AS A new decade dawned, Scottish agriculture was on a high, buoyed up by the post-war effort to rebuild Britain as a stable, prosperous place to live.

However, this happy spell was not to last, and the story of the 1920s is, more or less, that of a nation slipping towards recession, with successive governments unable to do much about it.

– In The Scottish Farmer office, there was a new recruit. Leslie Mitchell, a farmer's son from Kincardineshire, was hired as junior reporter. He was to last a grand total of six months, before getting hauled in by the formidable editor Mr MacNeilage and sacked for fiddling his expenses. It turned out the young Mr Mitchell had developed communist sympathies, and had been falsifying his claims to raise cash in support of revolutionary causes, reportedly siphoning some £60 from the TSF accounts before he was found out. That inauspicious incident was to be a turning point in his writing career, however, as he returned, chastened, to the family farm and began writing novels, eventually achieving great fame and literary immortality under the pen name Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

– In 1920, there was tension between tenant farmers and landowners, as the tenants' right to compensation for crop damage caused by gamebirds was challenged in court. Enshrined in the 1908 Holdings Act, this compensation was payable so long as the tenant had no right or invitation to shoot the gamebirds himself. However, in a case where the plundering pheasants and partridges were flying in from a neighbouring estate, rather than from the actual landlord's property, the matter ended up in the Court of Session, where the presiding judges debated long and hard who should pay the tenant the estimated £84 loss. In the end, the strict interpretation of the law was that the affected farm's landlord was indeed responsible, regardless that they weren't his birds. However, Lord Salvesen commented that this reading of the law was clearly 'inequitable' to the landlord, and suggested that it be amended at the earliest opportunity.

– Scotland's reputation as a source of seed potatoes was in the ascendant, as the voluntary field inspection scheme instituted by the country's Board of Agriculture stimulated both growers and merchants to acquire a better knowledge of varieties, and brought about a 'clearer realisation of the necessity for the continuous systematic roguing of crops'.

– The balance of power between seller and buyer was tested by frosts, which afflicted several consignments of potatoes between field and market. Unable to agree who was liable for the spoiled spuds, the farmer and the trader often ended up in court, to argue over whether the batch had been compromised whilst still on-farm. Also, whether the trader's initial acceptance of the consignment equalled a legally binding approval of its condition.

Related articles