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TITLE
Daily chores on a Caithness croft
EXTERNAL ID
QZP40_CAITHNESS_CROFTING_04
PLACENAME
John o' Groats
DISTRICT
Northern Caithness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS: Canisbay
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
unknown
SOURCE
Highland Libraries
ASSET ID
2753
KEYWORDS
crofting
crofters
crofter
croft
crofts
neeps
turnips
thinning
horses
croft house
croft houses
audio

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In this audio extract a female resident of John O'Groats, remembers some of the chores she had to carry out on the family croft after leaving Wick High School, around 1940.

'Well, I actually left high school after over four years, after four years at the high school, to go - to come home. Ma mother took ill. We had a croft there, an I worked there on the croft.

Interviewer: Can you tell us what you did on the croft?

Well, I used to, used to help in every way. I used to look after the cattle. Ma mother wis a widow an there wis ma broth- The family had scattered; there were actually seven of us an I wis the youngest. They'd scattered, the rest, by at time, and my youngest brother an maself were - he used to work to other folk, ye know, do their land, for older folk that wisna fit to do, an I used to be left pretty much at home to cope. I used to, in the summer time, what we used to call 'thin neeps' - thinnin o the neeps (that's in Caithness language) it's weedin and thinnin out the turnips, course which is all done by mechanical things now. And we used to cut peats and spread them out, and set them up and dry them and cart them home - for different folk, to make extra money, ye see, because there wisna a lot o money in the croft. And ma mother consequently recovered but wisna able to do anything heavy, ye know? But she wis able to be in the hoo- and I spent a big part o my time outside. Ah wis left at home doin my own thinning o the turnips while ma brother went away and worked elsewhere, or anything he could get to do. And I used to be able to work wi horses - I think I'd be frightened o em now - but I used to cart home peats on ma own, and, our own peats.

Interviewer: That'll be horse an cart?

Yes, horse an cart. I wis able to yoke a horse up, and I used to be able to do some work on the land with a horse - not ploughing or anything - but ye used to roll the - after ye'd sown the seed - ye used to roll it flat, ye know, with a roller, and I used to do at sort of thing. And I used to milk the cows an make butter, cheese.'

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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Daily chores on a Caithness croft

CAITHNESS: Canisbay

1980s

crofting; crofters; crofter; croft; crofts; neeps; turnips; thinning; horses; croft house; croft houses; audio

Highland Libraries

Caithness Recordings: Crofting & Farming

In this audio extract a female resident of John O'Groats, remembers some of the chores she had to carry out on the family croft after leaving Wick High School, around 1940.<br /> <br /> 'Well, I actually left high school after over four years, after four years at the high school, to go - to come home. Ma mother took ill. We had a croft there, an I worked there on the croft. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: Can you tell us what you did on the croft?<br /> <br /> Well, I used to, used to help in every way. I used to look after the cattle. Ma mother wis a widow an there wis ma broth- The family had scattered; there were actually seven of us an I wis the youngest. They'd scattered, the rest, by at time, and my youngest brother an maself were - he used to work to other folk, ye know, do their land, for older folk that wisna fit to do, an I used to be left pretty much at home to cope. I used to, in the summer time, what we used to call 'thin neeps' - thinnin o the neeps (that's in Caithness language) it's weedin and thinnin out the turnips, course which is all done by mechanical things now. And we used to cut peats and spread them out, and set them up and dry them and cart them home - for different folk, to make extra money, ye see, because there wisna a lot o money in the croft. And ma mother consequently recovered but wisna able to do anything heavy, ye know? But she wis able to be in the hoo- and I spent a big part o my time outside. Ah wis left at home doin my own thinning o the turnips while ma brother went away and worked elsewhere, or anything he could get to do. And I used to be able to work wi horses - I think I'd be frightened o em now - but I used to cart home peats on ma own, and, our own peats.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: That'll be horse an cart?<br /> <br /> Yes, horse an cart. I wis able to yoke a horse up, and I used to be able to do some work on the land with a horse - not ploughing or anything - but ye used to roll the - after ye'd sown the seed - ye used to roll it flat, ye know, with a roller, and I used to do at sort of thing. And I used to milk the cows an make butter, cheese.'<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