It is only when an ancestor has stepped out of line or done something remarkable that more interesting documents or newspaper reports exist. Andrew Ballantyne is one of those ancestors and the story of his trial allows us to hear his own words, bringing to life a young 20 year old man who found himself in some very difficult circumstances.
First Judicial Declaration of Andrew Ballantyne
At Dingwall, the eleventh day of June one thousand eight hundred and forty four years:-
In the presence of George Cameron Esquire, Sheriff Substitute of Ross and Cromarty.
Compeared (appeared in court), Andrew Ballantyne, son of Walter Ballantyne, lately shepherd at Bottacks of Achterneed in the Parish of Fodderty in the County of Ross, or in the County of Cromarty, who being judicially examined and interrogated Declares as follows:
"My father now resides at Hawick, having left the said place of Bottacks about a fortnight ago. I lived with him at Bottacks. I ceased to reside at Bottacks about three weeks ago but I returned to it temporarily last week and I was there during a part of Thursday and Friday last.
I know Kenneth MacRae farmer at Bottacks. Macrae has a daughter whose name is Margaret. I saw her and conversed with her in the course of last Friday. I said to her that I would take her horse over to Fort Augustus next morning and she answered that she did not care. I accordingly took a horse of her father’s from his stable about one o’clock Saturday morning and mounted and rode it to Fort Augustus in Inverness Shire. It is a small brown poney.
I had no talk with Margaret MacRae’s father about the poney before or since I took it away because he speaks Gaelic only, a language which I do not understand.
I was about to return from Fort Augustus to Strathpeffer in which Bottacks is situated with the horse yesterday, when an officer of the law accompanied by a soldier came up to me and said they wished to speak to me and I readily accompanied them. They knew that the horse was at the house of John Stoddart the post at Fort Augustus and they went and brought it to the Barracks where I was, and the officers and another lad and I proceeded to Inverness together having the horse with us, and we came this day from Inverness to Dingwall. The horse is now in the stables of John MacKenzie of the National Hotel in Dingwall.
I wish to add upon what is above written being read over to me that another lad and I were going to build a feal dike (turf or earth wall to separate fields) at Fort Augustus, that this was my business there and that I intended to return with the horse to Strathpeffer and that I would have so returned with him before the officers interfered were it not that the horse was tired and that I did not like to travel with it on Sunday.
All which I declare to be truth."