Oh yes, so the three Fs which were guaranteed in Ireland in 1881 in some respects form the least radical of the demands. But, as I’ve said, that was more or less seen as something the peasantry of Ireland could accept and Parnell was happy to call off the land war effectively in Ireland after the three Fs had been granted in 1881. This was fair rent, set by a tribunal so you couldn’t have landlords charging whatever rent they wanted, fixity of tenure is the second F, and freedom of sale, so these are the three Fs. Freedom of sale meant if you made improvements to your croft or your hut you would get them somehow compensated for that when you sold it off. Now, the radical Irish were rather disappointed that it seemed that their peasantry had accepted that and I think that’s one of the reasons they were expecting better things in Scotland. They hoped that by keeping the agitation fermenting for a while in Scotland they would get beyond that and would get more of a land nationalisation type scenario in Britain. As it happened, the Crofters Act in 1886 gave some similar ... I mean, it’s not identical to the 1881 Irish Land Act. There are some things which often get ignored about emigration, for example. They’re hoping the crofters will emigrate which was a long standing ... seen as a longstanding panacea for what was known as a Highland problem, just siphon off the excess population! But in some respects the 1886 Crofters Act can be seen as a similar event to 1881 in Ireland in that you do get guarantees for the crofting communities. You get rents to be fixed by a tribunal, for example. And when Michael Davitt goes to Portree in 1887 ... Michael Davitt travels all round the Highlands in 1887 and he’s ... he really gets a great reception and he himself also genuinely enjoys the reception he gets in the Highlands but there’s a note ... at one point in his diary, there’s a note of slight disappointment and he says that although the people of Skye have given him a great reception, he thinks they’ll be happy with a 20% reduction in rent with the Crofters Commission and what he means by that is he’s in a similar situation as he was in Ireland six years ago, that it looks like there’s going to be a legislative solution to the Crofters’ War and it’s not going to give him the outcome that he wanted. He’s not totally dispirited by that because he’s already thinking more of the cities and the towns at this point as somewhere that’ll be more likely to be responsive to social reform, socialism if you like. But there is a pang of disappointment, I think, that the crofters have proved to be slightly conservative with a, again, with a small ‘c’.

  • Andrew Newby
Thursday 29th April 2010