As it Applied to Scotland

[Scottish Potato Clearances Contents]

The state of being for the majority of the tenant population throughout Scotland, prior to the mid-18th century, was that rent was paid in goods and services; x-amount bolls/weight/barrels of produce, x-amount of the landowner’s acreage ploughed/seeded, &c. It was done on the run-rig system of small lots held by small-farmers for short periods of only a few years, which was then supplanted by the crofter style of tenantry which started becoming more prevalent from the mid-18th century as, these small-farmers were chucked or “cleared” in favour of larger tracts of enclosed farmland held under more secure and longer terms. Owners of land began to favour cash payments as rent, while the tenants now only had to cultivate their own rented grounds, making the rent money by selling what produce they could. This meant that large tracts of ground formerly housing many families were given over to the rearing of cattle and, more particularly, sheep. These owners then began to take further control of their grounds by “improving” them. This included the banning of the populace from what were now sports [hunting] grounds, e.g., whole swathes of forests, grouse moors, even rivers for the fishing of salmon were now exempt from being public grounds and anyone found on them were punished for trespassing and poaching, if caught attempting to obtain food in any form from them. ‘Punch Magazine’ a particularly Anglo-centric publication with a whole host of biases against everything non-English states in an article, dated towards the end of the Clearances, December 5th, 1857; 

“Besides, there are hardly any Highlanders now, except deer; the Dukes having driven almost all the men out of the glens.”  

Pretty sure said Dukes weren’t too stoked at the blasé outing of what they were trying to keep secret, but perhaps they thought the publication out of the reach of Scots… This was something happening across the whole extent of Scotland and its islands. The clearances were not restricted to the Highlands. 

We’re going to focus on the “potato famine” version of events, so widely spread as fact in varying forms, though most detrimentally, in high school history lessons. What the reports below do show, is that dearth and famine were expected things every so often. 

In a bid to disabuse folk of the belief there was an extended potato or crop famine which was the cause of the extensive extirpation of the people from varying vast stretches of Scottish lands from the 18th until the latter end of the 19th centuries, I’ve gone through the papers of the time. Search parameters used were; “potato”, “crop”, “famine”, “failure”, in a search of solely contemporary Scottish publications. Take note of how spread apart the significant failures are when we’re told by Clearance apologists that the Highlanders were apparently starving and scrambling to emigrate to barren lands because of potatoes having failed, constantly, for decades, if we’re to believe this as the reason for the extirpation that lasted so long. There’s no mention of such an extended event in Scotland. 

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1800

HIGHLAND SOCIETY HALL. 

   We are informed from Inverary by a letter August 30th, that they have been ʃhearing every day since the 20th incluʃive – Crops finer throughout than ever ʃeen there. Potatoes began to be digged on the 9th of this month, and have been ʃold to the labourers at 6d. the peck, very good, and of large ʃize. The herrings become general, and upon the whole plentiful. 

– The Scots Magazine, Monday, 1st September, 1800. 

HOUSE OF LORDS – Dec. 5.

   The bills on the table were forwarded in their regular courʃe. 

REGULATING THE PRICE OF GRAIN. 

   Lord WARWICK prefaced his ʃpeech by lamenting the little expectation he had of ʃucceʃs in the propoʃition he was about ʃubmitting to their Lordʃhips, from the ʃentiment which on former occaʃions had been expreʃʃed upon the ʃubject. He was one of thoʃe, he ʃaid, who did not give credit to there being an actual ʃcarcity of wheat in the country, but rather believed the extravagant and diʃgraceful prices were occaʃioned by very different cauʃes. But even allowing that the crops of wheat had failed one-fourth in the laʃt harveʃt, that failure might eaʃily be ʃupplied by a proportionate quantity of pea, bean, and other flours; and that it was ʃo ʃupplied there could be no manner of doubt, from the inferior quality of the bread now to what it was formerly. For his own part, he could ʃafely ʃay, that he had not for the laʃt twelve months taʃted one piece of real wheaten bread, except a little made from ʃome wheat which his ʃteward had grown and kept for his own uʃe. Property was, and he hoped always would be, sacred in the country; but he could not admit the full extent of the doctrine, as laid down by a Learned Lord, for it might be carried to the extent of rendering that ʃacred which had been plundered upon the road; and, in his opinion, the exorbitant profits made by ʃome perʃons on this neceʃʃary article of life were little leʃs unfairly gotten, and as little derʃerving protection, of the law, but from mobs and deʃtructive outrage he ʃhould except, for thoʃe every man muʃt be deʃirous of preventing. Admitting the crops had failed one-fourth, ʃurely the advance in price ought not to have exceeded that proportion, as at that rate the farmer would at leaʃt have received his fair profit, and the people would have been ʃupplied with a quartern loaf at 10d. inʃtead of 18d.; and, indeed, if ʃome immediate remedy was not applied, it would not matter what quantity of wheat was produced in the country, for the price would continue to advance, and he apprehended it might lead to a real ʃcarcity, as, from various inʃtances, his Lordship contended the farmer who cultivated fifty acres would make more by them than if he cultivated an hundred... 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, 11th December, 1800, p.2. 

1801

   Auguʃt has been an uncommonly fine month. The average heat was near two degrees greater every day at 8 in the morning and evening than it was laʃt year; and nearly four degrees greater than it was in the ʃame month 1799. The ʃeaʃonable ʃhowers in the beginning of the month aided the filling of the corn much, and lengthened the ʃtraw, which in many places was much ʃtinted. The harveʃt commenced in many places about the 12th, and towards the latter end of the month it became general. All accounts agree that not only the bulk on the ground, but the quantity and quality of the grain, are conʃiderably beyond a medium crop. The potatoe crops have mended greatly during this month, and though the curl prevails in many places the crop is on the whole good. The herring fiʃhing has been ʃucceʃsful both in the Murray frith, and in the weʃt. They have made their appearance in the Firth of Forth, bot not in great plenty. The wages of ʃhearers from 8d. to 1s. 6d. per day. The butcher market is rather up, owing, it is ʃaid to the abundance of fodder. Potatoes fell towards the end of the month to 8d., and green peaʃe to 1s. per peck. 

– The Scots Magazine, Saturday, 1st August, 1801, p.70. 

1803

   Hay harvest commenced in the parish of Erskine on Monday the 20th inst. There is every appearance of a heavy, thick, and abundant crop on all soils, which will average 290 stones per acre. Oats and wheat are a good crop in general, and promise well in all parts of the country. Potatoes are thriving and early. If we have mild genial weather till harvest, most plentiful crops of all kinds of grain may be expected. 

– Aberdeen Press and Journal, Wednesday, 29th June, 1803, p.3. 

1804

   Monday 23d ult. a number of the principal inhabitants of Orkney met in the Town-houʃe of Kirkwall, for the humane purpoʃe of taking into their moʃt ʃerious conʃideration the deplorable ʃtate of the country for want of grain, occaʃioned by the failure of the two preceding crops, to a degree that is truly melancholy. Though the crop before laʃt had the aid of a good one immediately preceding, ʃuch a ʃcarcity prevailed that the proprietors and others found it neceʃʃary to enter into a ʃubʃcription for importing grain, to ʃell at prime coʃt; and they, in conjunction with a few private dealers of conʃequence, imported and ʃold victual to the value of nearly three years land-rent of the whole iʃlands. This large quantity was all exhauʃted; and, laʃt crop proving ʃtill worʃe than the former, and the price of cattle having fallen, and little or no fiʃh being procured, on account of the tremendous ʃeas, and the boiʃterous ʃeverity of the weather, the farmers and cottars are now reduced to extreme want, and the funds of the proprietors, as may eaʃily be conceived, are inadequate to relieve them. In theʃe circumʃtances, when every other reʃource had failed, the meeting turned their eyes to the Government, whoʃe beneficent aid they had received on former preʃʃing occaʃions, and whoʃe bounty has of late been ʃo opportunely felt by Shetland, unhappily in a ʃimilar condition, and in order that a ʃupply may be procured without delay, to prevent famine, with its horrid train of consequences, the Sheriff Subʃtitute, whoʃe zeal in the buʃineʃs does him honour, was empowered and entruʃted to make and forward the application, through the channel of the Crown Officers in Scotland. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Monday, 7th May, 1804, p.3. 

1809

AGRICULTURAL REPORT 

FOR THE CARSE OF GOWRIE, AUG. 9. 

   The month of July has been unfavourable to the crops. The first two weeks were cold and stormy and not without frost at night. The very heavy rains which have fallen with little intermission for the two last weeks have laid the corns very much and in very different directions. 

   The wheat, pease, and flax which were uncommonly luxuriant, have suffered considerably, and as they are not so far advanced as last season, there is reason to fear that unless the weather become very dry and warm they will be as unproductive as last year. The risk is also greater from their being at least two weeks later. 

   The early Barleys which were very rich, have suffered by the heavy rains. The late barleys are indifferent. The oats and potatoes on dry grounds are very poor. 

   The turnip crop has in many places failed and in most places is thin and unpromising. 

   The harvest threatens to be from 2 to 3 weeks later than last year. 

   The hay crop was got in with little labour, in good condition and is plentiful. 

   Wheat, partly from the embargo, and partly from the unfavourable weather, has advanced, in price. All other grains are quite stationary, and likely to continue so till a favourable or unfavourable harvest depress or advance them. 

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday, 10th August, 1809, p.4 

1810

   At Falkirk tryst, on Tuesday last, a large show of cattle appeared, and extensive sales were made, at prices much higher, than ever known in that market. Sheep were also in great request, and sold from 15 to 20 per cent. higher than last year. We understand that a large proportion of the corn crops, betwixt this city and Falkirk remain in the stook, and that many fields are yet to cut. The late calm and foggy weather having materially retarded the ripening and winning processes. The crops, in every case, are considered as fair ones, and, in numerous instances, as exceeding those obtained in an average of seasons. 

   Four stalks of potatoe oats were cut down this season upon the farm of Clearburn, two of which had 212 pickles upon each stalk, one 217, and the largest stalk carried 282. 

– Perthshire Courier, Monday, 15th October, 1810, p.4. 

1812

Monthly Agricultural Reports. 

————— 

… 

MIDDLE WARD OF CLYDESDALE. 

… 

   The wheat crop last season, differs more in quality than any we remember to have seen – in some instances a fine, plump, and full sample is obtained – in others a small shrivelled sort of grain, hardly fit for manufacturing into flour. And this, in a great measure, accounts for the many different prices at which we see this grain stated in the papers. 

   The cause of this may be accounted for in many ways – part of last year’s crop was late sown, of course a late harvest hurt much of it; and the rains, during the first of the Spring months, were also much against some fields of Wheat. And perhaps in a humid season like this, the want of thrashing machines may, in many places, be one cause why Wheats are so variable and unequal, at least in condition and value… 

   But the price of flour has always been found the surest test of the real value of Wheat. And, judging from this test at present – the high price of bread – we must conclude that the quality of Wheat in general this season is inferior. 

   Young wheats and clover continue to look well in this neighbourhood. 

   The price of butcher meat are much the same as mentioned formerly. Potatoes are now very high; it is said that a person, in the vicinity, who had a very large quantity last season, has sold 400 bolls to a retailer in Glasgow, at 20s. per boll. They are now selling here at 1s. 2d. per peck. 

… 

   Hamilton, 2d Jan. 1812. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Monday, 6th January, 1812, p.3. 

MIDDLE WARD OF LANARKSHIRE. 

(Communicated by Mr Aiton, Strathaven.) 

… 

   The potatoe crop is truly consoling. Never were there nearly so many planted; and never had that species of crop so promising an appearance as at present. They have not yet reached maturity, but as so far advanced as already to afford a great relief to the poor and labouring classes; and if the weather would prove as favourable for the next four weeks as it has been during August, the potatoe crop would be by far the most valuable that ever was dug from the earth – more than three times that of last year, and probably more than that of any preceding year whatever. What ground of consolation and of gratitude towards Heaven, that when the price of oatmeal is upwards of 3s. a peck, potatoes of excellent quality, which generally bring two third parts of the price of meal, are now selling in all parts of this ward at one shilling per peck; being nearly one-half below the proportion they usually bear to oatmeal? The failure of the potatoe crop of last year threw the whole inhabitants of Scotland upon grain, from four to six weeks longer than usual in the course of the year; and the extreme scarcity of fodder caused the grain to be consumed on cattle that would have supported the population for three or four weeks more. We have now a fair prospect of relief in both respects; and I hope our farmers will see the propriety of storing up what can be spared of the fodder of this crop, to secure them from the return of such a scarcity of fodder; and that they will be persuaded to render that which is so stored fresh, nutritive, and palatable, by an admixture of the second cutting of green clover. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, 3rd September, 1812, p.3. 

1814

UPPER WARD OF LANARKSHIRE. 

… 

   As to oats, it is admitted on all hands, notwithstanding the unfavourable weather, that this sort of crop has a fine appearance, being thick and close, and the colour good. Around Lanark, however, the oats are as usual infested with charlock, which, being in blossom just now, covers the ground to such a degree that a stranger might mistake it for the principal crop. 

   The same description may be given of the barley, some of which has already shot out the ear; but this species of grain is fast going out of fashion. Wheat, however, is more extensively cultivated than formerly. From Dalserf to Biggar it is to be met with at short intervals. In the whole of this district the wheat crop has the most promising appearance. 

   The potatoes in general look well, and such as had been injured by the frost seem now quite recovered. The turnips have been sown with much advantage this season. Those that were early are now above the ground, and as yet promise well. The orchards and fruit-yards in some places have failed, but in others a good crop is still expected; and plumbs and smaller fruit will be abundant. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Saturday, 16th July, 1814, p.4. 

1816

UPPER WARD OF LANARKSHIRE. 

