“Truth is stranger than fiction.”



Project Gutenberg eBook 51271


First Edition1883.
Second Edition, altered and revised1914.



Editor’s Preface,7
Alexander Mackenzie on the Clearances,19
The Rev. Donald Sage on the Sutherland Clearances,32
General Stewart of Garth on the Sutherland Clearances,41
Hugh Miller on the Sutherland Clearances,52
Mr. James Loch on Sutherland Improvements,69
Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe on the Sutherland Clearances,78
Reply to Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe by Donald Macleod,88
Trial of Patrick Sellar,115
The Eviction of the Rosses,134
The Black Isle,146
The Island of Lewis,147
Mr. Alexander Mackenzie on the Leckmelm Evictions,149
The 78th Highlanders,167
The Rev. Dr. John Kennedy on the Ross-shire Clearances,169
Glendesseray and Locharkaig,196[6]
The Hebrides
North Uist,198
Boreraig and Suisinish, Isle of Skye,202
A Contrast,212
South Uist and Barra,213
The Island of Rum,222
The Island of Mull,228
Notable Dicta
The Rev. Dr. Maclachlan,247
A Highland Sheriff,253
The Wizard of the North,254
A Continental Historian,254
Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace,255
A French Economist,259
Mr. Joseph Chamberlain,263
Hardships Endured by First Emigrants,264
An Evicting Agent,271
An Octogenarian Gael,274
Statistical Statement
Showing the Population in 1831, 1841, 1851, 1881, and 1911, of all Parishes in whole or in part in the Counties of Perth, Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Caithness, and Sutherland,278-282



Mackenzie’s History of the Highland Clearances, with its thrilling and almost incredible narratives of oppression and eviction, has been for a long time out of print. In view of the current movement, described by Mr. Asquith as an “organised campaign against the present system of land tenure,” it has occurred to the holder of the copyright, Mr. Eneas Mackay, publisher, Stirling, that, at the present juncture, a re-issue might be expediently prepared. He recognised that the story of the great upheaval which, early in the nineteenth century, took place among the Highland crofters would be of undoubted interest and utility to those who follow the efforts now put forth to settle the land question in Scotland. At his request I readily undertook the task of re-editing.

The circumstances, or points of view, having changed in no slight measure since the first appearance of the work, I decided to subject it to a pretty thorough revision—to excise a large mass of irrelevant matter and to introduce several fresh articles. Donald Macleod’s “Gloomy Memories” are omitted out of considerations for space, and because it is proposed to reprint them shortly in a separate form. There is included, for the first time, a vindication of the Sutherland Clearances by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and another by Mr. James Loch, principal factor on the Sutherland[8] Estates during the time the removals were carried out. There are also given graphic and realistic word pictures of these evictions by the Rev. Donald Sage. The general arrangement of the book has been altered to the extent of grouping together the accounts relating to each particular county, and descriptions are added of a number of Clearances which were not dealt with in the first edition.

I have pleasure in acknowledging my indebtedness to Mr. Ian Macpherson, M.P., and Dr. J. H. Fullarton, London, for kindly looking over the proofs.

Special and very sincere thanks are due to Mr. John Henderson, secretary of the National Library Club, London, who manifested the kindest and liveliest interest in the undertaking. Not only did he read the proofs with scrupulous care, but he was ever ready to give advice and offer suggestions when cases of doubt arose. To me, one of the most pleasant memories connected with the labour of editing is the valuable assistance always so promptly and cheerfully given by Mr. Henderson.

I greatly appreciate the courtesy shown by Messrs. Daniel Ross & Co., Ltd., publishers, Wick, in permitting extracts to be taken from Mr. Sage’s Memorabilia Domestica.

Regarding the Publisher, I may be permitted to mention that he rendered my task very easy by providing, sometimes at considerable trouble and expense, all works of reference which I considered would be of service in endeavouring to make this History thoroughly accurate and reliable.



It is with great pleasure that I accede to the request that I should write a short introduction to welcome this reprint of so interesting and valuable a book as Mackenzie’s Highland Clearances. It has long been out of print, which anyone who recalls its first appearance will easily understand. It was written by a Highlander who commanded in a great measure the esteem of Highlanders, and it collected for the first time the sane and authenticated accounts of the experience of the Highlanders in the great agrarian crisis of their history. It appealed to the race as no book within recent years has done. The Highlander loves his past and his native land with a passionate attachment, and the story of the great wrongs of the days of the clearances is still deeply embedded in his mind. Within the last year or two many accounts, more or less imaginary, have appeared purporting to be true stories of those terrible days in the north, and it is peculiarly appropriate that, when once again men’s minds are centred on the great problem of the land in this country as a whole, and specific attention has been directed towards the Highlands, this reprint should now appear. We are all, therefore, under deep obligations to the public spirit and enterprize of the publishers and others who have been good enough to secure in an accessible form a reliable account of the conditions and events which at once intensified the acuteness of the land-hunger in the Highlands and constituted the blackest page in Highland history.

Many evil deeds have been associated with the abuse of the monopoly power of land ownership in this and other countries, but it is safe to say that nowhere within the limits of those islands, or, indeed, anywhere else at[10] any time have blacker or more foul deeds been committed in the sacred name of property than in the Highlands of Scotland in those days. It has always been a matter of astonishment that a brave race should ever have submitted to them. This becomes all the more remarkable, too, when one remembers that during those very years regiments raised in these very districts of the finest soldiers who ever marched to the stirring strains of the bagpipes, were gaining for the empire and for British arms the most noted achievements ever won in the Napoleonic wars and in the colonies. It is true, of course, and it is an eternal discredit, that many of these brave fellows came back wounded and war-scarred to find, not that a grateful country had taken care that the homes and the helpless ones they had left behind were kept sacred and immune from the greed and ruthless savagery of the landlord or his hirelings, but that their hearths and homes were desecrated and destroyed, and every moral law of patriotism and honour had been violated. “Their humble dwellings,” says Hugh Miller, “were of their own rearing; it was they themselves who had broken in their little fields from the waste; from time immemorial, far beyond the reach of history, they had possessed their mountain holdings, they had defended them so well of old that the soil was still virgin ground, in which the invader had found only a grave; and their young men were now in foreign lands fighting at the command of their chieftainess the battles of their country, not in the character of hired soldiers, but of men who regarded these very holdings as their stake in the quarrel.” Well has my friend Mackenzie MacBride expressed it:—

“Ye remnant of the brave!
Who charge when the pipes are heard;
Don’t think, my lads, that you fight for your own,
’Tis but for the good of the land.
And when the fight is done
And you come back over the foam,
‘Well done,’ they say, ‘you are good and true,
But we cannot give you a home.
‘For the hill we want for the deer,
And the glen the birds enjoy,
And bad for the game is the smoke of the cot,
And the song of the crofter’s boy.’”

The silence with which men of that calibre met these hardships and cruelty might well remain an enigma to one who does not know the Highlands. They knew that for centuries their ancestors had tilled those lands and lived free and untrammelled. By every moral law, if not by the law of the land, they had a right to the soil which had been defended with their own right arm and that of their ancestors. These were the days when they were useful to the chief, who assumed some indefinable right to the land. But the day came after the “Forty-Five” when men were no longer assets to the chief. His territorial jurisdiction was broken. He wanted money, not men, and the lonely silences of the hills instead of merry laughter and prattle of children singing graces by the wayside. And these men bore the change which meant so much to them with patience. Why? The Highlands were permeated then as now with a deep religious sense. They lent a willing ear to the teachings of the ministers of the Gospel, who wielded the power of the iron hand which left its deep impress on the social life and even the literature of the Highlands. They regarded the minister as the stern oracle of truth, and the strict interpreter of the meaning of the ways of God to man. What happened was right. And a perusal of the pages that are to follow will show what a mean use many of these ministers made of the power which their faithful flock believed was vested in them. These men were—with a noble exception or two—in reality the servile tools of the “estate” whose powers they feared, and whose support they received. In their own interests and in those of their earthly lord and master, they assured the people that all their troubles were but part of the punishment inflicted on them by Providence in the course of working out their redemption! This attitude of the ministers had another significance. In many parishes they[12] were the only persons who were educated enough to write, and so able to express the wrongs which their people were called upon to endure. But their voices were silent and their pens were idle, except, indeed, when they were used to ennoble the character, the prestige, and the benevolence of the evicting tyrant!

If they were thus comparatively passive in their “white-washing,” there were others openly active. In Hugh Miller’s words. “Ever since the planning of the fatal experience which ruined Sutherland, the noble family through which it was originated and carried on, had betrayed the utmost jealousy in having its real result made public. Volumes of special pleading have been written on the subject. Pamphlets have been published, laboured articles have been inserted in widely-spread reviews—statistical accounts have been watched over with the utmost surveillance. If the misrepresentations of the press could have altered the matter of fact, famine would not now be gnawing the vitals of Sutherland in a year a little less abundant than its predecessors, nor would the dejected and oppressed people be feeding their discontent amid present misery, with the recollections of a happier past. If a singularly well-conditioned and wholesome district of country has been converted into one wide ulcer of wretchedness and woe, it must be confessed that the sore has been carefully bandaged up from the public eye that if there has been little done for its cure, there has at least been much done for its concealment.” And then he goes on to say, “It has been said that the Gaelic language removed a district more effectually from the influence of English opinion than an ocean of three thousand miles, and that the British public know better what is doing in New York than what is doing in Lewis or Skye.” And so the House of Sutherland inveigles Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, fresh from her literary triumphs in the American environment of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” with no knowledge of the Gaelic language which “separated so effectually the district in which it was spoken” from English public opinion, but in which language alone grievances were likely to be expressed, to[13] write a grovelling apology. This she does, forsooth, in “Sunny Memories,” when the hearts and the spirits of the people outside the circle in which she was receiving well-merited, if short, hospitality were broken! Readers of the “Clearances” will notice how completely Donald M’Leod, whose name every lover of nobility of character, courage, and justice will ever honour, demolishes her insipid table-talk. An even worse type of white-washer was James Loch, who is now put forward as an unbiassed and disinterested observer of the gracious benevolence and marvellous generosity of the House of Sutherland. It was not mentioned that he was the factor for the then Duke!

The most notorious of all the evictions were the Sutherlandshire ones, and though there are many accounts of them in this volume, the gruesomeness of which has become a bye-word, they do not tell the whole tale. Since this question was revived during these last few months, I have had letters from descendants of the evicted from all over the colonies with new and conclusive proofs of the recklessness and severity which characterised them. A factor visited a township in western Sutherland, and went towards the house of the great grandmother of one correspondent. He met her as she was returning from milking the cows carrying a wooden vessel of milk. Brutally he snatched it from her, and to use his words, “drowned for ever the fire of her hearth with it,” and then drove her and her children to search through great privation for some foothold on rugged ground beside the western sea. When this factor died, his body was carried through another township. The sympathy of the people was but slight, for they remembered his cruelty. An old woman expressed the general, but hitherto suppressed, feeling of the community when she said, “Cha deach am maor rìamh troimh na bhaile cho samhach sa chaidh e an duigh” (“The factor never went through this township so peacefully as he went to-day”).

If, as Hugh Miller says, there has been no lack of professional white-washers, there has equally been no lack[14] of testimony, straight and true, from the hearts of the people, in bitter lamentation over the cruelty that befel the race at the hands of mercenary landlords. This testimony does not come from one class nor from one county. I have shown in another place how even Dr. Johnson, who loved neither the Scots nor their traditions, found himself “full of the old Highland spirit, and was dissatisfied at hearing of rack rents and emigration,” and was compelled to remark, “A rapacious chief would make a wilderness of his estate;” how unprejudiced writers like Mrs. Grant of Laggan bemoaned the rapacity of those who drove away the descendants of men whom their fathers led; and how bitterly a scholar like Professor Blackie viewed the depopulated glens where once heroes lived and fought. The bitterest note of all, as well as the truest, is sung by the Gaelic bards. They were of the people, and lived among them. They knew their feelings, none better, and it was their right to express that feeling with truth and with fearlessness in the language of the people. And I know of no bard in any county in the Highlands who has not vigorously denounced in some way the cruelty to which his people were arbitrarily subjected. It was a blow to them to find that chiefs of the old school had departed, that a change—in Gaelic, change is the best word for death—had taken place from the spirit of the chief who said, “I would rather drink punch in the house of my people than be enabled by their hardships to drink claret in my own.” Well might a good Celt of a later day have written of the new type of so-called chief:

“See that you kindly use them, O man
To whom God giveth
Stewardship over them in thy short span,
Not for thy pleasure;
Woe be to them who choose for a clan
Four-footed people.”

Take the Islay bard. He seeks to arouse our indignation because of glens and hillsides reft of men to work and fight and of children who might sing to Nature and her God. Clearly his patriotic soul is sorely bur[15]dened: the cold iron that has entered into it has made his soul terribly bitter. “Facit indignatio versus.” When he looks around and thinks of the days that were, his spirit is that of blood and carnage. He describes the hills that he loves with wonderful grace of diction; he hears a song or two—shieling songs—of marvellous beauty, and “shieling songs contain many soft, siren strains, which were believed to have their source in fairyland,” for their airs came from the good folk of the hills. But these things do not tempt him long; he is soon back again to the point that was sorest of all to him—the desolate glens and the hillsides “left to be garrisoned by the lonely shepherd.” Some of the poets were sportsmen like Duncan M’Intyre. Their grievance was always against the sheep, and the lowland shepherds, who desecrated for filthy lucre the hills which were their birthright and who spoke an alien tongue which frightened even the echoes!

Deer and sporting rights (after game laws were enacted) soon became more profitable than sheep, and it is amusing to find controversialists of to-day attempting to show that evictions never took place on account of deer forests. It was not the fault of the landlords that they did not. Evictions took place for the object that was at the moment most profitable. The Napoleonic wars made sheep runs temporarily more profitable; but the moment there was more profit to be obtained from sport and deer forests, then deer forests were to a large extent substituted for sheep runs. To-day there are over three million acres in Northern Scotland alone devoted to these preserves; and in 1892 the Deer Forest Commission scheduled over one million seven hundred thousand acres as being fit for small-holding purposes. The casual reader must beware, and must notice that this vast number of acres includes grazing lands also, otherwise critics who “avowedly represent the landlord interests” may feel aggrieved. But it will also be remembered that evictions primarily took place for grazing purposes; and further, that a small holding in Scotland is not quite the same as a small holding in England. In England it consists of a number[16] of acres which are under cultivation; in Scotland, I am referring, of course, to the deer forest country, it consists of some acres of cultivated land with very often a very large common outrun in moorland and hills for the township. So that when the uninitiated see pictures of deer forests that are said to be fit for small-holding purposes, they will now understand and suppress a smile. If only men could realise what can be produced out of what might appear to be the most impossible places! It has been said that if you give a man the secure possession of a rock, he will turn it into a garden, and one has only got to visit the Highlands to see how a hard-working and industrious peasantry have sought in this way with success to fight against the ills with which they were confronted by an ungrateful landlordism. One of the worst features of the “Clearances” was the method in which they were perpetrated. Examples will be found in these pages of sick people being carried out of their houses, and left on the wayside when their houses were in flames, and the present locations of some of the crofters are grim reminders of the extreme privations suffered by the people who settled in them. Perched on the rocks and moorlands, these people were driven from the inland valleys, and had to build themselves shelters from the turf and stones of the hillside, and carve out of barren land with enormous industry, and under the constant menace of famine, the miserable patches of land which remain to-day as evidence of their labours. The others were forced to emigrate, and the sufferings of those who survived well-nigh baffle description. The horrors of the small emigrant sailing ships of these days, and particularly on these occasions when people were packed together regardless of comfort and the decencies of life, and without sufficient food, were equalled only by the terrible privations and struggle for existence that awaited those who landed on the frozen lands of the north of Canada, to be assailed by hostile Indians, the rigours of the weather, and the desolation of an unfriendly country. It is altogether a tale of barbarous action unequalled in the annals of agrarian crime.


And need I do more than add what one who will never be regarded other than as a typical Tory, has written: “In too many instances the Highlands have been drained, not of their superfluity of population, but of the whole mass of the inhabitants, dispossessed by an unrelenting avarice, which will one day be found to have been as shortsighted as it is selfish and unjust. Meantime, the Highlands may become the fairy ground for romance and poetry, or the subject of experiment for the professors of speculation, historical and economical. But, if the hour of need should come, the pibroch may sound through the deserted region, but the summons will remain unanswered.” These are the words of Sir Walter Scott.

J. I. Macpherson.


Highland Clearances.



To give a proper account of the Sutherland Clearances would take a bulky volume. Indeed, a large tome of 354 pages has been written and published in their defence by him who was mainly responsible for them, called “An Account of the Sutherland Improvements,” by James Loch, at that time Commissioner for the Marchioness of Stafford and heiress of Sutherland. This was the first account I ever read of these so-called improvements; and it was quite enough to convince me, and it will be sufficient to convince anyone who knows anything of the country, that the improvement of the people, by driving them in the most merciless and cruel manner from the homes of their fathers, was carried out on a huge scale and in the most inconsiderate and heartless manner by those in charge of the Sutherland estates. But when one reads the other side, Macleod’s “Gloomy Memories,” General Stewart of Garth’s “Sketches of the Highlanders,” and other contemporary publications, one wonders that such iniquities could ever have been permitted in any Christian country, much more so in Great Britain, which has done so much for the amelioration of subject races and the oppressed in every part of the world, while her own brave sons have been persecuted,[20] oppressed and banished without compensation by greedy and cold-blooded proprietors, who owed their position and their lands to the ancestors of the very men they were now treating so cruelly.

The motives of the landlords, generally led by southern factors worse than themselves, were, in most cases, pure self-interest, and they pursued their policy of extermination with a recklessness and remorselessness unparalleled anywhere else where the Gospel of peace and charity was preached—except, perhaps, unhappy Ireland. Generally, law and justice, religion and humanity, were either totally disregarded, or, what was worse, in many cases converted into and applied as instruments of oppression. Every conceivable means, short of the musket and the sword, were used to drive the natives from the land they loved, and to force them to exchange their crofts and homes—brought originally into cultivation and built by themselves, or by their forefathers—for wretched patches among the barren rocks on the sea shore, and to depend, after losing their cattle and their sheep, and after having their houses burnt about their ears or razed to the ground, on the uncertain produce of the sea for subsistence, and that in the case of a people, who, in many instances, and especially in Sutherlandshire, were totally unacquainted with a seafaring life, and quite unfitted to contend with its perils.

What was true generally of the Highlands, was in the county of Sutherland carried to the greatest extreme. That unfortunate county, according to an eye-witness, was made another Moscow. The inhabitants were literally burnt out, and every contrivance and ingenious and unrelenting cruelty was eagerly adopted for extirpating the race. Many lives were sacrificed by famine and other hardships and privations; hundreds, stripped of their all, emigrated to the Canadas and other parts of America; great numbers, especially of the young and athletic, sought employment in the Lowlands and in England, where, few of them being skilled workmen, they were obliged—even farmers who had lived in comparative affluence in their own[21] country—to compete with common labourers, in communities where their language and simple manners rendered them objects of derision and ridicule. The aged and infirm, the widows and orphans, with those of their families who could not think of leaving them alone in their helplessness, and a number, whose attachment to the soil which contained the ashes of their ancestors, were induced to accept of the wretched allotments offered them on the wild moors and barren rocks. The mild nature and religious training of the Highlanders prevented a resort to that determined resistance and revenge which has repeatedly set bounds to the rapacity of landlords in Ireland. Their ignorance of the English language, and the want of natural leaders, made it impossible for them to make their grievances known to the outside world. They were, therefore, maltreated with impunity. The ministers generally sided with the oppressing lairds, who had the Church patronage at their disposal for themselves and for their sons. The professed ministers of religion sanctioned the iniquity, “the foulest deeds were glossed over, and all the evil which could not be attributed to the natives themselves, such as severe seasons, famines, and consequent disease, was by these pious gentlemen ascribed to Providence, as a punishment for sin.”

The system of turning out the ancient inhabitants from their native soil throughout the Highlands during the first half of the nineteenth century has been carried into effect in the county of Sutherland with greater severity and revolting cruelty than in any other part of the Highlands, and that though the Countess-Marchioness and her husband, the Marquis of Stafford, were by no means devoid of humanity, however atrocious and devoid of human feeling were the acts carried out in their name by heartless underlings, who represented the ancient tenantry to their superiors as lazy and rebellious, though, they maintained, everything was being done for their advantage and improvement. How this was done will be seen in the sequel. South countrymen were introduced and the land given to them for sheep farms over[22] the heads of the native tenantry. These strangers were made justices of the peace and armed with all sorts of authority in the county, and thus enabled to act in the most harsh and tyrannical fashion, none making them afraid; while the oppressed natives were placed completely at their mercy. They dare not even complain, for were not their oppressors also the administrators of the law? The seventeen parish ministers, with the single exception of the Rev. Mr. Sage, took the side of the powers that were, exhorting the people to submit and to stifle their cries of distress, telling them that all their sufferings came from the hand of their Heavenly Father as a punishment for their past transgressions. Most of these ministers have since rendered their account, and let us hope they have been forgiven for such cruel and blasphemous conduct. But one cannot help noting, to what horrid uses these men in Sutherlandshire and elsewhere prostituted their sacred office and high calling.

The Sutherland clearances were commenced in a comparatively mild way in 1807, by the ejection of ninety families from Farr and Lairg. These were provided for some fifteen or seventeen miles distant with smaller lots, to which they were permitted to remove their cattle and plenishing, leaving their crops unprotected, however, in the ground from which they were evicted. They had to pull down their old houses, remove the timber, and build new ones, during which period they had in many cases to sleep under the open canopy of heaven. In the autumn they carried away, with great difficulty, what remained of their crops, but the fatigue incurred cost a few of them their lives, while others contracted diseases which stuck to them during the remainder of their lives, and shortened their days.

In 1809 several hundred were evicted from the parishes of Dornoch, Rogart, Loth, Clyne, and Golspie, under circumstances of much greater severity than those already described. Several were driven by various means to leave the country altogether, and to those who could not be induced to do so, patches of moor and bog were offered on Dornoch Moor and Brora Links—quite unfit for cul[23]tivation. This process was carried on annually until, in 1811, the land from which the people were ejected was divided into large farms, and advertised as huge sheep runs. The country was overrun with strangers who came to look at these extensive tracts. Some of these gentlemen got up a cry that they were afraid of their lives among the evicted tenantry. A trumped-up story was manufactured that one of the interlopers was pursued by some of the natives of Kildonan, and put in bodily fear. The military were sent for from Fort George. The 21st Regiment was marched to Dunrobin Castle, with artillery and cartloads of ammunition. A great farce was performed; the people were sent for by the factors to the Castle at a certain hour. They came peaceably, but the farce must be gone through, the Riot Act was read; a few sheepish, innocent Highlanders were made prisoners, but nothing could be laid to their charge, and they were almost immediately set at liberty, while the soldiers were ordered back to Fort George. The demonstration, however, had the desired effect in cowing and frightening the people into the most absolute submission. They became dismayed and broken-hearted, and quietly submitted to their fate. The clergy all this time were assiduous in preaching that all the misfortunes of the people were “fore-ordained of God, and denouncing the vengeance of Heaven and eternal damnation on all those who would presume to make the slightest resistance.” At the May term of 1812 large districts of these parishes were cleared in the most peaceable manner, the poor creatures foolishly believing the false teaching of their selfish and dishonest spiritual guides—save the mark! The Earl of Selkirk, who went personally to the district, allured many of the evicted people to emigrate to his estates on the Red River in British North America, whither a whole ship-cargo of them went. After a long and otherwise disastrous passage they found themselves deceived and deserted by the Earl, left to their unhappy fate in an inclement wilderness, without any protection from the hordes of Red Indian savages by whom the district was infested,[24] and who plundered them of their all on their arrival and finally massacred them, save a small remnant who managed to escape, and travelled, through immense difficulties, across trackless forests to Upper Canada.

The notorious Mr. Sellar was at this time sub-factor, and in the spring of 1814 he took a large portion of the parishes of Farr and Kildonan into his own hands. In the month of March the old tenantry received notices to quit at the ensuing May term, and a few days after the summonses were served the greater portion of the heath pasture was, by his orders, set on fire. By this cruel proceeding the cattle belonging to the old tenantry were left without food during the spring, and it was impossible to dispose of them at a fair price, the price having fallen after the war; for Napoleon was now a prisoner in Elba, and the demand for cattle became temporarily dull, and prices very much reduced. To make matters worse, fodder was unusually scarce this spring, and the poor people’s cattle depended for subsistence solely on the spring grass which sprouts out among the heather, but which this year had been burnt by the factor who would himself reap the benefit when he came into possession later on.

In May the work of ejectment was again commenced, accompanied by cruelties hitherto unknown even in the Highlands. Atrocities were perpetrated which I cannot trust myself to describe in my own words. I shall give what is much more valuable—a description by an eye-witness in his own language. He says:—In former removals the tenants had been allowed to carry away the timber of their old dwellings to erect houses on their new allotments, but now a more summary mode was adopted by setting fire to them. The able-bodied men were by this time away after their cattle or otherwise engaged at a distance, so that the immediate sufferers by the general house-burning that now commenced were the aged and infirm, the women and children. As the lands were now in the hands of the factor himself, and were to be occupied as sheep farms, and as the people made no resistance, they expected, at least, some indulgence in[25] the way of permission to occupy their houses and other buildings till they could gradually remove, and meanwhile look after their growing crops. Their consternation was therefore greater, when immediately after the May term-day, a commencement was made to pull down and set fire to the houses over their heads. The old people, women and others, then began to preserve the timber which was their own; but the devastators proceeded with the greatest celerity, demolishing all before them, and when they had overthrown all the houses in a large tract of country they set fire to the wreck. Timber, furniture, and every other article that could not be instantly removed was consumed by fire or otherwise utterly destroyed. The proceedings were carried on with the greatest rapidity and the most reckless cruelty. The cries of the victims, the confusion, the despair and horror painted on the countenances of the one party, and the exulting ferocity of the other, beggar all description. At these scenes Mr. Sellar was present, and apparently, as sworn by several witnesses at his subsequent trial, ordering and directing the whole. Many deaths ensued from alarm, from fatigue, and cold, the people having been instantly deprived of shelter, and left to the mercies of the elements. Some old men took to the woods and to the rocks, wandering about in a state approaching to, or of absolute, insanity; and several of them in this situation lived only a few days. Pregnant women were taken in premature labour, and several children did not long survive their sufferings. “To these scenes,” says Donald Macleod[2], “I was an eye-witness, and am ready to substantiate the truth of my statements, not only by my own testimony, but by that of many others who were present at the time. In such a scene of general devastation, it is almost useless to particularise the cases of individuals; the suffering was great and universal. I shall, however, notice a very few of the extreme cases of which I was myself an eye-witness. John Mackay’s wife, Ravigill, in attempting to pull down her house, in[26] the absence of her husband, to preserve the timber, fell through the roof. She was in consequence taken in premature labour, and in that state was exposed to the open air and to the view of all the by-standers. Donald Munro, Garvott, lying in a fever, was turned out of his house and exposed to the elements. Donald Macbeath, an infirm and bed-ridden old man, had the house unroofed over him, and was in that state exposed to the wind and rain until death put a period to his sufferings. I was present at the pulling down and burning of the house of William Chisholm, Badinloskin, in which was lying his wife’s mother, an old bed-ridden woman of nearly 100 years of age, none of the family being present. I informed the persons about to set fire to the house of this circumstance, and prevailed on them to wait until Mr. Sellar came. On his arrival, I told him of the poor old woman being in a condition unfit for removal, when he replied, ‘Damn her, the old witch, she has lived too long—let her burn.’ Fire was immediately set to the house, and the blankets in which she was carried out were in flames before she could be got out. She was placed in a little shed, and it was with great difficulty they were prevented from firing it also. The old woman’s daughter arrived while the house was on fire, and assisted the neighbours in removing her mother out of the flames and smoke, presenting a picture of horror which I shall never forget, but cannot attempt to describe.” Within five days she was a corpse.

In 1816 Sellar was charged at Inverness, before the Court of Justiciary, with culpable homicide and fire-raising in connection with these proceedings, and, considering all the circumstances, it is not at all surprising that he was “honourably” acquitted of the grave charges made against him. Almost immediately after, however, he ceased to be factor on the Sutherland estates, and Mr. Loch came into power. Evictions were carried out from 1814 down to 1819 and 1820, pretty much of the same character as those already described, but the removal of Mr. Young, the chief factor, and Mr. Sellar from power was hailed with delight by the whole remaining popula[27]tion. Their very names had become a terror. Their appearance in any part of the county caused such alarm as to make women fall into fits. One woman became so terrified that she became insane, and whenever she saw any one she did not recognise, she invariably cried out in a state of absolute terror—“Oh! sin Sellar”—“Oh! there’s Sellar.” The people, however, soon discovered that the new factors were not much better. Several leases which were current would not expire until 1819 and 1820, so that the evictions were necessarily only partial from 1814 down to that period. The people were reduced to such a state of poverty that even Mr. Loch himself, in his “Sutherland Improvements,” page 76, admits that—“Their wretchedness was so great that, after pawning everything they possessed to the fishermen on the coast, such as had no cattle were reduced to come down from the hills in hundreds for the purpose of gathering cockles on the shore. Those who lived in the more remote situations of the county were obliged to subsist upon broth made of nettles, thickened with a little oatmeal. Those who had cattle had recourse to the still more wretched expedient of bleeding them, and mixing the blood with oatmeal, which they afterwards cut into slices and fried. Those who had a little money came down and slept all night upon the beach, in order to watch the boats returning from the fishing, that they might be in time to obtain a part of what had been caught.” He, however, omitted to mention the share he and his predecessors had taken in reducing the people to such misery, and the fact that at this very time he had constables stationed at the Little Ferry to prevent the starved tenantry from collecting shellfish in the only place where they could find them.

He prevailed upon the people to sign documents consenting to remove at the next Whitsunday term, promising at the same time to make good provision for them elsewhere. In about a month after, the work of demolition and devastation again commenced, and parts of the parishes of Golspie, Rogart, Farr, and the whole of Kildonan were in a blaze. Strong parties with faggots[28] and other combustible material were set to work; three hundred houses were given ruthlessly to the flames, and their occupants pushed out in the open air without food or shelter. Macleod, who was present, describes the horrible scene as follows:—

“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 were my relations, and all of whom 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.”

The whole of the inhabitants of Kildonan, numbering nearly 2000 souls, except three families, were utterly rooted and burnt out, and the whole parish converted into a solitary wilderness. The suffering was intense. Some lost their reason. Over a hundred souls took passage to Caithness in a small sloop, the master humanely agreeing to take them in the hold, from which he had just unloaded a cargo of quicklime. A head storm came on, and they were nine days at sea in the most miserable condition—men, women, and helpless chil[29]dren huddled up together, with barely any provisions. Several died in consequence, and others became invalids for the rest of their days. One man, Donald Mackay, whose family was suffering from a severe fever, carried two of his children a distance of twenty-five miles to this vessel. Another old man took shelter in a meal mill, where he was kept from starvation by licking the meal refuse scattered among the dust on the floor, and protected from the rats and other vermin by his faithful collie. George Munro, the miller at Farr, who had six of his family down with fever, had to remove them in that state to a damp kiln, while his home was given to the flames. And all this was done in the name of proprietors who could not be considered tyrants in the ordinary sense of the term.

General Stewart of Garth, about a year after the cruelties perpetrated in Sutherland, writes with regret of the unnatural proceedings as “the delusions practised (by his subordinates) on a generous and public-spirited proprietor, which have been so perseveringly applied, that it would appear as if all feeling of former kindness towards the native tenantry had ceased to exist. To them any uncultivated spot of moorland, however small, was considered sufficient for the support of a family; while the most lavish encouragement has been given to all the new tenants, on whom, with the erection of buildings, the improvement of lands, roads, bridges, &c., upwards of £210,000 had been expended since 1808 (in fourteen years). With this proof of unprecedented liberality, it cannot be sufficiently lamented that an estimate of the character of these poor people was taken from the misrepresentation of interested persons, instead of judging from the conduct of the same men when brought into the world, where they obtained a name and character which have secured the esteem and approbation of men high in honour and rank, and, from their talents and experience, perfectly capable of judging with correctness. With such proofs of capability, and with such materials for carrying on the improvements and maintaining the permanent prosperity of the county, when[30] occupied by a hardy, abstemious race, easily led on to a full exertion of their faculties by a proper management, there cannot be a question but that if, instead of placing them, as has been done, in situations bearing too near a resemblance to the potato-gardens of Ireland, they had been permitted to remain as cultivators of the soil, receiving a moderate share of the vast sums lavished on their richer successors, such a humane and considerate regard to the prosperity of a whole people would undoubtedly have answered every good purpose.” He then goes on to show that when the valleys and higher grounds were let to the sheep-farmers, the whole native population was driven to the sea shore, where they were crowded on small lots of land to earn subsistence by labour and sea-fishing, the latter so little congenial to their former habits and experience. “And these one or two acre lots are represented as improvements!” He then asks how in a country, without regular employment or manufactories, a family is to be supported on one or two acres? The thing was impossible, and the consequence is that “over the whole of this district, where the sea-shore is accessible, the coast is thickly studded with thatched cottages, crowded with starving inhabitants,” while strangers, with capital, usurp the land and dispossess the swain. Ancient respectable tenants, who passed the greater part of their lives in the enjoyment of abundance, and in the exercise of hospitality and charity, possessing stocks of ten, twenty, and thirty breeding cows, with the usual proportion of other stock, are now pining on one or two acres of bad land, with one or two starved cows; and for this accommodation a calculation is made, that they must support their families, and pay the rents of their lots, not from the produce, but from the sea. When the herring fishery succeeds, they generally satisfy the landlords, whatever privations they may suffer; but when the fishing fails, they fall in arrears and are sequestrated and their stocks sold to pay the rents, their lots given to others, and they and their families turned adrift on the world; but in these trying circumstances, he concludes, “we cannot sufficiently[31] admire their meek and patient spirit, supported by the powerful influence of moral and religious principle.”

The beautiful Strathnaver, containing a population equal to Kildonan, had been cleared in the same heartless manner.

In 1828, Donald Macleod, after a considerable absence, returned to his native Kildonan, where he attended divine service in the parish church, which he found attended by a congregation consisting of eight shepherds and their dogs—numbering between twenty and thirty—the minister, and three members of his family. Macleod came in too late for the first psalm, but at the conclusion of the service the fine old tune Bangor was given out, “when the four-footed hearers became excited, got up on the seats, and raised a most infernal chorus of howling. Their masters attacked them with their crooks, which only made matters worse; the yelping and howling continued to the end of the service.” And Donald Macleod retired to contemplate the painful and shameful scene, and contrast it with what he had previously experienced as a member, for many years, of the large and devout congregation that worshipped formerly in the parish church of his native valley.

The Parish Church of Farr was no longer in existence; the fine population of Strathnaver was rooted and burnt out during the general conflagration, and presented a similar aspect to his own native parish. The church, no longer found necessary, was razed to the ground, and its timbers conveyed to construct one of the Sutherland “improvements”—the Inn at Altnaharra, while the minister’s house was converted into a dwelling for a fox-hunter. A woman, well-known in the parish, travelling through the desolated Strath next year after the evictions, was asked on her return home for her news, when she replied—“O, chan eil ach sgiala bronach! sgiala bronach!” “Oh, only sad news, sad news! I have seen the timber of our well attended kirk covering the inn at Altnaharra; I have seen the kirk-yard where our friends are mouldering filled with tarry sheep, and Mr. Sage’s study turned into a kennel for Robert Gunn’s dogs,[32] and I have seen a crow’s nest in James Gordon’s chimney head;” after which she fell into a paroxysm of grief.


I remained for about a year in the capacity of tutor in the family of Mr. Robert MacKid, Sheriff-Substitute of Sutherland, who lived at Kirkton, in the parish of Golspie. I shall briefly sum up what I remember of this period.

