Elucidating Mysteries

Front windowsI am proud to continue a firm which has a claim to be one of the oldest private investigation agencies in the world. In the 1890s, “intricate business questions and delicate private enquiries” – indeed, “investigations and confidential matters of every description, requiring tact, secrecy and discretion” – were widely advertised as specialties of the Bath Street offices of Younger & Younger, messengers-at-arms, to which the present firm traces its origins. (Alexander N. Rutherford was admitted a messenger-at-arms in 1899 when he was an assistant with that firm, which closed in 1902.) “Why remain longer in ignorance or suspense?” thousands of newspaper readers were asked, when “the most expert staff of private detectives in Britain” – with offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, Belfast, Dublin and London, and “correspondents throughout the United Kingdom and abroad” – was available for “elucidating mysteries”.

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Here is an old photograph of me, in the office at 102 Bath Street, Glasgow. The (now very) late Mr. Rutherford, who died on 2nd October 1948, immediately upon having completed one year and a day, precisely, in partnership with my grandfather, occupied the same room from 1905. The central mahogany desk, stamped “Wm. Bisset” by its maker, is huge and was built for six clerks. When the office was modernised the desks, as precious heirlooms, were carefully removed and safely preserved (at an altitude of twelve hundred feet, no less!) in my mountain fastness – a granite steading in the Braes of Abernethy, near Nethy Bridge. Since the 1947 merger, five generations of Macphersons have worked in Rutherford & Macpherson. The clan name, I trust, is a sufficient excuse for the Highland jaunt that now follows.

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The flitting of these relics of messengery from Glasgow to Abernethy (in Inverness-shire, as from 1870), I later discovered, was remarkably apt. The photograph above shows the view from the front door of a Highland home which has, by coincidence, been the dwelling place of two messengers-at-arms. I was admitted to office in 1987 and bought the property the next year. John Grant, Messenger in Abernethy, was admitted in 1754 (the very year that the military road from the Well of the Lecht to Spey Bridge was built, thus making more manageable the journey of over thirty miles from Abernethy to the nearer of the two tolbooths of the sheriffdom of the county of Elgin, at Forres).

Grant would have beenMessengers blazons (Queen Anne) issued with a blazon, worn on a pin, from the same die as these two illustrated badges from my collection. He, my predecessor in office and in the farm in the 1760s, was a subtenant here of Grant of Lurg – and I am interested in this part of the story because the tenantry of that cadet branch of the Lairds of Grant also included, at the very same time, my own humble forbears. If you are interested in any of this, please do read on.