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Livestock Production in the Scottish Highlands Before and After the Clearances


Livestock production has long been important to the Highland economy, before no less than after the clearances for sheep that first spread across the region from the mid-eighteenth century onwards. However, key questions about how it may have developed over the century or so immediately prior to the clearances have still to be answered, as well as questions about how the clearances actually changed farm output. Using stocking data primarily for the southern Highlands and Islands, this paper proposes to examine four particular questions. First, by way of an introduction, it will briefly consider the role of stock within the traditional or pre-clearance township economy. Second, it will use detailed data for the closing decades of the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century to characterise the broad stocking balance of townships at the point when detailed figures first become available. Third, it will look at stocking figures for the eighteenth century with a view to establishing how livestock production may have altered during the century or so prior to the clearances. Fourth, and finally, it will consider how the clearances changed the character of livestock production.

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1. This phrase occurs in Munro R. W. (ed.), Monro's Western Isles of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1961), pp. 4950, 52, 5455, 6667.

2. The mutual link between arable and cattle is shown by the way some townships called their infield arable winter-toun, or the land grazed by cattle in winter. In turn, the stock so maintained provided the manure spread over infield arable in spring: each setting limitations on the other. By definition a soum was one cow, plus followers, with horses being two soums and sheep or goats a fraction of it: on the mainland and in parts of the inner Hebrides, five goats or sheep equalled a soum but in the outer Hebrides, ten were rated a soum, see, for example, Scottish Record Office (hereafter SRO), MacLaine of Lochbuie Papers, GDI 74/736 List of Soums allow'ed for Lochbuys estate 1753.

3. Stock were traditionally paid as renders, casualities or as part of cuid-oidhche, the latter being the obligation of hospitality. Cattle, or marts, were paid as renders in sixteenth-century rentals but are mostly converted to cash payments by the late seventeenth century. By contrast, cattle products, or cheese and butter, are paid as such down to the eighteenth century. Sheep too continue to be paid in stock form until the eighteenth century.

4. Dodgshon R. A., ‘West Highland Chiefdoms, 1500–1745: A Study in Redistribute Exchange’, in Mitchison R. and Roebuck P. (eds.), Economy and Society in Scotland and Ireland 1500–1939 (Edinburgh, 1988) pp. 31, 3334.

5. A petition in 1609 by chiefs in the western isles, including Hector McClaine of Duart, complained that a recent ban on merchants ‘buying mairtis, horses or utheris goodis' on Mull and other isles meant that they could not pay ‘his majesties dewteis'. As well as showing that stock were being sold out of the region by the start of the seventeenth century, the petition makes it clear that landowners were involved in the trade. See Collectanea de Rebus Albatticis, lona club, 1847, p. 153.

6. If we compare souming data for Tiree with its cropping data, it suggests that whereas there was a high correlation between souming rates and arable in 1680 (=0.94), this relationship had greatly weakened by 1768 (=0.74): based on Inveraray Castle, Argyll Papers, Bundle 2531, Rentall of Tirie 1680; ibid., V65 Number of Inhabitants … with the Sowing and Increase of Each Farm, 1768. The high correlation in 1680 can only mean that the number of stock maintained and the amount of arable were not only meant to be related but actually were. The absence of any close correlation in 1768 might be explained by a greater dependence on seaweed as a manure.

7. Mckay M. M. (ed.), The Rev Dr. John Walker's Report on the Hebrides of 1764 and 1771 (Edinburgh, 1980), pp.155, 172 and 196;Shaw F.M., The Northern and Western Islands of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1980), p. 117.

8. Gibson A.J.S. and Smout T.C., Prices, Food and Wages in Scotland 1550–1780 (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 226229.

9. Masson D. (ed.), The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, IX, 1600–1613 (Edinburgh, 1889), pp. 2630Masson D. (ed.), The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, X, 1613–1616 (Edinburgh, 1891), pp. 773781.

10. Landowners certainly figure in early attempts to organise the droving of cattle out of the region. See, for example, Innes C. (ed.), The Book of the Thanes of Cawdor. A Series of Papers Selected from the Charter Room of Cawdor 1236–1742, Spalding club (Edinburgh, 1859) pp. 351352, involving a 1623 contract by Sir John Campbell of Calder for the sale of 1000 ‘stotts and cowes of the ile of Ila’.