It was a very short time previous to my residence in Mr. MacKid’s family that the first “Sutherland Clearance” took place. This consisted in the ejection from their minutely-divided farms of several hundreds of the Sutherlandshire aborigines, who had from time immemorial been in possession of their mountain tenements. This sweeping desolation extended over many parishes, but it fell most heavily on the parish of Kildonan. It was the device of one William Young, a successful corn-dealer and land-improver. He rose from indigence, but was naturally a man of taste, of an ingenious turn of mind, and a shrewd calculator. After realising some hundreds of pounds by corn-dealing, he purchased from Sir Archibald Dunbar of Thundertown a small and valueless property in Morayshire called Inverugie. It lay upon the sea-shore, and, like many properties of more ancient date, it had been completely covered with sea-sand which had drifted upon its surface. For this small and worthless spot he paid a correspondingly small price—about £700—but, tasking his native and vigorous genius for improvement, he set himself at once to better his bargain. Making use of a plough of peculiar construction, he turned the sand down and the rich old soil up, and thus made it one of the most productive properties in the county. This, with other necessary improvements, however, involved him in debt; but, just as it became a question with him how to pay it, his praise in the north as a scientific improver of land reached the ears of the Stafford family, who, in connection with their immense wealth, were racked with the anxiety[33] to improve their Highland estate. As William Young had been so successful on the estate of Inverugie they thought he could not but be equally so on the Sutherland estate. Young introduced the depopulating system into Sutherland.[3] This system, during his tenure of office as commissioner on the Sutherland property, was just at its commencement. It was first brought to bear on the parish of Kildonan. The whole north and south sides of the Strath, from Kildonan to Caen on the left bank of the river, and from Dalcharn to Marrel on the right bank, were, at one fell sweep, cleared of their inhabitants. The measures for their ejectment had been taken with such promptness, and were so suddenly and brutally carried out, as to excite a tumult among the people. Young had as his associate in the factorship a man of the name of Sellar, who acted in the subordinate capacity of legal agent and accountant on the estate, and who, by his unprincipled recklessness in conducting the process of ejectment, added fuel to the flame. It was said that the people rose almost en masse, that the constables and officials were resisted and their lives threatened, and the combination among the peasantry was represented as assuming at last so alarming an aspect that the Sheriff-Depute of the county was under the necessity of calling in the military to quell the riot. A detachment of soldiers was accordingly sent from Fort-George, a powder magazine was erected at Dornoch, and every preparation made as for the commencement of a civil war. But the chief magistrate of the county, shrewdly suspecting the origin of these reports, ordered back the military, came himself alone among the people, and instituted a cool and impartial enquiry into their proceedings. The result was that the formidable riot, which was reported to have for its objects the murder of Young and Sellar, the expulsion of the store-farmers, and the burning of Dunrobin Castle,[34] amounted after all only to this, that a certain number of the people had congregated in different places and had given vent to their outraged feelings and sense of oppression in rash and unguarded terms. It could not be proved that a single act of violence was committed. Sellar laboured hard to involve my father and mother in the criminality of these proceedings, but he utterly failed. The peasantry, as fine as any in the world, were treated by the owners of the soil as “good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under feet of men,” while the tract of country thus depopulated was divided into two large sheep farms, one of which was given in lease to William Cluness of Cracaig, and the other to a Mr. Reid from Northumberland.

The reckless lordly proprietors had resolved upon the expulsion of their long-standing and much-attached tenantry from their widely-extended estates, and the Sutherland Clearance of 1819 was not only the climax of their system of oppression for many years before, but the extinction of the last remnant of the ancient Highland peasantry in the north. As violent tempests send out before them many a deep and sullen roar, so did the advancing storm give notice of its approach by various single acts of oppression. I can yet recall to memory the deep and thrilling sensation which I experienced, as I sat at the fireside in my rude, little parlour at Achness, when the tidings of the meditated removal of my poor flock first reached me from headquarters. It might be about the beginning of October, 1818. A tenant from the middle of the Strath had been to Rhives, the residence of Mr. Young, the commissioner, paying his rent. He was informed, and authorised to tell his neighbours, that the rent for the half-year, ending in May, 1819, would not be demanded, as it was determined to lay the districts of Strathnaver and Upper Kildonan under sheep. This intelligence when first announced was indignantly discredited by the people. Notwithstanding their knowledge of former clearances they clung to the hope that the “Ban-mhorair Chataibh” (the Duchess of Sutherland) would not give her con[35]sent to the warning as issued by her subordinates, and thus deprive herself of her people, as truly a part of her noble inheritance as were her broad acres. But the course of a few weeks soon undeceived them. Summonses of ejectment were issued and despatched all over the district. These must have amounted to upwards of a thousand, as the population of the Mission alone was 1600 souls, and many more than those of the Mission were ejected. The summonses were distributed with the utmost preciseness. They were handed in at every house and hovel alike, be the occupiers of them who or what they might—minister, catechist, or elder, tenant, or sub-tenant, out-servant, or cottar—all were made to feel the irresponsible power of the proprietor. The enormous amount of citations might also be accounted for by the fact that Mr. Peter Sellar had a threefold personal interest in the whole matter. He was, in the first place, factor on the Sutherland estate at the time; then, he was law agent for the proprietors; and, lastly, the lessee or tacksman of more than a third of the county to be cleared of its inhabitants. It may easily be conceived how such a three-plied cord of worldly interest would bind him over to greater rigour, and even atrocity, in executing the orders of his superiors on the wretched people among whom he was thus let loose like a beast of prey. But the effects produced by these decided measures I now distinctly remember. Having myself, in common with the rest of my people, received one of these notices, I resolved that, at the ensuing term of Martinmas, I would remove from Achness, and go once more permanently to reside under my father’s roof, although I would at the same time continue the punctual discharge of my pastoral duties among the people till they also should be removed. I could not but regard the summoning of the minister as tantamount to the putting down of the ministration of the Word and ordinances of religion in that part of the country. And, indeed, it is a fact, that, although this desolate district is still occupied by shepherds, no provision has, since that time, been made for their spiritual wants. I left Achness, therefore, about[36] the middle of November, 1818, sold my cow at the Ardgay market, and got my furniture conveyed to Kildonan by my father’s horses and my own. The people received the legal warning to leave for ever the homes of their fathers with a sort of stupor—that apparent indifference which is often the external aspect of intense feeling. As they began, however, to awaken from the stunning effects of this first intimation, their feelings found vent, and I was much struck with the different ways in which they expressed their sentiments. The truly pious acknowledged the mighty hand of God in the matter. In their prayers and religious conferences not a solitary expression could be heard indicative of anger or vindictiveness, but in the sight of God they humbled themselves, and received the chastisement at His hand. Those, however, who were strangers to such exalted and ennobling impressions of the Gospel breathed deep and muttered curses on the heads of the persons who subjected them to such treatment. The more reckless portion of them fully realised the character of the impenitent in all ages, and indulged in the most culpable excesses, even while this divine punishment was still suspended over them. These last, however, were very few in number—not more than a dozen. To my poor and defenceless flock the dark hour of trial came at last in right earnest. It was in the month of April, and about the middle of it, that they were all—man, woman, and child—from the heights of Farr to the mouth of the Naver, on one day, to quit their tenements and go—many of them knew not whither. For a few, some miserable patches of ground along the shores were doled out as lots, without aught in the shape of the poorest hut to shelter them. Upon these lots it was intended that they should build houses at their own expense, and cultivate the ground, at the same time occupying themselves as fishermen, although the great majority of them had never set foot on a boat in their lives. Thither, therefore, they were driven at a week’s warning. As for the rest most of them knew not whither to go, unless their neighbours on the shore provided them with a temporary shelter;[37] for, on the day of their removal, they would not be allowed to remain, even on the bleakest moor, and in the open air, for a distance of twenty miles around.

On the Sabbath, a fortnight previous to the fated day, I preached my valedictory sermon in Achness, and the Sabbath thereafter at Ach-na-h-uaigh. Both occasions were felt by myself and by the people from the oldest to the youngest, to be among the bitterest and most overwhelming experiences of our lives. In Strathnaver we assembled, for the last time, at the place of Langdale, where I had frequently preached before, on a beautiful green sward overhung by Robert Gordon’s antique, romantic little cottage on an eminence close beside us. The still-flowing waters of the Naver swept past us a few yards to the eastward. The Sabbath morning was unusually fine, and mountain, hill, and dale, water and woodland, among which we had so long dwelt, and with which all our associations of “home” and “native land” were so fondly linked, appeared to unite their attractions to bid us farewell. My preparations for the pulpit had always cost me much anxiety, but in view of this sore scene of parting, they caused me pain almost beyond endurance. I selected a text which had a pointed reference to the peculiarity of our circumstances, but my difficulty was how to restrain my feelings till I should illustrate and enforce the great truths which it involved with reference to eternity. The service began. The very aspect of the congregation was of itself a sermon, and a most impressive one. Old Achoul sat right opposite to me. As my eye fell upon his venerable countenance, bearing the impress of eighty-seven winters, I was deeply affected, and could scarcely articulate the psalm. I preached and the people listened, but every sentence uttered and heard was in opposition to the tide of our natural feelings, which, setting in against us, mounted at every step of our progress higher and higher. At last all restraints were compelled to give way. The preacher ceased to speak, the people to listen. All lifted up their voices, and wept, mingling their tears together. It was indeed the place of parting, and the hour. The greater[38] number parted never again to behold each other in the land of the living. My adieu to the people of Ach-na-h-uaighe was scarcely less affecting, although somewhat alleviated by the consideration that I had the prospect of ministering still to those among them who had leases of their farms, and whom Mr. Sellar, the factor and law agent, had no power to remove.

The middle of the week brought on the day of the Strathnaver Clearance (1819). It was a Tuesday. At an early hour of that day Mr. Sellar, accompanied by the Fiscal, and escorted by a strong body of constables, sheriff-officers and others, commenced work at Grummore, the first inhabited township to the west of the Achness district. Their plan of operations was to clear the cottages of their inmates, giving them about half-an-hour to pack up and carry off their furniture, and then set the cottages on fire. To this plan they ruthlessly adhered, without the slightest regard to any obstacle that might arise while carrying it into execution.

At Grumbeg lived a soldier’s widow, Henny Munro. She had followed her husband in all his campaigns, marches, and battles, in Sicily and in Spain. Whether his death was on the field of battle, or the result of fever or fatigue, I forget; but his faithful helpmeet attended him to his last hour, and, when his spirit fled, closed his eyes, and followed his remains to their last resting-place. After his death she returned to Grumbeg, the place of her nativity, and, as she was utterly destitute of any means of support, she was affectionately received by her friends, who built her a small cottage and gave her a cow and grass for it. The din of arms, orders, and counter-orders from headquarters, marchings and counter-marchings and pitched battles, retreats and advances, were the leading and nearly unceasing subjects of her winter evening conversations. She was a joyous, cheery old creature; so inoffensive, moreover, and so contented, and brimful of good-will that all who got acquainted with old Henny Munro could only desire to do her a good turn, were it merely for the warm and hearty expressions of gratitude with which it was received. Surely the factor[39] and his followers did not personally know old Henny, or they could not have treated her as they did. After the cottages at Grummore were emptied of their inmates, and roofs and rafters had been lighted up into one red blaze, Mr. Sellar and his iron-hearted attendants approached the residence of the soldier’s widow. Henny stood up to plead for her furniture—the coarsest and most valueless that well could be, but still her earthly all. She first asked that, as her neighbours were so occupied with their own furniture, hers might be allowed to remain till they should be free to remove it for her. This request was curtly refused. She then besought them to allow a shepherd who was present and offered his services for that purpose, to remove the furniture to his own residence on the opposite shore of the loch, to remain there till she could carry it away. This also was refused, and she was told, with an oath, that if she did not take her trumpery off within half-an-hour it would be burned. The poor widow had only to task the remains of her bodily strength, and address herself to the work of dragging her chests, beds, presses, and stools out at the door, and placing them at the gable of her cottage. No sooner was her task accomplished than the torch was applied, the widow’s hut, built of very combustible material, speedily ignited, and there rose up rapidly, first a dense cloud of smoke, and soon thereafter a bright red flame. The wind unfortunately blew in the direction of the furniture, and the flame, lighting upon it, speedily reduced it to ashes.

In their progress down the Strath, Ceann-na-coille was the next township reached by the fire-raising evictors. An aged widow lived there who, by infirmity, had been reduced to such a state of bodily weakness that she could neither walk nor lie in bed. She could only, night and day, sit in her chair; and having been confined for many years in that posture, her limbs had become so stiff that any attempt to move her was attended with acute pain. She was the mother-in-law of Samuel Matheson, and had, with her family, been removed by Mr. Sellar from Rhimisdale some time before. His treatment of her[40] and others on that occasion had brought Mr. Sellar into trouble, but now, in the Providence of God, she was once more in his power. “Bean Raomasdail,” or “the good wife of Rhimisdale,” as she was called, was much revered. In her house I have held diets of catechising and meetings for prayer, and been signally refreshed by her Christian converse. When the evicting party commenced their operations in her township, the aged widow’s house was among the very first that was to be consigned to the flames. Her family and neighbours represented the widow’s strong claims on their compassion, and the imminent danger to her life of removing her to such a distance as the lower end of the Strath, at least ten miles off, without suitable means of conveyance. They implored that she might be allowed to remain for only two days till a conveyance could be provided for her. They were told that they should have thought on that before, and that she must immediately be removed by her friends, or the constables would be ordered to do it. The good wife of Rhimisdale was, therefore, raised by her weeping family, from her chair and laid on a blanket, the corners of which were held up by four of the strongest youths in the place. All this she bore with meekness, and while the eyes of her attendants were streaming with tears, her pale and gentle countenance was suffused with a smile. The change of posture and the rapid motion of the bearers, however, awakened the most intense pain, and her cries never ceased till within a few miles of her destination, when she fell asleep. A burning fever supervened, of which she died a few months later.

During these proceedings, I was resident at my father’s house, but I had occasion on the week immediately ensuing to visit the manse of Tongue. On my way thither, I passed through the scene of the campaign of burning. The spectacle presented was hideous and ghastly! The banks of the lake and the river, formerly studded with cottages, now met the eye as a scene of desolation. Of all the houses, the thatched roofs were gone, but the walls, built of alternate layers of turf and[41] stone, remained. The flames of the preceding week still slumbered in their ruins, and sent up into the air spiral columns of smoke; whilst here a gable, and there a long side-wall, undermined by the fire burning within them, might be seen tumbling to the ground, from which a cloud of smoke, and then a dusky flame, slowly sprang up. The sooty rafters of the cottages, as they were being consumed, filled the air with a heavy and most offensive odour. In short, nothing could more vividly represent the horrors of grinding oppression, and the extent to which one man, dressed up in a “little brief authority,” will exercise that power, without feeling or restraint, to the injury of his fellow-creatures.


On the part of those who instituted similar improvements, in which so few of the people were to have a share, conciliatory measures, and a degree of tenderness, beyond what would have been shown to strangers, were to have been expected towards the hereditary supporters of their families. It was, however, unfortunately the natural consequences of the measures which were adopted, that few men of liberal feelings could be induced to undertake their execution. The respectable gentlemen, who, in so many cases, had formerly been entrusted with the management of Highland property, resigned, and their places were supplied by persons cast in a coarser mould, and, generally, strangers to the country, who, detesting the people, and ignorant of their character, capability, and language, quickly surmounted every obstacle, and hurried on the change, without reflecting on the distress of which it might be productive, or allowing the kindlier feelings of landlords to operate in favour of their ancient tenantry. To attempt a new system, and become acceptable tenants, required a little time and a little[42] indulgence, two things which it was resolved should not be conceded them: they were immediately removed from the fertile and cultivated farms; some left the country, and others were offered limited portions of land on uncultivated moors, on which they were to form a settlement; and thus, while particular districts have been desolated, the gross numerical population has, in some manner, been preserved. Many judicious men, however, doubt the policy of these measures, and dread their consequences on the condition and habits of the people. The following account of their situation is from the respectable and intelligent clergyman of an extensive parish in the county:—

“When the valleys and higher grounds were let to the shepherds, the whole population was drawn down to the sea-shore, where they were crowded on small lots of land, to earn their subsistence by labour (where all are labourers and few employers) and by sea-fishing, the latter so little congenial to their former habits. This cutting down farms into lots was found so profitable, that over the whole of this district, the sea-coast, where the shore is accessible, is thickly studded with wretched cottages, crowded with starving inhabitants. Ancient respectable tenants, who passed the greater part of life in the enjoyment of abundance, and in the exercise of hospitality and charity, possessing stocks of ten, twenty, and thirty breeding cows, with the usual proportion of other stock, are now pining on one or two acres of bad land, with one or two starved cows, and, for this accommodation a calculation is made, that they must support their families and pay the rent of their lots, which the land cannot afford. When the herring fishery (the only fishery prosecuted on this coast) succeeds, they generally satisfy the landlords, whatever privations they may suffer, but when the fishing fails, they fall in arrears, and are sequestrated, and their stock sold to pay the rents, their lots given to others, and they and their families turned adrift on the world. The herring fishery, always precarious, has, for a succession of years, been very defective, and this class of people are reduced to extreme[43] misery. At first, some of them possessed capital, from converting their farm stock into cash, but this has been long exhausted. It is distressing to view the general poverty of this class of people, aggravated by their having once enjoyed abundance and independence; and we cannot sufficiently admire their meek and patient spirit, supported by the powerful influence of religious and moral principle. There are still a few small tenants on the old system, occupying the same farm jointly, but they are falling fast to decay, and sinking into the new class of cottars.”

This mode of sub-dividing small portions of inferior land is bad enough certainly, and to propose the establishment of villages, in a pastoral country, for the benefit of men who can neither betake themselves to the cultivation of the land nor to commerce for earning the means of subsistence, is doubtless a refinement in policy solely to be ascribed to the enlightened and enlarged views peculiar to the new system. But, leaving out of view the consideration that, from the prevalence of turning corn lands into pasture, the demand for labour is diminished, while the number of labourers is increased, it can scarcely be expected that a man who had once been in the condition of a farmer, possessed of land, and of considerable property in cattle, horses, sheep, and money, often employing servants himself, conscious of his independence, and proud of his ability to assist others, should, without the most poignant feelings, descend to the rank of a hired labourer, even where labour and payment can be obtained, more especially if he must serve on the farms or in the country where he formerly commanded as a master.

It is not easy for those who live in a country like England, where so many of the lower orders have nothing but what they acquire by the labour of the passing day, and possess no permanent property or share in the agricultural produce of the soil, to appreciate the nature of the spirit of independence which is generated in countries where the free cultivators of the soil constitute the major part of the population. It can scarcely be[44] imagined how proudly a man feels, however small his property may be, when he has a spot of arable land and pasture, stocked with corn, horses, and cows, a species of property which, more than any other, binds him, by ties of interest and attachment, to the spot with which he is connected. He considers himself an independent person, placed in a station in society far above the day labourer, who has no stake in the permanency of existing circumstances, beyond the prospect of daily employment; his independence being founded on permanent property, he has an interest in the welfare of the state, by supporting which he renders his own property more secure, and, although the value of the property may not be great, it is every day in his view; his cattle and horses feed around him; his grass and corn he sees growing and ripening; his property is visible to all observers, which is calculated to raise the owner in general consideration; and when a passing friend or neighbour praises his thriving crops and his cattle, his heart swells with pleasure, and he exerts himself to support and to preserve that government and those laws which render it secure. Such is the case in many parts of the world; such was formerly the case in Scotland, and is still in many parts of the Highlands. Those who wish to see only the two castes of capitalists and day-labourers, may smile at this union of independence and poverty. But, that the opposite system is daily quenching the independent spirit of the Highlanders, is an undoubted fact, and gives additional strength to the arguments of those who object to the reduction of the agricultural population, and regret their removal to the great towns, and to the villages in preparation in some parts of the country.

It is painful to dwell on this subject, but as information communicated by men of honour, judgment, and perfect veracity, descriptive of what they daily witness, affords the best means of forming a correct judgment, and as these gentlemen, from their situations in life, have no immediate interest in the determination of the question, beyond what is dictated by humanity and a love of truth, their authority may be considered as undoubted.


The following extract of a letter from a friend, as well as the extract already quoted, is of this description. Speaking of the settlers on the new allotments, he says:—

“I scarcely need tell you that these wretched people exhibit every symptom of the most abject poverty, and the most helpless distress. Their miserable lots in the moors, notwithstanding their utmost labour and strictest economy, have not yielded them a sufficient crop for the support of their families for three months. The little money they were able to derive from the sale of their stock has, therefore, been expended in the purchase of necessaries, and is now wholly exhausted. Though they have now, therefore, overcome all their scruples about leaving their native land, and possess the most ardent desire to emigrate, in order to avoid more intolerable evils of starvation, and have been much encouraged by the favourable accounts they have received from their countrymen already in America, they cannot possibly pay the expense of transporting themselves and their families thither.”

It has been said that an old Highlander warned his countrymen “to take care of themselves, for the law had reached Ross-shire.” When his fears were excited by vague apprehensions of change, he could not well anticipate that the introduction of civil order, and the extension of legal authority, which in an enlightened age tend to advance the prosperity as well as promote the security of a nation, should have been to his countrymen either the signals of banishment from their native country, or the means of lowering the condition of those who were permitted to remain. With more reason it might have been expected that the principles of an enlightened age would have gradually introduced beneficial changes among the ancient race; that they would have softened down the harsher features of their character, and prepared them for habits better suited to the cultivation of the soil, than the indolent freedom of a pastoral life. Instead of this, the new system, whatever may be its intrinsic merits or defects, has, in too many cases, been carried into execution in a manner which has excited[46] the strongest and most indignant sensations in the breasts of those who do not overlook the present inconvenience and distress of the many, in the eager pursuit of a prospective advantage to the few. The consequences which have resulted, and the contrast between the present and past condition of the people, and between their present and past disposition and feelings towards their superiors, show, in the most striking light, the impolicy of attempting, with such unnatural rapidity, innovations which it would require an age, instead of a few years, to accomplish in a salutary manner, and the impossibility of effecting them without inflicting great misery, endangering morals, and undermining loyalty to the king, and respect for constituted authority.

A love of change, proceeding from the actual possession of wealth, or from the desire of acquiring it, disturbs, by an ill-directed influence, the gradual and effectual progress of those improvements which, instead of benefiting the man of capital alone, should equally distribute their advantages to all. In the prosecution of recent changes in the north, it would appear that the original inhabitants were never thought of, nor included in the system which was to be productive of such wealth to the landlord, the man of capital, and the country at large,—and that no native could be intrusted with, or, perhaps, none was found hardy enough to act a part in the execution of plans which commenced with the ejectment of their unfortunate friends and neighbours. Strangers were, therefore, called in, and whole glens cleared of their inhabitants, who, in some instances, resisted these mandates (although legally executed), in the hope of preserving to their families their ancient homes, to which all were enthusiastically attached. These people, blameless in every respect, save their poverty and ignorance of modern agriculture, could not believe that such harsh measures proceeded from their honoured superiors, who had hitherto been kind, and to whom they themselves had ever been attached and faithful. The whole was attributed to the acting agents, and to them, therefore, their indignation was principally directed; and, in some[47] instances, their resistance was so obstinate, that it became necessary to enforce the orders “vi et armis,” and to have recourse to a mode of ejectment, happily long obsolete, by setting their houses on fire. This last species of legal proceeding was so peculiarly conclusive and forcible that even the stubborn Highlanders, with all their attachment to the homes of their fathers, were compelled to yield.

In the first instances of this mode of removing refractory tenants, a small compensation (six shillings), in two separate sums, was allowed for the houses destroyed. Some of the ejected tenants were also allowed small allotments of land, on which they were to build houses at their own expense, no assistance being given for that purpose. Perhaps it was owing to this that they were the more reluctant to remove till they had built houses on their new stations. The compensations allowed in the more recent removals are stated to have been more liberal; and the improvements which have succeeded those summary ejectments of the ancient inhabitants are highly eulogised both in pamphlets and newspapers.

Some people may, however, be inclined to doubt the advantages of improvements which called for such frequent apologies; for, if more lenient measures had been pursued, vindication would have, perhaps, been unnecessary, and the trial of one of the acting agents might have been avoided.

This trial was brought forward at the instance of the Lord Advocate, in consequence of the loud cry of indignation raised in the country against proceedings characterised by the sheriff of the county as “conduct which has seldom disgraced any country.” But the trial ended (as was expected by every person who understood the circumstances) in the acquittal of the acting agent, the verdict of the jury proceeding on the principle that he acted under legal authority. This acquittal, however, did by no means diminish the general feeling of culpability; it only transferred the offence from the agent to a quarter too high and too distant to be directly[48] affected by public indignation, if, indeed, there be any station so elevated, or so distant, that public indignation, justly excited, will not, sooner or later, reach, so as to touch the feelings, however obtuse, of the transgressor of that law of humanity written on every upright mind, and deeply engraved on every kind and generous heart.

It must, however, be a matter of deep regret, that such a line of proceeding was pursued with regard to these brave, unfortunate, and well-principled people, as excited a sensation of horror, and a conviction of culpability, so powerful as only to be removed by an appeal to a criminal court. It is no less to be deplored that any conduct sanctioned by authority, even although productive of ultimate advantage (and how it can produce any advantage beyond what might have been obtained by pursuing a scheme of conciliation and encouragement is a very questionable point), should have, in the first instance, inflicted such general misery. More humane measures would undoubtedly have answered every good purpose; and had such a course been pursued, as an enlightened humanity would have suggested, instead of depopulated glens and starving peasantry, alienated from their superiors, and, in the exacerbation of their feelings, too ready to imbibe opinions hostile to the best interests of their country, we should still have seen a high-spirited and loyal people, ready, at the nod of their respected chiefs, to embody themselves into regiments, with the same zeal as in former times; and when enrolled among the defenders of their country, to exhibit a conduct honourable to that country and to their profession. Such is the acknowledged character of the men of these districts as soldiers, when called forth in the service of their country, although they be now described as irregular in their habits, and a burthen on the lands which gave them birth, and on which their forefathers maintained the honour, and promoted the wealth and prosperity of the ancestors of those who now reject them.

But is it conceivable that the people at home should be so degraded, while their brothers and sons who become soldiers maintain an honourable character? The people[49] ought not to be reproached with incapacity or immorality without better evidence than that of their prejudiced and unfeeling calumniators. If it be so, however, and if this virtuous and honourable race, which has contributed to raise and uphold the character of the British peasantry in the eyes of all Europe, are thus fallen, and so suddenly fallen, how great and powerful must be the cause, and how heavy the responsibility of its authors? But if at home they are thus low in character, how unparalleled must be the improvement which is produced by difference of profession, as for example, when they become soldiers, and associate in barracks with troops of all characters, or in quarters, or billets, with the lowest of the people, instead of mingling with such society as they left in their native homes? Why should these Highlanders be at home so degenerate as they are represented, and as in recent instances they would actually appear to be? And why, when they mount the cockade, are they found to be so virtuous and regular, that one thousand men of Sutherland have been embodied four and five years together, at different and distant periods, from 1759 to 1763, from 1779 to 1783, and from 1793 to 1798, without an instance of military punishment? These men performed all the duties of soldiers to the perfect satisfaction of their commanders, and continued so unexceptionable in their conduct down to the latest period, when embodied into the 93rd regiment, that, according to the words of a distinguished general officer, “Although the youngest regiment in the service, they might form an example to all:” and on general parades for punishment, the Sutherland Highlanders have been ordered to their quarters, as “examples of this kind were not necessary for such honourable soldiers.”

General Stewart adds the following in the third edition of his Sketches, published in 1825:—

The great changes which have taken place in the above parishes of Sutherland, and some others, have excited a warm and general interest. While the liberal expenditure of capital was applauded by all, many intelligent persons lamented that its application was so much in one[50] direction; that the ancient tenantry were to have no share in this expenditure; and that so small a portion was allotted for the future settlement of the numerous population who had been removed from their farms, and were placed in situations so new, and in many respects so unsuitable,—certain that, in the first instance, great distress, disaffection, and hostility towards the landlords and government, with a diminution of that spirit of independence, and those proper principles which had hitherto distinguished them, would be the inevitable result. So sudden and universal a change of station, habits, and circumstances, and their being reduced from the state of independent tenants to that of cottagers and day-labourers, could not fail of arresting the notice of the public.

Anxious to obtain the best information on this interesting subject, I early made the most minute enquiry, careful, at the same time, to form no opinion on intelligence communicated by the people of the district, or by persons connected with them, and who would naturally be interested in, and prejudiced against, or in favour of those changes. I was the more desirous for the best information as the statements published with regard to the character, capability, and principles of the people, exhibited a perfect contrast to my own personal experience and knowledge of the admirable character and exemplary conduct of that portion of them that had left their native country; and I believe it improbable, nay impossible, that the sons of worthless parents, without religious or moral principle—as they have been described—could conduct themselves in such an honourable manner as to be held up as an example to the British army. But, indeed, as to information, so much publicity had been given by various statements explanatory of, and in vindication of these proceedings, that little more was necessary, beyond what these publications afforded, to show the nature of the plans, and the manner in which they were carried into execution.

Forming my opinions, therefore, from those statements, and from information communicated by persons not im[51]mediately connected with that part of the country, I drew the conclusions which appeared in the former editions of these Sketches. But, with a strong desire to be correct and well informed in all I state, and with an intention of correcting myself, in this edition, should I find that I had been misinformed, or had taken up mistaken views of the subject, in the different statements I had produced, I embraced the first spare time I could command, and in autumn, 1823, I travelled over the “improved” districts, and a large portion of those parts which had been depopulated and laid out in extensive pastoral farms, as well as the stations in which the people are placed. After as strict an examination as circumstances permitted, and a careful inquiry among those who, from their knowledge and judgment were enabled to form the best opinions, I do not find that I have one statement to alter, or one opinion to correct; though I am fully aware that many hold very different opinions.

But however much I may differ in some points, there is one in which I warmly and cordially join; and that is, in expressing my high satisfaction and admiration at the liberality displayed in the immense sums expended on buildings, in enclosing, clearing, and draining land, in forming roads and communications, and introducing the most improved agricultural implements. In all these, the generous distribution of such exemplary encouragement stands unparalleled and alone. Equally remarkable is the great abatement of rents given to the tenants of capital—abatements which it was not to be expected they would ask, considering the preference and encouragement given them, and the promises they had held out of great and unprecedented revenue, from their skill and exertions. But these promises seem to have been early forgotten; the tenants of capital were the first to call for relief; and so great and generous has this relief been that the rents are reduced so low as to be almost on a level with what they were when the great changes commenced. Thus while upwards of £210,000 have been expended on improvements, no return is to be looked for from this vast expenditure; and in the failure of their promised[52] rents, the tenants have sufficiently proved the unstable and fallacious nature of the system which they, with so much plausibility and perseverance, got established by delusions, practised on a high-minded, honourable individual, not aware of the evils produced by so universal a movement of a whole people. Every friend to a brave and valuable race must rejoice that these evils are in progress of alleviation by a return of that kindness and protection which had formerly been so conspicuous towards that race of tenantry, and which could never have been interrupted had it not been for those delusions to which I have more than once alluded, and which have been prosecuted, within the last twenty years, in many parts of the Highlands, with a degree of assiduity and antipathy to the unfortunate inhabitants altogether remarkable.


So much has been already said about these disastrous Sutherland evictions that we greatly fear the reader is sickened with the horrid narrative, but as it is intended to make the present record of these atrocious proceedings, not only in Sutherland but throughout the whole Highlands, as complete as it is now possible to make it, we shall yet place before the reader at considerable length Hugh Miller’s observations on this National Crime—especially as his remarks largely embody the philosophical views and conclusions of the able and far-seeing French writer Sismondi, who in his great work declares:—“It is by a cruel use of legal power—it is by an unjust usurpation—that the tacksman and the tenant of Sutherland are considered as having no right to the land which they have occupied for so many ages.... A count or earl has no more right to expel from their homes the inhabitants of his county, than a king to[53] expel from his country the inhabitants of his kingdom.” Hugh Miller introduces his remarks on Sutherland by a reference to the celebrated Frenchman’s work, and his opinion of the Sutherland Clearances, thus:—

There appeared at Paris, about five years ago, a singularly ingenious work on political economy, from the pen of the late M. de Sismondi, a writer of European reputation. The greater part of the first volume is taken up with discussions on territorial wealth, and the condition of the cultivators of the soil; and in this portion of the work there is a prominent place assigned to a subject which perhaps few Scotch readers would expect to see introduced through the medium of a foreign tongue to the people of a great continental state. We find this philosophic writer, whose works are known far beyond the limits of his language, devoting an entire essay to the case of the Duchess of Sutherland and her tenants, and forming a judgment on it very unlike the decision of political economists in our own country, who have not hesitated to characterise her great and singularly harsh experiment, whose worst effects we are but beginning to see, as at once justifiable in itself and happy in its results. It is curious to observe how deeds done as if in darkness and in a corner, are beginning, after the lapse of nearly thirty years, to be proclaimed on the house-tops. The experiment of the late Duchess was not intended to be made in the eye of Europe. Its details would ill bear the exposure. When Cobbett simply referred to it, only ten years ago, the noble proprietrix was startled, as if a rather delicate family secret was on the eve of being divulged; and yet nothing seems more evident now than that civilised man all over the world is to be made aware of how the experiment was accomplished, and what it is ultimately to produce.

In a time of quiet and good order, when law, whether in the right or the wrong, is all-potent in enforcing its findings, the argument which the philosophic Frenchman employs in behalf of the ejected tenantry of Sutherland is an argument at which proprietors may afford to smile. In a time of revolution, however, when lands change[54] their owners, and old families give place to new ones, it might be found somewhat formidable,—sufficiently so, at least, to lead a wise proprietor in an unsettled age rather to conciliate than oppress and irritate the class who would be able in such circumstances to urge it with most effect. It is not easy doing justice in a few sentences to the facts and reasonings of an elaborate essay; but the line of argument runs thus:—

Under the old Celtic tenures—the only tenures, be it remembered through which the Lords of Sutherland derive their rights to their lands,—the Klaan, or children of the soil, were the proprietors of the soil—“the whole of Sutherland,” says Sismondi, belonged to “the men of Sutherland.” Their chief was their monarch, and a very absolute monarch he was. “He gave the different tacks of land to his officers, or took them away from them, according as they showed themselves more or less useful in war. But though he could thus, in a military sense, reward or punish the clan, he could not diminish in the least the property of the clan itself;”—he was a chief, not a proprietor, and had “no more right to expel from their homes the inhabitants of his county, than a king to expel from his country the inhabitants of his kingdom.” “Now, the Gaelic tenant,” continues the Frenchman, “has never been conquered; nor did he forfeit, on any after occasion, the rights which he originally possessed;” in point of right, he is still a co-proprietor with his captain. To a Scotchman acquainted with the law of property as it has existed among us, in even the Highlands, for the last century, and everywhere else for at least two centuries more, the view may seem extreme; not so, however, to a native of the Continent, in many parts of which prescription and custom are found ranged, not on the side of the chief, but on that of the vassal. “Switzerland,” says Sismondi, “which in so many respects resembles Scotland,—in its lakes, its mountains, its climate, and the character, manners, and habits of its children,—was likewise at the same period parcelled out among a small number of lords. If the Counts of Kyburgh, of Lentzburg, of Hapsburg, and of Gruyeres,[55] had been protected by the English laws, they would find themselves at the present day precisely in the condition in which the Earls of Sutherland were twenty years ago. Some of them would perhaps have had the same taste for improvements, and several republics would have been expelled from the Alps, to make room for flocks of sheep. But while the law has given to the Swiss peasant a guarantee of perpetuity, it is to the Scottish laird that it has extended this guarantee in the British empire, leaving the peasant in a precarious situation. The clan,—recognised at first by the captain, whom they followed in war, and obeyed for their common advantage, as his friends and relations, then as his soldiers, then as his vassals, then as his farmers,—he has come finally to regard as hired labourers, whom he may perchance allow to remain on the soil of their common country for his own advantage, but whom he has the power to expel so soon as he no longer finds it for his interest to keep them.”

