‘We Have Won The Land’ is the new collaborative project between Glasgow based folk musicians Rory Matheson and Graham Rorie. This suite of new music has been inspired by Rory’s local area of Assynt in the North-West Highlands of Scotland and the community buy-out of the North Lochinver Estate by the Assynt Crofter’s Trust in 1993.
Both former finalists in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of The Year, Rory and Graham have worked together on a number of albums as session musicians but came together in 2022 to combine their musical influences on this new album for their first collaborative effort. They are joined by an impressive team of musicians including Anna Massie, Charlie Stewart, Craig Baxter, Fraser Stone, James Graham, Kristan Harvey and Tiernan Courell.
‘We Have Won The Land’ celebrates the unprecedented success of the Assynt Crofter’s Trust in buying back the 21,300 acre North Lochinver Estate from a Swedish land speculator. Their efforts went on to inspire many other communities to pursue similar projects and eventually own the land they live and work on.
The parish of Assynt sits on the West coast of Sutherland in the North West Highlands, Scotland. In 1989 the Vestey family renamed a 21,300 acre section of the parish as ‘North Lochinver Estate’ and sold it for just over £1million to a Swedish land speculator, who in 1992 went into liquidation. The estate was then to be broken into several lots and sold separately to clear outstanding debts. Not one of these transactions considered the interests of the people who lived and worked on the land. After hearing that the estate was once again up for sale, several public meetings took place and it was subsequently decided that the crofters themselves would try to raise enough money to bid for the land - a proposal some judged to be impossible.
A steering committee, formed of representatives from each of the 13 townships that made up the estate, was set up to guide the project initially. The Assynt Crofters’ Trust was formed in the summer of 1992 to begin formal negotiations. After two unsuccessful bids that year, in February 1993 the crofters’ third bid was successful, and they bought the land for £300,000. This was a euphoric victory for the crofters of Assynt, who now own the land they live and work on. Their success is also recognised for being deeply influential on land reform in Scotland.