Raasay Crofters’ Association (RCrA)
Comann Chroitearan Ratharsair
Raasay Crofters’ Association was set up in 1994 in order to manage the shooting and fishing rights on Raasay on behalf of the local crofters, when Highlands and Islands Enterprise indicated they no longer wished to lease the rights from the Scottish Executive.
The purpose of the RCrA is to enable the crofters to work together for the benefit of the Raasay community, the Association’s objectives being:
- To encourage and maintain the crofting way of life on the Island of Raasay
- To obtain and manage rights in land for the benefit of the crofting community of Raasay, including the crofters and their families
- To apply any profit to local purposes
A Note from the Chair: John William Gillies
“Raasay is one of the few remaining places where flocks of hefted sheep are maintained on hill grazings. The Association was set up to protect the crofters who manage the land and these flocks but it has achieved much more than that, for the benefit of the wider community, since taking on the lease”
The group of crofters who took the initiative and set up the group did so, in order to avoid any conflict on the hill regarding the daily working practices of the crofters, so that stalking and fishing groups could sport on the ground at suitable times, coinciding with the crofting calendar and the crofters who work the hill and in-bye land throughout the year. The success of the group has been significant, due to the cooperative and harmonious unity of the work involved. The RCrA crofters have a lifetime’s working knowledge of the hill ground; are greatly experienced in the geography of the area and are skilful, sympathetic and understanding with regard to the fragile ecological and environmental balance of the land. Their extensive knowledge of the land is also steeped in the historical, Gaelic oral tradition. Many of the place names, stories and people connected to the land remain alive through the daily work of the crofters, which in turn is shared with shooting parties which come to the island. The uniqueness of this lifetime of knowledge guarantees a memorable experience for all and plays an important part in preserving the cultural heritage of the island, whilst sharing it with visitors.
Membership of the Association is open to crofters and others involved in agriculture on Raasay. RCrA is run by a local committee, which raises money from membership subscriptions, stalking parties, venison sales, fishing permits and woodcock shooting. This enables RCrA to pay the annual rent to Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspectorate Department (SGRPID).
RCrA is the representative body for the Raasay Crofters who pay rent for and work the land.
THE LEASE OF THE SHOOTING AND FISHING RIGHTS:
For many years the Association struggled to raise the money needed to pay the rent and insurance required but since 2002 has managed to make a surplus and now operates as a successful, self-sufficient, enterprising community group. The hard work, dedication and initiative of the local crofters have benefitted the whole Raasay community by way of:
- Selling local venison in the local shop. This has been very much enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
- Repairing and extending the old estate deer fence to protect the main centres of population and in-bye land.
- Providing funding towards Raasay Play Park.
- Supporting community events, both by supplying venison and providing funding.
- Supplying Raasay House with venison for a main course signature dish, of which they are ‘particularly proud.’
- Purchasing a chill and trailer, to store and transport our excellent product, which currently has to leave the island for butchery and packing.
FORWARD PLANNING AND TRAINING
The work to date has been described as being of an ‘excellent’ standard by the Minister for Crofting, Mr Paul Wheelhouse, during recent correspondence.
- The RCrA is committed to furthering its work on the island community and has plans to butcher and pack venison locally, thereby reducing costs and providing a local platform from which to market, develop and diversify the product further.
- RCrA hopes to continue this excellent work by implementing a training programme which will include training for existing members and the training of newer members to the group through DSC1 and DSC2.
- The furtherance of future developments and plans relating to RCrA and the Raasay Sporting Estate by way of a draft RCrA Development Plan.
The Association has welcomed groups of stalkers to the island, along with an experienced ghillie and has a client base from around the British Isles and abroad. The deer population on Raasay has increased substantially in the last number of years and the animals are in superb condition.
The photograph below shows a shooting party from Germany.
Central to our work is the condition of the animals and ensuring a healthy deer population - without commercialising on such a scale that would mean the ‘driving up’ of numbers to the detriment of the working crofters and of the delicate eco-balance of the other animals and plant life on the hill ground. We pride ourselves on small-scale, high quality local provision.
The first group in recent years to visit Raasay to shoot woodcock arrived back in December 2004. This was organised by Bob Watson from Fife, a Member of the International Professional Hunters Association, who had read in the Badminton Library shooting series (1886), that the island was noted for having excellent woodcock and snipe shooting.
Permit trout fishing is available in most of the lochs on Raasay. The most popular lochs are Loch na Meillich and Loch na Mna close to Dun Caan, the loch near Brochel and those beyond Balachurn. Permits cost £2 per day, £10 per week and £20 per year and are available from Raasay Stores.
For more details on the Association please contact the Chairman or Secretary:
Mr John William Gillies
1 Holoman Park
ISLE OF RAASAY
Tel: 01478 660 233
Mrs Anne Gillies
5 Mill Park,
ISLE OF RAASAY,
Tel: 01478 660 284