New book sheds light on his­toric Lochaber es­tates

The Oban Times - - NEWS -

Last Thurs­day saw the long-an­tic­i­pated launch of Richard Sidg­wick’s book Clan­ship to Cap­i­tal­ism: a His­tory of the Es­tates of Lochaber from 1745.

Sixty in­vited guests gath­ered at the Lime Tree Gallery in Fort Wil­liam to hear Pro­fes­sor Hugh Cheape of the School of Celtic and Scot­tish Stud­ies at Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity and Sab­hal Mor Os­taig pro­vide a thought­ful and in­formed cri­tique of the work.

He sug­gested that the au­thor’s life­long con­nec­tion with land man­age­ment in the area had en­abled him to see beyond some of the con­straints of his­tor­i­cal tra­di­tion and of­fer a view which is es­sen­tial read­ing to those in­ter­ested in the his­tory of ru­ral Lochaber.

The book, which is pub­lished as a lim­ited edi­tion of 250 copies, is bound in claret coloured linen with a slip case and gilt let­ter­ing. It con­tains more than 250 il­lus­tra­tions, many from pri­vate sources which have not been avail­able to the pub­lic, and the text is ac­com­pa­nied by a se­ries of be­spoke maps pro­vid­ing de­tails of the own­er­ship of land through­out the past 270 years.

The book was heav­ily sub­scribed be­fore the launch and re­main­ing copies may be avail­able from the au­thor, who can be con­tacted by email at [email protected]­stone­ or tele­phone on 01397 712208.

After a false start at univer­sity with the in­ten­tion of fol­low­ing a ca­reer in the brew­ing in­dus­try, the au­thor be­gan his train­ing as an ar­ti­cled pupil in The West High­land Es­tates Of­fice, Fort Wil­liam, in 1966.

He qual­i­fied as a char­tered land agent and char­tered sur­veyor in 1969 and then com­pleted a post-grad­u­ate de­gree in agri­cul­tural fi­nance and cap­i­tal in­vest­ment at Read­ing Univer­sity the fol­low­ing year. In 1970, he was ap­pointed as a se­nior as­sis­tant land agent with Hum­bert and Flint, a Lon­don-based firm, work­ing mostly in the home coun­ties and East Anglia. In 1974, rather than re­main as a Lon­don-based prac­ti­tioner un­til the end of his ca­reer, he and his wife re­turned to the High­lands and he be­came a part­ner in the firm with which he had orig­i­nally trained.

Dur­ing this pe­riod, he served for two terms on the Red Deer Com­mis­sion, Re­gional Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee of the Forestry Com­mis­sion and the steer­ing com­mit­tee which es­tab­lished the As­so­ci­a­tion of Deer Man­age­ment Groups.

He was ap­pointed a Deputy Lieu­tenant in 1991 and served as a JP for nearly 20 years and an hon­orary sher­iff for 10.

The firm had man­aged the es­tates owned by the Camerons of Lochiel since its es­tab­lish­ment in 1953 and later took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the 135,000-acre prop­erty be- long­ing to suc­ces­sive own­ers of the land ac­quired by The Bri­tish Alu­minium Co.

In ad­di­tion, 16 large es­tates, in­clud­ing Ard­gour, the only other prop­erty in Lochaber to re­main in the hands of its hered­i­tary own­ers, re­tained its ser­vices. Fur­ther afield, it acted for four suc­ces­sive own­ers of Glen­feshie at a water­shed mo­ment in its his­tory and reg­u­larly ac­cepted com­mis­sions out­with its home ter­ri­tory of Lochaber.

West High­land Es­tates Of­fice amal­ga­mated with Bid­wells in June 2000 and the au­thor re­mained as a di­vi­sional part­ner un­til his re­tire­ment due to ill health two years later, aged 59.

Since then, he has been re­tained in a num­ber of ca­pac­i­ties where his life­long ex­pe­ri­ence of ru­ral af­fairs in the High­lands has been of value.

Pho­to­graph: Iain Fer­gu­son, alba.pho­tos

Richard Sidg­wick with his new book about the es­tates of Lochaber.

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