Life in Banffshire in the 17th & 18th Centuries

By Richard GwynallenBanffshire - 5

The former county of Banffshire in northeast Scotland is now partially in Moray and partially in Aberdeenshire.  Our main family line from Banffshire is the Allan or Allen family.  With them come also the family names of Ruddach, Ogilvie, Guthrie, Raeburn, MacDonald, and others.  We find them in the last half of the 17th century and the 18th century toward the Banffshire coast in Fordyce, Boyndie, Grange, Cullen, Banff, Marnoch, and Rothiemay; and further inland at Cabrach and Kirkmichael.  Parts of the family also appear in Turriff, Strathdon, Glenmuick, and Glenbuchat, all of which are in Aberdeenshire.

Bartholemew’s Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887) is quoted on the GENUKI website as Banffshire - 1describing Banffshire thusly:

“BANFFSHIRE, a maritime county in the NE. of Scotland, stretching about 56 miles between Aberdeenshire and the cos. of Elgin and Inverness . . . It is very narrow in proportion to its length, and is broadest along the N., where the coast on the Moray Firth measures about 30 miles. . . . The greater part of the S. section (about three-fourths of the entire length) is occupied with lofty mountains, finely wooded hills, and picturesque glens. The N. district is beautifully diversified with low hills, fine valleys, and small tracts of rich plain. The highest mountains, Ben Macdhui (4296 ft.) and Cairn Gorm (4080 ft.), are grouped on the SW. border. The rivers are the Spey, with its affluent the Fiddich; the Deveron, with its affluent the Isla; and the Boyne. There are quarries of slate and marble. The occupations are chiefly pastoral, but great numbers of the people are also employed in the fisheries. . . .”

Our Allan family appears on Hallyards Farm in Fordyce Parish by 1699 with Gilbert Duncan Allan as the head of the family.  Gilbert’s son and our direct ancestor James Alexander Allan is at Redyth Farm in Fordyce Parish when their son, George, is born in 1724.  However, they move to Bogtown Farm in Fordyce Parish by the time their daughter Margaret is born in 1733, and they are still there when their last child, Alexander, is born in 1740.  All of these farms appear to be land owned by the Ogilvie Earl of Findlater and (later) Seafield.

Our immediate line left the area sometime after Culloden, emigrating in the 1760s to the American Colonies.  Those remaining in the area were scattered around farms and towns in Banffshire, Moray, and Aberdeenshire.

They mostly worked on farms, probably as a mix of laborers, small tenant holders, and artisans.  However, some can be found in other occupations.  For instance, James Allan was a wright in Banff circa 1707.  George Allan was a mason from Fordyce in the 1740s. Gilbert Allan was a cattle trader in Kirkmichael in the 1760s.  Hugh Allan was a weaver in Turriff in the early 19th century.  And some are seen as they make the transition from farm to town. Margaret Allan and her husband Henry Raeburn moved their family from their Whyntie farm to the town of Banff sometime between 1754 and 1757.

As is the case today, life on a farm usually builds a range of skills in trades that supplement farm income and allow for a transition to another geographic area or line of work.  This article focuses mostly on the transformation of life on the land.

Branches of Ogilvie had been prominent in Banffshire since the early 15th century.  In 1437, Walter Ogilvie of Auchleven married Margaret Sinclair of Deskford and Findlater. Their son James was the ancestor of the Earls of Findlater on whose lands our Allan family appears to have resided. (History of Banff, page 15).

Since Scottish peerages are heritable through either male or female lines, the earldom of Findlater and Seafield was inherited by James, Chief of Clan Grant in 1811 from his Ogilvie grandmother.  The Ogilvies received the land from the Sinclairs and in the course of time passed it to the Grants. The average people, like our family, continued their lives under the name of a new chief or laird.

The below map shows the position of all three farms – Hallyards, Redytyhe/Redhaven, and Bogtown – and their geographic relationship to Fordyce and the larger town of Portsoy.

Hallyards-Redhaven-Bogtown

This places our ancestors on the eve of significant changes in Scotland.  War with England characterized the period.  Pressures by the central government to change land ownership patterns in Scotland had been creating a country of mixed property ownership patterns for centuries, and those pressures were now climaxing.   Interest in modernizing agriculture and manufacture was rising.  Common land was being privatized.  The failure of the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Risings broke the power of the clans in Scotland, fostering many changes.  New roads were being built to better control the territory and facilitate transformation of settlement patterns. The aristocracy lost many feudal privileges, prompting them to lead changes in property ownership that increased their control of land while increasing agricultural production. Planned villages were being developed. It was a period of great change.

