Auchindrain Township | Tenants and Cottars
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Tenants and Cottars

Tenants and Cottars

 Two types of people lived in the township: tenants and cottars.  The tenants paid rent for their land to the Duke of Argyll, and had the right to live here with their families.  Cottars lived in the township with the approval of the tenants. They could be told by the tenants to leave at any time.

Some cottars were skilled craft workers who were valuable members of the community.  Others worked for the tenants, in exchange for being allowed to live here.  Some were retired people, widows with young children or people with disabilities.  There was a limit to the number of cottars a township could support – unless they were skilled craft workers – because there weren’t enough resources to support everyone.  Because it was difficult for people to move, many townships became overpopulated, meaning people lived in poverty.  This was one of the main arguments put forward by the agricultural improvers for clearing the townships. In the 19th century the 8th Duke of Argyll, Duke George, wanted to limit the number of non-tenants allowed to stay in places like Auchindrain.

Tenants were farmers.  They were individuals who were the heads of households, whose rights and status covered family members living with them.  Each tenant had a share in the cattle or sheep grazing on the outrun, and the right to use part of the inbye land to grow crops.  These shares could be inherited within families, but could also be bought and sold.  The maximum number of tenants seems to have been seven in the 1840s, but for most of history there were four or five.

This arrangement lasted at Auchindrain right up until the 1960s.  From 1900 the number of tenants gradually decreased until, after 1937, there was only one Eddie MacCallum. As each tenant retired or moved away, the remaining tenants bought out their share.  In 1963, Eddie was still a joint tenant, but with himself, himself and himself.  The number of cottars also dropped significantly from about 1890.  The 1911 census lists only Bell a’Phuill and a roadman (an employee of Argyllshire County Council) and his family, as cottars. The last Auchindrain cottars were Ian and Flora McIntyre, who stayed here until 1961. They had family connections with Auchindrain going back to the 19th century, and ran a butcher’s shop in Furnace.

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