ABOUT THE 'EVERYDAY LIFE' ILLUSTRATIONS
This charming print was created by a Scottish artist, Walter Geikie, who flourished in the 1830s. The actual print is part of the Guelph University Scottish Collection. The library very kindly digitized their Geikie prints, for use in this website. My ancestor, Mary McNeill, would have had much the same appearance in 1830 as has this little lady.
These highland cattle live at Auchindrain Outdoor Museum, not far south of Inveraray castle. Knapdale was always primarily a cattle ranching area. Along with fish, dairy products were people's main source of food. They were also the main source of wealth. Back in 1609, the Scottish king had become, also the English king. And the west coast chieftains were 'encouraged' to sign the Statutes of Iona. By so doing, these men promised to send their eldest son (or, failing sons, their eldest daughter) to be educated in the English language. The qualifying standard of wealth was possession of 60 cows.
The importance of cattle to Knapdale's economy is indicated the 'soumings' of the Estate of Knap in 1778, and the Estate of Taynish in 1779. In both cases, the first item mentioned by the local "men of standing" were the cattle, their numbers and their ages.
This is a 'cotter's house', also at Auchindrain Museum. It was reconstructed by Glasgow University archaeologists, using as a base its original complete floor. Its walls are drystone, and its roof is thatched with bracken. In the early 20th century, the house was used to house young cattle (or stirks). Prior to that time, it would have been the home of a cottar, his family and his livestock. Cottars were landless, with no lease or agreement with the landowner. They were - usually - relatives of such tenants. As such, they were labourers, shoemakers, or weavers. They were, in other words, at the bottom of the estate's legal totem pole.
These are tools, also at Auchindrain. Upon signing a lease, every tenant was obliged to make use of the Estate's smith. The object was, of course, to support this activity within the Estate, making it as self-sufficient as possible. The smith and the mill were owned by the Landowner/Proprietor, and were leased in the same manner as were farms within the Estate.
This is a photo of a shieling - or, a Knapdale 'summer cottage'. In the summertime, most people followed their cattle and other livestock to the hills, where the grass was sweet. It was the season when milk was made into butter and cheese for the next winter. I copied this photo from the one at Auchindrain Museum! Yes, if you are in the area, you should definitely stop by the place! It is a beautifully reconstructed village, one that once belonged to the Duke of Argyll.
Email: heathermc at northwestel dot net