Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Monday, 4 February 2008

The Dalbeg Land Raid of 1909.

From the time of the Napier Commission reporting in 1884 on Land Law Reform in the Highlands and Isles,crofters and smallholders in those parts were intent on bringing about reform as soon as possible,and not always in strictly legal ways.There had been land raids in different parts of Lewis in the past viz. Lochs and Bernera,but the Dalbeg land raid of 1908/1909 is of a later date,and possibly less well known.The Dalbeg Grazing Dispute of 1885 is fully described in an article of that name written by the late Dr.I.M.M.Macphail for the Stornoway Gazette in December,1978.Iain Macphail(Ph.D,Prague Uni.),Dumbarton, wrote an authoritative book on these matters,called the "Crofters'War".
The following account of the Dalbeg raid was given to me by my old friend Seoras Dhomhnull Chalum(George Macleod,8.Dalmore)whose own father,Domhnull Chalum was one the 6 raiders(and their families)from South Shawbost.This was not a dispute over grazing or cattle poinding;this was an attempt to take over the lands of the local tenant farmer,and to occupy them for a period of time.knowing that the law could not stand idly by,but conscious that the tide of opinion was beginning to turn in their favour.
In the spring of 1909, Peter Sinclair had more than sheep on his mind.He left the Dalbeg farm and its stock in the care of a herdsman as he had more weighty matters in hand.He was off to Stornoway to marry a rich widow who owned the "Square" farm in town.
The six South Shawbost men and their families occupied the Dalbeg Farm,but not the farmhouse.They built three different fires within the farmhouse building,and erected pieces of sailcloth to use as partitions.Where Peter Sinclair went to is anyone's guess(honeymoon cruise?),but he was not there to see the Shawbost people cultivate a piece of the machair,where they planted potatoes for them all.They were there long enough to plant in May and lift the potatoes in September.George's oldest sister,Annie was about 18 months old at this time,when a second sister,Ishbel was born there in Dalbeg,as verified in the register of births.Finally the law was brought to bear,and the raiders were arrested by police and sheriff officers and charged.Taken to Stornoway to attend court,they all decided that whatever the outcome,even a fine,they would go to prison,it being seen by them as a matter of principle.They were all convicted and fined 10 shillings.Four served one week in Inverness,while the other two,including Domhnull Chalum,served their seven days in Stornoway Police Station.They spent their time tidying the station's garden grounds.The police took a sympathetic attitude to their "prisoners" and made sure that they were looked after and well fed.They even allowed the men to go down town for their mid-day pint of beer.I think Donald and his pal could have stood another week of incarceration.During this period,they were all evicted from Dalbeg,and returned to Shawbost.
Some of the other raiders,according to Seoras,were(apologies for spelling) "Mahdi" Morrison,two men named Kenneth Macleod("Cruich" and "Gulidh") and Murdo Macleod (Murchadh Phadruig).

1 comment:

Shelley said...

>>They even allowed the men to go down town for their mid-day pint of beer.I think Donald and his pal could have stood another week of incarceration.

:D Would that all acts of justice might be so just!