What for us today is a dramatic historical epoch was the daily life our ancestors were living through.  All of the changes in the mode of production and social relations in the time cannot be given justice in this article, but we will explore at least in an introductory way the tensions and changes affecting Banffshire and, thus, our ancestors, in the period of roughly 1690 to 1750.

 

Language

Before diving deeply into life on the land, let’s take a quick look at how people in the area might have been communicating. We do not know what languages our ancestors of the time spoke, but by the 18th century a Scots dialect now known as “Doric” would have been the common language of much of Banffshire.

An Anglo-Saxon tongue had been existing side-by-side with Gaelic on the northeast coast for some time. According to the University of Aberdeen: “in 1018, . . . Malcolm II (the grandfather of both Macbeth and Duncan) annexed the northern half of Northumbria (southeast Scotland) and became King of, in addition to his existing domains, an Anglo-Saxon-speaking piece of territory extending southwards to the Tweed. And over the next few centuries, this Anglo-Saxon tongue spread up the East coast to Aberdeen and beyond, into the newly founded burghs, and at last into the Royal courts and council chambers. . . . “

They further state that Scots English had a distinct identity of its own by the early sixteenth century, mostly in the southern Lowlands, North-East Doric not emerging until much later.

This Scots dialect may have been the common language for most of our Banffshire

Doric heartland

Doric heartland

ancestors of the time period for this article.  Doric would give rise in the 19th century to what was called the bothy ballad, a colorful contribution of Doric to Scottish culture. A number of the ballads can also be heard on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.  Though referred to as “bothy ballads”, implying they arose from the socializing of the farm servants sharing a hut known as a bothy, much of this tradition arose from such socializing among laborers in the farm kitchen after supper.  The male servants in this case lived in the chaumer, or room usually above the stables, not a bothy.

However, Gaelic, too, still existed in Banffshire of that era, and with family showing up further inland it is highly possible if not probable that Gaelic, at least for some of them, was still a language of the family.

Gaelic had been declining in Banffshire for some time, but was still present as a common language.  The Rev. R. H. Calder of Glenlivet believed that Gaelic probably became     extinct in most of Banffshire “about the close of the eighteenth century. It held its ground more tenaciously in the neighbouring parish of Kirkmichael. There is evidence that in 1794 it was the dominant, if not the sole, language at the Tomintoul markets, and there is reason to believe that it continued to be the dominant language at these markets till the middle of the nineteenth century.”

In 1873, Sir James Augustus Henry Murray reported that, as regards Banffshire, Gaelic was still used in church services in Kirkmichael and Tomantoul, but that in the adjacent parish of Inveravon “No Gaelic has been spoken . . . for very many years . . .” (The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland, p. 234)

While Sir James does not say what for “very many years” means we can safely guess that by the mid-19th century Gaelic was no longer in use in the parish.  This indicates a steady retreat of Gaelic from the coastal area of the Moray Firth part of Banffshire inland to the westernmost parish of Kirkmichael where enough people were still speaking Gaelic in the 1870s to require Gaelic church services.

The Rev. James Grant, minister of Kirkmichael (1843 – 1896), was a bi-lingual preacher and a Gaelic scholar. His Gaelic service on Fast Days was finally discontinued about 1893.

In smaller pockets native Gaelic speakers in the Northeast persisted into the 20th century as evidenced by the last native speaker of Aberdeenshire Gaelic, Mrs Jean Bain of Braemar, living until 1984.

 

Warfare

In the last half of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century, war with England impacted every Scottish community in one way or another.

Banffshire remained predominantly Roman Catholic after the Reformation in the 16th century and was a Royalist stronghold through the civil wars of the 17th century.  In 1650 Charles II landed at Garmouth at the mouth of the River Spey on the Moray Firth,and it was at Braemar, nearby to Banffshire, that the Earl of Mar first raised the Royal standard and began the initial muster of troops.

