What Happened to the Bennachie Colonists?

September 2020

About a hundred and forty people made up the Bennachie Colony in the 19th Century. They built their crofts on the lower slopes of the hill range and carved out a life for themselves from the land; growing vegetables, grazing animals, quarrying granite amongst other activities. However their tenure on the hillside was short lived. The start of the end came in 1859 when the local lairds divided up the hill and started charging rent. For Scottish Archaeology Month the Bailies of Bennachie are producing four presentations on the Bennachie Colonists. This week the fourth and final presentation examines why the Colony came to an end and what happened to the people who left.

Bailies Trustee, Dave Peter commented:

"The Colonists were living on the edge financially, with their crofts 700 feet up on marginal land, and the start of rent payments made their situation very difficult. In due course, three tenants were evicted due to arrears of rent. There is evidence that their homes were damaged to prevent any other occupants moving in. Other Colonists succumbed to poverty, ill-health and old age. However, the Esson family remained on Bennachie, and George Esson lived in his croft until the 1930s.

"The Bailies of Bennachie have found out much of the history of the Colonists through archaeology, family stories, and a living history project in the kailyard of Shepherd’s Lodge. It has been great to pull this information together in a new way for Scottish Archaeology Month this September. I hope these presentations will bring this history to a fresh audience and encourage people to go and walk the Colony Trail from the Bennachie Visitor Centre."

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Essson's Croft