Farming History

Buchan region of north –east    Aberdeenshire. They mostly lived and worked on farms and crofts, in farms “touns” rather than towns and villages.

Farm steadings being to be built around a courtyard design- the farmhouse and the barn would be at opposite sides with accommodation for animals, workers and machinery forming the other two sides. Farm workers usually stayed together in a communal bothy forming part of the outbuilding although some farms built Separate accommodation for their married workers near to the farm steading.

Some of the larger fermtouns might have up to 20 pairs of horses and needed the men to work them and look after them. Other workers living on a farmtoun might include the grieve (foreman), a bailie (often several) to look after the cattle, ploughmen, the dairy maid, house maid, kitchen maid, oot-women (who did the outdoor work), labourers, the orra man (handyman), the soutar (shoemaker) although he probably worked for a local shop and visited the fermtoun in the evening to repairs shoes. There would also be visiting masons.

At harvest times, hundreds more were employed on a temporary basis as they took to the fields in the summer for the berry picking and in the autumn for the tattie howking (lifting potatoes)


Larger fermtouns might have a dedicated smiddy or the blacksmith might have his own premises suitably placed to serve a number of farms. The blacksmith not only shod the horses but made, repaired and sharpened the ploughs, harness and other implements and rimmed cartwheels. The hand plough drawn by a pair of Clydesdale horses, continued to be used until around the 1950s.

Cattle needed feeding up with turnips and other fodder, especially during the long winters.


Farm workers were rarely employed on a permanent basis and often lived quite a nomadic life. They usually hired on a temporary basis at a feeing market. The time of the fermtouns passed with increasing mechanisation as implements were devised that could sow and pick far quicker than squads of labourers and, in time even horses were replaced by tractors. Farm work was very labour. Horses were used to pull ploughs, harrow and carts but sowing, weeding, harvesting and threshing was done by hand. Cattle needed feeding up with turnips and other fodder, especially during the long winters. Horses were well cared for. Their harness needed cleaning and upkeep, their stables mucking out and the horses themselves needed feeding, watering and grooming. Dykes needed to be dug and kept clear to improve drainage, and farm machinery needed cleaning and maintaining. All the farm servants, as well as the farmer’s family, needed feeding and    accommodating. So a farm would be well populated and was a busy place.