   The frost at the beginning of last month was only injurious to the Potatoes in a very limited district near the Clyde. It was not at all felt by the other crops, but since it has gone off we have had frequent heavy rains, with only short intervals of fair weather. Of course the harvest has made but slow advances; and although on a variety of farms a part of the Oats are already fully ripened and the shearing begun, yet the general appearance of the crops is green being prevented from assuming the harvest yellow by a superfluity of moisture even when the ear is full. Seldom indeed has the ground at any season been so much drenched as at the present time. The harvest, however, will go on, field after field, and farm after farm, will become ready for the hook; but the work will be much protracted, as large portions of the crops in many parts of our district are very far behind. 

   The Barley harvest is mostly over, without suffering so much from the rains as might have been apprehended. 

   The Wheat is in the same direction with the Oats; and as to the pasture grass, it has greatly failed, owing to the heavy and cold rains in the course of the month. This many beasts are already beginning to feel; and as little relief can be expected for some time from the stubble, this species of food must become very scarce; but cattle housed at night, from the abundance of Hay, Turnips, and Potatoes, are plentifully supplied; and accordingly there has yet been no failure in the dairy produce… 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, 10th October, 1816, p.4. 

DISTILLATION FROM GRAIN. 

————— 

   On Monday last a meeting of the Justices of the Peace, and Commissioners of Supply of the county of Edinburgh, was held in the Parliament House, to consider the propriety of petitioning the Prince Regent, that he would stop the distillation of spirits from grain. 

   Sir John Dalrymple rose, and, after lamenting that the important task of bringing forward the present question had not fallen into abler hands, proceeded to state the grounds on which he thought they ought to petition the Prince Regent on the subject. The present crop of grain of all sorts, it was well known, was deplorably deficient – the potatoe crop had also failed. Nor was this evil peculiar to this country. It extended over almost the whole continent of Europe, so that there was no probability that our present wants could be much relieved by importation. We had been accustomed of late years to depend greatly on the supplies of corn which we had received from the superabundant produce of Ireland. But so general had been the misfortune of the present adverse season, that far from being able to afford relief to her distressed neighbours, would be found not to have wherewithal to support her own population. In these circumstances it was necessary to use every effort to avert the deplorable evil of scarcity; and as the supply was already inadequate, it was surely most desirable to prevent any part of it being used, except for the purposes of subsistence… 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, 5th December, 1816, p.3. 

1817

UPPER WARD OF LANARKSHIRE. 

   The warmth and nourishing softness of the air since the middle of last month has been very uncommon. The heat would have been truly oppressive and too potent for the purposes of vegetation, had it not been mitigated by a singular kind of humidity in the atmosphere, somewhat resembling the falling of the evening dew, but still more refreshing and salubrious. The effect of this sort of weather has indeed been singular. – It has revived and brought forward the various crops on the fields with a speed seldom at any former period witnessed… 

   As to potatoes, the appearance of this crop is just now abundantly promising, but as they are not early planted here, it is generally near the middle of August before they can be dug with advantage, at which time a plentiful supply may be depended on. 

… 

MIDDLE WARD OF CLYDESDALE. 

… 

   Wheat, which looked ill-coloured, late, and puny, has now assumed an uncommonly promising appearance, and is already shot in many places. Oats are still thin on late tilled ground, where the worm made its ravages; but on potatoe and turnip land they are excellent. This species of crop, in many instances, had to be sown again or re-tilled for turnip or fallow land, in consequence of the injury done by the grub-worm. – Beans and pease are in a promising state. Potatoes being got in the ground this year with less labour than usual, and, not having arrived to that state so as to be hurt by the droughty weather, give every hope of an abundant crop, and are considerably earlier than usual. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, 10th July, 1817, p.4. 

   For the benefit of those who may not have access to the Agricultural Reports, we have extracted the opinion of the Reporters, as to the state of various crops, in the counties of Inverness, Ross, Moray, Banff, and Aberdeen: 

   Inverness-shire.  Wheat, a fair average. – Barley, ditto. – Oats, ditto in the low country, but very defective in the higher districts. – Pease and Beans, few raised, and what is will not return the seed. – Turnips, a full crop. – Potatoes, a full crop. 

   Ross-shire.  Wheat, a coarse sample. – Barley, ditto, with the exception of some early barley. – Oats, an uncommonly large mixture of light grain. – Pease and Beans, bad crop. – Turnips, in general a full crop. – Potatoes, excellent crop. 

   Morayshire.  Wheat, a fair average crop. – Barley, exceeds an average crop. – Oats, A fair crop in the low country, and defective in the high lands. – Pease and Beans, bad crop. – Turnips, middling crop. – Potatoes, an abundant crop. 

   Banffshire.  Barley, under an average crop. – Oats, an average crop. – Turnips, one-third short of an average crop. – Potatoes, A full average crop. 

   Aberdeenshire.  Wheat, a full average crop. – Barley, a full crop, but not of the best quality. – Oats, two-thirds of a crop. – Pease and Beans, utterly ruined. – Turnips, one-third defective. – Potatoes, a full crop. 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday, 11th December, 1817, p.3. 

   … Yet it is impossible to deny that this cheering prospect is still in a great measure his from a numerous class of our highland population. The almost total failure of two successive crops renders the condition of the peasantry at this moment extremely uncomfortable; and but for the abundance of the potatoe crop, their case would be truly deplorable. As it is their situation gives them a strong a claim on their landlords to indulgent treatment – and we feel satisfied that this claim will not be disregarded. 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday, 25th December, 1817, p.3. 

1819

WICK AUXILIARY BIBLE SOCIETY. 

————— 

To the Editor of the Inverness Courier

————— 

Wick, 25th February, 1819. 

   SIR, 

… 

   …In the years 1816 and 1817, this country was threatened with famine; but last season, the fishing was excellent, and the LORD made us “to suck of the abundance of the seas,” and, by a good crop, caused all his paths to drop fatness, and crowned the year with his goodness. The people, impressed with a sense of his kindness, have come forward with the first fruits of their increase, and cast them into the treasury of the Bible Society, as an expression of gratitude to HIM who is Lord of the sea and of the dry land, and who gives us all things richly to enjoy… 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday, 4th March, 1819, p.3. 

1821

   Considering the almost total failure of the Potatoe crop, on which the poorer class depend as their principal food, for three fourths of the year; the great fall in the price of Cattle and Sheep, the staple commodity of the country, during the whole of the last season, and more particularly towards the conclusion of it; together with the general poverty of the country, the above amount collected in these circumstances, is a clear proof that the Bible is not under-valued among the Highlanders of this district. There are several people on the lists of the different parishes, in arrears to the Bible Society as well as to their Landlords, who cannot conveniently pay, even the small pittance for which they subscribed… 

   … The money thus lent to the Lord, is unquestionably laid out at the highest possible interest; and although it may appear to many at present, like casting their bread upon the waters it will most certainly return to them after many days. That exalted Personage [Matt. 10:42.] who declared, “that whosoever giveth a cup of cold water to drink, to a disciple in his name, shall in no wise lose his reward,” will surely recompense all who are instrumental in sending the inestimable treasure of the everlasting Gospel to those who hunger, and thirst after righteousness, with a tenfold reward in the kingdom of Heaven. 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday, 15th February, 1821, p.3. 

1822

TO THE EDITOR OF THE SCOTSMAN. 

Hebrides, 28th May, 1822.    

   SIR. – The distress of the Irish attracts great attention from the public; and the generous spirit shewn on this subject does much honour to the British nation. There are, however, people still nearer our own doors, who are at this moment suffering very severely in silence; I mean the inhabitants of the West Highlands in general, but more especially those of the Hebrides. 

   The unexampled drought of the last summer destroyed all crops in sandy soils, which abound much in these Islands; and the potatoes were entirely ruined. The continual rains of the autumn greatly injured the deep loams and the clay soils which retained the water, whilst in a few light gravelly soils on low bottoms, potatoes were, perhaps, an average crop. It has thus happened, as in Ireland, that in some few districts there may be enough, though in others there is a scarcity of food to a most alarming degree. I have personally visited many of these places, and I can state, both from my own knowledge, and from the universal testimony of all ranks of people, that in by much the greatest part of the West Highlands, there exists a scarcity of food beyond any thing known within the memory of man, and without any means of supplying the defect, the inhabitants having neither money nor credit to procure provisions, in consequence of the low price of cattle, and their famished condition. Many of the inhabitants are already living on shell-fish; and, if speedy means are not resorted to for their relief, there is no doubt whatever that many of them with perish from want in the course of the summer. 

   A reference to the clergy in these districts will confirm the truth of what is here said; and I would caution the public from relying on contrary statements made by persons who may reside in those parts which have escaped the calamity, in some degree, and who may have made no further inquiry. 

   I am not so well informed in regard to the North, or North-east Highlands, though I have reason to believe they are in a very bad condition; but in the West Highlands and Islands, the same scenes that now occur in Ireland will most assuredly be found soon, if they are not relieved. 

I am yours, 

                                                          A HIGHLANDER. 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday, 13th June, 1822, p.3. 

1823

   Throughout the country the harvest is now far advanced, we think rather more than one half over, and as the weather had of late been tolerably good, the grain is so far secured in excellent condition. The accounts from all quarters agree in representing the oats and barley as above an average crop, and of a fair quality. With regard to the wheats we are sorry to say, that a very unfavourable report is given. In several instances the return has been much below even moderate calculations of the farmers, and in most places we believe the grain itself has been materially injured, and the crop on the whole is considered to be fully one-third less than an average one. In most places beans and pease are a poor crop. On Sunday night we had a severe frost, which has put a stop to the growth of the potatoes. Although ice, of the thickness of a penny, was taken from some ponds on Monday morning, we have heard that this valuable root has not sustained the least injury.Fife Herald

– Perthshire Courier, Friday, 10th October, 1823, p.4. 

1825

AGRICULTURAL REPORTS FOR JULY. 

   FORFARSHIRE. – A severe drought and warm weather prevailed during the whole of this month… Vegetation, as might have been expected, has been much checked – the pastures are scorched – the second growth of clover has failed – turnips on light soils are making little progress – potatoes have not yet come to any size – and the corn crops, in many instances, were whitening prematurely. – The rain that commenced yesterday, come most opportunely, has refreshed the earth, and given health and vigour to plants that were sick and languishing… The drought, though it has been unusually severe, has probably been in favour of the wheat, which is still luxuriant, free from diseases, and promises to yield an abundant return. Indeed the wheat, in some cases, has reached an unusual height, so that it the risk of being lodged even by moderate rain… The grain markets have been dull during the month; the sale of the bonded grain, and the prospect of an early and abundant harvest, has checked speculation and limited the demand… 

   MID-LOTHIAN. – We are not sure that the grain crop of this county ever promised better than the one now on the ground, taking it all in all. In the months of May and June we were certainly led to expect a greater bulk of straw, especially from oats and barley, but the unusual high temperature, and uninterrupted drought, which prevailed during the whole of this month, have had the effect of checking the growth, and of pushing the crops rapidly on to maturity. Some apprehensions have of late been entertained as to the filling of the oats and barley, from the unusual rapidity of the ripening process, but we are inclined to think these in a great measure groundless, as any partial deficiency on light early lands will be amply compensated in the increased fertility of the stronger and later lands. Indeed we never recollect of Scotland suffering from heat and drought, but frequently from cold moist weather. Wheat, with the exception of that sown on summer fallow, is invariably good and free from disease, and consequently may be expected to yield well both as to quantity and quality. Even summer fallow wheat will produce better than the thinness of the crop would have led us some time ago to expect… Turnips look well, but are beginning to feel the want of rain, though not nearly so much as the potatoes. These we comprehend cannot be a full crop, unless we have copious falls very soon, and even with rain immediately we should doubt them reaching more than an average crop. Beans and pease hold out the prospect of a good crop, with a few exceptions where they suffered from frost in the spring, an injury which this crop very seldom recovers from; and hence the propriety of the practice, which has gained considerable ground of late years, of sowing them later than was formerly the case…  

THE WEATHER, CROPS, &c. 

… 

   The barley harvest has commenced in the neighbourhood of Falkirk… The crops of wheat and beans in the Carse are more luxuriant than they have been for many years. 

   … Around this town a good deal of grain will be cut during the present week, and had not the morning been so extremely unfavourable, our market shearers would have commenced yesterday. In one short week the pastures have revived to an astonishing degree, and are already assuming their wonted green and refreshing hue. The rain came in excellent time for the turnips, and, we believe, we may add, for all the latter kind of potatoes… 

– Fife Herald, Thursday, 11th August, 1825, p.4. 

1826

   Owing to the want of water for the mills, there has for some time been a great scarcity of meal; the potatoes, however, being a month or six weeks earlier than usual, have furnished the poor with a seasonable relief; in this neighbourhood there will be a fair crop of this valuable root; those planted early are deficient in quantity, but of excellent quality.Inverness Journal

… 

DISTRESSED MANUFACTURERS 

ON THE 

Means of Giving “PUBLIC RELIEF” to the Distressed Manufacturers, “With Safety;” and the Grounds on which that Measure is justified by Precedent. Addressed to the several Committees appointed for the Relief of the Distressed Manufacturers. 

   By the Right Honourable SIR JOHN SINCLAIR, Bart. 

   GENTLEMEN. – … 

   1. It is quite a mistake to suppose, that there is no precedent of public relief being afforded in such distressing circumstances; for it was given in the year 1783, when, owing to a deficient harvest, there was not only a scarcity all over the kingdom, but an actual famine in several of the most northern districts of Scotland. Being then member for the county of Caithness, it was a duty incumbent upon me, to take an active part in procuring public aid for my unfortunate countrymen. The proceedings upon that occasion have been detailed in a recent publication;1 and the result was, an address from the House of Commons to the Crown, dated 6th June 1783. 