Of particular interest to our area of concern was the role of the Earl of Findlater. Despite the 4th Earl’s support of the Act of Union, his views so dramatically changed that in June 1713 the Earl introduced a Bill in the House of Lords to repeal the Union, which failed to pass by only four proxy votes.  His son, James, and later the 5th Earl, was one of the first arrested and had been associated with Lord Forbes of Pitsligo.  He mostly set out the ‘45, though Pitsligo, now 67 years of age and ill, raised a company of horse from Aberdeenshire.

Banffshire produced a substantial number of rebels during the 1715 Rising as evidenced by the sixteen heritors (landowners) of Banffshire who surrendered at Banff in March 1716.  James Ogilvie, younger of Boyne and future 9th of Boyne had opposed the Act of Union, was outlawed later, and escaped to France, where he worked for the return of the Stuarts/Stewarts. In preparation for what was hoped to be a return of the Stuart/Stewart king, James Ogilvie returned to Scotland in 1708 landing at Gamrie in Banffshire.  He sold the properties of Boyne to Findlater, but continued in Jacobite service, returning to France, then landing in Aberdeen in late summer of 1715. He proceeded on to Banffshire.  A surviving letter of 24 September 1715 from James Ogilvie of Boyne to Findlater informs the latter that he was raising troops and asked Findlater’s support in raising the people of his lands to rally to Boyne “at new Milnes of Boyne on Monday next by twelve acloak.”  The letter also indicates his hope that Findlater would join them but acknowledges that such not be possible.  In fact, Findlater did not directly support the Rising but did not hinder recruitment in Banffshire.

The website, Portsoy Past and Present offers considerable interesting information in more detail regarding the Jacobite presence in Banffshire.

The people of Banffshire suffered many of the trials of a people on whose land war was being conducted – damaged lands, food and other products directed toward troops, family members off in the army, loss of family members in battle, and all the accompanied stress.

 

Decline of the Commons

Scholars estimate that in 1500 about half of Scotland was common land, nearly all of it known as commonties; that is to say, not a town or burgh commons. Professor Cosmo Innes wrote:  “The inland, the upland, the moor, the mountain were really not occupied at all for agricultural purposes, or served only to keep the poor and their cattle from starving.They were not thought of when charters were made and lands feudalised.”   (Lectures in Scotch Legal Antiquities, Edmonston and Douglas, Edinburgh, 1872, p.154)

Use of the commons for grazing livestock, foraging, and travel was intrinsic to Scottish rural life. As we enter the 18th century, commonties and town or burgh commons were still plentiful.  However by the early 19th century landowners had been able to appropriate most of this common land through influence over legislative processes and law courts.  The first salvo was a series of Commonty Acts starting in 1695 when the Scottish Parliament passed the law “to divide and appropriate all common lands in the parishes outside the Highland area and not belonging to either the Royal Burghs or to the Crown.”  The law streamlined the appropriation of these common lands with the result that they were purchased by neighboring land owners.  (see The History of the Working Classes in Scotland; Johnston, T.; 1920. pp 154-181)

Johnston describes the second front of the assault on the commons, that being the appropriation of the town commons.  He wrote: “Until the Burgh Reform Act of 1833 the landowners and the commercial bourgeois class controlled all burghal administration of the commonlands, and controlled it in such a way that vast areas of common lands were quietly appropriated. . .” Embezzlement by these classes through their control of burgh governance and administration was streamlined because they were not subject to any electoral oversight.

Professor Innes simply concluded: “The poor had no lawyers.”

A similar opinion is expressed in the introduction to the 1979 publication of the Scottish History Society Papers on Peter May Land Surveyor 1749 – 1993: “Generally one can say that the speed and comprehensiveness of Scottish improvements stemmed from the landowners demanding maximum returns to support their conspicuous consumption.” (p. xiii)

 

Transforming Life on the Land

During the ’45 Rising, Hanoverian commanders were at a disadvantage in Scotland because they had no modern survey map of Scotland.  The practical responsibility for creating a new survey of Scotland fell to William Roy, Assistant Quartermaster in the Board of Ordnance, a body with responsibility for military infrastructure and mapping. Roy’s task was to create a complex map that allowed for control and order of geographical space through reconnaissance and survey.  The map had many functions, not the least of which was to serve as a tool for understanding the Scottish settlement patterns and changing them.  The survey process got underway in 1747.  A more complete discussion of Roy’s task and the results may can be found at the National Library of Scotland.

The map below is the part of Roy’s Military Survey map from 1746 showing northeast Scotland. In it one can see the farming townships, or the” ferm-touns.”

