Crofting Agriculture by F. Fraser DarlingAgriculture, darling?

Hmm. I have to admit I overlooked this book for a while, preferring to spend my time on the gilt covered and the attractively illustrated. On opening the modest green copy – the fragile wrapper put away somewhere safe – I found a surprise treat in the shape of 20 beautifully tissue-guarded photographs by Robert M. Adam.

Robert Moyes Adam (1885-1967) worked most of his life as an illustrator at the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh. At age 14 he bought his first camera and in 1908 he bought the half plate field camera that he would use all of his life. He kept every negative, some 15,000 of them, along with meticulous notes about the subjects, which have become a valuable record of the disappearing Scottish landscape and lifestyle.

A few years after Mr. Adam obtained his first camera, Frank Darling was born in a farm stable in the North of England. He was the illegitimate son of Harriet, the daughter of a wealthy family from Sheffield, and Frank Sr, who was killed in East Africa without ever seeing his offspring. The family wanted Frank Jr fostered but his mother refused. After being bullied, Frank ran away from school at age 15 and worked on a farm in the Pennines, fuelling his interest in farming, flora and fauna. He returned to education and gained diplomas in agriculture and dairying and, after a brief career in both, he obtained a PhD from Edinburgh University.Crofting Agriculture by F. Fraser Darling

In 1933, Frank – now sporting the surname Fraser Darling, adopted when he married fellow student Marian Fraser – and his family moved to Wester Ross where he began work studying red deer, gulls and the grey seal. The resulting works introduced the ‘Fraser Darling effect’; the hypothesis that birds in large colonies bred for a shorter time in order to reduce the loss of young to predators. The Darling family lived on some of the most remote islands of Scotland while Frank studied the wildlife and habitat, until the Second World War interrupted his work.

Too old for service, Fraser Darling returned to farming during the war, reclaiming derelict land in the Summer Isles for agricultural production. He recorded his experiences in ‘Island Farm’. As a result, the Secretary of State for Scotland asked Fraser Darling to run an agricultural advisory programme in the crofting area of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. This he did. His articles were published in ‘Crofting Agriculture’ in 1945.
Crofting Agriculture by F. Fraser Darling
Fraser Darling wrote in his preface;

“The West Highlands are a country of difficult communications and on a part-time appointment it would have been impossible for me to see every crofter personally and have a crack with him—the more’s the pity, from my point of view. The weekly article helped me to say something about basic principles of agriculture, and the crofter’s response in letters asking for advice is an expression of goodwill and a definite sign that someone wants to know. The volume of letters from crofters has steadily grown, and if the truth be known, these letters are the only ones I sit down to answer with enthusiasm and enjoyment, instead of as an irksome necessity.”

Sir Frank Fraser Darling, farmer, ecologist, ornithologist, conservationist and author, died in 1979. You can buy a rare copy of ‘Crofting Agriculture’ with dust jacket by clicking on the pics below. Darling.  NOW SOLD.
Crofting Agriculture by F. Fraser DarlingF. Fraser Darling - Oliver & Boyd Ltd - 1945

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