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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

XI. The Highlands

78. The Napier Commission, 1884

Texte intégral

1The Napier Report of 1884 is a most interesting piece of documentary evidence, presenting facts and information on the population, as well as on the religious, political and social conditions of the time. This is an extract of the evidence given by the managing trustee of Lochaline estate (also see introduction to chapter 11, p. 221).

2Parliamentary Papers, 1884, XXXIII-XXXVI, Royal Commission on the condition of the Crofters and Cotters in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Evidence of William Henderson Hardie, managing trustee of Lochaline estate, p. 2308-2309.

– What was the object of this wholesale clearance of the people?
– So far as I can understand it was a disadvantage to a sheep farm to have little bits of corn exposed where the sheep were all going round.
– Did it ever suggest itself to the minds of the managers or proprietors at that time that a fence might have been put up?
– It might have been, but the buildings themselves were of so little value – none of those crofters’ buildings were valued above £8 or £10.
– The reason of their removal was that their presence was inconvenient to the neighbouring sheep farmer?
– Not only that, but they were not employing themselves in any occupation, such as fishing or that, to bring them in a livelihood.
– They were removed from their little farms in order that they might obtain profitable employment for themselves?
– Those were not little farms, but crofts.
– As I understand your statement, the people were removed for the benefit of the sheep farm, and you may say for the benefit of the estate?
– And for the benefit of themselves.
– But the people were not made the judges of their own benefit?
– They were not asked in the first place.
– What I want to arrive at is this, the people were virtually and substantially removed for the benefit of the estate, in order that this sheep farm, or some other part of the estate, might be more profitably administered and held; in removing the people, did the proprietor, in consideration of their number and poverty, and the difficulty of obtaining other places, make them any allowance or gratuity?
– Not to my knowledge.
– Do you know what became of them at all?
– Some of them removed to Glasgow and other centres of industry, and some of them removed to the village here.
– You say that the people were partly removed for their own benefit, in order that they might become more industrious, or have a profitable employment in the future, did the proprietor pursue these people with any care in order to assist them in their future amelioration?
– I am not aware […]
– You have given us a full and frank statement about the estate so far as you know it; have you ever heard the statement made with regard to property, ‘I can do what I like with my own’?
– Yes, but I don’t believe that.
– Have you heard the other statement that property has its duties as well as its rights?
– Yes.
– And which of these do you go upon?
– Property has its duties as well as its rights.
– I may take it for granted in this case that the rights of property were exercised when these people were put away?
– Yes.
– Take the alternative now; what in the nature of duty was done by the estate for those people?
– I tell you I can give no information about it further than I have done.
– Is there any use in beating about the bush; is it not the fact that these people were removed solely and entirely because they were in the way of sheep?
– Certainly not.
– If not, what other reason was there?
– It would have entailed very considerable expenditure upon the proprietor to have built houses and put up fencing to have carried out any system of farming.
– That is what I say, the people were in the way. The proprietrix did not choose to spend that money, and therefore they must go and make room for the sheep; is that not so?
– I have given you all the facts I can.

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