William Crawford discusses changes in farming

William Crawford interviewed by Christopher Craig at Dunscore.

  • Interviewed: 17 December 2014.
  • Ref: DG42/4/1/2.
  • © European Ethnological Research Centre.

William outlines some notable changes in farming from the perspective of a land owner.

WC: And we continued running the estate with the same farm manager, George Howat, which, with whom I had asked to be my farm manager when my father had handed the farms over to me in 1966. He was the youngest son of the tenant in the home farm of White Dyke. So he had been born on the place, he knew it and knew all about the farming on it. And he is still our farm manager until this day and is, I think I can say, my closest and best friend. And the farming … We started at that stage with both a beef herd and a flock of sheep spread over different bits of the ground. The estate had consisted, when I was very young, of 9 small farms, all with dairies. The dairies sometimes having no more than, in one case 8 cattle, in another case 35 cattle. Most of them, they had between 30 and 40 cattle. And these small dairies ran then as the main source of livelihood for all those tenants. Agricultural rents were low, agricultural wages were very low. It was a way of life, but gradually the tenants gave up, their children sought more, powerful, powerful means of earning a living. And we would gradually merge the farms. And all the farms houses now have become residential houses.

When I was young every one of the small farms grew, at least, one field of oats for the horse that was on it. Now, in this area, you’ll never see oats, you only see barley. I’m increasing the amount of barley because it’s becoming easy to catch it and I sell it anyway – mainly as standing crop to the dairies adjacent who, in fact, don’t harvest it by a Combine at all, but cut it and stack it and feed it to the cattle complete. And this is quite a good way of changing the grass. Because after 2 years of barley we sew-out with new grass. And it’s very much more environmentally friendly – the seed falls from the crop and is good for wildlife. And, that’s a process that I think we’ll continue.