Roy's Military Survey Map

The fermtouns had been the basis of a communal, co-operative system of agriculture for centuries “where the run-rig arrangement of unenclosed strips of land were distributed amongst the villagers to ensure no-one got all the good or all the unproductive land.  Each family got some of both. ”  Scotland before the Industrial Revolution: An Economic and Social History c.1050-c. 1750, by Ian D. Whyte, provides a thorough discussion of the Scots English term fermtouns and the ancient run-rig system.

In brief, fermtouns were small settlements of up to 20 households growing crops on surrounding strips of common land. The fields closest to the settlement (the infields) would be the most fertile and used for growing crops. The fields further away (the outfields) were less fertile and provided rough grazing for the animals and, wherever viable, patches of oats.

The old clan system of land tenure had all the land held for the tribe by the chief, who leased large areas to tacksmen, who were responsible for the land.  The name “tacksman” comes from the Gaelic word for a holding, which is “Tac”.  They were referred to as “na daoine uaisle”, which is usually understood as “gentleman” or “noble man”.  The impact of the development of feudalism in Scotland on the old clan system is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that the feudal system, introduced piecemeal into Scotland over centuries, replaced the chief with a laird wherever a new family was planted, or transformed the chief into a feudal laird.

Acts of the Scottish Parliament in 1587 and 1593 first set a legal definition of a clan and thus who fell within a chief’s jurisdiction. The Acts defined a clan as consisting of either persons linked by blood or persons linked by reason of place of dwelling in a territory. A blood relationship included cadet branches recognized under the Law of Arms. A relationship based on place of dwelling included the vassals, tenants and occupiers of land under a territorial chief along with “ancient adherents” who had followed the chief for over three generations.

The Tacksman held the land from the chief on a long-term basis.  The position could have been acquired through blood relationship to the chief or as a reward for services rendered to the chief or clan.   The Tacksman, in turn, sub-let most of his land to small holders. The tenure held by these small holders was quite variable. The small holders annual rent was payable to the tacksmen and it was usually paid in kind, either by labour or agricultural produce or both. It was these tacksmen who appear in the rent rolls, not the small holders.

In the 17th century and first half of the 18th century there may have been about 5,000 landowners in Scotland but 80% of them were small holders.  The large landowners, generally the nobility, were at the top of the landowning pyramid. They were essentially feudal lords, though some may have been viewed by their tenants as operating within the old Gaelic clan system.  Most held their lands directly from the crown.  Next down were the lairds or smaller estate owners.  Many were vassals of the nobility, sometimes holding land directly from the noble and sometimes from the crown. In either case, they were frequently united with the nobility by ties of blood as well as social and economic interest.  Below them were the owner-occupiers who worked their land themselves and were referred to as bonnet lairds.  There was a large social chasm between the bonnet lairds on the one hand and the nobility and the lairds on the other hand. The bonnet lairds may have had more in common with their tenants and hired labor than either of the other groups.

Runrig farming L_tcm4-557632

Site of former run-rig farming

Angus Macleod of the Isle of Lewis describes how the run-rig system operated on Lewis:

“Towards the end of the autumn, when the harvest was over, the village constable who was an official elected by the small holders in order to represent them (similar to a grazing clerk) called a meeting of the small holders and the estate representative known as the ground officer or “Maor”. Having decided on the portion of land to be put under the green crop next year, they divided it in shares according to the number of tenants in the village. Thereupon they cast lots, hence the designation “lots” which is still the name sometimes applied to the croft. The share of the land that fell to a tenant was kept by him for three years. In that way a third of the land under cultivation was reallocated each year and the whole of the Tack land changed hands every three years. In that way the good land and the not so good land rotated among all the tenants.”

Barclay, writing about Banffshire in 1922, describes the infield/outfield system in the area in the17th and first half of the18th centuries:

“To the infield, which consisted of the acreage nearest to the farm house, the whole manure was regularly applied; the only crops cultivated on it were oats, bere (grain) and peas, and the land was kept in tillage as long as it would produce two or three returns of the seed sown. When the field became so reduced and so full of weeds as not to yield this return, it was allowed to lie in natural pasture for a few years, after which it was again brought under cultivation and treated in the same manner. The outfield lands were wasted by a succession of oats after oats so long as the crops would pay for seed and labour. They were then allowed to remain in a state of absolute sterility, producing little else than thistles and other weeds till, after having been rested for some years,they were again brought under cultivation . . .  “

Some of the elements of this run-rig method were retained in the crofting system that supplanted the old clan system of land ownership.  The common grazing land of the crofting system was similar to the common ownership of land round the township by the small holders in the township. The role of the village constable as described by MacLeod was assumed by the township grazing committee represented by a grazings clerk. This approached was given statutory legality in the 1955 crofters act.