      “Beseeching his Majesty to give such directions as might tend most effectually to avert the evils to be apprehended; and assuring his Majesty, that the House would make good such expenses as might be incurred, in relieving the misery to which his Majesty’s unhappy subjects had been reduced.”2 

   The total sum expended on this occasion amounted only to £15,259, 4s.; but other grants of the same description were afterwards made to the inhabitants of the Orkney and Shetland Islands; and the principle of granting public bounty, to districts afflicted with unforeseen calamities, has thus been fully and explicitly recognised… 

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday, 24th August, 1826, p.2. 

1  Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland, Part ii, App. to Chap. 3, p. 38, No. 3. 

2  See Commons Journals, Vol. xxxix. p. 459. 

1828

   Harvest is now in general in the neighbourhood of Montrose; whatever may be the result in grain, the bulk of straw exceeds all our former recollections. The number of stooks on a field is nearly double the usual number. The harvest-work is principally performed by Highland shearers, about five hundred of whom, mostly from Ross and Inverness shires, arrived in our neighbourhood last week. The farmers seem to count these auxiliaries an important acquisition, as by their help they will be able to cut their crops 8s or 10s per acre cheaper, than they could otherwise have done. In three weeks, if the weather continue favourable, the greatest part of the corns in this quarter will be secured in the barn-yard. We are happy to learn, that the injury to the crops from the late rains will be much less than was anticipated.Dundee Advertiser

   … After diligent inquiry, we have reason to believe that the harvest will exceed an average one. In Sutherlandshire, if no further calamity ensue, the crop will also exceed the average produce. In that country very little corn is grown; chiefly oats and barley, and a trifle of wheat. The two last are certainly damaged in quality, but the oats have suffered nothing. Of turnips and hay, there never was a more abundant crop in the Highlands, or a season when our sheep and cattle were in finer condition. The potatoe crop promises to be equally productive. Inverness Courier

   The opinion generally entertained is, that with favourable weather, a full average crop will be secured in this district of the country, although in some parts of it it will be deficient.Aberdeen Journal

   … We have received communications respecting the state of the crops from various quarters; and they agree in stating that the wheat, even where it was much lodged, has been found on examination to be but little injured; and that it will exceed an average crop. The same thing may be said of barley, excepting that in many places, it had suffered from the second growth. In the neighbourhood of Crieff the crops of all kinds are particularly heavy. Harvest commenced there on Friday last. Beans and pease are everywhere a bulky crop; and in fields where peas preponderate, they are perhaps too much so to be very productive, but there is no doubt that they will fully support the average of past years. Oats are generally strong – in many places they are luxuriant, and though partially laid, they have filled well. Every thing in short now depends upon the weather. If it prove favourable for ten days or a fortnight, the farmer will have no cause to complain of the crop of 1828.Stirling Journal

– The Scotsman, Saturday, 23rd August, 1828. 

1829

   POTATOE CROP. – The potatoe crop, upon which the bulk of the working classes in this country principally depend for their winter’s subsistence, promises to be very abundant. The quality, too, is excellent. On the South field of Stirling, we understand that Mr Neilson had had about 105 bolls of the old corn measure to the acre. This is a most astonishing crop, especially when we consider that from 60 to 70 bolls is an average. Some other fields in the neighbourhood of Chartershall have yielded 90 bolls of the same measure.Stirling Journal

   The potatoe crop in this neighbourhood is not as yet all got in; but so much of it has been secured, as to enable us to judge sufficiently of the returns to be expected from the whole. The produce on all dry light soils is above an average; in some cases reaching to eighty bolls per acre; even on moderately damp grounds, it does not fall short of sixty bolls, which is in all years considered a fair average crop. On some fields lately broken up from lea, and where the soil had only been tried previously with a crop of oats, the return of potatoes was at the rate of 120 bolls an acre. But to balance this extraordinary produce in a few cases, we have to deduct the entire failure of the crop on low grounds subject to overflow, and on wet lands with a subsoil of clay; in some cases of this kind the people for whom they are planted refuse even to be at the trouble of taking them up.Fife Herald

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday, 29th October, 1829, p.4. 

1832

AGRICULTURAL REPORTS. 

——— 

… 

   UPPER WARD OF RENFREWSHIRE. 

   Wheat. – The wheat crop is nearly all cut, and a good deal of it has been stacked in fine condition; some of it has been stacked in fine condition; some of it has been thrashed, and weighs 63 lbs. per bushel, – Oats look well, and the harvest is general around Paisley; but in the higher districts, it will not be ready for the sickle for about eight or ten days to come. – Barley will be deficient in quantity – but the quality will be excellent. – Turnips will also be a very deficient crop, although they have improved with the late rains. – Potatoes will be a better crop than was expected, they will, however, still be deficient in quantity, but the quality is in general very fine. – There have been a considerable number of sales of growing crop this season, prices in general moderate… 

   DUMFRIES-SHIRE.  

   … It is true, frequent showers in the end of August, interposed the usual obstacles of a few broken days work, little to the satisfaction of the industrious reaper; but the delay thus occasioned has been moderate on the whole – the loss by extra handling, generally inconsiderable. The pastures, turnips, and late potatoes, must have been benefitted by all the rain that fell. For a fortnight or more, the latter crop remained nearly stationary, but as the rain has now got to the root of the stems, the fruit must have bulked well of late, and will continue to do so for some time to come, unless checked by early frost, of which we have had some specimens of late. Wherever the seed was good, and the soil favourable, the turnips have improved wonderfully in appearance, and will be a much better crop than was at one time imagined. The improvements of agriculture have had a wonderful effect in modifying the climate in which we live, and counteracting the casualties arising from weather. Draining, planting, liming, and burning, making inroads in the moss, and converting marshes into sound meadow land, have done much to insure early harvests, as well as banish the disease called ague; and we confess we incline strongly to the opinion that seasons of scarcity, (if we except a year of searching drought, such as 1826,) will become more and more rare in the British Islands. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Saturday, 8th September, 1832, p.4. 

1833

   With regard to grain farmers, we regret this year must be termed a pressing one, and as adding another of the same kind to the many that preceded it, the effects of which must fall with double weight on those with arable possessions. The crops this year are tolerably good, and, excepting potatoes, nearly approach to an average. Barley is generally true, oats yield well, and even the potatoes in some places far exceed what might have been expected from their appearance at one time. Indeed, there have been no serious failures in the crops in the Highland districts since 1826; the present distress arising from low prices and limited demand. In former years, there was considerable demand for the produce of the lower districts or straths, from the high or grazing districts; this demand is now much limited, owing to greater attention being paid to the enclosing and improving land in the glens, and the whole barley instead of being converted quietly into whisky, and transported over hill and dale, is now principally manufactured into bannocks, and consequently the demand upon the girnals of the Strath is greatly abated. 

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday, 28th November, 1833, p.3. 

1835

POTATOE CROP. 

   We regret to perceive from the Dumfries Courier that disease is again threatening the potatoe crop. Should this become general, the loss will be deeply felt by the poorer classes in all parts of the kingdom, and nowhere more severely than in the Highland districts. In the last number of the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, there is a long paper on the subject of last year’s failure of the crop, embracing the opinions of several practical agriculturists. From the concurrent testimony of these gentlemen, it is adduced that the partial failure of the potatoe crop has been owing to various causes. 

   The plant itself does not appear to have become materially deteriorated by having been so long in cultivation; but various circumstances tend to injure it. A principal cause of injury seems to exist in the partial heating or fermentation which potatoes undergo, when heaped together in an improper manner, so that their vegetative powers are impaired. Their power of resisting the effect of heating, as well as of drought after planting, is lessened by the practice of lifting them before they are matured, and by that of throwing the sets into heaps before being planted… 

– Inverness Courier, Wednesday, 10th June, 1835, p.3. 

1836

LAMENTABLE STATE OF THE 

ISLAND OF LEWIS. 

——— 

   We are indebted to a gentleman resident in the Island of Lewis, for the following vivid and affecting picture of the condition of the people there, which seems fully as melancholy and appalling as that ever described of the destitute peasantry of Ireland. – 

   “The inclemency of the spring, and its blighting influence, have this season been too general; but in no part of the kingdom will its effects be so seriously felt as in the Lewis, where a degree of scarcity prevails, and a loss of cattle has occurred, that is truly frightful. I would have written you, for the information of the readers of the Inverness Courier, on this painful subject, before now, but for my waiting the returns from the different clergymen in the island, to the inquiry of a committee of benevolent individuals at Stornoway, as to the exigency in their respective parishes, with a view to represent to Government the calamitous state of things, and to apply for relief. These returns having been made, enabling me to communicate with the greater accuracy, I hasten to acquaint you with the painful details. It need scarcely be stated that for nine or ten weeks preceding the 1st of May, the weather in this, as in other quarters, was of the most ungenial description. It was wild and winter-like. In April particularly, with the aggravating accompaniments of hail, frost, and snow, cutting gales from the north-east prevailed. Vegetation shrunk before their baleful blast. The consequence of this to the cattle, when in-door fodder was but scant, owing to the deficiency of last year’s crop, and in the majority of cases even exhausted, may be easily conceived. The poor beasts, besides being exposed to the elements, having to pine over stunted moorlands, which yielded not a bite, were soon reduced to perfect skeletons. They had become so weak, that when they lay down, assistance was necessary to replace them on their legs, and when it was wanted to change their location, it was requisite to carry them. This required a constant watching, that was extremely irksome to the distressed peasantry. Still, no effort was spared to preserve that in which their sole wealth consisted. First the potatoes and corn which had been reserved for their own food, and those which had been kept for seed, were unhesitatingly sacrificed. It was melancholy to see the people, as was the case in many instances, repair from their homes to the objects of their care, with the oatmeal cake which had been baked for their own repast. These exertions, lamentable to say, were for the most part in vain. A striking mortality was daily taking place; and it is computed that 700 head of stock, including horses, have died, while there has been a loss of several thousand sheep, and scarcely any lambs have survived. Many have lost the whole that they possessed, besides having wasted their all in their endeavours to save them; and those who have still a few left, must dispose of them, if they succeed in keeping them alive, to purchase food for their own immediate support. The part which has suffered most is the parish of Barvas, where about 300 cattle died, exclusive of sheep. The island, in short, is reduced to a state of dearth and desolation that is heartrending to contemplate. No person here has any recollection of the like; and it is such as will long be remembered. Unless relief is afforded, famine, in its blackest form, is inevitable, and men will have to follow the brutes that have already perished. Indeed, it is ascertained, that in some places families have recourse to shell-fish for subsistence. The failure in last year’s crop reduced the quantity about one-third below the usual average. At least two-thirds of the whole population of Lewis, or 10,000 souls, will be in want of provisions before the ensuing crop can afford relief. According to the report of the Rev. Mr Finlayson, in the parish of Lochs, upwards of 400 families will be in this condition, of whom one-half are quite destitute of the means of purchasing food. Even from this year’s crop there can be but a disheartening prospect, as, from there being so little seed to provide for it, so much of the soil will be uncultivated. It is, however, pleasing to reflect, that amid all this misery and gloom, a calm and unrepining disposition prevails, and the enduring spirit so characteristic of the people is displayed. Crime and discontent are not here the concomitants of penury. It is to be hoped that the attention of government being directed to our bitter distress, the worst will be averted, by a humane and speedy extension of relief. It is a case which loudly calls for its interference. Our christian rulers, in the absence of other protection, – for whither else can we in the meantime look for protection adequate to our need? – will not surely be deaf to so urgent an appeal from 

‘The huts where poor men lie.’ 

– Inverness Courier, Wednesday, 25th May, 1836, p.3. 

   AGRICULTURAL REPORT FOR JULY. – During the first half of the month, the weather was moderately warm, with seasonable light showers, which, although insufficient for the Grass and Hay fields, was of considerable benefit to the Corn crops. From the 17th to the 24th, we had very strong cold winds from the North and N.W. which in some places did considerable damage to the Potato crop; and as a good deal of rain fell at the same time, it proved much against the Hay-making. We consider this crop under an average one, as to quantity; and, owing to late, the weather has been better; the Turnip crops, which the cold winds had at first retarded, now begin to assume a healthy appearance, but are not so early as usual. On the whole, we think that the harvest will be at least a week later than last year – that, from present appearances. Oats will prove a full average crop – Bear and Barley rather under – and that Pease and Beans, although very healthy in appearance, are too late to afford a fine crop, either in quantity or quality. We observe some partial failure in the Potato field, but not nearly to the extent reported in other counties father south. 

– John o’Groat Journal, Wednesday, 3rd August, 1836, p.6. 

THE HIGHLANDS. 

   On Monday the 22d the tops of Ben Lawers, and other mountains in the North-west of Perthshire, as also Coireacha bath, in Argyleshire, were covered with snow, part of which remained until the following day. On the morning of Wednesday the 24th the frost was so strong that a thick crust of ice was formed in high situations; and the potatoes have suffered in many parts of the Highlands. This crop being rather a failure before this will prove an irretrievable injury. There never was a better appearance of corn crops in the Highlands, but unless the weather takes a favourable change it will be very late and probably unproductive. 

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday, 1st September, 1836, p.3. 

1837

DESTITUTION IN THE HIGHLANDS. 

