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Highland Clearances, the forced eviction of inhabitants of the Highlands and western islands of Scotland, beginning in the mid-to-late 18th century and.
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The ideas of Malthus were adopted by many in a position to influence policy. The primary motivation for clearance was economic. Associated with this was the suggestion by some theorists that the Celtic population were less hardworking than those of Anglo-Saxon stock i. Lowlanders and, in some instances, English , so giving an economic element to a racial theory. James Hunter quotes a contemporary Lowland newspaper: Roman Catholics had experienced a sequence of discriminatory laws in the period up to Whilst English versions of these laws were repealed in , in Scotland this did not happen until However, religious discrimination is not considered, by some historians, to be a reason for evicting tenants as part of any clearance, and is seen more as a source of voluntary emigration by writers such as Eric Richards.

This temporarily stalled when the risk of empty farms and therefore loss of rent became apparent when voluntary emigration to escape persecution was possible. However, in , 36 families did not have their leases renewed out of some families who were tenants of Boisdale ; 11 of these emigrated the next year with financial assistance from the Roman Catholic church. Another wave of mass emigration came in , known to Gaelic-speaking Highlanders as the Bliadhna nan Caorach "Year of the Sheep".

In tenant farmers from Strathrusdale led a protest by driving more than 6, sheep off the land surrounding Ardross. This action, commonly referred to as the "Ross-shire Sheep Riot", was dealt with at the highest levels in the government; the Home Secretary Henry Dundas became involved. He had the Black Watch mobilised; it halted the drive and brought the ringleaders to trial. They were found guilty, but later escaped custody and disappeared. The people were relocated to poor crofts.

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- Beginning Of The Highland Clearances | ScotClans | Scottish Clans

Others were sent to small farms in coastal areas, where farming could not sustain the population, and they were expected to take up fishing as a new trade [ citation needed ]. In the village of Badbea in Caithness , the weather conditions were so harsh that, while the women worked, they had to tether their livestock and their children to rocks or posts to prevent them being blown over the cliffs.

Two of the best documented clearances are those from the land of the Duchess of Sutherland , carried out by, among other people, her factor Patrick Sellar , and the Glencalvie clearances which were witnessed and documented by a London Times reporter. In , Elizabeth Gordon, 19th Countess of Sutherland , touring her inheritance with her husband Lord Stafford later Duke of Sutherland , wrote that "he is seized as much as I am with the rage of improvements, and we both turn our attention with the greatest of energy to turnips ".

As well as turning land over to sheep farming, Stafford planned to invest in creating a coal -pit, salt pans , brick and tile works and herring fisheries. This plan has been described as a "typical example The Sutherlands' first Commissioner, William Young, arrived in , and soon engaged Patrick Sellar as his factor, who pressed ahead with the process while acquiring sheep farming estates for himself. Tenants were generally treated according to due process of law, being served with notices of eviction and given time typically three months to vacate.

However, many were reluctant to leave, did not obey the eviction notices, and were evicted with force. The methods used were sometimes harsh, even by the standards of the early 19th century. The consternation and confusion were extreme. Little or no time was given for the removal of persons or property; the people striving to remove the sick and the helpless before the fire should reach them; next, struggling to save the most valuable of their effects. The cries of the women and children, the roaring of the affrighted cattle, hunted at the same time by the yelling dogs of the shepherds amid the smoke and fire, altogether presented a scene that completely baffles description — it required to be seen to be believed.

A dense cloud of smoke enveloped the whole country by day, and even extended far out to sea. At night an awfully grand but terrific scene presented itself — all the houses in an extensive district in flames at once. I myself ascended a height about eleven o'clock in the evening, and counted two hundred and fifty blazing houses, many of the owners of which I personally knew, but whose present condition — whether in or out of the flames — I could not tell.

The conflagration lasted six days, till the whole of the dwellings were reduced to ashes or smoking ruins. During one of these days a boat actually lost her way in the dense smoke as she approached the shore, but at night was enabled to reach a landing-place by the lurid light of the flames. Two old people evicted at Sellar's orders were too ill to go far.

He left them exposed to the chill northern air and they died. He was acquitted on a charge of manslaughter, but the Duchess wrote: He is so exceedingly greedy and harsh with the people, there are very heavy complaints against him from Strathnaver. Elsewhere, the flamboyant Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry portrayed himself as the last genuine specimen of the true Highland chief while his tenants almost all Catholic were subjected to a relentless process of eviction.

