Crofting as it was then is basically non-existent. The crofting community, however, is much more than just your ability to turn a piece of ground with a spade. At that time everybody planted. Even in my young days of course, everybody planted potatoes, vegetables ... Everyone had at least one cow, a sheep ... Everybody cut peats and a lot of that was done on a communal basis. Very few people cut peats now. Very few people plant potatoes apart from a small patch because ... The day you were planting potatoes, people would go from one house to the next to the next just on a street basis. So a lot of these things have gone. Plus, also, at that time a lot of people were weavers, apart from people that were too old to work. There was a loom nearly in every house and one or two people were in the tweed mills in Stornoway, and there was one or two people that were merchant seamen, so that was the employment in the place. Crofting, in a sense, as a mainstay, has never existed in our village. It was always a supporting of whatever the income was. It wasn’t then, however, the muggy economy it is now. There’s people actually did use their cows for milk, did use their hens for eggs, did use their hay for the cattle and the sheep and the corn as well to enhance both what they were able to earn weaving tweed or whatever, and also it was a way of life. It was very suitable for what was going on at the time in the sense that if you were a Harris Tweed weaver for example, if it was a good day you could start in the morning doing some tweed. You could go out and turn the hay, you could come back in and weave tweed, you could go back out in the evening and ... so it as very compatible with the kind of lifestyle that we had at the time. Now you haven’t got a single Harris Tweed loom in the whole village, but there are twice as many houses because nearly every croft has at least two houses on it. Half of these are out of crofting tenure because they’re on feus. So crofting as it was doesn’t exist anymore and yet there are people who have cattle, who have sheep, maintain the land, and, in many ways, many of us would say the crofting system was the glue that keeps the whole thing together. Although in the last few years we have seen ourselves moving more and more towards, basically, what’s a market economy in terms of housing and homes and crofts where tenancies are being sold for large figures. And many would say that actually crofting, because of that, is in very real danger of buying and selling itself out of existence.

  • Kenny MacIver
Friday 19th February 2010