Remembering the Highland land-raiders who defied their Nazi sympathising boss

Sandy Macphee stakes out a claim to land in 1948. Picture: ANL/REX/Shutterstock
Sandy Macphee stakes out a claim to land in 1948. Picture: ANL/REX/Shutterstock
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They were the band of West Highland “land-raiders” who decided to defy their Nazi-sympathising landlord in the wake of the Second World War.

The group of war veterans famously staked out 65 acres of arable land each and 10,000 acres of sheep-grazing land on the Knoydart estate to protest against its stewardship by the English aristocrat Lord Brocket.

The new ale

The new ale

Now locals in the remote peninsula’s main village are set to honour the efforts of the “Seven Men of Knoydart” by raising a glass of the first ever beer produced in the area.

A former chapel in Inverie, the UK’s largest settlement unconnected to the road network, has been converted into a microbrewery and released its first product – The Seven Men.

Knoydart boasted a population of around 1,000 until the end of the 18th century, but the impact of the Highland Clearances saw it slump to just 80.

A new law allowed servicemen returning from the Second World War to take land and use it as their own, but efforts to release land in Knoydart were resisted.

Matthew and Samantha Humphrey

Matthew and Samantha Humphrey

Led by a priest, Father Colin Macpherson, Sandy Macphee, Duncan McPhail, Henry MacAskill, Jack MacHardy, Archie MacDonald and William Quinn decided to take matters into their own hands in 1948.

Lord Brocket secured a court order to remove them and eventually won a bitter legal cattle. However, their actions are largely seen as paving the way for an eventual community buyout of the Knoydart estate in 1999 after decades of battles with absentee landlords.

Described as “a malty pale ale”, The Seven Men has gone on sale in the village shop and at events in the community hall – the main social hub for locals. Matthew and Samantha Humphrey, a couple who have spent three years working on the brewery, hope to turn it into a visitor attraction by operating a tap room for tours and tastings.

Matt Humphrey said: “We decided to call our first beer The Seven Men to keep alive the story of the Knoydart land-raiders and their relevance to the latest chapter in Knoydart’s history, when it was brought into community ownership.

“We moved here in 2002 when we bought the old St Agatha’s chapel and manse. We thought the chapel would be a brilliant location for a brewery at the time – this is the realisation of a dream.

“We bought some second-hand equipment from a microbrewery in Somerset, although it was actually built in Fort William, so it felt like it was coming home. We’ve produced about 400 bottles so far and have just got it into the shop in Inverie.

“We can’t sell it ourselves as we don’t have an off-licence yet. That’s the next step, but ultimately we would like to have a tap room so people could do a tour, buy a pint over the bar and take a few bottles away with them.”

Jackie Robertson, from the community hall committee, said: “We took delivery of a couple of cases last Saturday for a concert and sold out in the first half hour, having to send the owners back with a headtorch up the hill to get another case.

“We’re very proud of this homegrown product, crafted, bottled and sold here. It’s fitting to see a nod to the Seven Men with their first brew.”