Select Fletcher Miscellany

Here are some Fletcher stories and accounts over the years:

The Worshipful Company of Fletchers

The earliest mention of the Worshipful Company of Fletchers was in 1371 when the fletchers presented a petition to the Lord Mayor of London - where they agreed that, for the common good, the two trades of fletcher (maker of arrows) and bowyer (maker of longbows) should be kept entirely separate and that no man of one trade should do the other (under a penalty of 4).

The longbow was primarily responsible for the English victories at Crecy in 1346 and at Agincourt in 1415 and feltchers were kept busy with the supply of arrows for the Hundred Years War in France and the Wars of the Roses in England.  By the time of Henty VIII the Fletchers Company had a hall in St. Mary Axe in London.

The Ancient Scottish Fletchers

One of the most magnificent of the many lovely Highland glens is undoubtedly Glenorchy in Argyllshire, where the Fletcher clan is said to have originated.  The Fletchers claim descent from Kenneth MacAlpin, the first king of the united Picts and Scots.  The Fletchers were the first to "raise smoke and boil water" on the braes of Glenorchy.   The first chieftain on record was Angus Mac-an-Leister, who was born around 1450.

Mac-an-Leistear was the patronymic of the clan and, prior to 1700, it was written in documents as "MacInleister."  When surnames came to be used, around 1745, the name was anglicized to Fletcher - the equivalent of the Gaelic leisdear, or "man of the arrow."  The first person to use the English "Fletcher" seems to have been Archibald, the eighth chief.

The badge of the clan is the pine-tree and their tartan is an arrangement of blue, black and green, with diagonal lines of red.  Their crest is two arms drawing a bow. 

Fletchers of Dunans

It was Archibald Fletcher who purchased the property known as Dunans in Glendaruel in the early 1700's and became one of the leading landowners
of the Cowal in Argyllshire.  He was known among his contemporaries as Gillesp-na-Crannaich or simply as Gillesp.  He was good friends with Rob Roy with whom he had many adventures.

In 1745 Gillesp sent as substitute the poet Duncan Ban MacIntyre to fight on his behalf for Bonnie Prince Charlie.  He also entrusted with him his ancient claymore which was lost in the heat of battle.  Duncan later wrote his Gaelic Song to the Sword of Fletcher, which included the following (translated) verse:

"Then when I had homeward wended
To Gillespie of the Old Wood,
There he raged as savage-minded
As a gray brock in his hold would;
At that time he was right sorry
Weapon to draw he none at hand had,
At his loss great was the worry,
The heirloom claymore of his granddad."

Angus, known as Aonghas Mor (Angus the great), was the eldest son of Archibald. 

"He was a gentleman, one of the most hospitable in the West Highlands, and a man of great physical strength.  It was told that while branding cattle, which were semi-wild highland beasts, one of them broke loose.  Angus struggled to overcome the animal which he held for a while by the hind leg.  The steer, however, left Angus on the ground and jumped over the stone wall of the enclosure.  When his brother scorned him for releasing the animal, Angus simply replied by holding out the hoof of the beast."

Aonghas Mor died in 1807 at the age of eighty eight.  

Angus Fletcher - Mr. Kindheart

Angus Fletcher had a short career as a sculptor in which he was moderately successful.  In the 1830's he exhibited various works at the Royal Academy, including a bust of the writer Charles Dickens.  He and Dickens in fact struck up a friendship which was to last the rest of his life.

Angus acted as a guide and companion to Dickens on a tour of the Highlands in 1841.  Dickens wrote in one of his letters home:

"We are now in a bare white house on the banks of Loch Leven.  A most infernal piper is practicing under the window for a competition of pipers which is to come off shortly.  The store of anecdotes of Fletcher with which we shall return will last a long time.  It seems that the Fletchers are an extensive clan and that his father was a Highlander.  Accordingly, wherever he goes, he finds out some cotter or small farmer who is his cousin." 

The two also met in Italy three years later where Angus was helpful to Dickens again.  Dickens in his letters referred to him as "Mr. Kindheart" and expressed great sorrow when he heard of his friend's death in Leeds in 1862 after he had collapsed at the railway station there.

Fletcher Christian's Ancestry

The line starts with William Fletcher of Cockermouth who died in 1540.  He it was who bought Cockermouth Hall.  It then continues as follows:
- son Henry, who offered refuge to Mary Queen of Scots during her retreat into England.  He died in 1576.
- son Thomas, who married Jane Bullen.  He died in 1603.
- son Philip, who married Ellen Knipe.
- son John, who was MP for Appleby in 1680.
- son Richard, who was the last Fletcher at Cockermouth Hall.
- son Major Philip Fletcher, who died in 1744.
- son John Fletcher, who married Mary Christian and was the ancestor of Fletcher Christian.

Fletcher Christian was born in Cockermouth in 1764.  After his mother fell into debt they moved to her family's home on the Isle of Man.  Fletcher left there at the age of sixteen to join the navy.