11. Most large estates maintained ‘bowhouses’. The Sutherland estate, for instance, maintained ‘Severall Bows’, National Library of Scotland (hereafter NLS), Sutherland Papers, DEP313/923 Memorial anent Captaine Ross, 1725. A 1623 agreement issued by Sir John Campbell of Calder for the ‘bowing and hirding’ of cattle casts further light on the arrangements surrounding bowhouses. Sir John provided the tenant of Barragalzean a fixed number of cattle, of different ages and conditions (i.e. great, tydie and forrow). The tenant, Gilmorie, was required to pay ‘12 great kye’ each year to Sir John, plus butter, cheese, oat meal, poultry and eggs. At the end of the agreement, Gilmorie was to return ‘the lyk number of ky alsweill young as aid”, see Innes , Book of the Thanes of Cawdor, pp. 262263.

12. Innes C., The Black Book of Taymouth with other papers from the Breadalbane Charter Room, Bannatyne Club (Edinburgh, 1855),‘Bowhous Bwik’, pp. 268299. SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/9/7, 1600–1602 Rental for Breadalbane estate; ibid, GDI 12/9/9, 1616–1620 Rental for the Breadalbane estate.

13. Innes , Black Book, pp. 268295. All tenants paid ‘strength silver’ as a cash rent.

14. Ibid., 276.

15. Ibid., 289.

16. A 1582 rental is headed the ‘Bowhous Bwik’ whilst the 1594 rental is labelled ‘Compt off the Bowhoussis”, ibid, pp. 265 and 268. It is easy to see how arrangements detailed in the agreement by Sir John Campbell of Calder, footnote 9, could shift from the use of bowhouses to store stock gathered in as rent by an estate to one in which the estate effectively allowed some tenants to manage such stock on its behalf through a ‘bowing and hirding’ deal. The ‘bowhouses’ on the Breadalbane estate were identical to Barragalzean, a once specific arrangement now used as a general management strategy for livestock, with tenants effectively managing stock on behalf of the estate. A similar arrangement also appears to have prevailed on the Sutherland estate, with a 1724 rental referring to tenants owing the ‘Steel or Duty of Eight Cows after allowance of Eight Pounds Scots money for their Grass and for wintering four of them’, NLS, Sutherland Papers, DEP313/2133, Sutherland Estate Rental 1724.

17. Examples are given in Innes , Black Book, pp. 272273.

18. The only mention of horses occurs in a consolidated list at the end of the 1694 rental, ibid, pp. 298–9.

19. Altogether, if we take the cattle figures disclosed by the 1594 list, they show an average herd per township of 42, a figure comparable with the average yielded by early seventeenth century data for other nearby areas. In the case of three townships in Glenorchy for which data are also available for the early sevententh century, the 1594 list suggests an average of 63.3 cattle per township compared to 73.6 in c.1630, see SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/12/1/2/1, Soums of Sir Duncan's Time.

20. All the ‘bowhousis’ paid ‘salt’ and ‘fresche’ butter and, from ‘ilk cuppill of new calfit kye’, so-many stones of cheese.

21. Inveraray Castle, Argyll papers, N.E. 11, vol. 1543–1610 The rental! of the haill landis and sowmes gudis yairone within ye parochin of Inchaild 1609. Despite its title, the list covers a far larger area.

22. The unsettled conditions for farming in mid and south Argyll are well conveyed by the numerous references to farms lying waste in 1596 and 1605 in Macphail J.R.N. (ed.), Highland Papers, vol. 111, Scottish History Society, 2nd series, vol. xx, 1920, pp. 7284.

23. The largest number of horses listed in any one township was only 33. Indeed, only 23 had more than 10 horses.

24. Inveraray Castle, Argyll Papers, Bundle 746, The Haill Landis of the Lordship of Kintyr wtye tennentis and Inhabitantis names wtye haill number of cattell ky and horses c. 1636.

25. I have not referred to crofters in this list of non-tenurial occupiers for the reason that many rentals treat crofters as tenants. Where the evidence is sufficiently explicit, it is clear that where crofters held service tenenments attached to a township, they usually had livestock that were accounted within the total soums of the township. See, for example, SRO, GD170/420/1/15 Rental of Achuoran 1774, which details the stock and sowing allowed out of the township's total for the service crofts.

