Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands 1883 Part G
Alex Gunn continues:
|Google Earth image showing the still unproductive land near Newport|
Some of the poor people who were evicted were set down on a steep brae-face at Newport to the east of Borgie, and after cultivating a considerable quantity of ground that land was taken from them and cultivated by the laird, and they were sent further up the hill, in a bleak heathery spot, where they had to set in once more and break up the barren ground, and where they are scarcely able to live. The most galling part of this whole thing is that they got no compensation for their improvements.
|Unproductive land at Newport|
|In the rear a steep, impossible to farm brae, between Berriedale and Newport|
The neighbouring estate of Dunbeath had a share in evictions as well. From the year 1830 to 1835 there were 65 families evicted from the Dunbeath strath. A number of them settled down on a barren hill face on the coast, where they had to do the best they could by cultivating small patches of ground and eking out a miserable existence by fishing. These 65 families [had once] lived comfortably and happily. I remember once being in the house of one of these tenants and I well remember the air of comfort and fullness which I observed about the house, and I dare say all the others were as comfortable as this family. I believe each of these families would possess from 20 to 30 head of cattle. This fertile strath was put under sheep. Between Berriedale and Dunbeath there were 162 families cut adrift, and good land to the extent of 2500 acres laid waste.
|Ruins of a crofting settlement at Dunbeath|
|Ruins at Dunbeath|
Not only did the crofters and their families get sent to impossibly difficult places to try to live off, they still had to pay rent to the landord.
At the Commission of Inquiry, over and over witnesses spoke of the injustice of the refusal of the proprietors to pay compensation to crofters for improvements made, such as draining a swampy piece of land. The crofters were told if they didn't like the conditions they could leave. Of course many didn't leave because they had no-where to go to and if they did find a patch of poor land they had to start all over again to dig and plant in the desparate struggle to feed their family. So the exploitation continued year after year.
To be continued..