Archiver > ABERDEEN > 2010-06 > 1277379657

From: "Mark Sutherland-Fisher" <>
Subject: Re: [ABERDEEN] Crofting
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2010 12:40:57 +0100
References: <mailman.49.1277245255.3855.aberdeen@rootsweb.com> <4C21D958.7020402@kinhelp.co.uk> <24766D8031994B89BE6B8B478BCBF509@computer> <AANLkTinrwvkVRXrdhHrAU6C6I9_sUKfoLintVjecdtY_@mail.gmail.com> <B59F59730D744C4DBC884D86A88E2769@computer> <4C2311D1.5070604@which.net><AANLkTinkj32B-kQie43uqwwTEOAXvM0OpNXQYjUm7A_3@mail.gmail.com>
In-Reply-To: <AANLkTinkj32B-kQie43uqwwTEOAXvM0OpNXQYjUm7A_3@mail.gmail.com>

You have totally misunderstood the crafting set up. Firstly before you or
anyone else spits on the face of Elizabeth Duchess-Countess of Sutherland,
remember the facts. Around 20,000 people were cleared from Sutherland
Estates, most to the coastal communities like Helmsdale though a great many
emigrated. Roughly 500,000 were cleared from the Highlands and Islands. In
other words the overwhelming majority of those cleared did not live on
Sutherland family owned property. The reason the Sutherlands get it in the
neck is because the Duchess-Countess' husband was an Englishman. The
overwhelming majority of the clearances were carried out on behalf of native
born Highland Scottish Chiefs and Lairds and it is far easier to blame 1
Englishman for the ills brought about by around 100 Scottish Clan Chiefs and
Lairds. On the Western Isles, none of which were part of Sutherland Estates,
men, women and children were put on ships to America at the point of a

As for crofts, they were small maintenance landholdings occupied by clans
people for generations without any formal tenure. They were not serfs. Most
were members of the far extended family of the Clan Chief, either directly
or through one of the many cadet families. The typical croft could be
anything from an acre to tens of acres and the entire township shared use of
the upland/hill pasture. After the Clearances, the big estate owners
encouraged mainly Borders sheep farming families to come north and they
created large farms/small estates for them to operate. There was then
pressure between the need for more land by these farmers who were after all
paying commercial rents to the estates and the remaining long established
crafting tenants. This often resulted in the crafting tenants being forced
off "their" land. Things got so bad that by the mid 1800s the politicians
got involved and then finally we got the first of the Crofting Acts which
established the basic rights of crofters for the first time.

Even as recently as the 1990s there was no single central record of all
croft land in the Highlands and Islands. The Crofters Commission did not
have a comprehensive OS map based record and their records frequently
contradicted those of the Department of Agriculture who did operate a map
based recording system for the purposes of the IACS forms regulating EU
subsidies. To make matters worse even the maps of the estates did not
correspond to the records of either of the government bodies. I well
remember spending an afternoon in various estate offices with the Estate
Factor of several major landowners trying to tie in the 3 separate sets of
records for a particular estate. The biggest single problem was that over
several generations, families had split crofts among family members or
swapped fields with neighbours to make more manageable units but no-one had
ever formally recorded these changes let alone created any documentary
evidence of them. In some crafting communities a few particularly forceful
families have managed to in effect create mini-estates for themselves by
acquiring either as tenant or owner-occupied crofter several crofts within
the same township and then apportioning large parts of the open common
grazing adjacent to their crofts to create units running to hundreds of

It is a very complex issue and involves not only a great deal of history but
also a great deal of politics with both a small and capital "P".

-----Original Message-----
From: [mailto:]
On Behalf Of Ray Hennessy
Sent: 24 June 2010 10:49
Subject: Re: [ABERDEEN] illegitimate children

On 24 June 2010 09:05, Gavin Bell <> wrote:

... They may have "had" their crofts, but they will have rented them, not
> owned them. And while it may sound cosy, a "croft" was often a fairly
> patch of poor land, insufficient to support even a single family.


Am I right in thinking that many crofts were originally leased by the main
or tenant farmer [i.e. the landlord] to their workers? The attached land -
sometimes as little as 2 acres - was often poor or totally uncultivated and
it was the crofter's task to bring it up to agricultural standard. The
landlord exacted a rent [a sort-of tithe?] and could if he wished
discontinue the rental agreement to take the land back for his own use. [At
this point some will spit on the Duchess of Sutherland!].

In effect the original crofter was a serf with few rights of tenure who had
to work his own land and also work for the landlord farmer. Given the
conditions of land in those far off days, a far from cosy life, although
many farmers would have cared as best they could for their workers so that
they got the best from their land.


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