Wednesday, 9 January 2008
Dalmore - prior to 1840.
There is a lot of evidence of early cultivation near the beach and the lands adjacent to the cliffs,which were never used again once the village began to "move" out and up the glen(dale).This was "strip cultivation" in what are now called "lazy beds",presumably because these beds could be formed fairly easily using only a spade,when no one owned a horse for ploughing.Zig-zag beds were dug out following the natural course of contours of the river or stream,allowing maximum drainage.The earth thus removed was deposited beside each "ditch" to form the increased height of the lazy bed.They maintained in these days that the zig-zag beds prevented any malign witch from putting a spell on their labours(since a spell could only work in a straight line).The witches must have approved of the advances which came at a later period which saw the use of parallel and straight lazy beds,which were more easily managed and required a lot less toil These beds are still there but the witches have gone.The main crop would be barley which was used to make bread,ale and of course the "water of life"(Gael. uisge beatha).The word "whisky" derives from "uisge" meaning water.The fertiliser used was an excellent mixture of rotting seaweed,cow dung and soot-impregnated thatch.The seaweed was harvested through the year and kept in large stone pens called "torran poll".A new thatch was put on the house in spring,and it was this old soot laden material which was used as fetiliser,and contained many organic bi-products.When we come to discussing the construction of the "black houses" and the lives of the people who dwelt in them,we will revisit the stripping of the thatch exposing the"cabar suithe".The earliest houses of these "Lazy-bed people"can be seen at the turning point at the Dalmore road end at the beginning of the"passage" opposite the corner of croft No.2. "Na sean taighean" as they were called(The Old Houses)were confined to a relatively small area and a feature of these is the use of the common wall between"houses".This saved in building stone,but required you to pass through a couple of houses before reaching your home.One would need to be on good terms with neighbours or in-laws! A touching feature seen low down at the base of some walls is a small hole built into the wall between adjacent houses.One could speak through this gap,or pass to your cousin a jar of cream,a smoking pipe or a drop of the "hard stuff".I would think the people here were living around 1780-1830 but with little hard evidence,these dates can only be approximate.