For the first time since 1847, a small area of land at Auchindrain will be worked using the runrig system.
This traditional method of land allocation will be used to set out the areas to be used by local primary school children for producing a variety of crops over the next few years. The children of Inveraray, Furnace and Minard primary schools are the first three schools in Argyll to join the Crofting Connections project and learning about runrig is only one of a host of experimental learning programmes planned for them this year at Auchindrain.
An important element of the project is for children to look to the past in order to understand the history and progression of farming and agriculture. This will enable them to understand changes that took place in the landscape, and more, importantly, changes that occurred in the daily lives of the people who lived in townships. Townships were traditional Highland farming villages, a way of life that existed long before the appearance of crofting. Auchindrain is the last survivor of these townships, and today it is preserved as a unique and special historical site open to visitors as a museum.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, agricultural improvement brought an end to the old farming community system. However, Auchindrain continued as a township for another 150 years until the last tenant retired in 1962, surviving untouched by agricultural modernisation or changes in the way people lived.
The village as seen today has a range of Grade A listed buildings which include furnished traditional longhouses, cottar’s houses, barns, stables and byres. There are also kailyards, roads, field walls and the ruined remains of buildings abandoned years ago.
Over the years, Auchindrain has proved to be an important and valuable historical resource. The opportunities for supporting schools in their use of this resource are immense and we are absolutely delighted to be able to offer new learning opportunities for those schools participating in this exciting project.
We hope that the invaluable experiences and historical knowledge of the traditional farming and community life learnt over the course of the project will inspire the children’s enthusiasm. This in turn will educate them in the need for the guardianship of crofting. This can only lead to a positive future for crofting and what’s more, they will have fun in the process!
Article written by Julia Hamilton Feb 2010
Julia Hamilton and Kate Moody are the education and outreach officers for Auchindrain, Kilmartin House Museum and Campbeltown Museum in Argyll. Julia is also a crofter and has a flock of Soay sheep.