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TITLE
Job opportunities in rural Caithness
EXTERNAL ID
QZP40_CAITHNESS_CROFTING_08
PLACENAME
Canisbay
DISTRICT
Northern Caithness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS: Canisbay
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
unknown
SOURCE
Highland Libraries
ASSET ID
2761
KEYWORDS
crofting
crofters
crofter
croft
crofts
farms
farm
tractor
audio

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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. In this audio extract, a Canisbay crofter remembers his first job on a farm after leaving school at the age of fourteen.

'Of course, ye left the school then when ye wis fourteen. Ye see, it wisnae compulsory then to go till e high school - just them that could afford to go or somethin, Ah don't know what it wis, but some went an some didnae. Ah didnae go. Wis all at home. Fourteen, an at wis me. Ah thought Ah'd never get fourteen to come quick enough. But Ah got clear o this school at any rate. And everybody then - there's no tractors or och, maybe - Wur schoolteacher hid a car but he couldnae drive, make much o the drivin, Ah mind. The first three days he did no bad, the next day he hit a pillar, or gatepost, an that wis that.

So then, we'd - it wis all horses. Everybody's ambition wis - most o the young boys at any rate, it wis all ferms an - their ambition wis till get started on a ferm an work wi a horse. That wis yer main- Wance ye started wi a horse, ye thought ye wis a man. So, Ah got started wi this old boy, he wis a crofter but he hid a bittie - his croft wis a bittie bigger. Ah mind the first wage. The first wage Ah got, Ah think, wis ten shillins a week. That wis the whole - that wis no halfdays on Saturday. That wis the Sunday, ye didnae work on Sunday, be ye'd the rest o yer six days to work till ye got ten shillins. This is me hired oot, that wis the first job Ah hid wis workin wi this guy an Ah worked till I'm aboot, oh Ah wis workin wi him aboot, oh, aboot a year, Ah remember, an ye asked him for a rise an he wouldna give it, so Ah says, 'Right, I'm off.' So the next place Ah went'll then wis - it wis a much bigger place, a bigger farm an Ah stayed on there aboot - The wages were a bittie better but och, it wis a pretty hard, hard life then. Ye started at seven o'clock in the mornin an ye worked until six o'clock at night. But now it's all tractors an so on'

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Job opportunities in rural Caithness

CAITHNESS: Canisbay

1980s

crofting; crofters; crofter; croft; crofts; farms; farm; tractor; audio

Highland Libraries

Caithness Recordings: Crofting & Farming

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. In this audio extract, a Canisbay crofter remembers his first job on a farm after leaving school at the age of fourteen.<br /> <br /> 'Of course, ye left the school then when ye wis fourteen. Ye see, it wisnae compulsory then to go till e high school - just them that could afford to go or somethin, Ah don't know what it wis, but some went an some didnae. Ah didnae go. Wis all at home. Fourteen, an at wis me. Ah thought Ah'd never get fourteen to come quick enough. But Ah got clear o this school at any rate. And everybody then - there's no tractors or och, maybe - Wur schoolteacher hid a car but he couldnae drive, make much o the drivin, Ah mind. The first three days he did no bad, the next day he hit a pillar, or gatepost, an that wis that. <br /> <br /> So then, we'd - it wis all horses. Everybody's ambition wis - most o the young boys at any rate, it wis all ferms an - their ambition wis till get started on a ferm an work wi a horse. That wis yer main- Wance ye started wi a horse, ye thought ye wis a man. So, Ah got started wi this old boy, he wis a crofter but he hid a bittie - his croft wis a bittie bigger. Ah mind the first wage. The first wage Ah got, Ah think, wis ten shillins a week. That wis the whole - that wis no halfdays on Saturday. That wis the Sunday, ye didnae work on Sunday, be ye'd the rest o yer six days to work till ye got ten shillins. This is me hired oot, that wis the first job Ah hid wis workin wi this guy an Ah worked till I'm aboot, oh Ah wis workin wi him aboot, oh, aboot a year, Ah remember, an ye asked him for a rise an he wouldna give it, so Ah says, 'Right, I'm off.' So the next place Ah went'll then wis - it wis a much bigger place, a bigger farm an Ah stayed on there aboot - The wages were a bittie better but och, it wis a pretty hard, hard life then. Ye started at seven o'clock in the mornin an ye worked until six o'clock at night. But now it's all tractors an so on'