Assynt Crofters' Trust
Assynt Crofters' Trust

Key speeches from the Events

John MacKenzie's Open Address - Monday 2nd July

Assynt Crofters' Trust, 25th Anniversary.

Opening remarks.

 

Perhaps it would not be out of place for me to begin this morning with a short reflection on the history of our community.  I recall Allan MacRae, our inaugural chairman, saying at the time that we met in Stoer school in December 1992 to announce to the community that we had succeeded in our campaign to win our land "My immediate thoughts are to wish that some of our forebears could have been here to share this moment with us."  That was a sentiment shared by many of us.

 

I think that it can be fairly said that the pattern of land ownership throughout the Highlands was until then almost exclusively that of landowner and tenant and each knew their place in society.  Assynt itself was a typical example of that pattern. To illustrate the point, I propose in the first instance to tell you a little of the history of our part of the country.  Assynt was a focus for the inter-clan struggles that followed the defeat of the Vikings at the battle of Largs in 1263.  Ultimately the territory became the possession of the MacKenzies of Seaforth who, after previous unsuccessful attempts and having besieged the castle of Ardvreck, defeated MacLeod of Assynt in 1672.  The last of the MacKenzie family to have control was Kenneth, who died in poverty in Lewis in the mid-eighteenth century, having been separated from his wife Frances.  The ruin of Calda House on the shore of Loch Assynt is the sole remaining evidence of their presence and was built as their marital home around 1730.  It stood for about 7 years before being burnt down during the continuing clan feuds.  The estate had been sequestrated and Assynt remained without a legal owner for some 20 years until sold by judicial roup in July 1757.  Lady Strathnaver was the highest bidder and thus, Assynt passed into the possession of the house of Sutherland.  I am sure that few in this audience need to be reminded of the part played by a subsequent

Duke of Sutherland in the eviction from their ancestral lands of some 15,000 of the peasant people of Sutherland to make way for sheep in the years between 1811 and 1823.  Assynt was spared none of this and my own people were twice cleared, ultimately to the coastal village where I continue to have my home.

 

A century later in 1913, as the result of financial difficulties, the then Duke offered for sale the whole of Assynt and Eddrachillis.  The purchaser was none other than Major General William Stewart who bought his native territory.  Stewart had left the township of Nedd many years earlier as the penniless son of a destitute crofter and had made a fortune in Canada as a railroad engineer.  I well remember my mother speaking of the great celebrations that took place here when it was announced that General Stewart was the new landowner.  I also still have in my possession the correspondence that passed between General Stewart and my grandfather together with some of his contemporaries concerning his willingness to provide a loan for the construction of a community owned fishing boat.  The wreck of that boat lay on the shore at Culkein, Drumbeg during my childhood before being unceremoniously destroyed by a family of incomers who had enjoyed a relatively brief period of ownership of Culkein Lodge and who felt free to treat the inhabitants of the place in whatever way suited their purposes.  The outbreak of the Great War, however, largely frustrated the philanthropic intentions of Stewart towards his own people.  In 1935 the estate was again sold and on this occasion there were two bidders, the Vestey family and the Duke of Westminster who wanted Assynt as a wedding gift for his prospective son-in-law, Mr W. Filmer Sankey.  Westminster was the victor but, not long after title had passed into the hands of Filmer Sankey, he re-sold most of it to the Vestey family.  Perhaps it might be wise at this point to say that this most recent history that I have just given , and which to this day is still to be found on a land tenure web site, was challenged some years ago by a daughter of Filmer Sankey but I continue to assert the accuracy of my narrative; after all it was given to me by no less a person than the late Frank Ross Nedd, in whose account I have total faith because of the kind of man he was and because he lived through these events. I assured Miss Filmer Sankey that if she could produce unassailable evidence of the accuracy of her own purported narrative that I would be entirely willing to adjust my story accordingly.  No such alternative evidence has ever been adduced although I did agree to the alternative version being attached as a postscript to my on-line narrative. 

