Jonathan: My last words as Grazings Clerk were those that I wrote in the newsletter for shareholders on the future of the boundary fences that enclose the islands common hill grazings. Shortly after publication of the newsletter, having received not a single expression of support for the proposed renewal – but several hostile to it – I resigned from the office of Clerk and from the Grazings Committee. In the light of recent events in other crofting communities, Denise and I were becoming increasingly concerned that we were at risk from hostilities from those – present in every community, we suspect – who seem to prefer nastiness to neighbourliness. Acting in good faith, in the interests of shareholders and the wider community, and striving to adhere exactly to the law – that doesn’t seem to count for much, these days. Crofting law now seems to work favour of those who abuse it, and the authorities take their side.
Now, it seems that our sheep – at present escaped from the hill grazing and unwilling to return there (though I’m working to persuade them to get used to it and stay there of their own free will) – are exciting the passions of those for whom finding fault in others comes more naturally than facing up to their own failings. Such as, for example, failing to fulfill their legal duties as crofters to cultivate and maintain their crofts ; to not misuse or neglect the croft ; and as shareholders to contribute as required to the upkeep of the island’s hill fences.
The island’s grazings regulations require that …
… all sheep shall be removed from the crofts to the Common Grazings on a date in the Spring of each year as fixed by the Committee ; the sheep shall not be allowed to return to the township lands before a date in the Autumn or after 1 November as fixed by the Committee.
Denise and have not and will not ‘allow’ our sheep to return ; it is the shareholders collectively who, by failure over decades to maintain the hill fence, ‘allow’ our sheep (and the sheep of others) to return!
Denise and I work tirelessly, every day (and very long days they are) at our crofting and related work. We strive to comply fully with our duties as crofters and shareholders – notwithstanding the difficulties put in our way. We are ready and willing to pay our proper share of the costs of repairing or replacing the hill fence, and have set a sum aside to cover those liabilities. (From my work on this matter as Grazings Clerk, £300 per share should be more than enough – assuming the 80% government grant will still be available.) Denise and I call on other Shareholders to match that commitment!
He that is without fault among you, let him cast the first stone!