A history of farming through the ages on Arran

The cover of Living by Farming on the Isle of Arran.

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Book review

Living by Farming on the Isle of Arran

A new book has been published which charts farming life on Arran from the 1700s to the present day.

It has been a labour of love by well-known island resident and farming stalwart Margie Currie.

In a project, conceived during lockdown, she has used her considerable farming background to research how generations have made their living by farming on the island.

The book goes back to the initial records of farming on the island and explains the developments through to the present day, with comprehensive notes, stories and photographs throughout.

As Margie says in the foreward of her book: ‘I don’t think we know when the cultivation of land on Arran really began, maybe thousands of years ago. This narrative spans a few hundred years in brief.

‘I am no historian but during the Covid 19 lockdown I got the idea to write down some of the memories of my time farming on Arran.’

Margie takes readers on a journey through the ages from the 1700s to the present day and covers all aspects of farming life on Arran over centuries focusing mainly on the post-Second World War years.

Margie tells readers: ‘It started for me when I married an Arran farmer and came to live on the small family farm at Birchburn in 1964. I was not from a farming background. My father was a tanner and currier (leather manufacturer) so there was a weak agricultural connection in that I was reared in the proceeds of cattle skins.

‘I quickly began to love life on the farm as a working partner and the wonderful community life of farmers and others the like of which is now subsumed into a more cosmopolitan society in the 21st century.

‘The great thing in these early days when money was scarce was that it didn’t seem to matter as much as it does today. We had enough to feed ourselves and our livestock and enough for a dram on a Saturday night and that was all that mattered. The bankers could do the worrying. We did the slog. Holiday? Unheard of except for an occasional visit to mainland relatives.

‘My research consisted of reference to everything listed about farming from various books, the records of the Arran Farmers’ Society over many years, but the main source of the data came from my long membership of the Arran branch of the Scottish National Farmers Union (SFNU) of which I was a committee member for many years and secretary for 11 years at a time when we had an active interest in farming politics.

‘The main source of inspiration comes from fondly remembering the ‘worthies’ in the family communities. I knew Shiskine best, but every village had a farming core and I haven’t done justice enough to all the farmers who were the soul of Arran society for generations.

‘I know this wee book with have a limited readership but I hope those of you who have picked it up will have gained some knowledge and an appreciation of this important sector of island life and enjoy some of the silly, wee, but true, stories along the way.’

Living by Farming on the Isle of Arran was designed by Arran Graphics and costs £15. It is on sale at the Book and Card Centre, Arran Active, Lagg Distillery and the Harbour Shop, Blackwaterfoot, or direct from margie.currie@btinternet.com


Margie Currie with other Arran farmers George Tod, Geoff Brookes and Neil Henderson at a NFU protest rally in Edinburgh in 1998. NO_B26farming01

The cover of Margie’s book. NO_B26farming02

Margie Currie and others meet Princess Anne on her visit to the 150th farmers’ show. NO_B26farming03