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TITLE
Petition of the Ross family to Lord Stonefield: the response
EXTERNAL ID
Z_GB232_L_INV_HC_9_27III_03
DATE OF IMAGE
1792
PERIOD
1790s
SOURCE
Highland Archive Centre
ASSET ID
5759
KEYWORDS
court papers
court records
Petition of the Ross family to Lord Stonefield: the response

This is the conclusion of a petition made by John Ross, Alexander and John Ross, Donald Munro and William Munro to the Right Honourable Lord Stonefield, followed by Lord Stonefield's response. The petition asserts that the crime with which the men are charged is bailable and requests that bail should be set. The first response, dated Inverness 13 September 1792, notes that Lord Stonefield finds the crime bailable and bail is set at 'three hundred merks scots for each of the petitioners'; the second, dated Inverness the same day, notes receipt of bail.

The documents relate to an incident in the Ross-shire Sheep Riots, later known as 'Bliadhna nan Caorach' ('Year of the Sheep'). On 27 July 1792, the Rosses of Strathrusdale were gathered at a wedding and resolved to carry out a previous threat to drive the sheep out. Four days later an estimated 400 men began driving sheep out of the Highland hills and by Saturday 6th August they had six thousand sheep or more heading towards Beauly. However, the military were on their way and in the early hours of the morning arrested a number of Rosses still out on the hill, and John Ross, Donald Munro and his sons who had returned home.

The Ross-shire Sheep Riots were pivotal in the process known as the Highland Clearances, when landowners discovered that large-scale sheep farming was more profitable than renting out their land to tenants. The period following the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and the Battle of Culloden was a critical period of change in Highland culture. Traditionally, under the clan system, the wealth of a chief was measured by the number of men he could field in battle. These men owed him their allegiance and his role was to lead and protect them. Additionally, the people, including the chief, belonged to the land.

After the '45, however, the concept of chief gave way to the concept of landowner. Chiefs lost their heritable jurisdictions and traditional powers and gained formal title to land they had previously held on behalf of their people. By the 1790s, 'land improvement' was very fashionable, at least in the higher strata of society, but the improvement was often in the financial gain to be made, rather than in an increase of social responsibility. The ordinary tenant in the glen saw the world very much as his forefathers had done, and this is why the clearing of tenants was seen not just as socially iniquitous, but as a devastating betrayal by the very people who were supposed to provide protection.

In 1792, some of the Highland gentry were fearful that insurrection might lead to open rebellion. However, local constables refused to become involved in the Ross-shire Sheep Riots and the landed gentry learned that they could confidently rely on the support of the law and the military to uphold their perceived rights. This set the scene for the Clearances to follow.


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Petition of the Ross family to Lord Stonefield: the response

1790s

court papers; court records

Highland Archive Centre

Inverness County Sheriff Court Records

This is the conclusion of a petition made by John Ross, Alexander and John Ross, Donald Munro and William Munro to the Right Honourable Lord Stonefield, followed by Lord Stonefield's response. The petition asserts that the crime with which the men are charged is bailable and requests that bail should be set. The first response, dated Inverness 13 September 1792, notes that Lord Stonefield finds the crime bailable and bail is set at 'three hundred merks scots for each of the petitioners'; the second, dated Inverness the same day, notes receipt of bail.<br /> <br /> The documents relate to an incident in the Ross-shire Sheep Riots, later known as 'Bliadhna nan Caorach' ('Year of the Sheep'). On 27 July 1792, the Rosses of Strathrusdale were gathered at a wedding and resolved to carry out a previous threat to drive the sheep out. Four days later an estimated 400 men began driving sheep out of the Highland hills and by Saturday 6th August they had six thousand sheep or more heading towards Beauly. However, the military were on their way and in the early hours of the morning arrested a number of Rosses still out on the hill, and John Ross, Donald Munro and his sons who had returned home.<br /> <br /> The Ross-shire Sheep Riots were pivotal in the process known as the Highland Clearances, when landowners discovered that large-scale sheep farming was more profitable than renting out their land to tenants. The period following the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and the Battle of Culloden was a critical period of change in Highland culture. Traditionally, under the clan system, the wealth of a chief was measured by the number of men he could field in battle. These men owed him their allegiance and his role was to lead and protect them. Additionally, the people, including the chief, belonged to the land. <br /> <br /> After the '45, however, the concept of chief gave way to the concept of landowner. Chiefs lost their heritable jurisdictions and traditional powers and gained formal title to land they had previously held on behalf of their people. By the 1790s, 'land improvement' was very fashionable, at least in the higher strata of society, but the improvement was often in the financial gain to be made, rather than in an increase of social responsibility. The ordinary tenant in the glen saw the world very much as his forefathers had done, and this is why the clearing of tenants was seen not just as socially iniquitous, but as a devastating betrayal by the very people who were supposed to provide protection.<br /> <br /> In 1792, some of the Highland gentry were fearful that insurrection might lead to open rebellion. However, local constables refused to become involved in the Ross-shire Sheep Riots and the landed gentry learned that they could confidently rely on the support of the law and the military to uphold their perceived rights. This set the scene for the Clearances to follow. <br /> <br /> <br /> For further information about this item and the collection to which it belongs, please <a href="mailto: archives@highlifehighland.com">email</a> the Highland Archive Service