Bostadh Iron Age House

Lewis, Scotland.  Day 7, 5th July.

Great Bernera

Great Bernera

In the mid-afternoon I drove out across the wild and remote island of Great Bernera towards the Bostadh Iron Age House. Here is another dry stone building on a small loch, either Loch Tana, Loch Gea or Loch na Mailne.

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Great Bernera

Great Bernera

Perhaps there might have been a family of eight living here but I rather doubt it.  A fishing shack I suspect.  Click on the image if you like to see it larger and note the huge stone lintel above the door and the size of the large stones used in the construction.

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Bostadh Iron Age House

Bostadh Iron Age House

In 1993, a storm wiped away layers of sand to reveal stone structures.  Archaeologists discovered a Norse settlement and five Celtic “jelly baby” or “figure of eight” houses underneath.  This is a recreated house in an area free of ancient remains.  The entrance is recessed to provide protection from the weather.  The prehistoric settlements were covered back up nearby.

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Bostadh Iron Age House

Bostadh Iron Age House

Here is the remains of a croft with the iron age house in the distance.  There is also an old cemetery straight ahead in the distance, from the time when people used to live and die here.  If I had had more time I would have gone for a walk to see the remains of a deserted village nearby, in this case a relic of the clearances.

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Bostadh Iron Age House

Bostadh Iron Age House

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Bostadh Iron Age House amd ovine caretakers

Bostadh Iron Age House and ovine caretakers

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Great Bernera

Great Bernera was the site for the first successful resistance to the clearances, known as the Bernera Riots.  In 1874, the Factor, Donald Munroe, sent a Sheriff to the island with fifty-eight eviction notices.  The local crofters pelted the bailiffs with clods of earth and drove them away.  After three crofters were arrested, hundreds of crofters from the island marched to Lews Castle and demanded an audience with Sir James Matheson (he of the opium fortune, owner of Lewis).  Matheson disowned Munroe and later sacked him.  Moreover, when the three crofters came to trial they were acquitted, unprecedented at the time.

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Great Bernera

Feudalism in Scotland

Feudalism is a system whereby all land is held by the Paramount Chief or King and the local “owners” of the land have to pay fees or supply services in war to retain it.  Feudalism in England was abolished in 1660 with the Tenures Abolition Act.  Feudalism in Scotland was abolished – wait for it – in 2004 when the Abolition of Feudal Tenure Act (2000) took effect.

However, this only applies to freehold land.  Crofters usually are tenants and don’t own anything no matter how many generations they have been on the land.  They may still need to obtain permission from their Feudal Lord even to make minor improvements.

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Great Bernera

This is what enabled the clearances in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to be so vicious.  If the lairds deemed it necessary they would expel their tenants with little or no notice and burn the roofs of their houses.  In a countryside with little timber, rebuilding was often impossible.    However at least they were less likely to be subject to ruthless expropriation after the passage of the Crofters’ Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886.

This history and current reality also explains why all of Scotland votes Labour or Liberal Democrat.  There are virtually no Tories in Scotland unless they are lairds themselves.

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5 comments on “Bostadh Iron Age House

  1. This historial background really adds to this post Murray

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  2. […] Bostadh Iron Age House (9 mono images, Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland) […]

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