26. Kildavie, for example had 51 horses, 22 held by a single landholder.

27. SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/12/1/2/1/ The Soums of Glenorchy in Sir Duncan's Time. Sir Duncan was, in fact, chief for 48 years, 1583–1631, so that the precise dating of this list is problematic. Allowing for the possibility that souming was altered during his lifetime, the most we can assume is that the ‘soums’ provided by this list were probably those prevailing in the later decades of his chieftainship, or during the early seventeenth century.

28. The 1730 souming list does, in fact, have an analysis of rent on the basis of the souming list and makes it clear that the reason why such lists had been maintained by the Breadalbane estate was to facilitate the calculation of rent.

29. Souming rates are provided by a number of sources. On the Breadalbane estate, for example, SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/12/1/2/1/ The Soums of Glenorchy in Sir Duncan's Time, refer to how each type of stock is weighted, with one or two entries re-stating that each cow and its follower equalled a soum and therefore provided the basic reference for the system; five sheep equalled a soum and each horse, two soums. The early practice of souming equal numbers of cattle, sheep and goats, a practice used on estates like Breadalbane, suggests that the herds and flocks were balanced as a matter of principle.

30. Two townships, Calnish and Larig, were also reported to have stags.

31. Some sources actually refer to Breadalbane farms in Lome as mainly ‘corn’ farms, whilst the so-called ‘continental’ farms or those of the interior were mainly livestock. Despite this classification, the distinction was based on differences of degree. So-called livestock farms had arable sectors and vice-versa. However, where we can compare the two, their differences in sowing were more significant than their differences in stocking. In Lome, for example, townships tended to have around 40–45 bolls of sowing, whereas Glenorchy farms had only 10–20 bolls. As regards stocking, both areas had an average of around 45–50 cattle per township when data first become available although the Glenorchy average is the higher.

32. Inveraray Castle, Argyll Papers, N.E. 11, 1650–1669 Acts and Rentals, Rental of Mclaines lands 1662.

33. The largest herds were between 60–70 cows, as in the townships of Achatashannag, Tang, Penniemore, and Skiaba.

34. Ardsinage, for instance, possessed 24 horses but only a few bolls of sowing. According to Dr. John Walker, over 500 horses were sold each year from Mull, see McKay (ed.), Dr. John Walker's Report, p. 155.

35. Smith G.C., The Book of Islay (Glasgow, 1895), appendix 111, pp. 521 ff.

36. Macinnes A.I., ‘The impact of the Civil Wars and Interregnum: Political Disruption and Social Change within Scottish Gaeldom’ in Mitchison R. and Roebuck P. (eds.), Economy and Society in Scotland and Ireland 1500–1939 (Edinburgh, 1988) pp. 6364Macinnes A.I., ‘Crown, Clan and Fine: The “Civilizing” of Scottish Gaeldom, 1587–1603’, Northern Scotland, 13 (1993), p. 43Shaw , Northern and Western Islands of Scotland, pp. 155157.

37. For example, the wadset of Leack, Sannaigbeig, Grannard and Caspellen was recorded as having 240 cows; whilst Killchomman, Clagnish, Downan, Croash and Kynaskeill were recorded as having 180 cows.

38. Brodick Castle Estate Office, John Burrel's Arran Journal vol. 1, 1766–1773.

39. SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/9/1/3/48, The Calculation of the Value of the farms in Netherlorn drawn from their Sowings and Holdings 1730.

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid, GDI 12/16/13/3/1, Rental of Glenorchy Showing the Present Rent, Feb 1730.

42. Decreases were recorded at townships like Auchlader, Brackley, and Drumliart. Furthermore, amongst some of those which recorded an increase in stock like cattle, there were decreases in other stock. For instance, the increases in cattle at Auchlader and Arrivean were partly offset by the decrease of horses at the former from 32 to 16 and at the latter from 46 to 8.

43. Typical of the action taken against goats is that evident for Morvern, Inveraray Castle, Argyll Papers, Bundle 663, Instructions by his Grace … to Mr. Campbell of Airds factor of Morvern, 17th Feb, 1733 for Mull, see SRO, MacLaine of Lochbuie Papers, GDI 74/827 Interrogators to be put to the Tenents upon the Estate of Lochbuy 1782 ibid., GDI74/998, Order for banaishing goats, Nov. 1800, makes it clear that ‘Tacksmen and their servants are included as there has been no liberty for keeping Goats on this estate for 40 years past’ Smith A. M., Jacobite Estates of the Forty-Five (Edinburgh, 1982), p. 82.

