Raasay: The Island and Its People

By Norma Macleod | Go to book overview

6
The History of Raasay, 1846-1872

George Rainy: 1846-1863

John MacLeod emigrated in 1843, leaving the Raasay estate in the hand of trustees and creditors. By this time the estate had been set firmly on course for the misery and poverty that was to come over the following decade. The sale of Raasay and Rona finally went through in November 1846. The buyer was George Rainy, a West India merchant from London, who bought it for £27 600. Many Highland estates, about this time, were being sold to merchants and industrialists from the south, who were financially able to fund such ventures. Often such estates were looked upon as summer retreats, away from the cities. George Rainy took a keen interest in his newly acquired property.

Raasay House, the extensions and modernisation of which had already contributed largely to the financial downfall of the MacLeods, was redesigned again in 1848 by Charles Wilson, to comply with modern fashion. These classical additions were plain but expensive. Ladies and gentlemen had their own living areas and met in the common ground of the library, dining and withdrawing rooms. Servants' quarters were in any remaining available space. The alterations were completed in June 1851.

Rainy brought some key estate workers onto the island. The butler, Thomas Bunning, had worked in London and Paris before moving to Raasay with his family. It was he who kept a diary, giving an insight as to how events were viewed by the owner and his employees. The agricultural manager was Thomas Anderson. Although born in Roxburgh, he had come to Raasay from Gairloch. Duncan Campbell, the ground officer, was born in Oban. He had been the grieve for the MacLeods and was living on Raasay when he married in 1829. The new owner did not live on Raasay all the time, but in his absence, these key employees kept the estate running according to his instructions. Also newly arrived with their families was the ploughman, Thomas Matheson from Dornoch, and the gardener, John Rennie from Wigtonshire. Labourers and house servants were local men and women.

This was a definite break in tradition. Although people had come to live on Raasay from outwith the area in the past, they had all been from the Highland area. Their background was therefore similar to that of the people of Raasay. Now both the owner and those he took onto the island came from completely different backgrounds. Naturally, this would have given rise to some suspicion and apprehension among local people about what the future might hold. Thus there were now two groups of people on the island, the local people and those employed directly by the estate.

Unusually for a proprietor, George Rainy strongly supported the Free Church

-95-

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