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TITLE
The reality of crofting life in Caithness
EXTERNAL ID
QZP40_CAITHNESS_CROFTING_03
PLACENAME
Canisbay
DISTRICT
Northern Caithness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS: Canisbay
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
unknown
SOURCE
Highland Libraries
ASSET ID
2751
KEYWORDS
crofting
crofters
crofter
croft
crofts
nuclear power
hydro-electric power
audio

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In this audio extract a Canisbay crofter born in 1901 recalls how smaller crofters in Caithness struggled to make a living. He also refers to Dounreay, the site of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority's nuclear-reactor facility which opened in 1955 and soon became Caithness's major employer, offering, for the time, comparatively high wages and security. Electricity reached most of rural Caithness in the later 1940s and early 1950s through the work of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. Ninety per cent of crofting households were connected to the national grid by the early 1970s.

'We keeped a horse an two coos an half a dozen o sheep. Oh yes, we'd a dug an two or three cats. Oh, the cats wis, Ah suppose, for catchin mice but they were more or less pets. An we, we hid a good dug.

Nowadays there's very few folk depends on their croft now they've other work. (Yeah). However, Ah think they works at Dou-, crofters works at Dounreay an there are very few - There were the bigger type o croft which wis supposed to be self-supportin, an the little croft which the man hid to go oot an work apairt fae his croft an earn his money, (yeah), to supplement what he wis earnin. An of course they hidn't - the smaller crofter hid maybe two coos an a horse; the bigger man wi the pair o horse an the four coos. Weel, it took all his time to work a croft an of course there were no modern amenities then, no electricity or no watter, an no - Of course there were no television. Course, withoot electricity there's no electric kettles or anythin like that, or blankets, or kettles. An there were very little money. The weemin went to the nearest shop wi a basket o eggs an exchanged it for groceries an if there wis any copper or two o'er that wis all they handled. Many people thinks that life on a croft wis an ideal thing cos they're independent an they're their own boss but there's another side to the picture.'

Caithness crofts were very similar to those in the other crofting counties of Scotland: Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Orkney and Shetland. The crofter kept a few animals - usually one or more cows, some sheep, poultry and a pig. The horse was important as a beast of burden until it was largely replaced by small tractors from the end of the 1940s onwards. The usual crops were oats (always called corn in Caithness), potatoes, turnips and hay, with varying amounts of vegetables. Up until the 1950s crofters with access to larger amounts of land showed a considerable degree of self-sufficiency, but it was quite usual for members of the family to have jobs off the croft. Many crofters had a skilled trade that enabled them to find work away from home. The crofthouse's water supply was usually a nearby well, spring or burn; the most ready supply of fuel for cooking and heating was peat, which had to be cut and processed on the moor in summer

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The reality of crofting life in Caithness

CAITHNESS: Canisbay

1980s

crofting; crofters; crofter; croft; crofts; nuclear power; hydro-electric power; audio

Highland Libraries

Caithness Recordings: Crofting & Farming

In this audio extract a Canisbay crofter born in 1901 recalls how smaller crofters in Caithness struggled to make a living. He also refers to Dounreay, the site of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority's nuclear-reactor facility which opened in 1955 and soon became Caithness's major employer, offering, for the time, comparatively high wages and security. Electricity reached most of rural Caithness in the later 1940s and early 1950s through the work of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. Ninety per cent of crofting households were connected to the national grid by the early 1970s. <br /> <br /> 'We keeped a horse an two coos an half a dozen o sheep. Oh yes, we'd a dug an two or three cats. Oh, the cats wis, Ah suppose, for catchin mice but they were more or less pets. An we, we hid a good dug. <br /> <br /> Nowadays there's very few folk depends on their croft now they've other work. (Yeah). However, Ah think they works at Dou-, crofters works at Dounreay an there are very few - There were the bigger type o croft which wis supposed to be self-supportin, an the little croft which the man hid to go oot an work apairt fae his croft an earn his money, (yeah), to supplement what he wis earnin. An of course they hidn't - the smaller crofter hid maybe two coos an a horse; the bigger man wi the pair o horse an the four coos. Weel, it took all his time to work a croft an of course there were no modern amenities then, no electricity or no watter, an no - Of course there were no television. Course, withoot electricity there's no electric kettles or anythin like that, or blankets, or kettles. An there were very little money. The weemin went to the nearest shop wi a basket o eggs an exchanged it for groceries an if there wis any copper or two o'er that wis all they handled. Many people thinks that life on a croft wis an ideal thing cos they're independent an they're their own boss but there's another side to the picture.'<br /> <br /> Caithness crofts were very similar to those in the other crofting counties of Scotland: Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Orkney and Shetland. The crofter kept a few animals - usually one or more cows, some sheep, poultry and a pig. The horse was important as a beast of burden until it was largely replaced by small tractors from the end of the 1940s onwards. The usual crops were oats (always called corn in Caithness), potatoes, turnips and hay, with varying amounts of vegetables. Up until the 1950s crofters with access to larger amounts of land showed a considerable degree of self-sufficiency, but it was quite usual for members of the family to have jobs off the croft. Many crofters had a skilled trade that enabled them to find work away from home. The crofthouse's water supply was usually a nearby well, spring or burn; the most ready supply of fuel for cooking and heating was peat, which had to be cut and processed on the moor in summer