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New Book Sheds Light on Historic Lochaber Estates

The long-anticipated launch of Richard Sidgwick’s book ‘Clanship to Capitalism: a history of the Estates of Lochaber from 1745’ last Thursday, 29th November.

Invited guests – including representatives of JAHAMA Highland Estates – gathered at the Lime Tree Gallery in Fort William to hear Professor Hugh Cheape of the School of Celtic and Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University and Sabhal Mor Osaig provide a thoughtful and informed critique of the work.

He suggested that the author’s lifelong connection with land management in the area had enabled him to see beyond some of the constraints of historical tradition and offer a view which is essential reading to those interested in the history of rural Lochaber.

The book, which is published as a limited edition of 250 copies, is bound in claret coloured linen with a clip case and gilt lettering. It contains more than 250 illustrations, many from private sources which have not been available to the public, and the text is accompanied by a series of bespoke maps providing details of the ownership of the land throughout the past 270 years.

After a false start at university with the intention of following a career in the brewing industry, the author began his training as an articled pupil in The West Highland Estates Office, Fort William, in 1966.

He qualified as a chartered land agent and chartered surveyor in 1969 and then completed a post-graduate degree in agricultural finance and capital investment at Reading University the following year. In 1970, he was appointed a senior assistant land agent with Humber and Flint, a London-based firm, working mostly in the home counties and East Anglia. In 1974, rather than remain as a London-based practitioner until the end of his career, he and his wife returned to the Highlands and he became a partner in the firm with which he had originally trained.

During this period, he served for two terms on the Red Deer Commission Regional Advisory Committee and the steering committee which established the Association of Deer Management Groups.

He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant in 1991 and served as a JP for nearly 20 years and an honorary sheriff for 10.

The firm had managed the estates owned by the Camerons of Locheil since its establishment in 1953 and later took responsibility for the 135,000-acre property belonging to successive owners of the land acquired by The British Aluminium Co.

In addition, 16 large estates, including Ardgour, the only other property in Lochaber to remain in the hands of its hereditary owners, retained its services. Further afield, it acted for four successive owners of Glenfeshie at a watershed moment in its history and regularly accepted commissions outwith its home territory of Lochaber.

West Highland Estates Office amalgamated with Bidwells in June 2000 and the author remained as a divisional partner until his retirement due to ill health two years later, aged 59.

Since then, he has been retained in a number of capacities where his lifelong experience of rural affairs in the Highlands has been of value.

This article originally appeared in the Lochaber Times on Thursday 8th December 2018.

Remaining copies may be available from the author, who can be contacted by email at or telephone on 01397 712208.

Richard very kindly provided the content to JAHAMA Highland Estates for the History of each our Estates. You can read this on our History pages, here.


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