Arguments like those of Sismondi, however much their force may be felt on the Continent, would be formidable at home, as we have said, in only a time of revolution, when the very foundations of society would be unfixed, and opinions set loose, to pull down or re-construct at pleasure. But it is surely not uninteresting to mark how, in the course of events, that very law of England which, in the view of the Frenchman, has done the Highland peasant so much less, and the Highland chief so much more than justice, is bidding fair, in the case of Sutherland at least, to carry its rude equalising remedy along with it. Between the years 1811 and 1820, fifteen thousand inhabitants of this northern district were ejected from their snug inland farms, by means for which we would in vain seek a precedent, except, perchance, in the history of the Irish massacre.

But though the interior of the county was thus improved into a desert, in which there are many thousands of sheep, but few human habitations, let it not be supposed by the reader that its general population was in any degree lessened. So far was this from being the case,[56] that the census of 1821 showed an increase over the census of 1811 of more than two hundred; and the present population of Sutherland exceeds, by a thousand, its population before the change. The county has not been depopulated—its population has been merely arranged after a new fashion. The late Duchess found it spread equally over the interior and the sea-coast, and in very comfortable circumstances;—she left it compressed into a wretched selvage of poverty and suffering that fringes the county on its eastern and western shores, and the law which enabled her to make such an arrangement, maugre the ancient rights of the poor Highlander, is now on the eve of stepping in, in its own clumsy way, to make her family pay the penalty. The southern kingdom must and will give us a poor-law; and then shall the selvage of deep poverty which fringes the sea-coasts of Sutherland avenge on the titled proprietor of the county both his mother’s error and his own. If our British laws, unlike those of Switzerland, failed miserably in her day in protecting the vassal, they will more than fail, in those of her successor, in protecting the lord. Our political economists shall have an opportunity of reducing their arguments regarding the improvements in Sutherland, into a few arithmetical terms, which the merest tyro will be able to grapple with.

There is but poor comfort, however, to know, when one sees a country ruined, that the perpetrators of the mischief have not ruined it to their own advantage. We purpose showing how signal in the case of Sutherland this ruin has been, and how very extreme the infatuation which continues to possess its hereditary lord. We are old enough to remember the county in its original state, when it was at once the happiest and one of the most exemplary districts in Scotland, and passed, at two several periods, a considerable time among its hills; we are not unacquainted with it now, nor with its melancholy and dejected people, that wear out life in their comfortless cottages on the sea-shore. The problem solved in this remote district of the kingdom is not at all unworthy the attention which it seems but beginning to draw, but[57] which is already not restricted to one kingdom, or even one continent.

But what, asks the reader, was the economic condition—the condition with regard to circumstances and means of living—of these Sutherland Highlanders? How did they fare? The question has been variously answered: much must depend on the class selected from among them as specimens of the whole,—much, too, taking for granted the honesty of the party who replies, on his own condition in life, and his acquaintance with the circumstances of the poorer people of Scotland generally. The county had its less genial localities, in which, for a month or two in the summer season, when the stock of grain from the previous year was fast running out, and the crops on the ground not yet ripened for use, the people experienced a considerable degree of scarcity—such scarcity as a mechanic in the South feels when he has been a fortnight out of employment. But the Highlander had resources in these seasons which the mechanic has not. He had his cattle and his wild potherbs, such as the mug-wort and the nettle. It has been adduced by the advocates of the change which has ruined Sutherland, as a proof of the extreme hardship of the Highlander’s condition, that at such times he could have eaten as food broth made of nettles, mixed up with a little oatmeal, or have had recourse to the expedient of bleeding his cattle, and making the blood into a sort of pudding. And it is quite true that the Sutherlandshire Highlander was in the habit at such times, of having recourse to such food. It is not less true, however, that the statement is just as little conclusive regarding his condition, as if it were alleged that there must always be famine in France when the people eat the hind legs of frogs, or in Italy when they make dishes of snails. With regard to the general comfort of the people in their old condition, there are better tests than can be drawn from the kind of food they occasionally ate. The country hears often of dearth in Sutherland now. Every year in which the crop falls a little below average in other districts, is a year of famine there, but the country never heard of dearth in Suther[58]land then. There were very few among the holders of its small inland farms who had not saved a little money. Their circumstances were such, that their moral nature found full room to develop itself, and in a way the world has rarely witnessed. Never were there a happier or more contented people, or a people more strongly attached to the soil; and not one of them now lives in the altered circumstances on which they were so rudely precipitated by the landlord, who does not look back on this period of comfort and enjoyment with sad and hopeless regret.

But we have not yet said how this ruinous revolution was effected in Sutherland,—how the aggravations of the mode, if we may so speak, still fester in the recollections of the people,—or how thoroughly that policy of the lord of the soil, through which he now seems determined to complete the work of ruin which his predecessor began, harmonizes with its worst details. We must first relate, however, a disastrous change which took place, in the providence of God, in the noble family of Sutherland, and which, though it dates fully eighty years back, may be regarded as pregnant with the disasters which afterwards befell the county.

The marriage of the young countess into a noble English family was fraught with further disaster to the county. There are many Englishmen quite intelligent enough to perceive the difference between a smoky cottage of turf, and a whitewashed cottage of stone, whose judgments on their respective inhabitants would be of but little value. Sutherland, as a county of men, stood higher at this period than perhaps any other district in the British Empire; but, as our descriptions have shown, it by no means stood high as a county of farms and cottages. The marriage of the countess brought a new set of eyes upon it,—eyes accustomed to quite a different face of things. It seemed a wild, rude county, where all was wrong, and all had to be set right,—a sort of Russia on a small scale, that had just got another Peter the Great to civilize it,—or a sort of barbarous Egypt, with an energetic Ali Pasha at its head. Even the vast wealth and great liberality of the Stafford family[59] militated against this hapless county! It enabled them to treat it as a mere subject of an interesting experiment, in which gain to themselves was really no object,—nearly as little so, as if they had resolved on dissecting a dog alive for the benefit of science. It was a still farther disadvantage, that they had to carry on their experiment by the hands, and to watch its first effects with the eyes, of others. The agonies of the dog might have had their softening influence on a dissecter who held the knife himself; but there could be no such influence exerted over him, did he merely issue orders to his footman that the dissection should be completed, remaining himself, meanwhile, out of sight and out of hearing. The plan of improvement sketched out by his English family was a plan exceedingly easy of conception. Here is a vast tract of land, furnished with two distinct sources of wealth. Its shores may be made the seats of extensive fisheries, and the whole of its interior parcelled out into productive sheep farms. All is waste in its present state; it has no fisheries, and two-thirds of its internal produce is consumed by the inhabitants. It had contributed, for the use of the community and the landlord, its large herds of black cattle; but the English family saw, and, we believe, saw truly, that for every one pound of beef which it produced, it could be made to produce two pounds of mutton, and perhaps a pound of fish in addition. And it was resolved, therefore, that the inhabitants of the central districts, who, as they were mere Celts, could not be transformed, it was held, into store farmers, should be marched down to the sea-side, there to convert themselves into fishermen, on the shortest possible notice, and that a few farmers of capital, of the industrious Lowland race, should be invited to occupy the new sub-divisions of the interior.

And, pray, what objections can be urged against so liberal and large-minded a scheme? The poor inhabitants of the interior had very serious objections to urge against it. Their humble dwellings were of their own rearing; it was they themselves who had broken in their little fields from the waste; from time immemorial,[60] far beyond the reach of history, had they possessed their mountain holdings,—they had defended them so well of old that the soil was still virgin ground, in which the invader had found only a grave; and their young men were now in foreign lands fighting at the command of their chieftainess the battles of their country, not in the character of hired soldiers, but of men who regarded these very holdings as their stake in the quarrel. To them, then, the scheme seemed fraught with the most flagrant, the most monstrous injustice. Were it to be suggested by some Chartist convention in a time of revolution that Sutherland might be still further improved—that it was really a piece of great waste to suffer the revenues of so extensive a district to be squandered by one individual—that it would be better to appropriate them to the use of the community in general—that the community in general might be still further benefited by the removal of the said individual from Dunrobin to a roadside, where he might be profitably employed in breaking stones—and that this new arrangement could not be entered on too soon—the noble Duke would not be a whit more astonished, or rendered a whit more indignant by the scheme than were the Highlanders of Sutherland by the scheme of his predecessor.

The reader must keep in view, therefore, that if atrocities unexampled in Britain for at least a century were perpetrated in the clearing of Sutherland, there was a species of at least passive resistance on the part of the people (for active resistance there was none), which in some degree provoked them. Had the Highlanders, on receiving orders, marched down to the sea-coast and become fishermen with the readiness with which a regiment deploys on review day, the atrocities would, we doubt not, have been much fewer. But though the orders were very distinct, the Highlanders were very unwilling to obey; and the severities formed merely a part of the means through which the necessary obedience was ultimately secured. We shall instance a single case as illustrative of the process.

In the month of March, 1814, a large proportion of the[61] Highlanders of Farr and Kildonan, two parishes in Sutherland, were summoned to quit their farms in the following May. In a few days after, the surrounding heath on which they pastured their cattle and from which, at that season, the sole supply of herbage is derived (for in those northern districts the grass springs late, and the cattle-feeder in the spring months depends chiefly on the heather), were set on fire and burnt up. There was that sort of policy in the stroke which men deem allowable in a state of war. The starving cattle went roaming over the burnt pastures, and found nothing to eat. Many of them perished, and the greater part of what remained, though in miserable condition, the Highlanders had to sell perforce. Most of the able-bodied men were engaged in this latter business at a distance from home, when the dreaded term-day came on. The pasturage had been destroyed before the legal term, and while in even the eye of the law it was still the property of the poor Highlanders; but ere disturbing them in their dwellings, term-day was suffered to pass. The work of demolition then began. A numerous party of men, with a factor at their head, entered the district, and commenced pulling down the houses over the heads of the inhabitants. In an extensive tract of country not a human dwelling was left standing, and then, the more effectually to prevent their temporary re-erection, the destroyers set fire to the wreck. In one day were the people deprived of home and shelter, and left exposed to the elements. Many deaths are said to have ensued from alarm, fatigue, and cold.

Our author then corroborates in detail the atrocities, cruelties, and personal hardships described by Donald MacLeod and proceeds:—But to employ the language of Southey,

“Things such as these, we know, must be
At every famous victory.”

And in this instance the victory of the lord of the soil over the children of the soil was signal and complete. In little more than nine years a population of fifteen thousand[62] individuals were removed from the interior of Sutherland to its sea-coasts or had emigrated to America. The inland districts were converted into deserts through which the traveller may take a long day’s journey, amid ruins that still bear the scathe of fire, and grassy patches betraying, when the evening sun casts aslant its long deep shadows, the half-effaced lines of the plough.

After pointing out how at the Disruption sites for churches were refused, Hugh Miller proceeds:—We have exhibited to our readers, in the clearing of Sutherland a process of ruin so thoroughly disastrous, that it might be deemed scarcely possible to render it more complete. And yet with all its apparent completeness, it admitted of a supplementary process. To employ one of the striking figures of Scripture, it was possible to grind into powder what had been previously broken into fragments,—to degrade the poor inhabitants to a still lower level than that on which they had been so cruelly precipitated,—though persons of a not very original cast of mind might have found it difficult to say how the Duke of Sutherland has been ingenious enough to fall on exactly the one proper expedient for supplementing their ruin. All in mere circumstance and situation that could lower and deteriorate had been present as ingredients in the first process; but there still remained for the people, however reduced to poverty or broken in spirit, all in religion that consoles and ennobles. Sabbath-days came round with their humanising influences; and, under the teachings of the gospel, the poor and the oppressed looked longingly forward to a future scene of being, in which there is no poverty or oppression. They still possessed, amid their misery, something positively good, of which it was impossible to deprive them; and hence the ability derived to the present lord of Sutherland of deepening and rendering more signal the ruin accomplished by his predecessor.

These harmonise but too well with the mode in which the interior of Sutherland was cleared, and the improved cottages of its sea-coasts erected. The plan has its two items. No sites are to be granted in the district for Free[63] Churches, and no dwelling-houses for Free Church ministers. The climate is severe,—the winters prolonged and stormy,—the roads which connect the chief seats of population with the neighbouring counties, dreary and long. May not ministers and people be eventually worn out in this way? Such is the portion of the plan which his Grace and his Grace’s creatures can afford to present to the light. But there are supplementary items of a somewhat darker kind. The poor cotters are, in the great majority of cases, tenants-at-will; and there has been much pains taken to inform them that, to the crime of entertaining and sheltering a Protesting minister, the penalty of ejection from their holdings must inevitably attach. The laws of Charles have again returned in this unhappy district, and free and tolerating Scotland has got, in the nineteenth century, as in the seventeenth, its intercommuned ministers. We shall not say that the intimation has emanated from the Duke. It is the misfortune of such men that there creep around them creatures whose business it is to anticipate their wishes; but who, at times, doubtless, instead of anticipating misinterpret them; and who, even when not very much mistaken, impart to whatever they do the impress of their own low and menial natures, and thus exaggerate in the act the intention of their masters. We do not say, therefore, that the intimation has emanated from the Duke; but this we say, that an exemplary Sutherlandshire minister of the Protesting Church, who resigned his worldly all for the sake of his principles, had lately to travel, that he might preach to his attached people, a long journey of forty-four miles outwards, and as much in return, and all this without taking shelter under cover of a roof, or without partaking of any other refreshment than that furnished by the slender store of provisions which he had carried with him from his new home. Willingly would the poor Highlanders have received him at any risk; but knowing from experience what a Sutherlandshire removal means he preferred enduring any amount of hardship rather than that the hospitality of his people should be made the occasion of their ruin.[64] We have already adverted to the case of a lady of Sutherland threatened with ejection from her home because she had extended the shelter of her roof to one of the Protesting clergy,—an aged and venerable man, who had quitted the neighbouring manse, his home for many years, because he could no longer enjoy it in consistency with his principles; and we have shown that that aged and venerable man was the lady’s own father. What amount of oppression of a smaller and more petty character may not be expected in the circumstances, when cases such as these are found to stand but a very little over the ordinary level?

The meannesses to which ducal hostility can stoop in this hapless district, impress with a feeling of surprise. In the parish of Dornoch for instance, where his Grace is fortunately not the sole landowner, there has been a site procured on the most generous terms from Sir George Gunn Munro of Poyntzfield; and this gentleman, believing himself possessed of a hereditary right to a quarry, which, though on the Duke’s ground, had been long resorted to by the proprietors of the district generally, instructed the builder to take from it the stones which he needed. Never had the quarry been prohibited before, but on this occasion a stringent interdict arrested its use. If his Grace could not prevent a hated Free Church from arising in the district, he could at least add to the expense of its erection. We have even heard that the portion of the building previously erected had to be pulled down and the stones returned.

How are we to account for a hostility so determined, and that can stoop so low? In two different ways, we are of opinion, and in both have the people of Scotland a direct interest. Did his Grace entertain a very intense regard for Established Presbytery, it is probably that he himself would be a Presbyterian of the Establishment. But such is not the case. The church into which he would so fain force the people has been long since deserted by himself. The secret of the course which he pursues can have no connection therefore with religious motive or belief. It can be no proselytising spirit that misleads[65] his Grace. Let us remark, in the first place, rather however in the way of embodying a fact than imputing a motive, that with his present views, and in his present circumstances, it may not seem particularly his Grace’s interest to make the county of Sutherland a happy or desirable home to the people of Scotland. It may not be his Grace’s interest that the population of the district should increase. The clearing of the sea-coast may seem as little prejudicial to his Grace’s welfare now as the clearing of the interior seemed adverse to the interests of his predecessor thirty years ago; nay, it is quite possible that his Grace may be led to regard the clearing of the coast as the better and more important clearing of the two. Let it not be forgotten that a poor-law hangs over Scotland,—that the shores of Sutherland are covered with what seems one vast straggling village, inhabited by an impoverished and ruined people,—and that the coming assessment may yet fall so weighty that the extra profits accruing to his Grace from his large sheep-farms may go but a small way in supporting his extra paupers. It is not in the least improbable that he may live to find the revolution effected by his predecessor taking to itself the form, not of a crime,—for that would be nothing,—but of a disastrous and very terrible blunder.

There is another remark which may prove not unworthy the consideration of the reader. Ever since the completion of the fatal experiment which ruined Sutherland, the noble family through which it was originated and carried on have betrayed the utmost jealousy of having its real results made public. Volumes of special pleading have been written on the subject,—pamphlets have been published, laboured articles have been inserted in widely-spread reviews,—statistical accounts have been watched over with the most careful surveillance. If the misrepresentations of the press could have altered the matter of fact, famine would not be gnawing the vitals of Sutherland in a year a little less abundant than its predecessors, nor would the dejected and oppressed people be feeding their discontent, amid present misery, with the recollections of a happier past. If a singularly[66] well-conditioned and wholesome district of country has been converted into one wide ulcer of wretchedness and woe, it must be confessed that the sore has been carefully bandaged up from the public eye,—that if there has been little done for its cure, there has at least been much done for its concealment. Now, be it remembered that a Free Church threatened to insert a tent into this wound and so keep it open. It has been said that the Gaelic language removes a district more effectually from the influence of English opinion than an ocean of three thousand miles, and that the British public know better what is doing in New York than what is doing in Lewis or Skye. And hence one cause, at least, of the thick obscurity that has so long enveloped the miseries which the poor Highlander has had to endure, and the oppressions to which he has been subjected. The Free Church threatens to translate her wrongs into English, and to give them currency in the general mart of opinion. She might possibly enough be no silent spectator of conflagrations such as those which characterised the first general improvement of Sutherland,—nor yet of such Egyptian schemes of house-building as that which formed part of the improvements of a later plan. She might be somewhat apt to betray the real state of the district and thus render laborious misrepresentation of little avail. She might effect a diversion in the cause of the people, and shake the foundations of the hitherto despotic power which has so long weighed them down. She might do for Sutherland what Cobbett promised to do, but what Cobbett had not character enough to accomplish, and what did he not live even to attempt. A combination of circumstances have conspired to vest in a Scottish proprietor, in this northern district, a more despotic power than even the most absolute monarchs of the Continent possess; and it is, perhaps, no great wonder that that proprietor should be jealous of the introduction of an element which threatens, it may seem, materially to lessen it. And so he struggled hard to exclude the Free Church, and, though no member of the Establishment himself, declares warmly in its behalf. Certain it[67] is that from the Establishment as now constituted he can have nothing to fear and the people nothing to hope.

After what manner may his Grace the Duke of Sutherland be most effectually met in this matter, so that the case of toleration and freedom of conscience may be maintained in the extensive district which God, in his providence, has consigned to his stewardship? We are not unacquainted with the Celtic character as developed in the Highlands of Scotland. Highlanders, up to a certain point, are the most docile, patient, enduring of men; but that point once passed, endurance ceases, and the all too gentle lamb starts up an angry lion. The spirit is stirred and maddens at the sight of the naked weapon, and that in its headlong rush upon the enemy, discipline can neither check nor control. Let our oppressed Highlanders of Sutherland beware. They have suffered much; but, so far as man is the agent, their battles can be fought only on the arena of public opinion, and on that ground which the political field may be soon found to furnish.

Let us follow, for a little, the poor Highlanders of Sutherland to the sea-coast. It would be easy dwelling on the terrors of their expulsion, and multiplying facts of horror; but had there been no permanent deterioration effected in their condition, these, all harrowing and repulsive as they were, would have mattered less. Sutherland would have soon recovered the burning up of a few hundred hamlets, or the loss of a few bed-ridden old people, who would have died as certainly under cover, though perhaps a few months later, as when exposed to the elements in the open air. Nay, had it lost a thousand of its best men in the way in which it lost so many at the storming of New Orleans, the blank ere now would have been completely filled up. The calamities of fire or of decimation even, however distressing in themselves, never yet ruined a country; no calamity ruins a country that leaves the surviving inhabitants to develop, in their old circumstances, their old character and resources.

In one of the eastern eclogues of Collins, where two shepherds are described as flying for their lives before the[68] troops of a ruthless invader, we see with how much of the terrible the imagination of a poet could invest the evils of war, when aggravated by pitiless barbarity. Fertile as that imagination was, however, there might be found new circumstances to heighten the horrors of the scene—circumstances beyond the reach of invention—in the retreat of the Sutherland Highlanders from the smoking ruins of their cottages to their allotments on the coast. We have heard of one man, named Mackay, whose family at the time of the greater conflagration referred to by Macleod, were all lying ill of fever, who had to carry two of his sick children on his back a distance of twenty-five miles. We have heard of the famished people blackening the shores, like the crew of some vessel wrecked on an inhospitable coast, that they might sustain life by the shell-fish and sea-weed laid bare by the ebb. Many of their allotments, especially on the western coast, were barren in the extreme—unsheltered by bush or tree, and exposed to the sweeping sea-winds, and in time of tempest, to the blighting spray; and it was found a matter of the extremest difficulty to keep the few cattle which they had retained, from wandering, especially in the night-time, into the better sheltered and more fertile interior. The poor animals were intelligent enough to read a practical comment on the nature of the change effected; and, from the harshness of the shepherds to whom the care of the interior had been entrusted, they served materially to add to the distress of their unhappy masters. They were getting continually impounded; and vexatious fines, in the form of trespass-money, came thus to be wrung from the already impoverished Highlanders. Many who had no money to give were obliged to relieve them by depositing some of their few portable articles of value, such as bed or bodyclothes, or, more distressing still, watches, and rings, and pins—the only relics, in not a few instances, of brave men whose bones were mouldering under the fatal rampart at New Orleans, or in the arid sands of Egypt—on that spot of proud recollection, where the invincibles of Napoleon went down before the Highland bayonet. Their first efforts as[69] fishermen were what might be expected from a rural people unaccustomed to the sea. The shores of Sutherland, for immense tracts together, are iron-bound, and much exposed—open on the Eastern coast to the waves of the German Ocean, and on the North and West to the long roll of the Atlantic. There could not be more perilous seas for the unpractised boatman to take his first lessons on; but though the casualties were numerous and the loss of life great, many of the younger Highlanders became expert fishermen. The experiment was harsh in the extreme, but so far, at least, it succeeded. It lies open, however, to other objections than those which have been urged against it on the score of its inhumanity.


No country of Europe at any period of its history ever presented more formidable obstacles to the improvement of a people arising out of the prejudices and feelings of the people themselves. To the tacksman, it is clear, from what has already been stated, such a change could not be agreeable. Its effect being to alter his condition, and remove him from a state of idle independence, in habits almost of equality with his chief, to a situation, although fully, if not more respectable, yet one in which his livelihood was to be obtained by his exertions and industry, and in many instances by an application to pursuits, which were by him considered as beneath the occupation of a gentleman, although leading to real independence and wealth, to a degree he never could arrive at in his original condition. Nor could it be agreeable to him to lose that command and influence, which he had hitherto exercised without control, over his sub-tenants and de[70]pendants; while it was at variance with every feeling and prejudice in which he had been brought up and educated. It required minds of no ordinary cast to rise superior to these feelings: and men of no common understanding and vigour of intellect were required, to shake off habits so opposed to active industry and exertion. From a certain set of this class, therefore, a real and determined opposition to any change was to be looked for. This expectation has not been disappointed; and it is from individuals of this class, and persons connected with them, that those false and malignant representations have proceeded, which have been so loudly and extensively circulated. Actuated by motives of a mere personal nature, regardless of the happiness of the people, whose improvement it was the great object of the landlord to effect, they attempted to make an appeal in favour of a set of people who were never before the objects of their commiseration, in order that they might, if possible, reduce them, for their own selfish purposes, to that state of degradation from which they had been just emancipated. This was, however, by no means true of the whole, or of the greater part of this class of gentlemen; for the bulk of the most active improvers of Sutherland are natives, who, both as sheep farmers, and as skilful and enterprising agriculturists, are equal to any to be met with in the kingdom. They have, with an intelligence and liberality of feeling which reflects upon them the highest honour, embraced with alacrity the new scene of active exertion presented for their adoption; seconding the views of the landlords with the utmost zeal, marked with much foresight and prudence. Out of the twenty-nine principal tacksmen on the estate, seventeen are natives of Sutherland, four are Northumbrians, two are from the county of Moray, two from Roxburghshire, two from Caithness, one from Midlothian, and one from the Merse.

So strong, however, were the prejudices of the people, that, even to those who were subjected to the power and control of the tacksmen, this mode of life had charms which attached them strongly to it. He extended, in[71] some degree, to the more respectable of those who were placed under him, the same familiarity which he received from the chief. The burden of the outdoor work was cast upon the females. The men deemed such an occupation unworthy of them, continued labour of any sort being most adverse to their habits. They were contented with the most simple and the poorest fare. Like all mountaineers, accustomed to a life of irregular exertion, with intervals of sloth, they were attached with a degree of enthusiasm, only felt by the natives of a poor country, to their own glen and mountainside, adhering in the strongest manner to the habits and homes of their fathers. They deemed no comfort worth the possessing, which was to be purchased at the price of regular industry; no improvement worthy of adoption, if it was to be obtained at the expense of sacrificing the customs, or leaving the homes of their ancestors. So strongly did these feelings operate, that it cost them nearly the same effort to remove from the spot in which they were born and brought up, though the place of their new dwelling was situated on the sea-shore at the mouth of their native strath, or even in a neighbouring glen, as it cost them to make an exertion equal to transporting themselves across the Atlantic.

The cattle which they reared on the mountains, and from the sale of which they depended for the payment of their rents, were of the poorest description. During summer they procured a scanty sustenance, with much toil and labour, by roaming over the mountains; while in winter they died in numbers for the want of support; notwithstanding a practice, which they universally adopted, of killing every second calf, on account of the want of winter keep. To such an extent did this calamity at times amount, that, in the spring of 1807, there died in the parish of Kildonan alone, two hundred cows, five hundred head of cattle, and more than two hundred small horses.

As soon as the works, undertaken under the direction of the Parliamentary Commissioners, opened a prospect of removing successfully the obstacles which stood in the way of the improvements of the people, steps were taken[72] to new model and arrange these extensive possessions. The utmost caution and deliberation was used in doing so, and plans were never more maturely weighed, nor executed with more anxiety and tenderness. To aid the further arrangement of these matters, application was made to William Young, Esq., of Inverugie, in the county of Elgin, whose active mind and indefatigable industry had been exhibited in what he had done upon his own estate. This gentleman superintended the commencement of those vast improvements which were undertaken on the estate of Sutherland. The success of the measures carried into effect under his direction, combined with the difficulties he had to contend with, must always be the best proof of the ability and indefatigable zeal with which he executed the charge of which he had taken the direction, and which he performed so much to his own credit and the advantage of the country. It is only doing justice to his merits to say, that the rapidity of the earlier improvements was owing in a principal degree to the impulse and action inspired by his intelligent and enterprising mind. Mr. Young resigned his superintendence in 1816, when the local management of the estate of Sutherland was entrusted to the present factor, Mr. Francis Suther, whose good temper and judicious conduct in the immediate management at Trentham, recommended him to the situation he now holds. These expectations have been fully justified by the manner he has executed the details of the late arrangements, in which he received the most cordial and able assistance from Captain John Mackay, late of the 26th Foot, the factor of Strathnaver, and from Lieutenant George Gunn, of the Royal Marines, Chief of the clan Gunn, factor of Assynt.

These gentlemen deserve equal credit for the manner in which they have enforced and promoted the plans which were laid down for the extension of the fisheries and the cultivation of the coast side, as for their kind and careful conduct towards the people. Mr. Suther’s exertions in promoting and carrying into effect every arrangement which was made for the encouragement[73] and the success of the fishing station and village of Helmsdale, requires particular commendation.

It is well known that the borders of the two kingdoms were inhabited by a numerous population, who, in their pursuits, manners, and general structure of society, bore a considerable resemblance to that which existed in the Highlands of Scotland. When the union of the crowns, and those subsequent transactions which arose out of that event, rendered the maintenance of that irregular population not only unnecessary, but a burden to the proprietor to whom the land belonged, the people were removed, and the mountains were covered with sheep. So that it had been for a length of time proved by the experience of the stock farmers of those mountain tracts, which comprise the northern districts of England, and the southern parts of Scotland, that such situations were peculiarly suited for the maintenance of this species of stock. Taking this example as their guide, experience had still further proved, that the central and western Highlands of Scotland were equally well calculated for the same end.

Reasoning from this success, and observing that the climate of Sutherland, owing to its vicinity to the ocean, and to its being considerably intersected by arms of the sea, was much more moderate than this latter district, it was fairly concluded that this county was even better fitted for this system of management, than the heights of Perthshire and Inverness-shire. The inferior elevation of its mountains contributed still further to this effect, and held out every encouragement to adopt the same course which had been pursued with such success in both parts of the kingdom.

The succession of those Alpine plants, which are common to the Cheviot Hills, when they are put under sheep, being also the natural herbage of the mountains of Sutherland, renders them still more suitable to this mode of occupation.

On the first melting of the snow, the cotton grass is found to have been growing rapidly; it forms a healthy and an abundant food for sheep, until about the begin[74]ning of May, at which time it is in seed; when, after a short interval, the deer hair takes its place, starting up almost instantaneously, and forming, in the course of one week (if the ground has been recently burnt, and the weather be favourable), a green cover to the mountains. This plant grows with several varieties of bents, until the end of July, when the cotton grass again begins to spring, and with the pry moss, comes a second time into flower, in September, after which the heather and more heating plants continue until the frosts of winter. Nor is there any part of these mountains, over which the sheep cannot roam with ease, in search of food, rendering the whole available and profitable.

As there was every reason therefore for concluding, that the mountainous parts of the estate and indeed of the county of Sutherland, were as much calculated for the maintenance of stock as they were unfit for the habitation of man, there could be no doubt as to the propriety of converting them into sheep walks, provided the people could be at the same time settled in situations, where, by the exercise of their honest industry, they could obtain a decent livelihood, and add to the general mass of national wealth, and where they should not be exposed to the recurrence of those privations, which so frequently and so terribly afflicted them, when situated among the mountains. It was a matter of important consideration, to determine how this was to be accomplished. The local peculiarities of the county presented none of those advantages in disposing of, and absorbing the surplus population, which the borders of the two kingdoms, and the southern and eastern highlands had enjoyed. Besides it had made no approximation to the state in which the rest of Scotland was placed, when those changes were carried into effect. It had stood still in the midst of that career of improvement which had so remarkably and so splendidly distinguished the rest of the kingdom; and remained separated by its habits, prejudices, and language, from all around.

It had long been known, that the coast of Sutherland[75] abounded with many different kinds of fish, not only sufficient for the consumption of the country, but affording also a supply to any extent, for more distant markets or for exportation, when cured and salted. Besides the regular and continual supply of white fish, with which the shores thus abound, the coast of Sutherland is annually visited by one of those vast shoals of herrings, which frequent the coast of Scotland. It seemed as if it had been pointed out by Nature, that the system for this remote district, in order that it might bear its suitable importance in contributing its share to the general stock of the country, was, to convert the mountainous districts into sheep walks, and to remove the inhabitants to the coast, or to the valleys near the sea.

It will be seen, that the object to be obtained by this arrangement, was two-fold: it was, in the first place, to render this mountainous district contributory, as far as it was possible, to the general wealth and industry of the country, and in the manner most suitable to its situation and peculiar circumstances. This was to be effected by making it produce a large supply of wool, for the staple manufactory of England. While, at the same time, it should support as numerous, and a far more laborious and useful population, than it hitherto had done at home: and, in the second place, to convert the inhabitants of those districts to the habits of regular and continued industry, and to enable them to bring to market a very considerable surplus quantity of provisions, for the supply of the large towns in the southern parts of the island, or for the purpose of exportation.

A policy well calculated to raise the importance, and increase the happiness of the individuals themselves, who were the objects of the change, to benefit those to whom these extensive but hitherto unproductive possessions belonged, and to promote the general prosperity of the nation. Such was the system which was adopted. In carrying it into effect, every care was taken to explain the object proposed to be accomplished, to those who were to be removed, and to point out to them, the ulti[76]mate advantages that would necessarily accrue to them, from their completion.

These communications were made to the people by the factor personally, or by written statements, communicated to them by the ground officers. That nothing might be omitted in this respect, the different ministers, and the principal tacksmen connected with the districts which were to be newly arranged, were written to, explaining to them, fully and explicitly, the intentions of the proprietors in adopting them. It was particularly requested of these gentlemen, that they would impress upon the minds of the people, the propriety of agreeing to them, and of explaining, that the motives which dictated this step, arose out of a real regard for their interests and prosperity, as well as for the general improvement of the estate.

It was distinctly admitted, that it was not to be expected, that the people should be immediately reconciled to them. Such was to expect more than it was possible to hope for. But it was represented, that if this was so fully felt, and so clearly admitted, that the landlords must have been strongly and conscientiously impressed with the necessity and propriety of the measures adopted, as tending directly to the happiness of those placed under their protection. These representations had the desired effect, and nothing can be more praiseworthy, or deserve more to be applauded, than the conduct of the people on quitting their original habitations; for although they left them with much regret, they did so in the most quiet, orderly, and peaceable manner.

If, upon one occasion, in the earlier years of these arrangements, a momentary feeling of a contrary nature was exhibited, it arose entirely from the misconduct of persons whose duty it was to have recommended and enforced obedience to the laws, in place of infusing into the minds of the people, feelings of a contrary description. As soon, however, as the interference of these persons was withdrawn, the poor people returned to their usual state of quietness and repose. All the statements, giving a different account of their conduct, are absolutely false,[77] and a libel upon their good conduct and peaceable character.

These arrangements commenced in 1807, and have been carried on from that period, as the different tacks expired, and afforded an opportunity of doing so. Bad years, and the failure of crops continuing to produce the same miserable effects they had constantly occasioned to that portion of the population, which still continued to reside among the mountains. This calamity fell with great severity upon them in the seasons of 1812-13 and 1816-17.

During the latter period they suffered the extremes of want and of human misery, notwithstanding every aid that could be given to them, through the bounty of their landlords. Their wretchedness was so great, that after pawning everything they were possessed of, to the fishermen on the coast, such as had no cattle were reduced to come down from the hills in hundreds, for the purpose of gathering cockles on the shore. Those who lived in the more remote situations of the country were obliged to subsist upon broth made of nettles, thickened with a little oatmeal. Those who had cattle had recourse to the still more wretched expedient of bleeding them, and mixing the blood with oatmeal, which they afterwards cut into slices and fried. Those who had a little money came down and slept all night upon the beach, in order to watch the boat returning from the fishing, that they might be in time to obtain a part of what had been caught.

In order to alleviate this misery, every exertion was made by Lord Stafford. To those who had cattle he advanced money to the amount of above three thousand pounds.

To supply those who had no cattle, he sent meal into the country to the amount of nearly nine thousand pounds. Besides which, Lady Stafford distributed money to each parish on the estate: in order that no pains nor consideration might be wanting, it was arranged that the gentleman who is at the head of his Lordship’s affairs, the writer of this statement, should go to Dunrobin to settle with the local management and the clergymen,[78] what was the best and most effectual way of distributing his Lordship’s relief. Similar means were taken by Lord Reay, to alleviate the distresses of his people. While such was the distress of those who still remained among the hills, it was hardly felt by those who had been settled upon the coast. Their new occupation, as fishermen, rendered them not only independent of that which produced the misery of their neighbours, but enabled them at the same time, in some degree, to become contributors towards their support, both by the fish they were able to sell to them, and also by the regular payment of their rents. While it need hardly be stated, that these wretched sufferers not only required to be relieved, but failed entirely in the payment of what they owed the landlord.


