View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 2 March 2012

Friday 2 March

Quite a mild day with good long spells of sunshine. We managed an unexpected 13C, but we'll have to wait a while to temperatures like that again. A cold spell is headed our way from the Atlantic.

I have continued to transcribe the Report from the Napier Commission, which had been hearing some very lengthy evidence during its session at Inverness in October 1883. The question was all about deer forests. Now, what is a deer forest? Forget about trees. They tend to be depopulated areas of land, whether depopulated through compulsion or through inhospitable terrain, where deer roam free. The deer are there to be shot, for sport, by gamesmen who rent a day's shooting from the relevant estate. During the 19th century, hundreds of villages and thousands of people were cleared from land, in order to make way for deer forests, sheep farms or other means of making more money for the landowners. Bear in mind though that the landowners were required to support their tenants at times of need, like supply food. In 1846, e.g., the potato harvest failed, giving rise to famine in many areas of the British Isles, such as Ireland and Scotland. Earlier that century, people had been forced to emigrate, even though there was no real need for them to do so.

The resentment, created by this less salubrious episode in Scottish history, still runs to the surface today. Some believe that Scottish independence is the way forward. However, many forget that it was Scottish lairds that were responsible for some of the clearances.