 

In 1989, after a number of smaller land sales had taken place, Edmund Vestey renamed the coastal crofting strip, comprising 13 townships and extending to 21, 300 acres (9,000 Ha) as ‘North Lochinver Estate’ and sold it for £1,080,000 to a Swedish land speculator.  In none of these transactions were the interests of the people who lived and worked on the land considered to have any relevance, they certainly weren’t consulted.  Three short years later, Scandinavian Property Services Ltd. went into liquidation with a Swedish bank as the main creditor.  Stoy-Hayward, a London based company of Liquidators were appointed and they re-engaged the selling agents who had been appointed by the Vestey family to manage the original sale of the estate.  The asset had been sold by the Vestey’s in 3 separate lots, now it was to be broken up into 7 lots with no concern being shown for the impact of this process on the crofting activity of the inhabitants.  Having suddenly been made aware of what was happening, however, the then office bearers of the Assynt branch of the Scottish Crofters’ Union called emergency meetings of members.  The outcome of that is now well documented history.

 

So, what were the highlights that one remembers from that rather frantic and historic period when we sought to compete on the open market to take possession of the land of our fathers?  One of the highlights was when the Library in Stoer proved to have insufficient capacity to accommodate the sheer number of people who turned out to attend what was probably the second of our public meetings called to discuss our proposals.  An immediate decision was made to relocate to the nearby Stoer primary school and even there people had to sit on the window ledges.  Clearly, of course, the highlight of these events was the evening in December 1992 when we were at last able to announce that we had won the land; the atmosphere was euphoric and the sense of rejoicing was palpable.  But there were also the low points, for example, when our first two offers were rejected and we 'had to go back to the drawing board' so to speak.  Yet I think that it is fair to say that with the passage of time, we had a growing sense of optimism.  Take, for example, the time when our solicitor, the late Simon Fraser was visiting the offices of the selling agents John Clegg & Co. to discuss yet again our latest bid.  While waiting to be met by the relevant person he overheard an interview being conducted in another adjacent room with a lady who was being encouraged in her search for a Highland Estate to consider Assynt.  Simon was delighted, as were we when he later told us the story, that the reaction of the lady in question was to virtually throw up her hands in horror at the prospect of coming into contact with these disruptive and unruly crofters in Assynt.  While our campaign was ongoing a case had reached its final conclusion in the Court of Session where Mr Whitbread of brewing fame had appealed an earlier decision in the Scottish Land Court which had found in favour of a crofter respondent who wished to assign a portion of tenanted croft land to another person.  I think that it was Lord Ross who said when announcing the judgement in question " I realise that our decision can be seen as driving a coach and horses through current perceptions of the crofter tenant/landlord relationship."  "So be it" said he.  This was music to our ears because it meant that in terms of this new interpretation of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 1976 we could in principle potentially force a competitive landlord to convey to every crofter tenant in sequence his share in the common grazings for a fraction of its advertised price.  To this day I continue to believe that this had a profound effect upon any potential competitor for the land, certainly a contemporary BBC commentator stated that he felt that the "Landlords were rattled."  Another set back was the initial refusal of Ian Robertson, then Chief Executive of HIE, to consider us as being suitable recipients for financial assistance and it was only when Sir Hector Munro the then Conservative Minister of State made a public statement supporting the entrepreneurial spirit of the Assynt Crofters that Robertson's attitude changed.  Even then his offer of assistance came with significant strings attached.

 

What then, in effect, are we celebrating today?  Yes, of course we are celebrating our having succeeded in taking title to the land that had simply been tenanted by generations of our fathers under the most restricted of rights.  But I think that we are celebrating rather more than that.  In 1977, the then Highlands & Islands Development Board, under the Chairmanship of Professor Kenneth Alexander, produced a well-researched document comparing our system of land tenure and management with some of our European partners.  A strong case was made for change but this was effectively ignored by the Labour Government of the day.  Subsequent Conservative Governments likewise saw no role for our Development Agencies in land acquisition or management and this attitude remained firmly in place right up until the point of the successful outcome of the Assynt Crofters bid to take control of their land.  Our campaign began not as a planned master-stroke to change the settled order of things but was really an opportunistic attempt to seize control of our own destiny as the result of a totally unexpected, and what I still regard as a providential set of circumstances.  There may be a sense amongst some of us that we have yet to achieve our full potential but I am prepared to insist that the impact upon our political masters has been profound and perpetual in bringing about a change in the system of land tenure in Scotland possibly more than any other event in history hitherto.  On the basis of the willingness of the crofters of Assynt to put their hands into their own pockets and, with the assistance of an enthusiastic band of friends and supporters at the time, we were largely able to fund the entire purchase of our Estate with very little in the way of assistance from the public purse.  In the wake of our success I was invited to attend a conference at the University of Edinburgh where Lord Sewell, then Government Minister of State, gave an address.  He praised the success of the crofters in Assynt and charted his vision for a new framework regarding the system of land tenure in Scotland.  Since that date a vast legislative structure has been created as embodied in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003  and subsequent amendments thereto.  We were closely involved in the initial consultative process in connection with this sequence of legislation.  Today there is in place both substantial sources of advice and financial assistance for any community in Scotland keen to attempt to take control of land or other assets in their area.  The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 gives  communities extremely wide powers of rights of access and ultimately rights of purchase of assets.   None of this could ever have been contemplated in the absence of what was achieved in 1992/93 by the crofters of Assynt.  One of the key representatives of the land owing elite at the time predicted that the Assynt Crofters would soon live to regret the day they bought the estate and eventual financial disaster would result from management ineptitude.  Today's event is the profound response to that prediction of doom.

