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Crofters

land, crofter and counties

CROFTERS, a term applied in Scotland to a species of small farmers, the occupiers of small pieces of land, from which they derive their livelihood, or great part of it, by cultiva tion or rearing and grazing cattle. Their origin can be traced to the fact that the chiefs of the clans came to be regarded as proprietors of the land. The followers of the chieftains settled on the land, paying rent in lieu of per sonal services. Crofters are numerous in the Highlands and Western Islands of Scotland, and they live for the most part in townships, each with his own piece of arable land, but with a joint tenancy in mountain pasture. From some districts, in recent times, they have been summarily removed to make room for sheep farms and deer forests, so that they are now chiefly congregated on the seashore, where they are able to maintain themselves in part by fish ing, and generally eke out a precarious exist ence. They have often complained of many grievances, such as high rents, want of compen sation for disturbance, small holdings, excessive local rates and want of harbors and railways.

In the early 19th century measures for relief were undertaken. A parliamentary commission was appointed in 1883 to investigate their con ditions. Under the Crofters Act (1886) some of these hardships have been removed, and great reductions of rent granted. This act is applicable only to the counties of Argyle, Sutherland, Inverness, Caithness, Ross and Cromarty, and Orkney and Shetland, where there are estimated to be 40,000 families of the crofter class. There are crofters to some extent also in other counties, but generally these seem to be in more favorable circumstances. (See Sccri.AND). Consult Dalriad, The Crofter in History' (Edinburgh 1888); Guernier, 'Les crofters (Paris 1897).