106836: Clearance of land for Borve Farm 1854

In 1854 the area of Borve was cleared of its 22 crofters by the factor, John Robertson MacDonald, in order to create a new farm. He commandeered their stock, and suggested that they emigrate to Australia. Many families did so, leaving on the Royal Albert in 1855, their passages paid by Lady Dunmore. Some families resettled in Ruisgarry, and others became cottars on the eastern side of Borve.

Borve Farm was steadily improved over the years, and changed hands from time to time. However, the crofting families were understandably keen to regain their use of the land.

In 1883, Malcolm MacLeod (Calum mac Ruairidh ‘ic Ailein) was elected by the islanders to speak to Lord Napier’s Royal Commission of Inquiry at Leverburgh. In his evidence he recalled the clearances: ‘our land was taken from us and every head of sheep and cattle which we possessed, and no crofter on the other side of the island was allowed to give us a foot of land to till.’ ‘We beg of your honours to assist us in getting the land … restored to us.’

In 1886, the Crofters Holding Act gave crofters security of tenure, which encouraged the islanders in their efforts to reclaim the farm at Borve. However, in 1893, when the tack of Borve Farm was given to Roderick Campbell, the frustrations of the islanders spilled over into direct action, resulting in the waylaying of his cattleboat in the Reef Incident.

Finally, in 1900, the Congested Districts Board for Scotland persuaded the South Harris Estate to make Borve once again into a crofting community, and it was divided into the existing crofts. The Centennial Memorial commemorates those first 23 crofters.

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