44. Ibid., GDI 12/16/10/2/23 Report by Dougal McPherson Wood Keeper of Glenorchy 1793 and GDI 12/16/10/2/24, Report of Dougall McPherson 1795 contain references to the damage being done by goats peeling tree bark.

45. SRO, Maclaine of Lochbuie Papers, GD174/736 List of Soums allow'd for Lochbuys estate for preceeding and succeeding years 1753.

46. In each case, the entries involving larger than average herd and flock totals consisted of small groups of townships.

47. These restrictions were drawn up in a 1791 agreement, see SRO GDI74/856/2 Souming of Ardmeanach 1791. Agreement by the Tenants reducing their soums to the number stated below.

48. Inveraray Castle, Argyll Papers, 251, Rentall of Tiry, what it payed in the year: 52; V65, Number of Inhabitants. with Sowing and Increase of Each Farm 1768.

49. The rating of 144 soums per tirunga is indicated in ibid, Bundle 2531, Rentall of Tirie, 1680.

50. Set at a rate of 144 soums per tirunga, the whole island was calculated to have 2880 soums, or 3 for each of the 960 maillands, see Duke of Argyll, Crofts and Farms in the Hebrides: Beingan Account of the Management of an Island Estate for 130 Years, 2nd edition (Edinburgh, 1883), p. 8. The actual number of soums present in 1680 was in fact only 2460 soums, whilst in 1768, it was only 2444, see Inveraray Castle, Argyll Papers, Bundle 2531, Rentall of Tirie, 1680; ibid, V65, Number of Inhabitants. with Sowing and Increase of Each Farm 1768. A 1769 note on the island reported that only 830 mail lands ( = 2490 soums) out of 986 were ‘given up’, see Argyll Papers, Inveraray Castle, Bundle 208, Journall by Mr Burrell in Kintyre 1769 (section ‘Captain Campbell's remarks on Tiree’).

51. Duncan Forbes of Culloden, ‘Letter concerning the Duke of Argyll's estates in Tiree, Morvern and Mull, 24th Sept, 1737’, reprinted in Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of the Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands, PP (Edinburgh, 1884), xxxiixxxvi, pp. 389392.

52. Old Statistical Account, X, p. 411.

53. John Macculloch found farms in the western isles ‘overrun with superfluous horses’, p.194, and observed that nothing struck the stranger more forcibly than ‘the enormous number of horses kept’, Farmer's Magazine, vol. xxi, 1820.

54. SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12//9/43 Rentall of the Estate of Breadalbane 1736, part entitled ‘Comprisement of the Soumes of each Merk Land in Breadalbane 1727’

55. ibid, GDI 12/9/54, Rental of the Earl of Breadalbane Estate in Perthshire for crop 1780.

56. Easter Ardikyle, for instance, was attributed 144 cows and 36 horses; Auchmore, 192 cows; Ardewnaig, 250 cows and 75; and Morerlenich, 220 horses and 24 horses.

57. Glenorchy was amongst the first parts of the Breadalbane estate to be reorganised. A 1783 report noted that ‘recently’ it had undergone a great change, ‘having a considerable stock of black cattle’ and sowing a great number of bolls of grain of different kinds, the whole to a trifle is now turned under sheep’, see GD112/14/12/7/8 Lord Breadalbane's Querys, 1783. Lochtayside, the core area covered by the 1780–81 list, was not reorganised until the closing years of the century, part being reorganised in 1797, then the remainder in 1798, see ibid., GDI 12/12/1/2/36, Information requested by Mr. Telford. Even by 1800, though, some parts of the estate had not been systematically cleared or reorganised.

58. Other estates where sheep numbers were increased within the framework of runrig townships include Ardnamurchan, see SRO, AF49/2B, Untitled book of observations and data on Ardnnamurchan and Sunart, c. 1840. The township of Ranachmore, for example, was occupied by 4 tenants and had 640 sheep as did Ranachstrome. Grigadale was also occupied by 4 tenants who between them had 400 sheep as well as 44 cows and 100 goats.

59. Data taken from McArthur M.M. (ed.), Survey of Lochtayside 1769, Scottish History Society, 3rd series, vol. xxvii, 1936.

60. Archibald , ‘The Blackfaced Breed of Sheep’, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, 4th series, vol. xvi, 1884, p. 233Watson J.A.S., ‘The Rise and Development of the Sheep Industry in the Highlands and North of Scotland’, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, xliv (1932), 67Gray M., The Highland Economy 1750–1750 (Edinburgh, 1957), pp. 86104.

