More on Pennylands…

In an earlier piece, I referred to a note from April 14th 1884 in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland called ‘What is a Pennyland? Or Ancient Valuation of Land in the Scottish Isles’.
Its author was Captain FWL Thomas and a recent exchange regarding the redoubtable Fred’s work in Harris led me to revisit his works in the online catalogue of the National Library of Scotland.
In 18862 volume 20 of the Proceedings appeared including a continuation piece that was published posthumously, Fred Thomas having died at the age of 69 on 25 October 1885 at his home, Rose Park, in Trinity, Leith.
On page 211 of the volume he states, giving his source as the Old Statistical Account:
In Harris, 1792, the ancient and still common computation of land was a penny, halfpenny, farthing, half-farthing, clitag, &c.
A tacksman might hold 20d.—that is, an ounceland; while a small tenant or crofter usually held a farthing land.
The stock or souming for a farthing land was four milk cows, three or four horses, and as many sheep on the common as the tenant had the luck to rear.
The crop might be computed, in general at four or five bolls, and the rent was 30 or 40
shillings, besides personal service, rated at one day’s work per week.”
In the 1895 Crofters Commission Report the souming of each croft in Strond was 1 horse, 4 cows and 20 sheep which I calculated* to be 68 ‘sheep grazing units’, or sgu.
At the same time the crofters in Direcleit were allowed just 4 cows and 20 sheep, or 52sgu.
A little over a century earlier a small tenant was allowed 4 horses, 4 cows and as many sheep as he could rear which means well over 96sgu were deemed acceptable.
This is one of the clearest illustrations of how the imposition of crofts held direct from the landlord contrasted with the lot of the small tenant renting from a tacksman.
We may note, for comparison, across the Sound of Harris that:
In North Uist, 1794, the small tenants usually held a ½d. land, on which they kept 6 cows, 6 horses, and raised enough grain to keep them all the year round.”
6 horses and 6 cows gives us 144sgu from a half-pennyland, demonstrating once again that the lot of the small tenant was vastly superior to that of the crofter a century later, and reinforcing the difference whereby a crofter HAD to supplement his income in order to survive.
*”The grazing of stock shall be calculated on the footing of one cow being equivalent to eight sheep, and one horse to two cows or sixteen sheep. Source: Crofters Commission Report 1896.
Source:
  • THOMAS, F.W.L. 1886, “Ancient Valuation of Land in the West of Scotland: Continuation of “What is a Pennyland?””, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Proceedings, vol. 20, pp. 200.

Quantities and Value of Commodities Exported from St Kilda, 1875

 

In the winter of 1876 a journalist, John Sands, was stranded on the island of St Kilda.

He had also visited the archipelago in the previous year and wrote an account of his experiences, Out of this World; or Life in St Kilda, which was published by MacLachlan & Stewart in 1888.

On page 59 of this book Sands provides figures for various items produced by the St Kildans in 1875 and I have used these to calculate the values that follow:

 

Cloth: 227 yards (Of 47 inches and thumb) at 2s 3d = £ 25 10s 9d

Blankets: 403 at 1s 10d = £ 36 18s 10d

Fulmar oil: 906 pints (each pint equal to 5 pints Imperial) at 1s = 906s = £ 45 6s 0d

Tallow: 17stones 6 pounds (each stone containing 24 lbs.) at 6s 6d = £ 5 12s 1½d

Black feathers: 87 stones 15 pounds (24lb to the stone) at 6s = £ 26 5s 9d

Grey feathers: 69 stones 19 pounds (24 lb to the stone) at 5s = £ 17 8s 11½d

Cheese: 38 stones 6 pounds (24 lb to the stone) at 6s = £ 11 9s 6d

Fish: 1080 “marketable” at 7d each = 7560d = 630s = £ 31 10s 0d

 

Total £200 1s 11d

 

These goods were produced by the seventy-five souls living in St Kilda in 1875, giving a per capita income of £2 13s 6d. which we may equate to about £1,650 today.

 

There were 18 households recorded in the 1871 census, suggesting an average household income of £11 2s 2d, or about £6,870 in today’s money.

 

Whilst not a vast sum of money, it is nevertheless indicative of the degree to which the people of St Kilda were participating in the wider economy at this time, and also of the prodigious quantities of birds that they were processing. The fact that they sold over 1000 fish in a singly year is, however, perhaps the biggest surprise?

