Am Bratach No. 246
April 2012
editor@bratach.co.uk


History file
by Malcolm Bangor-Jones

Events at Elphin in the spring of 1851 appeared to be replicated a few months later further north when the people of Achriesgill protested against the loss of part of their common grazings.

In the previous December the estate factor McIver had proposed adding the lands of the small townships of Ruighean na Sroine, Bealach an Tuir, and Portlaidh Mhurchaidh to the farm occupied by the Rhiconich innkeeper. To make the farm more complete and give it a better boundary, McIver proposed adding the pasture possessed by the small tenants of Achriesgill, south of the Aultgarve or Achriesgill water.

He claimed to Loch, the estate commissioner, that “their hill grass is so extensive that they will not miss what I propose to take from them the value of which will be deducted from the Rent of Achriskill and added to the rent of Rhiconich.”
It was, he argued, “only by annually removing such as don’t pay and gradually reducing the number of Small Tenants that I ever hope to get this Parish into a manageable Condition”. If such measures were accompanied by assistance to emigrate, the reduction of the small tenants would be significantly promoted.

There was “no use is disguising the fact that the whole lands in the Kinlochbervie District are so rough and poor as not to be Capable of being improved at any reasonable expenditure for the support of the people on them, so that the sooner these people are reduced in number the better for themselves and their Landlord.”

The tenants of Achriesgill did not protest when they were legally summoned to remove and on May 21 McIver informed them that he had moved the march to the Aultgarve and that £3 would be deducted from their rents. The tenants, however, replied that they intended to dispute the proposed march and insisted that McIver build a dyke.

McIver wrote again stating that he, as their friend and factor, regretted that they should do anything “Contrary to law and order, and he advises them most strongly to keep quiet and within the bounds of decency and law”.

He promised to lay before the Duke “any reasonable proposal for a Dyke” although he could not make any definite promise. He trusted that nothing “will occur to prevent his being able to give The Duke of Sutherland a good impression of the Achrieskil Tenants”.

On May 27 McIver told Hugh Mackay, the innkeeper, to remove the Achriesgill stock from the ground. “If any person touches you he can be tried for Assault — but my advice to you is to clear the ground and keep an active shepherd who will keep their Stock on their own side of the River. You must not be soft — but go forward with firmness. You will have to pay the Rent to me at Martinmas and it is your own fault if you allow yourself to be imposed upon.”

The local ground officer went with the innkeeper and some shepherds to clear the ground. They were initially successful but the people then collected in a band and drove their stock back.

McIver told the innkeeper to persevere and “you will soon show them there is no use in resisting you”. McIver at this stage was not interested in getting involved: Mackay was the tenant and must pay the rent. The people, however, continued to resist.

On June 19 McIver himself went to Achriesgill. The men were all absent but “the women turned out with a violence and virulence which I have never before seen”. He decided that the best course was to depart and to apply to the legal authorities to enforce the law.

He asked the estate lawyer to take out interdicts against the tenants to prevent them trespassing or pasturing on the ground and to proceed in the action of removing against the ringleaders, John Ross and William McIntosh.

One of the men had told the ground officer that blood must be shed before they would yield possession of the land. Once again McIver had found his authority threatened: he was adamant that the people must be punished. “Nothing but the strong arm of the law put in force with decision will arrest the feeling now so Common in the minds of the people of this District.”

 

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