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Aberdeen Journal
Notes and Queries


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William Forbes of Callander - An Enterprising Abertlonian.
William Forbes, son of George Forbes, Colquhonnie, Strathdon, who followed the business of a coppersmith in Aberdeen, rendered considerable service to the Church by buying up the large quantities of obsolete coins which were circulating in the middle of the eighteenth century He married Janet, daughter of Rev. William Dyce, minister of Belhelvie, and, of their sons, George, the eldest, followed the business of his father in Aberdeen, while William, a younger son, set up in a similar line in London. The last-named possessed a large share of native shrewdness, and, having got a hint that copper sheathing was to be used on the vessels of the Royal Navy to avert the ravages of the ship worm, he boldly went into the market and bought up all the available copper. When, therefore, the Admiralty advertised for tenders, Forbes was able to' command his own terms. The application of the copper being found useless, however, through rapid decay, etc., caused by the use of iron nails, he was able to buy back considerable quantities at a nominal price. He then proceeded to show that all difficulties could be overcome by using copper nails; and, the tests which were entered upon having proved satisfactory, the Admiralty again bought the copper at a further large profit to Forbes. Being now in affluent circumstances, he determined to become a Scottish laird, and the extensive estates of Callander and Almond being in the market in 1783 (both properties formed part of the possessions of the Earl of Linlithgow, but, being forfeited for the part he took in the Stuart rising, had passed to the York Buildings Company), he went to Edinburgh to purchase. On the day of the sale he attended in person, and to the surprise of the agents, who had no idea who he was, commenced to bid. On the running of the sand-glass he was named the purchaser at the price of 83,100. The agents, demanding security, were astonished at the presentation by Forbes of a 100,000 Bank of England note! It is averred that change could not be obtained in Edinburgh, as all the Scotch banks were reluctant to negotiate such a valuable note.

Further particulars regarding this enterprising gentleman will be found in the "Family Record of the Name of Dingwall Fordvce," L, p. 92; and in D. Murray's "The York Buildings Company," pp. 100-1.

Volume 1 (1908) (pdf)
Volume 2 (1909) (pdf)
Volume 3 (1910) (pdf)


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