60863: Deer Forest Royal Commission of Inquiry, 1892 (II)

Background to the Deer Forest Royal Commission of Inquiry, 1892, by Angus "Ease" Macleod, Calbost and Marybank.

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The Park Deer Raid of 1887 had a profound effect on public opinion at that time, and even the Establishment duly noted the social instability, which could be produced by that form of land use. However, nothing was done to alleviate the plight of the crofting community.

Four years later the widespread land-raiding of 1891 also failed to bring about any significant change for a fairer distribution of the available land resources. However, it seems the anguished cries of the deprived crofter population penetrated, to some extent, to the establishment, because on 6th December 1892, the fourth Gladstone Ministry, which gained power that year, set up a Royal Commission of Enquiry to look at the unchecked expansion of sporting deer parks in the Highlands and Islands, and earmarking deer forest lands which might be suitable for small-holdings. That Commission is usually referred to as the Deer Forest Commission, or the Brand Commission, so named after its Chairman, David Brand, Sheriff of Argyll.

The remit of the Deer Forest Commission, Highlands and Islands, was as follows:

"Whereas we have deemed it expedient that a Commission should forthwith issue to enquire whether any, and if any, what land in the Counties of Argyll, Ross and Cromarty, Inverness, Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney and Shetland, now occupied for the purpose of deer forest, grouse moor, or any sporting purpose, or for grazing, not in the occupation of crofters or other small tenants, is capable of being cultivated to profit or otherwise advantageously occupied by crofters, or other small tenants"

The Highland and Island crofting population welcomed the Deer Forest Commission, and the people of Park, in Lochs were delighted, as they felt that their hour had come at last. No one, they felt, could deny that there was plenty of suitable land for new crofts in the Park Deer Forest. After all, the whole area of the Park Deer Forest was occupied by hundreds and hundreds of crofters until they were evicted earlier in that century.

The Report of The Royal Commission, Highland and Islands, 1892, scheduled the deer forest land under three categories, and each category was identified by a colour scheme, thus: category 1 – yellow, was land that was suitable for new holdings, category 2 – pink, was land which could be advantageously occupied as extensions of grazings by neighbouring crofters, category 3 – brown, was land considered suitable for occupation as moderately sized holdings or farms, at rents exceeding the statutory limit of 30 yearly. In other words, land holdings larger than crofts, for which there was no demand by crofters.

The crofters failed to appreciate that the remit of the Deer Forest Commission only asked them to schedule, or identify, the available land. They were not asked to create new landholdings. Therefore it was necessary to appoint some other authority in order to create new landholdings and distribute them, before the landless cottars could benefit from the exercise. There was therefore plenty of scope left for the landowners’ lobby to exert their influence and ensure that the Highland and Island deer forests came to no harm.

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Record Type:
Historical Event
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Land Issues
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