History and traditions of sheep-farming in the Scottish border hills : a study of customary life and practices among the sheep-farming community of the central hill areas before 1900
MetadataShow full item record
No historical account has previously been written of Scottish sheep farming, though it has played an important part in the social and economic progress of the country. The present study attempts to describe pastoral life from early times in an area which, though limited, may be considered the home of sheep and their management in Scotland. This area, the central uplands of the Borders, is described in the first chapter, together with its natural divisions and resources. The origins of the sheep farms are also examined, and linked to the establishment of large estates owned by noblemen and Melrose Abbey in mediaeval times. The distribution of farmsteads and the definition of their boundaries is seen to depend much upon the nature of the land and the wild conditions under which early settlement took place. In the next chapters it is shown that little progress in farming was made until, with a larger number of locally -based landowners and the relatively peaceful conditions after 1600, the old customary tenant system was replaced with a commercial arrangement. The rapid expansion of the Buccleuch estate at this time was of the greatest importance to the subsequent development of sheep farming in the area, as were such matters as the function and place of estate factors, the number and status of tenants, and the terms upon which farms were held. These, and various aspects of the sheepfarms themselves - size of stock, breeds, extent of arable and pasture, eighteenth century improvements distribution and management of sheep, housing, etc. - all form the historical background to the traditional social and working life of the shepherding community,, Of particular importance in this study are the chapters (6-9) dealing with the domestic world of farmer and shepherd, and their yearly round. This section is necessarily based upon a blend of information drawn from oral and written sources, and it provides a picture of a way of life whose traditions go back beyond history. Some practices, such as smearing, became obsolete, others, such as marketing, changed in style. Change was slow at first, deeper and swifter towards the end of the period, and the causes of it were many; the major one was the pressure of those altering economic circumstances which are outlined in the final chapter on the wool trade and markets.