Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Desolate Land and Sutherland Reclamations - Article IX - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea and Neighbourhood – Part E

Article IX written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 25 December 1879 – Part E

“There was a meal mill at Millary. This beautiful strath, once inhabited by a happy and contented race, is now desolate and lonely as a desert. The monarch of the feathery tribe, if he still inhabits the solitude of Craignahuilerach, must travel a considerable distance from his craggy home ere he can procure the sweet morsel of tender lamb on which he used to feast at his very door, as the whole district is now under red deer. We hear much now-a-days about agricultural distress and unremunerative farming. Unfortunate farmers are recommended to seek a home and more remunerative farming in the boundless plains of Canada, or the fertile and genial plains of New Zealand, the "Britain of the South." I maintain, however, that there is no reason why our Scottish farmers should expatriate themselves, and leave home and friends to push their fortunes in a foreign land, so long as there are thousands of acres of the very best land lying waste in the straths and glens of Caithness and Sutherland, as well as other parts of Scotland - tracts of land yielding nothing, but rearing red deer and other game for the delight of the sportsman.”

The Emigrants B The Emigrants F
The Emigrants, Helmsdale

“This land could be brought into cultivation at a fraction of what his Grace the noble Duke of Sutherland is expending on the improvements at Lairg and Kinbrace. I am surprised to see the noble duke expending so much money on bleak, barren hill. Why should he not take his great steam-plough and set it to work on the fine straths and glens with which his estate abounds - get them under cultivation once more, and peopled with a thriving and industrious tenantry. After he has done this, let him have recourse to those heathery hills, and make himself a name, as an agriculturist, and as a patron and friend of the British farmer, worthy of the noble house of Sutherland.”

Steam plough Steam plough Duke of Sutherland
The Duke of Sutherland’s Steam Plough The Steam Plough

“No doubt many persons have succeeded in making their fortune in our colonies, but that is no reason why we should lock up the land in this country so as to drive our industrious population to seek a home in other countries - persons who, had the same encouragement at home, would be as prosperous and fortunate as the could be in any distant land.”

                            The Glendoe Eagle and Piper
The Glendoe Eagle and Piper

My Comments:

Alexander Gunn reminds me of the piper who plays the same bagpipes' lament over and over again –the desolate land, the lost opportunities, the loved ones who had to emigrate to Canada, New Zealand or Australia. Gunn may not have been so angry at the clearances of the land for sheep if sheep had in fact been farmed successfully and the poverty of so many good families had been relieved in some way. But that was not the case and Gunn saw previously productive land now lying waste with wealthy land owners turning sheep walks into game reserves to keep the money coming in. The impoverishment or emigration of the people was never ending.

On his estates the Duke of Sutherland was experimenting with developing land but his steam plough had it’s drawbacks and turned out to be not so effective after all. The stony ground required a huge amount of preparation and the engines were weighty and awkward to use requiring a lot of labour. Gunn had a point – maybe the Duke should use the steam plough on better land first, however the steam plough was incredibly expensive and labour intensive to run no matter where. On steep and stony land the old chas chrom was probably still the best implement but those who knew how to best use it were gone - cleared off the land and many out of Scotland altogether.

25 12 1879 NE (Article IX) part d copy C 25 12 1879 NE (Article IX) part d copy D

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