The Little General and the Rousay Crofters

Crisis and Conflict on an Orkney Estate

By William P.L. Thompson

Format: Multiple Formats

The problem of the Clearances is often associated simply with the Highlands, but on the small island of Rousay one of the most dramatic

conflicts of all took place between tenant and landowner in the dramatic years from 1840 to 1890

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Birlinn Limited

Birlinn publishes mostly non-fiction books, ranging from biography to history, military history and Scottish interest. Their imprints, Polygon Books, Arena Sport Books and John Donald Books, publish a wide variety of genres including culture, literary fiction, poetry and sports.

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Burroughs had the reputation of one of the most brutal of all Orkney landlords and, in a time of great economic change, the harshness of his

actions made that change particularly traumatic.

When the Royal Commission whose findings were to lead to the Crofters Act arrived, Burroughs acted in character. He evicted any tenant who

gave evidence to the Commission. As tension mounted a gunboat arrived off Rousay to keep the peace. As Burroughs' tyranny mounted it

became clear his intention was to drive every tenant off the estate and he was only prevented by the belated passing of the Crofters' Act and

even a special Act of Parliament directed specifically against him.

But both Burroughs and his tenants were rather unusual. Burroughs acted entirely out of principle, often proving unyielding where a more

flexible approach would have yielded profit. Out of a sense of honour he even withheld information regarding the minister, one of his

main enemies, which he could have used to destroy him. His tenants too were unusual, for the Orkney farmer was a far richer and more

independent individual than the downtrodden crofters of the west coast. It is an extraordinary and dramatic story told brilliantly by the author,

a story full of great characters and incident, a story set against the dark gales of economic change which were to sweep away both landlords

and the communities they claimed to control. At the end of the book Burroughs, once a national hero, now reviled, emerges as a much more

complex and human figure than history has painted him.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Multiple Formats
Imprint Birlinn Limited
Publication Date 18 Oct 2018
SKU 9781912476213-grouped
Number of Pages 224

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