Am Bratach No. 225
July 2010


History file
by Malcolm Bangor-Jones

Ardvar was one of a handful of moderately sized sheep farms which had emerged in Assynt after 1812. Following the death of the tenant, Captain William Scobie, by drowning in 1831, a lease had eventually been granted to his widow at a rent of £220. At her death in 1842 the sheep stock, along with the household cows and horses, was valued at £1,475 and the farm came under the management of trustees acting for the benefit of her four daughters.

The lease expired in 1849 and the Sutherland estate decided to advertise Ardvar for letting. A report in 1846 on the sheep farms on the estate by the celebrated sheepfarmer, Andrew Hall, had assessed the farm as capable of carrying 2,000 sheep (a seasonal average) at a rent of 2/6d [12½p] per head. He suggested that Ledmore, being “high and stormy land”, should be added as a wether grazing to make “a farm of suitable size for a resident tenant.”

The estate, however, advertised Ardvar as a safe ewe farm calculated to graze 2,000 Cheviot sheep for entry at 1850. McIver, the factor, advised applicants that it would require £2,000 of capital and, as there was “a paucity of resident Tacksmen in Assynt”, it had been “resolved that the Tenant of Ardvar must permanently reside upon it.”

Following a report by the estate buildings inspector, the Sutherland estate undertook to spend £400 on putting the buildings into tenantable order. “Repairs are intended to be made on the House and Offices [farm buildings] and Shepherds Houses — and some outlay would be agreed to for Surface Drainage and small enclosures at the Shepherds Houses, for which 6½ per Cent Interest will be charged. It is intended also to make a road to Ardvar — but it may be three or four years before it Could be Completed to the House.”

There were a number of applicants including George Douglas from Arboll, Royston Mackenzie then living at Ardvar (a son of John Mackenzie sometime tenant of Ledbeg sheepfarm) and James Purves, a well-known Caithness agricultural improver and factor then farming at Thurdistoft in the parish of Olrig.

McIver advised the estate commissioner, James Loch, that “There being no very choice Tenant in view from this Farm, my own inclination is to recommend Mr Purves as the most eligible — making it a condition that if he do not reside upon the Farm himself one of his sons Constantly will — and in the event of his death that it will be optional to the Proprietor to select any one of his sons to be his Successor.”

“We want a splendid man in this District — as an example in farming — especially among the small Tenants in Assynt – and here is a good opportunity of selecting one. If you have not otherwise decided be so good as let me know what The Duke thinks as to this — some new blood is required in Assynt, and if Mr Purves Senior lives, I think he would prove a great acquisition as Tenant for Ardvar whether resident permanently or for a portion of each year.”

There was also an application from the Alexander Begg from Springbank near Thurso and his son George. McIver described the latter as “an active young Farmer unmarried and resident with his Father on an arable Farm near Thurso — they are very industrious — and the offer considering the outlay they ask is pecuniarily the best we have got.”

McIver considered one of the other applicants was not “a practical Farmer — and in other respects not such a man as we want in Assynt.” Despite Loch’s obvious objections, McIver continued to favour Purves.

“I feel certain from the tone of his offer he is himself anxious to reside — and that if we could in a year or two give him Knockan & Elphin as Wedder Land he would at once come to Ardvar.” Purves was “a clever practical Farmer and a judicious man besides. He would show an example at Ardvar that would be beneficial to us all.”

Loch, however, would not be persuaded. McIver successfully concluded his negotiations with the Beggs and they were given a 19-year lease of Ardvar at a rent of £300. George was to reside, though his brother, William, a merchant in Golspie, was also to be involved.


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