As to those ridiculous stories about the Duchess of Sutherland, which have found their way into many of the prints in America, one has only to be here, moving in society, to see how excessively absurd they are.

All my way through Scotland, and through England, I was associating, from day to day, with people of every religious denomination, and every rank of life. I have been with dissenters and with churchmen; with the national Presbyterian church and the free Presbyterian; with Quakers and Baptists.

In all these circles I have heard the great and noble of the land freely spoken of and canvassed, and if there had been the least shadow of a foundation for any such accusations, I certainly should have heard it recognized in some manner. If in no other, such warm friends as I have heard speak would have alluded to the subject in the way of defence; but I have actually never heard any allusion of any sort, as if there was anything to be explained or accounted for.


As I have before intimated, the Howard family, to which the duchess belongs, is one which has always been on the side of popular rights and popular reform. Lord Carlisle, her brother, has been a leader of the people, particularly during the time of the corn-law reformation, and she has been known to take a wide and generous interest in all these subjects. Everywhere that I have moved through Scotland and England I have heard her kindness of heart, her affability of manner, and her attention to the feelings of others spoken of as marked characteristics.

Imagine, then, what people must think when they find in respectable American prints the absurd story of her turning her tenants out into the snow, and ordering the cottages to be set on fire over their heads because they would not go out.

But, if you ask how such an absurd story could ever have been made up, whether there is the least foundation to make it on, I answer that it is the exaggerated report of a movement made by the present Duke of Sutherland’s father, in the year 1811, and which was part of a great movement that passed through the Highlands of Scotland, when the advancing progress of civilisation began to make it necessary to change the estates from military to agricultural establishments.

Soon after the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, the border chiefs found it profitable to adopt upon their estates that system of agriculture to which their hills were adapted, rather than to continue the maintenence of military retainers. Instead of keeping garrisons, with small armies, in a district, they decided to keep only so many as could profitably cultivate the land. The effect of this, of course, was like disbanding an army. It threw many people out of employ, and forced them to seek for a home elsewhere. Like many other movements which, in their final results, are beneficial to society, this was at first vehemently resisted, and had to be carried into effect in some cases by force. As I have said, it began first in the southern counties of Scotland, soon after the union of the English and Scottish[80] crowns, and gradually crept northward—one county after another yielding to the change. To a certain extent, as it progressed northward, the demand for labour in the great towns absorbed the surplus population; but when it came in to the extreme Highlands, this refuge was wanting. Emigration to America now became the resource; and the surplus population were induced to this by means such as the Colonization Society now recommends and approves for promoting emigration to Liberia.

The first farm that was so formed on the Sutherland estate was in 1806. The great change was made in 1811-12, and completed in 1819-20.

The Sutherland estates are in the most northern portion of Scotland. The distance of this district from the more advanced parts of the kingdom, the total want of roads, the unfrequent communication by sea, and the want of towns, made it necessary to adopt a different course in regard to the location of the Sutherland population from that which circumstances had provided in other parts of Scotland, where they had been removed from the bleak and uncultivable mountains. They had lots given them near the sea, or in more fertile spots, where, by labour and industry, they might maintain themselves. They had two years allowed them for preparing for the change, without payment of rent. Timber for their houses was given, and many other facilities for assisting their change.

The general agent of the Sutherland estate is Mr. Loch. In a speech of this gentleman in the House of Commons on the second reading of the Scotch Poor-Law Bill, June 12, 1845, he states the following fact with regard to the management of the Sutherland estate during this period, from 1811 to 1833, which certainly can speak for itself: “I can state as from fact that, from 1811 to 1833, not one sixpence of rent has been received from that county, but, on the contrary, there has been sent there, for the benefit and improvement of the people, a sum exceeding sixty thousand pounds.”

Mr. Loch goes on in the same speech to say: “There[81] is no set of people more industrious than the people of Sutherland. Thirty years since they were engaged in illegal distillation to a very great extent; at the present moment there is not, I believe, an illegal still in the county. Their morals have improved as those habits have been abandoned; and they have added many hundreds, I believe thousands, of acres to the land in cultivation since they were placed upon the shore.

“Previous to the change to which I have referred, they exported very few cattle, and hardly anything else. They were also, every now and then, exposed to all the difficulties of extreme famine. In the years 1812-13, and 1816-17, so great was the misery that it was necessary to send down oatmeal for their supply to the amount of nine thousand pounds, and that was given to the people. But, since, industrious habits were introduced, and they were settled within reach of fishing, no such calamity has overtaken them. Their condition was then so low that they were obliged to bleed their cattle during the winter, and mix the blood with the remnant of meal they had, in order to save from them starvation.

“Since then the country has improved so much that the fish, in particular, which they exported, in 1815, from one village alone, Helmsdale (which, previous to 1811, did not exist), amounted to five thousand three hundred and eighteen barrels of herring, and in 1844 thirty-seven thousand five hundred and ninety-four barrels, giving employment to about three thousand nine hundred people. This extends over the whole of the county, in which fifty-six thousand barrels were cured.

“Do not let me be supposed to say that there are not cases requiring attention: it must be so in a large population; but there can be no means taken by a landlord, or by those under him, that are not bestowed upon that tenantry.

“It has been said that the contribution by the heritor (the duke) to one kirk session for the poor was but six pounds. Now, in the eight parishes which are called Sutherland proper, the amount of the contribution of[82] the Duke of Sutherland to the kirk session is forty-two pounds a-year. That is a very small sum, but that sum merely is so given because the landlord thinks that he can distribute his charity in a more beneficial manner to the people; and the amount of charity which he gives—and which, I may say, is settled on them, for it is given regularly—is above four hundred and fifty pounds a-year.

“Therefore the statements that have been made, so far from being correct, are in every way an exaggeration of what is the fact. No portion of the kingdom has advanced in prosperity so much; and if the honourable member (Mr. S. Crawford) will go down there, I will give him every facility for seeing the state of the people, and he shall judge with his own eyes whether my representation be not correct. I could go through a great many other particulars, but I will not trouble the House now with them. The statements I have made are accurate, and I am quite ready to prove them in any way that is necessary.”

The same Mr. Loch has published a pamphlet, in which he has traced out the effects of the system pursued on the Sutherland estate, in many very important particulars. It appears from this that previously to 1811 the people were generally sub-tenants to middlemen, who exacted high rents, and also various perquisites, such as the delivery of poultry and eggs, giving so many days’ labour in harvest time, cutting and carrying peat and stones for building.

Since 1811 the people have become immediate tenants, at a greatly diminished rate of rent, and released from all these exactions. For instance, in two parishes, in 1812, the rents were one thousand five hundred and ninety-three pounds, and in 1823 they were only nine hundred and seventy-two pounds. In another parish the reduction of rents has amounted, on an average, to thirty-six per cent. Previous to 1811 the houses were turf huts of the poorest description, in many instances the cattle being kept under the same roof with the family. Since 1811 a large proportion of their houses have been[83] rebuilt in a superior manner—the landlord having paid them for their old timber where it could not be moved, and having also contributed the new timber, with lime.

Before 1811 all the rents of the estates were used for the personal profit of the landlord; but since that time, both by the present duke and his father, all the rents have been expended on improvements in the county, besides sixty thousand pounds more which have been remitted from England for the purpose. This money has been spent on churches, school-houses, harbours, public inns, roads, and bridges.

In 1811 there was not a carriage-road in the county, and only two bridges. Since that time four hundred and thirty miles of road have been constructed on the estate, at the expense of the proprietor and tenants. There is not a turnpike-gate in the county, and yet the roads are kept perfect.

Before 1811 the mail was conveyed entirely by a foot runner, and there was but one post-office in the county; and there was no direct post across the county, but letters to the north and west were forwarded once a month. A mail-coach has since been established, to which the late Duke of Sutherland contributed more than two thousand six hundred pounds; and since 1834 mail-gigs have been established to convey letters to the north and west coast, towards which the Duke of Sutherland contributes three hundred pounds a year. There are sixteen post-offices and sub-offices in the county. Before 1811 there was no inn in the county fit for the reception of strangers. Since that time there have been fourteen inns either built or enlarged by the duke.

Before 1811 there was scarcely a cart on the estate; all the carriage was done on the backs of ponies. The cultivation of the interior was generally executed with a rude kind of spade, and there was not a gig in the county. In 1845 there were one thousand one hundred and thirty carts owned on the estate, and seven hundred and eight ploughs, also forty-one gigs.

Before 1812 there was no baker, and only two shops. In 1845 there were eight bakers and forty-six grocers’[84] shops, in nearly all of which shoe-blacking was sold to some extent, an unmistakable evidence of advancing civilization.

In 1808 the cultivation of the coast-side of Sutherland was so defective that it was necessary often, in a fall of snow, to cut down the young Scotch firs to feed the cattle on; and in 1808 hay had to be imported. Now the coast side of Sutherland exhibits an extensive district of land cultivated according to the best principles of modern agriculture; several thousand acres have been added to the arable land by these improvements.

Before 1811 there were no woodlands of any extent on the estate, and timber had to be obtained from a distance. Since that time many thousand acres of woodland have been planted, the thinnings of which, being sold to the people at a moderate rate, have greatly increased their comfort and improved their domestic arrangements.

Before 1811 there were only two blacksmiths in the county. In 1845 there were forty-two blacksmiths and sixty-three carpenters. Before 1829 the exports of the county consisted of black cattle of an inferior description, pickled salmon, and some ponies; but these were precarious sources of profit, as many died in winter for want of food; for example, in the spring of 1807, two hundred cows, five hundred cattle, and more than two hundred ponies died in the parish of Kildonan alone. Since that time the measures pursued by the Duke of Sutherland, in introducing improved breeds of cattle, pigs, and modes of agriculture, have produced results in exports which tell their own story. About forty thousand sheep and one hundred and eighty thousand fleece of wool are exported annually; also fifty thousand barrels of herring.

The whole fishing village of Helmsdale has been built since that time. It now contains from thirteen to fifteen curing yards covered with slate, and several streets with houses similarly built. The herring fishery, which has been mentioned as so productive, has been established since the change, and affords employment to three thousand nine hundred people.

Since 1811, also, a savings-bank has been established[85] in every parish, of which the Duke of Sutherland is patron and treasurer, and the savings have been very considerable.

The education of the children of the people has been a subject of deep interest to the Duke of Sutherland. Besides the parochial schools (which answer, I suppose, to our district schools), of which the greater number have been rebuilt or repaired at an expense exceeding what is legally required for such purposes, the Duke of Sutherland contributes to the support of several schools for young females, at which sewing and other branches of education are taught; and in 1844 he agreed to establish twelve General Assembly schools, in such parts of the county as were without the sphere of the parochial schools, and to build schools and schoolmasters’ houses, which will, upon an average, cost two hundred pounds each; and to contribute annually two hundred pounds in aid of salaries to the teachers, besides a garden and cow’s grass; and in 1845 he made an arrangement with the education committee of the Free Church, whereby no child, of whatever persuasion, will be beyond the reach of moral and religious education.

There are five medical gentlemen on the estate, three of whom receive allowances from the Duke of Sutherland for attendance on the poor in the districts in which they reside.

An agricultural association, or farmers’ club, has been formed under the patronage of the Duke of Sutherland, of which the other proprietors in the county, and the larger tenantry, are members, which is in a very active and flourishing state. They have recently invited Professor Johnston to visit Sutherland and give lectures on agricultural chemistry.

The total population of the Sutherland estate is twenty-one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four. To have the charge and care of so large an estate, of course, must require very systematic arrangements; but a talent for system seems to be rather the forte of the English.

The estate is first divided into three districts, and each district is under the superintendence of a factor, who[86] communicates with the duke through a general agent. Besides this, when the duke is on the estate, which is during a portion of every year, he receives on Monday whoever of his tenants wishes to see him. Their complaints or wishes are presented in writing; he takes them into consideration, and gives written replies.

Besides the three factors there is a ground officer, or sub-factor, in every parish, and an agriculturist in the Dunrobin district, who gives particular attention to instructing the people in the best methods of farming. The factors, the ground officers, and the agriculturists, all work to one common end. They teach the advantages of draining; of ploughing deep, and forming their ridges in straight lines; of constructing tanks for saving liquid manure. The young farmers also pick up a great deal of knowledge when working as ploughmen or labourers on the more immediate grounds of the estate.

The head agent, Mr. Loch, has been kind enough to put into my hands a general report of the condition of the estate, which he drew up for the inspection of the duke, May 12, 1853, and in which he goes minutely over the condition of every part of the estate.

One anecdote of the former Duke of Sutherland will show the spirit which has influenced the family in their management of the estate. In 1817, when there was much suffering on account of bad seasons, the Duke of Sutherland sent down his chief agent to look into the condition of the people, who desired the ministers of the parishes to send in their lists of poor. To his surprise it was found that there were located on the estate a number of people who had settled there without leave. They amounted to four hundred and eight families, or two thousand persons; and though they had no legal title to remain where they were, no hesitation was shown in supplying them with food in the same manner with those who were tenants, on the sole condition that on the first opportunity they should take cottages on the sea-shore, and become industrious people. It was the constant object of the duke to keep the rents of his poorer tenants at a nominal amount.


What led me more particularly to inquire into these facts was, that I received by mail, while in London, an account containing some of these stories, which had been industriously circulated in America. There were dreadful accounts of cruelties practised in the process of inducing the tenants to change their places of residence. The following is a specimen of these stories:—

“I was present at the pulling down and burning of the house of William Chisholm, Badinloskin, in which was lying his wife’s mother, an old, bed-ridden woman of near one hundred years of age, none of the family being present. I informed the persons about to set fire to the house of this circumstance, and prevailed on them to wait till Mr. Sellar came. On his arrival I told him of the poor old woman, being a condition unfit for removal. He replied, ‘The old witch! she has lived too long; let her burn.’ Fire was immediately set to the house, and the blankets in which she was carried were in flames before she could be got out. She was placed in a little shed, and it was with great difficulty they were prevented from firing that also. The old woman’s daughter arrived while the house was on fire, and assisted the neighbours in removing her mother out of the flames and smoke, presenting a picture of horror which I shall never forget but cannot attempt to describe. She died within five days.”

With regard to this story, Mr. Loch, the agent, says: “I must notice the only thing like a fact stated in the newspaper extract which you sent to me, wherein Mr. Sellar is accused of acts of cruelty towards some of the people. This Mr. Sellar tested, by bringing an action against the then Sheriff-substitute of the county. He obtained a verdict for heavy damages. The Sheriff, by whom the slander was propagated, left the county. Both are since dead.”

Having, through Lord Shaftesbury’s kindness, received the benefit of Mr. Loch’s corrections to this statement, I am permitted to make a little further extract from his reply. He says:—

“In addition to what I was able to say in my former paper, I can now state that the Duke of Sutherland has [88]received from one of the most determined opposers of the measures, who travelled to the north of Scotland as editor of a newspaper, a letter regretting all he had written on the subject, being convinced that he was entirely misinformed. As you take so much interest in the subject, I will conclude by saying that nothing could exceed the prosperity of the county during the past year; their stock, sheep, and other things sold at high prices; their crops of grain and turnips were never so good, and the potatoes were free from all disease: rents have been paid better than was ever known. * * * As an instance of the improved habits of the farmers, no house is now built for them that they do not require a hot bath and water-closets.”

From this long epitome you can gather the following results. First, if the system were a bad one, the Duchess of Sutherland had nothing to do with it, since it was first introduced in 1806, the same year her grace was born; and the accusation against Mr. Sellar, dates in 1811, when her grace was five or six years old. The Sutherland arrangements were completed in 1819, and her grace was not married to the duke till 1823, so that, had the arrangement been the worst in the world, it is nothing to the purpose so far as she is concerned.

As to whether the arrangement is a bad one, the facts which have been stated speak for themselves. To my view it is an almost sublime instance of the benevolent employment of superior wealth and power in shortening the struggles of advancing civilization, and elevating in a few years a whole community to a point of education and material prosperity, which, unassisted, they might never have obtained.


From the year 1812 to 1820, the whole interior of the county of Sutherland—whose inhabitants were advancing[89] rapidly in the science of agriculture and education, who by nature and exemplary training were the bravest, the most moral and patriotic people that ever existed—even admitting a few of them did violate the excise laws, the only sin which Mr. Loch and all the rest of their avowed enemies could bring against them—where a body of men could be raised on the shortest possible notice that kings and emperors might and would be proud of; and where the whole fertile valleys and straths which gave them birth were in due season waving with corn; their mountains and hill-sides studded with sheep and cattle; where rejoicing, felicity, happiness, and true piety prevailed; where the martial notes of the bagpipes sounded and reverberated from mountain to glen, from glen to mountain. I say, marvellous! in eight years converted to a solitary wilderness, where the voice of man praising God is not to be heard, nor the image of God upon man to be seen; where you can set a compass with twenty miles of a radius upon it, and go round with it full stretched, and not find one acre of land within the circumference which has come under the plough for the last thirty years, except a few in the parishes of Lairg and Tongue,—all under mute brute animals. This is the advancement of civilization, is it not, madam?

Return now with me to the beginning of your elaborate eulogy on the Duchess of Sutherland, and if you are open to conviction, I think you should be convinced that I never published nor circulated in the American, English, or Scotch public prints any ridiculous, absurd stories about her Grace of Sutherland. An abridgment of my lucubrations is now in the hands of the public, and you may peruse them. I stand by them as facts (stubborn chiels). I can prove them to be so even in this country (Canada), by a cloud of living witnesses, and my readers will find that, instead of bringing absurd accusations against her Grace, that I have endeavoured in some instances to screen her and her predecessors from the public odium their own policy and the doings of their servants merited. Moreover, there is thirty years since I began to expostulate with the House of Sutherland for their short[90]sighted policy in dealing with their people as they were doing, and it is twenty years since I began to expose them publicly, with my real name, Donald MacLeod, attached to each letter, sending a copy of the public paper where it appeared, directed by post, to the Duke of Sutherland. These exposing and remonstrating letters were published in the Edinburgh papers, where the Duke and his predecessors had their principal Scotch law agent, and you may easily believe that I was closely watched, with the view to find one false accusation in my letters, but they were baffled. I am well aware that each letter I have written on the subject would, if untrue, constitute a libel, and I knew the editors, printers, and publishers of these papers were as liable or responsible for libel as I was. But the House of Sutherland could never venture to raise an action of damages against either of us. In 1841, when I published my first pamphlet, I paid $4 50c., for binding one of them, in a splendid style, which I sent by mail to his Grace the present Duke of Sutherland, with a complimentary note requesting him to peruse it, and let me know if it contained anything offensive or untrue. I never received a reply, nor did I expect it; yet I am satisfied that his Grace did peruse it. I posted a copy of it to Mr. Loch, his chief commissioner; to Mr. W. Mackenzie, his chief lawyer in Edinburgh; to every one of their underlings, to sheep farmers, and ministers in the county of Sutherland, who abetted the depopulators, and I challenged the whole of them, and other literary scourges who aid and justified their unhallowed doings, to gainsay one statement I have made. Can you or any other believe that a poor sinner like Donald MacLeod would be allowed for so many years to escape with impunity, had he been circulating and publishing calumnious, absurd falsehoods against such personages as the House of Sutherland? No, I tell you, if money could secure my punishment, without establishing their own shame and guilt, that it would be considered well-spent long ere now,—they would eat me in penny pies if they could get me cooked for them.

I agree with you that the Duchess of Sutherland is a[91] beautiful, accomplished lady, who would shudder at the idea of taking a faggot or a burning torch in her hand to set fire to the cottages of her tenants, and so would her predecessor, the first Duchess of Sutherland, her good mother; likewise would the late and present Dukes of Sutherland, at least I am willing to believe that they would. Yet it was done in their name, under their authority, to their knowledge, and with their sanction. The dukes and duchesses of Sutherland, and those of their depopulating order, had not, nor have they any call to defile their pure hands in milder work than to burn people’s houses; no, no, they had, and have plenty of willing tools at their beck to perform their dirty work. Whatever amount of humanity and purity of heart the late or the present Duke and Duchess may possess or be ascribed to them, we know the class of men from whom they selected their commissioners, factors, and underlings. I knew every one of the unrighteous servants who ruled the Sutherland estate for the last fifty years, and I am justified in saying that the most skilful phrenologist and physiognomist that ever existed could not discern one spark of humanity in the whole of them, from Mr. Loch down to Donald Sgrios, or Damnable Donald, the name by which the latter was known. The most of those cruel executors of the atrocities I have been describing are now dead, and to be feared but not lamented. But it seems their chief was left to give you all the information you required about British slavery and oppression. I have read from speeches delivered by Mr. Loch at public dinners among his own party, “that he would never be satisfied until the Gaelic language and the Gaelic people would be extirpated root and branch from the Sutherland estate; yes, from the Highlands of Scotland.” He published a book, where he stated as a positive fact, “that when he got the management of the Sutherland estate he found 408 families on the estate who never heard the name of Jesus,”—whereas I could make oath that there were not at that time, and for ages prior to it, above two families within the limits of the county who did not worship that Name and holy[92] Being every morning and evening. I know there are hundreds in the Canadas who will bear me out in this assertion. I was at the pulling down and burning of the house of William Chisholm. I got my hands burnt taking out the poor old woman from amidst the flames of her once-comfortable though humble dwelling, and a more horrifying and lamentable scene could scarcely be witnessed. I may say the skeleton of a once tall, robust, high-cheek-boned, respectable woman, who had seen better days; who could neither hear, see, nor speak; without a tooth in her mouth, her cheek skin meeting in the centre, her eyes sunk out of sight in their sockets, her mouth wide open, her nose standing upright among smoke and flames, uttering piercing moans of distress and agony, in articulations from which could be only understood, “Oh, Dhia, Dhia, teine, teine—Oh God, God, fire, fire.” When she came to the pure air, her bosom heaved to a most extraordinary degree, accompanied by a deep hollow sound from her lungs, comparable to the sound of thunder at a distance. When laid down upon the bare, soft, moss floor of the roofless shed, I will never forget the foam of perspiration which emitted and covered the pallid death-looking countenance. This was a scene, madam, worthy of an artist’s pencil, and of a conspicuous place on the stages of tragedy. Yet you call this a specimen of the ridiculous stories which found their way into respectable prints, because Mr. Loch, the chief actor, told you that Sellar, the head executive, brought an action against the sheriff and obtained a verdict for heavy damages. What a subterfuge; but it will not answer the purpose, “the bed is too short to stretch yourself, and the covering too narrow and short to cover you.” If you took the information and evidence upon which you founded your Uncle Tom’s Cabin from such unreliable sources (as I said before), who can believe the one-tenth of your novel? I cannot. I have at my hand here the grandchild of the slaughtered old woman, who recollects well of the circumstance. I have not far from me a respectable man, an elder in the Free Church, who was examined as a witness at Sellar’s trial, at the[93] Spring Assizes of Inverness, in 1816, which you will find narrated in letters four and five of my work. Had you the opportunity, madam, of seeing the scenes which I, and hundreds more, have seen—the wild ferocious appearance of the infamous gang who constituted the burning party, covered over face and hands with soot and ashes of the burning houses, cemented by torch-grease and their own sweat, kept continually drunk or half-drunk while at work; and to observe the hellish amusements some of them would get up for themselves and for an additional pleasure to their leaders! The people’s houses were generally built upon declivities, and in many cases not far from pretty steep precipices. They preserved their meal in tight-made boxes, or chests, as they were called, and when this fiendish party found any quantity of meal, they would carry it between them to the brink, and dispatch it down the precipice amidst shrieks and yells. It was considered grand sport to see the box breaking to atoms and the meal mixed with the air. When they would set fire to a house, they would watch any of the domestic animals making their escape from the flames, such as dogs, cats, hens, or any poultry; these were caught and thrown back to the flames—grand sport for demons in human form!

As to the vaunted letter which his “Grace received from one of the most determined opposers of the measures, who travelled in the north of Scotland as editor of a newspaper, regretting all that he had written on the subject, being convinced that he was misinformed,” I may tell you, madam, that this man did not travel to the north or in the north of Scotland, as editor; his name was Thomas Mulock; he came to Scotland a fanatic speculator in literature in search of money, or a lucrative situation, vainly thinking that he would be a dictator to every editor in Scotland. He first attacked the immortal Hugh Miller of the Witness, Edinburgh, but in him he met more than his match. He then went to the north, got hold of my first pamphlet, and by setting it up in a literary style, and in better English than I, he made a splendid and promising appearance in the northern[94] papers for some time; but he found out that the money expected was not coming in, and that the hotels, head inns, and taverns would not keep him up any longer without the prospect of being paid for the past or for the future. I found out that he was hard up, and a few of the Highlanders in Edinburgh and myself sent him from twenty to thirty pounds sterling. When he saw that that was all he was to get, he at once turned tail upon us, and instead of expressing his gratitude, he abused us unsparingly, and regretted that ever he wrote in behalf of such a hungry, moneyless class. He smelled (like others we suspect) where the gold was hoarded up for hypocrites and flatterers, and that one apologising letter to his Grace would be worth ten times as much as he could expect from the Highlanders all his lifetime; and I doubt not it was, for his apology for the sin of misinformation got wide circulation.

He then went to France and started an English paper in Paris, and for the service he rendered Napoleon in crushing republicanism during the besieging of Rome, etc., the Emperor presented him with a gold pin, and in a few days afterwards sent a gendarme to him with a brief notice that his service was not any longer required, and a warning to quit France in a few days, which he had to do. What became of him after I know not, but very likely he is dictating to young Loch, or some other Metternich.

No feelings of hostile vindictiveness, no desire to inflict chastisement, no desire to make riches, influenced my mind, pourtraying the scenes of havoc and misery which in those past days darkened the annals of Sutherland. I write in my own humble style, with higher aims, wishing to prepare the way for demonstrating to the Dukes of Sutherland, and all other Highland proprietors, great and small, that the path of selfish aggrandisement and oppression leads by sure and inevitable results, yea to the ruin and destruction of the blind and misguided oppressors themselves. I consider the Duke himself victimised on a large scale by an incurably wrong system, and by being enthralled by wicked counsellors and servants. I have no hesitation in saying, had his Grace and[95] his predecessors bestowed one-half of the encouragement they had bestowed upon strangers on the aborigines—a hardy, healthy, abstemious people, who lived peaceably in their primitive habitations, unaffected with the vices of a subtle civilization, possessing little, but enjoying much; a race devoted to their hereditary chief, ready to abide by his counsels; a race profitable in peace, and loyal, available in war; I say, his Grace, the present Duke of Sutherland, and his beautiful Duchess, would be without compeers in the British dominions, their rents, at least doubled; would be as secure from invasion and annoyance in Dunrobin Castle as Queen Victoria could, or can be, in her Highland residence, at Balmoral, and far safer than she is in her English home, Buckingham Palace; every man and son of Sutherland would be ready, as in the days of yore, to shed the last drop of their blood in defence of their chief, if required. Congratulations, rejoicings, dancing to the martial notes of the pipes, would meet them at the entrance to every glen and strath in Sutherlandshire, accompanied, surrounded, and greeted, as they proceeded, by the most grateful, devotedly attached, happy, and bravest peasantry that ever existed; yes, but alas! where there is nothing now, but desolation and the cries of famine and want, to meet the noble pair—the ruins of once comfortable dwellings—will be seen the landmarks of the furrows and ridges which yielded food to thousands, the footprints of the arch-enemy of human happiness, and ravager—before, after, and on each side, solitude, stillness, and the quiet of the grave, disturbed only at intervals by the yells of a shepherd, or fox-hunter, and the bark of a collie dog. Surely we must admit that the Marquises and Dukes of Sutherland have been duped and victimised to a most extraordinary and incredible extent; and we have Mr. Loch’s own words for it in his speech in the House of Commons, June 21st, 1845: “I can state, as from facts, that from 1811 to 1833, not one sixpence of rent has been received from that county; but, on the contrary, there has been sent there for the benefit and improvement of the people a sum exceeding sixty thousand pounds[96] sterling.” Now think you of this immense wealth which has been expended. I am not certain, but I think the rental of the county would exceed £60,000 a year; you have then from 1811 to 1833, twenty-two years, leaving them at the above figures, and the sum total will amount to £1,320,000 expended upon the self-styled Sutherland improvements; add to this £60,000 sent down to preserve the lives of the victims of those improvements from death by famine, and the sum total will turn out in the shape of £1,380,000. It surely cost the heads of the house of Sutherland an immense sum of money to convert the county into the state I have described it in a former part of this work (and I challenge contradiction).

You should be surprised to hear and learn, madam, for what purposes most of the money drained from the Duke’s coffers yearly are expended since he became the Duke and proprietor of Sutherland, upholding the Loch policy. There are no fewer than seventeen who are known by the name of water bailiffs in the county, who receive yearly salaries, what doing, think you? Protecting the operations of the Loch policy, watching day and night the freshwater lakes, rivers, and creeks, teeming with the finest salmon and trout fish in the world, guarding from the famishing people, even during the years of famine and dire distress, when many had to subsist upon weeds, sea-ware, and shell-fish, yet guarded and preserved for the amusement of English anglers; and what is still more heartrending, to prevent the dying by hunger to pick up any of the dead fish left by the sporting anglers rotting on the lake, creek, and river sides, when the smallest of them, or a morsel, would be considered by hundreds, I may say thousands, of the needy natives, a treat; but they durst not touch them, or if they did and were found out to jail they were conducted, or removed summarily from his Grace’s domains; (let me be understood, these gentlemen had no use for the fish, killing them for amusement, only what they required for their own use, and complimented to the factors; they were not permitted to cure them).

You will find, madam, that about three miles from[97] Dunrobin Castle there is a branch of the sea which extends up the county about six miles, where shell-fish, called mussels, abound. Here you will find two sturdy men, called mussel bailiffs, supplied with rifles and ammunition, and as many Newfoundland dogs as assistants, watching the mussel scalps, or beds, to preserve them from the people in the surrounding parishes of Dornoch, Rogart, and Golspie, and keep them, to supply the fishermen, on the opposite side of the Moray Firth, with bait, who come there every year and take away thousands of tons of this nutritive shell-fish, when many hundreds of the people would be thankful for a diet per day of them, to pacify the cravings of nature. You will find that the unfortunate native fishermen, who pay a yearly rent to his Grace for bait, are only permitted theirs from the refuse left by the strangers of the other side of the Moray Firth, and if they violate the iron rule laid down to them, they are entirely at the mercy of the underlings. There has been an instance of two of the fishermen’s wives going on a cold, snowy, frosty day to gather bait, but on account of the boisterous sea, could not reach the place appointed by the factors; one took what they required from the forbidden ground, and was observed by some of the bailiffs, in ambush, who pursued them like tigers. One came up to her unobserved, took out his knife, and cut the straps by which the basket or creel on her back was suspended; the weight on her back fell to the ground, and she, poor woman, big in the family way, fell her whole length forward in the snow and frost. Her companion turned round to see what had happened, when she was pushed back with such force that she fell; he then trampled their baskets and mussels to atoms, took them both prisoners, ordered one of them to call his superior bailiff to assist him, and kept the other for two hours standing, wet as she was, among frost and snow, until the superior came a distance of three miles. After a short consultation upon the enormity of the crime, the two poor women were led, like convicted criminals, to Golspie, to appear before Lycurgus Gunn, and in that deplorable condition were left standing before their own doors in[98] the snow, until Marshall Gunn found it convenient to appear and pronounce judgment,—verdict: You are allowed to go into your houses this night; this day week you must leave this village for ever, and the whole of the fishermen of the village are strictly prohibited from taking bait from the Little Ferry until you leave; my bailiffs are requested to see this my decree strictly attended to. Being the middle of winter and heavy snow, they delayed a week longer: ultimately the villagers had to expel the two families from among them, so that they would get bait, having nothing to depend upon for subsistence but the fishing, and fish they could not without bait. This is a specimen of the injustice to and subjugation of the Golspie fishermen, and of the people at large; likewise of the purposes for which the Duke’s money is expended in that quarter. If you go, then, to the other side of the domain, you will find another Kyle, or a branch of the sea, which abounds in cockles and other shell-fish, fortunately for the poor people, not forbidden by a Loch ukase. But in the years of distress, when the people were principally living upon vegetables, sea-weeds, and shell-fish, various diseases made their appearance amongst them hitherto unknown. The absence of meal of any kind being considered the primary cause, some of the people thought they would be permitted to exchange shell-fish for meal with their more fortunate neighbours in Caithness, to whom such shell-fish were a rarity, and so far the understanding went between them, that the Caithness boats came up loaded with meal, but the Loch embargo, through his underling in Tongue, who was watching their movements, was at once placed upon it; the Caithness boats had to return home with the meal, and the Duke’s people might live or die, as they best could. Now, madam, you have steeped your brains, and ransacked the English language to find refined terms for your panegyric on the Duke, Duchess, and family of Sutherland. (I find no fault with you, knowing you have been well paid for it.) But I would briefly ask you (and others who devoted much of their time and talents in the same strain), would it not be more[99] like a noble pair—if they did merit such noble praise as you have bestowed upon them—if they had, especially during years of famine and distress, freely opened up all these bountiful resources which God in His eternal wisdom and goodness prepared for His people, and which should never be intercepted nor restricted by man or men. You and others have composed hymns of praise, which it is questionable if there is a tune in heaven to sing them to.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter: and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.—Ecclesiastes iv. 1.

The wretch that works and weeps without relief
Has one that notices his silent grief.
He, from whose hands all pow’r proceeds
Ranks its abuse among the foulest deeds,
Considers all injustice with a frown,
But marks the man that treads his fellow down.
Remember Heav’n has an avenging rod—
To smite the poor is treason against God.—Cowper.

But you shall find the Duke’s money is expended for most astonishing purposes; not a little of it goes to hire hypocrites, and renowned literary flatterers, to vindicate the mal-administration of those to whom he entrusted the management of his affairs, and make his Grace (who is by nature a simple-minded man) believe his servants are innocent of all the charges brought against them, and doing justice to himself and to his people, when they are doing the greatest injustice to both; so that instead of calling his servants to account at any time, and enquiring into the broad charges brought against them—as every wise landlord should do—it seems the greater the enormities of foul deeds they commit, and the louder their accusations may sound through the land, the farther they are received into his favour. The fact is, that James Loch was Duke of Sutherland, and not the “tall, slender man with rather a thin face, light brown hair, and mild blue eyes,” who armed you up the extraordinary elegant staircase in Stafford House.

The Duchess of Sutherland pays a visit every year to[100] Dunrobin Castle, and has seen and heard so many supplicating appeals presented to her husband by the poor fishermen of Golspie, soliciting liberty to take mussels from the Little Ferry Sands to bait their nets—a liberty of which they were deprived by his factors, though paying yearly rent for it; yet returned by his Grace with the brief deliverance, that he could do nothing for them. Can I believe that this is the same personage who can set out from Dunrobin Castle, her own Highland seat, and after travelling from it, then can ride in one direction over thirty miles, in another direction forty-four miles, in another, by taking the necessary circuitous route, sixty miles, and that over fertile glens, valleys, and straths, bursting with fatness, which gave birth to, and where were reared for ages, thousands of the bravest, the most moral, virtuous, and religious men that Europe could boast of; ready to a man, at a moment’s warning from their chiefs, to rise in defence of their king, queen, and country; animated with patriotism and love to their chief, and irresistible in the battle contest for victory? But these valiant men had then a country, a home, and a chief worth the fighting for. But I can tell her that she can now ride over these extensive tracts in the interior of the county without seeing the image of God upon a man travelling these roads, with the exception of a wandering Highland shepherd, wrapped up in a grey plaid to the eyes, with a collie dog behind him as a drill sergeant to train his ewes and to marshal his tups. There may happen to travel over the dreary tract a geologist, a tourist, or a lonely carrier, but these are as rare as a pelican in the wilderness, or a camel’s convoy caravan in the deserts of Arabia. Add to this a few English sportsmen, with their stag hounds, pointer dogs, and servants, and put themselves and their bravery together, and one company of French soldiers would put ten thousand of them to a disorderly flight, to save their own carcases, leaving their ewes and tups to feed the invaders!