As in Ireland , the potato crop failed in Scotland during the mid 19th century. The ongoing clearance policy resulted in starvation, deaths, [ citation needed ] and a secondary clearance, when families either migrated voluntarily or were forcibly evicted. Others squatted in Highland towns such as Tobermory , Lochcarron , or Lochaline. In addition, these clearances were unleashed on a population already ravaged by hunger and destitution and few attempts were made to provide shelter to the dispossessed.

The effect of the large scale evictions and the appearance of destitute Gaels in urban areas [42] was to bring the problem of Clearance to the attention of Britain and lay the foundation for reform. The inhabitants of these distressed districts have neither capital enough to cultivate the extent of the land necessary to maintain them if it could be provided, nor have they land enough were the capital supplied to them.

Richards considers this observation to be "the central dilemma of the crofter economy". The potato famine gave rise to the Highland and Island Emigration Society which sponsored around 5, emigrants to Australia from the affected areas of Scotland. Karl Marx was living in London during the peak of the national controversy over the Highland Clearances.

In Das Kapital , he described them as.

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The spoliation of the church's property, the fraudulent alienation of the State domains, the robbery of the common lands, the usurpation of feudal and clan property, and its transformation into modern private property under circumstances of reckless terrorism It has frequently been asserted that Gaels reacted to the Clearances with apathy and a near-total absence of active resistance from the crofting population.

Women took the front line in opposing the authorities, with their male relatives backing them up. More than 1, sheep were stolen on the Sutherland estate in a single year in the early 19th century. As this was considered undesirable, the landlord had the querns broken; similar episodes were recorded in Skye and Tiree. Richards describes three attempts at large-scale resistance before the Crofters' War: The Highland Land League eventually achieved land reform in the enactment of the Crofters' Holdings Scotland Act , but these could not bring economic viability and came too late, at a time when the land was already suffering from depopulation.

However, the Crofters' Act did not grant security of tenure to cottiers or break up large estates. As a result, the Scottish Highlands continues to have the most unequal distributions of land in Europe, with more than half of Scotland owned by fewer than people. Many Gaelic poets were heavily influenced by the Clearances.

Many songs were in the form of satire of the landlord class.

Highland Clearances

First Duke of Sutherland, with your deceit, And with your friendship with the Lowlanders , It's in hell that you belong, I'd rather have Judas by my side. Similar sentiments were expressed with regard to the Ardnamurchan Clearances by a local doctor, Iain MacLachlainn. Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland, And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.

The clearances were an influential theme in Scottish literature, with notable examples such as Consider the Lilies , a novel by Iain Crichton Smith. The statue, which depicts a family leaving their home, stands at the mouth of the Strath of Kildonan and was funded by Dennis Macleod , a Scottish-Canadian mining millionaire who also attended the ceremony. In Golspie , Sutherland , a statue of George Granville Leveson-Gower , the first Duke of Sutherland , has been subject to vandalism due to his controversial role in the Sutherland Clearances.

The diaspora was worldwide, but emigrants settled in close communities on Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia Antigonish and Pictou counties and later in Cape Breton , the Glengarry and Kingston areas of Ontario and the Carolinas of the American colonies. Canadian Gaelic was widely spoken for some two centuries. One estimate of Nova Scotia 's population has 50, Gaels immigrating from Scotland between and From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


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For other uses, see Clearance disambiguation. The island was cleared of its inhabitants in and is now used only for grazing sheep. The view of run rig as a communal activity is a common misconception. Communal working only arose out of necessity. Gaelic speaking tacksmen and drovers were to be found in the sheep trade from the s. When sheep were introduced in the Sutherland Clearances, over half the leases were taken up by Sutherlanders. It is a right which is grounded in daily habits and activities and it is bound up with relationships to others, and responsibilities.

It gives rise to the idea, identified by the scholar Michael Newton, that 'people belong to places rather than places belonging to people'. People, Landlords and Rural Turmoil. Farber, Forcible Displacement Throughout the Ages: Retrieved 22 May European Regional Development Fund — Retrieved on 3 September Set Adrift Upon the World: Clanship to Crofters' War: The social transformation of the Scottish Highlands ed.

Land, Power and People in Scotland, — The First Phase of Clearance". People and Society in Scotland, Volume 1, — John Donald Publishers Ltd. Scotland, a New History ed. From Chiefs to Landlords: Cargoes of Despair and Hope: Scottish Emigration to North America — Patrick Sellar and the Highland Clearances: Homicide, Eviction and the Price of Progress.


