ABERDEEN-L ArchivesArchiver > ABERDEEN > 2010-06 > 1277387250
From: Gavin Bell <>
Subject: Re: [ABERDEEN] illegitimate children
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2010 14:47:30 +0100
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Ray Hennessy wrote:
> 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 small
>>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.
I think "serf" perhaps overstates the case. Big landowners certainly
did, until technological advances rendered a large workforce
unnecessary, let crofts and cottar houses to people who they could call
on to assist (generally, I think, in return for payment) at busy times.
there were also jobs (such ass "egg-wife" and dairy-maid) which
could have been done by the womenfolk. When they were not employed on
the main farm, the crofters could cultivate their own land, and some
crofters/cottars may also have had trades (eg shoemaker).
We could probably say that the crofters/cottars were not in a strong
bargaining position vis-a-vis their landlords, but I think the
arrangement generally stopped a little short of actual servitude.