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At Home in the Hills

At Home in the Hills: Sense of Place in the Scottish Borders

John N. Gray
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    At Home in the Hills
    Book Description:

    To most outsiders, the hills of the Scottish Borders are a bleak and foreboding space - usually made to represent the stigmatized Other,Ad Finis, by the centers of power in Edinburgh, London, and Brussels. At a time when globalization seems to threaten our sense of place, people of the Scottish borderlands provide a vivid case study of how the being-in-place is central to the sense of self and identity. Since the end of the thirteenth century, people living in the Scottish Border hills have engaged in armed raiding on the frontier with England, developed capitalist sheep farming in the newly united kingdom of Great Britain, and are struggling to maintain their family farms in one of the marginal agricultural rural regions of the European Community. Throughout their history, sheep farmers living in these hills have established an abiding sense of place in which family and farm have become refractions of each other. Adopting a phenomenological perspective, this book concentrates on the contemporary farming practices - shepherding, selling lambs and rams at auctions - as well as family and class relations through which hill sheep fuse people, place, and way of life to create this sense of being-at-home in the hills.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-871-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Map
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Place-Making and Family Farms in the Scottish Borders
    (pp. 1-21)

    This book is an anthropological account of people living and working on hill sheep farms in the rural parish of Teviothead near the town of Hawick in the Borders region of Scotland. It follows their endeavors at “making a life” (Parish 1996) in the context of increasing interventions by the British state and the European Community into agricultural production as well as into family and rural community relations in the Borders. I focus on three interrelated dimensions of making a life within this regional, national, and supra-national context: the hill sheep farming activities of raising lambs for sale on the...

  7. Chapter 1 Reivers of the Marches: The Borders as Frontier
    (pp. 22-45)

    For people of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands, the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries remain a significant period of their past for their contemporary identity.¹ It was a time of feudal nobles with large landed estates extending over whole river valleys and their dependants with small sheep farms nestled in the Border hills. It was also a time when Scotland and England were engaged in their protracted War of Independence, and “reiving” prevailed. Reiving strictly refers to acts of robbery, raiding, marauding, and plundering. During the three centuries of intermittent warfare between Scotland and England, it became the central and defining feature of...

  8. Chapter 2 Tenants on Landed Estates: Capitalist Agriculture in the Middle Shires
    (pp. 46-63)

    Queen Elizabeth I’s lack of issue is another of those “accidents” (Foucault 1991b:81) changing the course of Border social life.¹ Upon her death in 1603, the English monarchy passed to James VI of Scotland. In proclaiming Great Britain, he annulled the international boundary and thus the frontier separating England and Scotland that were conditions for the three-hundred-year War of Independence. Almost overnight, the Borders was a different space. No one embodied this historical rupture more than Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch. In the last decades of the sixteenth century “Bold Buccleuch” (Oliver 1887:252) was one of the most “daring and...

  9. Chapter 3 Sheep Farming in the Community: The Borders as Rural
    (pp. 64-82)

    In 1973 Britain joined the European Community, and British agriculture became subject to the Common Agricultural Policy. In a figurative sense, perhaps, it was another of those “accidents” (an unfortunate and literal one, argue the “Euro-sceptics”¹) that transformed Britain. It certainly made the Borders a different space because under the Common Agricultural Policy, the region, along with others in Scotland and the Community, was classified as a “Less Favoured Area.” In this spatial regime, the peripherality of the Borders again re-emerges as a dominant attribute of its location but now with quite a different significance that is portrayed in the...

  10. Chapter 4 Forms of Tenure: Establishing Relations between Farm and Family
    (pp. 83-104)

    I now shift genres from a history of space to an ethnography of place, from those actions of governments, bureaucracies, and people that marked out a Borders territory and partitioned it in accordance with some political, economic, and/or social framework to the practices I shared with hill sheep farming people that create a sense of place in Teviothead.¹ Such emplacement involves people identifying a set of areas or sites in a given space, investing them with cultural, historical, and/or personal significance, and forming an attachment to them that is constitutive of both person and place. Heidegger’s concept of “dwelling” (1975:143ff)...

