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The Lairds of Glenlyon:  Historical Sketches
Chapter 30

ON the 26th May, 1885, the tenantry of Glenlyon estate met together at the old mansion house to present an address of welcome to the new Laird on his entering into possession of the property. Shortly before two o'clock the tenants assembled in large numbers from the Glenlyon estate, from Garth, and from Breadalbane, and a most hearty welcome was accorded to Sir Donald Currie and Lady Currie when they entered the grounds.

Mr. Donald M'Dougall, Drumchary, in the name of the tenantry, presented the following address, remarking in the course of his speech that the two estates of Garth and Glenlyon being now united the Laird could say—'S learn fkein an gleann, 's leant fhein na tliann—the glen's my own and all that's in it:—

To SIR DONALD CURRIE, K.C.M.G., M.P., of Garth
and Glenlyon.

"We, the tenants of your newly acquired estate of Glenlyon, beg to offer you our most hearty welcome on the occasion of your first visit to us as our landlord, and to congratulate you on the possession of so beautiful, compact, and historical a property as the combined estates of Garth and Glenlyon. Our knowledge of, and acquaintance with you hitherto, as our neighbouring proprietor, and the great interest you have always taken in everything which tends to the good of the whole community of the district, give us such confidence in you that we are both proud and happy in having you as our landlord. We feel that you will be a worthy successor to our late esteemed laird, and that you will always have the greatest pleasure in seeing us prosperous and contented under you. We shall endeavour to do our duty towards you as our landlord, conscientiously and heartily, and will, as far as lies in our power, try to increase your enjoyment in your estate and people. We wish you, sir, and your family, long life and happiness to enjoy your fine Highland estate.

26th May, 1885.

After the presentation, speeches were also made by Mr Archibald M'Gregor, tenant of the Glenlyon Home Farm, and by Mr. Peter Haggart of Keltnie Burn as representing the Garth tenants.

Sir Donald Currie, in acknowledging the address, said:—My good friends, I thank you cordially for your hearty welcome, and for your good wishes in connection with my possession of the estate of Glenlyon. It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge your warm expression of confidence, and your assurance that you will do what may lie in your power to add to my happiness amongst you. Let me assure you that one inducement to join Glenlyon with Garth was the desire of myself and my family to help forward your prosperity. There is certainly the satisfaction of creating a more compact property by the union of the two estates; but at this moment, from a financial point of view, there is not much encouragement to invest money in land. We stand here upon historic ground. In olden times this part of the Highlands was the scene of many fierce and sanguinary struggles, the people suffering terribly. Times are, however, changed. We are no longer exposed to the risks of former days, or forced to depend upon feudal ties. Happily, we are free from clan strife and the violence of authority. As I have often said publicly, the tenant farmers of the country are entitled to have a business-like connection with their proprietors. On the other hand, the landlords may fairly claim to have their rights considered from a business point of view. You have alluded to my course of action since Garth came into my hands, and I am grateful to you for the expression of your confidence that I will act justly to my new tenantry. Unfortunately, the relations between landlord and tenant in Scotland, as in England and Ireland, have been such as to call for the intervention of Parliament. I have no intention to introduce politics, but in view of your position as tenant farmers, and as you have referred to past legislation, I may remark that we have yet to dispose of some questions connected with land tenure in consequence of the changed condition of agricultural affairs. It is quite true, as has been said, that the alteration of the Law of Entail has enabled the late proprieter to dispose of Glenlyon as he desired to do. For my part, I am now experiencing the effects of the Agricultural Holdings Act, by the necessary and proper settlement of the compensation for unexhausted improvements claimed by the outgoing tenant of the Home Farm. The abolition of Hypothec takes away from me and from other landlords—and I am glad of it—any chance of dealing in that direction harshly as a proprietor ; and in a district where it is easy to raise a crop of hares and rabbits, I daresay there is no small satisfaction among you that you now enjoy the advantages of the Ground Game Act for which I voted in Parliament. You may remember that on the day of the address being presented to me by the tenants of Garth, at the time I purchased that property, the tenants were told that they were free to enjoy the privileges of the Act then passed into law, during the currency of their existing leases; and on that occasion I was glad to be able to accord the same privileges to the farmers at Cluny, in Strathtay, where I had a lease as shooting tenant for 8 or 10 years to come. Your future material and moral prosperity will not depend upon legislation so much as upon yourselves; but I may indicate to you how agricultural interests may yet be dealt with in such a way as to secure your interests and my own as tenants and proprietor. We may hope ere long to obtain a simplification of the system of transfer of property; the total abolition of the remnant of hypothec ; some modification of the scope of the Ground Game Act; and amendments in the Agricultural Holdings Act, now that we know the points on which that Act is not sufficiently explicit or comprehensive. Hitherto it has been the boast of Scottish farmers that they do not require, as in Ireland, an appeal to a Land Court for the fixing of rent or adjustment of difficulties between them and their landlords. In my humble judgment the Scottish tenant farmer is endowed with good sense, and is clever enough to be able to make a bargain for himself. In this district I hardly believe you would care to have a Land Court, with all the expenses incidental thereto, for the simple reason that from time immemorial you have been accustomed to depend upon neighbours of judgment and discretion to act as arbiters when differences arose. If, however, it should appear to be the general wish of tenant farmers to have a Land Court, or valuators appointed by the Sheriff in order to give legal sanction to such references to arbitration, there is no reason why this Court of Appeal, open to landlords and tenants alike, should not be established. There is one point which, without any reference to party politics, I may allude to ; it is to legislation directed specially in favour of crofters in Scotland, and I should like to hear from any of you who are interested in this matter, and indeed from others in the county of Perth, whether it is considered necessary or desirable to include our county within the operations of the proposed Act. It has been said in the newspapers that, with all the need there is for improvements in the estate of Glenlyon, it is to be hoped that the proprietor will not improve the people off the face of the earth. I am quite sure of one thing—there is much need of improvement all over the estate; but as there is no Bill passed to give the landlord compensation for his improvements, exhausted or unexhausted—for the only place in which his bills for improvements can be passed is through the Bank—the best return he can look for will be the conviction in your minds, and in his own, that he has not been neglectful of the responsibilities attaching to his position. The people of Glenlyon are placed in the midst of lovely and impressive scenery, unrivalled throughout Scotland. Let me express the hope that the district may be equally renowned for its social and moral excellence.

