Farquhar Macdonald: A Contract with the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1832

Fearchar (Farquhar) Macdonald, son of Angus, was about born about 1809 at Capadal, roughly on the site of 3 Ardroil. In 1832 he joined the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a “slooper” – a crewman on HBC decked vessels.  According to the Company’s personal records, he boarded the Prince Rupert IV on 23 June 1832 for a passage from London to York Factory, on the west shore of the bay, where he arrived on 24 August.  He worked at York until 1834, travelled overland to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River (just north of present-day Portland, Oregon) in that year – see the route of the York Factory Express.  He continued as a slooper until 1838 and after a short period as a gardener in 1839, he returned to Scotland again on the Prince Rupert IV.

In the intervening time Ardroil had been cleared and his family evicted; with his brother Kenneth he settled in Geshader. Fearchar was married three times and his further family connections can be found on Hebridean Connections. By all accounts he was a modest man and did not speak much of his exploits in North America, referring to it as an Talamh Fuar (the Cold Country.)

The following is the contract signed by Fearchar shortly before his departure to North America.  A copy of the hand-written document now hangs in the museum. Thanks to Tisty (3 Geshader), who presented the museum with the document from the papers of her brother, the late John Knox, and to Kenneth who mounted it.

An agreement made this twentieth day of June in the Year of Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty two BETWEEN Farquhar Macdonald of Capitol in the Parish of Uig in the County of Ross in Scotland of the one part, and the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England, trading into Hudson’s Bay, by William Roderick Morrison of Stornoway, their Agent of the other part as follow: —

The said Farquhar Macdonald hereby contracts and agrees to enter into the service and employment of the said Company in North America in the capacity of a slooper and that he will embark when thereunto required on board such ship or vessel as shall be appointed by or on behalf of the said company, and proceed to Hudson’s Bay, and for the term of Five Years to be computed from the said embarkation, and for such further time as herinafter mentioned, and faithfully serve the said company as their hired servant in the capacity of a slooper and devote the whole of his time and labour in their service and for their sole benefit, and that he will do his duty as such and perform all such Work and service by day or night for the said Company as he shall be required to do, and obey all orders which he shall receive from the Governors fo the Company in North America, or other their officers or agents for the time being. And that he will with courage and fidelity in his said station in the said service, defend the property of the said company and their Factories and Territories. And will not absent himself from the said service, nor engage or be concerned in any trade or employment whatsoever except for the benefit of the said company and according to their orders. And that all good obtained by Barter with the Indians or otherwise which shall come in to the hands or possession of the said Farquhar Macdonald shall be held by him for the said Company only, and shall duly be delivered up to the said Governors or other officers at their Factory or Trading Post, without any waste, spoil or injury thereto. And in case of any willful neglect or default herein, he shall make good to the said company all such loss or damage as they shall sustain thereby to be deducted out of his wages. And that the said Farquhar Macdonald will faithfully obey all laws, orders and Regulations established or made by the said Company for the good governance of their Settlements and Territories. And at all times during the residence of the said Farquhar Macdonald in North America he will defend the Rights and Privileges of the said Company and aid and support their Officers and Agents to the utmost of his power. And the said Farquhar Macdonald further engages and agrees, that in case he shall omit to give notice to the Governor or officers of the said Company in North America one year or upwards before the expiration of the said term of Five Years of his intention to quite their service and return to Europe, then, that he hereby promises and engages to remain one year longer, and also until the next ship in the service of the said Company shall sail from there to Europe, as their hired Servant in North American upon the like terms, as are contained in this Contract. And the said Farquhar Macdonald also engages and agrees that in case the said Company shall not have any ship which will sail from the Hudson’s Bay for Europe immediately after the expiration of the said term of Five Years, or of such further term as hereinbefore mentioned, that he hereby promises and engages to remain in the service as a hired servant of the said Company in North America until the next ship of the said Company shall sail from their for Europe. And the said William Roderick Morrison on behalf of the said Company hereby engages that upon condition of the due and faithful service of the said Farquhar Macdonald in like manner as aforesaid but not otherwise, the said Farquhar Macdonald shall receive from the said Company after the rate of Eighteen Pounds Sterline per Annum and Five Pounds per Annum in addition for the last two years of his service merit it, to commence on the day of his embarkation for Hudson’s Bay as aforesaid, and up to the day of his embarkation from thence for Europe in one of the ships of the said Company’s service. Provided always and it is hereby expressly agreed between the said Parties thereto, that it shall be lawful for the Governor or Governors or other Officers of the said Company in North America at any time during the said term of the Five Years or such additional Term as aforesaid to dismiss the said Farquhar Macdonald from their service and direct his return from thence to Europe in one fo the Ships in their Employment and in such case his wages are to cease from the day of his Embarkation for Europe. And further that in case the said Farquhar Macdonald shall at any time during this contract desert the service of the said Company or otherwise neglect or refuse duly to discharge his duty as such hired Servant as aforesaid, then he shall forfeit and lose all his wages for the recovery whereof theire shall be no relief either in Law or in Equity.

In witness whereof the said Parties have hereunto set their hands:–

Farquhar Macdonald

William Roderick Morrison

Signed in the presence of Norm. Maciver, Mercht.