The Highland Clearances in Scotland

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The Highland Clearances in Scotland

Post by Admin on Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:22 am

A brutal legacy of the late 18th and early 19th centuries is still etched in the minds of the people of the Highlands today.During what became known as the ''Highland Clearances'', tens of thousands of men, women and children were evicted, often violently, from their homes to make way for large scale sheep farming.

By one count, between 1802 and 1807,during the Highland Clearances, twenty-five thousand people went to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia alone.

This wave of immigration from Scotland, which has contributed so much to the heritage of a large part of Nova Scotia and other parts of Atlantic Canada, began with these intrepid souls that sailed on "Hector"

In some areas, whole glens were cleared, which today are as silent as they must have been when the landlord's factors had finished ruthlessly carrying out the orders of their masters.
Homes were burnt and tenants forced to leave at the point of a sword or musket, carrying little or nothing as they headed towards a life of poverty and hunger.

There were two distinct types of 'clearance'. The first was forced settlement on barren land usually near the sea.

The crofts, as these plots of land became known, had very poor agricultural potential which the gentry wrongly assumed would be compensated for by fishing and seaweed harvesting, or kelping as it was called.

The second type of 'clearance' was often prompted by the failure of the crofts to produce a living for the Highlanders. It was a hopeless situation for many. The sheer number of people pushed to the coast coupled with huge rent increases, over-fishing and over-kelping resulted in destitution and starvation. When, in 1846, the potato crop failed many were left with no alternative but to migrate south or emigrate to the colonies.

In Knoydart, Ross, Skye, Tiree and most notably in the vast tracts of land in Sutherland owned by Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, the clearances were particularly noted for the violence used.

Two of the most notorious evictors were James Loch and Patrick Sellar. Around 1820 demand for kelp and cattle dwindled and many tenants sank into rent arrears and apathy. In turn the rise in number of those unable to pay their rent encouraged landowners to evict the tenants from the marginal land leaving emigration as the only alternative. Lord MacDonald alone cleared most of North Uist and Skye or sold out to the infamous John Gordon of Cluny.

Even today, generations after the last Highlanders set sail aboard wooden sailing ships at Ullapool and other ports on the west coast, never again to see the mountains and glens of home, the arguments still rage.

There is no question that many Highlanders were betrayed by their clan chiefs and imported English noblemen. The utter disregard for the life of a proud people inflamed passions then, as it still does. Much of the land is still owned by the same families and sheep are still farmed where people once lived. During 1995, a campaign began to remove a statue of the notorious 1st Duke of Sutherland, which dominates the hills and skyline above the small east coast town of Golspie, replacing it with a more fitting memorial to the victims of the Clearances.

Whether that will ever happen remains to be seen. But it is worth recalling that when the factor called by after the Duke's death in 1833, those tenants allowed to remain on the Sutherland estates were asked to contribute to the costs of raising the monument.

They knew they had a choice - pay up or face the threat of eviction, hence the reason for them being described as ''grateful tenants'' in the inscription on the statue's plinth.


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The ship The Hector, moored in Pictou, NS is a replica of the original which brought 200 Scots sailing from Ullapool, West Ross-Shire, Scotland in the Highlands arriving in Pictou, Nova Scotia on Sept. 15, 1773.


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Re: The Highland Clearances in Scotland

Post by Admin on Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:24 am

More fascinating websites here

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