>…On the Earl of Selkirk’s Observations on the Present State of the Highlands of Scotland, with a view of the Causes and Probable Consequences of Emigration
By Robert Brown Esq., Sheriff-Substitute of the Western District of Inverness-shire
“It is to be observed, in regard to those tracts in the North-west Highlands and Isles, held by tacksmen, though not stocked with sheep, nor calculated for that stock, that most of them are approaching rapidly to a different system of management. In many districts, the tacksmen’s farms are falling fast into the hands of small tenants, who, instead of being cottars, or subtenants, as formerly, now hold directly of the .proprietor. The proprietors of most of the estates on the Long Island and other islands, have greatly ameliorated the situation of their people, by this mode of management, while, at the same time, they .have much increased their incomes.
Lord Selkirk seems to lay particular stress on the statistical account given by the minister of Harris, regarding the state of possession in that country. It is therefore necessary to offer a few explanatory remarks respecting that parish.
A few years ago,- Mr Hume of Harris,on his return from India, visited his estate for the first time after his accession to it. The estate was then, with the exception of twenty-three small tenants, wholly held in lease by tacksmen. The whole income amounted only to L. 895 per annum; and so little prospect had he of augmenting his rent-roll, that he resolved on a sale of the whole property at a very moderate price.
On farther consideration, it occurred, that his estate might be of greater value than he was, at first, inclined to believe. He saw a numerous body of tacksmen, who occupied only small shares of their farms, living in affluence and splendour, and amassing considerable wealth, on the labours of the subtenants and cottars. It occurred to him, that by letting the farms to the subtenants and cottars themselves, he might relieve his people, from many vexatious burdens, and pocket the profits, formerly intercepted by the tacksmen. This resolution was no sooner formed than executed. He let all his arable farms to small tenants, at specified money rents, and abolished all kinds of services or duties.
The first year he received about one hundred and eighty new tenants upon his list, and raised the rent to L.3500. The next year, some new openings occurring, he received about fifty additional tenants, some of them from other estates, and was thereby enabled to raise the rent to upwards of L.4000 per annum. A considerable part of his estate is yet under lease; and it is likely, as the leases expire, that the remainder is destined to undergo a similar change, and that his income will be very much increased by the change.”
‘Mr Hume of Harris’ was Alexander Hume Macleod who had inherited Harris from his father, Captain Alexander Macleod, in 1790. Only five years after the publication of this book, his son Alexander Norman Macleod would follow in turn and more on the Macleod family may be learned via this piece. . It was also ‘Mr Hume of Harris’ who must have commissioned what became Bald’s 1804/5 Map of Harris which is linked to here.
Other than that, I think this extract explains itself but I find it sad that, as late as the year 1806, there still existed the belief & will to enable the people of Harris to live and thrive on their island…