Yeah, that’s right. Yes is the answer. The biggest experiment is the Clearances where they thought to try and revolutionise really the tenancy structure of the estate whereby just pulling people out of the central areas onto the coasts so they could become fishermen and then allowing the interior parts of the county to be turned over to sheep farming. So that’s the first one. Kelp? In Sutherland kelp really never takes off to the same extent as you see in Skye and some other Highland estates and I think the reason is that the Sutherland family are investing heavily in the fishing industry instead and encouraging the crofters to become fishermen instead of kelp. And really the fishing industry has a major role in employment in Sutherland, right from the early nineteenth century onwards. So the Clearances, kelp ... The next big one is what I mentioned before, this land reclamation scheme whereby the third Duke wanted to create arable land, so land to grow crops on, out of bogs, basically. So he went to ... There’s two main areas but the main one was on the north bank of Loch Shin and he bought steam ploughs and all the latest technology and he was ploughing away and digging up and he spent £250,000 on this but it was a complete failure, unfortunately for him. In an agricultural sense, the land just wasn’t good enough and in a financial sense, they just lost all that money essentially. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else ... No, I think, really after the Clearances and aside from encouraging fishing as much as possible, that is the end of their experimentation with trying to diversify employment on the estate. They just ... after that, they’ll firefight problems so if they have a bad year at the fishing the family will step in and provide money and food for their tenants so they don’t starve to death, basically, but they don’t try those quick fixes like kelp, and marble quarrying was one in Iona, I remember, or the Inverarie carpet factory was one. So no, there’s ... the big change comes with the Clearances and that restructuring and then after that it’s a much quieter picture I think.

  • Annie Tindley
Thursday 13th May 2010