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Select Committee Report on Game Laws (1872)

Select Committee Report on Game Laws (1872)Select Committee Report on Game Laws (1872)

In July 1872 the Select Committee on Game Laws published its Report on Game Laws.  The Select Committee sat near the end of the extended period known as the Highland Clearances.  By 1872 reasonable people were asking whether sheep-farms, and deer-forests were the best use that highland estates could be put to ; whether the country as a whole would benefit from those highland estates being returned to their former farming use.

By 1872 (except for Gleann Dhé below Eas Dé) the whole of Aberdeenshire west of Braemar was deer-forest.  A large part of the deer-forest (but not most) had seen some form of agricultural use within living memory ; and the ruined farm buildings dotting the glens have survived into the 21st century. 

This Report is significant for anyone interested in the hills western Aberdeenshire because it contains 16-pages of testimony from George Clark ; farmer of Allanaquoich, and factor to James, 5th Earl Fife.  The biggest part of his job was to oversee the running of Mar Forest primarily as a deer-forest on behalf of his employer James, 5th Earl Fife.  During his testimony George Clark is understandably defensive from time-to-time ; but when he's not trying to avoid giving the 'wrong answer' his responses contain nuggets of information about everyday life in Mar Forest - a snapshot of Mar Forest in the late 19th century.

The following questions and answers demonstrate the value of the Report to anyone interested in the place names, history, and geography of the uplands of Mar.

The Gleann Eidh 'removals'

8729.  Mr. McCombie.]  Have the people been turned out to make room for the deer on the Fife property ? - I do not know that they were turned out to make room for the deer ; a long time ago there were five families turned out of Glenaig, and they got crops [crofts?]  lower down, near the village ; and there were never any of them turned out of the country altogether

8730.  Chairman.]  What became of the five families ? They were taken down to the lower part of Lord Fife's estate, and got crofts there

8731.  Were they put in as good a situation as before ? - In a better situation, and their families are all ready to testify to that

8732.  Mr. McCombie.]  When was this ? - More than 30 years ago

The fact is that people were 'turned out' of Gleann Eidh in the early 1840s to 'make room for the deer'.  The census tells the story - the census of 1841 shows 6 farmers, and their families - over 40 people, including William Lamont, a 45 year old farmer at 'Dalnafae' (Dail nam Fiadh) ; the census of 1851 by simply showing 'Glen Ey' implies a single habitation in the glen - and that occupied by William Lamont, 54 years old, and turned Gamekeeper


The number of deer killed annually

8802.  Mr. McCombie.]  Do you know how many stags are usually killed in the whole of these Fife forests ? - About 300 in the year

8803.  Do you mean roe deer or red deer ? - They are all red deer

8804.  What might be their average weight ? - I suppose about 14 or 15 stone

8805.  Are hinds killed every year ? - Yes

8806.  How many on an average ? - About 450


Number of employed men

8812.  Mr. McCombie.]  How many keepers are there employed at present by Lord Fife upon the Fife forests ? - Fourteen besides gillies

8813.  How many through the winter ? - The same number through the winter

8814.  At what date does the shooting gillies' engagement begin ? - About the 11th of August

8815.  How many additional to the present keepers will you engage then ? - Sometimes about 30

8816.  Would you say, on average of years, how many ? - About 30

8817.  What is the length of their engagement ? - About four months

8818.  What are they paid ? - Three and six pence a day, with victuals, for six days in the week, and they get their food on Sundays as well

8819.  Chairman.]  Do they get a guinea per week ? - Yes, and food and little presents from gentlemen when they go out to shoot with them

8820.  Mr.  McCombie.]  How do the gillies usually employ themselves during the rest of the year ? - They work for Lord Fife.  I pay those gillies, and other people, £1,200 a year for work done on Lord Fife's lands in Braemar by those men over and above this

8821.  What do you pay per week to labourers ? - Fifteen shillings a week

8822.  And no victuals ? - No victuals ; but I give them work every day, winter and summer

As keepers the 14 would have been permanently employed in the operation of the deer forest.  The 30 not permanently employed, are more interesting.  I infer these 30 men were drawn from the estate tenants living between Braemar, and Inverey. 

Certainly some of the 30 would have been Inverey farmers, or their sons earning extra cash when farm work allowed.