Alexander Macfarlane

1702 - 23rd Aug 1755


  1. Bought Biscany estate in St Elizabeth, Jamaica, from Benjamin Allan in 1747. His brothers and devisees, Walter Macfarlane of Macfarlane and William Macfarlane, doctor of physic, sold Biscany to John Wallace in 1762.

  2. Son of John Macfarlane of Macfarlane (d. 1705) and his wife Helen, daughter of Robert, second Viscount Arbuthnot. "... entered trade as a merchant, and settled ultimately in Jamaica. There he acquired a considerable fortune. He left a large estate called Serge Island, in Jamaica, to his brothers, and died, unmarried, in August, 1755. His position in the island community will be understood when we mention that he was one of the assistant judges and a member of the legislative assembly. He was one of the best mathematicians of the age, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. By his will he left to the University of Glasgow, where he was educated, his valuable apparatus of astronomical instruments; and the Observatory, which was shortly erected by the University on Dovehill, was, as a tribute of honour to his memory for this benfaction, named the MacFarlane Observatory. His property was inherited by his two brothers, Walter of Arrochar and William, who practised as a physician in Edinburgh."

  3. Alexander McFarlane was listed in the Jamaican Quit Rent books for 1754 as the owner of 16 acres of land in St Andrew, 694 acres in St George, 600 acres in Westmoreland, 828 acres in St Elizabeth and 3467 acres in St Thomas-in-the-Vale, total  5605 acres. McFarlane and McQueen were listed in the Jamaican Quit Rent books for 1754 as the owners of 224 acres of land in St Andrew. McFarlane and David Kerr were listed in the Jamaican Quit Rent books for 1754 as the owners of 1400 acres of land in Westmoreland. It's not clear whether or not the McFarlane in partnership with [Daniel?] MacQueen and David Kerr was the same man.

  4. Death 23/08/1755 "At Kingston in Jamaica, Alexander Macfarlan, Esq; F. R. S. one of the assistant judges, and a member of the assembly. Dying a bachelor, his estate, which is considerable, falls to his two brothers, Walter Macfarlan of that Ilk, Esq; and Dr Wiliam Macfarlan physician in Edinburgh."

  5. Alexander Mcfarlane of Kingston, Esquire. Estate probated in Jamaica in 1756. Slave-ownership at probate: 791 of whom 432 were listed as male and 359 as female. 0 were listed as boys, girls or children. Total value of estate at probate: £74,535.41 Jamaican currency of which £36,199.75 currency was the value of enslaved people. Estate valuation included £300 currency cash, £22,157.42 currency debts and £403.25 currency plate.


  1. Charles Rogers, The Book of Wallace ( Edinburgh, Printed for the Grampian club, 1839), Vol. I p. 106.

  2. John Macfarlane, History of Clan MacFarlane (Glasgow, 1922) p. 127.

  3. A List of landholders in the Island of Jamaica together with the number of acres each person possessed taken from the quit rent books in the year 1754', TNA CO 142/31 transcribed at

  4. Scots Magazine 06/10/1755.

  5. Trevor Burnard, Database of Jamaican inventories, 1674-1784.

Further Information

died unmarried

Alexander McFarlane, of Kingston, Jamaica, Esq., will, entered 9 September 1755, written 23 August 1755 (Jamaica Wills, 30: 72), transcribed at [accessed 10/09/2015].

To uncle William McFarlane now living at Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland, #30 sterling and an annuity.

To daughter of William McFarlane an annuity of #30.

To sister Helen Spottiswood by my mother, #100 sterling.

To brother John Spottiswood of Spottiswoode of Berwickshire, Scotland, #100.

To Elizabeth Farquarson, late of this Island, #100.To my cousin Andrew McFarlane, now of the parish of St. Mary in this island, #50 and annuity.

To Duncan McFarlane, late overseer of my Estate called Joffe's, #50 and annuity.

To the widow of Robert McFarlane, late shopkeeper in the street called the Salt Markett in Glasgow.

To Elizabeth McNabb, daughter of the late John McNabb of this island, tavernkeeper, #12 and an annuity, now under the care of Mrs. McFarlane.

To Lieutenant James McFarlane, brother to the said Andrew and Duncan McFarlane, #50 and an annuity of the same.

To Rt. Hon. John, Viscount of Arbuthnott and to the said John Spottiswoode, all my sugar plantations in this island, for the use and behoof of my brother Walter McFarlane of that Ilk in Scotland, Esq., and William McFarlan of Edinburgh, Doctor of Physick.

I appoint said brothers Walter and William McFarlane, John Narvey and James Watson of Kingston, esquires, and Harry Farquharson of the same parish, merchant, executors.

To the use of the University of Glasgow all my mathematickal instruments: a foor foot Moor alarch [this last word was not clear to the original transcriber] made of brass, a five foot meridian transit, a five foot astronomical sector, a small clock and an instrument of foour foot equal altitude and likewise object, and other globes for three telescopes and three micrometers, also some variation needles and some other small things.

Merchant and planter

Associated Estates (6)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1747 [SY] - 23/08/1755 [ED] → Owner
1756 [EA] - 1756 [LA] → Previous owner
1756 [EA] - 1758 [LA] → Previous owner
1756 [EA] - 1760 [LA] → Previous owner
1756 [EA] - 1764 [LA] → Previous owner
1756 [EA] - 1760 [LA] → Previous owner

Legacies Summary

Cultural (2)

The first observatory in Glasgow, founded in 1757 and named in honour of Alexander Macfarlane. 'He was one of the best mathematicians of the age, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. By his will he... 
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Royal Society...... 
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For the full record of Macfarlane's membership of the Royal Society see Royal...

Relationships (2)


Inventories (1)