Despite carry-overs from the run-rig system, these ancient forms of land use disappeared over the next several decades to be replaced by larger farm units which often retained the name of the original village, though sometimes with an adjective added to describe the division of land taking place, such as Easter and Wester Whyntie.

In The Abolition of Run-Rig in the Highlands of Scotland, Malcolm Gray argues that the underlying, and conscious, drive of the landlords was to alter the relationship of people to the land, re-aligning tenants into new social groupings, reducing cooperative agricultural methods, and forcing experimentation in industrial agriculture on the traditional agricultural settings.

 

On the land in Banffshire

Our Allan family, to the best of our knowledge, was between at least 1699 and 1740 living on lands that were the property of the Ogilvie earls of Findlater.  During that period of the 18th century in which significant changes in farming practices were instituted, James Ogilvie, the 6th Earl of Findlater, played a conspicuous role.

Before succeeding his father as Earl of Findlater in 1764, he was known as Lord Deskford, and in that position had developed in interest in new methods of manufacture and agriculture.  In 1752, he established a large bleachfield in the parish of Deskford, and then in Cullen a manufacture of linen and damask, the result of which, in part, was to create new job opportunities for local families.  The bleachfield was large open ground where the cloth was laid out to bleach from the effect of sun and water.  It was a necessary prerequisite to the manufacture of cloth,most notably linen.

From 1754 to his death in 1770 James Ogilvie served in a number of related roles, including as one of the commissioners of customs for Scotland, a trustee for the improvement of fisheries and manufactures, and a trustee for the management of the annexed estates.

He started his agricultural innovations by taking several farms under his direct management so as to plan and implement the experiments to his satisfaction.  Amongst his innovations was the introduction of turnip husbandry in the area, which improved home feeding of cattle and sheep,reducing the need for extensive pasture land; granting long leases to his tenants on condition that within a certain period they adopt certain improved methods of cropping for which he provided training; and, to prevent damage to young plantations on his estate, he gave certain of his tenants, on the termination of their leases, every third tree to sell for timber or their use, or its value in money.

According to W. Barclay, writing about Banffshire in 1922, the long term leases were structured as two 19-year leases followed by a third lifetime lease.  During the first 19-year lease, they were required to “enclose and subdivide a certain portion of the farm with stone fences or ditch and hedge during the first 19 years, and in the course of the second 19 years to enclose the remainder, while they had to sow grass seeds on a certain number of acres within the first five years of the lease.”

The result was that more of the land was able to be used for cultivation while simultaneously changing the character of the fermtouns.  Smaller tenant farmers lost their tenancies and they and the cottars who lived on their land had now to resort to selling their labour to make a living.  Those who retained tenancies had to pay rent in cash instead of labor.  Many could not afford the rent, which led to more land directly run by the laird.

As the farms grew in size more workers were needed to work the farms, but their relationship to the land was now wage based. They were not being offered small farms in exchange for labor. Temporary labor occurred during harvest times.  Hundreds would be hired in the summer for berry picking and in the autumn for the ‘tattie howking’ (lifting potatoes).

The courtyard design for farmsteads developed in the second half of the 18th century as these changes took hold.  At first the courtyard structure included the farmhouse at one end, the barn at the other, and the rest accommodations for workers, machinery, and animals.  The presence of a dung heap amidst all this prompted the moving of the farmhouses apart from from the courtyard.

That much of this transformation of farm life and village construction came after the failure of the 1745 Rising is not accidental.  Roy’s Military Map gave the tool by which to create a new, efficient road system.  And the stripping of Scottish lairds, even those who had not rebelled, of feudal powers such as local jurisdictions, but letting them retain power over their tenants, gave the impetus for the lairds to reorganize their estates on a capitalist mode of production along English lines.  Neil Davidson explores this aspect of the transformation of Scottish economic life in the article “The Scottish Path to Capitalist Agriculture” published in the Journal of Agrarian Change in 2004.

