valuable for family history researchers who can find out what their ancestors looked like in a time long before photographs.

For example: Thomas Craigie, aged 25, was 5 feet 4 inches tall, with brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. His trade was labourer. He was born in Rousay in the County of Orkney and enlisted on 19th July 1793.

And these lists do not just list men from Orkney or Shetland:

Alexander Sutherland, aged 37, was 5 feet 4 inches tall, with brown hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. His trade was weaver. He was born in Thurso in the County of Caithness and enlisted on the 20th July 1793.


Donald McKay, aged just 14, was 5 feet 1 inch tall, with black hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion. His trade was labourer. He was born in Tongue in the County of Sutherland and enlisted on the 26th Oct.

We have found a quite few of these lists in the Balfour of Balfour & Trenabie papers and have recently been passing copies onto the wonderful volunteers of the Orkney Family History Society who have agreed to transcribe them for us. Hopefully we will be able to add this information to one or both of our websites in the future. Watch this space!

Archive Reference: D2/22/1

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