Dependence on the Land
Home ] Up ]



Studies: Publications

Educational Resources

Historic Sites in Scarborough Heights

Links for Toronto Links

Scarboro Heights Record

Search This Site

Table of Contents



John, your ancestors have been tenants on this Ayrshire farm for generations. You don’t actually "own" Whitehill farm -- you just rent the land. I see that your family has done quite well by the land -- you're worth almost the equivalent of twenty years' wages for a male household servant of a landlord. But, when it comes to providing for your family, you say that there is something much more important than moveable assets such as cattle, horses, grain and valuables? Please explain.

... I leif my ryt kyndness tak [lease] title and possession of ye markland [a nominal value of a piece of land] of Quhythill [and] of ye half mark land of ye Chang to John McCowane my eldest son Reservand ye bruking [holding] and possession of ye said rowmes [pieces of occupied land] to ye said Margaret Mitchell my spous to bring up my bairnes [children] with quhill [until] ye said Johne my sone be twentie ane yeirs compleit of aige ...(1)

John McCowane, Quhythill, Parish of Cumnock, 1614

So, reading between the lines, in your late-feudal society, it was believed that very clear possession of the land should assure that the children will eat. I just want to make sure that I understand the term "kindness" in this context of land-holding. Correct me if I’m wrong -- the land possession transfer pattern of father to eldest son apparently held for some tenants, through the principal of "kindness", as it did for "owners" (or, more properly, "heritors" or "freeholders"). "Kindness" -- from the word "kin" -- was the claim to customary inheritance on the basis of kinship with the previous holder. The rights to the land generally went first to the eldest son, then to younger sons, and then to an only daughter or daughters jointly. It appears that the "kindly tenants" of the sixteenth century who had a written lease or tack had more security than most others. The principles of kindly tenancy could be upheld in local and Royal Courts.

(1) Scottish Record Office, CC9/7/9, Testament and Inventory of John McCowane, Quhythill, Parish of Cumnock, 1614

From To Sustene the Personis: The Agricultural Revolution (SHR V9#6)