  11. Chapter 5 Sheep and Land: A Political Economy of Space
    (pp. 105-121)

    In describing the size and capitalization of Teviothead hill sheep farms in the previous chapter, I foreshadowed two aspects of these farms that form the central foci of this chapter: sheep and land. No matter what type of tenure—owneroccupation, tenancy, or Partnership—a hill sheep farmer owns the sheep that graze the lands. Sheep are a significant asset in themselves. With a value of approximately £50, farmers on the smaller farms carrying around 500 ewes have an asset worth £25,000, and farmers on the larger farms carrying up to 2000 ewes have an asset worth £100,000. In addition to...

  12. Chapter 6 Hill Sheep and Tups: Emplacement through Farm Work
    (pp. 122-146)

    There is a variety of work on hill sheep farms differentiated and distributed mainly in terms of the type of livestock to which it is applied: hill shepherding, inbye shepherding, looking after the tups, and caring for the cattle. In addition, there is tractor work on the fields and general maintenance of farm equipment, buildings, sheep pens, and fencing. In the two previous chapters, I suggested respectively that work on hill sheep farms transforms the relation between a family and a farm into something more than economic and social interdependence and that outbye land is the predominant terrain not only...

  13. Chapter 7 Lamb Auctions: Spectacles of Hill Sheep Farming
    (pp. 147-169)

    There are three types of auctions where hill sheep farmers sell sheep.¹ Store lamb auctions are for lambs that do not meet the Sheep Meat Regime’s certification standards for fat lambs. Fat lamb auctions are only for lambs that meet the certification standards and are eligible for the variable premium. Finally, there are ram auctions where purebred hill tups raised on Borders farms are sold. In thinking about these auctions, I was struck by the title of Appadurai’s book,The Social Life of Things(1986). He is alluding to the fact that types of objects in a society move in...

  14. Chapter 8 Ram Auctions: Tups of Value, Men of Renown
    (pp. 170-187)

    In September, hill sheep people from around the Borders gather at the Lockerbie Auction Mart for the annual sale of Cheviot rams. Nearly five hundred tups raised by approximately fifty breeders are sold. Each breeder offers between two and twenty tups, with the “big” breeders having the larger number for sale. While there are other ram auctions in Scotland, the one at Lockerbie relates more closely to hill sheep farming in the Borders region. South Country Cheviot sheep were developed as a breed in the Borders, and they are still the sheep raised on most Border hill farms. Their name...

  15. Chapter 9 The Big House: Farmers and Shepherds
    (pp. 188-211)

    I turn to the notion of “class” to draw together and elaborate upon ethnographic material about the relations between farmers and shepherds scattered throughout the preceding chapters. The concept of class has everyday and academic contexts of use for describing rural localities in the United Kingdom. People in Teviothead used it as freely in their discussions of their own social relations as scholars like Littlejohn (1963) did in analyzing social relations in the neighboring valley of Eskdalemuir.¹ In this respect, Bourdieu (1990a:59ff) reminds us not to conflate the understanding that arises from an ethnologist adopting a disinterested and external theoretical...

  16. Chapter 10 The Farmhouse: Keeping the Farm in the Family
    (pp. 212-240)

    At the 1991 annual general meeting of the Teviothead Show Committee, the first item of business was the election of a new chairman. After announcing the retirement of the previous chairman, Willi Ballantyne of Linhope Farm, the secretary called for volunteers or nominations. When none were forthcoming immediately, he said, while looking at the previous year’s show program where the Committee officers were listed by first initial and surname: “Why don’t we just change the ‘W’ to an ‘R’.” By this he was suggesting that Willi’s son Rob, who had previously been secretary and an active member of the Show...

  17. Afterword
    (pp. 241-249)

    Hill sheep farming in the Scottish Borderlands is imbued with a distinctive sense of place. Through herding ewes on the hill, breeding tups, selling lambs and tups at auctions, and passing their farms onto the next generation, hill sheep farming people incarnate a consubstantial relation between a family and a farm such that human being and place are experienced as partaking of the same substance and thus as refractions of a single phenomenon. The way sheep dwell and reproduce on the hill is both a metaphor and a mechanism for this sense of place. In bringing the book to an...

  18. References
    (pp. 250-260)
  19. Index
    (pp. 261-266)