 

I expect that much will be said during the next few days about the contribution made to our success by particular individuals but, as I did during the celebration event that subsequently took place in the Culag Hotel, I want to pay particular tribute to Bill Ritchie.  It is my firm conviction that in the absence of Bill's vision and range of contacts there would be no Assynt Crofters' Trust and no reason for today's celebration.  I want to restate, however, my own personal conviction that the main reason for the successful outcome of our campaign was that it was in God's sovereign providence and I continue to give thanks for being enabled to have a part in that.

 

I now want finally to say that when we began this venture I was convinced that we had to find a means whereby a regular cash flow could be generated from some asset or other that we hoped to take possession of which could sustain the future burden of administration of the Trust; the question was what?  During the height of our publicity campaign, a telephone call I received from the late George Bailie of Dougall, Baillie Associates suddenly opened out that possibility; hydro-electric generation.  After taking title to the land, however, I spent 7 lonely years of my life in an attempt to bring such a project to a satisfactory conclusion, and that in the face of sustained opposition from environmental bodies and others who ought to have known better, even individuals in this community.  Today Assynt Hydro is achieving exactly that original goal and I have every confidence that the future of ACT is secured by the cash flow that hydro-electric generation is creating on an annual basis from renewables.  Two and a half years ago I was suddenly faced with a medical condition requiring sustained hospital treatment and I had to find a team of people to take over from me at short notice.  I was and continue to be very thankful that Iain Morrison, his son James and Matthew Bulch were able to step in and voluntarily take on the burden of running and managing the hydro project.  I want, however, at this time particularly to remember with great sadness the passing of young Ewan MacRae almost a year ago just before his 20th birthday.  He willingly took on the responsibility of taking the daily readings in the turbine house and he did so with dedication and enthusiasm for which I was most grateful.  I am equally grateful that his father Hugh has stepped in to fill the breach created by his son's death with almost equal enthusiasm.  I am confident, God willing, that the team now running Assynt Hydro will continue to do so in future with dedication and ability and to the ongoing benefit and financial stability of the Trust.

 

                                                                                                                                        John MacKenzie, 

                                                                                                                                        30 June 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Key note speech from Alastair McIntosh - Monday 2nd July

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The Assynt Crofters’ Trust

 

25th Anniversary Keynote Address

 

Alastair McIntosh, Stoer, 2 July 2018

 

 

Thank you, John Mackenzie, for your introduction, for it is in large measure your vision of more than a quarter of a century ago that brings us here today.

 

When the crofters’ buyout happened 25 years ago the previous owner - Lord Edmund Hoyle Vestey, who’d sold on to a bankrupt Swedish investment company - remarked, “An interesting experiment – let’s see.”

 

Well, I got on to Companies’ House, and looked at the Assynt Crofters’ Trust accounts before coming here. It’s been an interesting experiment, indeed.

 

Far from running things into the sand, you’ve  built up healthy foundation of reserves, and in 2016 alone, your Assynt Hydro on Loch Poll made £40,000.

 

I hear it locally described not as the Assynt Hydro, but as “John’s Hydro.” Like it’s “Calum’s Road” on Raasay.

 

For these are communities that have respect for folks.

 

In that manner, I want to honour my school classmate in Stornoway, the recently deceased Simon Fraser. He was also the legal brain behind your trust and the Eigg Trust.

 

Simon’s father, Alasdair or “Doc Fraser” as we called him, was perhaps the first person who opened my eyes to the Highland Clearances.

 

He loved the Isle of Mull, and in our science classes at the Nicolson Institute, he’d tell us how the greed of landlordism had been ruthless to the glens of native people.