——— 

   We stated, at the time, the proceedings generally of a meeting held in the Hopetoun Rooms lately, for the purpose of devising means for the relief of the starving inhabitants of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Similar meetings have been since held in various towns in the country, and the subject has also attracted the notice of Government. Of the proceedings at a meeting held in Aberdeen last week the Aberdeen Journal speaks as follows:- 

   The statements which were laid before the meeting show, in the most forcible manner, that the extent of misery and destitution in which the poor Highlands are placed, in regard to the want of fuel, clothing, and the ordinary necessaries of life, is most fearful; and that, if assistance to a large amount, and that immediately, be not rendered, famine, to an awful and unprecedented extent, must ere long waste the extensive and populous districts at present under the visitation of this distressing calamity. Were we to enter minutely into the details of this sad case, the picture we could draw would be most appalling. Throughout all the Western Islands, beginning with Jura, in the far west, and along the coasts of Argyll, Inverness, and Ross-shire, and even to Shetland, the misery extends. Let the benevolent and tender-hearted conceive to themselves entire parishes without meal, or with potatoes scarcely sufficient to serve for six weeks – families, without peat to burn or an article of food to maintain life – huddling together, for want of blankets or bed-clothes, under a covering of dried ferns or rushes – with the prospect of a long season of want and misery before them, ere, by their own exertions, they can procure either food or raiment  – and a whole population totally destitute of seed, either of potatoes or corn, for the ensuing spring, and without a supply of which, whatever be the nature of the season, their sufferings will, if possible, be more lamentable, because more permanent – let the reader picture all this, and fill up the dismal shading with the agonising groans of the dying, and the shrieks of the perishing survivors, and recollect, at the same time, that all this is the stern truth – and, we think, a more heart-rending scene could not easily be imagined… 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, 2nd March, 1837, p.4. 

FIFESHIRE AGRICULTURAL REPORT 

FOR MAY. 

   … Pease and beans are mostly thin and late, upon retentive soils, in the interior; but along the coast they are well planted and healthy. We hear of few failures among field potatoes; and it is to be hoped, from the great care which was taken to select good seed, and to prepare the ground properly for its reception, that the failure may in a great measure have been prevented… 

– Fife Herald, Thursday, 8th June, 1837, p.2. 

Durness, 17th July, 1837.    

   At a public meeting of the Tenants, Lotters and Cottars of the Parish of Durness and County of Sutherland, held this day, the following resolutions were severally moved and unanimously adopted:- 

   I. That while this parish in common with many other districts in the Highlands was threatened with famine, owing to the great deficiency of the late harvest, this meeting express the high and grateful feeling they entertain of Her Grace the Duchess-Countess of Sutherland’s benevolent and generous regard for their destitute condition, in sending a large donation of meal to the poor and necessitous in the parish, as an ample supply of seed corn, potatoes and meal to the Tenants at large, both timeously furnished and judiciously distributed – and which, under Providence, proved the means of arresting the threatened calamity. 

   II. That this act of generosity of our noble Proprietrix, by which our wants were solely supplied, has only relieved our necessities but also proved the means of enabling the different committees engaged in distributing the public contributions made for the destitute Highlanders in other Counties more effectively to superintend and supply other localities equally destitute Highlanders in other Counties more effectively to superintend and supply other localities equally destitute. and demands the grateful acknowledgements of the public. 

   III. That the Chairman be requested to forward a copy of the above resolutions, accompanied by a letter embracing their object; to Her Grace the Duchess-Countess of Sutherland, and that the same resolutions be forthwith published in the Inverness Courier or other Provincial journals. 

   In name, and by appointment of the meeting, 

WM. FINDLATER, Chairman.    

– Inverness Courier, Wednesday, 2nd August, 1837, p.3. 

P.S. This article elucidated in a later article of this post, just prior to the quotes from Donald McLeod’s ‘Gloomy Memories,’ from the ‘Witness (Edinburgh),’ Wednesday 30th August, 1843, p.2. 

PERTHSHIRE AGRICULTURAL REPORT. 

… 

   Potatoes will be every where abundant, the failures in springing were few compared with former seasons, and the dropping weather throughout has been favourable to their growth. Turnips were in many instances sown early, and several varieties already shew a matured colour, which is no favourable indication of their swelling off well in this and next month. The aftermath of clover is light and late. 

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday 14th September, 1837, p.3. 

   CROPS IN THE HIGHLANDS. – From a letter from Tobermory, dated the 10th ultimo, it appears that the grain harvest had just finished in the Island of Mull, and that the farmers had commenced to lift their potatoes. The oats are described as being an abundant crop, and of good quality, a great proportion having been secured, without experiencing a drop of rain. The potatoes also were found to be excellent, and such as the Highlander has not been favoured with for many years. After the dreadful privations to which our countrymen, in that and other upland quarters, were exposed to last year, from the failure of their crops, it is extremely satisfactory to know, that they are experiencing, in common with ourselves, the blessings of a plentiful harvest. 

  THE HIGHLANDS. – Our crop of every kind, in this part of the country, has never been secured in better condition – never better in quality; oats, barley, and potatoes, are each very far above average. An extensive and experienced miller in a neighbouring district, a few weeks since told us that, that lately he had eighteen bolls of oats, from one farmer, which gave twenty bolls of meal. The weather since the 9th instant has been uncommonly fine – every day, excepting the 18th and 22d, dry from sunrise to sunset – and often, in mildness and warmth, resembling summer weather. Yesterday was somewhat cold and boisterous, with a north-westerly wind, and, as we anticipated, our heights are this morning covered with snow. – Glenlyon, October 24. 

– Fifeshire Journal, Thursday, 9th November, 1837, p.4. 

1838

   INVERNESS, Sept. 19. – Shearing is now universal over all the northern counties, and the barley crop is nearly all gathered in. The oats are more backward, but some fine fields in the neighbourhood of Forres have been reaped, and a field in Kilmorack has also been cut in good condition. In the Highland district of Kintail, harvest is earlier than about Inverness; and a gentleman who left there last week informs us, that most of his crop had been previously secured. We were in Morayshire a few days since, and the general remark of the farmers was – we never had better crops in this country. Some of the fields were partially lodged by the heavy rains, but the grain is full. Oats are a weighty crop; wheat is thin on the ground but full in the ear, and if well got in, will be of excellent quality. There will be no cutting of wheat for eight days. The potatoe crop is very luxuriant, but in parts of Morayshire, the produce is not proportioned to the appearance. Indeed, potatoes are seldom a prolific crop in a more than ordinary wet season. The weather continues dry and sunny, but the nights and mornings are frosty – and on Monday night, the sky was lighted up by the aurora-borealis, a sure indication of frost. – Inverness Courier

– The Scotsman, Saturday, 22nd September, 1838, p.3. 

1839

THE HIGHLANDS. 

   THE WEATHER AND CROPS. – … 

   The crops, in consequence of the seasonable showers since the 20th, have assumed a fresh, beautiful, and rank appearance; and promise, although, perhaps, somewhat late, considering the advanced period of the season, an abundant return; the potato crop, especially, looks better than for some years past, and we hear no complaint where the seed proved a failure, or a rot having destroyed the vegetative powers of that root, as was usual, in past seasons. – July 1. 

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday, 11th July, 1839, p.3. 

   AYRSHIRE. – Even in the most backward portions of the county, not a sheaf, we should think, is now outstanding; and we are happy to add that the work of raising and pitting potatoes is already far advanced. Throughout the wide borders of Ayrshire scarcely a single instance of failure, we believe, has occurred in this species of crop; and on all hands it is admitted to be most abundant. Prices are still declining… 

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday, 31st October, 1839, p.3. 

1840 

INVERNESS-SHIRE. 

   For the last few days the weather has been warm and seasonable; previous to this it was cold and ungenial, and continued so for nearly two months. The effects of the cold and wind are very perceptible on the crops, which made little progress in that time. The early and good seed time, however, were of such advantage, that the crops all over the Highlands look well, and are about as far advanced as in ordinary seasons. Early sown turnips seem to have suffered a good deal, a result which some attribute to the fly, and others to frost. Later sown turnips look better. Potatoes appear to have failed, less or more, over all the country; and those which have come away look in most instances sickly. The pastures are rather bare; but cattle are in tolerable good condition. The prices of agricultural produce continue high, although the value of black cattle has somewhat declined in the market. 

– Witness (Edinburgh) – Wednesday, 8th July, 1840, p.4. 

THE HIGHLANDS. 

   THE WEATHER AND CROPS. – … Some presume to divine that our harvest is to be somewhat late – our crops of all kinds, according to present appearance, perhaps, warrant such predictions; but although not in such a state of forwardness as we have many times seen them, they look fresh, healthy, and well-coloured in general – and every thing as yet depends upon the weather. In the potatoe crop, partial failures have taken place in several districts and situations where nothing of the kind was ever before experienced. – July 4. 

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday, 9th July, 1840, p.3. 

PITLOCHRY. 

… 

   POTATOES, &c. – We are sorry to state that a failure has taken place in this neighbourhood to a greater extent than we have ever before seen. The Reds have perfectly taken the pet, for we have not seen or heard of any other sort giving way. Barley and oats are fast getting into ear, and promise an abundant crop. Hay harvest is going on generally, but in many instances the return is light. 

– Perthshire Advertiser, Thursday, 16th July, 1840, p.3. 

   In Skye the weather has been exceedingly wet for the last two months; and now that the sheep are gathering for the market and for delivery to purchasers, the thick mists on the mountain tops and the heavy rains operate most unfavourably. The potato crop is good, and such as has been already taken up, though scarcely ripe, seems of excellent quality. The oats and barley are an average crop, in some places luxuriant; and they do not seem to have suffered from the general moistness of the climate. If a month of sunshine succeeds, the limited corn crops which the nature of the soil and climate of the Western Islands permits to grow, will be ready for the harvest.Abridged from Inverness Courier

– John o’ Groat Journal, Friday, 4th September, 1840, p.4. 

1841

   RURAL AFFAIRS. – … We have heard of several failures in the potato crop: but these almost as far as we have learned, have been occasioned by the use of diseased seed, and are neither so serious nor extensive as to awaken any alarm; and where failures have been observed new seed has been replanted. The failures, we have been given to understand, have occurred principally in the Red Dons. Turnips are coming away, though they would be benefited by moisture, and will soon require no small degree of attention. The pastures also, with few exceptions, are in excellent condition; and every description of bestial, therefore, whether tenanting the lowlands or the hills, is furnished with an abundant supply of nutritious food; but we are sorry to add that the murrain is still prevalent in certain districts, and even in some degree is affecting the state of markets. Upon the whole our prospects, as far as the season has advanced, are cheering, and therefore they are calculated, to some extent at least, to mitigate the anxiety and dissipate the gloom which is apt to fill the mind, from a view of the deranged and paralyzed state of the manufacturing and commercial interests. – Ayr Advertiser

– Witness (Edinburgh) – Wednesday 16th June, 1841, p.4. 

   ELGIN, July 9. – We are glad to learn that the late genial rains and warm weather have had the most beneficial influence on the crops in the upper parts of Moray and Banff shires. The growth in the corn fields has been very rapid during the last ten or twelve days; and the pastures, which, before the rain, were bare and brown, are now rich and green. Potatoes generally promise an excellent crop; and we have not heard of any failures in the upper districts. Turnips, which, from the cold dry weather at the time of sowing, made, for some weeks, little progress, are now coming on finely; and with a continuance of favourable weather, will make a close crop. 

– Scotsman, Wednesday 14th July, 1841, pp.3. 

… In the strong clays of the Carse the wheat is strong, well planted, and larger than usual in the ear. On the lighter and earlier lands of East Lothian and the neighbourhood of Edinburgh again, it is weaker in the straw, thinner on the ground, smaller in the ear, and more affected with rust, which, to a considerable extent, is general. In many cases, however, this scourge will be found to affect only the husk, the grain being clear and plump, but coarse. Barley is a full average, and, with the exception of a few partial failures in the potatoes, the grain crop every where looks well. Thus much we say for the appearance of the crops in the ground, but the great question as to the prospects of the harvest remains to be decided; and on this subject we are not disposed yet to give way to any feelings of despondency. It is true that the harvest now cannot be an early one, and it is also true that in certain districts the sample cannot be fine, particularly in wheat; but neither is the season so far gone that any one can predicate with certainty that the harvest will be decidedly late. Besides, there is still a greater supply in the stackyard than has been in any month of August for the last seven years at least; and although there is not much old grain in the warehouse, here is more than enough in the country to meet the demand till the harvest is secured, however late that may be. On the whole, then, we say, that with fine weather we may yet have a favourable and plentiful harvest, and in any event we think the later districts are in this respect, at least, likely to be more fortunate than the earlier ones. – Caledonian Mercury

   Barley and oats, notwithstanding the adverse weather, are both full in the ear, and, from their more hardy character, have as yet sustained little injury. Three or four weeks ago, it was reckoned, in the anticipation of favourable weather, that much of the former would, by this time be ready for cutting. It is feared, however, that mischief has resulted to the wheat from the ear becoming bent and matted by the wet, a circumstance which renders it, on the return of warm weather, peculiarly susceptible of the attacks of insects. Still, notwithstanding these unfavourable appearances, it would be wrong to indulge in gloomy forbodings, since there is sufficient time for such an amelioration, under favourable weather, as will result in a satisfactory harvest; – heat, the chief desideratum, may, in the present variable state of the atmosphere, be yet realized in abundance, and all will be well. – Berwick Warder

– Perthshire Courier, Thursday 19th August, 1841, p.3. 

1842

   From Galloway we learn that Mr Wallace, Low Clauchan, intends to cut barley on the 8th, and oats by the 10th current. On this farm nothing can exceed the splendour of the potatoes, which, although cut in the ordinary way, will prove highly prolific. They are of American origin, and, although white, are shaped much like the staunch old blue ones… Barley on some soils is rather thin, from causes not very easily assigned, unless it be that drought takes a firmer hold of this than any other species of grain. The turnips and potatoes are improving rapidly; the former, but for waste, would afford a kindly bite to the bleaters even now, while the latter, much to the relief of the poor, have been sold by Mr Carson, of the Murray Arms, at the moderate price of 4d. per stone. 

(From the Ayr Observer of Tuesday.) 

