Portree Historical Society – 11th December 2012
“....... the Braes men talk in Portree
The title of my paper is taken from the lyric of the Runrig song "Recovery".
When I was growing up in Colbost in the 1950s the land struggle of the late 19th century was still within living memory in the area. I spent a great deal of time with my paternal grandfather Allan Campbell, whose name I carry with much pride, and I listened many times to the eye-witness account of an 8 year-old boy of how Royal Marines landed from the Government gunship Jackal at the jetty at Colbost.
As the professional soldiers formed and set off to march into Glendale to face unarmed crofters, women and children whose “crime” was to unite in opposition to brutal rents and being denied access to sufficient land to enable them to survive, so my grandfather and his classmate Alasdair “Ban” Ross followed with school forgotten for that historic day.
The principal oppressor for the Glendale crofters was the factor, Donald MacDonald of Tormore in Sleat, rather than the actual landlord but the local ground officer in Colbost was also culpable and he featured strongly in the bitter memories of the octogenarian storyteller.
This is my recollection of my grandfather’s account of events surrounding the Land League in Glendale in the early 1880s and using other research I try to set his story in the wider context of events at the time. I will tell the story of the “victory” which led to 147 Glendale crofters being enabled to purchase their own crofts and the estate becoming the Glendale Estate in 1905. The government loan which enabled the purchase was repaid in 1955, and I consider the present day legacy which the Glendale “Martyr” John MacPherson and three other crofters won through their court case and sentence in Edinburgh’s Calton Jail.
Published by Stephen Clarke, on behalf of Portree Local History Society - © Allan Campbell February 2013.
Photographs, unless otherwise stated © Dualchas 2006
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