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Bailies of Bennachie outline fate of colonists to close Scottish Archaeology Month


By Kyle Ritchie

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The Bailies of Bennachie group completes its contribution to Scottish Archaeology Month with an examination of what happened to the Bennachie Colony in the 19th century.

It has produced four online presentations on the colonists for the national event, which took on a digital format this year due to coronavirus restrictions.

The final video outlines why the colony came to an end and what happened to the people who left.

About 140 people built their crofts on the lower slopes of the hill range and carved out a life for themselves from the land; growing vegetables, grazing animals and quarrying granite among other activities.

However, their tenure on the hillside was short lived. The start of the end came in 1859 when the local lairds divided up the hill and started charging rent.

The Esson family remained on Bennachie, and George Esson lived in his croft until the 1930s.
The Esson family remained on Bennachie, and George Esson lived in his croft until the 1930s.

Bailies trustee Dave Peter said: "The colonists were living on the edge financially, with their crofts 700 feet up on marginal land, and the start of rent payments made their situation very difficult.

"In due course, three tenants were evicted due to arrears of rent. There is evidence that their homes were damaged to prevent any other occupants moving in.

"Other colonists succumbed to poverty, ill-health and old age. However, the Esson family remained on Bennachie, and George Esson lived in his croft until the 1930s.

“The Bailies of Bennachie have found out much of the history of the colonists through archaeology, family stories, and a living history project in the kailyard at Shepherd’s Lodge.

"It has been great to pull this information together in a new way for Scottish Archaeology Month this September.

"I hope these presentations will bring this history to a fresh audience and encourage people to go and walk the Colony Trail from the Bennachie Visitor Centre.”

The presentations can be found on the Bailies website www.bailiesofbennachie.co.uk/news

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