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Metadata for text 89
No. words in text4052
Title Croft Cultivation
Author N/A (Translated work)
Editor N/A
Date Of Edition 1885
Date Of Language 1850-1899
Publisher R. Carruthers & Sons
Place Published Inverness
Volume N/A
Location NLS, EUL (NLS copy lacks the last page of the Gaelic text)
Link Digital version created by National Library of Scotland
Download File PDF / plain text 
Geographical Origins Argyll
Register Education, Prose
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed. NLS copy bound with other texts.
Size And Condition 16.4cm x 10.5cm
Short Title Croft Cultivation
Reference Details NLS: ABS.1.85.114(3)
Number Of Pages 21
Gaelic Text By John Whyte (from English of Dr. John MacKenzie)
Illustrator N/A
Social Context The title page reads: ‘Croft Cultivation. By an old crofter. With a Gaelic translation by John Whyte’. The ‘old crofter’ was Dr. John MacKenzie of Eileanach. His father was Sir Hector MacKenzie, fourth Baronet and XI of Gairloch. His mother was Mary Jane Inglis. John was the youngest of four sons, the eldest being Sir Francis Alexander MacKenzie who became the fifth Baronet. Osgood (Hanbury) MacKenzie was the son of Sir Francis Alexander MacKenzie’s second marriage to Mary Hanbury, daughter of Osgood Hanbury.

John MacKenzie studied medicine. He was the factor for the trustees of Sir Kenneth MacKenzie and, for some years, the Provost of Inverness. He was also a member of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, founded in 1871. In 1826, he married Mary Jane, the daughter of Rev. Dr. Inglis of Loan Bank and of Greyfriars in Edinburgh. John MacKenzie died in December 1886. The Gaelic Society of Inverness website informs us that ‘The Catechism of the Crofter by Dr. MacKenzie, Eileanach, highlighted the importance of light industry for the survival, economically, of the Highlands, and Provost MacAndrew made a strong appeal for consideration of this subject at one of the Society’s dinners’ (MacDonald 1969-70, p. 7).

John Whyte was born in Easdale in Argyll and was the brother of Henry Whyte (see Text 77). He wrote under the pen-names ‘MacMharcuis’ and ‘IBO’. He was a journalist, a translator, and a librarian. He died in 1913.
Contents This text comprises 21 pages, including the title page, with English and Gaelic on facing pages. The text is headed On Crofting Cultivation, or Mu Aiteach Chroitean, and it focuses on the best way to cultivate a croft in order that it may sustain a family and even be profitable. The author, Dr. John MacKenzie, states in the first paragraph that, as he has been a lifelong farmer and a friend to crofters, he has been asked to produce some ‘practical advice’ (p. 2) for the improvement of croft cultivation. He begins by noting that many crofters want more land than they can successfully farm alone, and claims that five acres is enough to provide for one crofter and his family.

Topics covered include the preparation of land for cultivation by ploughing with the appropriate tools (i.e. a spade or graip, not a harrow or cas-chrom), trenching, draining, and spreading lime. Attention then turns to the choice of crops designed to yield the best return. Mackenzie advocates Prickly Comfrey, Lucern, and rye to provide food over the summer, and turnips and cabbage to provide for the winter months. MacKenzie then turns to poultry farming. He maintains that Britain need not import so many eggs, since these could easily be produced at home. He advocates the use of improved breeds of poultry that will produce more eggs, and describes the ideal living conditions in which such hens will thrive. He also describes how to build a suitable hen-house. MacKenzie claims in conclusion that he has never seen a croft which has been ‘even tolerably well cultivated’, except his own, and that there would be no need for emigration if all crofters were to use their land in the most effective manner.
Sources This text comprises the original English version of Croft Cultivation by Dr. John MacKenzie, and a translation of the same into Gaelic by John Whyte of Easdale in Argyll.
Language This text is a useful source of language relating to croft cultivation and hen-keeping. It contains terms relating to land, e.g. fearann-àitich (p. 3), coig acraichean (p.3), m’ an toir e seachad barr math, feumar a chlaiseadh, a ghlanadh, a thiormachadh, agus aoladh (p. 7), bheir e seachad bho 80 gu 100 tunna an t-acair de bhiadh gorm, ciatach (p. 11), and ann an leaba gàraidh (p. 11); to equipment, e.g. le piocaid, agus le caibe no gràpa (gobhlag) (p. 5), le crann-treabhaidh agus le cliath-chliata (p. 5), a’ chas-chrom (p. 5), and le pleadhaig (p. 9); to crops, e.g. Anns a’ mhin choirce (p. 7), freumhan nan lus (p. 7), sreathan buntata (p. 9), sreath de sheagal (p. 9), coilleagan a’ bhuntata (p. 9), de ’n Phrickly Comfrey (p. 9), eadar an clover agus a’ pheasair fhiadhaich (p. 11), ceithir gearraidhean troma (p. 11), and air son saidh-choirce, air a deagh inneireachadh (p. 13); and to stock, e.g. beathachadh stuic (p. 7) and coileach-dunain (p. 19).

Also of interest is the use of the word gharadairean for ‘gardeners’ (p. 5); the description of spreading lime on the land, e.g. ‘Ann an cur aoil air fearann sa bith, feumar an aire thoirt gun sgaoilear tioram e (abraibh deich bolla air an acair) na dhus cho min ’s gun teid e gu grad as an t-sealladh’ (p. 7); the use of the term cailleach-nan-cearc (p. 17); and the description of hen-feed: ‘Faodar am biadhadh, an tomhas mor, le buntata bruich air a phronnadh (cha chosd buntata meanbh ach fior bheagan) air a mheasgachadh le sadach, no pronn, no cruithneachd Innseanach air a bhruthadh, no càth, no cruithneachd no eorna bochd. Cosdaidh so rud-eigin fo aon sgillinn am punnd’ (p. 19).
Orthography The orthography is typical of the late nineteenth century. The grave accent is used frequently but with many omissions. The spelling of some English terms is wholly or partially Gaelicised, while others appear unmodified.
Edition First edition.
Other Sources
Further Reading Macdonald, Mairi A., ‘History of the Gaelic Society of Inverness from 1871-1971’, TGSI, 46 (1969-70), 1-26.
MacKenzie, Alexander, History of the MacKenzies with Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, 1894, retrieved from
Thomson, Derick S., ed., The Companion to Gaelic Scotland (Glasgow, 1994: Gairm).
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