Article IX written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 25 December 1879 – Part A
|Source: Electric Scotland||Source: Electric Scotland|
“In my last I described the process of plough making. It would be interesting to describe the process of ploughing commonly practised in those days. One man held the stilts of the plough, to which two or three oxen were sometimes yoked, or it might be as many cows in place of oxen. A second person led the team, walking backwards with his face to the plough, and a third bent over the plough, grasping the beam with both hands, and pushing it down with all his might, so as to keep the plough in the ground. As might be expected, the quantity of the ground turned over in a day was not very great.”
“I once saw a very curious team engaged in ploughing a small field on a croft at Mid-Garty, Sutherlandshire. It consisted of a mare and a cow yoked to the plough - the gudewife leading them walking backwards, and the gudeman holding the plough. Another curious thing in connection with this team was that the mare, the cow, and the wife were all approaching a time when each would be making an addition to the numbers and wealth of the humble cottar.”
What an intriguing story. I have had an interesting time trying to find pictures of an in-foal mare, and an in-calf cow, yoked together, being guided by an ‘up th’ duff’ gudewife walking backwards, while the gudeman steers the plough. It cannae be dain. These below are bonnie.
|Cow-drawn plough, Caithness. Source: Pininterest by Cy Dorr||Spring work at Uig. Source: Electric Scotland|
These photos from the 51st Scottish Ploughing Championships 2013 - Stanstill Farm, Caithness, by Bill Fernie of Caithness.org illustrate the help given by the person walking backwards guiding the team especially when they get to the end of the row and need to do a U turn.
To put the comments of Alexander Gunn into the Badbea context it seems likely that he was referring to ploughing at other villages nearby, as Badbea was so steep and rocky it was not possible to plough there.
John Badbea Sutherland writing to his friend David Steven says:
Badbea, 13 December, 1849
“There is no place in my acquaintance so unlike my case in every respect as where I am [Badbea]. It is seven miles from any means of the very form; and I am sickly and delicate; since many years I am almost confined to the house in the winter season, and my only sister that is with me has been in the fiery furnace for 26 years: my niece also is broken in health, as the crofts are so difficult to labour, no plowing [ploughing], no cart, and the place is shut in to the rocks, while I am paying four times as much as mother was paying when we came here..” John Sutherland