61. Ibid., p. 6 suggests that the first sheep farmers on the Luss estate, at Glenevoe, paid a rent that was triple that paid by the previous runrig tenants.

62. SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/12/1/5 Letter Sir John Campbell 28th Dec, 1795 to earl

63. Ibid., GD 112/14/12/7/8 Lord Breadalbane Query's, with answers and observations thereto by His Lordship's Chamberlain in Argyleshire 1783. By the time the Napoleonic Wars had started (1793), the advice to the earl was to ‘Reduce the number of Black Cattle’ for sheep, though even at this point, it was the ease with which they could be maintained over winter that appealed, ibid., GD112/12/1/5 Letter Sir John Campbell 28th Dec, 1795 to earl. It is also worth noting what A. Wight, a noted observer, said about the southern Highlands in 1774. Sheep, he said, suffered from inelastic demand, supplying only Scotland, north-east England and Yorkshire whereas cattle were supplied to England at large. With any further increase in the supply of sheep therefore, prices would stagnate. ‘It is more than probable’, he wrote, ‘after they have done much mischief to themselves, and to others, that they will return to black cattle”, Wight A., Present State of Husbandry in Scotland, vol. 1 (Edinburgh, 1778), appendix ii, p. 400. Writing in the 1790s, some reporters to the Old Statistical Account were still able to report that sheep were being reduced to make way for more cattle in response to what they perceived was a better market, see OSA, xvii, 1796, p. 198.

64. Pennant, for example, talked about ‘the rage for raising rents’ as cattle prices rose and how ‘the great men begin at the wrong end’, Pennant T., A Tour in Scotland 1769, 4th edition (London, 1776), p. 228. Again speaking of the conditions as he found them in the 1760s, Dr Johnson said that landowners had raised rents ‘with too much eagerness’ in response to cattle prices, Johnson S., A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, ed. Lascelles M. (New Haven, 1971 edition), pp. 81 and 94 Adam Smith too, commented on the link between the increase in rents and cattle prices over the 1750s and 60s, Smith A., An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. Cannan E., 5th edition (London, 1970) vol. 1, p. 222. The increases though were not sustainable. Many Highland and Hebridean tenants suffered acutely when poor seasons and falling markets in the 1770s left them with rent liabilities that were beyond their means. Indeed, the way they were squeezed between falling prices and high rents has been seen as a strong contributory factor to the wave of emigration from the region over the 1770s, see Richards E., A History of the Highland Clearances. Agrarian Transformation and the Evictions 1746–1886 (London, 1982), pp. 141145.

65. SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GD112/12/1/2/36–7, Information requested by Mr. Telford regarding the Population, farming, etc, in the country of Breadalbane, 1803.

66. Ibid., GDI 12/12/1/5, Letter by Sir John Campbell 28th Dec 1795 to Earl.

67. Richards E., A History of the Highland Clearances: Agrarian Transformation and the Evictions 1746–1886 (London, 1982).

68. Macdonald J., ‘On the Agriculture of the County of Caithness’, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, vol. vii (1875), 250.

69. If we use tenant numbers as a measure of township size, and take a sample from the decades before any reductions for sheep had affected the region, townships in the north generally carried more tenants than estates in the south of the Highlands. For example, in Perthshire, tenant numbers in townships occupied by multiple tenants in the East End of Lochtayside in 1736 averaged 3.78 and in Glenlochay, 3, whilst those in Kildonan (Sutherland) in 1724 averaged 5.41. Differences of this order were fairly typical between estates in the northern and southern Highlands. However, the greatest differences in tenant numbers were between townships in the Hebrides and those on the mainland. On North and South Uist, for instance, multiple tenant townships averaged 7.8 and 10.1 respectively in 1718. See SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/9/43, Rentall of the Estate of Breadalbane, 1736 NLS, Sutherland Papers, DEP313/2133 Sutherland Estate Rental 1724; Forfeited Estates, E656/1 Judicial! Rental of North Uist 1718; Clanranald Papers, GD201/1257/5 Rental of Clanranalds estate in South Uist.

70. A good description of both township and flock sizes in Luss and Arrochar parishes can be found in 'Neilage J.M, ‘On the Agriculture of the County of Dumbarton’, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, 4th series, xviii (1886), 56.

