Seven Men of Knoydart

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The Seven Men of Knoydart was the name given, by the press at the time, to a group of squatters who tried to appropriate land at Knoydart in 1948.[1] The name evoked the memory of the seven Jacobites who accompanied the Young Pretender on his voyage to Scotland in 1745.[2] Comprising seven ex-servicemen, their claim was to be the last land raid in Scotland.[3]

History[edit]

At the end of the 18th-century, a population of around 1,000 eked out a living on the Knoydart peninsula, through a mixture of crofting and fishing.[4] Depopulation of the area began in August 1853, when the recently widowed Josephine MacDonnell forced the eviction of some 330 people to Canada, on board the Sillery, to make way for sheep.[5] Depopulation of the area continued, with a series of further evictions as successive landowners ran the property as a hunting and shooting estate.[4]

Land raid[edit]

By 1948, Knoydart was owned of Lord Brocket, who was controversial for his fascist activities before and during World War II. He was known as a Nazi sympathiser, and became a committed member of the Anglo-German Fellowship, using his estates to entertain supporters of Nazi Germany.[6]

On 9 November,[2] the seven men, Henry MacAskill, Archie MacDonald, Archie MacDougall, Jack MacHardy, Duncan McPhail, Sandy Macphee and William Quinnall,[7] invoking the Land Settlement Act, which permitted returning servicemen to take over land which was under-used and farm it as their own. As veterans of the Second World War, they had been fighting to defend Britain against the fascist regimes in Germany and elsewhere. The seven men marked out 65 acres (26 hectares) of arable land and 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of hill land upon which to settle.[5]

The raid followed a pattern set by the Highland Land League some seventy years before, and inspired by similar land raids at the end of the Great War, on Raasay and the Long Isle, when returning soldiers drew public attention to the misuse and mismanagement of land.[2]

Seven Men of Knoydart memorial cairn

Although the raiders had public opinion on their side, Lord Brocket succeeded in obtaining a court order to remove them.[5] The raiders' case was heard and rejected by a Court of Enquiry called by the government early in 1949. An appeal by the men to the Secretary of State for Scotland also failed.[2]

A cairn commemorating the land raid was erected at Inverie in 1991, by the Knoydart Land Raid Commemoration Committee.[8] The plaque reads:

Justice!
In 1948 near this cairn the Seven Men of Knoydart staked claims to secure a place to live and work.
For over a century Highlanders had been forced to use land raids to gain a foothold where their forebears lived. Their struggle should inspire each new generation of Scots to gain such rights by just laws.
History will judge harshly the oppressive laws that have led to the virtual extinction of a unique culture from this beautiful place. [9]

Legacy[edit]

The reign of absentee landlords in Knoydart came to an end in the 1980s, when Phillip Rhodes, a Surrey property dealer, acquired the estate and began selling off sections. The last 17,000 acres were bought by the jute manufacturing company Titaghur, and when the company went into receivership the land was acquired by the Knoydart Foundation in a community buyout.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Miers, R. (2006) Scotland's Highlands and Islands page 115 New Holland Publishers. ISBN 1860113400 Retrieved MArch 2015
  2. ^ a b c d Prebble, J. (2012) John Prebble's Scotland page 77-78 Pan Macmillan. ISBN 1447233794 Retrieved March 2015
  3. ^ Skinner, S.J. (1999) Maverick Guide to Scotland page 506 Pelican Publishing. ISBN 1455608661 Retrieved March 2015
  4. ^ a b Humphreys, R. & Reid, D. (2013) The Rough Guide to Scottish Highlands & Islands (6th Ed.) page 236 Rough Guides UK. ISBN 1409351645 Retrieved March 2015
  5. ^ a b c d Sandison, B. (2012) Sandison's Scotland page 194-195 Black & White Publishing ISBN 1845025709 Retrieved March 2015
  6. ^ Stewart, David. "Parliamentary Debates". Parliament of the United Kingdom.
  7. ^ Dick Gaughan's Song Archive The Seven Men (notes)
  8. ^ Skinner, J.S. (1999) Maverick Guide to Scotland [1] Pelican Publishing. ISBN 1455608661 Retrieved March 2015
  9. ^ Scott, A. (2015) Native Stranger: A Journey in Familiar and Foreign Scotland page 343 Hachette UK. ISBN 0751561223 Retrieved March 2015

10. The Ballad of the Men of Knoydart. -- Geordie McIntyre. On Hamish Henderson CD Tribute Album: "A' The Bairns O Adam"