Thursday, 1 September 2011

The farm at the back of beyond

My uncle with two of his geese

  One of the blogs that I read from time to time is called Gentle Otter.  The author is a 51 year old farmer’s wife, the mother of three children aged 28, 15 and 4 who lives and works on her husband’s remote farm in rural Perthshire, Scotland where they have a sheep herd as well as ducks and chickens. You might wonder why this particular blog interests me. My parents had a classic World War 2 story where she was in the British Air force and my father from this side of the pond was serving in the air force in England.  They met during the Battle of Britain.  I lived on my uncle’s farm in the Yorkshire Dales not far from Haworth where the Bronte parsonage is located when I was a boy. He had a goat herd, geese and chickens so I have a pretty good idea of her (the farm at the back of beyond) lifestyle. I remember that I had fresh goat cheese, milk and butter for part of my meals. Also my great grandmother was a Ferguson and two weeks ago I went to my cousin’s daughter’s wedding reception which was very Scottish as you can see from my post on the event.
Me (long hair version) and one of the goats

   Like most farmers in rural Scotland they are tenant farmers who rent the land from a landowner or laird. Her husband’s family have been tenants for 120 years and it may seem strange to North Americans but Scotland is still a feudal land in many ways. The roof of the 1800 house is in disrepair and needs replacing but the landowner after years of requests has always refused to fix it. On Monday of this week a member of the local county council informed them that a demolition order for the house had been given.
Once the demolition noticed was served, we would have 28 days to get out. After the 28 days, we would be put into a B&B, probably in Perth. The children may be removed to 'a place of safety', if we were to inhabit our farmhouse. Our farmhouse which we pay rent and full council tax for. Our farmhouse with the polluted water supply which we cannot purify due to the landowner demand that our electricity supply be disconnected.  Our farmhouse and our home.

   This is a modern day form of the Scottish Clearances. Like the Afro-Americans in the ninth ward of New Orleans, they are the forgotten ones. The best comment is in her words:
We are the people who you never hear about and we are merely a drop in the ocean. We are many.  Others will hopefully learn about our way of life and the culture we contribute to. I hope that it can provide other tenant farmers a platform to stand on and voice how they feel, how they live and how they are treated.  I don't want people to feel scared. Not in 21st Century Scotland.
 I want to hold my hand out to them and say "It's ok, you are not alone. Others care deeply for you even although you cannot see them. Take my hand because I am not scared'.

The Yorkshire Dales Farm

Another view of the farm
My Aunt and Uncle in the Farmhouse

Bronte parsonage in Haworth

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