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October 17th 1740

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Hard Times

Hard winters and cold wet summers could spell hunger and even starvation. The winter of 1740 was such a one, memorable both for its length and rigour. The frost set in early and with great severity. The river Tay was frozen almost to the bottom; horses and carts passed over it freely and an ox was roasted on the river which was sold at a shilling a pound. Spring came but no thaw. The frozen clods were ploughed down and the seeds committed to the ground in this state.

The summer continued cold and bleak in the extreme with little sunshine. The harvest was disastrous with the seed which did germinate giving poor yields in grain and straw. Butcher meat could be obtained but was so poor as to be little better than carrion. The animals suffered too and many died of starvation “which the poor assiduously searched for in the mornings.”  Bread in many places was unobtainable, and stories are told of some families in the Highland districts living for months on the flesh of their sheep without tasting bread or meal.

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