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The Bothy

This is set in the 1930s. At the moment I only have the living room, but I hope to get a bedroom set up one day as well. (Many of these houses only had two rooms, though some had three.) 

(The bottle of whisky is badly out of scale, but it's the smallest bottle of whisky one can buy.)

Although married men working on the various estates had their own house, single men usually lived together in a bothy, rather than each one living alone. Strictly speaking, there would usually have been more than two men in a bothy, but there are limitations of space in a dolls house; a proper scale model of a house would be too large to be practical. Most rooms in dolls houses - and the corresponding furniture - are rather smaller than life, even in 1/12 scale, with most rooms the equivalent of around a hundred square feet. (The dimensions of a room box are closer to scale, however.)

I settled, therefore, for just two occupants of this bothy - which would in fact have been quite realistic for a small estate - a shepherd and a gamekeeper; although the estate would probably have two or three additional married workers, whose wives usually worked as housekeepers or cooks at the Big House. These dolls also came from Cassandra.

In the hierarchy of estate workers, the keeper (especially the head keeper) would have been among the elite; he was the one who mixed with the landowner and his guests, the one who made sure the game - deer or grouse or pheasants - were healthy, who kept the predatory foxes and birds of prey from decimating the stock, who knew the land and could lead the shooting party to the most likely place to find something to shoot; who knew the river (if there was a fishable river on the estate) and the places in the pools where salmon were most likely to lie. With more than one keeper, one would probably concentrate on the river. 

Because he mixed with the gentry, his working clothes would be of a good quality, probably hard-wearing tweed; he had to give the appearance of being a gentleman rather than a mere employee.

The shepherd would also have to know the land, but more in terms of the sheltered corners where his charges would shelter from bad weather; he would rarely see the landowner and certainly never see the estate guests, so his clothes tended to be rougher, more utilitarian, and he would certainly be lower in the hierarchy, although in its own way his job was just as skilled; and on any given day he would cover many miles just going round checking that the sheep were all right, that none had been cragged or couped or trapped in boggy ground from which they couldn't escape. In the spring, at the lambing, he could be out for eighteen hours every day, spending every daylight hour on the hill. It was hardly surprising that he would arrive home tired and cold, wanting to do nothing more than kick off his boots and warm his feet at the fire. (Although most estates and farms take on at least one extra worker for 3 - 4 weeks to help with the lambing. Lowland farms might start lambing as early as late January, while hill farms didn't usually start lambing till the third week of April, so these temporary shepherds might work on four different farms between late January and mid-May.)

If they didn't eat in the kitchen of the Big House, the men in the bothy would fend for themselves - in this setting, they do - and if the keeper shot the odd injured stag or the shepherd brought in the odd braxy ewe, they would consider it simply a perk of the job. Here, Angus the keeper has been home for a while, long enough to prepare their meal and have a girdle of scones baking on the stove while he enjoys a dram; Dod the shepherd is just home, glad of a seat at the 'fire' before he eats.
The house does not have electricity, although I haven't as yet found a good oil lamp for the place. 

Although there's a sink, water has to be carried in in pails either from an outside tap or the nearest burn, and dirty water carried out. All hot water has to be heated on the stove, and there is no bathroom; round the back of the bothy is the 'wee hoosie' and when they want a bath, the water has to be laboriously heated to fill a tin bath that is placed in front of the stove. This was fairly standard until after WW2, in tied houses - by the 1960s, these houses were either standing empty, waiting for renovation, or had already been provided with indoor plumbing and electricity.

A solid fuel stove was eminently practical; the fuel used would be logs, peat or coal. During cold weather it would be kept burning twenty-four hours a day, and the bothy would be really warm. The top provided a large cooking area - a kettle would be kept simmering there at all times - and in addition it had an oven, although anyone wanting to cook or do a baking using it had to know what he was doing because it wasn't easy controlling the heat in it.

These men made their own entertainment; the long winter evenings (in particular) would be spent cleaning or repairing equipment, but usually at least one of the men living in the bothy could play the fiddle. (It's hard to say just what the difference is between violin music and fiddle music - the instrument is the same - but there's no mistaking that there is a difference.)

Angus is an older man who is happy on this estate and doesn't want to leave; Dod, however, is toying with the idea of seeking a position of more responsibility, possibly next Lammas.

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