Land Raids on Nigg Hill after local soldiers demand the government give "land to its defenders."
“That this meeting of ex-servicemen emphatically protest against the proposed expenditure of the nation’s money for transporting ex-servicemen overseas, and insists that a serious attempt be now made to implement the promise of restoring their land to its defenders.”
The Scotsman, 12th May 1922.
Land Trouble in Ross-shire, Ex-service men’s resolution.
During the war, there was a large military camp on Pitcalnie Farm, Nigg, Ross-shire, after the huts were removed quite a large number of ex-servicemen, accustomed to farm work, applied to have the land divided into smallholdings. The Board of Agriculture prepared a scheme, which was approved by the Treasury and the men were expecting entry at Whitsunday. When it was reported that the scheme had been turned down by the Scottish Secretary the men held a meeting and expressed their bitter disappointment. They instructed their secretary to wire to the Prime Minister asking for an immediate inquiry to be made, and to Mr Ian Macpherson, MP for the constituency, they wired that serious trouble could only be averted by instant action.
A resolution was passed referring to dilatoriness on the part of the Board of Agriculture and the Scottish Secretary in settling ex-servicemen on the land. They further agreed to send the following resolution to the Prime Minister, Mr Ian Macpherson, Sir Donald Maclean, and Mr Clynes;-“That this meeting of ex-servicemen emphatically protest against the proposed expenditure of the nation’s money for transporting ex-servicemen overseas, and insists that a serious attempt be now made to implement the promise of restoring their land to its defenders.”
After World War I the Board of Agriculture had been given powers to break up farms into smallholdings for ex-servicemen and their families. Over 20 successful Small Holdings were created, at this time, in Arabella where several of the old corrugated iron huts from the Nigg camp can still be seen. But for some reason the planned holdings at Pitcalnie, although being approved by the Board of Agriculture, had been halted by the Scottish Secretary, Robert Munro and as no satisfactory reply had been received to the men’s resolution, on the 16th they were to show that this was no idle threat.
The Scotsman, 17th May 1922.
Ross-shire Land Trouble.
Ex-servicemen Peg-out Holdings for Themselves
Ex-Servicemen at Nigg, Ross-shire, met yesterday when it was reported that there was no reply of any kind to the telegram and resolutions of last Thursday from the Secretary for Scotland, the Board of Agriculture, or Mr Macpherson, MP. Six of the men who were promised holdings proceeded to Pitcalnie Farm, to which it is stated they were to get entry this Whitsunday, and pegged out the holdings for themselves pending cultivation. There was a reply from Sir Donald Maclean saying he was asking a question in the House of Commons on the subject, and also one from Mr Clynes.
The story soon became national news and a list of most of the ex-soldiers involved was published in the Aberdeen Journal; Gillies Macbean, Culnaha, Duncan & Alexander Macrae( Pictured), Easter Rarichie and William & Alexander Macleod, Balnabruich. Duncan and Alexander although seriously wounded in the war still had some fight left in them, the men pegged out their holdings, threatened to drive the livestock from the farm and made it clear they were willing to go to jail if it came to it.
The Board of Agriculture quickly sent representatives to plead with the men not to do anything rash and a tense meeting followed where the ex-servicemen were promised they would get the holdings in November. Then the newspapers fall silent on the incident, perhaps not wanting to highlight their success and the next time we find the Macrae brothers in the news it is 1936 where the headline is “Triumph of the smallholder: Messrs D. and A. Macrae, Pitcalnie, who have a smallholding at Nigg, won a group prize at the Dingwall Show", triumph it certainly was.