THE ISLAND OF HERM
Auction Particulars and Contract of Sale, Tuesday 29th July 1884


corner-tl.gif   corner-tr.gif
 

of first-rate quality-a rich, deep loam, resting on a gravel bottom, which is, of course, preferred to an under stratum of clay. Of cold, stiff soils, such as many Lothian farmers have to battle with, a farmer here would take no account. 'It would not pay us to cultivate land like that here,' said one of them - 'but we have none of it.' A question as to the prices obtained in Scotland for potatoes gives the islander another opportunity for a chuckle. 'Twenty-five and thirty pounds an acre, with forty as top!' he repeats. 'Why, what do you think of us sometimes drawing £100 an acre?' In this statement surprising to a stranger, but so satisfactory to the host that it is over and over again repeated lies the secret of the islander's prosperity. To inquiries about wheat growing and dairy produce, but little attention is paid. 'Oh, well, you know it.is the potatoes that pay our rents' is a reminder always added to any reply about these matters. On a holding of forty vergees, which was a common size, ten verges is devoted to potatoes. To the preparation of this land a great deal of attention is given. For turning over the soil, a light plough is first used, after which there is brought into operation a heavy cultivator, of a kind peculiar to the islands, which travels along the drills on two high wheels, with the mould board attached to a wooden frame. With this implement, which the islanders assert is much better adapted to their style of farming than any English plough, the ground is tilled to the depth of eight or nine inches, the draught being so heavy that a team of nine or ten horses is required.”

“Though reckoning so much upon the potato, the farmer here has one or two other very service- able strings to his bow. Here and there the land under tubers is made to grow three crops, and that without additional manure-first barley, and then turnips; but as a rule the agriculturist is content with a second crop (mostly of turnips), which, he calculates, is sufficiently profitable to pay the rent of the land. In other instances, where the tenant does not find potatoes always suitable, a crop of parsnips is grown with about £4 worth of fertilising stuffs, but no farm manure is taken, giving in a fairly good year as much money per acre as carrots. In the byre, to which considerable importance is attached, there are often kept on a farm of the size in question as many as twelve head-four milking cows giving about three gallons of milk a day, and representing from £12 to £15 of profit in the year; four heifers to sell, worth on an average fully £15 apiece; and four calves. On nearly all the farms a few pigs are fed, and for this purpose a small patch of land is grown with the Jersey cabbage, before mentioned, the vegetable which shoots up with a stalk of six or seven feet in height, affording capita material for the manufacture of walking-sticks. The apple-trees which grow on every part of the farm are another source of income. On many holdings these trees are deteriorating in consequence of their age; but few attempts are being made to replace them with another growth.”

“The land under cultivation in this Island amounts to 20,000 acres, and the proprietors are said to number 2,500 ; so that the average size of one possession is eight acres. But these figures give no accurate idea as to the way in which the land is held. On a property worth £1,000 there are often, for example, six or more proprietors registered, while the right of possession really remains in the hands of one man, who, having a share worth £500, farms the entire holding, merely paying to his five fellow-proprietors, or 'renters' as they are called, a guaranteed sum of interest every year.”

“A very busy and important time for the farmers and for all engaged in agriculture is the season for cutting the vraic, or seaweed, which is largely used as a very valuable manure for the lands, having especially the property of making the young grass tender.”

The following is a Copy of an Extract from The Topographical Dictionary of England, by SAMUEL LEWIS. (Published by S. Lewis & Co., in 1831.) Vol. ii., page 297.

“The Island of Herm, three miles (N.E.) from Guernsey, in the jurisdiction of which it is included, is about six miles in circumference, and in 1821 contained about twenty-eight inhabitants. Since that time the population has-been materially augmented by the erection of numerous houses for the accommodation of workmen employed in the quarries of granite with which the island abounds. Its appearance is diversified with hills and dales, and though upon a smaller scale than other islands of the group, it is little inferior to them in the picturesque beauty of its scenery. The northern beach, from which it rises to a considerable elevation, is extensive, and equal in the smoothness and firmness of its sands to Worthing or Weymouth. The Bay of Belvoir, on the eastern side of the island, is seated at the base of a winding and sequestered vale, embosomed in

 
corner-bl.gif   corner-br.gif