History

The Hall

braes-school-1920swThe original building dates from 1862 and included a classroom and a school house.  A new classroom was added in 1891 to accommodate more children especially as the school at Upper Ollach was closing.  The Braes Public School lasted until 1947 and the school house has been a private residence for many years since.

The main school buildings now serve as a meeting place for all the townships from Glen Varragill to Loch Sligachan along the Sound of Raasay.  It lies beside mature woodland and the Ollach River.  The land around the Hall is held in crofting tenure as township common grazings owned by the Braes Estate.

hall-sketch-wIn 1978 the Braes Hall Village Club rented the hall for community use from the Highland Regional Council, first on a five year lease, then on a month to month basis until 1985 when a twenty one year lease was agreed.  During the years 1983 to 1985 the Braes Hall Village Club successfully fund raised and applied for a package of grants to rescue the Hall from dereliction.  A substantial number of improvements were made to the interior and facilities within.  This brought the Hall up to modern safety standards and made the hall generally usable for a variety of events.

The current management committee’s aim is to keep the existing facilities in good condition and improve where necessary to provide a modern and attractive facility that can be used by the local community and people from further afield to meet, socialise and interact.

Crofting

On the Isle of Skye, the cruelty of the Highland Clearances and the disregard for the tenants riled the resident crofters.  Over the years many folk had left or been evicted from the land.  However, in 1882 those crofters remaining in Braes were denied access to Ben Lee to graze their sheep.  In the face of long standing tenancy grievances, the crofters decided to go ahead and graze their stock regardless, with some even refusing to pay rent until the problem was resolved.

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Not one to be pushed around by his tenants, Lord MacDonald sent the sheriff’s officers to evict the leaders of the dissent. The Braes’ women turned them back, demanding that the legal documents be burnt.

Lord MacDonald called in reinforcements and 47 extra police were sent to Skye from Glasgow. When they reached Braes intending to arrest the dissenters, the folk of Braes were sleeping. Five men were arrested and the police began to withdraw with their prisoners. Many of the men were away, but the Braes women instigated an attack on the retreating police force launching whatever missiles they could find. The police fled for their lives. The event has become known as the Battle of the Braes but it wasn’t the only skirmish in a turbulent year. 1882-details

Weary of the demands of the arrogant Highland landlords and the agitation of the crofters, the Government took action, through a Royal Commission of Inquiry chaired by Lord Napier to investigate “the conditions of the crofters and cottars in the Highlands…. and everything concerning them.” It had wide powers to call witnesses, demand documents and to visit any place deemed necessary to obtain the fullest possible information. The commissioners travelled widely among the Highlands and Islands, interviewing hundreds of witnesses, both crofters and landlords.  Their examination began in the church at Upper Ollach in Braes on 8 May 1883.  In April 1884 they made their report, leading to the first laws to protect crofting tenants’ rights under the Crofters Holdings Act 1886. crofting-dates

For the first time crofters had security of tenure, and this could be passed from father to son. They had the right to compensation for improvements they carried out to the land, and a Land Court was set up to fix fair rents. It had taken over a hundred years of evictions and banishments, anger and finally rebellion, but at last the remaining Highlanders had a right to a life in their own country.

newplaquewToday the Battle of Braes is commemorated with a small monument close to the site.  The events map opposite shows the main flashpoints during that year. map-notes