The question may arise, where those people, who inhabited this country at one period, have gone? In America and Australia the most of them will be[101] found. The Sutherland family and the nation had no need of their services; hence they did not regard their patriotism or loyalty, and disregarded their past services. Sheep, bullocks, deer, and game, became more valuable than men. Yet a remnant, or in other words a skeleton, of them is to be found along the sea shore, huddled together in motley groups upon barren moors, among cliffs and precipices, in the most impoverished, degraded, subjugated, slavish, spiritless, condition that human beings could exist in. If this is really the lady who has “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will to men,” in view, and who is so religiously denouncing the American statute which “denies the slave the sanctity of marriage, with all its joys, rights, and obligations—which separates, at the will of the master, the wife from the husband, the children from the parents,” I would advise her in God’s name to take a tour round the sea-skirts of Sutherland, her own estate, beginning at Brora, then to Helmsdale, Portskerra, Strathy, Farr, Tongue, Durness, Eddrachillis, and Assynt, and learn the subjugated, degraded, impoverished, uneducated condition of the spiritless people of that sea-beaten coast, about two hundred miles in length, and let her with similar zeal remonstrate with her husband, that their condition is bettered; for the cure for all their misery and want is lying unmolested in the fertile valleys above, and all under his control; and to advise his Grace, her husband, to be no longer guided by his Ahitophel, Mr. Loch, but to discontinue his depopulating schemes, which have separated many a wife from her husband, never to meet—which caused many a premature death, and that separated many sons and daughters, never to see each other; and by all means to withdraw that mandate of Mr. Loch, which forbids marriage on the Sutherland estate, under pains and penalties of being banished from the county; for it has already augmented illegitimate connections and issues fifty per cent above what such were a few years ago—before this unnatural, ungodly law was put in force.

Let us see what the character of these ill-used people[102] was! General Stewart of Garth, in his “Sketches of the Highlands” says: In the words of a general officer by whom the 93rd Sutherlanders were once reviewed, “They exhibit a perfect pattern of military discipline and moral rectitude. In the case of such men disgraceful punishment would be as unnecessary as it would be pernicious.” “Indeed,” says the General, “so remote was the idea of such a measure in regard to them, that when punishments were to be inflicted on others, and the troops in garrison assembled to witness their execution, the presence of the Sutherland Highlanders was dispensed with, the effects of terror as a check to crime being in their case uncalled for, as examples of that nature were not necessary for such honourable soldiers. When the Sutherland Highlanders were stationed at the Cape of Good Hope anxious to enjoy the advantages of religious instruction agreeably to the tenets of their national church, and there being no religious service in the garrison except the customary one of reading prayers to the soldiers on parade, the Sutherland men formed themselves into a congregation, appointed elders of their own number, engaged and paid a stipend (collected among themselves) to a clergyman of the Church of Scotland, and had divine service performed agreeably to the ritual of the Established Church every Sabbath, and prayer meetings through the week.” This reverend gentleman, Mr. Thom, in a letter which appeared in the Christian Herald of October, 1814, writes thus: “When the 93rd Highlanders left Cape Town last month, there were among them 156 members of the church, including three elders and three deacons, all of whom, so far as men can know the heart from the life, were pious men. The regiment was certainly a pattern of morality, and good behaviour to all other corps. They read their Bibles and observed the Sabbath. They saved their money to do good. 7000 rix dollars, a sum equal to £1200, the non-commissioned officers and privates saved for books, societies, and for the spread of the Gospel, a sum unparalleled in any other corps in the world, given in the short space of eighteen months.[103] Their example had a general good effect on both the colonists and the heathen. If ever apostolic days were revived in modern times on earth, I certainly believe some of those to have been granted to us in Africa.” Another letter of a similar kind, addressed to the Committee of the Edinburgh Gaelic School Society (fourth annual report), says: “The 93rd Highlanders arrived in England, when they immediately received orders to proceed to North America; but before they re-embarked the sum collected for your society was made up and remitted to your treasurer, amounting to seventy-eight pounds, sterling.” “In addition to this,” says the noble-minded, immortal General, “such of them as had parents and friends in Sutherland did not forget their destitute condition, occasioned by the operation of the fire and faggot, mis-improved state of the county.” During the short period the regiment was quartered at Plymouth, upwards of £500 was lodged in one banking-house, to be remitted to Sutherland, exclusive of many sums sent through the Post Office and by officers; some of the sums exceeding £20 from an individual soldier. Men like these do credit to the peasantry of a country. “It must appear strange, and somewhat inconsistent,” continues the General, “when the same men who are so loud in their profession of an eager desire to promote and preserve the religious and moral virtues of the people, should so frequently take the lead in removing them from where they imbibed principles which have attracted the notice of Europe and of measures which lead to a deterioration, placing families on patches of potato ground as in Ireland, a system pregnant with degradation, poverty, and disaffection.” It is only when parents and heads of families in the Highlands are moral, happy, and contented, that they can instil sound principles into their children, who in their intercourse with the world may become what the men of Sutherland have already been, “an honourable example, worthy the imitation of all.”

I cannot help being grieved at my unavoidable abbreviation of these heart-stirring and heart-warming extracts, which should ornament every mantel-piece[104] and library in the Highlands of Scotland; but I could refer to other authors of similar weight; among the last (though not the least), Mr. Hugh Millar of the Witness, in his “Sutherland as it was and is: or, How a country can be ruined;” a work which should silence and put to shame every vile, malignant calumniator of Highland religion and moral virtue in bygone years, who in their sophistical profession of a desire to promote the temporal and spiritual welfare of the people, had their own sordid cupidity and aggrandisement in view in all their unworthy lucubrations.

At the commencement of the Russian war a correspondent wrote as follows: “Your predictions are making their appearance at last, great demands are here for men to go to Russia, but they are not to be found. It seems that the Secretary of War has corresponded with all our Highland proprietors, to raise as many men as they could for the Crimean war, and ordered so many officers of rank to the Highlands to assist the proprietors in doing so—but it has been a complete failure as yet. The nobles advertised, by placards, meetings of the people; these proclamations were attended to, but when they came to understand what they were about, in most cases the recruiting proprietors and staff were saluted with the ominous cry of ‘Maa! maa! boo! boo!’ imitating sheep and bullocks, and, ‘Send your deer, your roes, your rams, dogs, shepherds, and gamekeepers to fight the Russians, they have never done us any harm.’ The success of his Grace the Duke of Sutherland was deplorable; I believe you would have pitied the poor old man had you seen him.

“In my last letter I told you that his head commissioner, Mr. Loch, and military officer, was in Sutherland for the last six weeks, and failed in getting one man to enlist; on getting these doleful tidings, the Duke himself left London for Sutherland, arriving at Dunrobin about ten days ago, and after presenting himself upon the streets of Golspie and Brora, he called a meeting of the male inhabitants of the parishes of Clyne, Rogart, and Golspie; the meeting was well attended; upwards of[105] 400 were punctual at the hour; his Grace in his carriage, with his military staff and factors appeared shortly after; the people gave them a hearty cheer; his Grace took the chair. Three or four clerks took their seats at the table, and loosened down bulky packages of bank notes, and spread out platefuls of glittering gold. The Duke addressed the people very seriously, and entered upon the necessity of going to war with Russia, and the danger of allowing the Czar to have more power than what he holds already; of his cruel, despotic reign in Russia, etc.; likewise praising the Queen and her government, rulers and nobles of Great Britain, who stood so much in need of men to put and keep down the tyrant of Russia, and foil him in his wicked schemes to take possession of Turkey. In concluding his address, which was often cheered, the Duke told the young able-bodied men that his clerks were ready to take down the names of all those willing to enlist, and everyone who would enlist in the 93rd Highlanders, that the clerk would give him, there and then, £6 sterling; those who would rather enter any other corps, would get £3, all from his own private purse, independently of the government bounty. After advancing many silly flattering decoyments, he sat down to see the result, but there was no movement among the people; after sitting for a long time looking at the clerks, and they at him, at last his anxious looks at the people assumed a somewhat indignant appearance, when he suddenly rose up and asked what was the cause of their non-attention to the proposals he made, but no reply; it was the silence of the grave. Still standing, his Grace suddenly asked the cause; but no reply; at last an old man, leaning upon his staff, was observed moving towards the Duke, and when he approached near enough, he addressed his Grace something as follows: ‘I am sorry for the response your Grace’s proposals are meeting here to-day, so near the spot where your maternal grandmother, by giving forty-eight hours’ notice, marshalled fifteen hundred men to pick out of them the nine hundred she required, but there is a cause for it, and a grievous cause, and as your Grace demands to know it, I must tell you,[106] as I see no one else are inclined in this assembly to do it. Your Grace’s mother and predecessors applied to our fathers for men upon former occasions, and our fathers responded to their call; they have made liberal promises, which neither them nor you performed; we are, we think, a little wiser than our fathers, and we estimate your promises of to-day at the value of theirs, besides you should bear in mind that your predecessors and yourself expelled us in a most cruel and unjust manner from the land which our fathers held in lien from your family, for their sons, brothers, cousins, and relations, which were handed over to your parents to keep up their dignity, and to kill the Americans, Turks, French, and the Irish; and these lands are devoted now to rear dumb brute animals, which you and your parents consider of far more value than men. I do assure your Grace that it is the prevailing opinion in this county, that should the Czar of Russia take possession of Dunrobin Castle and of Stafford House next term, that we could not expect worse treatment at his hands, than we have experienced at the hands of your family for the last fifty years. Your parents, yourself, and your commissioners, have desolated the glens and straths of Sutherland, where you should find hundreds, yea, thousands of men to meet you, and respond cheerfully to your call, had your parents and yourself kept faith with them. How could your Grace expect to find men where they are not, and the few of them which are to be found among the rubbish or ruins of the county, has more sense than to be decoyed by chaff to the field of slaughter; but one comfort you have, though you cannot find men to fight, you can supply those who will fight with plenty of mutton, beef, and venison.’ The Duke rose up, put on his hat, and left the field.”

Whether my correspondent added to the old man’s reply to his Grace or not, I cannot say, but one thing is evident, it was the very reply his Grace deserved.

I know for a certainty this to be the prevailing feeling throughout the whole Highlands of Scotland, and who should wonder at it? How many thousands of them who served out their 21, 22, 25, and 26 years, fighting for the[107] British aristocracy, and on their return—wounded, maimed, or worn out—to their own country, promising themselves to spend the remainder of their days in peace, and enjoying the blessings and comfort their fathers enjoyed among their Highland, healthy, delightful hills, but found to their grief, that their parents were expelled from the country to make room for sheep, deer, and game, the glens where they were born, desolate, and the abodes which sheltered them at birth, and where they were reared to manhood, burnt to the ground; and instead of meeting the cheers, shaking-hands, hospitality, and affections of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and relations, met with desolated glens, bleating of sheep, barking of dogs; and if they should happen to rest their worn-out frame upon the green sod which has grown upon their father’s hearth, and a gamekeeper, factor, or water bailiff, to come round, he would very unceremoniously tell them to absent themselves as smart as they could, and not to annoy the deer. No race on record has suffered so much at the hands of those who should be their patrons, and proved to be so tenacious of patriotism as the Celtic race, but I assure you it has found its level now, and will disappear soon altogether; and as soon as patriotism shall disappear in any nation, so sure that nation’s glory is tarnished, victories uncertain, her greatness diminished, and decaying consumptive death will be the result. If ever the old adage, which says, “Those whom the gods determine to destroy, they first deprive them of reason,” was verified, it was, and is, in the case of the British aristocracy, and Highland proprietors in particular. I am not so void of feeling as to blame the Duke of Sutherland, his parents, or any other Highland absentee proprietor for all the evil done in the land, but the evil was done in their name, and under the authority they have invested in wicked, cruel servants. For instance, the only silly man who enlisted from among the great assembly which his Grace addressed, was a married man, with three of a family and his wife; it was generally believed that his bread was baked for life, but no sooner was he away to Fort George to join his regiment, than his place[108] of abode was pulled down, his wife and family turned out, and only permitted to live in a hut, from which an old female pauper was carried a few days before to the churchyard; there the young family were sheltered, and their names registered upon the poor roll for support; his Grace could not be guilty of such low rascality as this, yet he was told of it, but took no cognisance of those who did it in his name. It is likewise said that this man got a furlough of two weeks to see his wife and family before going abroad, and that when the factor heard he was coming, he ordered the ground officer of the parish of Rogart, named MacLeod, to watch the soldier, and not allow him to see nor speak to his wife, but in his (the officer’s) presence. We had at the same time, in the parish, an old bachelor of the name of John Macdonald, who had three idiot sisters, whom he upheld, independent of any source of relief; but a favourite of George, the notorious factor, envied this poor bachelor’s farm, and he was summoned to remove at next term. The poor fellow petitioned his Grace and Loch, but to no purpose; he was doomed to walk away on the term day, as the factor told him, “to America, Glasgow, or to the devil if he choosed.” Seeing he had no other alternative, two days before the day of his removal he yoked his cart, and got neighbours to help him to haul the three idiots into it, and drove away with them to Dunrobin Castle. When he came up to factor Gunn’s door, he capsized them out upon the green, and wheeled about and went away home. The three idiots finding themselves upon the top of one another so sudden, they raised an inhuman-like yell, fixed into one another to fight, and scratched, yelled, and screeched so terrific that Mr. Gunn, his lady, his daughters, and all the clerks and servants were soon about them; but they hearkened to no reason, for they had none themselves, but continued their fighting and inharmonious music. Messenger after messenger was sent after John, but of no use; at last the great Gunn himself followed and overtook him, asked him how did he come to leave his sisters in such a state? He replied, “I kept them while I had a piece of land to support[109] them; you have taken that land from me, then take them along with the land, and make of them what you can; I must look out for myself, but I cannot carry them to the labour market.” Gunn was in a fix, and had to give John assurance that he would not be removed if he would take his sisters, so John took them home, and has not been molested as yet.

I have here beside me (in Canada) a respectable girl of the name of Ann Murray, whose father was removed during the time of the wholesale faggot removals, but got a lot of a barren moor to cultivate. However barren-like it was, he was raising a family of industrious young sons, and by dint of hard labour and perseverance, they made it a comfortable home; but the young sons one by one left the country (and four of them are within two miles of where I sit); the result was, that Ann was the only one who remained with the parents. The mother, who had an attack of palsy, was left entirely under Ann’s care after the family left; and she took it so much to heart that her daughter’s attention was required day and night, until death put an end to her afflictions, after twelve years’ suffering. Shortly after the mother’s death, the father took ill, and was confined to bed for nine months; and Ann’s labour re-commenced until his decease. Though Ann Murray could be numbered among the most dutiful of daughters, yet her incessant labour, for a period of more than thirteen years, made visible inroads upon her tender constitution; yet by the liberal assistance of her brothers, who did not loose sight of her and their parent (though upon a foreign strand), Ann Murray kept the farm in the best of order, no doubt expecting that she would be allowed to keep it after her parent’s decease, but this was not in store for her; the very day after her father’s funeral, the officer came to her and told her that she was to be removed in a few weeks, that the farm was let to another, and that Factor Gunn wished to see her. She was at that time afflicted with jaundice, and told the officer she could not undertake the journey, which was only ten miles. Next day the officer was at her again, more urgent than before, and made use[110] of extraordinary threats; so she had to go. When she appeared before this Bashaw, he swore like a trooper, and damned her soul, why she disobeyed his first summons; she excused herself, trembling, that she was unwell; another volley of oaths and threats met her response, and told her to remove herself from the estate next week, for her conduct; and with a threat, which well becomes a Highland tyrant, not to take away, nor sell a single article of furniture, implements of husbandry, cattle, or crop; nothing was allowed but her own body clothes; everything was to be handed over to her brother, who was to have the farm. Seeing there was neither mercy nor justice for her, she told him the crop, house, and every other thing belonging to the farm, belonged to her and her brothers in America, and that the brother to whom he (the factor) intended to hand over the farm and effects never helped her father or mother while in trouble; and that she was determined that he should not enjoy what she laboured for, and what her other brothers paid for. She went and got the advice of a man of business, advertised a sale, and sold off, in the face of threats of interdict, and came to Canada, where she was warmly received by brothers, sisters, and friends, now in Woodstock, and can tell her tale better than I can. No one could think nor believe that his Grace would ever countenance such doings as these; but it was done in his name.

I have here within ten miles of me, Mr. William Ross, once taxman of Achtomleeny, Sutherlandshire, who occupied the most convenient farm to the principal deer-stalking hills in the county. Often have the English and Irish lords, connected in marriage with the Sutherlands, dined and took their lunch at William Ross’s table, and at his expense; and more than once passed the night under his roof. Mr. Ross being so well acquainted among the mountains and haunts of the deer, was often engaged as a guide and instructor to these noblemen on their deer-stalking and fishing excursions, and became a real favourite with the Sutherland family, which enabled him to erect superior buildings to the common rule, and improve his farm in a superior style; so that his moun[111]tain-side farm was nothing short of a Highland paradise. But unfortunately for William, his nearest neighbour, one Major Gilchrist, a sheep farmer, coveted Mr. Ross’s vineyard, and tried many underhand schemes to secure the place for himself, but in vain. Ross would hearken to none of his proposals. But Ahab was a chief friend of Factor Gunn; and William Ross got notice of removal. Ross prepared a memorial to the first and late Duchess of Sutherland, and placed it in her own hand. Her Grace read it, instantly went into the factor’s office, and told him that William Ross was not to be removed from Achtomleeny while he lived; and wrote the same on the petition, and handed it back to Ross, with a graceful smile, saying, “You are now out of the reach of factors; now, William, go home in peace.” William bowed, and departed cheerfully; but the factor and ground-officer followed close behind him, and while Ross was reading her Grace’s deliverance, the officer, David Ross, came and snapped the paper out of his hand, and ran to Factor Gunn with it. Ross followed, but Gunn put it in his pocket, saying, “William, you would need to give it to me afterwards, at any rate, and I will keep it till I read it, and then return it to you,” and with a tiger-like smile on his face, said, “I believe you came good speed to-day, and I am glad of it;” but William never got it in his hand again. However, he was not molested during her Grace’s life. Next year she paid a visit to Dunrobin Castle, when Factor William Gunn advised Ross to apply to her for a reduction of rent, under the mask of favouring him. He did so, and it was granted cheerfully. Her Grace left Dunrobin that year never to return; in the beginning of the next spring she was carried back to Dunrobin a corpse, and a few days after was interred in Dornoch. William Ross was served with a summons of removal from Achtomleeny, and he had nothing to show. He petitioned the present Duke, and his commissioner, Mr. Loch, and related the whole circumstances to them, but to no avail, only he was told that Factor Gunn was ordered to give him some other lot of land, which he did: and having no other resource, William accepted of it to[112] his loss; for between loss of cattle, building and repairing houses, he was minus one hundred and fifty pounds sterling, of his means, and substance, from the time he was removed from Achtomleeny till he removed himself to Canada. Besides, he had a written agreement or promise for melioration or valuation for all the farm improvements and house building at Achtomleeny, which was valued by the family surveyor at £250. William was always promised to get it, until they came to learn that he was leaving for America, then they would not give him a cent. William Ross left them with it to join his family in Canada; but he can in his old age sit at as comfortable a table, and sleep on as comfortable a bed, with greater ease of mind and a clearer conscience, among his own dutiful and affectionate children, than the tyrant factor ever did, or ever will among his. I know as well as any one can tell me, that this is but one or two cases out of the thousand I could enumerate, where the liberality and benevolence of his Grace, and of his parents, were abused, and that to their patron’s loss. You see in the above case that William was advised to plead for a reduction of rent, so that the factor’s favourite, Ahab Gilchrist, would have the benefit of Naboth Ross’s improvement, and the reduction he got on his rent, which would not be obtained otherwise.

The unhallowed crew of factors and officials, from the highest to the lowest grade, employed by the family of Sutherland, got the corrupt portion of the public press on their side, to applaud their wicked doings and schemes, as the only mode of improvement and civilisation in the Highlands of Scotland. They have got what is still more to be lamented, all the Established ministers, with few exceptions, on their side; and in them they found faithful auxiliaries in crushing the people. Any of them could hold a whole congregation by the hair of their heads over hell-fire, if they offered to resist the powers that be, until they submitted. If a single individual resisted, he was denounced from the pulpit, and considered afterwards a dangerous man in the community; and he might depart as quick as he could. Any man, or men, may[113] violate the laws of God, and violate the laws of heaven, as often as he chooses; he is never heeded, and has nothing to fear; but if he offends the Duke’s factor, the lowest of his minions, or violates the least of their laws and regulations, it is an unpardonable sin. The present Duke’s mother was no doubt a liberal lady of many good parts, and seemed to be much attached to the natives, but unfortunately for them, she employed for her factors a vile, unprincipled crew, who were their avowed enemies; she would hearken to the complaints of the people, and would write to the ministers of the Gospel to ascertain the correctness of complaints, and the factor was justified, however gross the outrage was that he committed—the minister dined with the factor, and could not refuse to favour him. The present Duke[9] is a simple, narrow-minded gentleman, who concerns himself very little even about his own pecuniary affairs; he entrusts his whole affairs to his factors, and the people are enslaved so much, that it is now considered the most foolish thing a man can do to petition his Grace, whatever is done to him, for it will go hard with the factor, or he will punish and make an example of him to deter others.

To detail what I knew myself personally, and what I have learned from others of their conduct, would, as I said before, fill a volume. For instance:—When a marriage in the family of Sutherland takes place, or the birth of an heir, a feast is ordered for the Sutherland people, consisting of whisky, porter, ale, and plenty of eatables. The day of feasting and rejoicing is appointed, and heralded throughout the country, and the people are enjoined in marshal terms to assemble—barrels of raw and adulterated whisky are forwarded to each parish, some raw adulterated sugar, and that is all. Bonfires are to be prepared on the tops of the highest mountains. The poorest of the poor are warned by family officers to carry the materials, consisting of peats and tar barrels, upon their backs; the scene is lamentable to see groups of these wretched, half-clad and ill-shod, climbing up these[114] mountains with their loads; however, the work must be done, there is no denial, the evening of rejoicing is arrived, and the people are assembled at their different clachans. The barrels of whisky are taken out to the open field, poured into large tubs, a good amount of abominable-looking sugar is mixed with it, and a sturdy favourite is employed to stir it about with a flail handle, or some long cudgel—all sorts of drinking implements are produced, tumblers, bowls, ladles, and tin jugs. Bagpipers are set up with great glee. In the absence of the factor, the animal called the ground officer, and in some instances the parish minister, will open the jollification, and show an example to the people how to deal with this coarse beverage. After the first round, the respectable portion of the people will depart, or retire to an inn, where they can enjoy themselves; but the drouthies, and ignorant youthful, will keep the field of revelling until tearing of clothes and faces comes to be the rule; fists and cudgels supplant jugs and ladles, and this will continue until king Bacchus enters the field and hushes the most heroic brawlers and the most ferocious combatants to sound snoring on the field of rejoicing, where many of them enter into contracts with death, from which they could never extricate themselves. With the co-operation and assistance of factors, ministers, and editors, a most flourishing account is sent to the world, and to the absentee family in London, who knows nothing about how the affair was conducted. The world will say how happy must the people be who live under such good and noble, liberal-minded patrons; and the patrons themselves are so highly-pleased with the report that, however extraordinary the bill that comes to them on the rent day, in place of money, for roast beef and mutton, bread and cheese, London porter and Edinburgh ale, which was never bought, nor tasted by the people, they will consider their commissioners used great economy; no cognizance is taken, the bill is accepted, and discharged, the people are deceived, and the proprietors injured.



For his action in connection with the Sutherland Clearances, Patrick Sellar was placed on trial at a sitting of the Circuit Court at Inverness in 1816. The bench was occupied by Lord Pitmilly. We give the indictment, defences, judge’s summing up, and other particulars, but omit the evidence, as no authentic record thereof is available.


PATRICK SELLAR, now or lately residing at Culmaily, in the parish of Golspie, and shire of Sutherland, and under factor for the Most Noble the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford. You are indicted and accused, at the instance of Archibald Colquhoun of Killermont, his Majesty’s Advocate for his Majesty’s interest: That albeit, by the laws of this and of every other well-governed realm, culpable homicide, as also oppression and real injury, more particularly the wickedly and maliciously setting on fire and burning, or causing and procuring to be set on fire and burnt, a great extent of heath and pasture, on which a number of small tenants and other poor persons maintain their cattle, to the great injury and distress of the said persons; the violently turning, or causing and procuring to be turned out of their habitations, a number of the said tenants and other poor people, especially aged, infirm, and impotent persons and pregnant women, and cruelly depriving them of all cover or shelter, to their great distress, and the imminent danger of their lives; the wickedly and maliciously setting on fire, burning, pulling down, and demolishing, or causing and procuring to be set on fire, burnt, pulled down, and demolishing, the dwelling-houses, barns, kilns, mills, and other buildings, lawfully[116] occupied by the said persons, whereby they themselves are turned out, without cover or shelter, as aforesaid, and the greater part of their different crops is lost and destroyed, from the want of the usual and necessary accommodation for securing and manufacturing the same; and the wantonly setting on fire, burning, and otherwise destroying, or causing and procuring to be set on fire, burnt, and otherwise destroyed, growing corn, timber, furniture, money, and other effects, the property, or in the lawful possession of the said tenants and other poor persons, are crimes of a heinous nature, and severely punishable. Yet true it is, and of verity, that you the said Patrick Sellar are guilty of the said crimes, or of one or more of them, actor, or art in part; in so far as you the said Patrick Sellar did, on the 15th day of March, 1814, or on one or other of the days of that month, or of April and May immediately following, and on many occasions during the said months of March, April and May, wickedly and maliciously set on fire and burn, or cause and procure John Dryden and John M’Kay, both at that time shepherds in your service, to set on fire and burn a great extent of heath and pasture, many miles in length and breadth, situate in the heights of the parishes of Farr and Kildonan, in the county of Sutherland, and in particular in the lands of Ravigill, Rhiphail, Rhiloisk, Rossal, Rhimsdale, Garvault, Truderskaig, and Dalcharrel, whereby many of the tenants and others in the lands aforesaid were deprived of pasturage for their cattle, and in consequence thereof reduced to great distress and poverty; and many of them were obliged to feed their cattle with the potatoes intended for the use of their families, and with their seed corn; particularly William Gordon, James M’Kay, Hugh Grant, and Donald M’Kay, all then tenants in Rhiloisk aforesaid; John Gordon and Hugh M’Beath, then tenants in Rhimsdale aforesaid; Donald M’Beath, then tenant in Rhiphail aforesaid; Murdo M’Kay and John M’Kay, then tenants in Truderskaig aforesaid. And further, you the said Patrick Sellar did, upon the 13th day of June, 1814, or on one or other of the days of that month, or of May immediately preceding,[117] or of July immediately following, together with four or more persons, your assistants, proceed to the district of country above-mentioned, and did, then and there, violently turn, or cause or procure to be turned out of their habitations, a number of the tenants and poor people dwelling there; and particularly Donald M’Kay, a feeble old man of the age of four-score years or thereby, then residing in Rhiloisk aforesaid; who, upon being so turned out, not being able to travel to the nearest inhabited place, lay for several days and nights thereafter in the woods in the vicinity, without cover or shelter, to his great distress, and to the danger of his life. As also, Barbara M’Kay, wife of John M’Kay, then tenant in Ravigill aforesaid, who was at the time pregnant, and was moreover confined to her bed in consequence of being severely hurt and bruised by a fall; and you the said Patrick Sellar did, then and there, notwithstanding the entreaties of the said John M’Kay, give orders that the said Barbara M’Kay should be instantly turned out, whatever the consequences might be, saying, That you would have the house pulled about her ears; and the said John M’Kay was accordingly compelled, with the assistance of some women and neighbours to lift his said wife from her bed, and carry her nearly a mile across the country to the imminent danger of her life: As also, time last above-mentioned, you the said Patrick Sellar did forcibly turn out, or cause and procure your assistants aforesaid, to turn out, of his bed and dwelling, in Garvault aforesaid, Donald Munro, a young lad, who lay sick in bed at the time. And further, you the said Patrick Sellar, did time aforesaid, wickedly and maliciously set on fire, burn, pull down, and demolish, or cause and procure your assistants aforesaid to set on fire, burn, pull down, and demolish a great number of the dwelling-houses, barns, kilns, mills, and other buildings, lawfully occupied by the tenants and other inhabitants in the said district of country; and in particular, the houses, barns, kilns, mills, lawfully occupied by the above-mentioned William Gordon, James M’Kay, Hugh Grant, in Rhiloisk aforesaid; and John Gordon in Rhimsdale aforesaid; As[118] also, the barns and kilns in Rhiphail aforesaid, lawfully occupied by Alexander Manson, John M’Kay, and others, then tenants or residenters there; the barns and kilns in Ravigill aforesaid, lawfully occupied by John M’Kay, Murdo M’Kay, and others, then tenants there; and the barns and kilns in Garvault aforesaid, lawfully occupied by William Nicol and John Monro, then tenants there; As also, the house and barn in Ravigill aforesaid, lawfully occupied by Barbara M’Kay, an infirm old widow, nearly fourscore years of age, and who was obliged to sell three of her five cattle at an under value, in order to support herself, her crop being destroyed from the want of her barn: As also, the greater part of the houses, barns, kilns, mills, and other buildings in the whole district of country above mentioned, was, time aforesaid, maliciously set on fire, burnt, pulled down, and demolished, by you, the said Patrick Sellar, or by your assistance or by your orders, whereby the inhabitants and lawful occupiers thereof were turned out, without cover or shelter; and the greater part of their different crops was lost and destroyed from want of the usual and necessary accommodation for securing and manufacturing the same; and especially the lawful occupiers of the barns, kilns, mills, and other buildings particularly above mentioned, to have been set on fire and destroyed as aforesaid, did sustain great loss in their crops, from being thus deprived of the means of securing and manufacturing the same. And further, you, the said Patrick Sellar, did, time aforesaid, culpably kill Donald M’Beath, father to Hugh M’Beath, then tenant in Rhimsdale aforesaid, by unroofing and pulling down, or causing to be unroofed and pulled down, the whole house in Rhimsdale aforesaid, where the said Donald M’Beath was then lying on his sick bed, saving only a small space of roof, to the extent of five or six yards, whereby the said Donald M’Beath was exposed, in a cold and comfortless situation, without cover or shelter, to the weather; and he, the said Donald M’Beath, in consequence of being so exposed, never spoke a word more, but languished and died about eight days thereafter, and was thereby culpably killed[119] by you, the said Patrick Sellar: Or otherwise, you, the said Patrick Sellar, did, time and place aforesaid, cruelly expose the said Donald M’Beath to the weather, without cover or shelter, by pulling down and unroofing, or caused to be pulled down and unroofed, the greater part of the house where he then lay sick in bed, to his great distress, and the imminent danger of his life; and this you, the said Patrick Sellar, did, notwithstanding the entreaties of the said Hugh M’Beath, and others, you saying, in a rage, when it was proposed that the said Donald M’Beath should remain, “The devil a man of them, sick or well, shall be permitted to remain,” or words to that effect. And further, you, the said Patrick Sellar, did, time aforesaid, wickedly and maliciously set on fire, burn, and demolish, or cause and procure your assistants to set on fire, burn, and demolish, the dwelling-house, barn, kiln, sheep-cot, and other building then lawfully occupied by William Chisholm in Badinloskin, in the parish of Farr aforesaid, although you knew that Margaret M’Kay, a very old woman of the age of 90 years, less or more, and who had been bed-ridden for years, was at that time within the said house; and this you did, notwithstanding you were told that the said old woman could not be removed without imminent danger to her life; and the flames having approached the bed whereon the said Margaret M’Kay lay, she shrieked aloud in Gaelic, “O’n teine,” that is to say, “O the fire,” or words to that effect; and was forthwith carried out by her daughter, Janet M’Kay, and placed in a small bothy, and the blanket in which she was wrapped was burnt in several places, and the said Margaret M’Kay never spoke a word thereafter, but remained insensible from that hour, and died in about five days thereafter, in consequence of the fright and alarm; and, in particular, in consequence of her removal, as aforesaid, from her bed into a cold and uncomfortable place, unfit for the habitation of any human being; and the said Margaret M’Kay was thereby culpably killed by you, the said Patrick Sellar; or otherwise, you, the said Patrick Sellar, did, time and place aforesaid, cruelly turn, or cause to be turned, out of her bed and[120] dwelling-place, the said Margaret Mackay, by setting on fire, burning, and demolishing, or causing and procuring to be set on fire, burnt, and demolished, the said house and other buildings, in manner above mentioned, to her great distress, and the imminent danger of her life. And farther, all the persons whose houses, barns, kilns, mills, and other buildings, were burnt and destroyed, or caused and procured to be burnt and destroyed by you, the said Patrick Sellar, all as above described, did sustain great loss in their moss wood, and other timber, which was broken and demolished, and destroyed by fire and otherwise, at the same time, and in the same manner, with the buildings as aforesaid; and also in their furniture and other effects, all their lawful property, or in their lawful possession at the time: And, in particular, the said Barbara M’Kay in Ravigill, aforesaid, lost her door and door-posts, and timber of her house and barn, her meal-chest, and several articles of furniture, all her property, or in her lawful possession, which were then and there destroyed, or caused to be destroyed, by you, the said Patrick Sellar, as aforesaid; and the greatest part of the furniture, and timber belonging to the said William Chisholm, together with three pounds in bank notes, and a ridge of growing corn, all the property, or in the lawful possession of the said William Chisholm, in Badinloskin, aforesaid, were then and there destroyed by fire, and otherwise, by you, the said Patrick Sellar. And you, the said Patrick Sellar, having been apprehended and taken before Mr. Robert Mackid, Sheriff-Substitute of Sutherland, did, in his presence, at Dornoch, on the 31st day of May, 1815, emit and subscribe a declaration; which declaration, together with a paper entitled “Notice given to the Strathnaver tenants, 15 Dec., 1813,” being to be used in evidence against you, at your trial, will be lodged in due time in the hands of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Justiciary, before which you are to be tried, that you may have an opportunity of seeing the same: at least, time and places above-mentioned, the said heath and pasture, was wickedly and maliciously set on fire and burnt, or caused and procured to be set on fire and[121] burnt, to the great injury and distress of the said tenants and others; and the said persons were violently turned, or caused and procured to be turned, out of their habitations, and deprived of all cover and shelter, to their great distress, and the imminent danger of their lives; and the said Donald M’Beath and Margaret M’Kay were culpably killed in manner above mentioned, or were cruelly turned out of their habitations as aforesaid; and the said dwelling-houses, barns, kilns, mills, and other buildings, lawfully inhabited and occupied by the said persons, were maliciously set on fire, burnt, pulled down, and demolished, or were caused and procured to be set on fire, burnt, pulled down, and demolished, and the inhabitants and lawful occupiers thereof turned out as aforesaid; and the greater part of their different crops was lost or destroyed, from want of the usual and necessary accommodation for securing and manufacturing the same; and the growing corn, timber, furniture, money, and other effects, the property, or in the lawful possession, of the said persons, were wantonly set on fire, burnt, and otherwise destroyed or caused and procured to be set on fire, burnt, and otherwise destroyed: And you, the said Patrick Sellar, are guilty of the said crimes, or of one or more of them, actor, or art and part. All which, or part thereof, being found proven by the verdict of an assize, before the Lord Justice-General, the Lord Justice-Clerk, and Lords Commissioners of Justiciary, in a Circuit Court of Justiciary to be holden by them, or by any one or more of their number, within the burgh of Inverness, in the month of April, in this present year, 1816, you, the said Patrick Sellar, ought to be punished with the pains of law, to deter others from committing the like crimes in all time coming.