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    Scottish Review of Books. Volume 1 Issue 2 Published on Wednesday, 28 October Retrieved 7 July Retrieved 15 January Clanship to Crofter's War: The Social Transformation of the Scottish Highlands.

    1785 – Beginning Of The Highland Clearances

    Retrieved 1 July Elgin and Morayshire Courier. Debating the Highland Clearances. Retrieved 2 July International Journal of Historical Archaeology. The Oxford Companion to Scottish History. The Transformation of a Culture Region. The Companion to Gaelic Scotland. Basil Blackwater Publisher Lim. Retrieved 29 April Retrieved 24 April The Modern Gaelic Revival.

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    Retrieved 3 May Studies in Scottish Literature. Retrieved 28 April Retrieved 5 October Archived from the original on 26 December Retrieved 30 August Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage. Scotland in the eighteenth century. Scotland in the nineteenth century. History of the United Kingdom Victorian era. Agriculture in the United Kingdom.


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      In other projects Wikimedia Commons. The last straw in was the 'Hertitable Jurisdictions Act' which stated that those who did not accede to English jurisdiction were to have their lands forfeited to the Government. It's said that the few remaining Highland landlords had no option but to bend the knee to this legislation. This was the death knell of the clan system and the traditional Highland way of life where the people rented land from their Chiefs and in turn pledged their allegiance to them. Moreover, while away from his clan the typical chief, conscious since childhood of his immensely aristocratic status in the Highland society whence he came, felt obliged to emulate or even surpass, the lifestyle of the courtiers and nobles with whom he mingled.

      Clans, collectives, and the Jacobite rebellion: the Highlands before the Clearances

      And it was at this point that the 18th century chief's two roles came into irreconcilable conflict with one another. As a southern socialite he needed more and more money. As a tribal patriarch he could do very little to raise it. The economics of the Clearances or the Improvements as the landlords euphemistically called them, were simple. They had for many years supplied beef to Government forces but when the demand dropped once the United Kingdom's overseas wars diminished, they were left economically vulnerable.

      Demand for wool had risen dramatically - its price tripled between and - so rearing sheep made sense. Regrettably it meant that on average, one shepherd covered as much land as had been worked in the past by 12 to 16 families - possibly 80 people - and the income from these new 'four-legged clansmen' more than replaced the meagre rents they had gathered in the past.. The return was attractive enough for the absentee chiefs and landlords to start moving people away from their traditional homelands. To achieve this they used their 'factors' - their estate managers - and at the height of the clearances it's said that as many as 2, crofts a day were being burned to the ground - some of which had been inhabited by the same families for as long as years.

      1760s The Highland Clearances

      Because many crofters were still loyal to their chieftain, they often placed the blame for the Clearances and their hardships on the factors. It was beyond their comprehension that their chief - their father figure - would treat them in such a manner ref: Scottish Highland Clearances, Memorial Committee. The instigator of such barbaric methods of 'clearing' the traditional clan lands of humans was said to have been Elizabeth Gordon, Countess of Sutherland - who, with her husband the Marquis of Stafford later made 1st Duke of Sutherland employed Patrick Sellar a lawyer and James Lock their factor, to carry out the 'improvements'.

      These two set about their task with great relish and 'cleared' 15, people to make way for , sheep. With no shelter remaining for the cleared families, many starved and froze to death huddled in the rubble of their former homes. In more than 50 new shepherds employed in Sutherland were made Justices of the Peace with legal control over the native tenants and in their contracts was often a requirement to 'clear' a certain number of additional families from the land each year.

      It is difficult to ascertain the true extent of the clearances since, as in modern times, good news i. Historical accounts differ depending upon the teller but the figures do themselves reflect the enormity of the problem and give veracity to the many personal reports of those involved. The following selective diarised entries from www. The Society of the Propagation of Christian Knowledge reports that over the previous 19 years more than 6, people emigrated from the Inverness and Ross areas.

      The first clearances of the Strathglass area by William, the 24th Chisholm. The emigrant ship The Sarah sails from Fort William to Pictou with people crammed into the holds resulting in almost 50 people dying on the voyage.. Patrick Sellar begins burning Strathnaver. Residents not given time to remove their belongings or invalid relatives and two people reputedly die from their houses burning. Another violent clearing of Strathnaver residents.