Its practice in the West Highlands
and Islands by F. Fraser Darling (1945)
AGRICULTURE in the crofts, the Islands, and West
Highlands presents special problems. In this book Dr Fraser Darling explains
the principles of putting land into good heart and of growing crops which
suit the difficult climate and conditions.
There is no one better qualified to do this than Dr
Fraser Darling, who has first-hand experience and a great sympathy with the
Some of Mr Robert Adams's beautiful photographs of
Highland scenery illustrate the book, and this selection shows that he does
not neglect to record the arts and crafts of Highland Life.
HIGHLANDERS AT TORRIN, BELOW BLAVEN, SKYE
The blood of the Highland breed is of great value in the
store stock exported from the Highlands, but unfortunately it is generally
felt that to maintain pure bred Highlanders does not pay. There cannot be a
continuation of cross-Highland cattle for the store markets unless someone
keeps pure Highlanders. A well-ordered cattle policy should ensure the
maintenance of sufficient pure Highland cattle, should attempt to keep the
Shorthorn-Highland cross heifers in the crofting districts, and, in allowing
these heifers to be crossed with an Aberdeen-Angus bull, should use
persuasion to prevent the black offspring being kept as breeding stock in
the West. These black-polled calves, which would be one-half A.A.,
one-quarter Shorthorn and one-quarter Highland, should be reared to be
six-quarter stirks and then sold out of the Highlands or grazed off as the
The Highlanders in this photograph are grazing old
crofting lands which were once cultivated.
Crofting Boy in 1955
West Of Inverness (1939) - Lochcarron Crofting
West Of Inverness (1939) - About the problems faced by a rural community
and the growing importance of the railway from Inverness to Kyle of
Lochalsh to communities threatened by depopulation.
The Corncrake and the Croft
A 1977 BBC Bristol production for The World About Us series captures a
vanished world of crofting in the Outer Hebrides. Written and narrated
by Finlay J. Macdonald, filmed and directed by Alan McGregor with help
from the RSPB Film Unit. Macdonald, a native Gaelic speaker, was from
the nearby island of Harris.
West Of Inverness (1939) - Lochcarron Crofting
This book is the result of an experiment in agricultural
journalism. When a series of articles first took shape in my mind as an
accompaniment to personal travels in the crofting areas, I knew that its
success would not be wholly dependent on such knowledge, and ability to
impart it, as I might possess. The fortunes of the weekly articles would
depend largely on the co-operation of the Highland newspaper editors: with
their paper supplies being cut and increasing official demands being made on
their space, would they be prepared to print an additional 600 to 700 words?
Every editor resident in the Highlands who was approached replied that he
would do his best, and that he has done. The weekly articles still could not
be called a success unless it was known that they were widely read. The
crofter's readiness to read them was just as important as my willingness to
write and the editor's kindness and public spirit in printing them.
I believed that the crofter would read matter which dealt
with the problems of his own husbandry. It did not matter to me whether he
agreed or not with what I had to say, but I believed he would preserve an
open mind and bring his critical sense to bear. The footnote each week
inviting correspondence on crofting agriculture was in some measure a
safeguard that I should not do all the talking!
The West Highlands are a country of difficult
communications and on a part-time appointment it would have been impossible
for me to see every crofter personally and have a crack with him—the more's
the pity, from my point of view. The weekly article helped me to say
something about basic principles of agriculture, and the crofter's response
in letters asking for advice is an expression of goodwill and a definite
sign that someone wants to know. The volume of letters from crofters has
steadily grown, and if the truth be known, these letters are the only ones I
sit down to answer with enthusiasm and enjoyment, instead of as an irksome
I was criticized recently for saying that there was
defeatism in the Highlands, defeatism being the failure to believe that the
croft was worth working for a living or part of a living. Such an attitude
undoubtedly exists, but my remark should never have been represented as my
final opinion of the crofter. I have faith in him and in the crofting life
as the good life; the interest shown in these articles and the letters I
receive asking for particular information are proof that defeatism is not
general. While people can take the trouble to sit down with pen and paper
and ask for knowledge, they are not taking the line of least resistance,
which is the attitude of defeatism. These letters are a token of a positive
will to action and I miss no opportunity of telling that to the outside
Many correspondents have asked if the articles might be
gathered together in book form. The idea seemed a good one, and I am glad to
present them in that form now in an expanded version, thanks to the
co-operation of the Publishers.
I am also grateful for the opportunity of having Mr
Robert M. Adam's illustrations. His beautiful photographs of Highland
scenery are famous, but the selection given with this book shows that he
does not neglect to record the arts and crafts of Highland folk. These
photographs have enabled me to add a last few words to the book in such
fashion as the reader and I might talk if we were walking round the croft
Kilcamb Lodge, Strontian
North Argyll, April 1945
Power to the Pococks: A Year in the Life of a Crofting Family
Crofters - A 1944 film
showing life on Scottish crofts in wartime
Machair is the Gaelic name for a rare and
distinct type of coastal grassland that supports a huge diversity of
wildlife in the Hebrides of Scotland.
Eriskay - A Poem of Remote Lives
Made in 1934 by an amateur ethnographer and aristocratic German diplomat
who had abandoned his country to live in Scotland, this is one of the
earliest film portraits of the tiny island Eriskay, famous for Whiskey
Galore, the Eriskay Love Lilt, the Eriskay fisherman's jersey, and the
fact that Bonnie Prince Charlie first set foot on Scottish soil on this
island, when he returned from France to lead the rebellion.
Eriskay sits at the bottom of the long chain of the outer Hebrides,
running from Lewis in the North, through Harris, through North Uist,
Benbecula, South Uist, and nearby Barra...
Kissling filmed the 500 islanders at work, men and women, girls and
boys, setting off in their herring smacks, shearing, gathering peats,
collecting lichen for dying their tweed, spinning, carding, waulking,
and recorded their beautiful working songs...
The plans and dreams of a new generation from the land. They value their connections to the land; they want to work the land and make their homes there. But against them stands the market economy: unaffordable land and housing, and a lack of employment opportunities in the rural communities they love. A group gathers in the northern Highlands to organise for change.
The Last Crofter in Laxay
Film of my father in-law. Malcolm Macleod of Laxay, Isle of Lewis. His
nickname "Chaidh Ardie" is a childhood abbreviation of his name in
Gaelic - Malcolm son of Angus son of Alasdair. The film was made by John
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