Mr Sellar, having pleaded NOT GUILTY, the following defences were read:—“First, The panel objects to the relevancy of various parts of the libel. Second, In so far as the libel is relevant, the panel denies its truth; the[122] whole of the charges are utterly false, in so much so, that the Prosecutor is not only unable to bring any sufficient evidence in support of his own accusations, but the panel will bring positive proof against them. The panel will prove, that the ejectments which have given rise to this trial, were done in due order of law, and, under the warrants of the proper Judge, issued on regular process. Farther, he will prove that great indulgence was shown to the tenants, even after they had resisted the regular decrees of the Judge; that nothing was done on his part, or with his knowledge or approval, either cruel, oppressive or illegal. That he committed no acts of homicide; and, on the whole, he will prove, that throughout every part of this affair, he (the panel) has been the victim, not only of the most unfounded local prejudices, but of long continued and active defamation, on the part of certain persons, who have made it their business to traduce the whole system of improvements introduced into the Sutherland estate, and to vilify the panel, by whom, they have been pleased to suppose, that these improvements have been partly conducted. He rejoices, however, in the first opportunity, which has now been afforded to him, of meeting these calumnies and prepossessions in a Court of Justice, and relying, as he does, with implicit confidence on the candour and dispassionate attention of a British jury, he has no doubt whatever of being able to establish his complete innocence of all the charges now brought against him.

Under protestation to add and eik.


Mr. Robertson opened the case on the part of the panel. The object of addressing the court at this time was to state such observations as occurred on the relevancy of the indictment, and to give a general view of the line of defence. On the former, he remarked, that various objections did occur to the relevancy of the charges, par[123]ticularly to the second and fourth branches of the indictment. With these, however, he did not mean to trouble the Court, as Mr. Sellar was so conscious of his innocence, that he courted investigation, being unwilling that any part of his conduct should be left uninvestigated. No objection was, therefore, made to the relevancy of any part of the indictment, so far as it charged any specific crime against which the panel might be prepared to defend himself. But, certainly, he did object to those parts of it which contained general charges, of destroying “a number of houses,” injuring “a number of tenants,” &c., unless these were understood merely as introductory to the specific crimes mentioned. He also objected to the last charge, if meant as anything more than matter of mere aggravation.

On the merits, he gave a short sketch of the causes which gave rise to the present trial,—alluded to the clamour which had been raised in the country—the prejudices of the people,—the disgraceful publications in a newspaper called the Military Register, and the pains which had been taken to circulate these false and mischievous papers through Sutherland and the adjacent counties. The general line of defence he stated to be, That, as to the first charge, of heath-burning, this was done with the express consent of the tenantry, and, as could be proved, to their positive advantage. As to the removings, the defence was quite clear. The lands mentioned in the indictment were advertised to be set on the 5th of December, 1813, at the Inn of Golspie, and Mr. Sellar was preferred as the highest offerer. Before Whitsunday, 1814, he brought regular actions of removing, and it was not until after he had obtained decrees in these actions, charged the whole of the tenants to remove, and taken out precepts of ejection against them, that they were, in the month of June, actually removed from their lawless and violent possession. These facts were established by the decrees and precepts in the hands of the Clerk of Court. As to the demolition of the houses, no houses were pulled down till after the ejections had been completed, and the property had become Mr. Sellar’s. No furniture was[124] destroyed by him, or by his orders,—no unnecessary violence was used, nor any cruelty exercised, but everything was done in due order of law, and without oppression of any kind. The charges of culpable homicide were quite out of the question, and Mr. Sellar defied the Public Prosecutor to prove them. Upon the whole, it was not doubted, that if truth and justice were to prevail over malice and conspiracy, Mr. Sellar would obtain an honourable and triumphant acquittal.

The Advocate-Depute having here stated that he did not mean to insist on any charges, excepting those which were specially and articulately mentioned in the indictment, Lord Pitmilly said:—

“It would be improper for me to enter at present into the origin of the prosecution, or the nature of the defences. Neither shall I say anything of the publications which have been alluded to, except that they appear to be of the most contemptible nature, and the only prejudice which I can entertain is the other way; that is, against the cause requiring such aid. I have no doubt as to the relevancy of the libel.”

The jury was composed of the following gentlemen:—


Evidence for the prosecution and for the defence having been led at considerable length,

Mr. Drummond addressed the jury on the part of the Crown. He stated that he gave up all the charges except the one which regarded the ejections from the barns, and that of real injury in the case of the old woman at Badinloskin. He certainly did not think the evidence in this case last was sufficient to establish culpable homicide; but he argued, that the circumstances proved were sufficient to authorise the jury in finding a verdict of guilty to the extent of an injury, as she had been removed at the risk of her life, which he maintained to be contrary to law. As to the barns, he contended that the conduct of Mr. Sellar was irregular and illegal, and consequently oppressive, the outgoing tenants being entitled, by the custom of Sutherland, to retain them as long as the arable land.

Mr. Gordon addressed the jury on the part of the panel, and replied to the arguments used on behalf of the prosecution. He entered at great length into the history and objects of the prosecution; the preconcerted plan on which certain persons had instigated the people of Strathnaver to complain at first, and to persist afterwards; the views they entertained of successfully opposing the improvements of Sutherland, by affecting the noble persons to whom the property belonged, through the sides of Mr. Sellar, as a convenient medium of succeeding; the disgraceful measures to which these persons had resorted, with a view to affect the channels of justice, the impartiality of jurymen, and the purity of evidence. He attacked the measures and conduct of Mr. Mackid in the most pointed terms; exposed the characters of the evidence of Chisholm and others, and dwelt in the clear evidence of the total innocence of Mr. Sellar, and on the points of law which applied to the particular charges as criminal charges, at considerable length, and with reference to various law authorities; and finally, concluded by maintaining to the jury, that this was not merely the trial of Mr. Sellar, but, in truth, a conflict between the law[126] of the land and a resistance to that law: That the question at issue involved the future fate and progress of agricultural, and even moral improvements, in the county of Sutherland; that (though certainly not so intended by the Public Prosecutor, whose conduct throughout has been candid, correct, and liberal), it was nevertheless, in substance, and in fact, a trial of strength between the abettors of anarchy and misrule, and the magistracy, as well as the laws of this country.

Lord Pitmilly, after having stated the law as applicable to this case, summed up the evidence in a very clear and able manner. His lordship stated, that it was unnecessary for the jury to consider any of the charges, excepting the one in regard to the old woman at Badinloskin. As to the first, there could be no doubt of the practice in the country, of retaining these barns till the crops would be threshed out; neither could it be doubted, that Mr. Sellar had not left the whole of the barns for the use of the outgoing tenants, and in consequence of this, the tenants suffered damage. But in point of law, as the Court of Session had decided in a similar question, Mr. Sellar was not bound by any such practice, but was entitled to proceed in the ejections. In regard to the injury charged to have been done to Margaret M’Kay, his Lordship directed the attention of the jury to the evidence of Chisholm. This witness, although contradicted in some particulars by his wife, was confirmed by John M’Kay, whose testimony his Lordship also laid before them. On the other hand, he brought under their view, the evidence of Sutherland, Fraser, and Burns, and stated that it was the duty of the Jury to balance betwixt these two sets of witnesses. His Lordship also said, that if the jury were at all at a loss on this part of the case, they ought to take into view the character of the accused; for this was always of importance in balancing contradictory testimony. Now here there was, in the first place, real evidence, from the conduct of Mr. Sellar, in regard to the sick, for this, in several instances, had been proved to be most humane. And secondly, there were the letters of Sir George Abercromby, Mr. Brodie, and Mr. Fenton, which, although not[127] evidence,[11] must have some weight with the jury; and there were the testimonies of Mr. Gilzean and Sir Archibald Dunbar—all establishing Mr. Sellar’s humanity of disposition.

The jury having retired for a quarter of an hour, returned a viva voce verdict, unanimously finding Mr. Sellar NOT GUILTY.

Lord Pitmilly observed that his opinion completely concurred with that of the jury, and in dismissing them after so long a trial, he was happy to say they had paid the most patient attention to the case, and had returned a verdict satisfactory to the Court.

The verdict having been recorded,

The Advocate-Depute declared that he thought it fair to the panel, and that it would be satisfactory to the jury, to state his conviction, that if those witnesses who were rejected on account of errors in their designations, had been examined, the result of the trial would have been the same.

Lord Pitmilly then addressed Mr. Sellar.

His Lordship said, “Mr. Sellar, it is now my duty to dismiss you from the bar; and you have the satisfaction of thinking, that you are discharged by the unanimous opinion of the jury and the Court. I am sure that, although your feelings must have been agitated, you cannot regret that this trial took place, and I am hopeful it will have due effect on the minds of the country, which have been so much, and so improperly agitated.”

The Court then pronounced an interlocutor, in respect of the verdict of the assize, assoilzieing the panel simpliciter, and dismissing him from the bar.

The trial lasted from ten o’clock on Tuesday till one o’clock on Wednesday morning, and the Court-room was crowded to excess.




Great cruelties were perpetrated at Glencalvie, Ross-shire, where the evicted had to retire into the parish churchyard. There for more than a week they found the only shelter obtainable in their native land. No one dared to succour them, under a threat of receiving similar treatment to those whose hard fate had driven them thus among the tombs. Many of them, indeed, wished that their lot had landed them under the sod with their ancestors and friends, rather than be treated and driven out of house and home in such a ruthless manner. A special commissioner sent down by the London Times describes the circumstances as follows:—

Ardgay, near Tain, Ross-shire,
15th May, 1845.

Those who remember the misery and destitution to which large masses of the population were thrown by the systematic “Clearances” (as they are here called) carried on in Sutherlandshire some 20 years ago, under the direction and on the estate of the late Marchioness of Stafford—those who have not forgotten to what an extent the ancient ties which bound clansmen to their chiefs were then torn asunder—will regret to learn the heartless scourge with all its sequences of misery, of destitution, and of crime, is again being resorted to in Ross-shire. Amongst an imaginative people like the Highlanders, who, poetic from dwelling amongst wild and romantic scenery, shut out from the world and clinging to the traditions of the past, it requires little, with fair treatment, to make them almost idolise their heritor. They would spend the last drop of their blood in his service. But this feeling of respectful attachment to the landowners, which money cannot buy, is fast passing away.[129] This change is not without cause; and perhaps if the dark deeds of calculating “feelosophy” transacted through the instrumentality of factors in some of these lonely glens; if the almost inconceivable misery and hopeless destitution in which, for the expected acquisition of a few pounds, hundreds of peaceable and generally industrious and contented peasants are driven out from the means of self-support, to become wanderers and starving beggars, and in which a brave and valuable population is destroyed—are exposed to the gaze of the world, general indignation and disgust may effect what moral obligations and humanity cannot. One of these clearances is about to take place in the parish of Kincardine, from which I now write; and throughout the whole district it has created the strongest feeling of indignation.

This parish is divided into two districts each of great extent; one is called the parliamentary district of Croick. The length of this district is about 20 miles, with a breadth of from 10 to 15 miles. It extends amongst the most remote and unfrequented parts of the country, consisting chiefly of hills of heather and rock, peopled only in a few straths and glens. This district was formerly thickly peopled; but one of those clearances many years ago nearly swept away the population, and now the whole number of its inhabitants amounts, I am told, to only 370 souls. These are divided into three straths or glens, and live in a strath called Amatnatua, another strath called Greenyard, and in Glencalvie. It is the inhabitants of Glencalvie, in number 90 people, whose turn it is now to be turned out of their homes, all at once, the aged and the helpless as well as the young and strong; nearly the whole of them without hope or prospect for the future. The proprietor of this glen is Major Charles Robertson of Kindeace, who is at present out with his regiment in Australia; and his factor or steward who acts for him in his absence is Mr. James Gillanders of Highfield Cottage, near Dingwall. Glencalvie is situated about 25 miles from Tain, eastward. Bleak rough hills, whose surface are almost all rock and heather, closed in[130] on all sides, leaving in the valley a gentle declivity of arable land of a very poor description, dotted over by cairns of stone and rock, not, at the utmost computation, of more than 15 to 20 acres in extent. For this piece of indifferent land with a right of pasturage on the hills impinging upon it—and on which, if it were not a fact that sheep do live, you would not credit that they could live, so entirely does it seem void of vegetation, beyond the brown heather, whilst its rocky nature makes it dangerous and impossible even for a sheep walk—the almost increditable rent of £55 10s. has been paid. I am convinced that for the same land no farmer in England would give £15 at the utmost.

Even respectable farmers here say they do not know how the people raise the rent for it. Potatoes and barley were grown in the valley, and some sheep and a few black cattle find provender amongst the heather. Eighteen families have each a cottage in the valley; they have always paid their rent punctually, and they have contrived to support themselves in all ordinary seasons. They have no poor on the poor roll, and they help one another over the winter. I am told that not an inhabitant of this valley has been charged with any offence for years back. During the war it furnished many soldiers; and an old pensioner, 82 years of age, who has served in India, is now dying in one of these cottages, where he was born. For the convenience of the proprietor, some ten years ago, four of the principal tenants became bound for the rest, to collect all the rents and pay the whole in one sum.

The clearance of this valley, having attracted much notice, has been thoroughly enquired into, and a kind of defence has been entered upon respecting it, which I am told has been forwarded to the Lord Advocate. Through the politeness of Mr. Mackenzie, writer, Tain, I have been favoured with a copy of it. The only explanation or defence of the clearance, that I can find in it, is that shortly after Mr. Gillanders assumed the management of Major Robertson’s estate, he found that it became absolutely necessary to adopt a different system,[131] in regard to the lands of Glencalvie, “from that hitherto pursued.”

The “different system” as it appears was to turn the barley and potato grounds into a sheep walk, and the “absolute necessity” for it is an alleged increase of rent.

It was accordingly, in 1843, attempted to serve summonses of removal upon the tenants. They were in no arrears of rent, they had no burdens in poor; for 500 years their fathers had peaceably occupied the glen, and the people were naturally indignant. Who can be surprised that, on the constables going amongst them with the summonses, they acted in a manner which, while it showed their excitement, not the less evinced their wish to avoid breaking the law? The women met the constables beyond the boundaries, over the river, and seized the hand of the one who held the notices; whilst some held it out by the wrist, others held a live coal to the papers and set fire to them. They were afraid of being charged with destroying the notices, and they sought thus to evade the consequences. This act of resistance on their part has been made the most of. One of the men told me, hearing they were to be turned out because they did not pay rent enough, that they offered to pay £15 a year more, and afterwards to pay as much rent as any other man would give for the place. The following year (1844), however, the four chief tenants were decoyed to Tain, under the assurance that Mr. Gillanders was going to settle with them, they believing that their holdings were to be continued to them. The notices were then, as they say, in a treacherous and tricky manner, served upon them, however. Having been served, “a decreet of removal” was obtained against them, under which, of course, if they refused to turn out they would be put out by force. Finding themselves in this position, they entered into an arrangement with Mr. Gillanders, in which after several propositions on either side, it was agreed that they should remain until the 12th of May, to give them time to provide themselves with holdings elsewhere, Mr. Gillanders agreeing to pay them £100 on quitting, and to take their stock on at a valuation. They[132] were also to have liberty to carry away the timber of their houses, which was really worthless, except for firewood. On their part they agreed to leave peaceably, and not to lay down any crop. Beyond the excessive harshness of removing the people at all, it is but right to say that the mode of proceeding in the removal hitherto has been temperate and considerate.

Two respectable farmers became bound for the people that they would carry out their part of the agreement, and the time of removal has since been extended to the 25th of this month. In the defence got up for this proceeding it is stated that all have been provided for; this is not only not the case, but seems to be intentionally deceptive. In speaking of all, the four principal tenants only are meant; for, according to the factor, these were all he had to do with; but this is not the case even in regard to the four principal tenants. Two only, a father and son, have got a piece of black moor, near Tain, 25 miles off, without any house or shed on it, out of which they hope to obtain subsistence. For this they are to pay £1 rent for 7 acres the first year; £2 for the second year; and £3 for a continuation. Another old man with a family has got a house and a small lot of land in Edderton, about 20 miles off. These three, the whole who have obtained places where they may hope to make a living. The old pensioner, if removing does not kill him, has obtained for himself and family, and for his son’s family, a house at a rent of £3 or £4, some ten miles off, without any land or means of subsistence attached to it. This old soldier has been offered 2s. a week by the factor to support him while he lived. He was one of the four principal tenants bound for the rent; and he indignantly refused to be kept as a pauper.

A widow with four children, two imbecile, has obtained two small apartments in a bothy or turf hut near Bonar Bridge, for which she is to pay £2 rent, without any land or means of subsistence. Another, a man with a wife and four children, has got an apartment at Bonar Bridge, at £1 rent. He goes there quite destitute, without means of living. Six only of eighteen households, therefore, have[133] been able to obtain places in which to put their heads; and of these, three only have any means of subsistence before them. The rest are hopeless and helpless. Two or three of the men told me they have been round to every factor and proprietor in the neighbourhood, and they could obtain no place, and nothing to do, and they did not know where to go to, or what to do to live.

And for what are all these people to be reduced from comfort to beggary? For what is this virtuous and contented community to be scattered? I confess I can find no answer. It is said that the factor would rather have one tenant than many, as it saves him trouble! But so long as the rent is punctually paid as this has been, it is contrary to all experience to suppose that one large tenant will pay more rent than many small ones, or that a sheep walk can pay more rent than cultivated land.

Let me add that so far from the clearance at Glencalvie being a solitary instance in this neighbourhood, it is one of many. The tenants of Newmore, near Tain, who I am told, amount to 16 families, are to be weeded out (as they express it here) on the 25th, by the same Mr. Gillanders. The same factor manages the Strathconon estate, about 30 miles from Newmore, from which during the last four years, some hundreds of families have been weeded. The Government Church of that district, built eighteen years ago, to meet the necessities of the population, is now almost unnecessary from the want of population. At Black Isle, near Dingwall, the same agent is pursuing the same course, and so strong is the feeling of the poor Highlanders at these outrageous proceedings, so far as they are concerned wholly unwarranted from any cause whatever, that I am informed on the best authority, and by those who go amongst them and hear what they say, that it is owing to the influence of religion alone that they refrain from breaking out into open and turbulent resistance of the law. I enclose you the defence of this proceeding, with a list of the names and numbers of each family in Glencalvie—in all 92 persons.[12]



In a “Sermon for the Times,” the Rev. Richard Hibbs of the Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, referring to these evictions, says:—“Take first, the awful proof how far in oppression men can go—men highly educated and largely gifted in every way—property, talents, all; for the most part indeed, they are so-called noblemen. What, then, are they doing in the Highland districts, according to the testimony of a learned professor in this city? Why, depopulating those districts in order to make room for red deer. And how? By buying off the cottars, and giving them money to emigrate? Not at all, but by starving them out; by rendering them absolutely incapable of procuring subsistence for themselves and families; for they first take away from them their apportionments of poor lands, although they may have paid their rents; and if that don’t suffice to eradicate from their hearts that love of the soil on which they have been born and bred—a love which the great Proprietor of all has manifestly implanted in our nature—why, then, these inhuman landlords, who are far more merciful to their very beasts, take away from these poor cottars the very roofs above their defenceless heads, and expose them, worn down with age and destitute of everything, to the inclemencies of a northern sky; and this, forsooth, because they must have plenty room for their dogs and deer. For plentiful instances of the most wanton barbarities under this head we need only point to the Knoydart evictions. Here were perpetrated such enormities as might well have caused the very sun to hide his face at noon-day.” Macleod, referring to this sermon, says:—

“It has been intimated to me by an individual who heard this discourse on the first occasion that the statements referring to the Highland landlords have been controverted. I was well aware, long before the receipt of this intimation, that some defence had appeared; and here I can truly say, that none would have rejoiced more than myself to find that a complete vindication had been[135] made. But, unhappily, the case is far otherwise. In order to be fully acquainted with all that had passed on the subject, I have put myself during the week in communication with the learned professor to whose letter, which appeared some months ago in the Times, I referred. From him I learn that none of his statements were invalidated—nay, not even impugned; and he adds, that to do this was simply impossible, as he had been at great pains to verify the facts. All that could be called in question was the theory that he had based upon those facts—namely, that evictions were made for the purpose of making room for more deer. This, of course, was open to contradiction on the part of those landlords who had not openly avowed their object in evicting the poor Highland families. As to the evictions themselves—and this was the main point—no attempt at contradiction was made.”

In addition to all that the benevolent Professor [Black] has made known to the world under this head, who has not heard of “The Massacre of the Rosses,” and the clearing of the glens? “I hold in my hand,” Mr. Hibbs continued, “a little work thus entitled, which has passed into the second edition. The author, Mr. Donald Ross—a gentleman whom all who feel sympathy for the downtrodden and oppressed must highly esteem. What a humiliating picture of the barbarity and cruelty of fallen humanity does this little book present! The reader, utterly appalled by its horrifying statements, finds it difficult to retain the recollection that he is perusing the history of his own times, and country too. He would fain yield himself to the tempting illusion that the ruthless atrocities which are depicted were enacted in a fabulous period, in ages long past; or at all events, if it be contemporaneous history, that the scene of such heart-rending cruelties, the perpetrators of which were regardless alike of the innocency of infancy and the helplessness of old age, is some far distant, and as yet not merely unchristianized, but wholly savage and uncivilized region of our globe. But alas! it is Scotland, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, of which he treats. One feature[136] of the heart-harrowing case is the shocking and barbarous cruelty that was practised on this occasion upon the female portion of the evicted clan. Mr. D. Ross, in a letter addressed to the Right Hon. the Lord Advocate, Edinburgh, dated April 19, 1854, thus writes in reference to one of those clearances and evictions which had just then taken place, under the authority of a certain Sheriff of the district, and by means of a body of policemen as executioners:—‘The feeling on this subject, not only in the district, but in Sutherlandshire and Ross-shire, is, among the great majority of the people, one of universal condemnation of the Sheriff’s reckless conduct, and of indignation and disgust at the brutality of the policemen. Such, indeed, was the sad havoc made on the females on the banks of the Carron, on the memorable 31st March last, that pools of blood were on the ground—that the grass and earth were dyed red with it—that the dogs of the district came and licked up the blood; and at last, such was the state of feeling of parties who went from a distance to see the field, that a party (it is understood by order or instructions from headquarters) actually harrowed the ground during the night to hide the blood!

“‘The affair at Greenyard, on the morning of the 31st March last, is not calculated to inspire much love of country, or rouse the martial spirit of the already ill-used Highlanders. The savage treatment of innocent females on that morning, by an enraged body of police, throws the Sinope butchery into the shade; for the Ross-shire Haynaus have shown themselves more cruel and more blood-thirsty than the Austrian women-floggers. What could these poor men and women—with their wounds and scars, and broken bones, and disjointed arms, stretched on beds of sickness, or moving on crutches, the result of the brutal treatment of them by the police at Greenyard—have to dread from the invasion of Scotland by Russia?’”

Commenting on this incredible atrocity, committed in the middle of the nineteenth century, Donald Macleod says truly that:—“It was so horrifying and so brutal that they did not wonder at the rev. gentleman’s delicacy[137] in speaking of it, and directing his hearers to peruse Mr. Ross’s pamphlet for full information. Mr. Ross went from Glasgow to Greenyard, all the way to investigate the case upon the spot, and found that Mr. Taylor, a native of Sutherland, well educated in the evicting schemes and murderous cruelty of that county, and Sheriff-substitute of Ross-shire, marched from Tain upon the morning of the 31st March, at the head of a strong party of armed constables, with heavy bludgeons and fire-arms, conveyed in carts and other vehicles, allowing them as much ardent drink as they chose to take before leaving and on their march, so as to qualify them for the bloody work which they had to perform; fit for any outrage, fully equipped, and told by the Sheriff to show no mercy to any one who would oppose them, and not allow themselves to be called cowards, by allowing these mountaineers victory over them. In this excited, half-drunken state, they came in contact with the unfortunate women of Greenyard, who were determined to prevent the officers from serving the summonses of removal upon them, and keep their holding of small farms where they and their forefathers lived and died for generations. But no time was allowed for parley; the Sheriff gave the order to clear the way, and, be it said to his everlasting disgrace, he struck the first blow at a woman, the mother of a large family, and large in the family way at the time, who tried to keep him back; then a general slaughter commenced; the women made noble resistance, until the bravest of them got their arms broken; then they gave way. This did not allay the rage of the murderous brutes, they continued clubbing at the protectless creatures until every one of them was stretched on the field, weltering in their blood, or with broken arms, ribs, and bruised limbs. In this woeful condition many of them were hand-cuffed together, others tied with coarse ropes, huddled into carts, and carried prisoners to Tain. I have seen myself in the possession of Mr. Ross, Glasgow, patches or scalps of the skin with the long hair adhering to them, which was found upon the field a few days after this inhuman affray. I did not see the women, but I was told that gashes were[138] found on the heads of two young female prisoners in Tain jail, which exactly corresponded with the slices of scalps which I have seen, so that Sutherland and Ross-shire may boast of having had the Nana Sahib and his chiefs some few years before India, and that in the persons of some whose education, training, and parental example should prepare their minds to perform and act differently. Mr. Donald Ross placed the whole affair before the Lord Advocate for Scotland, but no notice was taken of it by that functionary, further than that the majesty of the law would need to be observed and attended to.

“In this unfortunate country, the law of God and humanity may be violated and trampled under foot, but the law of wicked men which sanctions murder, rapine, and robbery must be observed. From the same estate (the estate of Robertson of Kindeace, if I am not mistaken in the date) in the year 1843 the whole inhabitants of Glencalvie were evicted in a similar manner, and so unprovided and unprepared were they for removal at such an inclement season of the year, that they had to shelter themselves in a Church and a burying-ground. I have seen myself nineteen families within this gloomy and solitary resting abode of the dead, they were there for months. The London Times sent a commissioner direct from London to investigate into this case, and he did his duty; but like the Sutherland cases, it was hushed up in order to maintain the majesty of the law, and in order to keep the right, the majesty of the people, and the laws of God in the dark.

“In the year 1819 or ’20, about the time when the depopulation of Sutherlandshire was completed, and the annual conflagration of burning the houses ceased, and when there was not a glen or strath in the county to let to a sheep farmer, one of these insatiable monsters of Sutherlandshire sheep farmers fixed his eyes upon a glen in Ross-shire, inhabited by a brave, hardy race for time immemorial. Summonses of removal were served upon them at once. The people resisted—a military force was brought against them—the military and the women[139] of the glen met at the entrance to the glen, and a bloody conflict took place; without reading the riot act or taking any other precaution, the military fired (by the order of Sheriff MacLeod) ball cartridge upon the women; one young girl of the name of Mathieson was shot dead on the spot; many were wounded. When this murder was observed by the survivors, and some young men concealed in the background, they made a heroic sudden rush upon the military, when a hand-to-hand melee or fight took place. In a few minutes the military were put to disorder by flight; in their retreat they were unmercifully dealt with, only two of them escaping with whole heads. The Sheriff’s coach was smashed to atoms, and he made a narrow escape himself with a whole head. But no legal cognizance was taken of this affair, as the Sheriff and the military were the violators. However, for fear of prosecution, the Sheriff settled a pension of £6 sterling yearly upon the murdered girl’s father, and the case was hushed up likewise. The result was that the people kept possession of the glen, and that the proprietor and the oldest and most insatiable of Sutherlandshire scourges went to law, which ended in the ruination of the latter, who died a pauper.”

Hugh Miller, describing a “Highland Clearing,” in one of his able leading articles in the Witness, since published in volume form, quotes freely from an article by John Robertson, which appeared in the Glasgow National in August, 1844, on the evictions of the Rosses of Glencalvie. When the article from which Hugh Miller quotes was written, the inhabitants of the glen had just received notices of removal, but the evictions had not yet been carried out. Commenting on the proceedings Hugh Miller says:—

“In an adjacent glen (to Strathcarron), through which the Calvie works its headlong way to the Carron, that terror of the Highlanders, a summons of removal, has been served within the last few months on a whole community; and the graphic sketch of Mr. Robertson relates both the peculiar circumstances in which it has been issued, and the feelings which it has excited. We find[140] from his testimony that the old state of things which is so immediately on the eve of being broken up in this locality, lacked not a few of those sources of terror to the proprietary of the county, that are becoming so very formidable to them in the newer states.”

The constitution of society in the Glens, says Mr. Robertson, is remarkably simple. Four heads of families are bound for the whole rental. The number of souls was about ninety, sixteen cottages paid rent; they supported a teacher for the education of their own children; they supported their own poor. “The laird has never lost a farthing of rent in bad years, such as 1836 and 1837, the people may have required the favour of a few weeks’ delay, but they are not now a single farthing in arrears;” that is, when they are in receipt of summonses of removal. “For a century,” Mr. Robertson continues, speaking of the Highlanders, “their privileges have been lessening; they dare not now hunt the deer, or shoot the grouse or the blackcock; they have no longer the range of the hills for their cattle and their sheep; they must not catch a salmon in the stream: in earth, air, and water, the rights of the laird are greater, and the rights of the people are smaller, than they were in the days of their forefathers.” The same writer eloquently concludes:—

“The father of the laird of Kindeace bought Glencalvie. It was sold by a Ross two short centuries ago. The swords of the Rosses of Glencalvie did their part in protecting this little glen, as well as the broad lands of Pitcalvie, from the ravages and the clutches of hostile septs. These clansmen bled and died in the belief that every principle of honour and morals secured their descendants a right to subsisting on the soil. The chiefs and their children had the same charter of the sword. Some Legislatures have made the right of the people superior to the right of the chief; British law-makers made the rights of the chief everything, and those of their followers nothing. The ideas of the morality of property are in most men the creatures of their interests and sympathies. Of this there cannot be a doubt, however, the chiefs would not have had the land at all, could the[141] clansmen have foreseen the present state of the Highlands—their children in mournful groups going into exile—the faggot of legal myrmidons in the thatch of the feal cabin—the hearths of their homes and their lives the green sheep-walks of the stranger. Sad it is, that it is seemingly the will of our constituencies that our laws shall prefer the few to the many. Most mournful will it be, should the clansmen of the Highlands have been cleared away, ejected, exiled, in deference to a political, a moral, a social, and an economical mistake,—a suggestion not of philosophy, but of mammon,—a system in which the demon of sordidness assumed the shape of the angel of civilization and of light.”

That the Eviction of the Rosses was of a harsh character is amply corroborated by the following account, extracted from the Inverness Courier:—“We mentioned last week that considerable obstruction was anticipated in the execution of the summonses of removal upon the tenants of Major Robertson of Kindeace, on his property of Greenyards, near Bonar Bridge. The office turned out to be of a very formidable character. At six o’clock on the morning of Friday last, Sheriff Taylor proceeded from Tain, accompanied by several Sheriff’s officers, and a police force of about thirty more, partly belonging to the constabulary force of Ross-shire, and partly to that of Inverness-shire,—the latter under the charge of Mr. Mackay, inspector, Fort William. On arriving at Greenyards, which is nearly four miles from Bonar Bridge, it was found that about three hundred persons, fully two-thirds of whom were women, had assembled from the county round about, all apparently prepared to resist the execution of the law. The women stood in front, armed with stones, and the men occupied the background, all, or nearly all, furnished with sticks.

“The Sheriff attempted to reason with the crowd, and to show them the necessity of yielding to the law: but his efforts were fruitless; some of the women tried to lay hold of him and to strike him, and after a painful effort to effect the object in view by peaceable means—which was renewed in vain by Mr. Cumming, the superintendent[142] of the Ross-shire police—the Sheriff was reluctantly obliged to employ force. The force was led by Mr. Cumming into the crowd, and, after a sharp resistance, which happily lasted only a few minutes, the people were dispersed, and the Sheriff was enabled to execute the summonses upon the four tenants. The women, as they bore the brunt of the battle, were the principal sufferers. A large number of them—fifteen or sixteen, we believe, were seriously hurt, and of these several are under medical treatment; one woman, we believe, still lies in a precarious condition. The policemen appear to have used their batons with great force, but they escaped themselves almost unhurt. Several correspondents from the district, who do not appear, however, to make sufficient allowance for the critical position of affairs, and the necessity of at once impressing so large a multitude with the serious nature of the case, complain that the policemen used their batons with wanton cruelty. Others state that they not only did their duty, but that less firmness might have proved fatal to themselves. The instances of violence are certainly, though very naturally, on the part of the attacking force; several batons were smashed in the melee; a great number of men and women were seriously hurt, especially about the head and face, while not one of the policemen, so far as we can learn, suffered any injury in consequence. As soon as the mob was fairly dispersed, the police made active pursuit, in the hope of catching some of the ringleaders. The men had, however, fled, and the only persons apprehended were some women, who had been active in the opposition, and who had been wounded. They were conveyed to the prison at Tain, but liberated on bail next day, through the intercession of a gallant friend, who became responsible for their appearance.”

“A correspondent writes,” continues the Courier, “ten young women were wounded in the back of the skull and other parts of their bodies.... The wounds on these women show plainly the severe manner in which they were dealt with by the police when they were retreating. It was currently reported last night that one[143] of them was dead; and the feeling of indignation is so strong against the manner in which the constables have acted, that I fully believe the life of any stranger, if he were supposed to be an officer of the law, would not be worth twopence in the district.”

The Northern Ensign, referring to the same case, says:—“One day lately a preventive officer with two cutter men made their appearance on the boundaries of the estate and were taken for Tain Sheriff-officers. The signals were at once given, and in course of half-an-hour the poor gauger and his men were surrounded by 300 men and women, who would not be remonstrated with either in English or Gaelic; the poor fellows were taken and denuded of their clothing, all papers and documents were extracted and burnt, amongst which was a purse with a considerable quantity of money. In this state they were carried shoulder-high off the estate, and left at the braes of Downie, where the great Culrain riot took place thirty years ago.”


During the first years of the century a great many were cleared from Kintail by Seaforth at the instigation of his Kintail factor, Duncan Mor Macrae, and his father, who themselves added the land taken from the ancient tenantry to their own sheep farms, already far too extensive. In Glengarry, Canada, a few years ago, we met one man, 93 years of age, who was among the evicted. He was in excellent circumstances, his three sons having three valuable farms of their own, and considered wealthy in the district. In the same county there is a large colony of Kintail men, the descendants of those cleared from that district, all comfortable, many of them very well off, one of them being then member for his county in the dominion Parliament. While this has been the case with many of the evicted from Kintail and their descendants in Canada, the grasping sheep farmer who was the original cause of their eviction from their native land, died ruined and penniless; and the Seaforths, not long[144] after, had to sell the last inch of their ancient inheritance in Lochalsh and Kintail. Shortly after these Glenelchaig evictions, about fifty families were banished in the same way and by the same people from the district of Letterfearn. This property has also changed hands since, and is now in possession of Sir Alexander Matheson, Baronet of Lochalsh. Letter of Lochalsh was cleared by Sir Hugh Innes, almost as soon as he came into possession by purchase of that portion of the ancient heritage of Seaforth and Kintail. The property has since passed into the hands of the Lillingstones.


The attempt to evict the Coigeach crofters must also be mentioned. Here the people made a stout resistance, the women disarming about twenty policemen and sheriff-officers, burning the summonses in a heap, throwing their batons into the sea, and ducking the representatives of the law in a neighbouring pool. The men formed the second line of defence, in case the women should receive any ill-treatment. They, however, never put a finger on the officers of law, all of whom returned home without serving a single summons or evicting a single crofter. The proceedings of her subordinates fortunately came to the ears of the noble proprietrix, with the result that the Coigeach tenants are still where they were, and are to-day among the most comfortable crofters in the north of Scotland.