… Wheat, oats, beans, and barley, are now confirmed good crops, and we require nothing but a continuance of moderate weather to usher in the earliest harvest we have had for years. People’s minds are now pretty much at ease about the potatoe crop, it being ascertained that the failure so much talked about does not prevail to nearly the extent represented. No doubt partial failures have occurred, but a portion always has come strong and vigorous, and the occasional seasonable showers we have had during the month gathered them up amazingly. After all, we are led to believe the crop will not be much, if any, below an average one. If it holds true that “coming events cast their shadows before,” we may indulge in the hope of a cheap boll at howking time, as they are already retailing in our market a 3d. and 4d. per stone. Turnips have been hand and horse hoed in the most admirable style – and, though there is perhaps a little lack of moisture, there is no doubt the lengthening nights and heavy dews will secure a most splendid crop… 

(From the Inverness Courier of Wednesday.) 

… The barley and wheat are of remarkably fine quality; and, if any deficiency exists this year, it is in oats. We conversed with several farmers last week, and the universal remark is, “We never had such a fine season as the present.” On the more exposed highland farms the crop is fully double that of ordinary seasons. The wheat fields do not present a single speck of rust or blight, and the appearance betwixt Inverness and Forres is well calculated to impart the highest satisfaction and delight. The turnips are equally promising; but on the lighter soils rain is much wanted. Last week, two fields of Italian barley were cut down – the first, about twenty acres, belonging to Mr Christie, Balliemore, was a very fine crop; and in another week a field of oats will be ready on the same farm. Indeed, Mr Christie has at present one field of twenty acres, and another of thirty, of as beautiful oats as ever grew beneath the heavens, on ground where never grain was raised before, and which, we well remember, was covered with rushes and coarse aquatic grapes. Such is the effect of spirited farming, and of judicious outlay in draining, poring, trenching, &c. The present harvest is the earliest ever remembered in Strathspey – not even excepting that of 1826… 

(From the Fife Herald of Thursday.) 

   Since the 20th, the weather has been very warm and mild, and turnips have made great improvement. The ground is now, however, remarkably dry, the pastures are getting very bare, and all the spring-crops upon thin soils are suffering, and many of them getting prematurely ripe. The wheat is filling uncommonly well, has an ordinary sized ear, and fine plump pickle, but the straw is thin and short, and the fly has caused some slight deficiency in the ear… Pease and beans are suffering from the same cause as the other crops and will scarcely be an average. Should the weather continue as it has been for the last fortnight, the harvest will be general in the course of fifteen or eighteen days. Potatoes upon thick easy soils, and which were early planted, are looking well. There are a few partial failures among the later ones, and even where they brairded regularly they have a small stem, and are rather a poor crop. As a whole they are under an average, and many of them will be very worthless, unless they get rain soon. The turnips have made great progress during the last fortnight, and there are very few blanks, although many in the same field and rows are fully a fortnight later than others, from the irregular way in which they vegetated… 

(From the Perth Advertiser of Thursday.) 

   The effects of so much sunshine and high temperature, is telling rapidly upon the ripening of the crops. In some instances small patches of barley are ready for the sickle, and in other two weeks wheat harvest will be commenced in some of the early straths of the county; the fallow and early sown wheats will be a good return, and of excellent quality. The barley has also a full-sized ear, and promises well; but on light sandy soils the severity of the drought may produce a premature ripeness. The oats are complained of in some places as being rather thin and deficient in bulk and straw; but they everywhere exhibit a large ear, and are in general already well filled, and will doubtless be a better return than we have experienced for some years past. beans and pease are also filling well, and promise abundantly. Turnips and potatoes have, in general, a fair appearance; but would be greatly benefited by a speedy supply of moisture… 

– Scotsman, Saturday 6th August, 1842, p.3. 

1843

EAST LOTHIAN. 

… Beans and pease are in some instances too luxuriant, but they are generally filling well, and promise to be ready for shearing immediately after the white grains, a point always of much consequence in their value to the agriculturalists. Although partial failures in the potatoe crop are almost universal, ye that valuable esculent has lately improved, and it is thought will not prove so defective as at first anticipated, and now, like the green crops, only require dry weather to bring them thoroughly to maturity. Turnips have improved amazingly within the last fortnight, and they are still susceptible of improvement by favourable weather. The various crops are undoubtedly more satisfactory than the forebodings of the farmer in the early part of the season would have led one to anticipate. A considerable number of strangers, chiefly Irish, have, as usual, come into the district for the harvest; few of them, as yet, have succeeded in getting employment… 

FIFESHIRE. 

… Some of the early sown barley is good, but the most of it is under average. The same may be said of the best of the oats upon early dry land. The wheat is close and of good bulk, but there is a good deal of deficiency from fly, and considerable disease from rust and smut. We have never seen so much of the latter. In some fields the half is infested. The wheat is likely to be of coarse and light quality, and under and average quantity. The spring sown is freer from disease, and promises to be of finer quality than what was put in in the autumn and winter, provided the weather be clear and dry. Turnips have improved greatly, some fields are excellent, but many of them are very unequal, and will to all appearance be light. Potatoes have also improved where there are plants, and plenty of well made manure; but those which brairded irregularly are very worthless… 

KINCARDINESHIRE. 

… The period has now arrived when the state of the approaching harvest has become the chief topic among all classes in the country, and when the reports regarding it are nearly as valuable as the aspect of the crops are varied in weight, and, with few exceptions, will not reach a full average. On good friable soils the oats and barley took well; but on cold stiff clays there is a great want of straw, and consequently a deficiency of corn. The wheat is generally a full crop on the ground, and comparatively free of disease; pease and beans heavy. Potatoes and turnips have improved wonderfully in the course of the last fortnight; but there is no chance of the former reaching a full average. The hay has turned out a poor crop, both in regard to quantity and quality. The price embraces a wider range than common, being from 7d. to 9½d. per stone from the tramp-rick. Potatoes have sold high at the public sales, the rates averaging about L.12 per Scots acre… 

THE HIGHLANDS. 

… August was ushered in with the same favourable weather – dewy morning, blinking sunshine, and growing showers – with which its precursor ended. This state of the atmosphere continued till the 10th instant, when it became settled, and a tract of the finest weather ever remembered prevailed to the 20th. Since the 19th, the weather has become dull, cloudy, and changeable, with little sunshine. The crops of every kind are looking rank and healthy, and if the weather prove favourable for a few weeks, there is every reason to expect an abundant harvest, only it may be somewhat later than some seasons; reaping will not be general for some weeks yet… 

WEST LAMMERMOOR. 

   The favourable turn which the weather has taken during the current month has told with good effect on the crops, and gives the cheering prospect of a fair harvest after all. The progress of every species of growing grain has been rapid, and even oats, which had the most blighted and stunted appearance, have shot out wonderfully. We expect a general harvest in about a fortnight. Notwithstanding the occasional rains which suspended work now and then, hay has on the whole been well got, and is in general a good crop. Turnips have made great improvement, and are looking healthy and strong in the blade. Potatoes alone form the exception to the general appearance of the crops, but, indeed, no weather, however excellent, seemed likely to have a good effect on them, as the failure appears to be owing to another and earlier cause than the weather… 

– Caledonian Mercury, Monday, 4th September, 1843, p.3. 

1844

FIFESHIRE. 

   The greater part of this month has been wet and unfavourable for the advancement of the various crops. The forty days have, however, expired, and with them has departed the rainy weather. This week has set in dry and warm – everything that could be wished for harvest… The fears of the farmer have cleared away with the bad weather, and hope is in the ascendant. The damage from the wet is not so great as was feared. Wheat which was laid down by the first of the rain, has suffered most, and will not present a first rate sample. That which was laid further on in the season is not greatly injured. Oats and barley are nearly all ready for the scythe or sickle, and generally will stook well. Turnips and potatoes continue to grow vigorously. Late sown turnips have hitherto looked bleak. They are likely to improve considerably now… 

PERTHSHIRE. 

   After nearly three weeks of showery weather, during which period about nine inches of rain fell, and when serious misapprehensions were entertained as to the safety of the crops, the weather cleared up about the 24th, and from that time clear sunshine has prevailed throughout the day, and as might have been expected under such circumstances, the ripening progress goes on with rapidity. In the lower districts reaping commenced on the 19th, but was not general till the 24th, from which date all have been employed. The crop is about ripe simultaneously all over the country, and should we be favoured with a continuance of the present weather for a few weeks, a fair crop may be safely secured. On the rich lands in the lower districts wheat was much lodged, but as it was lodged while in a green and growing state, it was not quite so flat as if it had been first lodged after the ear had become weighty, and little damage has been sustained by sprouting. On some rich lands it was partially discoloured, and in such case there will be several shrivelled grains in the ear, thus lessening the quantity and deteriorating the quality, but generally the samples of wheat will be tolerably fair and fully an average in quantity… Oats will not perhaps be so bulky as usual, but may reach nearly an average as to quantity, and if well secured the sample will be weighty. Some complain of beans having podded irregularly. Pease are pretty luxuriant, and have podded fully. Potatoes will yield a full return, and early sown turnips promise to swell fully; late sown are unequal and blanky… 

… 

STRATHMORE IN ANGUS. 

… The yield from the bulk is anticipated to be satisfactory in regard to oats, the growth of which was equal, and which have been reaped early. Later sowings on lands of dry nature may be more or less productive, according as circumstances may rule. Turnips have grown well of late, yet there are large breadths of this crop in a backward state, and not a few fields show puny or diseased plants. Potatoes have improved in appearance, and the quality of many of the crops will now be excellent… 

CARSE OF GOWRIE. 

… Upon the whole there is much cause for thankfulness for an abundant crop, much of which is in excellent quality. barley will now reach the usual bulk, nor do we think on dry bottoms the sample will be so weighty as it was last year. A considerable breadth is already cut, and the remainder, except on the higher grounds, is about ready for the sickle. Oats, too, colour rapidly, and promise to yield a fair return as to grain, but may not reach the ordinary bulk in the stack-yard. Of beans we have heard many complaints… Potatoes will be abundant. Turnips are in some instances excellent, but there are also more partial failures than ordinary, especially when sown about the end of June… 

– Caledonian Mercury, Monday 9th September, 1844, p.4. 

1845

CARSE OF GOWRIE AGRICULTURAL REPORT. 

(Written for the Northern Warder.) 

… 

   The protracted rains have proved injurious to pease and beans, which are likely to be as deficient in pod as last year. 

   Turnips have an excellent appearance; they in some instances appeared stinted, indicating too much moisture at the root, but are now acquiring luxuriance rapidly, and promise to yield a full average weight. 

   Potatoes have also a promising appearance; much more so than could have been expected in the end of June. Extensive failures reported in many of the counties near London, may affect the price in this quarter; fortunately, this disease, which is said first to appear in the foliage, and rapidly destroying the stem and re-acting the tubers, has not, so far as we know in this quarter, been observed. 

– Northern Warder and General Advertiser for the Counties of Fife, Perth and Forfar, Thursday 4th September, 1845, p.8. 

1846

THE POTATOE DISEASE. 

(From the Gardener’s Chronicle.) 

   There is no doubt that diseased potatoes left in the ground all winter have produced as good, and in many cases a better crop, than sound potatoes planted in spring. Of this we have many examples. 

… 

   We assumed, as an invariable rule, that blighted potatoe stems are attacked by a brown decay below ground, long before any disease appears in the leaves. We must, however, now modify that statement; for Mr Graham’s potatoes, above alluded to, with sound starchy old sets, although blighted, presented no sign of the brown underground spotting. 

——— 

   THE POTATOES – GALASHIELS. – A plot of potatoes, the haulms of which were partly cut off by the ground, and partly pulled up, so soon as they were observed to be diseased, were dug up here yesterday, when it was found that the disease had been effectually checked; no greater proportion of the tubers being affected now than when stacked a month ago. About one-half of them are quite healthy, and even the diseased ones seem firmer and less likely to rot than they were formerly. The soil where they grew is particularly light and dry. – Border Watch

   In the neighbourhood of Oban, the crops bulk well in the stack yard, and promise fully an average yield. Indeed, we have seen samples of oats grown near Oban, and in the neighbouring island of Kerrera, which were perfectly gigantic in their stature, and equally marvellous in their productiveness. In that quarter the crops could not have been put under cover in better condition. Throughout the Vale of Clyde, and over the low grounds of the west of Scotland generally, it is reported that there is now much more in the stack yard than in the stook. In the high lying districts harvest is far advanced; and the crop of oats and barley there is generally so good that higher expectations are formed of it than of the yield from the same kind of grain in the heavier lands in the valleys… 

… 

   THE SEASON AND THE CROPS. – The summer of this season has been one of the most brilliant that we have had in this country for many years, but it has not been favourable either to vegetable or animal life. All the corn crops are deficient, with the exception of wheat, which is always improved by hot weather; the potatoes are a failure everywhere; the turnips are affected in some districts; sheep have been suffering from a painful disease in the mouth and feet; and cattle are dying so suddenly and rapidly that farmers scarcely dare to purchase them. The murrain amongst the cattle is frightful in the midland counties; and though the disease from which sheep are suffering is not in general fatal, yet it is found to affect every sheep in the flock in which it shows itself. The origin of these diseases is a mystery to every one, just as is the origin of the disease in the potatoe crop. There must be something in the state of the atmosphere injurious both to animal and vegetable life. We hope that that “something” has lost part of its malignity since the nights became cooler, for the potatoe stems are beginning to put out fresh leaves in some places; and on the moors the withered heath is recovering its colour and freshness. We fear that it is too late for this after-growth to increase the size of the potatoes, which are in general very small, but the change which produces it may check the progress of the rot, and purify the air… 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday 17th September, 1846, p.3. 

1847

HIGHLAND DESTITUTION. 

——— 

MEETING OF THE CENTRAL BOARD. 

   A meeting of the Central Board was held on Monday, in the Saloon of the Royal Hotel. There was a large attendance of members from both sections. Lord Cuninghame was called to the chair. 