 

Note, that was in the science class. It was extra-curricular. When I asked another of our teachers why that was so, he said: “You see, it was not in the curriculum. And in any case, we were ashamed of it.”

 

Because to colonise the land, the agents of the landed classes had to colonise the soul. They had to take power outwardly and inwardly. They did that by methods that the Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, called “cultural invasion”.

 

They brought upon us a legacy of self-blaming. It was our supposed “backwardness”, even our “improvidence”, they used to justify what they did.

 

In 1845, as eighteen evicted families huddled in Croic churchyard (in the east of Sutherland) waiting for the emigrant ship to come, one of them etched onto a windowpane, “The people of Glen Calvie, the sinful generation.”

 

There you see the oppression that has been internalised. Hurt that knocks on down through generations within families. Psychologists call it “intergenerational trauma”.

 

 

Of Land and Soul

 

Now, if you are a visitor here today and perhaps unfamiliar with the culture of these parts, forgive me. I am going to build on yesterday’s interdenominational service of thanksgiving,* and speak of matters that are psychological to a spiritual depth.

 

On the way here, some of you might have come through Contin near Strathpeffer. My twice great grandfather, Murdo Maclennan, is buried in the churchyard there.

 

Best known in his time as a precentor, or leader of the Gaelic Psalms at general assemblies of the Free Church, Murdo was the elder who carried the Bible out of the established church at Contin, on the Sunday of the Disruption, May 1843.

 

Why such a dramatic move, and why was the new church that he was a small part of setting up called the Free Church of Scotland?

 

Because, in those days, the established or mainline Church of Scotland was controlled by landowners. The laird, and not the congregation, chose the minister.

 

That left many texts within the Bible on which few sermons would have been preached.

 

Passages like in Psalm 24: “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”

 

Or from Isaiah 5: “Woe unto them that join field to field, till no space is left and you live alone in the land.”

 

I believe that Murdo Maclennan would have been proud of the 1997 report on “Public Questions, Religion and Morals” from the Free Church of Scotland, the church set up free of landed patronage.

 

Called The Land Problem, the 1997 report added strength of moral legitimacy to Scotland’s land reform legislation.

 

It helped to decolonise the soul, and drawing inspiration from the people of Assynt it concluded: “A Biblical perspective would suggest that rural land should cease to be treated as a commodity and should be regarded as a trust.”

 

Why was such a statement so required? Let me draw on my twice great grandfather’s story to bring it close to home.

 

Murdo’s grandparents had been cleared to make “a London brewer’s hundred square-mile deer forest” in Strathconon.

 

In The History of the Working Classes in Scotland, published in 1929, the former Secretary of State for Scotland, Tom Johnston, wrote that:

 

“The evictions of the Clan Maclennan from Strathconan by the Balfour trustees were carried out in a most barbarous manner, and to this day the spot is shewn where the dispossessed men and women crouched together, praying rather for a merciful death than that they should be driven farther from the strath of their birth.”

 

As the title of James Hunter’s recent book about the Sutherland Clearances has it, they were Set Adrift Upon the World.

 

In the case of the Isle of Lewis clearances, one of the descendants is scheduled to make a return appearance in Scotland this month.

 

Two lines of Donald Trump’s mother’s people were evicted, from Budhanish in the east and Kirkibost in the west, in the 1820s.

 

We are entitled to ask whether, even through to this day, we’re floating still on wreckage that was set adrift in the past.

 

 

Re-membering, Re-visioning, Re-Claiming

 

But what of today and of the future?

 

It is one thing to re-member that which has been dis-membered, to understand the economic and the psychological history that has cast us on the shores where we and our communities have landed.

 

But how do we re-vision a future that gives life?

 

How can we re-claim the grounding that we need for healthy communities?

 

This brings us to the roots of modern Scottish land reform.

 

I vividly recall the front page of the West Highland Free Press exactly 26 years ago tomorrow, the third of July, 1992.

 

It ran a triple whammy of a headline.

 

The previous year, a gang of four of us - upstart would-be land reformers, who started with just £10 in the bank – had launched the original Isle of Eigg Trust.

 

I say, “the original”, because it was replaced by the new and more fit-for-purpose Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust in 1997 when the time came to take possession of the land.

 

My last act as, by then, a trustee elected by the resident community, was to consent for the transfer of the £1.6 million that the islanders had managed to raise in 10,000 donations that had come in from worldwide.