 

An extract from Sands account account of being stranded may be read online: http://www.widegrin.com/vicmisc/st_kilda.htm

 

Quantities and Value of Commodities Exported from St Kilda, 1875

In the winter of 1876 a journalist, John Sands, was stranded on the island of St Kilda.
He had also visited the archipelago in the previous year and wrote an account of his experiences, Out of this World; or Life in St Kilda, which was published by MacLachlan & Stewart in 1888.
On page 59 of this book Sands provides figures for various items produced by the St Kildans in 1875 and I have used these to calculate the values that follow:
Cloth: 227 yards (Of 47 inches and thumb) at 2s 3d = £ 25 10s 9d
Blankets: 403 at 1s 10d = £ 36 18s 10d
Fulmar oil: 906 pints (each pint equal to 5 pints Imperial) at 1s = 906s = £ 45 6s 0d
Tallow: 17stones 6 pounds (each stone containing 24 lbs.) at 6s 6d = £ 5 12s 1½d
Black feathers: 87 stones 15 pounds (24lb to the stone) at 6s = £ 26 5s 9d
Grey feathers: 69 stones 19 pounds (24 lb to the stone) at 5s = £ 17 8s 11½d
Cheese: 38 stones 6 pounds (24 lb to the stone) at 6s = £ 11 9s 6d
Fish: 1080 “marketable” at 7d each = 7560d = 630s = £ 31 10s 0d
Total £200 1s 11d
These goods were produced by the seventy-five souls living in St Kilda in 1875, giving a per capita income of £2 13s 6d. which we may equate to about £1,650 today.
There were 18 households recorded in the 1871 census, suggesting an average household income of £11 2s 2d, or about £6,870 in today’s money.
Whilst not a vast sum of money, it is nevertheless indicative of the degree to which the people of St Kilda were participating in the wider economy at this time, and also of the prodigious quantities of birds that they were processing. The fact that they sold over 1000 fish in a singly year is, however, perhaps the biggest surprise?

An extract from Sands account account of being stranded may be read online: http://www.widegrin.com/vicmisc/st_kilda.htm

A Population Comparison

I have taken figures from the 2011 Census to show the four towns in England whose populations lie closest above, and the four closest below, that of the Western Isles:

Farnworth (Greater Manchester) 26,939

Haverhill (Suffolk) 27,041

Melton Mowbray (Leicestershire) 27,158

Northfleet (Kent) 27,628

Western Isles 27,668

Ashington (Northumberland) 27,670

Cramlington (Northumberland) 27,682

Stratford-Upon-Avon (Warwickshire) 27,830

Peterlee (Durham) 27,871

 

The two Scottish urban areas with populations closest either side are:

Bathgate 25,701

Kirkintilloch 28,837

 

Incidentally, the capacity of Cardiff FC’s stadium is 27,815, and of Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, 28,000.

The population of Uist, Berneray to Eriskay, (4,900) is close to that of Bridge of Allan.

I hope this helps envisage one aspect of the 130-mile long archipelago of Eilean Siar.

 

Sources: CnES Population Factfile, CityPopulation.de

 

 

 

A Population Comparison

I have taken figures from the 2011 Census to show the four towns in England whose populations lie closest above (and the four closest below) that of the Western Isles:

Farnworth (Greater Manchester) 26,939
Haverhill (Suffolk) 27,041
Melton Mowbray (Leicestershire) 27,158
Northfleet (Kent) 27,628
Western Isles 27,668
Ashington (Northumberland) 27,670
Cramlington (Northumberland) 27,682
Stratford-Upon-Avon (Warwickshire) 27,830
Peterlee (Durham) 27,871

The two Scottish urban areas with populations that are the closest above and below are:

Bathgate 25,701
Kirkintilloch 28,837

Incidentally, the capacity of Cardiff FC’s stadium is 27,815, and of Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, 28,000.

The population of Uist, Berneray to Eriskay, (4,900) is close to that of Bridge of Allan.

I hope this helps envisage one aspect of the 130-mile long archipelago of Eilean Siar.

Sources: CnES Population Factfile, CityPopulation.de

Listening For The Past

Shima, The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, Volume 5 Number 1 2011 contains an essay by Cathy Lane with links to the audio pieces she composed as a result of the research she undertook:

I like to think of what I am trying to do as ‘docu-music’…(which) can be defined as works using sound materials which have recognisable real world associations and roots…

The intention of docu-music is to build up a sense of meaning, history and place through sonic association in order to relate to the world outside the composition.”

Cathy’s essay and accompanying compositions, ‘Tweed’ and ‘On the Machair’, provide an interesting read about (and artistic interpretation of) island culture.

HMS Shackleton/HMS Sharpshooter (1936-1965)

This was the survey vessel which, in 1958 (and 1960), came to the Sound of Harris to update the chart that had been made 100 years earlier.
The 1959 chart was published as a Revised edition of its 1859 predecessor, which surely is testament to the extraordinary skills of Captain H. C. Otter .
and the crews of 19thC survey vessels, including Captain FWL (Fred) Thomas.

HMS Shackleton was originally commissioned as HMS Sharpshooter but was renamed in 1953 in line with her new duties engaged in hydrographic surveying. She marked five datum points in Leverburgh, Harris and Bays Loch, Berneray using three cuts, a rivet (in Leverburgh) and a bolt (in Berneray).

A very full account of her history can be read here: HMS Shackleton.