So people like John Murdoch, certainly Henry George, even Michael Davitt actually when he comes to Skye in 1887, complain in their private correspondence about the crofters being slightly conservative and that the rural parts of Scotland, after all, are not going to be the area in which the social revolution takes place. They start looking much more towards the urban areas, the mining communities and so on. And yeah, the rhetoric is very similar, it’s to do with ownership of land, whereas in the Highlands and rural areas, you get talk about rents and rack renting in the urban areas and in the mining communities you get discussions about royalties and why the Duke of Hamilton should earn all this money just because his house happens to sit on top of all of these minerals whereas the people that are extracting the minerals are doing so for pittance and so on. But actually it’s a similar rhetoric and sometimes it’s the same people that they’re talking about. The Duke of Sutherland is also attacked in English contexts, for example, for his estates in the potteries and so on. The landed classes themselves are very well connected with each other, they all talk to each other, they have interests in rural and urban areas and I think it’s the same with these ... certainly with external agitators that take the Highlands as part of a much broader agitation. I think the crofters themselves are aware of their significance in the rhetoric of these agitators and these radicals but I think the evidence is that the crofters are well aware of looking after themselves. They don’t necessarily need external guidance, they’re ... It seems to me they’re quite wily in using that for their own benefit but they don’t necessarily want a kind of really radical social reform. They want their own lives to be guaranteed.

  • Andrew Newby
Thursday 29th April 2010