 

But back to that triple whammy headline of 1992. It read:

 

PARADISE LOST

Eigg back in the hands of Emperor Schellenberg:

Bitter blow to trust community stewardship dream

 

What had happened in those early days was that Keith Schellenberg the landlord had circumvented a court order to sell the “collector’s item”, as he called it, by buying it back through his own holding company.

 

He’d become the first man ever to have “sold and bought his own island”.

 

But that day in the West Highland Free Press there was also a light rising on the horizon.

 

The very same front page ran another headline, albeit just a single line, albeit in smaller print and lower down the page. It said:

 

Assynt crofters forge ahead with estate buy-out bid

 

And that’s what brings us gathered here today. The Eigg Trust, founded in 1991, may have been “the seed” of modern Scottish land reform, as the late Allan Macrae of Assynt so generously put it.

 

But Assynt got there first, and paved the way.

 

Perhaps more than than any other intervention, it was a visit by Allan to Eigg that convinced its people they could have a crack at cracking it.

 

Allan set in place a pattern and example by which new land trusts learn from older ones. A process that is held in place today by bodies such as Community Land Scotland and the Scottish Crofting Federation.

 

These share around the meaning of empowerment.

 

Of how to foster collaborative leadership.

 

Of how to recognise and to process conflict as something that is normal in communities.

 

Of how to be again, in the words of the Isle of Lewis poet, Iain Crichton Smith, “real people in a real place.”

 

 

Four Drivers of Land Reform

 

It was amazing news last month when the Garbh Allt Community Initiative in east Sutherland succeeded in their 3,000 acre buyout.

 

Across Scotland, at the last count, there are now more than 400 community land holders. These control more half a million acres which is nearly 3% of the Scottish land surface.

 

My good friend Andy Wightman said, “the poor have no lawyers.” But in the Scotland of today, they have a government.

 

As I see it, land reform has four main drivers.

 

1. The provision of affordable housing – in the forms of social housing with secure tenure and housing plots at low cost. It eases the pressure on young families where the mortgage outlay on the cost of the plot can easily absorb a single minimum wage. By reducing that burden, community land frees up time for raising children in a wholesome way. As such, land reform will have positive long term effects on both physical and mental health.

 

2. The second driver is the freeing up of entrepreneurial opportunity – like the Assynt Crofters’ Trust has achieved with its sporting interests, paying wages and paying taxes to the Scottish nation as a whole.

 

3. Third is the release of ecological providence from agricultural land, woodlands regeneration, fishing, deer stalking and the harvesting of renewable energy.

 

4. And fourth but not last, this rekindling of community that derives from land reform restores the flow of inner life.  It opens avenues for creative, psychological and spiritual growth.

 

I want to dwell on that latter point. It might seem like an optional add-on. But I would say the other three are hinged upon it.

 

 

Assembled in the Bones

 

In 1993, Issie MacPhail, whose mother’s people hail from Assynt, wrote in The Crofter newspaper:

 

“For me [it] has been a revelation. For the whole of my life people have been explaining Vestey’s ‘badness’ to me: blocking development … taking the mobile shop off the road … concentrating economic activity in his own hands ... and so on….

 

“Really, it is a bit like the end of colonial rule – gradually our imaginations are unchained. The rest takes a bit longer….”

 

Hah! The understatement of the woman!

 

“The rest takes a bit longer….”

 

I put it to you, friends, that that Issie’s “bit longer” is where we’re at in modern Scottish land reform today.

 

As the second generation, who now make up the directors of the Isle of Eigg Heritage trust put it to my wife, Vérène, and me, during their 20th anniversary celebrations last year: “Our parents’ pioneered and built back up the infrastructure. Our generation wants to give back to the world.”

 

That world-sense, that sense of joining others in a historic process of decolonising both the land and the soul, has always been a driver of our land reform in Scotland.

 

Allan Macrae drew parallels between the history of the North Assynt estate, and that of Africans, Native Americans and Australian Aboriginal peoples.

 

“The land we stand on is in a sense the last stronghold of the native people,” he said.

 

“These lands really are the remnants of what the natives once possessed.”

 

Now, narratives like that can be used to exclude people.

 

But the vision of people like Allan, or Tom Forsyth of Scoraig in the early days of the Eigg Trust, or Maggie Fyffe of the Eigg Heritage Trust today, is not nationalist in any xenophobic narrow sense.

