All of the estate staff are men. Some ... yeah, there are ... you can be a croft holder and a female so widows is ... if you’re the widow or wife of a croft holder, and in the nineteenth century it’s a great area of estate concern, the growth of widows as croft holders, because for whatever reason their husbands obviously die younger than they do and the estate worries about these widows because they often aren’t able to stand up to their neighbours and so lose out common pasture or perhaps they can’t keep up the croft as well just by themselves as they could with their husbands. But having said that, they’re not all kind of victim characters because I found ... when agitation kicks off during the Crofters’ War, it tends to be women who lead the charge. So that’s because, perhaps because their husbands or sons are off fishing or just away working elsewhere and they tend to be the ones who de-force the sheriff officials. They’ll write letters or petitions into the estate. They’ll get the local minister to help them too. There’s plenty of examples at Clashmore and Assynt of local women taking the main role, attacking staff in one case, and also they do things like they’ll ... if a sheriff officer comes to try and serve a summons on them, they strip him naked and send him off and ... So there’s one particular one in Clashmore, it’s the Kerr family and Hugh Kerr was known as the Rob Roy of Clashmore and he was on the run from the law for de-forcing the sheriff official for many years but it was actually his wife Mary who ran the croft in his absence, kind of was a spearhead of agitation while he was away and she was eventually served with a fifteen month prison sentence and her husband got six weeks! So absolutely, women are both central to the crofting economy and later agitation as well. And I think this wrong foots the estate staff who are all alpha-male types because ... and you can see in their correspondence, they will treat women differently and this is where ... well, there’s some theories about why, when carrying out land raids for example, you have women, and men dressed as women as well, this kind of transvestism among the crofters. And I think one of the theories behind that is that they thought legal authorities, the marines or police who were sent to deal with these agitations, would treat them differently as women, treat them more leniently. That was the theory anyway but yeah, women were central but not ... there’s nothing in the estate management about ...

  • Annie Tindley
Thursday 13th May 2010