harris development ltd

Location: Harris
travel by sea, farming and crofting

Island droving

From 1811 onwards, Fear Hùisinis employed a shepherd based at Crabhadal to manage the large flocks of sheep from day to day. The Scarp crofters paid their rent to Fear Hùisinis and were required to help with the sheep gathering on mainland North Harris, as a condition of tenure. At that time, livestock were sold at the Falkirk Tryst, where hundreds of buyers gathered from all over Britain. The Crabhadal shepherd drove the sheep and the black cattle to the Falkirk Tryst, having travelled with them by boat to the mainland.

The Tryst was an incredible spectacle in its day, with as many as 150,000 cattle, sheep and horses arrived in great streams from all corners of Scotland and settling in the fields of Stenhousemuir. This was in the time before railway infrastructure in the Highlands, which would later transport livestock bought directly from farms and from cattle sales held in the north. Coinneach Lachie who lived in Scarp until 1967 shares memories of taking the sheep to Hùisinis from Scarp -

"On the day of the cattle sale we had to swim the animals to Hùisinis tied to the boats with ropes…The stirks used to summer in Cravadale and we only had to drive them through Stìomar to Hùisinis…It was very difficult to make them go into the sea in the first instance – this was the women’s job. The bull was easier to deal with – they were stronger and good swimmers. If sheep and rams had to be ferried they were put inside the boats. It was very hard work rowing at these times."

Extract from the Isle of Harris website.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.