Friday, July 3, 2015

Langwell Strath and Berriedale shore - Article X - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea, & Neighbourhood – Part B

Article X written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 15 January 1880 – Part B

Langwell to Uagbeg map_0001
Langwell Strath from Langwell to Ouagbeg. John Thomson’s Atlas of Scotland, 1832

Langwell Water Valley
Langwell Water Valley. Google Earth

“There was a meal mill at Langwell, and fine fertile fields capable of raising all kinds of crops in abundance. The Borgue of Langwell lay on the opposite side of the river; further up on the same side is Badaskerry. Opposite it stands Turnal, whose last tenant was a man of the name of George Gunn. Behind Langwell, is a fine tract of plantation, where I earned my first wages, engaged in planting this hillside, where I was paid at the rate of fourpence per day. After leaving Langwell, and passing Turnal, the traveller passes several fine haughs, once the habitation of a happy and industrious people, and then he reaches Brae-na-heglash. The ruins of a chapel is found here, from which the place derives its name. Further up the Strath is Ault-na-bea, or the "witchie burn," and at the extreme end, and adjoining the march between Sutherland and Caithness, is Uag of Berriedale. This is a distance of about ten miles from Berriedale, in a northerly direction, and all this distance was once inhabited, and the fertile haughs cultivated, and yielding splendid crops. 

Both straths were covered over with a thick copse of native birch, hazel rowan tree, sauch and alder, which imparted a very pleasing aspect to the landscape. But such a state of matters did not please the folk at Auchastle, and orders were issued to have the wood cut down, which of course was done, only a tree left here and there, giving the Straths a cold and barren appearance in comparison with what they previously had.”

Ruined cottage above Langwell  Brae-n-h-Eaglais Braigh-na-h-Eaglaise
Ruined cottage at Brae-n-h-Eaglais Braigh-na-h-Eaglaise
Langwell Water 3 In the Langwell Water Valley
Langwell Water Valley Langwell Water Valley
Ruined Cottage of Wag Aultibea from the South West
Ruins of settlement at Wag aka Ouagbeg Autibea from the south west. An old deserted estate cottage.

“At Berriedale there was a good fishing, the boats numbering thirteen. They landed and cured their fish for the most part at the pier at the back of the castle. But Mr James Horne took it in his head to have a salmon fishing there, and as a matter of course the herring fishing had to give way to the salmon fishing. Newport was next tried for the herring fishing, but the place was not suitable, and was discontinued, and this branch of industry, which afforded means of employment to a great many on the estate, and was the means of circulating a considerable amount of money yearly in the district, was abolished to gratify the whim of one individual.”

T02886 Berriedale shore
Berrydale 1820 William Daniell showing herring fishing activities. Berriedale old shore cottages before restoration
Old saw mill at Berriedale on Mill Road Turnal Burn
Old mill at Mill Road, Berriedale. This mill was originally built as a meal mill and converted to a saw mill at a later date

Turnal Burn
My Comments:
The Gaelic names of places have various spellings
  • Brae-na-heglash, Brae na-h-Eaglais
  • Aultnabea, Aultibea
  • Uagbeg, Wag or Uag of Berriedale
  • Borgue of Langwell
  • Badaskerry I think is Cnoc Bad Asgaraidh
  • A haugh is a riverside meadow.
Alexander Gunn continues his lament for the Clearances of the land at the whim of a few individuals. For Gunn every small settlement or place of a few cottages was not only a place that grew crops in abundance – but was a place that sustained real families and friends. Gunn’s own family were cleared from Badbea for no apparent reason. So the haughs aren’t just beautiful meadows by the river but deserted homelands, cleared by estate owners and their managers. And over again Gunn publicly names the proprietors - Sinclair, J Horne and D Horne - who inflicted their ‘transformation by eviction’ schemes on people who had been settled in areas for generations, causing them to be scattered far and wide. While many commentators suggest the croft farming was not sustainable anyway, as it turned out neither were the sheep farming ventures that caused so much hardship. And really, it was the cruel and heartless attitudes and actions of the landed proprietors that were, and are still, deeply controversial.

Alexander Gunn’s father John Gunn was the miller at Ousdale which closed after Auchencraig was cleared. He next became miller at the Berriedale mill for a few years – the mill was originally built as a meal mill and was converted to a saw mill at a later date – before he was moved on.

I am particularly interested in Ouagbeg as my great, great grandfather John McLeod was shown on his 1822 marriage record as being a shepherd in Ouagbeg. He went on to Rumsdale to manage the large ‘sheep walk’ there for forty years.

The development of the salmon industry by Donald Horne has a modern twist. At some point in the 1840s, after clearing the herring business out and changing to salmon fishing, Horne built some fisherman’s cottages and an ice house at Berriedale. From here the salmon were packed in ice and shipped to London. The old shore cottages have recently been restored by the Landmark Trust and are available for hire.

The Berriedale Shore Cottages restored by The Landmark Trust

The photos I have gathered from that wonderful site Geograph show the present day remnants of tracks, stone walls, old houses - all now deserted landscapes. In this overcrowded world of ours now such landscapes may seem picturesque and desirable but the stories of how they got like that are anything but, and are worth remembering.

15 1 1880 NE (Article X) part bb 15 1 1880 NE (Article X) part ca 15 1 1880 NE (Article X) part cb
1879, 17 July NE Original 1 copy B

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