Atholl Shielings

Extract from MS249 The Atholl Experience

“When the whole property of the husbandman consisted in cattle, they necessarily occupied all his care.  In winter he chose the most comfortable spot of his possession for his own residence and that of his stock; but in the summer months he emigrated from place to place with his flocks and herds, traversing alternately, in quest of new grass, every station, where he had a right of pasturage…

The women spun wool to clothe their families against the approach of winter and manufactured their milk into butter and cheese.  A trusty shepherd was always sent before, to preserve the grass, that the cattle might have a full bite upon their arrival; and the husbandmen regularly repaired the huts a few days before the emigration took place to a new settlement…

The highest shealing in this county, and probably the highest inhabited land in Britain, at Dalnaspidal, on the great road for Perth to Fort Augustus, is of this description….

The shealings, that we have been speaking of, were for the most part set down in favoured situations, at the head of a small lake, on the banks of a river or at the confluence of brooks, where the begnignity of nature had provided shelter, had made the surface green as a meadow, to the extent of several acres round the huts, by the manure of the cattle which lay there at night.  I have seen shealings have such a tract of green ground by these means, that they were afterwards converted into regular farms.”

Illustration: Names of ye Sheales in ye forrest of Atholl, 1669, copied 1828 by John Robertson, Schoolmaster of Moulin, BCCR Trunk 36 XIX Reproduced by kind permission of Atholl Estates

Source: Rev. James Robertson, General View of the Agriculture in the County of Perth (1799), from The Atholl Experience, Volume 11, pp 7-8

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