Well, I would argue that the Sutherland Estate is slightly unique in this regard and the reason is because of that vilification they got after the Clearances. So once the Clearances were all over, land reformers and commentators just continued to attack the Sutherland Estate as the great Clearance landlords of the Highlands and it makes the family, not the estate management, the factors, but the family are incredibly sensitive to this criticism all through the nineteenth century to the extent that they would put in place policies that the factors disagree with but trying to conciliate crofter opinion, if you like. So when the Crofters’ War kicks off, things are fairly quiet in Sutherland to start with but then, as I mentioned, an agitation breaks out in Clashmore in Assynt and the Duke, the third Duke, just bends over backwards to conciliate the Clashmore crofters, to the horror of his factor at the time. So their response would be they would send in their factors, the commissioner, with offers to the crofters so they would offer them land, try and meet their demands essentially. Reduce their rents, that was another tactic they used to try and clamp down on agitation. And any reports in the local newspapers commenting about the Clearances and the Sutherland villains, they would always always write a reply and refute it. So there’s lots of correspondence in the Scotsman and the Times about the ‘devastation myth’, as they call it. So unlike other estates, like the Macdonald Estate on Skye or the Macleod Estate, who would want to carry on the fight with crofters, in Sutherland they just back down, back down all the time, and you find that running right through into quite modern times, I would say.

  • Annie Tindley
Thursday 13th May 2010