Sunday, 1 May 2011

The attitude of the Skye crofters

The Napier Commission appears to have galvanised the crofters of the Highlands and Islands, and a degree of civil disobedience became evident in the following months and years. On Wednesday 10 December 1884, The Leeds Mercury reports on two incidents, both related to the land question, which underpins Lord Napier's commission.

PORTREE, Tuesday [9 December 1884]

So far as the naval and military forces are concerned, their operations in Skye may be declared at an end; but the attitude which the crofters have taken up on the rent question during the last few days greatly complicates the situation in the island. At meeting after meeting they have resolved to pay no rent to the proprietors, and, in point of fact, the resolutions have been carried into effect, for in a large number of townships the crofters have declined to pay.

STORNOWAY, Tuesday Night [9 December 1884]
Mr George Nicholson, Messenger-at-Arms, Edinburgh, who went on Monday to serve Court of Session wrtis upon the crofters of the township of Valtos, parish of Uig, Lewis, returned this evening, reporting that he had been deforced and he and his concurrents assualted. The service of writs was completed except at the last three houses, the approaches to which were barred  by a crowed, numbering several hundreds, arranged four or five deep, in front of the doors, in a most threatening attidue. The officer, on attempting to pass through, was repulsed by the people, and on endeavouring to pass the writs over the heads of the multitude, he was forcibly prevented. Being defeated in his object, he was compelled to leave, when he was followed by the crowd, who pelted the officer and his assistants with stones, "clods" and quantities of mud. They were compelled to seek refuge in the public school, which the people surrounded. On the party attempting to leave the schoolhouse, stones and mud were freely thrown at them, the officer being struck on the head , and besmeared with mud. His concurrents managed to make their escape. On their way to Miavaig, they encountered a body of people numbering about 100, posted on the top of a hill skirting the road, and who rapidly rolled down large boulders upon them; but, fortunately, the party escaped without much injury. At this juncture, Captain Matheson, who was returning from a day's shooting, met the concurrents on the return journey, and learning the critical position of the officer, he organised a party and gallantly volunteered to rescue him. This party, returning in Captain Matheson's conveyance, brought the officer away with them, the large crowd surrounding the place offering no resistance. On the return journey, it was found that during the short interval, an obstruction, int eh shape of a dyke formed of large boulders, had been constructed across the road and before the conveyance could pass, this had to be removed. The party returned to town, and reported the matter to the authorities. There is some excitement in the district, the people declaring that they will resist any force used against them, and will never give up possession of tackmen's grazings. Nicholson, who still has interdicts to serve in the island of Bernera, declares he will not return to Uig without a sufficient force.

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