… 

   Mr Skene also read a report by the committee appointed on the 6th Sept. to consider as to the disposal of the balance of the funds on hand, which was as follows:- 

   “Your committee having now given the subject of the disposal of the balance of the fund their most serious consideration, and having likewise taken into consideration the communications received from different parts of the country within the last few weeks, as to the present state of the people, and their probable condition during next year, as well as the information derived from Sir Edward Coffin, and the Inspectors of the Board, beg leave to report:- 

   “I. That the funds was raised and entrusted to the management of the Central Board for the relief of the destitution in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, produced by the failure of the potatoe crop of 1846, and therefore that it is the duty of the board to apply the fund for the relief of destitution there, as long as it is produced by the operation of that cause, and that they are not entitled to divert the balance of the fund to any other purpose. 

    II. That there can be no doubt whatever, from information in the possession of the Board, that the effects of the failure of the potatoe crop of 1846 will not terminate with this season, but that there will be destitution next year arising from that cause. 

   III. That your committee may state more particularly the following causes:- 

   1st, The small quantity of potatoes which have been planted this year, amounting generally to only one-sixth of the usual quantity, and in no case exceeding one-fifth. There will thus be four-fifths of the usual food of the people deficient next year. 

   2d, Although much of the ground formerly planted with potatoes has been sown with grain, this will not supply the deficiency, as the amount of food produced from an acre of land under a grain crop is greatly less than that produced from an acre of ground under potatoes. It is known that it would take at least three acres and a half of ground under grain crop to produce the same amount of food as is derived from one acre of potatoes, and consequently to supply the deficiency it would have been necessary to have brought more than three times as much land under cultivation. 

   3d, In some parts of the Highlands the potatoe crop has been partially destroyed by the blight, and the grain crop has been much injured by the severe and boisterous weather of the last two months. 

   4th, A considerable portion of the cottar class, who formerly obtained land from their neighbours, and raised a small quantity of potatoes for their subsistence, are this year without their usual resource, the small tenantry having found it necessary to sow the whole of their possessions themselves, and the cottars having been unable to obtain land as usual to plant their potatoes in.  

   5th, All classes are less able to meet the destitution of next year – the necessity of supplying their families last year, before the relief operations commenced, having compelled them to part with any property they possessed for that purpose, and to incur debt for meal purchased, and the remains of the crop of the year before being available for their support for a longer period. 

   Your committee therefore anticipate that the crofters or small tenantry will obtain a much less amount of food from their holdings than usual, and be driven at an earlier period to other resources; and that the cottars will derive little or no subsistence from the land, and be entirely dependent on employment for support. 

   IV. That it appears to your committee that, independently of affording direct relief, the wants of the people can only be met in two ways – 1st, By improving the cultivation of the crofts, and increasing the amount of food produced from them; and 2d. By procuring employment in the localities, or elsewhere, for those who do not derive subsistence from the land. 

   V. This may be perhaps in some degree effected by the drainage act, which may be directed to improving the possessions of the small tenantry, and which will likewise afford employment to many. But it must be remembered – 

   1st, That the drainage act operations may not be applied to these holdings, but confined to land not in the occupation of the crofters; and that the sum obtained for each property is so small compared to the amount of the population, that the employment afforded by it will be inadequate to meet the demand. 

   2d, That there are many districts and properties for which no application has been made for assistance under the drainage act. 

   VI. Your committee are thus satisfied, that there will be a call upon the Board for assistance during the next year, and that it is the duty of the Board to be prepared to meet it; but which the Board should avoid any application of the funds at their disposal which would prevent them having the power of assisting parties in the distressed localities who have not and cannot procure the means of supporting themselves, or for any other purpose, except for the primary purpose for which they were subscribed, viz., the relief of destitution in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, still your committee think that it would be a legitimate application of part of the balance of the fund to relieve that destitution, by enabling the crofters or small tenantry to increase the productiveness of their holdings and by increasing the means of employment for the other classes. 

   VII. Your committee is therefore, of opinion that part of the funds might be applied in assisting crofters or small tenantry to improve their land, and thus increase the amount of food derived from it, provided the proprietors would give such leases or such a tenure of the land as would enable the tenant to reap the benefit of his improvements. 

   This committee in other four resolutions declared as their opinion, that a part of the funds might be legitimately applied in encouraging fishings in the localities – in aiding local exertion in making piers and harbours in districts where they are much required – in making roads where such roads are evidently of the utmost importance in opening up the districts and in furnishing materials for work to females in the localities destitute of the means of supporting themselves. 

   The Chairman said, he was sure the meeting would be happy to hear any remarks from Sir Edward Coffin, whom he saw in the room, concerning the destitution in the Highlands. Authentic information, such as he could give, would be of great service, both as regarded the past management of the board, and the claims of the population for aid in future. 

   Sir Edward Coffin said, as he had not yet made his report to the Government he did not wish to go into any details. With respect to the report which had just been read, every part of it had his distinct concurrence. For the reasons stated in that report, and altogether irrespective of the partial failure of the potatoe crop this year, and the lateness of the harvest, he was of opinion that a similar want must be expected to occur in the West Highlands and Islands of Shetland, as the direct consequence of the failure of the potatoe crop of last year. Farther, that the renewal of the extraordinary measures of relief alone could prevent the extreme misery of the people. How soon it might commence, and to what extent it might proceed, time alone could determine, but that, sooner or later, there would be a famine he could not doubt, because, where it might be assumed as certain that the means of subsistence, in former years, consisted almost exclusively of potatoe culture, there must be a deficiency this year in the supply of food. There was no local resources upon which the deficiency could be adequately supplied, and only a limited number of the people could be relieved by seeking employment elsewhere. In these circumstances, it appeared to him that the object of the relief fund was not now exhausted, or that the Board had discharged the trust reposed in them by the contributors, and that they should be prepared to take measures for relief when the proper time again arrived. From past experience he had reason to hope, that the burden of relief had been contracted, and the recurrence in some measure checked; but, at the same time, he was compelled to declare his belief, that it was not possible to withhold assistance during the ensuing year, without incurring that distress which the relief fund was destined to prevent. 

   Mr Macduff Rhind said, while he agreed in the general spirit and recommendation of the special report as to the application of the funds, he had some doubts as to several points in it. He referred to the allusion to the drainage act, where it was remarked, that the sum that could be available to crofters was small. This was a mistake, for in many cases the proprietors had got large sums. Neither did he think it would be a legitimate application of the fund to bestow it on improving the land, as that would assuredly lead to the increasement of the rent. 

   Mr Thomson, advocate, proposed that the Board should approve of the resolutions of the special committee, and remit to the two sections to act upon them according to their own discretion. 

   Mr Sheriff Speirs said, that while they agreed to the resolutions generally, the Board ought to come to a distinct and positive affirmance of the first resolution. The learned Sheriff then submitted a motion, which, as finally agreed to, recited the first resolution of the report, already given, and concluded as follows:- “Also, approve generally of the remainder of the report, and remit the same to the respective sections for farther consideration.” 

   Mr Macfie drew the attention of the meeting to the fact, that it appeared from some statements as if only L.70,000 had been expended, while he understood that there fell to be added the value of provisions sent from America and other places.  

   Mr Skene said, that the total sum already expended by the Edinburgh and Glasgow sections amounted to L.79,000, and the value of provisions received by both was equal to the additional sum of L.20,000 – (hear.) 

   Mr E. Gordon moved – “That the Board approve of the reports of the two sections; resolve to continue the monthly meetings, and recommend to the sections to meet as often as need be. That the Board adhere to the resolution of August 1847, suspending their operations in the way of affording relief through their previous machinery; but instruct the sections to receive any applications for relief, and to employ, if necessary, their inspector-general or others, in whom they have confidence, to investigate such cases, and to see whether they require relief; and if so, to call a meeting of the Board. That they authorise the two sections to use all proper steps to facilitate the migration of labourers from the localities where there is no great demand for labour to places where there is such demand.” 

   This resolution, as well as that of Sheriff Speirs, was carried with applause. 

   Mr Lumsden, Glasgow, said he hoped that the Edinburgh section would prevail on the Union Bank to follow the example of the Clydesdale Bank, and allow 5 per cent. interest on the amount of the Board’s fund deposited with them – (hear, hear.) 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday 7th October, 1847, p.3. 

1848 

THE HARVEST AND CROPS. 

——— 

    GLASGOW. – On Friday and Saturday last, the weather was occasionally showery – but as there were at intervals bright sunshine and drying breezes, harvest operations were not entirely interupted. A good deal of grain in stook has now been exposed for a considerable time – but as the temperature has been low, no harm has yet ensued from sprouting. The weather during the last week, with the exception of Monday and Tuesday, was generally rather unfavourable in this district… 

   DUNDEE. – During last week and what has gone of this, the weather has been most propitious to the ripening, the cutting down, and ingathering of the crops. In a few places in this neighbourhood reaping has been finished, and leading is in a state of great forwardness. What has been got into the stackyard is in the best condition. The oats and barley are spoken of as being excellent crops, the latter far heavier than was at one time anticipated. The disease has not spread of late among the potatoes. Regents and cups appear quite sound, but late Americans are in every place diseased more or less. Taking all things together, prospects of an abundant supply of food man and beast are cheering… 

   DUMFRIESSHIRE. – In all early situations, stacks before long will be the rule and stooks the exception, and should the present resemble last week in weather, as seems probable from the mercury again mounting, abundant scope will be furnished for celebrating thankfully harvest home all over the south of Scotland… 

THE POTATOE CROP IN PERTHSHIRE. 

——— 

OFFICIAL REPORT. 

   From the reports of the police constabulary, in various districts of the county of Perth, prepared on the last week in August, it is gratifying to find a corroboration of the statement already made, as to the very partial nature and small extent of the failure in this important crop hitherto:- 

   KIRKMICHAEL. – General healthy appearance until within the last two weeks. Since then the disease, in several places, has been making rapid progress. 

   ALYTH. – Good appearance. Disease commenced about two weeks ago, but is making small progress in the fields. The disease was severer in the gardens. 

   CUPAR-ANGUS. – Disease commenced within the last ten days, but apparently not to the extent of last year. 

   CARSE OF GOWRIE. – Disease has appeared, and is making rapid progress all over the Carse, particularly in low lying moist farms. Less disease in the Braes. 

   DUNNING. – Promising appearance. Little or no disease has as yet been seen. 

   MUCKHART. – Looks exceedingly well. Disease has partially appeared, but only in gardens. With two or three exceptions, fields are green and healthy. 

   BLACKFORD. – Generally looking well. Little or no actual disease exists. Shaws blackened and decaying by hoar-frost. 

   DOUNE. – Excellent appearance. The disease has appeared in many places, but as yet only to a slight extent. It is, however, progressing. 

   LOCHEARNHEAD. – Good crop. Little or no disease. 

   CRIEFF AND COMRIE. – Very promising till of late, when shaws were blackened by hoar-frost. Some slight symptoms of disease, but to a very small extent. 

   KILLIN AND CRIANLARICH. – Good crop. Little or no disease. 

   FORTINGALL. – Quite sound and of excellent quality. No disease apparent on either side of Loch Tay, either in shaw or root. 

   ABERFELDY. – Every field in the district a little touched with the disease; many are quite black in the shaw and rotten in the root. Disease made rapid progress last week. 

   KINLOCH-RANNOCH. – Crop looking well. No appearance whatever of disease in the district. 

   PITLOCHRY. – Disease has seized upon the potatoe crop generally, and is progressing rapidly. Farmers are lifting them, and disposing of them to proprietors of potatoe mills. 

   BANKFOOT. – Very little disease apparent. One field was discovered to be partially affected last week. 

   BLAIRGOWRIE. – Disease has commenced generally, but not understood to be to a great extent. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday 14th September, 1848, p.4. 

1849

   THE HARVEST. – The harvest in the lowlands of Nairnshire, notwithstanding the wet, unfavourable weather in the early part of last week, is now well advanced and progressing rapidly. The corn crop are most abundant, and we trust will turn out both in quantity and quality considerably above an average. The wet weather in the latter part of the season was particularly favourable for the light soil about Nairn, and although the first crop of hay was very light, and in many cases a failure, the oat and barley fodder are so superior as to make up for the deficiency. The potato disease has appeared in several fields, but trifling in extent, so that we trust this excellent root, so necessary for the poor man’s support, will also be gathered in abundance. Turnip fields look well. 

… 

CAWDOR. 

… 

   WEATHER AND CROPS. – The weather during the last week was most delightful, and very favourable for the cutting of the various crops. This week, however, a complete change of weather has taken place, which has caused great despondency among the shearers, for fear of a late harvest… The scythe is almost universally used as a shearing weapon in this part of the country. The crop is a splendid one, and if fair weather were granted, harvest will not be so late as was anticipated. Potatoes are luxuriant, and from personal examination, I can say they never had a better appearance, the stems are a good deal blighted by the ravages of a small insect, but blight in the stems has not effected the tubers in the very least degree. They are large and numerous, under one stalk, though still rather soft. Turnips are a fine healthy, and very large crop.  

– Inverness Advertiser and Ross-shire Chronicle, Tuesday 18th September, 1849, p.6. 

1850

   THE HARVEST AND CROPS. – … It seldom occurs in this northern clime that a farmer can say that he finished his grain harvest in August, yet a number of them completed leading on Saturday last. Boisterous as the weather has occasionally been, we are assured that the injury from high winds, though severe in some localities, has not been so general as might have been expected. The potato crop continues sound, taken as a whole; the exceptions bring trifling cases in small gardens. In the south and west of Scotland, however, potato blight is represented as much more injurious than in this neighbourhood. The size of the tubers this season seem unusually small, which is attributable to the continued dryness of the weather. 

– Scotsman, Saturday 7th September, 1850, p.2. 

1851

   Harvest. – … The crop is said to be an average one, and the quality very superior. Potatoes are ‘going to pot;’ but not in the way grain speculators would wish, for they are a plentiful crop, and of most excellent quality. A diseased one occasionally turns up, but there is not the slightest apprehension of a general failure. 

– Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review; & Forfar and Kincardineshire Advertiser, Friday 19th September, 1851, p.5. 

   AUTUMNAL OPERATIONS. – Harvest work still progresses prosperously, and will soon draw towards a termination, if the weather keep as favourable as it has done since the beginning of the month. Reaping on many farms is now finished, and if the weather should set in more brisk and drying, the treasures of the field will soon be all safely secured in the barnyards in the early districts. On some days the weather was very warm, though the mornings and evenings were thick and foggy. Potato lifting has commenced; fears of rain urging many to lift this important crop as early as possible, lest too much moisture should give increased vigour to the disease, of which there are symptoms in many fields. The pastures and turnip fields are suffering for want of rain, the ground being very dry, and there are indications that showers will be more frequent than of late, some slight showers having fallen this week. 

– Fife Herald, Thursday 25th September, 1851, p.2. 

1852

   GLASGOW, Sept. 13. – The past week was a most favourable one for the progress of harvest operations, and, in these circumstances, inning went on so continuously and rapidly, that, over almost all the vale of Clyde, stooks have given place to stubble. In the uplands cutting is far advanced, and a good deal has been saved. The yield is spoken of most favourably, both as to quantity and quality. The accounts of the potato failure are still, however, of the most disheartening character… 

    ARBROATH, Sept. 11. – In this district, with some trifling exceptions, harvest has been brought to a close, and cutting is over. The leading of the corn has been actively gone on with, and a great proportion of the cornyards present a very bulky appearance. In a few days, should the weather continue favourable, little of this year’s crop will be seen in the fields. A weightier crop of wheat than that of the present year was never produced in this county. The weight and quality of this year’s barley also continues to be highly spoken of. There has been less talk about the potato disease within these few days; but that it continues to spread is, we suspect, “too true a tale.” Turnips maintain a very thriving appearance. We may mention that the scythe has been more used in Angus this year for the cutting down of the corn crops than during any former season. It threatens to supersede the sickle altogether… 

   CAITHNESS, Sept. 10. – Nothing can possibly exceed the beauty of the weather in this northern quarter. We have had none of the heavy rains which have fallen in the south, and harvest operations are going on most favourably. This week will complete the work on most large farms; and another week should bring it nearly to a conclusion in the latest districts. It is the earliest harvest on record since 1826, and though the crop will not be a heavy one, it is likely to be gathered in good condition, and be fully an average one in the north. 

– Edinburgh Evening Courant, Tuesday 14th September, 1852, p.4. 

1853 

WEATHER AND CROPS. 

… 

… A few instances of injury may have occurred here and there, but we have no hesitation in saying that the harm was rather threatened than inflicted. We are exceedingly pleased to note the good condition of the crops generally. Oats are thick-set and corny; wheat strong and well bulked; barley close and ripe; and it is no contemptible yield of which this can be said. 

   Potatoes – field potatoes in the mass – we have not seen looking so well at this time of year since before the blight. Late varieties are uncommonly deep and healthy in the colour – deeper and healthier could not possibly be desired. Those which are further advanced show, indeed, symptoms of decay, but it is that sere and yellow decay which suggests the idea of ripeness no less than of disease. We do not mean to deny that the taint has appeared, still less that garden sorts exhibit tainted tubers; these things are undeniable; still, looking over the great breadth of potatoes in our fields, we think the general impression must be that of comparative healthiness and vigour. Turnips are looking much better than earlier in the season – the late rains were the very thing for them… 

   Tuesday. – A correspondent from the Stewartry writes that the weather there also has for ten days past been very propitious, and all are busy with the harvest. Grain there promises to be an average yield; but complaints of the potato failure lead us to conclude that the disease is worse there than here. Our correspondent mentions one farmer, a sixth of whose crop is already tainted. 

– Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Wednesday 7th September, 1853, p.4. 

   POTATO AND TURNIP CROP. – Turnip is excellent particularly Swedish, throughout the island; but the potato crop is giving way on the most farms, since the severe thunder-storm. May not the electrical state of the atmosphere have something to do with the failure. A Glasgow gentleman who has resided, during the summer months, for a number of years past, in the neighbourhood of Rothesay, says that he has been in the habit of planting his potatoes early in February, and taking up the crop before the beginning of August, before the taint made its appearance, and that they have always kept well. He plants American earlies which it is well known have generally done better than the coarse late kinds. 

– Dumbarton Herald and Country Advertiser, Thursday 15th September, 1853, p.2. 

THE WEATHER, &c. 

——— 

   The weather here has been fine, with occasional showers. The harvest is well forward, and pretty generally housed in good condition. 

   From Badenoch, a correspondent writes:- “The weather is dry and sunny. On Sunday week a fine southern breeze prevailed, and since then we have had excellent weather for hastening everything to maturity. The long continuance of rain which we had all summer, and since the beginning of harvest, has kept the crop late in this quarter. Potatoes are looking uncommonly well, and there is no appearance of disease or failure. If the frost spares them there will be a very luxuriant crop. There has been a slight frost for two or three nights of this week, but it has done no harm. Turnips are looking excellent in this quarter, and although they are late for the season in some places, they have a very healthy appearance… 

   STRATHPEFFER, Sept. 10. – Harvest operations are going on rapidly in this quarter. In the more Highland localities, however, scarcely any of the crops are cut. Notwithstanding the fine weather, there has not been so many people at the Wells this season as the last. Many of those who used to be here have gone to the Bridge of Allan. 

   Our correspondent at Bonar-Bridge writes:- “The season has been remarkably fine throughout this district, and it beneficial effects are apparent on every and; even that noted personage, the ‘oldest inhabitant,’ affirms, that within his recollection he scarcely has seen its equal. The harvest is general, and fully an average crop; the turnips are looking fresh and healthy. The potatoes, regarding the safety of which so much anxiety has been felt for some years back, are most excellent. In no case, we understand, has the dreaded blight made its appearance, so that the poor will have a plentiful supply of this favourite and staple esculent for the winter. There is a most luxuriant crop of garden and wild fruit, and several species of trees, which, in these northern latitudes, rarely yield seed, have been observed this year to have their branches literally covered with it. The ‘sages of the district,’ taking all these things into consideration, prognosticate that we shall have a severe winter, but whether or not, with a few weeks fine weather we shall have enough secured for man and beast to beard the winter’s utmost rigour.” 

   From Skye our correspondent writes, Sept. 9, that the most delightful autumn weather has for the last fortnight prevailed in the island. Harvest operations were in full progress. The potato disease was unfortunately spreading. 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday 15th September, 1853, p.3. 

1854

   From the west of Ross-shire we learn that the weather in the latter part of last week, and the beginning of this week, was very stormy; the wind blowing a gale from west and north-west. Up till Thursday the atmosphere had been very thick and close, heavy mists hanging over the land at night, and scarcely dispelled during the day. The air was charged with electricity. The wind has now cleared the atmosphere. The potato crop is extensively diseased throughout all the West Coast. Barley and oats are very good crops, and are now ripe and ready for shearing. 

   KINTAIL. – Harvest commenced here about the end of last month, and almost all the barley in the district has been cut down, and some of it secured in excellent condition. The oat crop will follow quickly after. Almost all the potato fields show indications of the blight, but the injury to the crop, I believe, as yet, is comparatively trifling. The herring fishing continues still to be as unproductive here as at the beginning of the season, and the people who were dependent on it must suffer greatly in consequence. 

   ISLAND OF BARRA, 6th September. – Since I wrote you last, the weather has taken a favourable change; and the harvest has fairly commenced. The anticipations of a bad harvest have, I am sorry to say, been fulfilled. The weather here in July and August was most unfavourable to the crops, and now, in many instances, the ears of corn are little better than chaff. This, accompanied by the failure of the potato crop, bodes no good to some of the tenants. The people on this island have a resource which is denied many adjacent localities, by which the partial failure of their crops may be mitigated, viz. – the probability of taking less or more fish, which always meets a ready inland market. The fishermen, I am credibly informed, can make from 3s. 6d. to 4s. a-day, which is, on the whole, more than many tenants here can make. I hope that I am exaggerating the state of the crop, and that the millers will give us more favourable accounts when they commence grinding the new crop. 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday 21st September, 1854, p.5. 

   It will be gratifying indeed to mingle thanksgiving with prayers, and while entreating, as we now do, the Divine protection through perils of war, to acknowledge with gratitude the mercies bestowed upon us through the fruits of the earth in their season. By this bounty of Providence we have been relieved from all the heavy contingencies of a winter of famine, for there was little store remaining in the country, and if the crops of Europe, as well as of England, had failed this year as they failed in the year last past, the prospect would have been terrible indeed. The magnitude, therefore, of the blessing we can now appreciate, and while doing so let us not forget that material expression of gratitude which consists in turning such gifts to good purpose. Let our prudence be proportioned to our recent trial, our charity to our present abundance. Let us carefully use what we have known the want of, and give freely, as we have freely received. There is always distress enough to be alleviated, and certainly not less now than commonly, whatever may be the grounds of thankfulness remaining… 

– Nairnshire Telegraph and General Advertiser for the Northern Counties, Thursday 21st September, 1854, p.6. 

1855

   The potato crop of 1853 is said to have realised to the farmers of Nairnshire a sum of about £16,000, and the appearances this year are fully as favourable. 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday 13th September, 1855, p.7. 

   ABERDEENSHIRE. – Grain crops at least a fifth below an average, but fair samples, and an average weight. Turnips promise to be a full crop. Potatoes a good crop, with little disease… 

   ARGYLLSHIRE. – Crops housed in excellent order, and about an average. Potatoes rather a failure. Turnips a fair crop… 

   AYRSHIRE. – Wheat a bulky crop, but likely to be a serious shortcoming in the produce, though reports are very conflicting. The oat is deficient in bulk, and the grain light by the bushel, but the yield in the barn appears to be very satisfactory in point of measure. Beans short in the stalk, but thickly podded. The hay crop three-fourths of an average. Potato crop the best seen since 1844. Turnips exceedingly good, by far the finest crop ever grown in the county. 

   BERWICKSHIRE. – Turnip crop not so bad for many years. The hay crop badly secured in the lower districts, but for the upland flocks there has been abundant store of excellent hay. Potato crop highly promising, though not free from disease. Of the cereals little thrashing has taken place, and the grain will not soon be in good condition, so that for some time there will be tender samples and a wide range of weights and prices. 

   DUMBARTONSHIRE. – Wheat an average crop, and of fair quality. Barley a full crop, and well secured. Oats not so satisfactory, being beat down by the rains Beans a good crop, but late. Potatoes much blighted, but the tubers not affected to any great extent – about an eighth. Turnips one of the very best crops ever had in this county. Hay crop light. 

   DUMFRIESSHIRE. – Wheat unequal in the sample, and a great deal of light in it. Barley perhaps the best crop, but not of the finest quality. Oats a light sample. Of all grains, the quality inferior, though the bulk and quantity of bushels per acre may not be far below an average. Potatoes slightly affected, but the crop the best since 1845. Turnips above an average crop… 

   EAST LOTHIAN. – Wheat much inferior to 1854, and the yield will be perhaps one-fifth below the average of the last five or six years; weight light. Barley in produce and quality below an average. Oats filling well, and excellent quality. Beans a large crop. Potatoes one of the best and largest every grown in the district. Turnip crop promises well, but needing moisture. 

   FIFESHIRE. – The grain produce generally below an average, wheat where laid thrashing out badly. Spring-sown wheat best of the cereals. Barley less bulk than expected, sample darker, but weight of bushel an average. Oats short in the straw, but few thrashed. Beans and pease favourably spoken of. Flax a much lighter crop than for many seasons. Potatoes a large crop, and not much diseased. Turnips very promising, except on cold lands – battered by the heavy rains. 

   FORFARSHIRE. – The bulk in the stackyard one-fourth below an average, but the yield will be fair, but inferior quality. Potatoes promise an abundant crop, and little disease. Turnips a good deal diseased. 

   INVERNESSSHIRE. – The stackyards scanty, showing the smallest grain crop since 1846, the quality good, but the thrashing not very satisfactory. The oat crop very deficient, perhaps not more than half an average. Wheat short of, but barely up to an average. Potatoes fine in quality and little disease. Turnips not so promising as a month ago. 

   KINROSSSHIRE. – Wheat about an average, also the barley crop, but the quality inferior. Oats considerably under an average. Potato crop never more promising. Turnips above an average, but needing rain. 

   KINCARDINESHIRE. – Wheat crop, on the coast at least, likely to prove an average of ordinary seasons. Barley generally thin on the ground. Oats deficient all over the county. Beans nearly an average. The potato crop partially diseased – the tubers small. Turnips very various; a good deal of finger-and-toe. 

   KIRKCUDBRIGHTSHIRE. – Oat crop an average as to bulk, and promises to yield well. Potatoes tainted by disease, but not to any great extent. Turnips a fair good crop… 

   LANARKSHIRE. – Wheat very considerably deficient. Oats a good crop, but inferior quality. Beans and pease a very fine crop. Potatoes the finest crop for the last ten years. Turnips also a very fine crop. 

   LINLITHGOWSHIRE. – Barley not an average crop, and 3 lbs. per bushel under last year. Wheat where laid (about one-third) deficient, but the standing crop quite satisfactory. Oats above an average. beans a good average crop. Turnip crop inferior to last season. Potato crop a large one, with little disease. 

   MID-LOTHIAN. – The wheat fills the stackyard well, but unequal, and scarcely an average. Barley less bulk than expected, and of various quality, and in some cases deficient in quantity. Oats not bulky or plump, but of good quality. Beans and pease promise well. Potatoes fine crop. Turnips rather various, but on good land a fine prospect. 