Amongst these changes was the development of the croft, something so purely Scottish in our minds that it seems like it goes back into antiquity, but it doesn’t.  Angus MacLeod notes that crofting seems to have started in Argyll in the 1770s, eventually being adopted by all Highland landowners.  It “enabled them to bring the smallholder population directly under their own tenurial control, and move them at will, in order to clear large areas of land for the creation of commercial sheep farms.”  Abuse of the system eventually resulted in the Crofters’ Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1886 to reduce rents, guarantee fixity of tenure, . . . Explicit security was given for the Scottish smallholders; the legal right to bequeath tenancies to descendants and a Crofting Commission was created in 1886.

During 1895 debates on the original bill, some Members of Parliament asserted they wanted to make sure that the “. . . Bill would really include the crofters of the North Eastern counties”, who they stressed were operating earlier than the crofters of the West Highlands.

Below are examples of typical Banffshire and Aberdeenshire tenant farm houses or crofts of the 18th century.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Planned Villages

Entering the 18th century most of the villages we think of in Scotland did not exist.  However, by 1850 almost all of them existed.   This explosion of creating new villages paralleled the changes in agriculture and farm settlements. The planned village was characterized by an ordered layout of straight streets, defined building plots, rectangular and enclosed adjacent fields, and single tenant farms.  The fields, known as Lotted Lands, were subdivided into one and two acre plots and leased to villagers to supplement their non-agricultural income by growing crops or grazing livestock.  The villages were located on estates and in some cases expanded upon small existing settlements attached to a church (kirktowns) or private landowners’ house.  Douglas J. Lockhart states that between 1720 and 1850 some 490 planned villages were created in Scotland, with 100 or so being in northeast Scotland between 1750 and 1850. (“Lotted Lands and Planned Villages in North-east Scotland”, Agricultural History Review)

It wasn’t just churches and private landowners involved in creating planned villages.  Property seized by the government from rebels of the 1715 and 1756 risings sometimes became planned villages for settling soldiers.

Planned Villages - NE Scotland

 

Life on the Farm

The larger fermtouns contained a variety of workers, including grooms, the grieve (foreman), a bailie (often several) to look after the cattle, ploughmen, the dairy maid, house maid, kitchen maid, oot-woman (who did the outdoor work), labourers, the orra man (handyman), the soutar (shoemaker), although he probably worked for a local shop and visited the fermtoun in the evening to repair shoes. There would also be visiting masons.  They might have a dedicated smiddy or the blacksmith might have his own premises suitably placed to serve a number of farms. (Scots Roots)

Farm life is hard today. It was harder then, particularly for the laborer and small tenant or crofter.  In the case of the latter, the croft rarely was sufficient to support a family.  Most had multiple occupations, and frequently the hard labor of the croft was performed by the women while the adult men were doing other things.

Families were large, with an average of five to six in the immediate family, but with many more, even upwards of 10 – 12 not being unusual.  Once able to do so, the children might find work elsewhere to help support the family, or begin working toward having their own croft.

Farm laborers and servants were usually employed on a temporary basis causing them to lead a nomadic life as they moved from farm to farm. The better their reputation, which spread by word of mouth, the easier it was for them to find work.

It was up the farmer whether or not they stayed after their contractual period.  In her article, Farm servant life in north-east Aberdeenshire, Judy Strachan describes the process. “During the fortnight before the feeing market, known as speaking time, the farmer would approach those servants he wanted to keep and ask “Will ye bide?” The servant could answer yeah or nay, but if they weren’t asked they couldn’t bide.”

They were typically hired at a feeing market, men and women, which were customarily held in May and November.

On accepting a fee offered by a farmer, the farm servant would be bound to the farmer for a specific period of time, usually six months and rarely more than a year. The pay was in lodging, basic food, fuel, and some portion in cash.

The male laborers usually shared a bothy, or hut, set as an outbuilding away from the farmhouse, or slept in the chaumer.   The chaumer was more common in our area of interest.

The chaumer was a room usually near the stables which was provided for single male farm servants. A bed was provided and a chest (kist) held all their possessions.

“A chaumer wis a wee biggin or room,
sometimes at the end o a steadin or next tae a wash hoose,
or a room up abeen a stable or barn.”

They would take their meals in the kitchen, the meals usually prepared by the kitchen maid.  The servants would then socialize around the kitchen fire until retiring.

