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Title: Settlement and economy in Highland and Highland edge Perthshire, with particular reference to sheallings, circa 1600-1770
Author: Bil, Albert
ISNI:       0000 0001 3464 0354
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 1983
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The settlement and economy associated with shealling activities captured the attention of eighteenth century travellers in the Scottish Highlands and the Improving Agricultural writers of the late eighteenth century. Their published descriptions have largely formed the basis of modern scholarly attempts to assemble a picture of this facet of traditional Highland farming. The content matter of the travellers journals was highly selective, often consisting of no more than heavily edited highlights of the tours. More importantly, few of the travellers were familiar with Highland culture and lifestyle. The following thesis is an attempt to advance an understanding of shealling. It is an extended study of shealling in Perthshire between circa 1600 and 1770, using more 'impartial' sources than have hitherto been employed. The approach of study adopted concentrates on the examination, critical interpretation and analysis of landowning family papers including legal records, estate accounts, rentals, memoranda, correspondence, farm leases, witness depositions in land disputes, testaments and cartographic material. Within Perthshire the shealling region corresponded with the upland areas where strong Celtic, cultural characteristics still remained by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Movement between farm and shealling was short distance usually within a two to three mile radius of the farm. Physical distance however was only one of several important locational factors in situ sheallings. sheallings were conveyed in charter deeds as pertinent right and also contracted out by lease, an indication that they valued these summer hill pastures. Shealling rights were not always the exclusive interest of a single landowner. Several estates sometimes shared the use of a sheallings. The shealling activities conformed to restrictions imposed by the at status of the other lands beyond the head dyke. Sheallings in the vicinity of crest lands particularly, were required to respect the forest laws and regulations. Sheallings were not self-contained farming systems. They were integral component of several sedentary based agricultural system and helped to integrate corn growing and livestock keeping. The amounts of shealling pasture allocated to any farm was lied to the man's carrying capacity, especially during the winter months, farm within the shealling region did not necessarily possess sheallings rights, while in areas of extensive hill ground farms might have several callings. Shealling livestock consisted of cattle, sheep, goats, horse, pigs and poultry. The rental evidence highlights sheep as an inadequately recognised member of the shealling livestock. During the summer utilisation of the hill grounds the stock was generally segregated according to type and age, and circulation, round set of pastures at regular intervals. The sheailing resource base performed an important subsistence service to the estate tenantry. Sheallings were however not solely confined to summer pasture; they also acted as base camps for lumbering, peat cutting and hunting expeditions. New sheallings appeared in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were mainly carved out of forest lands. Longer establish sheallings underwent preliminary improvement as outfield and complemented this outfield, sometimes known as 'home shealling' close and a number of shealling sites were set out as new farms within the recognizable periods between 1660 and 1770. The permanent colonisation of shealling sites of ten forced unwelcomed adjustments upon the agriculture of older settlements. Continuity is a key feature of shealling throughout the period of thesis study. The contents of the source materials do not lend themselves to a study orientated towards identifying changes. They do nevertheless, provide occasional glimpses of departures from former practices, possibly in response to the increasing commercialisation of the seasonally used hill ground. The shealling season was extended? the shealling pastures were subdivided; there was a shift from family to hired labour at the sheallings; and annual, 'tolerance' lets of sheallings on the Atholl Estate were extended before finally undergoing transformation into money rent leases. Shealling was undeniably modified prior to 1770 but the historical evidence indicates that the most traumatic period of change in the history of the Perthshire sheallings - their disappearance - lies beyond the period of thesis study in the 1790's and the early nineteenth century. In conclusion this thesis provides an addition to the scanty research published about sheallings. It draws upon previously unexamined and unpublished historical sources, to compile a comprehensive study of the Perthshire set-up in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Prior to this research the shealling literature relied too much upon a few eighteenth century descriptions and folk reminiscences of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in those districts where shealling survived until comparatively recent times.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Urban life in Perthshire 1600-