Object of the Month: September 2015

LISDD:2007.C   Lismore Agricultural Society Minute Book 1853-1867P1010414The Lismore Agricultural Society was founded in 1853, under the rules and regulations of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.  Its aims were to Improve the agricultural production of the island by promoting:

Ploughing and spade labour

Stock and dairy produce

Cropping and cultivation

Gentlemen of the area, members of the Highland and Agricultural Society, were prime movers in this initiative.  The first president was James Auchinleck Cheyne, well known for his activity in clearing island townships; the secretary was Peter MacDougall, schoolmaster; and the committee included the parish minister, Rev. Gregor MacGregor.   The minute book shows, however, that the running of the Society was very much in the hands of the island tenants, particularly the five or six on the committee.

From the start, the Society was open to all subscribers (at £1 10s per annum) and all island tenants at 1d per pound of annual rent.  The list of original subscribers included Cheyne (£5), Alexander Haig (of the whisky company, recent purchaser of Campbell of Airds estate, £5), two factors of island estates (Angus Gregorson £2 and Allan MacDougall, the Improver of Baleveolan estate, £1) and a local doctor Lewis Grant M.D. (£5).  38 tenants joined.

From then until the 1930s, the Society met its aims by organizing annual ploughing matches in February/March and agricultural shows in August.   The first “Ploughing and Spade Match”, involving 15 competitors, was held at Kilcheran on 17 March 1853, and the first Lismore Show was on 17 August.  Under the original rules of the Society, prizes were to be awarded in kind (agricultural implements, dairy utensils etc.) rather than in money.  However, if the ploughing matches were held strictly under the rules of the Highland and Agricultural Society, then winners could be awarded Society medals.

Several of these are now held in the museum collection and by families on the island.

Medal awarded to John MacCorquodale, Balure in 1883

LISDD:2006.107

The minutes of the early years are a valuable record of the leading tenants on Lismore.  For example, after his great efforts in trying to encourage the tenants on Baleveolan estate to “Improve”, Allan MacDougall would have been gratified that Miles Black, who led the way in introducing subsoil draining, was a consistent prize winner for stock and crops at shows in the 1850s and 1860s.

See also:  Objects of the Month for May 2014; February 2015; June 2015.

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