From 1840 to 1848 Strathconon was almost entirely cleared of its ancient inhabitants to make room for sheep and deer, as in other places; and also for the purposes of extensive forest plantations. The property was under trustees when the harsh proceedings were commenced by the factor, Mr. Rose, a notorious Dingwall solicitor.[145] He began by taking away, first, the extensive hill-pasture, for generations held as club-farms by the townships, thus reducing the people from a position of comfort and independence; and secondly, as we saw done elsewhere, finally evicting them from the arable portion of the strath, though they were not a single penny in arrear of rent. Coirre-Bhuic and Scard-Roy were first cleared, and given, respectively, as sheep-farms to Mr. Brown, from Morayshire, and Colin Munro, from Dingwall. Mr. Balfour, when he came of age, cleared Coire-Feola and Achadh-an-eas; Carnach was similarly treated, while no fewer than twenty-seven families were evicted from Glen-Meine alone. Baile-a-Mhuilinn and Baile-na-Creige were cleared in 1844, no fewer than twenty-four families from these townships removing to the neighbourhood of Knock-farrel and Loch Ussie, above Dingwall, where they were provided with holdings by the late John Hay Mackenzie of Cromartie, father of the present Duchess of Sutherland, and where a few of themselves and many of their descendants are now in fairly comfortable circumstances. A great many more found shelter on various properties in the Black Isle—some at Drynie Park, Maol-Bui; others at Kilcoy, Allangrange, Cromarty, and the Aird.

It is computed that from four to five hundred souls were thus driven from Strathconon, and cast adrift on the world, including a large number of persons quite helpless, from old age, blindness, and other infirmities. The scenes were much the same as we have described in connection with other places. There is, however, one aspect of the harshness and cruelty practised on the Strathconon people, not applicable in many other cases, namely, that in most instances where they settled down and reclaimed land, they were afterwards re-evicted, and the lands brought into cultivation by themselves, taken from them, without any compensation whatever, and given at enhanced rents to large farmers. This is specially true of those who settled down in the Black Isle, where they reclaimed a great deal of waste now making some of the best farms in that district. Next after[146] Mr. Rose of Dingwall, the principal instrument in clearing Strathconon, was the late James Gillanders of Highfield, already so well and unfavourably known to the reader in connection with the evictions at Glencalvie and elsewhere.

It may be remarked that the Strathconon evictions are worthy of note for the forcible illustration they furnish of how, by these arbitrary and unexpected removals, hardships and ruin have frequently been brought on families and communities who were at the time in contented and comfortable circumstances. At one time, and previous to the earlier evictions, perhaps no glen of its size in the Highlands had a larger population than Strathconon. The club farm system, once so common in the North, seems to have been peculiarly successful here. Hence a large proportion of the people were well to do, but when suddenly called upon to give up their hill pasture, and afterwards their arable land, and in the absence of other suitable places to settle in, the means they had very soon disappeared, and the trials and difficulties of new conditions had to be encountered. As a rule, in most of these Highland evictions, the evicted were lost sight of, they having either emigrated to foreign lands or become absorbed in the ever-increasing unemployed population of the large towns. In the case of Strathconon it was different, as has been already stated; many of the families evicted were allowed to settle on some of the wildest unreclaimed land in the Black Isle. Their subsequent history there, and the excellent agricultural condition into which they in after years brought their small holdings, is a standing refutation of the charge so often made against the Highland people, that they are lazy and incapable of properly cultivating the land.


Respecting the estates of Drynie and Kilcoy, a correspondent, who says, “I well remember my excessive grief when my father had to leave the farm which his forefathers had farmed for five generations,” writes:—


“All the tenants to the east of Drynie, as far as Craigiehow, were turned out, one by one, to make room for one large tenant, Mr. Robertson, who had no less than four centres for stackyards. A most prosperous tenantry were turned out to make room for him, and what is the end of it all! Mr. Robertson has come to grief as a farmer, and now holds a very humble position in the town of Inverness. Drumderfit used to be occupied by fifteen or sixteen tenants who were gradually, and from time to time, evicted, during the last fifty years. Balnakyle was tenanted by five very comfortable and respectable farmers, four of whom were turned out within the last thirty years; Balnaguie was occupied by three; Torr by six; and Croft-cruive by five; the once famous names of Drum-na-marg and Moreton are now extinct, as well as the old tenantry whose forefathers farmed these places for generations. The present farm of Kilcoy includes a number of holdings whose tenants were evicted to make room for one large farmer;” and this is equally true of many others in the district. Nothing can better illustrate the cruel manner in which the ancient tenantry of the country have been treated than these facts; and special comment on the evictions from Strathconon and the Black Isle, after what has been said about others of a similar character, would be superfluous.


No one was evicted from the Island of Lewis, in the strict sense of the term, but 2231 souls had to leave it between 1851 and 1863. To pay their passage money, their inland railway fares on arrival, and to provide them with clothing and other furnishings, the late Sir James Matheson paid a sum of £11,855. Notwithstanding all this expenditure, many of these poor people would have died from starvation on their arrival without the good offices of friends in Canada.

In 1841, before Mr. Matheson bought it, a cargo of[148] emigrants from the Lews arrived at Quebec late in the autumn, accompanied by a Rev. Mr. Maclean, sent out to minister to their spiritual wants, but it appears that no provision had been made for the more pressing demands of a severe Canadian winter; and were it not for the Saint Andrew’s Society of Montreal, every soul of them would have been starved to death that winter in a strange land. The necessities of the case, and how this patriotic Society saved their countrymen from a horrid death will be seen on perusal of the following minutes, extracted from the books of the Society, during the writer’s recent tour in Canada:—“A special meeting of the office-bearers was summoned on the 20th September, 1841, to take into consideration an application made by Mr. Morris, President of the Emigration Association of the district of St. Francis, for some pecuniary aid to a body of 229 destitute emigrants who had recently arrived from the Island of Lewis (Scotland), and who were then supported chiefly by the contributions of the charitable inhabitants of the town of Sherbrooke and its neighbourhood. Mr. Morris’ letter intimated that unless other assistance was received, it would be impossible for these emigrants to outlive the winter, as they were in a state of utter destitution, and the inhabitants of the township could not support so large a number of persons from their own unaided resources. The meeting decided that the Constitution of the Society prohibited them from applying its funds to an object like the one presented—it did not appear to authorise the granting of relief from its funds except to cases of destitution in the city; but as this case appeared of an urgent nature, and one particularly calling for assistance, Messrs. Hew Ramsay and Neil M’Intosh were appointed to collect subscriptions on behalf of the emigrants. This committee acquitted itself with great diligence and success, having collected the handsome sum of £234 14s. 6d., the whole of which was, at different times, remitted to Mr. Morris, and expended by him in this charity. Letters were received from Mr. Morris, expressing the gratitude of the emigrants for this large and timely aid, which was principally the means of[149] keeping them from starvation.” The whole of these emigrants are now in easy circumstances.

Commenting on the conduct of those in power, who sent out their poor tenantry totally unprovided for, is unnecessary. The idea of sending out a minister and nothing else, in such circumstances, makes one shudder to think of the uses which are sometimes made of the clergy, and how, in such cases, the Gospel they are supposed not only to preach but to practise, is only in many instances caricatured. The provisions sent by the Society had to be forwarded to where these starving emigrants were, a distance of 80 miles from Sherbrooke, on sledges, through a trackless and dense forest. The descendants of these people now form a happy and prosperous community at Lingwick and Winslow.


This small property, in the Parish of Lochbroom, changed hands in 1879, Mr. A. C. Pirie, paper manufacturer, Aberdeen, having purchased it for £19,000 from Colonel Davidson, now of Tulloch. No sooner did it come into Mr. Pirie’s possession than a notice, dated 2nd November, 1879, in the following terms, was issued to all the tenants:—

“I am instructed by Mr. Pirie, proprietor of Leckmelm, to give you notice that the present arrangements by which you hold the cottage, byre, and other buildings, together with lands on that estate, will cease from and after the term of Martinmas, 1880; and further, I am instructed to intimate to you that at the said term of Martinmas, 1880, Mr. Pirie purposes taking the whole arable and pasture lands, but that he is desirous of making arrangements whereby you may continue tenant of the cottage upon terms and conditions yet to be settled upon. I have further to inform you that unless you and the other[150] tenants at once prevent your sheep and other stock from grazing or trespassing upon the enclosures and hill, and other lands now in the occupation or possession of the said Mr. Pirie, he will not, upon any conditions, permit you to remain in the cottage you now occupy, after the said term of Martinmas, 1880, but will clear all off the estate, and take down the cottages.”

This notice affected twenty-three families, numbering above one hundred souls. Sixteen tenants paid between them a rent of £96 10s.—ranging from £3 to £12 each per annum. The stock allowed them was 72 head of cattle, 8 horses, and 320 sheep. The arable portion of Leckmelm was about the best tilled and the most productive land in possession of any crofters in the parish. It could all be worked with the plough, now a very uncommon thing in the Highlands; for almost invariably land of that class is in the hands of the proprietors themselves, when not let to sheep farmers or sportsmen. The intention of the new proprietor was strictly carried out. At Martinmas, 1880, he took every inch of land—arable and pastoral—into his own hands, and thus by one cruel stroke, reduced a comfortable tenantry from comparative affluence and independence to the position of mere cottars and day labourers, absolutely dependent for subsistence on his own will and the likes or dislikes of his subordinates, who may perhaps, for a short time, be in a position to supply the remnant that will remain, in their altered circumstances, with such common labour as trenching, draining, fencing, carrying stones, lime and mortar, for the laird’s mansion-house and outhouses. With the exception of one, all the tenants who remained are still permitted to live in their old cottages, but they are not permitted to keep a living thing about them—not even a hen. They are existing in a state of abject dependence on Mr. Pirie’s will and that of his servants; and in a constant state of terror that next they will even be turned out of their cottages. As regards work and the necessaries of life, they have been reduced to that of common navvies. In place of milk, butter, and cheese in fair abundance, they have now to be satisfied with sugar,[151] treacle, or whatever else they can buy, to their porridge and potatoes, and their supply of meat, grown and fed hitherto by themselves, is gone for ever. Two, a man and his wife, if not more, have since been provided for by the Parochial authorities, and, no doubt, that will ultimately be the fate of many more of this once thriving and contented people.

An agitation against Mr. Pirie’s conduct was raised at the time, and the advantage which he had taken of his position was universally condemned by the press (excepting the Scotsman, of course), and by the general public voice of the country; but conscious of his strength, and that the law, made by the landlords in their own interest, was on his side, he relentlessly and persistently carried out his cruel purpose to the bitter end, and evicted from their lands and hill grazings every soul upon his property; but in the meantime allowed them to remain in their cottages, with the exception of Donald Munro, to whose case reference will be made hereafter, and two other persons whose houses were pulled down and themselves evicted.

When the notices of removal were received, the Rev. John MacMillan, Free Church minister of the parish, called public attention to Mr. Pirie’s proceedings in the Northern newspapers, and soon the eye of the whole country was directed to this modern evictor—a man, in other respects, reputed considerate and even kind to those under him in his business of paper manufacturing in Aberdeen. People, in their simplicity, for years back, thought that evictions on such a large scale, in the face of a more enlightened public opinion, had become mere unpleasant recollections of a barbarous past; forgetting that the same laws which permitted the clearances of Sutherland and other portions of the Scottish Highlands during the first half of the present century were still in force, ready to be applied by any tyrant who had the courage, for personal ends, to outrage the more advanced and humane public opinion of the present generation.

The noble conduct of the Rev. Mr. MacMillan, in connection with those evictions, deserves commemoration in[152] a work in which the name of his prototype in Sutherland, the Rev. Mr. Sage, shows to such advantage during the infamous clearances in that county, already described at length. At the urgent request of many friends of the Highland crofters, resident in Inverness, Mr. MacMillan agreed to lay the case of his evicted parishioners before the public. Early in December, 1880, he delivered an address in Inverness to one of the largest and most enthusiastic meetings which has ever been held in that town, and we cannot do better here than quote at considerable length from his instructive, eloquent, and rousing appeal on that occasion. Though his remarks do not seem to have influenced Mr. Pirie’s conduct, or to have benefited his unfortunate subjects, the Inverness meeting was the real beginning in earnest of the subsequent movement throughout the Highlands in favour of Land Reform, and the curtailment of landlord power over their unfortunate tenants. Mr. Pirie can thus claim to have done our poorer countrymen no small amount of good, though probably, quite contrary to his intentions, by his cruel and high-handed conduct in dealing with the ancient tenants of Leckmelm. He has set the heather on fire, and it is likely to continue burning until such proceedings as those for which he is responsible at Leckmelm will be finally made impossible in Scotland. Mr. MacMillan after informing his audience that Mr. Pirie “is now in a fair way of reaching a notoriety which he little dreamt of when he became owner of the Leckmelm estate,” proceeds to tell how the harsh proceedings were gone about, and says:—

“As the public are aware, Mr. Pirie’s first step after becoming owner of the estate, was to inform the tenantry, by the hands of Mr. Manners, C.E., Inverness, that at Martinmas following they were to deliver their arable land and stock, consisting of sheep and cattle, into his hands, but that some of them, on conditions yet to be revealed, and on showing entire submission to the new régime of things, and, withal, a good certificate of character from his factotum, William Gould, might remain in their cottages to act as serfs or slaves on his farm. On[153] this conditional promise they were to live in the best of hope, for the future and all at the mercy of the absolute master of the situation, with a summum jus at his back to enable him to effect all the purposes of his heart. As a prologue to the drama which was to follow, and to give a sample of what they might expect in the sequel, two acts were presented, or properly speaking, one act in two parts. These were to prepare them for what was to come, reminding us of what we read somewhere in our youth, of a husband who on marrying his fair spouse wished to teach her prompt obedience to all his commands, whatever their character. His first lesson in this direction was one assuredly calculated to strike terror into her tender breast. It was the shooting on the spot of the horse which drew his carriage or conveyance, on showing some slight restiveness. The second lesson was of a similar nature; we can easily imagine that his object was gained. Then, after coming home, he commanded his spouse to untie his boots and shoes, and take them off, and to engage in the most servile acts. Of course prompt obedience was given to all these commands and his end was gained. His wife was obedient to him to the last degree. Of the wisdom and propriety of such a procedure in a husband towards his lawful wife, I shall not here and now wait to enquire, but one thing is plain to us all; there was a species of earthly and carnal wisdom in it which was entirely overshadowed by its cruelty.

“Now this illustrates exactly how Mr. Pirie acted towards the people of Leckmelm. To strike terror into their hearts, first of all, two houses were pulled down, I might say about the ears of their respective occupants, without any warning whatever, except a verbal one of the shortest kind. The first was a deaf pauper woman, about middle life, living alone for years in a bothy of her own, altogether apart from the other houses, beside a purling stream, where she had at all seasons pure water to drink if her bread was at times somewhat scanty. After this most cruel eviction no provision was made for the helpless woman, but she was allowed to get shelter elsewhere or anywhere, as best she could. If any of you ever go the[154] way of Leckmelm you can see a gamekeeper’s house, the gentry of our land, close to the side of Iseabal Bheag’s bothy, and a dog kennel quite in its neighbourhood, or as I said in one of my letters, adorning it. This then is act the first of this drama. Act second comes next. Mrs. Campbell was a widow with two children; after the decease of her husband she tried to support herself and them by serving in gentlemen’s families as a servant. Whether she was all the time in Tulloch’s family I cannot say, but, at all events, it was from that family she returned to Leckmelm, in failing health, and on getting rather heavy for active service. Of course her father had died since she had left, and the house in which he lived and died, and in which in all likelihood he had reared his family, and in which he was born and bred, was now tenantless. It was empty, the land attached to it being in the hands of another person. Here Widow Campbell turned aside for a while until something else would in kind Providence turn up. But, behold, during her sojourn from her native township, another king arose, who knew not Joseph, and the inexorable edict had gone forth to raze her habitation to the ground. Her house also was pulled down about her ears. This woman has since gone to America, the asylum of many an evicted family from hearth and home. Such tragedies as I have mentioned roused some of us to remonstrate with the actors engaged in them, and to the best of our ability to expose their conduct, and, furthermore, we have brought them to the bar of public judgment to pass their verdict, which I hope before all is over, will be one of condemnation and condign punishment.”

Having referred at some length to the worst classes of evictions throughout the Highlands in the past, and already described in this work, the reverend lecturer proceeded:—

“But there is another way, a more gentle, politic, and insinuating way at work which depopulates our country quite as effectually as the wholesale clearances of which we have been speaking and against which we protest, and to which we must draw your attention for a little. There[155] are many proprietors who get the name of being good and kind to their tenants, and who cannot be charged with evicting any of them save for misbehaviour—a deserving cause at all times—who are nevertheless inch by inch secretly and stealthily laying waste the country and undermining the well-being of our people. I have some of these gentlemen before my mind at this moment. When they took possession of their estates all promised fair and well, but by-and-bye the fatal blow was struck, to dispossess the people of their sheep. Mark that first move and resist it to the utmost. As long as tenants have a hold of the hill pasture by sheep, and especially if it be what we term a commonage or club farm, it is impossible to lay it waste in part. But once you snap this tie asunder, you are henceforth at the mercy of the owner to do with you as he pleases. This then is how the business is transacted, and in the most business-like fashion too. To be sure none are to be forcibly evicted from their holdings: that would be highly impolitic, because it would bring public condemnation on the sacred heads of the evictors, which some of them could in no way confront, for they have a character and a name to sustain, and also because they are more susceptible to the failings common to humanity. They are moving, too, in the choicest circles of society. It would not do that their names should be figuring in every newspaper in the land, as cruel and oppressive landlords, or that the Rev. this and the Rev. that should excommunicate them from society and stigmatise them as tyrants and despots. But all are not so sensitive as this of name and character, as we see abundantly demonstrated, because they have none to lose. You might expose them upon a gibbet before the gaze of an assembled universe and they would hardly blush, “they are harder than the nether mill-stone.” But the more sensitive do their work, all the same, after all, and it is done in this fashion. When a tenant dies, or removes otherwise, the order goes forth that his croft or lot is to be laid waste. It is not given to a neighbouring tenant, except in some instances, nor to a stranger, to occupy it. In this inch-by-inch clear[156]ance, the work of depopulation is effected in a few years, or in a generation at most, quite as effectually as by the more glaring and reprehensible method. This more secret and insinuating way of depopulating our native land should be as stoutly resisted as the more open and defiant one, the result it produces being the same.”

Describing the character of the Highlanders, as shown by their conduct in our Highland regiments, and the impossibility of recruiting from them in future, if harsh evictions are not stopped, the reverend gentlemen continued:—

“Let me give you words more eloquent than mine on this point, which will show the infatuation of our Government in allowing her bravest soldiers to be driven to foreign lands and to be crushed and oppressed by the tyrant’s rod. After having asked, What have these people done against the State, when they were so remorselessly driven from their native shores, year by year in batches of thousands? What class have they wronged that they should suffer a penalty so dreadful? this writer[14] gives the answer:—‘They have done no wrong. Yearly they have sent forth their thousands from their glens to follow the battle flag of Britain wherever it flew. It was a Highland rearlorn hope that followed the broken wreck of Cumberland’s army after the disastrous day at Fontenoy, when more British soldiers lay dead upon the field than fell at Waterloo itself. It was another Highland regiment that scaled the rock-face over the St. Lawrence, and first formed a line in the September dawn on the level sward of Abraham. It was a Highland line that broke the power of the Maharatta hordes and gave Wellington his maiden victory at Assaye. Thirty-four battalions marched from these glens to fight in America, Germany, and India ere the 18th century had run its course; and yet, while abroad over the earth, Highlanders were the first in assault and the last in retreat, their lowly homes in far away glens were being dragged down, and the wail of women and the cry of[157] children went out on the same breeze that bore too upon its wings the scent of heather, the freshness of gorse blossom, and the myriad sweets that made the lowly life of Scotland’s peasantry blest with health and happiness. These are crimes done in the dark hours of strife, and amid the blaze of man’s passions, that sometimes make the blood run cold as we read them; but they are not so terrible in their red-handed vengeance as the cold malignity of a civilized law, which permits a brave and noble race to disappear by the operation of its legalised injustice. To convert the Highland glens into vast wastes untenanted by human beings; to drive forth to distant and inhospitable shores men whose forefathers had held their own among these hills, despite Roman legion, Saxon archer, or Norman chivalry, men whose sons died freely for England’s honour through those wide dominions their bravery had won for her. Such was the work of laws formed in a cruel mockery of name by the Commons of England. Thus it was, that about the year 1808 the stream of Highland soldiery, which had been gradually ebbing, gave symptoms of running completely dry. Recruits for Highland regiments could not be obtained for the simple reason that the Highlands had been depopulated. Six regiments which from the date of their foundation had worn the kilt and bonnet were ordered to lay aside their distinctive uniform and henceforth became merged into the ordinary line corps. From the mainland the work of destruction passed rapidly to the isles. These remote resting-places of the Celt were quickly cleared, during the first ten years of the great war, Skye had given 4000 of its sons to the army. It has been computed that 1600 Skyemen stood in the ranks at Waterloo. To-day in Skye, far as the eye can reach, nothing but a bare brown waste is to be seen, where still the mounds and ruined gables rise over the melancholy landscapes, sole vestiges of a soldier race for ever passed away.’”

In January, 1882, news had reached Inverness that Murdo Munro, one of the most comfortable tenants on the Leckmelm property, had been turned out, with his[158] wife and young family, in the snow; whereupon the writer started to enquire into the facts, and spent a whole day among the people. What he had seen proved to be as bad as any of the evictions of the past, except that it applied in this instance only to one family. Murdo Munro was too independent for the local managers, and to some extent led the people in their opposition to Mr. Pirie’s proceedings: he was first persecuted and afterwards evicted in the most cruel fashion. Other reasons were afterwards given for the manner in which this poor man and his family were treated, but it has been shown conclusively, in a report published at the time, that these reasons were an after-thought.[15] From this report we shall quote a few extracts:—

“So long as the laws of the land permit men like Mr. Pirie to drive from the soil, without compensation, the men who, by their labour and money, made their properties what they are, it must be admitted that he is acting within his legal rights, however much we may deplore the manner in which he has chosen to exercise them. We have to deal more with the system which allows him to act thus, than with the special reasons which he considers sufficient to justify his proceedings; and if his conduct in Leckmelm will, as I trust it may, hasten on a change in our land legislation, the hardships endured by the luckless people who had the misfortune to come under his unfeeling yoke and his ideas of moral right and wrong, will be more than counterbalanced by the benefits which will ultimately accrue to the people at large. This is why I, and I believe the public, take such an interest in this question of the evictions at Leckmelm.

“I have made the most careful and complete inquiry possible among Mr. Pirie’s servants, the tenants, and the people of Ullapool. Mr. Pirie’s local manager, after I had informed him of my object, and put him on his guard as to the use which I might make of his answers, informed[159] me that he never had any fault to find with Munro, that he always found him quite civil, and that he had nothing to say against him. The tenants, without exception, spoke of him as a good neighbour. The people of Ullapool, without exception, so far as I could discover, after enquiries from the leading men in every section of the community, speak well of him, and condemn Mr. Pirie. Munro is universally spoken of as one of the best and most industrious workmen in the whole parish, and, by his industry and sobriety, he has been able to save a little money in Leckmelm, where he was able to keep a fairly good stock on his small farm, and worked steadily with a horse and cart. The stock handed over by him to Mr. Pirie consisted of 1 bull, 2 cows, 1 stirk, 1 Highland pony, and about 40 sheep, which represented a considerable saving. Several of the other tenants had a similar stock, and some of them had even more, all of which they had to dispense with under the new arrangements, and consequently lost the annual income in money and produce available therefrom. We all know that the sum received for this stock cannot last long, and cannot be advantageously invested in anything else. The people must now live on their small capital, instead of what it produced, so long as it lasts, after which they are sure to be helpless, and many of them become chargeable to the parish.

“The system of petty tyranny which prevails at Leckmelm is scarcely credible. Contractors have been told not to employ Munro. For this I have the authority of some of the contractors themselves. Local employers of labour were requested not to employ any longer people who had gone to look on among the crowd, while Munro’s family, goods, and furniture, were being turned out. Letters were received by others complaining of the same thing from higher quarters, and threatening ulterior consequences. Of all this I have the most complete evidence, but in the interests of those involved, I shall mention no names, except in Court, where I challenge Mr. Pirie and his subordinates to the proof if they deny it.


“The extract in the action of removal was signed only on the 24th of January last in Dingwall. On the following day the charge is dated, and two days after, on the 27th of January, the eviction is complete. When I visited the scene on Friday morning, I found a substantially built cottage, and a stable at the end of it, unroofed to within three feet of the top on either side, and the whole surroundings a perfect scene of desolation; the thatch, and part of the furniture, including portions of broken bedsteads, tubs, basins, teapots, and various other articles, strewn outside. The cross-beams, couples, and cabars were still there, a portion of the latter brought from Mr. Pirie’s manager, and paid for within the last three years. The Sheriff officers had placed a padlock on the door, but I made my way to the inside of the house through one of the windows from which the frame and glass had been removed. I found that the house, before the partitions had been removed, consisted of two good-sized rooms and a closet, with fireplace and chimney in each gable, the crook still hanging in one of them, the officer having apparently been unable to remove it after a considerable amount of wrenching. The kitchen window, containing eight panes of glass, was still whole, but the closet window, with four panes, had been smashed; while the one in the “ben” end of the house had been removed. The cottage, as crofters’ houses go, must have been fairly comfortable. Indeed, the cottages in Leckmelm are altogether superior to the usual run of crofters’ houses on the West Coast, and the tenants are allowed to have been the most comfortable in all respects in the parish, before the land was taken from them. They are certainly not the poor, miserable creatures, badly housed, which Mr. Pirie and his friends led the public to believe within the last two years.

“The barn in which the wife and infant had to remain all night had the upper part of both gables blown out by the recent storm, and the door was scarcely any protection from the weather. The potatoes, which had been thrown out in showers of snow, were still there, gathered and a little earth put over them by the friendly neighbours.


“The mother and children wept piteously during the eviction, and many of the neighbours, afraid to succour or shelter them, were visibly affected to tears; and the whole scene was such that, if Mr. Pirie could have seen it, I feel sure that he would never consent to be held responsible for another. His humanity would soon drive his stern ideas of legal right out of his head, and we would hear no more of evictions at Leckmelm.”

Those of the tenants who are still at Leckmelm are permitted to remain in their cottages as half-yearly tenants on payment of 12s. per annum, but liable to be removed at any moment that their absolute lord may take it into his head to evict them; or, what is much more precarious, when they may give the slightest offence to any of his meanest subordinates.


The following account was written in April, 1882, after a most careful enquiry on the spot:—So much whitewash has been distributed in our Northern newspapers of late by “Local Correspondents,” in the interest of personal friends who are responsible for the Lochcarron evictions—the worst and most indefensible that have ever been attempted even in the Highlands—that we consider it a duty to state the actual facts. We are really sorry for those more immediately concerned, but our friendly feeling for them otherwise cannot be allowed to come between us and our plain duty. A few days before the famous “Battle of the Braes,” in the Isle of Skye, we received information that summonses of ejectment were served on Mackenzie and Maclean, Lochcarron. The writer at once communicated with Mr. Dugald Stuart, the proprietor, intimating to him the statements received, and asking him if they were accurate, and if Mr. Stuart had anything to say in explanation of them. Mr. Stuart immediately replied, admitting the accuracy of the statements generally, but maintaining that he had[162] good and valid reasons for carrying out the evictions, which he expressed himself anxious to explain to us on the following day, while passing through Inverness on his way South. Unfortunately, his letter reached us too late, and we were unable to see him. The only reason which he vouchsafed to give in his letter was to the following effect:—“Was it at all likely that he, a Highlander, born and brought up in the Highlands, the son of a Highlander, and married to a Highland lady, would be guilty of evicting any of his tenants without good cause?” We replied that, unfortunately, all these reasons could be urged by most of those who had in the past depopulated the country, but expressing a hope that, in his case, the facts stated by him would prove sufficient to restrain him from carrying out his determination to evict parents admittedly innocent of their sons’ proceedings, even if those proceedings were unjustifiable. Early in April, 1882, we proceeded to Lochcarron to make enquiry on the spot, and the writer on his return from Skye a few days later reported as follows to the Highland Land Law Reform Association:—

“Of all the cases of eviction which have hitherto come under my notice I never heard of any so utterly unjustifiable as those now in course of being carried out by Mr. D. Stuart in Lochcarron. The circumstances which led up to these evictions are as follows:—In March, 1881, two young men, George Mackenzie and Donald Maclean, masons, entered into a contract with Mr. Stuart’s ground officer for the erection of a sheep fank, and a dispute afterwards arose as to the payment for the work. When the factor, Mr. Donald Macdonald, Tormore, was some time afterwards collecting the rents in the district, the contractors approached him and related their grievance against the ground officer, who, while the men were in the room, came in and addressed them in libellous and defamatory language, for which they have since obtained substantial damages and expenses, in all amounting to £22 13s. 8d., in the Sheriff Court of the County. I have a certified copy of the whole proceedings in Court in my possession, and, without going into the merits, what I[163] have just stated is the result, and Mr. Stuart and his ground officer became furious.

“The contractors are two single men who live with their parents, the latter being crofters on Mr. Stuart’s property, and as the real offenders—if such can be called men who have stood up for and succeeded in establishing their rights and their characters in Court—could not be got at, Mr. Stuart issued summonses of ejection against their parents—parents who, in one of the cases at least, strongly urged his son not to proceed against the ground officer, pointing out to him that an eviction might possibly ensue, and that it was better even to suffer in character and purse than run the risk of eviction from his holding at the age of eighty. We have all heard of the doctrine of visiting the sins of the parents upon the children, but it has been left for Mr. Dugald Stuart of Lochcarron and his ground officer, in the present generation—the highly-favoured nineteenth century—to reverse all this, and to punish the unoffending parents, for proceedings on the part of their children which the Sheriff of the County and all unprejudiced people who know the facts consider fully justifiable.

“Now, so far as I can discover, after careful enquiry among the men’s neighbours and in the village of Lochcarron, nothing can be said against either of them. Their characters are in every respect above suspicion. The ground officer, whom I have seen, admits all this, and makes no pretence that the eviction is for any other reason than the conduct of the young men in prosecuting and succeeding against himself in the Sheriff Court for defamation of character. Maclean paid rent for his present holding for the last sixty years, and never failed to pay it on the appointed day. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather occupied the same place, and so did their ancestors before them. Indeed, his grandfather held one-half of the township, now occupied by more than a hundred people. The old man is in his 81st year, and bed-ridden—on his death-bed in fact—since the middle of January last, he having then had a paralytic stroke from which it is quite impossible he can ever[164] recover. It was most pitiable to see the aged and frail human wreck as I saw him that day, and to have heard him talking of the cruelty and hard-heartedness of those who took advantage of the existing law to push him out of the home which he has occupied so long, while he is already on the brink of eternity. I quite agreed with him, and I have no hesitation in saying that if Mr. Stuart and his ground officer only called to see the miserable old man, as I did, their hearts, however adamantine, would melt, and they would at once declare to him that he would be allowed to end his days, and die in peace, under the roof which for generations had sheltered himself and his ancestors. The wife is over 70 years of age, and the frail old couple have no one to succour them but the son who has been the cause, by defending his own character, of their present misfortunes. Whatever Mr. Stuart and his ground officer may do, or attempt to do, the old man will not, and cannot be evicted until he is carried to the churchyard; and it would be far more gracious on their part to relent and allow the old man to die in peace.

“Mackenzie has paid rent for over 40 years, and his ancestors have done so for several generations before him. He is nearly sixty years of age, and is highly popular among his neighbours, all of whom are intensely grieved at Mr. Stuart’s cruel and hard-hearted conduct towards him and Maclean, and they still hope that he will not proceed to extremities.

“The whole case is a lamentable abuse of the existing law, and such as will do more to secure its abolition, when the facts are fully known, than all the other cases of eviction which have taken place in the Highlands during the present generation. There is no pretence that the case is anything else than a gross and cruel piece of retaliation against the innocent parents for conduct on the part of their sons which must have been very aggravating to this proprietor and his ground officer, who appear to think themselves fully justified in perpetuating such acts of grossest cruelty and injustice.”

This report was slightly noticed at the time in the local[165] and Glasgow newspapers, and attention was thus directed to Mr. Stuart’s proceedings. His whole conduct appeared so cruelly tyrannical that most people expected him to relent before the day of eviction arrived. But not so; a sheriff officer and his assistants from Dingwall duly arrived, and proceeded to turn Mackenzie’s furniture out of his house. People congregated from all parts of the district, some of them coming more than twenty miles. The sheriff officer sent for the Lochcarron policemen to aid him, but, notwithstanding, the law which admitted of such unmitigated cruelty and oppression was set at defiance; the sheriff officers were deforced, and the furniture returned to the house by the sympathising crowd. What was to be done next? The Procurator-Fiscal for the county was Mr. Stuart’s law agent in carrying out the evictions. How could he criminally prosecute for deforcement in these circumstances? The Crown authorities found themselves in a dilemma, and through the tyranny of the proprietor on the one hand, and the interference of the Procurator-Fiscal in civil business which has ended in public disturbance and deforcement of the Sheriff’s officers, on the other, the Crown authorities found themselves helpless to vindicate the law. This is a pity; for all right-thinking people have almost as little sympathy for law breakers, even when that law is unjust and cruel, as they have for those cruel landlords who, like Mr. Stuart of Lochcarron, bring the law and his own order into disrepute by the oppressive application of it against innocent people. The proper remedy is to have the law abolished, not to break it; and to bring this about such conduct as that of Mr. Stuart and his ground officer is more potent than all the Land Leagues and Reform Associations in the United Kingdom.[16]

Mr. William Mackenzie of the Aberdeen Free Press, who was on the ground, writes, next morning, after the deforcement of the sheriff officers:—

“During the encounter the local police constable drew his baton, but he was peremptorily ordered to lay it[166] down, and he did so. The officers then gave up the contest and left the place about three in the morning. Yesterday, before they left, and in course of the evening, they were offered refreshments, but these they declined. The people are this evening in possession as before.

“When every article was restored to its place, the song and the dance were resumed, the native drink was freely quaffed—for ‘freedom an’ whisky gang thegither’—the steam was kept up throughout the greater part of yesterday, and Mackenzie’s mantelpiece to-day is adorned with a long tier of empty bottles, standing there as monuments of the eventful night of the 29th-30th May, 1882.

A chuirm sgaoilte chualas an ceòl
Ard-shòlas an talla nan treun!

“While these things were going on in the quiet township of Slumbay, the Fiery Cross appears to have been despatched over the neighbouring parishes; and from Kintail, Lochalsh, Applecross, and even Gairloch, the Highlanders began to gather yesterday with the view of helping the Slumbay men, if occasion should arise. Few of these reached Slumbay, but they were in small detachments in the neighbourhood ready at any moment to come to the rescue on the appearance of any hostile force. After all the trains had come and gone for the day, and as neither policemen nor Sheriff’s officers had appeared on the scene, these different groups retired to their respective places of abode. The Slumbay men, too, resolved to suspend their festivities. A procession was formed, and, being headed by the piper, they marched triumphantly through Slumbay and Jeantown, and escorted some of the strangers on their way to their homes, returning to Slumbay in course of the night.”

As a contrast to Mr. Stuart’s conduct we are glad to record the noble action of Mr. C. J. Murray, M.P. for Hastings, who has, fortunately for the oppressed tenants on the Lochcarron property, just purchased the estate. He has made it a condition that Maclean and Mackenzie shall be allowed to remain; and a further public scandal has thus been avoided. This is a good beginning for the[167] new proprietor, and we trust to see his action as widely circulated and commended as the tyrannical proceedings of his predecessor have been condemned.

It is also fair to state what we know on the very best authority, namely, that the factor on the estate, Mr. Donald Macdonald, Tormore, strongly urged upon Mr. Stuart not to evict these people, and that his own wife also implored and begged of him not to carry out his cruel and vindictive purpose. Where these agencies failed, it is gratifying to find that Mr. Murray has succeeded; and all parties—landlords and tenants—throughout the Highlands are to be congratulated on the result.


