On the 3rd of December 1846 a case was heard in court between the Marquis of Breadalbane and ‘James M’Gregor and others‘.
The case, which is extensively recorded in great detail, was with regard to a long-standing drove-stance that had been moved and the relationship of drove roads with later, mainly military, routes.
The place in question was Inverouran in Argyll which lies just off the modern A82 road and it is what the case has to tell us regarding the history and practice of droving that particularly interests me:
“The drove-road by Glencoe and the Blackmount was used for driving sheep and cattle long before the public road was formed, and it has continued to be used down to the present time in the same way as before the formation of the present road.
Nicely reminding us that it was such paths that had formed a large part of the land communication network for many, many years.
At Inverouran, the drove-road leaves the present public road for about two miles. It runs through the drove-stances in dispute, and has been used as a part of the drove road for the sheep and cattle from time immemorial.
I suggest that ‘time immemorial’ implies at least several centuries of use.
Shortly before 1745, a military road was, with the necessary engineering deviations, made under the authority of parliament, on or along the line of the former and ancient drove-road, which afterwards became the road by which the cattle and sheep were driven.
The first roads were built for political, rather than economic, purposes.
In 1803 this line of road was, in common with the other roads in the Highlands, placed under the management of parliamentary commissioners, and is so still; and, with the exception of occasional deviations, the present public road runs along the line or course of the ancient drove-road.
Not all ‘modern’ roads follow these ancient routes so it is nice to have this particular one confirmed.
The military road, and the present parliamentary road are, substantially, in the lino of the ancient drove-road, and came in its place, and, among others, to supply its purposes, which, until recently, have been its chief use.”
” On their journey, certain places for resting and refreshing sheep and cattle are indispensable. These places are generally situated at the average distance of ten miles from one another, being the safe and proper distance sheep and cattle on a journey can daily travel without sustaining serious injury, and they are called drove-stances or stages, and are invariable and indispensable accompaniments of drove-roads; and on the great drove-road by Glencoe and the Blackmount, there have been for centuries past, and as far back as its history reaches, drove-stances at stated distances, for the resting of the sheep and cattle.
So we know that the average speed of these droves was about 10 miles per day which fact is worth pondering when you consider that some of these animals would leave in July to travel all the way from the Western Isles to England!
There are fixed rates of charge for every hundred sheep, and every score of cattle, attached to each stance; and these rates, – generally 1s. 6d. for every hundred sheep, and the like for every score of cattle for each night, -have been fixed for time immemorial.”
Using the Retail Price Index reveals that 1s 6d is a little over £5 today and that is for every 100 sheep or 20 cattle and for each day of the journey. 5p per sheep per night and 25p per cow which it would be interesting to compare with modern haulage rates per 10 miles!
I might return to this case to see what other snippets might be lurking there but for now I think that’s enough on the disputed drove-stance of Inverouran.
Source: The Scottish Jurist Vol XII 1867