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TITLE
Letter from William Ivory, Sheriff of Inverness, 9 June 1885
EXTERNAL ID
Z_GB232_R13_J6_05
PLACENAME
Inverness
DATE OF IMAGE
9 June 1885
PERIOD
1880s
SOURCE
Caithness Archive Centre
ASSET ID
170
KEYWORDS
Balmeanach
Gedintailor
Peinchorran
crofting
Crofters' Act
land war
land raid
Crofters' Wars
Letter from William Ivory, Sheriff of Inverness, 9 June 1885

This letter, dated 9 June 1885, was written by William Ivory, Sheriff of Inverness, to the Chief Constable of Inverness-shire, and relates to the 'Crofters' War' of 1882-88, a six-year period that saw crofters in the Highlands agitate for a reform of the system of landownership.

The Crofters' War began in April 1882 with the 'Battle of the Braes', a clash that occurred in the wake of a long-standing dispute between the crofters of Braes on the Isle of Skye and their landlord, Lord MacDonald, over the use of grazing pastures. This disagreement culminated, on 19 April 1882, in a sheriff officer and a force of fifty policemen arriving in Braes and arresting five crofters who had resisted an earlier attempt to serve them with notices of eviction. As they left Braes, the party was attacked by a large crowd of men, women and children carrying sticks and throwing stones. A number of the crowd were injured before the sheriff officer and policemen managed to retreat with the arrested men.

The arrests did not persuade the crofters of Braes to end their campaign, and in May 1882 they drove their stock onto the disputed grazing pastures without permission. In September and October, two separate attempts to serve notices to crofters in Braes ordering them to remove their stock from the pasture land were again resisted by the people there.

Further protests occurred in Glendale, in the north-west of the island, in 1882 and 1883, and in late 1882 Sheriff Ivory made a request to the government to send 100 troops to the area to help restore order. The government refused the request and recommended that the Inverness-shire authorities instead increase their police force. By November 1882, 50 extra constables were added to the 44-strong Inverness-shire force.

In October 1884, a clash between crofters and police at Kilmuir on Skye, coupled with sensational newspaper reports of events in the Highlands, led Ivory to again ask the government for military assistance. This time, the government consented to Ivory's request and on 16 November 1884, around 400 marines were stationed on Skye. In the absence of any significant disturbances, however, the majority of the marines were instructed to leave Skye in December 1884. The remainder were stationed in small detachments scattered throughout the island.

In this letter, dated 9 June 1885, Sheriff Ivory informs the Chief Constable of Inverness that he "received a letter from the Lord Advocate intimating that he laid my letter of the 1st instant with your Police Report which accompanied it, before the Secretary of State, who concurs in the view that the marines and extra Police may now be withdrawn from Skye. You may now therefore make the necessary arrangements for the withdrawal of the extra Police."

The withdrawal of the remainder of marines and the extra police from Skye did not, however, signal the end of the campaign for land reform in the Highlands. In 1886, continued political agitation, aided by an increasingly sympathetic press and public, led to the government passing the Crofters' Holdings Act. The Crofters' Act improved the situation of the crofters to an extent, but did not address their primary concern: the need for more land to be made available to them.

At the end of the Crofters' War, the land issue in the Highlands was still not resolved, and land agitation flared up again in the Highlands in the 1920s. The fight for reform of the system of landownership continued after that period in the form of non-violent political campaigns.

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Letter from William Ivory, Sheriff of Inverness, 9 June 1885

1880s

Balmeanach; Gedintailor; Peinchorran; crofting; Crofters' Act; land war; land raid; Crofters' Wars

Caithness Archive Centre

Skye Disturbances

This letter, dated 9 June 1885, was written by William Ivory, Sheriff of Inverness, to the Chief Constable of Inverness-shire, and relates to the 'Crofters' War' of 1882-88, a six-year period that saw crofters in the Highlands agitate for a reform of the system of landownership.<br /> <br /> The Crofters' War began in April 1882 with the 'Battle of the Braes', a clash that occurred in the wake of a long-standing dispute between the crofters of Braes on the Isle of Skye and their landlord, Lord MacDonald, over the use of grazing pastures. This disagreement culminated, on 19 April 1882, in a sheriff officer and a force of fifty policemen arriving in Braes and arresting five crofters who had resisted an earlier attempt to serve them with notices of eviction. As they left Braes, the party was attacked by a large crowd of men, women and children carrying sticks and throwing stones. A number of the crowd were injured before the sheriff officer and policemen managed to retreat with the arrested men.<br /> <br /> The arrests did not persuade the crofters of Braes to end their campaign, and in May 1882 they drove their stock onto the disputed grazing pastures without permission. In September and October, two separate attempts to serve notices to crofters in Braes ordering them to remove their stock from the pasture land were again resisted by the people there. <br /> <br /> Further protests occurred in Glendale, in the north-west of the island, in 1882 and 1883, and in late 1882 Sheriff Ivory made a request to the government to send 100 troops to the area to help restore order. The government refused the request and recommended that the Inverness-shire authorities instead increase their police force. By November 1882, 50 extra constables were added to the 44-strong Inverness-shire force.<br /> <br /> In October 1884, a clash between crofters and police at Kilmuir on Skye, coupled with sensational newspaper reports of events in the Highlands, led Ivory to again ask the government for military assistance. This time, the government consented to Ivory's request and on 16 November 1884, around 400 marines were stationed on Skye. In the absence of any significant disturbances, however, the majority of the marines were instructed to leave Skye in December 1884. The remainder were stationed in small detachments scattered throughout the island. <br /> <br /> In this letter, dated 9 June 1885, Sheriff Ivory informs the Chief Constable of Inverness that he "received a letter from the Lord Advocate intimating that he laid my letter of the 1st instant with your Police Report which accompanied it, before the Secretary of State, who concurs in the view that the marines and extra Police may now be withdrawn from Skye. You may now therefore make the necessary arrangements for the withdrawal of the extra Police."<br /> <br /> The withdrawal of the remainder of marines and the extra police from Skye did not, however, signal the end of the campaign for land reform in the Highlands. In 1886, continued political agitation, aided by an increasingly sympathetic press and public, led to the government passing the Crofters' Holdings Act. The Crofters' Act improved the situation of the crofters to an extent, but did not address their primary concern: the need for more land to be made available to them.<br /> <br /> At the end of the Crofters' War, the land issue in the Highlands was still not resolved, and land agitation flared up again in the Highlands in the 1920s. The fight for reform of the system of landownership continued after that period in the form of non-violent political campaigns.