I recently started writing pieces for the Scottish Crofting Federation‘s members magazine The Crofter and sent off my second piece this weekend. I’ll post my pieces on here, once they’ve appeared in the magazine. Here is my first article, which was published in August:
I’m Donald Macsween, from Ness in the north of Lewis. I have officially been a crofter for eight years, since receiving my croft as a 21st birthday present – probably the best present I could have received. My family have always been crofters and many of my first memories involve sheep; from lambing to home kill, we were introduced to all aspects from an early age.
Today, I’m often asked to describe what being a crofter is all about, and it’s not an easy thing to define at all. There is the old adage “a croft is a piece of land surrounded by legislation”, but where does that leave the crofter? I often find myself describing crofting as a mind-set, rather than a ‘job’.
Times may have changed, but I don’t think the crofting mentality has; traditionally you would have the crofter/weaver or the crofter/fisherman, but today you have the crofter/architect or crofter/joiner. If you get the work/life balance right, I think it can provide you with one of the most satisfying ways of life available in this country. I have worked on this balance myself for several years. It is so tempting to throw yourself either into full-time employment or have a stab at full-time crofting, but the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.
I have worked in several different posts in the past few years, many in media but also time spent with the RSPB (counting Corncrakes) and the local council. The one ‘job’ that has remained constant has been the crofting – but I think all the other roles compliment it. I like to think that I can show other young people that they don’t have to give up their dreams of being whatever they want to be, and have crofting as a second rate lifestyle. The opposite is true, in my experience. Crofting can be your release from the day-to-day monotony of office work, or from the unpredictability of other types of employment. Life on the croft has given me some of the most exciting days of my life, and provided a level of continuity at the same time.
In a time when more and more of us have to show a spirit of enterprise and be multi-skilled, crofting is ideally situated to fit in this modern, yet traditional world. I still don’t know how to define a crofter, but I know there is still a place for us in the 21st century.