   MORAYSHIRE. – Wheat considerably below last year in quantity and quality. Oats a deficient crop. Barley everywhere an abundant crop, bulking well, and of good quality. Turnips of vigorous growth, but suffering from finger-and-toe. Potatoes a good crop, with partial disease, but not very extensively planted. 

   NAIRNSHIRE. – Wheat rather below an average, but good quality. Barley and oats both very short. Turnips with rain, may still prove a capital crop. Potato crop very abundant, and little disease. 

   PEEBLESHIRE. – Grain crops not much short of an average; the wheat being fully an average; barley also a full average, and oats nearly 4o; pease below an average. Turnips not two-thirds of a crop. Potatoes slightly diseased. 

   PERTHSHIRE. – Wheat a good crop; barley short in straw; oats short in straw, and the grain not well filled. Beans and pease not bulky, but well podded. Potatoes partially diseased. Turnips promise well. 

   RENFREWSHIRE. – crops secured in fine condition, but very little thrashed; likely to be a deficiency in the cereals. The potato crop is the best for many years as regards quantity and quality. Turnips an average crop. 

   ROSSSHIRE. – The white crops below an average; wheat little bulk; barley not an average; oats only a middling crop. Turnips healthy. The potato crop large, and quality fine. 

   ROXBURGHSHIRE. – Where lodged the wheat suffered much, but late sown spring wheat is ripened beautifully. Barley large bulk, but not with equal yield, and the quality very bad. Oats a good crop, but bad quality. Neans fully an average. Potatoes a splendid crop, and little or no disease. Turnips not so promising, and without a supply of moisture the crop must suffer seriously. 

   SELKIRKSHIRE. – Barley a bulky crop, but sample inferior. Oats a fair average, and superior quality. Turnips inferior – much injured by finger-and-toe. Potatoes an abundant crop, but diseased. 

   SUTHERLANDSHIRE. – Crop considerably under average – in oats from 8 to 10, barley 4 to 6, and wheat 4 bushels per acre; quality of oats and barley good. Turnips, indifferent crop. Potatoes a good crop. 

   WIGTONSHIRE. – The grain crop less in bulk than last year, but the quality good. The potato disease very severe… 

– Glasgow Courier, Saturday 6th October, 1855, p.4. 

1856

   DOMESTIC intelligence is brief, and about as satisfactory as could well be desired. The cereal crops are every where looking well, and a great breadth has already been cut down by the well remunerated reaper. Even in Scotland the harvest will not be so late as was supposed a few weeks ago. We see that in several places, generally accounted backward, not only numerous fields of barley, but a considerable extent of oats, have yielded to the sickle. In a short time the harvest will have become general over the whole of Scotland. There can be no doubt of potatoes being affected in different places, but as we have had partial failures for many years past, the general condition of the crop this year occasions no uneasiness. From the continents of Europe and America the news of our food prospects is equally good, so we may reasonably consider, that the employment and little comforts of the people are safe for another year. We are not likely to require so great an importation of corn, as, notwithstanding our own produce, is so imperiously needed yearly, but it is certain that very large quantities of all kinds of grain can be spared for the British market… 

– Commonwealth (Glasgow), Saturday 6th September, 1856, p.4. 

1857

   AYRSHIRE. – We have now had ten days of fine harvest weather, and the cereal crops of Ayrshire are nearly all gathered from the fields. The bean crop still remains in the fields, and in the uplands there is a good deal of corn to carry, and even a little to reap. In the principal corn districts, however, the harvesting of the cereals is finished, and people are now satisfied that the bulk in the stackyard is decidedly under an average. So far as an opinion can be formed so early in the season, oats are yielding well in the barn; but the grain is not heavy by the bushel… The late potatoes are fine in quality and little injured by disease. In respect of immunity from disease, we seem to have a decided advantage over our east country friends. And the turnip crop is bulbing well, and bids fair to equal the crop of 1855, which was generally regarded as the heaviest turnip crop ever grown in Ayrshire… 

… 

   FIFESHIRE. – The harvest is now all but completed in this quarter. Those farmers who were latest in getting the grain into the stackyard have been perhaps the most fortunate, as the weather latterly has proved so favourable for gathering purposes. Hopes are entertained that the present fine weather may also stop any further progress of the malady which has now for so many years ravaged the potato crop. The turnips are looking well… 

… 

   INVERNESS-SHIRE. – The favourable weather of the last ten days has been largely taken advantage of to cut and secure the outstanding crop. Most farmers are now pretty safe, and perhaps things will turn out not quite so badly as was expected. Great loss has, however, been incurred; and, coming along with so great a failure of the potato crop, agriculturalists can scarcely regard this as a favourable season… 

   MORAYSHIRE. – The weather still continues fine, and suitable for the ingathering of the crops in the upper districts. In the whole lowlands of Moray scarcely a stook is to be seen. The sprouting, on the whole, was not so bad as was at one time reported. Not an eighth part of the exposed crop has been lost by it. The potato disease is extending, and we fear the whole crop will be seriously affected… 

   PEEBLESHIRE. – In all parts of the county harvest operations are rapidly approaching completion. Excepting in some of the higher districts the crops have sustained little damage from the late rains, and last week’s fine weather, coupled with the fear of an unfavourable change, having spurred on our farmers to unusual exertions, the greater part of the grain is already lodged – safely, and in good condition – in the stackyards. Turnips and potatoes are still looking well. Disease among the cattle has made little or no progress. 

… 

   SELKIRKSHIRE. – The harvest is nearly over in the upper parts of the county, so far as cutting, and the last cut is in general in good condition. While turnips continue to swell, we have still to record the advance making in our fields by the potato disease. 

– Edinburgh Evening Courant, Saturday 26th September, 1857, p.4. 

1858

THE HARVEST. 

“… The state of the weather has caused partial interruption to harvest operations, and a considerable portion of the grain crops are still in the fields. Cutting is all but completed, but it will require from two to three weeks of fine weather before the whole crop is stacked. The condition of the potato crop is causing considerable anxiety. Since Saturday it has been observed that the blight has spread rapidly in the tubers, particularly on all damp soils. In several fields it is estimated that one-half of the tubers are already diseased.” 

——— 

(From the Scotsman.) 

   MID-LOTHIAN. – The whole white corn below the base of the Pentland and other hills in the county is now secured and what was stacked on Saturday and Monday was brought together in better condition than any previously secured. The quantity, however, was small, as the great bulk of the crop was carted previously… beans are all cut, mostly stooked, and some in stack. The condition of the potato and turnip crops occupy now more attention, and are of most interest, but neither of them are very satisfactory… 

   EAST LOTHIAN. – There is still grain outstanding at the foot of the Lammermuir Hills, but with the exception of part of the bean crop and some patches of spring wheat, the fields have been generally cleared throughout all the lower part of the county, and the crop may be considered as already secured. Stackyards are scarcely so large as they have been in some seasons, but from trials made the produce is found to be highly satisfactory. In some instances the yield of wheat has proved great almost beyond belief, and the quality of all the grain is very superior. Swedish turnips are growing, and may ultimately prove a weighty crop, but a great proportion of the whites and yellows, particularly the latter, get gradually worse and worse, and fields that promised well a month ago are now a complete failure. The leaves and stems of the potatoes are brown and spotted, but as yet the tubers continue sound and free from disease… 

   WEST LOTHIAN. – … So far as tested, the yield of barley and oats is satisfactory in every respect, but the quantity of wheat thrashed is too limited to enable us to form a correct judgment on these points. Swedish turnips continue to promise an average crop; but in general yellows have a stunted bulb and sickly leaf, and, we fear, will fall much under it. Potatoes are not free from disease, but the quantity of infected tubers is not great… 

– Glasgow Herald, Friday 17th September, 1858, p.6. 

   THE POTATOES. – Complaints of the disease continue to increase, and but for the large crop on the ground, and the better growth of the tubers this season, we might have looked forward to a scarcity of this favourite esculent. As usual, the ravages are not uniformly distributed. From some quarters, we hear of more than half the crop as already lost, though even there some fields are comparatively safe; but things are not nearly so bad in other districts. An intelligent correspondent, writing of the central parts of Strathearn, says – “Within the last few days I have carefully inspected seven fields, comprehending an area of 120 acres. With the exception of one field, all these bear heavy crops, and the average of disease will be about one-fourth.” 

– Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review; & Forfar and Kincardineshire Advertiser, Friday 24th September, 1858, p.7. 

1859

   POTATO CROP IN THE NORTH. – We have reports from all the northern counties as to the potato crop, and in almost every case they are found free of disease, while universally they are a good crop, and of the very finest quality, although unfortunately there is not a great breadth planted this year. Disease, where it has appeared, is spoken of as of a very mild type… 

– Edinburgh Evening Courant, Thursday 15th September, 1859, p.2. 

… On cold stiff clays, turnips are all but a total failure. Some, I fear, will bever be worth the removing, and this must be a very sad loss. On the light and sandy soils, the crop, although later than usual, looks well, and, with an open fall of fine fresh weather, such as 1858, offers to be a full average crop. Potatoes are a fair crop in most places, and excellent in quality. As a whole, corn will be a short average in quantity, but above average quality…  

   The present week will see the greater portion of the crops in the stackyard, and the deficiency of oats will be made up in the quantity and quality of the potato crop; so that there is a prospect of the people’s food being as abundant and cheap as in ordinary years… 

– Peterhead Sentinel and General Advertiser for Buchan District, Friday 23rd September, 1859, p.3. 

   RATHEN, Sept. 24. – Harvest is all finished in this district. The average bulk is nearly half that of last year, or rather more than a third under a general average of former years. Potatoes are a splendid crop, fresh, and of excellent quality. Turnips are in many instances rather a poor crop, but, should October prove favourable, they will make up a good deal. Swedish turnips are a very fair crop, in general much better than the other kinds. 

… 

   NEW PITSLIGO, Sept. 24. – THE CROPS. – With the exception of a very few stooks, the cereal crop in this district is all secured in excellent condition, and the ‘pleuch streekit’ on some of the stubble fields. The average bulk for this district is about one third under last season, or a fourth under the general average of former seasons, the last being considerably above an average. The potato crop is rich, fresh, and of excellent quality, and turnips are doing remarkably well. 

… 

   CULSAMOND. – The crops in this quarter are all recured in fine condition, but will be about one third deficient in bulk to last year. Turnips are in general close on the ground, and with a favourable autumn may yet turn out a fair average. Potatoes are excellent and free from taint. On calling at Freefield the other day, we were shown by Mr Thomson, gardener, a second crop of potatoes of this year’s growth, the first being dug from the frames, for table use, early in May; the smallest tubers were again planted in the open ground, and are now a full crop. 

– Banffshire Journal and General Advertiser, Tuesday 27th September, 1859, p.6. 

LINLITHGOWSHIRE. 

… Beans were short in the straw, deficient in pods, and in many cases these were deficient in grains. To crown all, they appeared to be diseased in the leaf, and ripening too rapidly. Potatoes promised to be a full crop, and were free from disease. Turnips, at the same period, presented every stage of progress… 

… Beans having come to premature maturity, were in many instances hand pulled, and presented a more miserable appearance in stook than was even anticipated while on foot, having taken precedence of oats and barley in the order of reaping. Of course the return appeared to be much under an average in every respect, and especially in straw. Potatoes had a flourishing aspect, and presented no indications of disease, and late sown turnips by the close of the month had filled the drills well; but the earlier sown continued to be backward and unpromising… 

… 

   Potatoes continued to maintain their green hue to the close of the month, and although they appeared to be little infected with disease, yet the extreme drought which prevailed at an early stage of their growth will cause the return to be less abundant than they would have been under different circumstances, and the crop will fall under an average, but be of excellent quality. The turnip crop generally is utterly disheartening, and will not reach one-half of the useful return… 

… 

——— 

PEEBLESSHIRE. 

… All kinds of grain are beautiful in colour and well got into the yard. 

   Turnips had just begun to make an appearance at the time of last report; and from a few showers that then fell they made wonderful progress for sometime and covered the ground well. But the drought again became too great for them, and now they only stand out on pieces of deep loamy land… 

… 

   Potatoes are a large crop, and fine to eat; but unmistakable signs now exist of the disease coming on rapidly; a field can hardly be passed without feeling the smell that usually accompanies it; and I observe the tubers affected of all the finer sorts, especially Regents. 

… 

——— 

PERTHSHIRE. 

… 

   August. – … Potatoes made very considerable progress from the great heat and alternate showers, and showed signs of being a large crop; still the turnips even on excellent turnip land looked very indifferent and showed signs of finger-and-toe – in fact, they looked to be like the cereals a small crop. 

… 

   Potato lifting has commenced in several districts, and where raised are an excellent crop, large of size and mostly free from disease; although this seems rather to show signs of increasing, especially in red varieties, the demand for good samples seems active, and it is expected if they keep nearly sound, they will realise good prices. Where mangolds are cultivated, they appear a large crop. 

——— 

SELKIRKSHIRE. 

…  

   As regards the turnip crop, I am glad I can write in a less desponding tone than in my last report. During the last fortnight they have, when free from disease, made more progress than I ever witnessed them make in a corresponding period in August. Bulbs are, no doubt, still very small, but should the weather throughout October continue mild and genial, a considerable breadth of turnips in this county will be nearly an average crop. There is also a considerable, although smaller, breadth of turnips that have suffered severely from mildew and the ravages of finger-and-toe, and several fields which have escaped these diseases, even have a poor and patched appearance; these will not improve, and will afford a short supply for winter food. 

   Potatoes are entirely free from disease, and a fair crop. 

– North British Agriculturist, Wednesday 5th October, 1859, p.19. 

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What these articles show, is that dearth was a possibility every year. Not just in Scotland. Across the whole extent of the British mainland as well as the European continent. Fortunately, crop failures could be made up by importation from places free from the same fate which would make up for a low availability of home produce. This is a good example of where free trade on the global marketplace was of benefit to us as a nation. 

One thought on “As it Applied to Scotland

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