Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Badbea Conditions. Article II, 31/07/1879 - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea, and Neighbourhood - Part B

Article II written by Alexander Gunn, aka A Native of Badbea, was printed in the Northern Ensign July 31, 1879 Part B

“It is strange how people can accommodate themselves to circumstances, and how we overcome difficulties where we have no control over the circumstances in which we are placed. I remember well when John "Badbea" was the only person in the place who could sport a watch, and yet the time could be calculated with as much accuracy, both by night and day, as if everyone in the place had a watch or a clock. The hour to suit the proper state of the tide in the darkest night could be calculated when going to sea with the small-line, or the hour to start for church - which was four miles to Berriedale and eight miles to Helmsdale, where we oftenest went - could be arrived at with perfect accuracy, as well as the proper time to go to our work, should we be employed in working for the laird, where we had to be very punctual. One could scarcely believe it, unless they actually saw it, how accurately this could be done.

Edge of the World 1936. Foula, Shetland people 

on the way to kirk.

Fishing was the principal employment of the inhabitants, and had they had the facilities to dispose of the proceeds which exist now-a-days they could have done well by it, as there is not a better spot for haddock fishing in all Scotland than that which lies right opposite Badbea. I have seen the hauls of haddock so great that the very starfish were carefully picked off the line, and cast overboard lest the boat would be too deeply loaded. Tons of fish could be landed in a day were there an outlet for them. I have seen as high as 800 dried haddocks in our house at one time, and those who had no one to prosecute the fishing for them, such as widows with young children, had their share every day laid aside for them as soon as the haul came ashore. They all got their turn alternately, so that they never wanted fish from one year's end to the other.
The steep hillsides at Ousdale that Badbea workers were 
forced to clear  by Donald Horne
There was some trifling work to be got occasionally on the estate, but the rate of wages was very low. One shilling per day was the rate for the best worker till within the last 25 years or so, it was not uncommon thing for a person to have to travel two or three miles to his work and only be paid 1s. There was no such thing as weekly or fortnightly pays - not even monthly - not even payment once in six months. Twelve months was the shortest time, and frequently two years elapsed before a penny could be got. If any young man had the courage to go and work beyond the bounds of the estate, where he would be better remunerated and regularly paid, his parents would suffer for it by being turned out of their house and lot at the next term. There was a system of tyranny and oppression practiced long ago by lairds that could scarcely be believed in our times.

Badbea proper had a good space of hill pasture at one time that was very useful, and enabled the people to rear a few cattle, which, when sold, helped to pay their rents, and supply them with other necessaries; but the laird set his eye upon it, and seized fully one - fourth of it, separating it from the rest by a deep ditch and high paling. There was no proportionate reduction made in the poor people's rents for this. Then a few years later there was a five feet stone dyke run along the face of the hill behind the houses, only a few hundred feet distant, enclosing them as in a pen. The rocks and the sea on one side and this dyke on the other deprived them of three- fourths of their hill pasture, and yet there was no reduction in the rents. By this state of matters the poor people were driven to a state of perfect desperation, but there was no redress. They dare not remonstrate, however respectfully, unless they wished to be turned out altogether. Latterly, so palpable was it that the poor people could not exist in this miserable state that the usual way was taken of dealing with what was considered superfluous population. One half of them were turned out of their lots which they had cultivated, some for forty years, and others for thirty years, and though, as I have already said, a stranger would think very little of it, yet to those born and bred in the locality it had charms that no other place on earth possessed, and to be turned out of it was no ordinary trial. I believe, however, none of them would wish to go back to it again if they had to go through such trials as they had to endure at the hands of their superiors".
Badbea with the stone dyke in the centre right

The photos and illustrations were not published with the original article

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