I think because the Sutherland family are British patrician aristocrats, their version of that is London and what some Imperial historians have called ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ so this is the third Duke and the fourth Duke in particular ... maybe spent two weeks a year in Sutherland. They were hardly ever there, spent most of their time in London, and they were great supporters of British Imperialism so that included supporting societies for the emigration of British people to the white dominions. That involved investment in the Empire so those examples I gave you before of the Congo railway and Burmese rubies and land in Australia, that is their field of operation, and you get the sense from the estate papers that that is really their main area of interest. For the third Duke, on top of that he spent most of his time traveling around the Empire. The fourth Duke, after the mid 1890s, packs it in in Britain and moves to Canada, buys a hundred thousand acres of land builds himself a house there. So that’s obviously where they see the future, not just of Britain or of British greatness, Imperial greatness, but of their own finances as well. So that’s interesting, in the estate papers quite often the factors will complain about the absenteeism of the Dukes and at one point, right at the height of the Crofters’ War, one of the factors writes to his colleague and says: “I read in the papers that the Duke is at the Panama Canal and I wish he was back here looking after his own affairs.” So in many ways they’re not part of that Highland Glasgow network. They’re working on a much bigger scale because their much bigger fortune allows them to do so. The third Duke, for example, was best friends with the Prince of Wales and went with him to India. They set up companies to invest across the Empire and ... I mean, I personally need to do more work on this area of the family but that seems to be how they view their financial role at that time. And, of course, by the mid to late nineteenth century there are so many opportunities. If you have money, that’s where you’re going to make the best returns, is the Empire. But they seemed to do that out of London and not out of Glasgow, interestingly, but I’m sure that’s because their contacts, if you look, are with the court of Queen Victoria and her son and with London city bankers and merchants. That’s their area of operation. It’s the same principle as Glasgow, if you like. It’s just they’ve transferred it to London.

  • Annie Tindley
Thursday 13th May 2010