The Rev. David Campbell, minister of the parish of Fortingall, said that, hearing of the movement among the tenantry on the Glenlyon House estate, he had the desire to come and tender Sir Donald his good wishes with the others. He had also been requested, on behalf of the people on the estate, to tender their good wishes on this occasion to Lady Currie and the others of the family, and wish for them long life and happiness in connection with this addition to the family property. And he did this very readily because he knew that these good wishes were well bestowed. He knew that Lady Currie would take that interest in the people on the Glenlyon estate which the lady of the manor naturally takes in those about her, and which she had taken since she had come to Garth. She had taken an interest in the young, and in those whose circumstances claimed the good offices of neighbour and friend. Standing as they did there before that old house of Tullichmullin, Sir Donald would permit to some of them a sentiment of sadness that the place was no longer to be connected with the old name with which it was associated so long. But changes would take place, and since there was to be a change there it was desirable in all respects that the estates of Garth and Glenlyon House should become one possession. They were so mixed up and mingled together that there was great inconvenience experienced. Sir Donald would be welcomed because he had shown that he took an interest in the people and was desirous for their comfort and happiness. No doubt among some of the humbler homesteads upon such an estate as this, one of the chief features of whose history had been an absence of disturbance or change, there might be natural apprehension lest new lairds should make new laws, and that more or less disturbance might be the result. But he felt assured that in whatever Sir Donald did in that respect he would have in view the people's good. While he had no sympathy with the cry which was raised in some places of "Down with landlordism," at the same time they would probably agree with him that the prolonged or permanent absence of landlords from their estates was to be deprecated. There was scarcely anything that would fully make up for the proprietor's absence. Factors were in many instances admirable men, and filled their often difficult posts well. Shooting tenants were also all very well—at least some of them were—but what was most to be desired was that the proprietor should pass a considerable portion of his time at home among his people; and for a considerable portion of the year at least they were glad to think that Sir Donald and Lady Currie and their family would be resident on the Barony of Garth and Glenlyon.

Sir Donald proposed the health of Colonel Campbell, the late proprietor of Glenlyon, which was received with acclamation. After dark, bonfires were lit on the eminences above Glenlyon and Drumchary, and as the night was clear they were seen from a long distance.

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