general References at bottom of the page -

Crops - farm tax records link

great description of local agriculture late 1870s

Farming has always been an important part of Ardchattan economy
Our community is very farming orientated up to the present day with several estates, a number of larger farms, and still active crofting holdings

In the early years after the last mini Ice Age around 8,000 year ago, the land would have been stripped of all the soils, but as we were the last area to have an Ice Age in the UK, there was plenty of materials to recolonise quickly - by air and by sea, and then by land as the ecology stabilised and habitats formed.

Early Man would have entered the area once there were resources to feed themselves, likely once deer were established in the area. We have plenty of traces of their ancient lives, and ones that tell us this area was rich for them, and important. The multitude of Ancient Monuments : Chambered cairns, Crannogs, Standing Stones, all show that there was the resources to build such structures and the people that the community felt important enough to make these immense efforts.

There are quite a few Dun's - hill forts or community dwellings atop the high ground, where people lived together while developing from hunter gatherer to a more pastural way of managing the land and their food.

When the Norse (Vikings and Scandanvian communities) came and settled in the area (we have a longbarrow at North Connel) they brought their superior skills of agriculture and land management to our communities.

Subsistence farming was the main activity of the area for centuries - people surviving, most years, on meagre crops of barley, oats, cattle for milk, and sheep for wool to clothe themselves. The ground is not rich, and rainfall high leaching goodness out .. much of the lower lands in the parish are wet, and the rest mountainous. Only a lucky few got the richer alluvial ground.

It was common practise to take the livestock to the hills in the summer to protect the newly sown crops. Women, children and the elderly men would spend their time, either in one site, or moving from area to area, living in temporary shelters, that could have stone bases, but thatched roofs. There are plenty of these Sheilings around the parish, but likely plenty more to find and map yet. One in Glensalach is a pretty sustainable collection of foundations.

The practice of taking cattle to summer pasture goes far back. At a Baron Court sitting at Kenmore, 21st April, 1623, inter alia "it was statute and ordanit that every tennent sail put out thair heall ky hors, nolt and scheip outwith thair heid dykes fra the first of Maii and remane quhill the aucht day of Junii yearly, and fra the 8 day of Junii to pass to scheillingis and remane quhill the fyftene day of Julii yeirly… ." (Black Book of Taymouth, p. 364)1

Shian was noted as twice yearly cattle fair - will be interesting to discover how far cattle would have come - ?Morvern, Appin, Lismore? .. Ardentinny used to be a very much more substantial holding - was this a crossing / collecting point - geographically it has plenty to offer. The stock would then have been taken by drovers to Crieff - the Wade road map suggests that the Glen Salach road was our droving road.
There is a fascinating exhibition on droving at Crieff .. and an annual celebration

As the "Improvements" came in through the latter parts of the 1700's, with greater knowledge of agricultural practises, and the need by the heritors (Campbell of Lochnell, Campbell of Barcaldine, Campbell of Inverawe etc) for cash, more land was enclosed.
It is common that the burial cairns of ancient times were used for walling materials, as there is scarcely many rocks here otherwise.. Drainage was started on suitable ground and increased yields of crops saw the establishment of more corn mills : like the one at Kintaline, by Lochnell, which was a pre-industrial milling community (Barwoulyn in 1654 Blaeu map. The Barcaldine Mill at Rhugarbh is likely to already be in existance, as per a court record of 1712.

In the first half of the 1800's potato crops supported increasing population, on more concentrated areas, with tracts of land being taken over by sheep.

In Argyll there were 2 acres per inhabitant, compared to half an acre in the northern counties before the blight hit.2
From 1846 across the northern highlands famine was rife
(Argyll is not mentioned so much in the references of such severe effects of the famine in the Highlands as the likes of Barra, and we have a lot to learn on how this affected our parish :

The establishment of Crofts created a different sort of community organisation, when exactly did these appear / disappear / change?
Crofting page

  • Salt Crofts
  • Keil Crofts
  • The Crofts of Kinloch, Achnamoine, and Moss
  • Black Crofts
  • White Crofts
  • Achnacree Crofts
  • Barcaldine Crofts
  • Rhugarbh Crofts
  • Selma Crofts

As the main estates of Barcaldine and Lochnell were sold off in the early 1900's different farm holdings have been created.
Ardchattan remains largely intact, with tenanted farms and households.


Boll & other weights
In Scotland, 14th – 19th centuries, a unit of capacity, = 64 pecks. chart symbol The Assize of 1618 created two distinct bolls, one for wheat, pease, beans, rye and white salt, and a larger one for barley, oats and malt.
Like other Scottish measures, the boll was abolished in the Act of Union, 1707. In fact, however, it continued in use until the establishment of imperial measure. The equivalents given in 18th and 19th century international traders' handbooks are remarkably uniform, (all have been converted to liters):More details

The definition of a BOLL, 1847
More details of Boll weights etc


Wool - Spinning - Weaving : waulking mill at Achacha at end of 1700s until Miller (MacNab) moved to Achosrigan, Appin around 1792. There was also walking mill at Connel, and one at Dalavich. Seems to be quite a cluster of them. This is something to research further.

Sheep - A survey of European primitive breeds of sheep

On the West Highland Breed of Cattle 1878 Transactions Agriculture Argyll
The following information regarding the herd of white Highland cattle belonging to Sir John P. Orde, Bart., is given in the words of his manager, Mr James Aitchison, who, it may not be out of place to mention, has been in Sir John's service for over forty-one years:—
"I well remember, when I was living at Dalkeith Park, of a lot of white cattle coming there in October 1833 or 1834. They were sold at Blair Athole in consequence, I believe, of a sale of the live stock and other movable property there about that time, and were bought for the Duke of Buccleuch by, I believe, Mr Butter of Faskally.
Some time after Sir John got a very well-formed white bull with black points from about Barcaldine, in the north of Argyllshire, through Mr Campbell of New Inverawe, and I never saw such an improvement as he produced on the stock which had been too long bred in and in.
"Sir John's bull getting old, we changed him with the Marquis for one rather older, consequently, I conclude, one of the original herd from Athole, and we had a few calves by him. Some fifteen years ago, or possibly more, Sir John got an aged cow, white, with black points, from Barcaldine. She had a white cow calf at foot.

Publications on Agriculture
General View of the Agriculture in the County of Argyll James Robson 1794
Report of the state of sheep-farming Scotland, some of Internal Highlands 1791]
General View of Agriculture in Argyll 1798
Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland - On the Agriculture of the County of Argyll
1881 Grazing Cattle and Sheep together Duncan Clerk Oban - Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, Vol. 13
[ Scottish Agriculture before the
Improvers—an Exploration By T. C. SMOUT and ALEXANDER FENTON]
History of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland By Alexander Ramsay (1879)
100 years of Black Cattle

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