An Annual Sheep and Wool Market at Inverness opened in July of 1817, the year in which their sister Margaret was born, and that industry continued to overshadow most others in the Highlands, with the possible exception of the distilleries. The "term days", May 28 and November 28, meant that horses and carts would fill Eccles Street as farmers engaged new servants at the "feeing markets". Another occupation, that of road construction, was becoming of greater importance in the north-east and it paid slightly higher wages.
As Alexander (Junior) entered his teenage years, he could find work at the "feeing markets" at the nearby towns of Dingwall and Inverness. The Cholera epidemic of 1832 and a General Crop Failure of 1836 slowed the economy of the region. These events were followed by the death of his sister Margaret at the age of 20, probably around the same time that Donald joined his brother in the search for work.
According to one family story, the brothers were hired by Donald Fraser, who was a road contractor from the Royal Burgh of Dingwall, and this was the link by which Alexander met his bride-to-be, Janet Fraser. Their first child, Donald, was born on September 15, 1840, in a separate dwelling on the same property as the family at Redhas or Shore-of-Drynie
. The farm imposed its own limits upon the number of people it could support, and they could only count upon the ten years remaining on their lease. Two daughters, Catharine and Agnes, born at Redhas, are mysteriously missing from the first detailed Census of Scotland in 1841, but they would have been aged 10 and 8 respectively.
On January 7 of 1842, Isabella Ross left the homestead to marry William Young of Drumsmittal. William had been born on April 6, 1806, in Knockbain Parish to parents Roderick Young and Helen Davison.
The Inverness Courier
informed people about life in the colonies, and they knew about the evictions from Strathconon during the previous year. Schedules for ships were also published, and Alexander learned that ships from Aberdeen or Dundee would stop at Cromarty on the Black Isle before sailing to Canada if a sufficient number of passengers sent an early application.
Family and friends gathered at "Redhas" to wish Alexander and Janet a safe voyage. Tales of bygone days were retold as the parents, Alexander Ross and Margaret Noble, brought forth the only surviving relic from that past ... a silver quaich which had been inherited from David Ross and Isabel Dingwall after the birth of a grandson. Little may have been known about the Highland origins of the ancient wooden quaichs, but Alexander continued a family tradition when he presented his silver quaich to his eldest son ... while his first grandson Donald demonstrated those first shaky steps of a toddler. A second grandchild, still a baby, was cradled in Janet's arms as everyone exchanged their good-byes.
The ship "Brilliant" departed from Aberdeen on April 12, 1842, and picked up the passengers at Cromarty on the north-eastern tip of the Black Isle. John Prebble (in The Highland Clearances) noted that conditions for steerage passengers were very poor aboard ship. They paid a fare of six to eight pounds for a narrow berth and food, but adults were expected to perform additional duties during the voyage. The berth of pine shelves, stacked a couple of feet (60 cm) apart and measuring three feet by six feet (90 cm by 180 cm), was often shared by at least two people and lacked privacy. Defying obliteration in this unlit space between decks, a steaming stench was held captive from previous voyages. Food was prepared by one of the emigrants, whose provisions and imagination might limit the passengers to an unvarying diet of stew topped by an occasional dumpling or biscuit. If luck prevailed, a gruel of oatmeal and tainted water might serve for the final days of the crossing. Conditions below decks guaranteed a fast deterioration in quality of such staples as potatoes, onions or turnips, which were added to the ship's stores this year.
According to the records of Lloyd's of London, the 332-ton "Brilliant"
, owned by W. Duthie of Aberdeen, had been built there in 1814. After twenty-eight years on the high seas, maintenance details had to be assigned watches in the hold to repair leaky seams. Lack of ventilation encouraged fungi to attack the oak hull and to produce the ever-present dry rot. One day during the six-week voyage, while Alexander was on an assignment, caulking the hold of the ship, his eighteen-month-old son fell into a tar pot and was suffocated.
Captain Elliot docked the ship at the Port of Quebec on May 23rd of 1842
, and thirty-eight surviving steerage passengers made their way to the immigrant sheds. Another ship, the Bark "James Dean" from Glasgow arrived with twenty-nine passengers shortly afterwards, and there was probably no need to confine either ship under quarrantine at Grosse Isle. In fact, only two of the ships carrying Scottish emigrants that year seem to have spent two days in isolation. The "Brilliant" continued sailing throughout 1842 and remained in the Lloyd's Registry until 1849.
Alexander and Janet proceeded with their baby to the Port of Whitby on Lake Ontario, and Alexander settled as a "yeoman" or agricultural labourer in the Township of Whitby, Canada West. According to family charts, the only remaining Scottish-born child of Alexander Ross and Janet Fraser died "in Whitby before they moved to Scott" two years later, and their first two children in Canada, Alexander Fraser Ross and James A. Ross, were born during this period.
In 1844, Alexander was joined by his brother Donald, who had taken a mere twenty-four days to cross the Atlantic aboard a sailing vessel. That Fall, both brothers made their way to Alexander's recently purchased property north of Uxbridge along the ruts and trails of earlier pathfinders. Between 1846 and 1848, long before the next emigrations of the family, a plank road was completed from Lake Scugog to Whitby in order to facilitate the delivery of grain to the harbour. Four-inch pine planks, twelve feet long, were laid diagonally on a high roadbed which government engineers had planned so that the grades over the ridges would be gradual. [This road was purchased by a private company in 1852, and their toll gates were in use for the next twenty-four years.]