Caleb Fletcher Recruiting for Seamen

Caleb Fletcher was a Liverpool slave trader and privateer.  In 1779 he was recruiting for seamen with the following poster:


Now fitting out to cruise for three months and then to ptoceed to Montego Bay in Jamaica where she will be immediately laden,
The ship Jamaica
Caleb Fletcher of Liverpool, Commander,
mounts eighteen six-pounders, with cohorns and swivels; carries 120 men and is most completely fitted up for their accommodation, and has a safe protection.
All brave seamen and landmen, who are willing to enter, are desired to apply to Capt. Fletcher (at Mr. Joseph Fletcher's in Whitehaven), who will give them the greatest encouragement.
One fourth part of all the prizes to be divided among the crew.
Gos save the King and success to the Jamaica!" 

The Double-Jointed Fletchers

In 1737 a baby named John Fletcher was christened in Burnley, Lancashire.  He married a local girl and they went on to have several children.  This John must have owned the genetic make-up for "double-jointedness" or hypermobility of the joints (whereby the range of joint movement can be nearly double that of a normal joint.  This trait is inherited in a direct line from parent to child.  And such has been the case with John Fletcher and his descendants.

Many of these double-jointed Fletchers have continued to live in and around the Burnley area.  One line did move to Manchester and another to the East End of London.  There are at least eight hypermobile Fletcher children in London that are direct descendants of the John Fletcher of Burnley. 

Fletchers of Bolton

A  greater contrast between grandfather and grandson would be hard to find.

Colonel Ralph Fletcher was a suppressor of civil rights movements and one of the magistrates whose decisions led to the Peterloo massacre in 1819. 

Grandson Herbert was a mining engineer and colliery owner who was mourned by rich and poor alike after his premature death in 1895 at the age of fifty three.   A man of infinite charm, he enjoyed a reputation as an unusually considerate coalmine owner.  It was his zest for life, however, which led to his early death:

"Entering Ladyshore colliery yard one morning, he saw a bicycle leaning against a wall and said he would take a ride.  Before he had gone very far he was heard to say something about being short of breath.  He then fell to the ground and died soon afterwards.  Fletcher's pet dog, a constant companion, stood by his master and would not leave the body."

The Fall of the House of Fletcher

The Fletcher American National Bank had gone through a merger and as a result had become the largest national bank in Indiana.  This gave Stoughton Fletcher the financial wherewithal to build Laurel Hall.  The mansion was built upon 1,500 acres of farmland and woods outside Indianapolis and was named after his mother.  It was completed in 1916 at a cost of $2.1 million.

This opulent family home showcased his personal taste for the extravagant.  Undoubtedly it led to a great deal of gossip, some of it far-fetched.  With his hobby of horse breeding and reportedly using "a cement mixer to make martinis," Fletcher had a wide reputation beyond the banking world, a reputation which contrasted with the staid legacy of his father and grandfather.

However, financial problems were around the corner.  During World War One, the Government needed turbine engines, to which Fletcher responded with his own assets.  Fletcher expected to turn a profit from his consolidation of two companies to facilitate the expedient production of the engines.  But the end of the war halted the need for his product. 

By 1923, the Fletcher fortune had been decimated.  Stoughton resigned as President of the Fletcher American National Bank and relinquished all ties to the bank.  One year later, he declared bankruptcy, with assets of $481.39 to his name while owing $1,763,602.54.  Meanwhile, the Fletcher American National Bank took ownership of Laurel Hall, selling it in 1925 to the Sisters of Providence who opened Ladywood; a Catholic, all-girls boarding school.

Personal tragedy also hit the family.  Stoughton's wife May took her own life in 1921. 
The event was the banner headline of the Indianapolis News on March 23, 1921, a sad reminder of the enormous influence of the Fletchers in Indianapolis.  And his eldest son "Bruz," a nightclub singer in Hollywood, also killed himself some twenty years later.  The man who built and lost Laurel Hall along with a banking fortune, Stoughton A. Fletcher, lived on and died of natural causes in 1957.

Annie Fletcher's Journey to Bulawayo

In 1894 Robert Fletcher moved to Bulawayo and with his elder brother Patrick founded the firm of Fletcher and Espin, government surveyors.  His wife Annie remained in Pretoria until 1895, when she made a nightmarish journey to join her husband with two of her sons, one of whom was a mere babe in arms.

The trip was made by mule coach and the passengers had to endure bumpy roads, terrific storms and floods, even having to travel on foot at times when the coach had to contend with especially difficult conditions. Annie had a small stock of condensed milk for the baby which proved invaluable, as no fresh milk was obtainable on the journey.

At one point the coach had to make a particularly hazardous river crossing and, to the consternation of the passengers, it became stuck in the swirling waters.  A boat had to be sent to rescue them.  With much difficulty they scrambled out of the coach windows and into the little craft which in turn stuck in the sand some little way from the river bank.   They were lifted out by natives and dumped in the sand to struggle up as best they might.

Miraculously almost, the trip to Bulawayo was eventually completed and Mrs. Annie Fletcher was deservedly acclaimed later in her life as having been one of the true pioneers of the country.

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