On the 18th of March 1842, the Inverness Journal announced that:
The Earl of Dunmore has ordered a supply of hares and rabbits to be let loose over the island of Harris.
The island does not contain much arable land, and the farmer will be remunerated as a sportsman for any loss he may otherwise sustain.
Eight days later on the 26th of March another paper, the Manchester Times & Gazette, quoted an article in the Inverness Courier:
‘The Earl of Dunmore has ordered a supply of hares and rabbits to be let loose over the island of Harris.
This must be intended as a boon for the sportsman; it will scarcely prove one to the farmer; but the island does not contain much arable land.’
I think it is clear that either a ‘press release’ had been the original source of these articles (with the Journal printing it verbatim and the Courier slightly altering the emphasis of the second sentence) or that the Courier had perhaps used the Journal’s article as the basis for it’s piece?
Whatever the case, a couple of year’s later on the 20th of April 1844 an article in the ‘Scotsman’ was quoted by ‘The Freeman’s journal & Daily Commercial Advertiser’:
RATS IN THE HEBRIDES
‘Generations have passed away without seeing a rat on the small island of Tarinsay, on the west coast of Harris. An innumerable swarm of these annoying and destructive vermin have of late spread over the island, notwithstanding the efforts of Mr Macdonald, the taskmaster, to extirpate them. They appear to be increasing so fast that they threaten to over-run the whole island, and keep violent possession of it.
They are supposed to have come from the island of Soay, which lies at the distance of about three miles from Tarinsay, and into which the Earl of Dunmore, some years ago, ordered rabbits to be sent. Soon after this, the rats, which were formerly very numerous on the island of Soay, completely disappeared, having removed in a body to the neighbouring island, from which they are not inclined to take their departure in a hurry.’
Note: ‘Tarinsay’ for Taransay is forgiveable whilst substituting ‘taskmaster’ for ‘tacksman’ was, perhaps, a Freudian slip as the island had recently been Cleared for this same John Macdonald?
Island which spent £600,000 getting rid of rats over-run by rabbits, trumpeted the Telegraph of 27th of April 2010, referring to the island of Canna, with the same story also being covered by the Guardian, which didn’t mention the cost of the operation, and by the Times, whose tabloidesque headline apparently suggests that the rabbits had consumed the island itself!
Nature & newspapers sometimes seem to share similar difficulties in maintaining balance…