This article written by Alexander Gunn was published in the Northern Ensign on 27 March 1884
Since his statement to the Commission, the next correspondence I have from Alexander Gunn is the letter below re evictions. I have already published this letter way back on 20 November 2013 but to keep continuity with Gunn’s letters I will publish it again without comment and refer readers back to the 20 November 2013 blog for more details.
EVICTIONS IN BERRIEDALE BY SIR JOHN SINCLAIR
To the Editor of the Northern Ensign
|Sir John Sinclair in Thurso|
SIR, - Allow me through your valuable columns, to give a detailed account of the evictions in Berriedale, both by Sir John Sinclair and by Mr James Horne, his successor. The account of the matter by your correspondent, “Old Man Narrator,” is not altogether correct. Sir John Sinclair, who was considered the greatest agriculturist in the country, and who was a real or honorary member of almost every agricultural society in the three kingdoms, as well as of several societies on the continent of Europe, was the first to introduce what were called the “big sheep” to Caithness. The small sheep or “Kerry,” was the only breed in the country before that time. To make room for his sheep, Sir John evicted 61 families from the Berriedale straths, and laid the whole under sheep.
The townships on the Millary or Berriedale straths were these, viz., Glut,1 tenant; Eskbin,1; Eskmaealmag,1; Haborgue,1; Esknabing,1; Upper Millary,1; Lower Millary,1; Ardachigh,1; Toreshey,1; Duin 3; Taigh-an-Duin,1; Dalgheamich,2; Knock Feune,1; Ellaw-an Duinag,1; Upper Borgue,2 – in all 19.
From the Langwell Strath there were evicted from the township of Inver,5; Knocktorinrectan,1; Elonluisg,1; Capernach,1; Taigh-an-Asary,1; Ruharigy,1; Turnal,1 (held by George Gunn who had seven sons, the equal of whom were not in the country); Taighnault,1; Bardnachie,1; Struan,1; Bualnahaoden,1; Bualtarach,1; Garvary,1; Brainaheaglash,1; Auldnabeath,1; Uag More 1; Uag Bhaig,1; Borgue, Langwell,1 (where my great-grandfather, who came from Cattag, lived during the proprietorship of Sutherland of Langwell); Corrag,1; in all 23.
From the Ousdale district there were evicted from the township of Ousdale, 9 families: Borgue of Ousdale, 2; Struie, 8; in all 19; giving a grand total of 61.
It is singular that after Sir John had turned out these 61 families, and occupied their places with his sheep, he began to break up large tracks of ground on the hill-side to the west of Berriedale, at a place called Carterfield, and got it under cultivation, having taken several crops of oats off it. Also at Borgue, Langwell, he brought in a large park, the first turf of which was cut by Lady Janet, and was known ever after as Park-na-Bainthighearn, or “Her Ladyship’s Park.” There was also broken up a large square piece of moor, or moss, to the west of Carterfield. It was planted with curly greens about Christmas, and, as might be expected, the frosts of winter destroyed every plant of them. These fields which were broken up and put under crop for a year or two, instead of being given to the tenants evicted from the straths, were allowed to fall out of cultivation into grazings for sheep, and a few years saw them covered with their original heather.
The singular thing is that while by all accounts the Ulbster family have been the most extensive evictors in the country, as appears from the recent correspondence in your spirited paper, they were yet looked up to and esteemed by the whole community. No doubt there were some good traits in their character, but these were sullied and tarnished by their treatment of those respectable and happy families that were so ruthlessly driven out of their comfortable holdings. As stated in some of my previous communications, when Sir John got his regiment of Fencibles embodied, he got 60 men from Berriedale, said to be the finest men in the regiment, and yet this was the treatment they received at his hands.
Your correspondent is also at fault in saying that James Horne evicted none at Berriedale. Horne evicted 13 families in the township of Auchencraig. Three families were evicted by him from the Cairn, 4 from Rinsary, and 6 from Badbea. True, some of these as your correspondent says, got miserable patches elsewhere on the estate, but so did some of those evicted by Sir John; but I consider they were entitled to be numbered among the evicted nevertheless, as they were driven from their comfortable homes without justice or reason, and the plots on which they were allowed to settle down were not entitled to the name of land, being bare rocks or black moss, whilst the arable land they were driven from was given over for sheep grazings.
The Ulster family may well pray to be saved from their friends, since Mr Logan, who shows great zeal on their behalf , has been the means of bringing to light matters that had been entirely forgotten, and which would never appeared before the public but for Mr Logan’s zeal without knowledge. I would venture to give him a bit of advice for his guidance in the future, and that is let sleeping dogs lie. – Yours &c.,
Alex Gunn. Glasgow