With the death of Lady Jean Fforde it feels as if an era has come to an end. Lady Jean was deeply involved in many Arran voluntary groups and activities and was held in high regard by islanders for her good works here over many years. One of her last actions was to gift the green at Lamlash to the council and so allow the start of work to protect it from erosion by the sea.
However her family’s company, Arran Estates, the major landowner on the island, serves as a reminder of the on-going scandal of land ownership in Scotland, having been involved in some high-profile evictions of tenants in recent years.
In 1999 Lady Jean was listed alongside Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Prince of Dubai, who owns a 63,000-acre estate in Wester Ross, as one of the ten lairds with most to fear from land reform. The list was compiled by Andy Wightman, now a Green MSP and author of a comprehensive analysis of land ownership in Scotland, published in The Sunday Times. “These are landowners who are throwbacks to the Victorian period when lairds were masters of their dominion,” Mr Wightman wrote.
It remains to be seen whether the Scottish Government’s admirable land reform promises will come to anything, or whether things will carry on as before or indeed now deteriorate further on Arran. Many will remember that Lady Jean’s son, Charles Fforde, once accused the Scottish Land Commission of “bizarre behaviour in line with Leninist principles”.