71. Macdonald W., ‘On the Agriculture of the County of Inverness-shire’, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, 4th series, iv (1872), 5657. One source put the number of farms over 5000 acres in Sutherland in 1894 as 37, see Royal Commission on Agriculture: Particulars of Expenditures and Outgoings on Certain Estates in Great Britain and Farm Accounts (London, 1896), C-8125, pp. 5253.

72. An 1810 survey, for instance, shows what are clearly sheep farms in the hands of multiple tenants, see SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/16/13/4/9, Report Relative to Sundry ffarms belonging to the Right Honourable the earl of Breadalbane 1810

73. SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/16/13/4/9, Report Relative to Sundry Farms be-longing to the Right Honourable the earl of Breadalbane 1810 provides good examples of Highland farms still selling grain after the spread of sheep, such as Duncrosg which, despite having 1600 sheep and 25 cows was still able to sell 20 bolls of barley.

74. Reports drawn up soon after 1800, such as that on local farming around Loch Tay written by John Kennedy, factor to the earl of Breadalbane in 1803, note the use of sown grasses ‘of late’ but make no reference to turnips, SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/12/1/2/36 and 37, Information requested by Mr. Telford regarding the Population, farming, etc, in the country of Breadalbane, 1803. Certainly, on the Breadalbane estate, it is easier to find references to sown pastures than to turnips in farm surveys compiled during the decade or so after the switch to sheep, see, for example, SRO, Breadalbane Muniments, GDI 12/16/13/4/9, Report Relative to Sundry Farms belonging to the Right Honourable the earl of Breadalbane, 1810. In fact, later general surveys suggest that the winter foddering of hill sheep with hay and turnips only spread after 1800 even where large scale sheep production had been introduced back in the mid-eighteenth century, and that their spread reduced the loss of stock during poor winters, see Scott C., ‘Wintering Hill Sheep’, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, 4th series, xviii (1886), 124148. Yet even in 1878, an Argyll reporter, whilst acknowledging the practice in the south of the county, could still recommend the benefits of hand-feeding turnips over winter to farmers in the north and west of the county, see Clerk D., ‘On the Agriculture of the County of Argyll’, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society, 4th series, x (1878), 22.

75. In many cases, restructuring was achieved simply by leasing units together. Thus, Tomflair, a farm regarded as ‘a good safe farm’ and suitable for ‘wintering’ was recommended for letting with Claggan, ‘high and dangerous in winter’, see Ibid., GDI 112/110/2/4/46 Note of Particulars regarding Farms on the Breadalbane Estate 1840. In fact, in an effort to create large working units, the Breadalbane estate linked together a number of farms for letting, see Ibid., GD112/16/14/7/3, Printed Advert for Grazing Farms on the Breadalbane Estate Whit 1851.

76. Good data on the extent to which stock were wintered off the farm are provided by ibid., GDI 12/16/13/4/9 Report relating to Sundry Farms belonging to the Right Honourable the Earl of Breadalbane 1810 GD112/16/14/8/13 Grazing Farms to Let in Breadalbane 1863. The substantial costs of wintering are well brought out in GD112/10/2/4/45, Particulars of the Breadalbane Estate Farms in Perthshire and Argyllshire to be let 1839 which shows many farms were paying an amount equivalent to 15–20% of their annual rent on winterings.

77. The economics of Highland farming over the middle and late decades are well reviewed by Hunter J., ‘Sheep and Deer: Highland Sheep Farming, 1850–1900’, Northern Scotland, 1 (1972), 200201.

78. The scale of the problem is brought out in Orwin C.S. and Whetham E.H.W., History of British Agriculture 1846–1914 (London, 1964), pp. 200202.

79. Contemporary comment can be found in Latham P.R., ‘The Deterioration of Mountain Pastures, and Suggestions for their Improvement’, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society, pp. 111130Macdonald J., ‘On the Agriculture of the County of Sutherland’, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, 4th series, xii (1880), 8385Hunter , ‘Sheep and deer’, pp. 203205. According to views submitted to the Crofters Commission in the early 1880s, the deterioration of pastures affected hill ground as well as old arable, see Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of the Crofters and Cottars (Edinburgh, 1884), pp. 4445.

