Tuesday, 14 August 2012

160 Years later, now published: The Uncommon Herd

It was said of the Keira Knightley film of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that you could smell the farm yard in which lived Lizzie and the other Bennets. William Presslie's "The Uncommon Herd" also brings to life the sights and smells surrounding the mid 19th Century rural poor of Aberdeenshire, Scotland . It is difficult to judge which was harder, the day to day unremarked cruelty of schooling or the unrelenting demands of labour on farms, in all weathers and all seasons. William's story is true history populated by remarkable characters from Wellington's disabled soldier, become schoolteacher, to the beautiful Belle and her successful elopement with the unknown lover. We learn how farm servants entertained themselves, in those days long before Radio and TV, with stories, songs, poetry and occasional dancing to the fiddle. Despite his hugely disrupted education it becomes clear that William's future lies in the pursuits of the intellect rather than the physical. Having built a reputation for intelligence, reliability and perseverance, a previous employer recommends William for the position of man-servant to John Gordon of Cairnbulg in the House of Leask. Everything falls into place. Upstairs, Downstairs or connected to the House of Leask are various characters who through William's prose again engage, amuse or even outrage, our sensibilities. William himself embarks on an upwardly mobile learning curve, which will lead him from the Croft, eventually to the Manse, via his own Schoolroom, all achieved with dedication and some help from the influential Gordons.

LATEST  NEWS: “The Uncommon Herd” is now published in Paperback form. Initially it has been launched via the Ellon & District Historical Society of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with respect to their town and countryside featuring so widely in the book. 
It is now for sale form book shops in Aberdeenshire.  This book is also treasured as a Christmas present for elders and as a valuable educational resource for those younger seekers after truth about rural life in mid 19th Century Scotland. 

 As an alternative to waiting, you may order the paperback copy here  as one hard copy or multiple copies from the UK or Internationally. Please click on the link below:

You can also aquire a digital copy of this book from Amazon, Smashwords, Lobo and Barnes and Noble websites.

POPULATION 1840-1940
W W Knox

The land was divided into medium and large sized estates and then carved up
to individual farms. By 1830 sub-tenants had disappeared and the typical

holding was 200 acres for large farms employing six men. Once the land was
divided in this way there was no scope for creating more tenants. The only
exception to this pattern was in north-east Scotland. In Aberdeenshire crofts
formed the majority of holdings.
The hiring system led to labourers and ploughmen contracting themselves to a
farmer for a period of six to twelve months. As the farmer had to provide board
and wages he was unlikely to take on more labour than was necessary to do the
job. When extra hands were needed at, for instance, harvest the farmer simply
employed immigrant Irish labourers.
The hiring and land tenure systems which developed led to the use of less labour
in the rural Lowlands, with the exception of the south-west and north-east.
Displaced farm labourers headed for the nearest town in search of work and
accommodation. By 1851 15% of the population of Peebles-shire had made its
way to Edinburgh. http://www.scran.ac.uk/scotland/pdf/SP2_7migration.pdf