Who owns the land?

Old money

The first ‘landowners’ we encounter are the Duke and Countess of Sutherland. We never see them, but they are referred to many times. Their absence suggests they are disconnected from the land.

The Duke and Countess can be regarded as ‘old money’ – they have inherited much of their land.

We are told the Countess gifted three-quarters of a million acres of her Sutherland estate to her husband. He had already inherited a huge estate in Yorkshire […] another at Trentham […] and a third at Lilleshall in Shropshire that had coal-mines on it. . The Duke also inherited the Bridgewater Canal and used his wealth to invest in a large slice of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway.

Loch and Sellar note in their song that those who made a success for themselves in high industry wanted to secure their status by using their profits to buy up more land.

The play suggests that the Duke and Countess of Sutherland only see land as an investment and a means to show off how rich they are. They think that the more land they own, the more respected they will be. They do not value the land itself.

New money

Lady Phosphate’s wealth is the result of marriage. Her husband is big in chemicals and has presumably made a significant fortune in this relatively new industry.

Crask has built his wealth through investment – buying up shares in various successful companies. He owns 200,000 shares in Argentine Beef with:

quote
half a million tied up in shipping, and a mile or two of docks in Wapping

Both characters might be described as ‘new money’. Their wealth has come through new industry.

Crask has bought into the Highlands as a business venture. He has spotting a money-making opportunity in the collapse of the wool-trade in the Highlands, snapping up land cheaply, presumably to sell at a profit later.

To him the land is only a means to make more money – he does not seem to value it for itself.

Phosphate enquires how far Crask’s domains extend over this beauteous countryside. Crask replies there are about 120,00 acres down that way, but most of it’s over that way. So large is Crask’s estate, that he can afford to ask Lady Phosphate if she would like Lochinver as a gift.

To them, a village is just a thing to buy, sell or exchange. They have no attachment to it, nor do they show responsibility for the people who live there.