The girls would hire out as servants for domestic, dairy, and outdoor work on farms.  They generally stayed in rooms in the farmhouse, in the attic or by the kitchen  They were generally supervised by the farm wife.

The larger farms might provide accommodation for the family of a married man. Otherwise he would have to stay in the bothy with the single men. His family might be living with relatives.

If provided space for his family, the accommodations were usually a two-room cottage with a dirt floor and a small amount of land where the family could grow crops and have a small number of livestock.  They are referred to as a tradition but and ben style.  Over time these cottages were built better, with solid stone, and provided with a loft.  The term, “but and ben” is used to refer to a design of a cottage with “outer room” joined with “inner room”. The outer room, which might be a kitchen, is the but, while the inner room, the living quarters, is the ben.

The hard work of farm life was broken by parish fair days.  The fair days lasted a few days, and were a time when the servants and farmers came together before harvest time. The farmers were there to buy and deal. Pedlars sold their wares. The Army recruiting sergeant was present hoping to draw farm servants away from lives of drudgery.  And there was a lot of celebration.  In fact, these fairs were known as wild times.

For more information on the daily lives of farm workers in our area of interest I refer the reader to Farm servant life in north-east Aberdeenshire by Judy Strachan, who offers a more detailed, and very interesting and lively glimpse at life on the farm.

 

A changed landscape

By 1850 hundreds of planned towns and villages had sprung up, most common land was under ownership, and the old agricultural practices and social relationships were gone.

Statistics for Aberdeenshire on the McNaughtaon Family website demonstrate the transformation:

“In 1750 Aberdeenshire had a population of almost 120,000, with about 16,000 living in Aberdeen. Thus more than 85% of the population lived in rural areas, in 85 rural parishes with populations varying from about 300 to 3000.

“A century later (about 1850) the population was almost 200,000 – 42,000 families living in 32,000 homes. About a third of these were living in Aberdeen city. About a third of the land was under cultivation, mainly for oats, and sheep and cattle were grazed. Most of the rural population lived in small towns and farm hamlets.”

A way of life was disappearing, but productivity of rural lands increased, amenities in towns expanded, and artisans came to thrive in the towns.

 

Select References – The following are resources I drew upon in preparing this article

The Abolition of Run-Rig in the Highlands of Scotland; Malcolm Gray; The Economic History Review; University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland; 1955

The Ballad and the Plough: Portrait of Life in the Old Scottish Farmtouns; David Kerr Cameron; Birlinn, Ltd; 1978

Banffshire – 1922; W. Barclay; 1922

Banffshire – GENUKI

Common_Land_in_Scotland._A_Brief_Overview; Andy Wightman, et al; SMI Ltd; Hertfordshire, UK; 2003

The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland; Sir James Augustus Henry Murray; The Philological Society; London; 1873

Elite Culture and the Decline of Scottish Jacobitism 1716 – 1745; Margaret Sankey and Daniel Szechi; Oxford University Press; 2001

Farm servant life in north-east Aberdeenshire; Judy Strachan; personal family history website; 2013

History of Banff; James Imlach; Robert Leask, publisher; Banff; 1868

The Jacobite Rising of 1715; Stephen Cooper

Life in Aberdeenshire – 18th & 19th Centuries; McNaughton Family History website; 2014

Lotted Lands and Planned Villages in Scotland; Douglas G. Lockhart; The Agricultural HIstory Review, Vol.49, No.1; 2001

North East Folklore Archive

Peter May, Land Surveyor, 1749 – 1793; edited by Ian H.Adams; Scottish HIstory Society; Edinbugh; 1979

Portsoy Past & Present; Findlay Pirie

The Runrig System of Land Tenure; Angus MacLeod; Hebridean Connections Collection

The Scottish Path to Capitalist Agriculture 2: The Capitalist Offensive (1747–1815); Neil Davidson; Journal of Agrarian Change; 2004

Scotland Before the Industrial Revolution, An Economic & Social HIstory, circa 1050 – 1750; Ian D. Whyte; Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group; New York and London; 1995

Fermtouns; Scots Roots Research website; 2012

The Scottish Town in the Age of Enlightenment; Bob Harris and Charles McKean; University of Edinburgh press; Edinburgh; 2014

The Traveller’s Guide or a Topographical Description of Scotland and of the Islands Belonging to it; J. Fairburn; Edinburgh; 1798

Advertisements