Saturday, 21 September 2019

Remembering 1919 on the Isle of Lewis

Related news story, BBC Scotland, 21-9-19

How war was followed by land raids in Scotland

When the war ended, many soldiers and sailors from the Highlands and Islands returned home believing they had been promised land as a reward for their service on the frontline.
They had expected to use the land to build homes, grow crops and raise livestock to feed their families.
But when they found this was not available to them as promised, they carried out raids to take control of areas of large estates.[...]

Forthcoming Conference

University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Centre for History

Celebration of The 1919 Land Settlement (Scotland) Act
Isle of Lewis, 26 - 28 September 2019
"...Opening with a celebratory dinner the event will explore the significance and legacy of the 1919 Act through talks, posters, displays and field trips. The event will show that this was not an isolated response to war and changing times but was part of a global impetus aimed at the restoration of a sense of balance in social relations around land and land ownership.
Registration and field trips are made free by generous support from the Centre for Scotland’s Land Futures and the Historical Geography Research Group. The celebratory dinner will be charged at £25 - £30 per head."

Thursday 26 (Stornoway), 
Friday 27 and Saturday 28 September 2019 (Balallan)
Thursday 26th September, Stornoway (location TBC)
5:00pm – Registration opens
6:15 – Welcome to the conference and official opening
6:30 – Keynote - Professor James Hunter (UHI)
7:30 – Conference dinner
Friday 27th September, Kinloch Historical Society, Balallan
8:45am – Registration for those unable to attend on the previous day
9:15 – Panel 1: International Perspectives on land settlement (Chair: Dr Iain Robertson (UHI))
Andrew Newby (Tampere University, Finland) - “A violent decimation of landlord power”: Denmark’s Lensafløsningsloven of 1919 – A Centenary Appraisal
Roy Jones and Tod Jones (Curtin University, Australia) - "Antipodean aftershocks: World War 1, the 1919 Land Act and land (un)fit for heroes at the (other) end of the world
Barbara Arneil (University of British Columbia, Canada) - The Small Holdings Colonies Acts (1916 and 1918)
10:30 – Coffee
11:00 – Panel 2: Contemporary Perspectives and Legacy (Chair: Dr Micky Gibbard (Dundee University))
Helen Barton (UHI) - We express our Deepest Regret…
Seonaid McDonald (Archivist, Tasglann nan Eilean, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) - What the local government archive sources tell us (or don’t?) about the land struggles
11:45 – Keynote - Professor Ewen Cameron (University of Edinburgh), (Introduction and chair: Dr Anne Tindley (Newcastle University))
12:45pm – Lunch
1:30 – Trip to West Harris with the West Harris Trust
Three stops along the route between Balallan and Talla na Mara to look at community landownership, tour of Luskentyre until 4pm. Go to Talla na mara to visit café and look at exhibition, return to Balallan approximately 5:30pm.
Saturday 28th September, Kinloch Historical Society, Balallan
9:00am – Open
9:15 – Panel 3: Local Histories of Land Settlement (Chair: Professor James Hunter (UHI))
Malcolm Bangor-Jones (Independent Researcher) - The resettlement of Syre in Strathnaver by the CBD in the 1900s
Neil Bruce (UHI) - “Storm in a quaich”: the Uist Rocket Range, the crofters and the priest
Colin Tucker (Comann Eachdraidh Sgìre a’ Bhac) - There is only one home: that little house with its few acres of land in Eilean Leodhais
10:30 – Coffee
11:00 – Panel 4: Thinking around Land Reform (Chair: Professor Ewen Cameron (University of Edinburgh))
Mairi Stewart (Independent Researcher) - The planting of forest workers on the land is a more anxious … business than the planting of new trees: the 1919 Forestry Act and land settlement in Scotland
Lindsay Blair (UHI) - ‘Mutations from below’: An Sùileachan (2013) and The Land Raiders of Reef
Iain Mackinnon (Coventry University) - The role of historicism in accounts of land reform in modern Scotland
Rob McMorran (SCRU) - Current pathways to community ownership in Scotland and their effectiveness is supporting continued expansion of the Sector in the 21st Century
12:30pm – Lunch19
1:30 – Talk from John Randall (Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc) on South Lochs
2:00 – Trip to the South Lochs with John Randall (return around 5pm)
5:00 – Closing remarks
For more information contact

Land Raiders' Cairn, Gress, Isle of Lewis
Extract  from 'As I See It' column by 'M.S.', Stornoway Gazette, 23-12-1955, addressing the somewhat different question of 'squatters and plot-holders' in the  post-Second World War context:
   It was of course the first world war that started it on a big scale.The returned warriors, especially the younger sons who were landless, tired of "roaming with a hungry heart" and wanted nothing more than to settle down on their native heath; and that is what many of them did. They staked their claims in common ground and were not to be gainsaid by stay-at-homes; and although their actions were watched by jealous and resentful eyes in some instances, they felt that they had fought for their privileges and - what impressed those who would oppose them - they looked as if they were prepared to do a lot more fighting. Furthermore they had many ex-servicemen friends among the crofters too...
  And so on the common pastures of almost all the townships of these islands the squatters established themselves, many of them doing really excellent work with the unpromising materials on which they started. Taking over laud which had produced nothing since the peat was skinned from it but heather, moss and poor-quality grass, they dug it up, trenched it, worked it into productive agricultural units which are today, in some cases, producing far more than the neighbouring crofts.
   ... "The genius raids - the common people occupy and possess" [T E Lawrence, Letter to Robert Graves,1935]. And the common people who occupied and possessed the barren land and made it fertile, who built houses and grew good crops by their own labours, who made oases where there were deserts, will leave the abiding earth the richer for their passing through it.

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