A Brief History of Easter Corrie

People have lived at Easter Corrie for hundreds of years. For most of that time the inhabitants were subsistance farmers except during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when they also distilled and smuggled whisky.

Early Times in Glenlivet

Acquired by the Earl of Huntly as part of the Glenlivet Estate in the late fifteenth century, little is known of Easter Corries' early history. Until the late eighteenth century, his tenants lived on communal farms known as "ferm touns". Each tenant was allocated different strips of land each year in a system known as "runrig" so that everyone had a fair share of good and poor soil to cultivate. Easter Corrie was one of these ferm touns.

Crofters and Runrig Cultivation

The 1761 Estate records show that the principal tacksman (leaseholder) was John Grant, who sublet Easter Corrie to Alex McDonald and James McKay. Alex and James lived in turf "black houses", roofed with broom and heather. They would have cultivated their 25 acres using an old Scotch plough pulled by a team of long-horned Highland oxen. The enclosed infield area nearest the cottages was regularly manured and cropped with oats, barley and perhaps peas. The outfield land lying farther from the cottages was divided into portions, put out to oats for several years and then left fallow for a further three or four years. There were no enclosures. The cattle were either tethered or tended by herds at the shieling on the Ladder hills to keep them away from the crops. Some sheep may also have been kept on the hills to produce wool and meat.

In the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, and with the power of the clan chiefs much reduced, the need for a large tenantry to provide manpower for military service decreased. By 1775, a single family - the Innes' - occupied Easter Corrie, which now had seven buildings - none of which remain today.

The Whisky Smugglers

The late eighteenth to early nineteenth century was probably one of the most prosperous times that Easter Corrie ever saw. Although whisky had always been made in Glenlivet, the opportunity now arose to sell it in the growing cities to the east and south. Using pure spring water from the hillside, malt whisky was made here in a small still kept in a cave under the centre of the farmyard. After the introduction in 1786 of legislation for the licensing of distilleries, the tenants at Easter Corrie also became smugglers. They transported the finished whisky in four gallon barrels carried by hardy ponies over the Ladder Hills and onward to the profitable markets of Aberdeen and Perth. When all stills under 500 gallons were banned in 1814, a period of conflict with the Law followed. As far as we know, the still at Easter Corrie was never discovered. When the excise men raided Glenlivet, the warning was passed from farm to farm by hanging a white sheet over the front hedge at each farm. When the signal was seen from Easter Corrie a cart was drawn over the entrance to the cave to hide the still from the excise men.

Agricultural Improvements and New Buildings

Over the next sixty years a house for the tenants, a steading for the stock and a thrashing mill were built using stone cleared from the surrounding land. These buildings are now known as The Den, Corrie Cottage, Glenview and The Mill. Many improvements to farming took place in Glenlivet at that time, including the introduction of horses for ploughing and the use of lime to improve the soil. A new farmhouse was built in the 1840's for William Innes, who moved into it with his wife Helen Grant to start a family; his parents continued to live in the old farmhouse, now known as The Den. One of Helen's brothers from neighbouring Lynebeg started the distillery at Glenfarclas.

Early Twentieth Century

The Innes family tenancy finally came to an end in 1918 upon the death of George Innes. Memories of these years come from his daughter Margaret who was born at Easter Corrie in 1909. She recalled milking the cows before going to school in Tomnavoulin and travelling to church in a horse drawn cart on Sundays. Margaret lived in Aberdeen for many years and occasionally visited us at Easter Corrie before she passed away in 2009.

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