80. Modern analyses of the problem in relation to sheep farming are provided by Hunter , ‘Sheep and Deer’, pp. 203205Innes J.L., ‘Landuse Changes in the Scottish Highlands during the 19th Century: The Role of Pasture Degeneration’, Scottish Geographical Magazine, 99 (1983), 141149Mather A., ‘The Environmental Impact of Sheep Farming in the Scottish Highlands’ in Smout T.C. (ed.), Scotland Since Prehistory: Natural Change and Human Impact (Aberdeen, 1993), 7988. The paper by Innes questions whether there is a convincing case for pasture degeneration, see Innes , ‘Landuse changes’, p. 144.

81. See, for example, Clerk , ‘On the Agriculture of the County of Argyll”, p. 11Garnett T., Observations on a Tour through the Highlands and Part of the Western Isles of Scotland (London, 1810), 1, 164.

82. Clerk , ‘Agriculture of the County of Argyll’, pp. 6567.

83. Ibid., p. 74; Old Statistical Account of Scotland, X (1795), 411. It is worth noting that despite the sharp increases in sheep numbers, overall stocking had not increased by 1877 if we convert stock numbers into their standard souming rate.

84. Ibid., p. 411; Clerk , ‘Agriculture of the County of Argyll’, p. 75.

85. MacDonald , ‘Agriculture of the County of Inverness-shire’, p. 45. Examples of specialist cattle herds being maintained elsewhere in the southern Highlands down to the mid-nineteenth century on the mainland are provided by Clerk , ‘Agriculture of the County of Argyll’, pp. 3863.

86. Ibid. p. 21 Macdonald , ‘Agriculture of the County of Inverness-shire’, pp. 45 and 52, the latter states that ‘many farmers who had not previously owned sheep endeavoured to establish a flock’.

87. Hunter , ‘Sheep and deer’, pp. 211214.

88. The reporter for Inverness-shire in the Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland essay said that the ‘great majority’ of farmers, at least on the mainland, ‘have to send their hoggs to winter in the lowlands’, Macdonald , ‘Agriculture of the County of Inverness-shire’, pp. 5354.

89. See, for example, ‘Agriculture of the county of Sutherland’, p. 76Jenkins H.M., ‘Report on Some Features of Scottish Agriculture’, Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, 2nd series, 7 (1871), 213214. Given the nature of Highland flocks, it is worth noting that Mather, ‘Environmental Impact of Sheep Farming’, pp. 8283, presents changes in lambing performance in Inverness-shire and Ross and Cromarty, 1890–1975, as evidence for a decline in Highland pasture quality, suggesting that the problem affected western rather than eastern areas.

90. Data on the weight of sheep carcasses during the late eighteenth century are provided by Gibson A.J.S., ‘The Size and Weight of Cattle and Sheep in Early Modern Scotland’, Agricultural History Review, 36 (1988), 169. Drawing attention to the differences between the Hebridean, Blackface and Cheviot, he argues that the real gain in carcass weight was the initial introduction of the Blackface and Cheviot at the expense of the small Hebridean, but equally, the replacement of the Blackface with the Cheviot also represented a significant gain in carcass weight. By the early nineteenth century, estates in the Hebrides were actually banning the old Hebridean breed, see, for example, SRO, Seaforth Papers, GD46/1/278, Articles of Set and Regulations for the Tenants of Land in Lewis n.d. (but almost certainly early nineteenth century), which allows tenants to have sheep only with special permission ‘and no goats nor small native sheep on any account'. It is also worth noting that the Blackface recovered at the expense of the Cheviot during the closing decades of the nineteenth century, see Hunter , ‘Sheep and Deer’, pp. 212213.

91. Watson , ‘Rise and Development of the Sheep Industry’, p. 16.

92. Macdonald , ‘Agriculture of the County of Inverness-shire’, p. 52.

93. Macdonald , ‘Agriculture of the County of Sutherland’, p. 65, reports 94,570 in 1808, 130,700 in 1820, 168,170 in 1853, 216,561 in 1870, and peaking at 240,096 in 1879.

94. Hunter , ‘Sheep and Deer’, p. 203.

95. Latham , ‘Deterioration of Mountain Pastures’, pp. 185186. According to the evidence received by the Crofter's Commission during the early 1880s, the decline in pasture quality led to a decline in stocking densities, see Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of the Crofters and Cottars, p. 45. In fact, cause and effect may be confused here for all the indications are that sheep numbers, at least, increased significantly in the decades down to the start of the 1880s, as data cited in the previous note helps to make clear.

96. In 1885, Argyll and Perthshire had between them 1,713,844 sheep, whilst Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness combined had only 1,309,517.

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Rural History
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  • EISSN: 1474-0656
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