 

Rather, it is internationalist.

 

But to reach that point, we have to dig from where we stand into the realm of the creative, the psychological and the spiritual.

 

Consider this verse from “Old Highland Woman” by the great Assynt-associated poet, the self-described Zen-Calvinist, Norman McCaig.

 

“She has come here through centuries
of Gaelic labour and loves
and rainy funerals. Her people
are assembled in her bones.
She's their summation. Before her time 
has almost no meaning.”

 

“Her people are assembled in her bones.”

 

There you see how the people Allan Macrae called “the native people” feel about their identity and belonging.

 

There you see the spiritual depth of interconnection.

 

 

As Israelites Amongst You

 

I want to end by grappling with the hardest issue.

 

When the Assynt Crofters’ Trust was established in 1993, the crofters in these remote areas of Scotland were, to all intents and purposes, “the community”.

 

However, from around the 1990s onwards, the social mix changed radically. I’m not just talking about Assynt. I’m talking right across this north and western part of Scotland.

 

Ease of mobility, and the inequality of wealth elsewhere the UK, meant that new folks moved in.

 

Many brought and shared their gifts. For example, on Eigg it was a retired Oxbridge scientist, John Booth, who masterminded much of the electricity grid.

 

But in other places, the native people often found that their language was seen as backward. Their culture of generosity was not reciprocated. And their religion was pushed into a corner.

 

Sometimes the traditional crofters – understandably in my view – circled their wagons.

 

I could give you heartbreaking examples, including from this part of Scotland, but today is a day when we want to look forward more than backward.

 

Here in Assynt, we tread on holy ground.

 

Ground where people long have called on God’s “provide-ence” – Providence.

 

Ground where – like I’ve seen in the little Catholic church on Eigg, or in Protestant churches in the Hebrides – they gather in small numbers, and they pray for the community.

 

Given that cultural backdrop, perhaps you will allow me – even if it is not your own way - to draw, in closing, on two scriptural texts.

 

In the first place, the final lines of Ezekiel chapter 47. They’re very challenging.

 

“You are to allot it [the land] as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 

 

“In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

 

How’s that, for an inclusive, multicultural sense of identity? What does that say, to any temptation, from whatever quarter, to join field to field?

 

But balance that, with this one. Bear with me. It’s the Fifth Commandment, from Exodus 20. But listen to the text’s full version.

 

“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

 

The late Norman Macleod, a retired policeman and lobster fisherman of Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris, pointed out to me that the words in the original Hebrew don’t just mean our immediate biological parents.

 

They’re about a much bigger sense of peoplehood. They mean, the paternal and maternal ancestors of a place.

 

The text may be read to say to honour the indigenous people that are found here, so that our days may be long in the land.

 

Yes, you may settle in this place.

 

Yes, you may be fostered, and come to belong in this community.

 

Yes, you may be grafted to the living root, so that you blossom.

 

But honour what is found here - so that you may live long in the land.

 

So that you will have life, and help to give life; and not just any old life, but promised life abundantly.

 

“Who is my neighbour?”

 

Not the one who only comes to take without reciprocation.

 

Not the one who only comes to buy a bit of the view.

 

Not the one who only comes to gamble on the property prices.

 

My neighbour, your neighbour, is the one who comes, or long since came, to cherish and be cherished by this place and its peoples.

 

That’s the deepest calling, of land reform in our times.

 

To cherish, and be cherished, by this place, and its peoples.

 

Thank you.

 

 

 

* The interdenominational Service of Thanksgiving to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Assynt Crofters’ Trust was led by Murray Campbell, retired superintendent of the Fishermen’s Mission in Lochinver, together with Iain Morrison of the ACT and John Mackenzie. The order of service carried a quotation that underscored how they saw the theology of Assynt’s achievement: “Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps” (Psalms 85:12-13).

 

Mr Morrison’s sermon and John Mackenzie’s prayer spoke to Assynt’s history using metaphors of Exodus and entry to the Promised Land. I had also spoken to the theology on BBC Radio Scotland’s “Thought for the Day” the previous Wednesday, 27 June – https://goo.gl/L7dYu3. Also, on Radio Scotland’s “Sunday Morning With…” programme, 1 July, Mike Small of Bella Caledonia and the crofting historian Professor James Hunter were interviewed by Cathy Macdonald about the wider significance of what had happened at Assynt.

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