Friday, 8 October 2010

Napier Commission in Orkney

Transcribing more evidence from the Napier Commission in Orkney, I found it to contain some pretty harrowing stuff - unexpected perhaps. The island of Rousay, northwest of the archipelago's capital Kirkwall, was owned by a General Burroughs. He exercised his law-enshrined powers as landowners to such an extent that his tenants referred to his conduct as "wanton and inconsiderate inhumanity", only marginally diluted to "[being treated in an] utterly inconsiderate and unrighteous manner". The island's minister, Archibald Maccallum, spoke on behalf of most of the island's crofters, followed by an interrogation of others. James Leonard requested an assurance from the landowner that none of the evidence given by him or others would lead to 'consequences' - an assurance that General Burroughs refused to give point blank. In fact, he rebutted the request by saying that if anyone was not happy, they should just go away. The case, presented by Georgina Inkster, was a good demonstration of the general's high-handed attitude. Another exampled was quoted by James Leonard:

A woman [lived] in our island whom the proprietor visited, when she was on her death-bed. She had a small croft, and he would have to leave it, because he was going to give it to another person—a stranger. She said she would never leave it until she was put to a house from which no man could remove her. He said—What house is that?—and she said—' Where I will be buried;' and he struck his stick on the ground and said, ' Would you like to be buried here on this floor?'

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