Trust aims to tell tale of crofters' victory in new heritage centre

MORE than a century ago, a remote part of Skye was at the centre of a movement that was to transform the lives of crofters and push forward the land reform movement in Scotland.

Glendale featured prominently in the crofters' rebellion and the subsequent Napier Commission took evidence there. A few years later crofters took over the Glendale Estate, Scotland's first community buy-out, in a move that is being replicated in many parts of the Highlands and Islands.

Now a local trust wants to bring the story of Glendale's place in Scottish history to a wider audience with a permanent exhibition which will form a major part of a proposed heritage centre.

The Glendale Trust wants to set up the project in the mothballed Borrodale School which closed in 2007 and it will put its case to Highland Council on Thursday.

Trust chairman Ian Blackford said: "The story of Glendale and its impact on Scottish history is not as well known as it might be. We want to rectify that."

A group of crofters, who became known as the Glendale Martyrs, were among those involved in campaigns to win better conditions and are the subject of a memorial in the area.

The Glendale Estate was bought in 1904 by the Congested Districts (Scotland) Commission, and sold to the crofters in 1908.

The idea of a heritage centre was unanimously backed at a public meeting in December. Mr Blackford said: "What makes Glendale unique is its contribution not just to the history of the people here but, through the efforts of the Glendale Martyrs, the issue of land reform in Scotland and the first community land buy-out in 1908."

In the 1870s, demonstrations began in Wester Ross and Lewis against high rents, lack of security of tenure and forced evictions.

Protests spread to Skye and in 1882 a serious dispute broke out in the Braes, south of Portree.

Unrest then spread to Glendale where crofters demanded the return of the common grazings.

A British government emissary was sent to Skye – aboard a navy gunboat – to negotiate with the Glendale men. It was agreed that a Royal Commission would be set up to investigate the crofters' grievances, in return for a token five crofters standing trial.

Other aspects of Glendale's history will be showcased, including the Druids, the influence of the Vikings, the impact of the clearances and the Gaelic culture.

A new centre would create two full-time posts – a heritage and cultural centre manager and a museum curator.