Shielings

By May, grass below the head dyke was exhausted stubble so fresh grass in the shielings was valuable between May and November. Shieling land was sometimes used as outfield but with very uncertain results above 800 feet. 

Home shielings were close to the wintertown. Either the cattle or farmer or both commuted daily for milking. Outlying shielings or summertowns were generally more than 3 miles from the farm and required seasonal residents to do the milking etc. These shielings typically formed moorland ‘villages’ and were mainly populated by the women, with the men remaining behind to cultivate the land, clean the byres of waste and manure, re-thatch the dwellings and generally repair and prepare the homestead for the year ahead.

The young and yeld animals departed for the shielings in April or May in what was called the 'small flitting'. They were accompanied by herds and people to mend and rebuild the shieling huts. These young and yeld beasts would remain on the hill pastures for a minimum of six month probably attended only by a herd boy.

The big flitting of the milch (dairy) cattle and women occurred between late May and early June by which time the pastures were exhausted and seed planting finished. It allowed crops to be grown and harvested during the spring and summer months.  Outwith the head dyke tenants shared grazing but stocking levels were regulated. The women and dairy livestock generally spent six weeks at the shielings but it was not unknown for residence to be as short as one month or as long as 12 weeks. Calves, lambs and kids might be kept separate from their parents to ensure that sufficient milk was available for cheesemaking and other dairying purposes.

Record of the Baron Court from the Breadalbane charter room

In the court hauldin at Candmoir the xxi day of Aprill anno 1623, it is statute and ordanit that eviry tennent sall put out their heall ky hors nolt and scheip outwith thair heid dykis fra the first of Maii and remain quhill the aucht day of Junii yeirly, and fra the 8 day of Junii to pas to scheillingis and remain quhill the fyftene day of Julii yeirly, and nane to cum hame befoir ane uther, except a kow that is lifting, or ane seik man or ane seik woman to hauld ane kow besyd thame to gif milk.

In the court held at Kenmore on 21 April 1623 it is ordained that every tenant shall put out all their cattle, horses and sheep beyond the head dyke from 1st May and remain till 8th June when they proceed to the shielings until 15 July and none shall come home except a cow that has gone off its legs or a sick man or woman to hold a cow beside them to give milk.

Page last updated - 22/10/13