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On Emigration and the State of the Highlands
Appendix N.


The following description of the situation of the Mailers is extracted from the Survey of the Northern Counties drawn up for the Board of Agriculture, and with slight variations may be applied to the class of people who improve waste land in all parts of the Highlands.

‘In the Black Isle we have numbers of this description of cultivators, by whose exertions many considerable acquisitions of arable land have been gained from our barren wastes and moors, in addition to different properties in this district. They generally follow some handicraft employment, such as weaver, shoemaker, taylor, carpenter, mason, dyker, &c. &c. and many are mere day labourers only. These poor people are often indiscriminately planted on the skirts of waste or moor lands, next adjoining to those last cultivated, and now we shall suppose in the hands of a farmer or tenant. After his house is erected for the Mailer, he is left at freedom to dig away and cultivate what ground he can, for there is rarely occasion to limit him. The aids afforded him, and terms granted, are various, and generally, I suppose, proportioned to the expectations from his exertions.

I find that some give seven years lease gratis, wood for his house, and some other pecuniary allowances. At the expiration of the lease, a small acknowledgment is imposed, and perhaps not for three or four years more, as his industry deserves.

Some assign them one, two, or three acres, and never remove them, on paying, viz, the men 10s. and widows 5s. per ann. and giving 1.5 days service in harvest but, however, paying 6d. per day to the men, and 4d. to the women and all others able to work, a little drink, but no victuals.

Some with seven years’ lease, rent free at first, give ‘them labouring utensils, and also seed for the first three years; and some give a life rent and wood for their houses, on paying 1s. per annum, but must yearly take in two acres. Day services in harvest, and some other trifling exactions, may possibly be stipulated for by all. The only means the Mailer has for cultivation are his own and family personal labour with the spade, his ashes, and the dung from his miserable animal of a horse, which he keeps for the purpose of bringing home his turf for fuel: and he generally commences with potatoes: when he thrives he possibly acquires two horses, a few sheep, and perhaps a hog.

I find that there are advocates for and against this practice. The general objections to these settlers are that they are great depredators, are in declared hostility to all inclosures and improvements of, any higher nature than their own, and unmerciful destroyers of all the grounds around them, scalping and tearing up every bit of better soil, and digging holes and pits either for their turf or procuring earth or gravel for their dung-heaps; and this to such a degree, that when removed, no farmer can meddle with such abused and ill-conditioned lands: also the small and tedious progress they make, and their natural indolence and inefficiency. On the other hand, there are those who think this mode of improvement sure, tho’ very slow and tedious: that they are the only means within the reach of many proprietors, and not rejected even by those who might adopt a higher and more. effectual system, and both have already experienced their good effects in the increase of their rent rolls. Almost all acknowledge the accommodation derived from the assistance of their services at a certain easy rate in harvest and other husbandry-work and particularly here where day labourers are not otherwise to be pro‘cured.’


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