IT is not only the Highlands,
but all the rural districts of England, Scotland, and Ireland, which are now annually invaded by hosts of strangers. Nor are such invasions confined to the small United Kingdom. The whole world is a scampering
around for globe-flying not only trotting Americans, but also for Europeans who have money to scatter, or are trying by fair means or foul to catch Dame Fortune by her back-blown hair, or to chase elusive pleasures and new sensations.
Enough has been said already
about the suppression of the old social and industrial system of the coal-less Highlands by the sheep regime, which began to be introduced about 1770. The next invasion was that of the sportsmen who took fishings
and shootings. There were isolated cases before then, but it was not until
1820 that proprietors of Highland estates began to find out the lettable value of the moors, lochs, and rivers which their predecessors had kept in their own hands, and shared with their friends and tenants. The opening up of the Highlands by railways led to the building of many shooting lodges, and to the preserving and letting of shooting and fishing rights, which, as being of an inferior kind, were neglected by their owners, when I first began to hear and take notice of what was going on in the Highlands.
To the Highland people the
sportsmen have always been welcome invaders. They brought much money among them, and their coming gave an army of gamekeepers, and, later on, of foresters, regular employment which suited, above everything, Highland temperament and inherited mountain-walking arid wild nature proclivities. Boatmen, fishing- men, gillies, and ponies, as a summer reserve array, had likewise their wages and participation in sport during a part of the year, and were enabled to join crofting to advantage with this secondary employment. The shooting and fishing rents lined the pockets of proprietors, and the rates paid on them alleviated the ever-increasing pressure of local burdens. The sporting tenants, moreover, did not directly intermeddle with the life and habits of the Highland people; for were they not birds of passage, who, when the sporting season ended, returned to their native habitats?
It is true that for a generation after they first put in appearance, the sporting-visitors to moors and lochs were not perceptibly an innovating force; but they were destined to become that when the craze for deer forests set in, and Highland estates and islands, and coast places with anchorage for yachts, released from old entails, came freely into the market, and fetched fabulous prices.