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INTO THE ARCHIVE: Farming life from days gone by in the spotlight

By Contributor

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A Balintraid Farm account book.
A Balintraid Farm account book.

THE Highland Archive Centre holds many records relating to various farms throughout the region, giving it an insight into farming life and practices of the past.

One collection of farming records that the centre has is that of Balintraid Farm, to the north of Invergordon.

The farm was tenanted by the Forsyth family from 1888 to 1980 when J. K. Forsyth became proprietor, until selling the farm in 1990. The collection contains various records such as financial records, correspondence, crop books and farm diaries.

There are also thirty three volumes of farmers’ account books dated from 1897 to 1955 which provide a wealth of interesting information.

The volumes show weekly settlements for labour, expenditure such as tradesmen’s bills and livestock bought as well as receipts for livestock and other produce sold. The volumes themselves also show advertisements for various farm machinery and products at the time.

Torbreck Farm wage slip, December 1833.
Torbreck Farm wage slip, December 1833.

Another farming collection is that of the papers regarding Farm of Torbreck, Inverness. This is a much smaller collection which covers the period 1831 to 1836 but it contains some fascinating items.

There are some handwritten informative notes about Torbreck Farm which include a plan of the farm grounds with descriptions of each field, its size and what crops it has previously been used for.

There is a bundle of weekly labour journals which are sheets of paper split into days of the week showing what work was done in the morning, the forenoon, the afternoon and by how many men or women.

These are also accompanied by two bundles of workers’ pay slips from 1833 and 1834. As well as showing how much the workers were being paid, the slips detail the name of the person being paid, what work they were being paid for and in some cases how long the work took.

As well as having various records of specific farms, the Highland Archive Centre also holds records relating to agricultural organisations and societies specific to the Highlands.

Tradesmen expenses at Balintraid Farm.
Tradesmen expenses at Balintraid Farm.

One such organisation was the Wester Ross Farmers’ Club which contains minute books, correspondence and posters of livestock shows. The club held meetings in Dingwall every three months and in 1819 topics under discussion included: inspecting farms for the best example of ploughing, initiating a horse show and purchasing a vessel in order to carry their corn to market and to import lime and other commodities.

Farming records and those relating to agriculture in the local area are a great source of information, shedding light on farm workers and the farming industry.

n The Highland Archive Centre is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 4.30pm. To book an appointment contact the centre via archives@highlifehighland.com or call 01349 781130.

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