Review of How an Island Lost its People by Catriona White.

How an Island Lost its People : Improvement, Clearance and Resettlement 18301914 is Dr Robert Hay's second book about Lismore and is well worth reading for all the detail it contains.

The title is misleading though as only two estates, which are about half the island, are looked at. The periods compared are 1833-1856 for the Balleveolan Estate with little thereafter and 1842-1853 for the Cheyne Estate which was when J.A.Cheyne was alive, with a little for the Trusteeship 1853-1858 and 1859-1874 when Mrs Cheyne owned it. The Duke of Argyll's stewardship only comes to the fore when the resettlement of Ballygrundle and Craigenich was forced on him in 1914. He had already owned the Estate for forty years by then.

The book is based on a comparison between the factor on the Balleveolan Estate, Allan MacDougall, who may also have been a Tutor and Curator for the minor Donald P. Campbell until 1850, and James A. Cheyne from Edinburgh, who had bought the bankrupt estates of Campbell of Combie in 1842 and Campbell of Barcaldine in 1845. They were both Edinburgh lawyers though Cheyne had an accountancy qualification too. Allan was a rather unsuccessful and reluctant lawyer and was full of ideas for running his nephew's estate but he could not manage his own finances so it seems doubtful if he was a wise choice for factor. He appears to have been unpaid and the estate which included Druimavuic in Glen Creren was 3,500 acres and in 1873 was producing rent of 784. He did not have much money to work with and even less when in 1847 the heir joined the army and bought his way up to Captain in 1855. Allan's services were terminateded in 1856. and Dr Hay has not found out who took over. The fact that Allan ended his days in a lunatic asylum seems hardly surprising. Allan is the good guy in this book.

The bad guy, J.A.Cheyne, seems to have bought into Lismore as a straight land speculation and one can forget convoluted reasons for his purchase. In 1835 he had bought the Fife estate of Kilmaron which had also had a troubled financial past and had been on the market for years. When he died the two farms and the castle were let and so was his other property, Woodcockdale, which he had inherited in 1829. In Lismore once he got into his mansion house, which had been let to the UP church for five years in 1840, he was resident and was personally supervising his improvements and farming the lands he cleared himself with a grieve not a manager.

However he had not bought the properties outright as he took a bond out in 1842 for half the Combie purchase with the land as security and another in 1845 for the Barcaldine lands. I suspect he had not paid them off by his death. Wills show one's assets not one's debts, so the estate may have been burdened with more than the drainage loan. Mrs Cheyne ended up with the Estate because the Trustees could not sell it even though they dropped the upsett price from 40,000 to 32,500 over five years. As a land speculation it had been a disaster. It had also been a disaster for the people who were evicted, though, if one looks at the OPRs, tenants in Lismore had been shunted round the island within estates and between them by all the Campbell landowners too.

Dr Hay has picked up the tale that Mrs Cheyne built four houses for paupers and then let them. His evidence given to prove this is inaccurate as a pauper would not be paying rent so would not be in the Valuation Roll in 1865. The VRs he quotes were the same in 1858. He does not mention that Mrs Cheyne left 100 in her will to the poor in Lismore (8,600 today by his conversion) and at the personal level a 20 annuity to Bella Alan Black her long serving maid.

I have said little about the management of Balleveolan as Dr Hay had already published most of it in a former article and the same is true of a great deal of the resettlement of Ballygrundle.

It is interesting that John Shankland claimed over 3,500 compensation for losing Ballygrundle and Craigenich but his father, who had been in Kilcheran had been sequestrated in 1913 so could not have been involved. One wonders if John Shankland got the money as he is tenant in Kilcheran in the 1918 Voter's Roll.

The book has 15 Appendicies so there is a great deal of information for readers to come to their own conclusions. I would have preferred the book to be annotated. The sections on sources is very 1970s and a nightmare to read.

I hope the book will stimulate more research on the 19th and 20th centuries in Lismore.

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