3 comments on “Archaeology on the Borralie Headland

  1. There’s bugger all there! My friend H. has a big interest in standing stones and all.
    ” Above is a sheepfold that was built in the 19th century when people living nearby were moved out to make way for sheep farming.” I’m sure the people there weren’t moved out for sheep farming unless they agreed to go. The folk who owned the land must have been really sad to see them go. Perhaps the folk who owned the land preferred having sexual relations with the sheep as I’ve heard that rich protestant landowners enjoyed that kind of R and R.

    • According to the book by Eric Richards, (I mentioned this book some time ago https://roddymacleod.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/perpetuating-some-myths-of-the-highland-clearances/ ) and other sources (e.g. http://durness.wixsite.com/durnessnew/copy-of-around-durness-12 and a leaflet by Graham Bruce) the Durness area clearances started in the 1790s.

      Before that, “Emigration from the parish began in 1772 when 200 people left for South Carolina. This was before the notorious clearances…”

      Land owned by Eric Lord Reay was rented to various local tacksmen. “The process was prolonged by the fact that numbers of people – especially the aged and infirm – were allowed to remain as subtenants or cottars on the sheepfarms, even into the 1840s.” “Some of those cleared are known to have emigrated to Canada. However, most of the small tenants were resettled on the estate”. Lord Reay assisted in the development of kelp, on coastal farms, but this was not successful in the longer term.

      Then, the estate was sold to the Duke of Sutherland, who went on to “…invest in the construction of roads. Prior to this Durness was only served by rough tracks or by boat. In the early 19th century Sutherland had been opened up through the building of Parliamentary roads up the east coast and to Tongue. After 1829 a road was built from Skiag Bridge in Assynt northwards to Durness and round the coast. The work of the county road surveyor, Peter Lawson, is recorded on the plaque at the water trough between Gualin and Carbreck although the date of 1883 should be 1833. Ferries and inns were provided by the Sutherland estate.”

      The system of farming, away from runrig to crofts was encouraged. When there was a bad harvest, “All the crofters or small tenants on the Sutherland estate were forgiven their arrears when the second Duke of Sutherland succeeded to the estate on death of his mother the Duchess-Countess in 1839.”

      Someone called James Anderson, a tacksman, had leased some land for a long period and made a go at herring and cod fisheries, but then, in 1841, and totally against the wishes of the Duke, he started to clear the land he had leased. Anderson had previously cleared 32 families, of whom most went to other places in the north of Scotland, but in 1841 he evicted (legally, though with very little regard for the people concerned) another 31 families. This lead to the Durness riots of 1841. There is quite a lot in the Richards book about how various people, including the Duke, tried to stop the evictions, but Anderson had Scots law on his side.

      Then, in 1846, potato disease. “Works, paid for by the Duke of Sutherland, were set agoing to employ one person out of each family. At Laid, each tenant was allowed money to improve his croft. Tenants were also employed trenching and draining land, for instance at Lerin, and between Murdo Low’s at Smoo and the Ground Officer’s house. Young people were encouraged and assisted to go south for look for work. In 1847 and 1848 the Duke spent a good deal on arranging four emigrant ships to Canada: most of the emigrants, however, came from Assynt and Eddrachillis. Paupers receiving assistance under the new Poor Law were assisted by the Parochial Board. Those who were not on the poor’s roll but who had no family to support them and were judged unable to work, were given allowances in meal.”

      So, in summary, it wasn’t the folk who owned the land (as you suggest) who were responsible for the forced evictions, but rather the tacksmen who had rented the land, and who could not, within the law, be restrained.

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