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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

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Christian Auer

V. Improvement

28. Progress of Improvement, 1793

Texte intégral

1This is another extract of the Statistical Account of Scotland. See introduction to text 17.

2John Sinclair, The Statistical Account of Scotland: Drawn Up from the Communications of the Ministers of the Different Parishes, vol. 6, Edinburgh: W. Creech, 1793, p. 127-129.

Progress of Improvement. — [parish of Auchry]

The parish can boast but of few persons distinguished for learning, but many eminent for valuable qualifications have been produced here, at the head of whom stands Joseph Cumine, late of Auchry. Nature had endowed Mr Cumine with an active and vigorous mind. Cool, sagacious, penetrating, he connected a sound judgement and correct taste, with unshaken resolution and unwearied application. Slow, but sure in planning, he was prompt and, ardent in executing his designs. When he assumed the management of his estate, in 1739, it yielded L. 150 sterling of rent, of which he could only call L. 60 his own. The heath extended to the back of his house: in front, an exhausted moss and a morass, fed by the water of Auchry, offended the eye: and the whole of his farm, destitute of a garden, consisted of a few acres dignified with the title of Place Croft. He gradually banished the heath; — reduced the river to a regular channel — converted the morass, when drained, into a neat garden and inclosures; — and, at various times, took from the adjoining lands 200 acres, which he converted into an elegant farm, inclosed and subdivided; where the useful and the pleasant, blended by the hand of a master, command the respect of the critic, and excite the delight of the traveller. He accompanied his other improvements by a superior breed of cattle, whereof, by judicious management, he greatly encreased the size and the value.

As his estate was extremely well accommodated with moss, he gradually subdivided large farms. He strictly prohibited the absurd practice of paring and burning the mossy soils: he made tracts, to improve by water these fields that could be commanded by it: he bound his tenants to drive annually from quarries, 7 Scotch miles distant, a prescribed quantity of limestone, which he taught them to break, burn, and apply: he obliged them to sow a certain proportion of their land with turnip, flax, and grass feeds: he encouraged them to rear their own cattle, instead of wasting their money in buying expensive sets: he frequently walked or rode through his estate, freely conversing with his tenants, rousing them to industry by motives suited to their respective tempers, and particularly distinguishing the sagacious and active: and, by the united energy of popular virtues and solid sense, he triumphed over every opposition from soil, climate, and prejudice, gradually introducing the principles of rational farming, and laying the foundation of progressive improvement. Observing that his tenants were frequently at a loss for a market, he determined to establish a permanent one on his own estate. For this purpose, he planned a regular village, contiguous to the church, upon the moorish part of a farm, which in whole yielded only L. 11 a year. For a while, he felt in silence the sneers of his neighbours, who reprobated this scheme as wild and impracticable; but these temporary sneers soon gave way to lasting esteem. He prevailed on a few to take feus: he assisted the industrious with money; — obtained premiums for the manufacturer; — decided every difference by his arbitration, — and animated all to their utmost exertion by his countenance and counsel. Settlers annually flocked to Cuminestown, (the name assigned to the chief of the clan), and the village, built of freestone, soon assumed a flourishing appearance. In connection with some neighbouring gentlemen, he established in his village a linen manufacture; and though, for particular reasons, the scheme was dropt, yet, by introducing the spinning of linen yarn, and fixing the residence of some capable weavers, its consequences continue to operate for the public good. In short, a series of sensible management fixed upon Montquhitter 75 feus, occupied by a set of honest, industrious, and active feuars and their tenants, who, instead of L. 11 sterling, the original rent, produced him annually from L. 120 to L. 150 a year. Mr Cumine, during life, was an object of general esteem; and, at his death, had the pleasure of leaving to his heirs an annual revenue of more than L. 600.

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