In connection with the evictions from the County of Ross, the following will appropriately come in at this stage. Referring to the glorious deeds of the 78th Highlanders in India, under General Havelock, the editor of the Northern Ensign writes:—All modern history, from the rebellion in 1715, to the Cawnpore massacre of 1857, teems with the record of Highland bravery and prowess. What say our Highland evicting lairds to these facts, and to the treatment of the Highlanders? What reward have these men received for saving their country, fighting its battles, conquering its enemies, turning the tide of revolt, rescuing women and children from the hands of Indian fiends, and establishing order, when disorder and bloody cruelty have held their murderous carnival? And we ask, in the name of men who have, ere now, we fondly hope, saved our gallant countrymen and heroic countrywomen at Lucknow; in the name of those who fought in the trenches of Sebastopol, and proudly planted the British standard on the heights of the Alma, how are they, their fathers, brothers, and little ones treated? Is the mere shuttle-cocking of an irrepressible cry of admiration from mouth to mouth, and the setting to music of a song in their praise, all the return the race is to get for such noble acts? We can fancy the expression of admiration of Highland bravery at the[168] Dunrobin dinner table, recently, when the dukes, earls, lairds, and other aristocratic notables enjoyed the princely hospitality of the Duke. We can imagine the mutual congratulations of the Highland lairds as they prided themselves on being proprietors of the soil which gave birth to the race of “Highland heroes.” Alas, for the blush that would cover their faces if they would allow themselves to reflect that, in their names, and by their authority, and at their expense, the fathers, mothers, brothers, wives, of the invincible “78th” have been remorselessly driven from their native soil; and that, at the very hour when Cawnpore was gallantly retaken, and the ruffian, Nana Sahib, was obliged to leave the bloody scene of his fiendish massacre, there were Highlanders, within a few miles of the princely Dunrobin, driven from their homes and left to starve and to die in the open field. Alas, for the blush that would reprint its scarlet dye on their proud faces as they thought in one county alone, since Waterloo was fought, more than 14,000 of this same “race of heroes” of whom Canning so proudly boasted, have been hunted out of their native homes; and that where the pibroch and the bugle once evoked the martial spirit of thousands of brave hearts, razed and burning cottages have formed the tragic scenes of eviction and desolation; and the abodes of a loyal and a liberty-loving people are made sacred to the rearing of sheep, and sanctified to the preservation of game! Yes; we echo back the cry, “Well done, brave Highlanders!” But to what purpose would it be carried on the wings of the wind to the once happy straths and glens of Sutherland? Who, what, would echo back our acclaims of praise? Perhaps a shepherd’s or a gillie’s child, playing amid the unbroken wilds, and innocent of seeing a human face but that of its own parents, would hear it; or the cry might startle a herd of timid deer, or frighten a covey of partridges, or call forth a bleat from a herd of sheep; but men would not, could not, hear it. We must go to the backwoods of Canada, to Detroit, to Hamilton, to Woodstock, to Toronto, to Montreal; we must stand by the waters of Lake Huron or Lake Ontario,[169] where the cry—“Well done, brave Highlanders!” would call up a thousand brawny fellows, and draw down a tear on a thousand manly cheeks. Or we must go to the bare rocks that skirt the sea-coast of Sutherland, where the residuary population were generously treated to barren steeps and inhospitable shores, on which to keep up the breed of heroes, and fight for the men who dared—dared—to drive them from houses for which they fought, and from land which was purchased with the blood of their fathers. But the cry, “Well done, brave Highlanders,” would evoke no effective response from the race. Need the reader wonder? Wherefore should they fight? To what purpose did their fathers climb the Peninsular heights and gloriously write in blood the superiority of Britain, when their sons were rewarded by extirpation, or toleration to starve, in sight of fertile straths and glens devoted to beasts? These are words of truth and soberness. They are but repetitions in other forms of arguments, employed by us for years; and we shall continue to ring changes on them so long as our brave Highland people are subjected to treatment to which no other race would have submitted. We are no alarmists. But we tell Highland proprietors that were Britain some twenty years hence to have the misfortune to be plunged into such a crisis as the present, there will be few such men as the Highlanders of the 78th to fight her battles, and that the country will find when too late, if another policy towards the Highlanders is not adopted, that sheep and deer, ptarmigan and grouse, can do but little to save it in such a calamity.


Dr. John Kennedy, the highly, deservedly respected, and eminent minister of Dingwall so long resident among the scenes which he describes, and so intimately acquainted with all classes of the people in his native[170] county of Ross, informs us that it was at a time when the Highlanders became most distinguished as the most peaceable and virtuous peasantry in the world—“at the climax of their spiritual prosperity,” in Ross-shire—“that the cruel work of eviction began to lay waste the hill-sides and the plains of the North. Swayed by the example of the godly among them, and away from the influences by which less sequestered localities were corrupted, the body of the people in the Highlands became distinguished as the most peaceable and virtuous peasantry in Britain. It was just then that they began to be driven off by ungodly oppressors, to clear their native soil for strangers, red deer, and sheep. With few exceptions, the owners of the soil began to act as if they were also owners of the people, and, disposed to regard them as the vilest part of their estate, they treated them without respect to the requirements of righteousness or to the dictates of mercy. Without the inducement of gain, in the recklessness of cruelty, families by hundreds were driven across the sea, or gathered, as the sweepings of the hill-sides, into wretched hamlets on the shore. By wholesale evictions, wastes were formed for the red deer, that the gentry of the nineteenth century might indulge in the sports of the savages of three centuries before. Of many happy households sheep walks were cleared for strangers, who, fattening amidst the ruined homes of the banished, corrupted by their example the few natives who remained. Meanwhile their rulers, while deaf to the Highlanders’ cry of oppression, were wasting their sinews and their blood on battle-fields, that, but for their prowess and their bravery, would have been the scene of their country’s defeat.”



Glengarry was peopled down to the end of last century with a fine race of men. In 1745, six hundred stalwart[171] vassals followed the chief of Glengarry to the battle of Culloden. Some few years later they became so disgusted with the return made by their chief that many of them emigrated to the United States, though they were almost all in comfortable, some indeed, in affluent circumstances. Notwithstanding this semi-voluntary exodus, Major John Macdonell of Lochgarry, was able in 1777, to raise a fine regiment—the 76th or Macdonald Highlanders—numbering 1086 men, 750 of whom were Highlanders mainly from the Glengarry property. In 1794, Alexander Macdonnell of Glengarry, raised a Fencible regiment, described as “a handsome body of men,” of whom one-half were enlisted on the same estate. On being disbanded in 1802, these men were again so shabbily treated, that they followed the example of the men of the “Forty-five,” and emigrated in a body, with their families, to Canada, taking two Gaelic-speaking ministers along with them to their new home. They afterwards distinguished themselves as part of the “Glengarry Fencibles” of Canada, in defence of their adopted country, and called their settlement there after their native glen in Scotland. The chiefs of Glengarry drove away their people, only, as in most other cases in the Highlands, to be themselves ousted soon after them.

The Glengarry property at one time covered an area of nearly 200 square miles, and to-day, while many of their expatriated vassals are landed proprietors and in affluent circumstances in Canada, not an inch of the old possessions of the ancient and powerful family of Glengarry remains to the descendants of those who caused the banishment of a people who, on many a well-fought field, shed their blood for their chief and country. In 1853, every inch of the ancient heritage was possessed by the stranger, except Knoydart in the west, and this has long ago become the property of one of the Bairds. In the year named, young Glengarry was a minor, his mother, the widow of the late chief, being one of his trustees. She does not appear to have learned any lesson of wisdom from the past misfortunes of her house. Indeed, considering her limited power and[172] possessions, she was comparatively the worst of them all.

The tenants of Knoydart, like all other Highlanders, had suffered severely during and after the potato famine in 1846 and 1847, and some of them got into arrear with a year and some with two years’ rent, but they were fast clearing it off. Mrs. Macdonell and her factor determined to evict every crofter on her property, to make room for sheep. In the spring of 1853, they were all served with summonses of removal, accompanied by a message that Sir John Macneil, chairman of the Board of Supervision, had agreed to convey them to Australia. Their feelings were not considered worthy of the slightest consideration. They were not even asked whether they would prefer to follow their countrymen to America and Canada. They were to be treated as if they were nothing better than Africans, and the laws of their country on a level with those which regulated South American slavery. The people, however, had no alternative but to accept any offer made to them. They could not get an inch of land on any of the neighbouring estates, and any one who would give them a night’s shelter was threatened with eviction.

It was afterwards found not convenient to transport them to Australia, and it was then intimated to the poor creatures, as if they were nothing but common slaves to be disposed of at will, that they would be taken to North America, and that a ship would be at Isle Ornsay, in the Isle of Skye, in a few days, to receive them, and that they must go on board. The Sillery soon arrived. Mrs. Macdonell and her factor came all the way from Edinburgh to see the people hounded across in boats, and put on board this ship whether they would or not. An eye-witness who described the proceeding at the time, in a now rare pamphlet, and whom we met a few years ago in Nova Scotia, characterises the scene as heart-rending. “The wail of the poor women and children as they were torn away from their homes would have melted a heart of stone.” Some few families, principally cottars, refused to go, in spite of every influence brought to bear upon them; and the treatment they afterwards received was[173] cruel beyond belief. The houses, not only of those who went, but of those who remained, were burnt and levelled to the ground. The Strath was dotted all over with black spots, showing where yesterday stood the habitations of men. The scarred half-burned wood—couples, rafters, cabars—were strewn about in every direction. Stooks of corn and plots of unlifted potatoes could be seen on all sides, but man was gone. No voice could be heard. Those who refused to go aboard the Sillery were in hiding among the rocks and the caves, while their friends were packed off like so many African slaves to the Cuban market.

No mercy was shown to those who refused to emigrate; their few articles of furniture were thrown out of their houses after them—beds, chairs, tables, pots, stoneware, clothing, in many cases, rolling down the hill. What took years to erect and collect were destroyed and scattered in a few minutes. “From house to house, from hut to hut, and from barn to barn, the factor and his menials proceeded, carrying on the work of demolition, until there was scarcely a human habitation left standing in the district. Able-bodied men who, if the matter would rest with a mere trial of physical force, would have bound the factor and his party hand and foot, and sent them out of the district, stood aside as dumb spectators. Women wrung their hands and cried aloud, children ran to and fro dreadfully frightened; and while all this work of demolition and destruction was going on no opposition was offered by the inhabitants, no hand was lifted, no stone cast, no angry word was spoken.” The few huts left undemolished were occupied by the paupers, but before the factor left for the south even they were warned not to give any shelter to the evicted, or their huts would assuredly meet with the same fate. Eleven families, numbering in all over sixty persons, mostly old and decrepit men and women, and helpless children, were exposed that night, and many of them long afterwards, to the cold air, without shelter of any description beyond what little they were able to save out of the wreck of their burnt dwellings.


We feel unwilling to inflict pain on the reader by the recitation of the untold cruelties perpetrated on the poor Highlanders of Knoydart, but doing so may, perhaps, serve a good purpose. It may convince the evil-doer that his work shall not be forgotten, and any who may be disposed to follow the example of past evictors may hesitate before they proceed to immortalise themselves in such a hateful manner. We shall, therefore, quote a few cases from the pamphlet already referred to:—

John Macdugald, aged about 50, with a wife and family, was a cottar, and earned his subsistence chiefly by fishing. He was in bad health, and had two of his sons in the hospital, at Elgin, ill of smallpox, when the Sillery was sent to convey the Knoydart people to Canada. He refused to go on that occasion owing to the state of his health, and his boys being at a distance under medical treatment. The factor and the officers, however, arrived, turned Macdugald and his family adrift, put their bits of furniture out on the field, and in a few minutes levelled their house to the ground. The whole family had now no shelter but the broad canopy of heaven. The mother and the youngest of the children could not sleep owing to the cold, and the father, on account of his sickness, kept wandering about all night near where his helpless family lay down to repose. After the factor and the officers left the district Macdugald and his wife went back to the ruins of their house, collected some of the stones and turf into something like walls, threw a few cabars across, covered them over with blankets, old sails, and turf, and then, with their children, crept underneath, trusting that they would be allowed, at least for a time, to take shelter under this temporary covering. But, alas! they were doomed to bitter disappointment. A week had not elapsed when the local manager, accompanied by a posse of officers and menials, traversed the country and levelled to the ground every hut or shelter erected by the evicted peasantry. Macdugald was at this time away from Knoydart; his wife was at Inverie, distant about six miles, seeing a sick relative; the oldest children were working at the shore; and in the hut, when the[175] manager came with the “levellers,” he found none of the family except Lucy and Jane, the two youngest. The moment they saw the officers they screamed and fled for their lives. The demolition of the shelter was easily accomplished—it was but the work of two or three minutes; and, this over, the officers and menials of the manager amused themselves by seizing hold of chairs, stools, tables, spinning-wheels, or any other light articles, by throwing them a considerable distance from the hut. The mother, as I said, was at Inverie, distant about six or seven miles, and Lucy and Jane proceeded in that direction hoping to meet her. They had not gone far, however, when they missed the footpath and wandered far out of the way. In the interval the mother returned from Inverie and found the hut razed to the ground, her furniture scattered far and near, her bedclothes lying under turf, clay, and debris, and her children gone! Just imagine the feelings of this poor Highland mother on the occasion! But, to proceed, the other children returned from the shore, and they too stood aside, amazed and grieved at the sudden destruction of their humble refuge, and at the absence of their two little sisters. At first they thought they were under the ruins, and creeping down on their knees they carefully removed every turf and stone, but found nothing except a few broken dishes. A consultation was now held and a search resolved upon. The mother, brother and sisters set off in opposite directions, among the rocks, over hills, through moor and moss, searching every place, and calling aloud for them by name, but they could discover no trace of them. Night was now approaching and with it all hopes of finding them, till next day, were fast dying away. The mother was now returning “home” (alas! to what a home), the shades of night closed in, and still she had about three miles to travel. She made for the footpath, scrutinized every bush, and looked round every rock and hillock, hoping to find them. Sometimes she imagined that she saw her two lasses walking before her at some short distance, but it was an illusion caused by bushes just about their size. The moon now emerged from behind a cloud[176] and spread its light on the path and surrounding district. A sharp frost set in, and ice began to form on the little pools. Passing near a rock and some bushes, where the children of the tenants used to meet when herding the cattle, she felt as if something beckoned her to search there; this she did, and found her two little children fast asleep, beside a favourite bush, the youngest with her head resting on the breast of the eldest! Their own version of their mishap is this: that when they saw the officers they crept out and ran in the direction of Inverie to tell their mother; that they missed the footpath, then wandered about crying, and finally returned, they knew not how, to their favourite herding ground, and being completely exhausted, fell asleep. The mother took the young one on her back, sent the other on before her, and soon joined her other children near the ruins of their old dwelling. They put a few sticks up to an old fence, placed a blanket over it, and slept on the bare ground that night. Macdugald soon returned from his distant journey, found his family shelterless, and again set about erecting some refuge for them from the wreck of the old buildings. Again, however, the local manager appeared with levellers, turned them all adrift, and in a few moments pulled down and destroyed all that he had built up. Matters continued in this way for a week or two until Macdugald’s health became serious, and then a neighbouring farmer gave him and his family temporary shelter in an out-house; and for this act of disinterested humanity he has already received some most improper and threatening letters from the managers on the estate of Knoydart. It is very likely that in consequence of this interference Macdugald is again taking shelter among the rocks or amid the wreck of his former residence.

John Mackinnon, a cottar, aged 44, with a wife and six children, had his house pulled down, and had no place to put his head in, consequently he and his family, for the first night or two, had to burrow among the rocks near the shore! When he thought that the factor and his party had left the district, he emerged from the rocks, surveyed the ruins of his former dwelling, saw his furni[177]ture and other effects exposed to the elements, and now scarcely worth the lifting. The demolition was so complete that he considered it utterly impossible to make any use of the ruins of the old house. The ruins of an old chapel, however, were near at hand, and parts of the walls were still standing; thither Mackinnon proceeded with his family, and having swept away some rubbish and removed some grass and nettles, they placed a few cabars up to one of the walls, spread some sails and blankets across, brought in some meadow hay, and laid it in a corner for a bed, stuck a piece of iron into the wall in another corner, on which they placed a crook, then kindled a fire, washed some potatoes, and put a pot on the fire, and boiled them, and when these and a few fish roasted on the embers were ready, Mackinnon and his family had one good diet, being the first regular meal they tasted since the destruction of their house!

Mackinnon is a tall man, but poor and unhealthy-looking. His wife is a poor weak women, evidently struggling with a diseased constitution and dreadful trials. The boys, Ronald and Archibald, were lying in “bed”—(may I call a “pickle” hay on the bare ground a bed?)—suffering from rheumatism and cholic. The other children are apparently healthy enough as yet, but very ragged. There is no door to their wretched abode, consequently every breeze and gust that blow have free ingress to the inmates. A savage from Terra-del-Fuego, or a Red Indian from beyond the Rocky Mountains, would not exchange huts with these victims, nor humanity with their persecutors. Mackinnon’s wife was pregnant when she was turned out of her house among the rocks. In about four days after she had a premature birth; and this and her exposure to the elements, and the want of proper shelter and nutritious diet, has brought on consumption from which there is no chance whatever of her recovery.

There was something very solemn indeed in this scene. Here, amid the ruins of the old sanctuary, where the swallows fluttered, where the ivy tried to screen the grey moss-covered stones, where nettles and grass grew up[178] luxuriously, where the floor was damp, the walls sombre and uninviting, where there were no doors nor windows, nor roof, and where the owl, the bat, and the fox used to take refuge, a Christian family was obliged to take shelter! One would think that as Mackinnon took refuge amid the ruins of this most singular place, that he would be let alone, that he would not any longer be molested by man. But, alas! that was not to be. The manager of Knoydart and his minions appeared, and invaded this helpless family, even within the walls of the sanctuary. They pulled down the sticks and sails he set up within its ruins—put his wife and children out on the cold shore—threw his tables, stools, chairs, etc., over the walls—burnt up the hay on which they slept—put out the fire, and then left the district. Four times have these officers broken in upon poor Mackinnon in this way, destroying his place of shelter, and sent him and his family adrift on the cold coast of Knoydart. When I looked in upon these creatures last week I found them in utter consternation, having just learned that the officers would appear next day, and would again destroy the huts. The children looked at me as if I had been a wolf; they crept behind their father, and stared wildly, dreading I was a law officer. The sight was most painful. The very idea that, in Christian Scotland, and in the nineteenth century, these tender infants should be subjected to such gross treatment reflects strongly upon our humanity and civilization. Had they been suffering from the ravages of famine, or pestilence, or war, I could understand it and account for it, but suffering to gratify the ambition of some unfeeling spectator in brute beasts, I think it most unwarranted, and deserving the emphatic condemnation of every Christian man. Had Mackinnon been in arrears of rent, which he was not, even this would not justify the harsh, cruel, and inhuman conduct pursued towards himself and his family. No language of mine can describe the condition of this poor family, exaggeration is impossible. The ruins of an old chapel is the last place in the world to which a poor Highlander would resort with his wife[179] and children, unless he was driven to it by dire necessity. Take another case, that of

Elizabeth Gillies, a widow, aged 60 years. This is a most lamentable case. Neither age, sex, nor circumstance saved this poor creature from the most wanton and cruel aggression. Her house was on the brow of a hill, near a stream that formed the boundary between a large sheep farm and the lands of the tenants of Knoydart. Widow Gillies was warned to quit like the rest of the tenants, and was offered a passage first to Australia and then to Canada, but she refused to go, saying she could do nothing in Canada. The widow, however, made no promises, and the factor went away. She had then a nice young daughter staying with her, but ere the vessel that was to convey the Knoydart people away arrived at Isle Ornsay, this young girl died, and poor Widow Gillies was left alone. When the time for pulling down the houses arrived, it was hoped that some mercy would have been shown to this poor, bereaved widow, but there was none. Widow Gillies was sitting inside her house when the factor and officers arrived. They ordered her to remove herself and effects instantly, as they were, they said, to pull down the house! She asked them where she would remove to; the factor would give no answer, but continued insisting on her leaving the house. This she at last positively refused. Two men then took hold of her, and tried to pull her out by force, but she sat down beside the fire, and would not move an inch. One of the assistants threw water on the fire and extinguished it, and then joined the other two in forcibly removing the poor widow from the house. At first she struggled hard, seized hold of every post or stone within her reach, taking a death grasp of each to keep possession. But the officers were too many and too cruel for her. They struck her over the fingers, and compelled her to let go her hold, and then all she could do was to greet and cry out murder! She was ultimately thrust out at the door, from where she crept on her hands and feet to a dyke side, being quite exhausted and panting for breath, owing to her hard struggle with three powerful men. Whenever they got[180] her outside, the work of destruction immediately commenced. Stools, chairs, tables, cupboard, spinning-wheel, bed, blankets, straw, dishes, pots, and chest, were thrown out in the gutter. They broke down the partitions, took down the crook from over the fire-place, destroyed the hen roosts, and then beat the hens out through the broad vent in the roof of the house. This done, they set to work on the walls outside with picks and iron levers. They pulled down the thatch, cut the couples, and in a few minutes the walls fell out, while the roof fell in with a dismal crash!

When the factor and his party were done with this house, they proceeded to another district, pulling down and destroying dwelling-places as they went along. The shades of night at last closed in, and here was the poor helpless widow sitting like a pelican, alone and cheerless. Allan Macdonald, a cottar, whose house was also pulled down, ran across the hill to see how the poor widow had been treated, and found her moaning beside the dyke. He led her to where his own children had taken shelter, treated her kindly, and did all he could to comfort her under the circumstances.

When I visited Knoydart I found the poor widow at work, repairing her shed, and such a shed, and such a dwelling, I never before witnessed. The poor creature spoke remarkably well, and appeared to me to be a very sensible woman. I expressed my sympathy for her, and my disapprobation of the conduct of those who so unmercifully treated her. She said it was indeed most ungrateful on the part of the representatives of Glengarry to have treated her so cruelly—that her predecessors were, from time immemorial, on the Glengarry estates—that many of them died in defence of, or fighting for, the old chieftains—and that they had always been true and faithful subjects. I asked why she refused to go to Canada?

“For a very good reason,” she said, “I am now old, and not able to clear a way in the forests of Canada; and, besides, I am unfit for service; and, further, I am averse to leave my native country, and rather[181] than leave it, I would much prefer that my grave was opened beside my dear daughter, although I should be buried alive!”

I do think she was sincere in what she said. Despair and anguish were marked in her countenance, and her attachment to her old habitation and its associations were so strong that I believe they can only be cut asunder by death! I left her in this miserable shed which she occupied, and I question much if there is another human residence like it in Europe. The wig-wam of the wild Indian, or the cave of the Greenlander, are palaces in comparison with it; and even the meanest dog-kennel in England would be a thousand times more preferable as a place of residence. If this poor Highland woman will stand it out all winter in this abode it will be indeed a great wonder. The factor has issued an ukase, which aggravates all these cases of eviction with peculiar hardship; he has warned all and sundry on the Knoydart estates from receiving or entertaining the evicted peasantry into their houses under pain of removal.

Allan Macdonald, aged 54, a widower, with four children, was similarly treated. Our informant says of him:—“When his late Majesty George IV. visited Scotland in 1823, and when Highland lairds sent up to Edinburgh specimens of the bone and sinew—human produce—of their properties, old Glengarry took care to give Allan Macdonald a polite invitation to this ‘Royal exhibition.’ Alas! how matters have so sadly changed. Within the last 30 years man has fallen off dreadfully in the estimation of Highland proprietors. Commercially speaking, Allan Macdonald has now no value at all. Had he been a roe, a deer, a sheep, or a bullock, a Highland laird in speculating could estimate his ‘real’ worth to within a few shillings, but Allan is only a man. Then his children; they are of no value, nor taken into account in the calculations of the sportsman. They cannot be shot at like hares, blackcocks, or grouse, nor yet can they be sent south as game to feed the London market.”

Another case is that of Archibald Macisaac, crofter, aged 66; wife 54, with a family of ten children.[182] Archibald’s house, byre, barn, and stable were levelled to the ground. The furniture of the house was thrown down the hill, and a general destruction then commenced. The roof, fixtures, and woodwork were smashed to pieces, the walls razed to the very foundation, and all that was left for poor Archibald to look upon was a black dismal wreck. Twelve human beings were thus deprived of their home in less than half-an-hour. It was grossly illegal to have destroyed the barn, for, according even to the law of Scotland, the outgoing or removing tenant is entitled to the use of the barn until his crops are disposed of. But, of course, in a remote district, and among simple and primitive people like the inhabitants of Knoydart, the laws that concern them and define their rights are unknown to them.

Archibald had now to make the best shift he could. No mercy or favour could be expected from the factor. Having convened his children beside an old fence where he sat looking on when the destruction of his home was accomplished, he addressed them on the peculiar nature of the position in which they were placed, and the necessity of asking for wisdom from above to guide them in any future action. His wife and children wept, but the old man said, “Neither weeping nor reflection will now avail; we must prepare some shelter.” The children collected some cabars and turf, and in the hollow between two ditches, the old man constructed a rude shelter for the night, and having kindled a fire and gathered in his family, they all engaged in family worship and sung psalms as usual. Next morning they examined the ruins, picked up some broken pieces of furniture, dishes, etc., and then made another addition to their shelter in the ditch. Matters went on this way for about a week, when the local manager and his men came down upon them, and after much abuse for daring to take shelters on the lands of Knoydart, they destroyed the shelter and put old Archy and his people again out on the hill.

I found Archibald and his numerous family still at Knoydart and in a shelter beside the old ditch. Any[183] residence more wretched or more truly melancholy, I have never witnessed. A feal, or turf erection, about 3 feet high, 4 feet broad, and about 5 feet long, was at the end of the shelter, and this formed the sleeping place of the mother and her five daughters! They creep in and out on their knees, and their bed is just a layer of hay on the cold earth of the ditch! There is surely monstrous cruelty in this treatment of British females, and the laws that sanction or tolerate such flagrant and gross abuses are a disgrace to the Statute book and to the country that permits it. Macisaac and his family are, so far as I could learn, very decent, respectable, and well-behaved people, and can we not perceive a monstrous injustice in treating them worse than slaves because they refuse to allow themselves to be packed off to the Colonies just like so many bales of manufactured goods?


Donald Maceachan, a cottar at Arar, married, with a wife, and five children. This poor man, his wife, and children were fully twenty-three nights without any shelter but the broad and blue heavens. They kindled a fire, and prepared their food beside a rock, and then slept in the open air. Just imagine the condition of this poor mother, Donald’s wife, nursing a delicate child, and subjected to merciless storms of wind and rain during a long October night. One of these melancholy nights the blankets that covered them were frozen and white with frost.

The next case is as follows;—

Charles Macdonald, aged 70 years, a widower, having no family. This poor man was also “keeled” for the Colonies, and, as he refused to go, his house or cabin was levelled to the ground. What on earth could old Charles do in America? Was there any mercy or humanity in offering him a free passage across the Atlantic? In England, Charles would have been considered a proper object of parochial protection and relief, but in Scotland no such relief is afforded except to “sick folks” and tender infants. There can be no question, however, that the factor looked forward to the period when Charles[184] would become chargeable as a pauper, and, acting as a “prudent man,” he resolved to get quit of him at once. Three or four pounds would send the old man across the Atlantic, but if he remained in Knoydart, it would likely take four or five pounds to keep him each year that he lived. When the factor and his party arrived at Charles’s door, they knocked and demanded admission; the factor intimated his object, and ordered the old man to quit. “As soon as I can,” said Charles, and, taking up his plaid and staff and adjusting his blue bonnet, he walked out, merely remarking to the factor that the man who could turn out an old, inoffensive Highlander of seventy, from such a place, and at such a season, could do a great deal more if the laws of the country permitted him. Charles took to the rocks, and from that day to this he has never gone near his old habitation. He has neither house nor home, but receives occasional supplies of food from his evicted neighbours, and he sleeps on the hill! Poor old man, who would not pity him—who would not share with him a crust or a covering—who?

Alexander Macdonald, aged 40 years, with a wife and family of four children, had his house pulled down. His wife was pregnant; still the levellers thrust her out, and then put the children out after her. The husband argued, remonstrated, and protested, but it was all in vain; for in a few minutes all he had for his (to him once comfortable) home was a lot of rubbish, blackened rafters, and heaps of stones. The levellers laughed at him and at his protests, and when their work was over, moved away, leaving him to find refuge the best way he could. Alexander had, like the rest of his evicted brethren, to burrow among the rocks and in caves until he put up a temporary shelter amid the wreck of his old habitation, but from which he was repeatedly driven away. For three days Alexander Macdonald’s wife lay sick beside a bush, where, owing to terror and exposure to cold, she had a miscarriage. She was then removed to the shelter of the walls of her former house, and for three days she lay so ill that her life was despaired of. These are facts as to which I challenge contradiction. I have not inserted them[185] without the most satisfactory evidence of their accuracy.

Catherine Mackinnon, aged about 50 years, unmarried; Peggy Mackinnon, aged about 48 years, unmarried; and Catherine Macphee (a half-sister of the two Mackinnons), also unmarried; occupied one house. Catherine Mackinnon was for a long time sick, and she was confined to bed when the factor and his party came to beat down the house. At first they requested her to get up and walk out, but her sisters said she could not, as she was so unwell. They answered, “Oh, she is scheming;” the sisters said she was not, that she had been ill for a considerable time, and the sick woman herself, who then feebly spoke, said she was quite unfit to be removed, but if God spared her and bestowed upon her better health that she would remove of her own accord. This would not suffice; they forced her out of bed, sick as she was, and left her beside a ditch from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., when, afraid that she would die, as she was seriously unwell, they removed her to a house and provided her with cordials and warm clothing. Let the reader imagine the sufferings of this poor female, so ruthlessly torn from a bed of sickness and laid down beside a cold ditch and there left exposed for seven long hours, and then say if such conduct does not loudly call for the condemnation of every lover of human liberty and humanity. Peggy and her half-sister Macphee are still burrowing among the ruins of their old home. When I left Knoydart last week there were no hope whatever of Catherine Mackinnon’s recovery.

I challenge the factor to contradict one sentence in this short narrative of the poor females. The melancholy truth of it is too palpable, too well-known in the district to admit of even a tenable explanation. Nothing can palliate or excuse such gross inhumanity, and it is but right and proper that British Christians should be made aware of such unchristian conduct—such cruelty towards helpless fellow-creatures in sickness and distress.

The last case, at present, is that of

Duncan Robertson, aged 35 years, with wife aged 32 years, and a family of three children. Very poor; the[186] oldest boy is deformed and weak in mind and body, requiring almost the constant care of one of his parents. Robertson was warned out like the rest of the tenants, and decree of removal was obtained against him. At the levelling time the factor came up with his men before Robertson’s door, and ordered the inmates out. Robertson pleaded for mercy on account of his sick and imbecile boy, but the factor appeared at first inexorable; at last he sent in one of the officers to see the boy, who, on his return, said that the boy was really and truly an object of pity. The factor said he could not help it, that he must pull down. Some pieces of furniture were then thrown out, and the picks were fixed in the walls, when Robertson’s wife ran out and implored delay, asking the factor, for heaven’s sake, to come in and see her sick child. He replied, “I am sure I am no doctor.” “I know that,” she said, “but God might have given you Christian feelings and bowels of compassion notwithstanding.” “Bring him out here,” said the factor; and the poor mother ran to the bed and brought out her sick boy in her arms. When the factor saw him, he admitted that he was an object of pity, but warned Robertson that he must quit Knoydart as soon as possible, so that his house would be pulled down about his ears. The levellers peep in once a week to see if the boy is getting better, so that the house may be razed.

We could give additional particulars of the cruelties which had to be endured by the poor wretches who remained—cruelties which would never be tolerated in any other civilized country than Britain, and which in Britain would secure instant and severe punishment if inflicted on a dog or a pig, but the record would only inflict further pain, and we have said enough.

Retribution has overtaken the evictors, and is it a wonder that the chiefs of Glengarry are now as little known, and own as little of their ancient domains in the Highlands as their devoted clansmen? There is now scarcely one of the name of Macdonald in the wide district once inhabited by thousands. It is a huge wilderness in which barely anything is met but wild animals and sheep,[187] and the few keepers and shepherds necessary to take care of them.


It has been shown, under “Glengarry,” that a chief’s widow, during her son’s minority, was responsible for the Knoydart evictions in 1853. Another chief’s widow, Marsali Bhinneach—Marjory, daughter of Sir Ludovick Grant of Dalvey, widow of Duncan Macdonnell of Glengarry, who died in 1788—gave the whole of Glencruaich as a sheep farm to one south country shepherd, and to make room for him she evicted over 500 people from their ancient homes. The late Edward Ellice stated before a Committee of the House of Commons, in 1873, that about the time of the rebellion in 1745, the population of Glengarry amounted to between 5000 and 6000. At the same time the glen turned out an able-bodied warrior in support of Prince Charles for every pound of rental paid to the proprietor. To-day it is questionable if the same district could turn out twenty men—certainly not that number of Macdonalds. The bad example of this heartless woman was unfortunately imitated afterwards by her daughter Elizabeth, who, in 1795, married William Chisholm of Chisholm, and to whose evil influence may be traced the great eviction which, in 1801, cleared Strathglass almost to a man of its ancient inhabitants. The Chisholm was delicate, and often in bad health, so that the management of the estate fell into the hands of his strong-minded and hard-hearted wife. In 1801, no less than 799 took ship at Fort William and Isle Martin from Strathglass, the Aird, Glen Urquhart, and the neighbouring districts, all for Pictou, Nova Scotia; while in the following year, 473 from the same district left Fort William, for Upper Canada, and 128 for Pictou. Five hundred and fifty went aboard another ship at Knoydart, many of whom were from Strathglass. In 1803, four different batches of 120 souls each, by four different ships, left[188] Strathglass, also for Pictou; while not a few went away with emigrants from other parts of the Highlands. During these three years we find that no less than 5390 were driven out of these Highland glens, and it will be seen that a very large portion of them were evicted from Strathglass by the daughter of the notorious Marsali Bhinneach. From among the living cargo of one of the vessels which sailed from Fort William no less than fifty-three souls died, on the way out, of an epidemic; and, on the arrival of the living portion of the cargo at Pictou, they were shut in on a narrow point of land, from whence they were not allowed to communicate with any of their friends who had gone before them, for fear of communicating the contagion. Here they suffered indescribable hardships.

By a peculiar arrangement between the Chisholm who died in 1793, and his wife, a considerable portion of the people were saved for a time from the ruthless conduct of Marsali Bhinneach’s daughter and her co-adjutors. Alexander Chisholm married Elizabeth, daughter of a Dr. Wilson, in Edinburgh. He made provision for his wife in case of her outliving him, by which it was left optional with her to take a stated sum annually, or the rental of certain townships, or club farms. Her husband died in 1793, when the estate reverted to his half-brother, William, and the widow, on the advice of her only child, Mary, who, afterwards became Mrs. James Gooden of London, made choice of the joint farms, instead of the sum of money named in her marriage settlement; and though great efforts were made by Marsali Bhinneach’s daughter and her friends, the widow, Mrs. Alexander Chisholm, kept the farms in her own hands, and took great pleasure in seeing a prosperous tenantry in these townships, while all their neighbours were heartlessly driven away. Not one of her tenants were disturbed or interfered with in any way from the death of her husband, in February 1793, until her own death in January, 1826, when, unfortunately for them, their farms all came into the hands of the young heir (whose sickly father died in 1817), and his cruel mother. For a few years the tenants[189] were left in possession, but only waiting an opportunity to make a complete clearance of the whole Strath. Some had a few years of their leases to run on other parts of the property, and could not just then be expelled.

In 1830 every man who held land on the property was requested to meet his chief at the local inn of Cannich. They all obeyed, and were there at the appointed time, but no chief came to meet them. The factor soon turned up, however, and informed them that the laird had determined to enter into no negotiation or any new arrangements with them that day. They were all in good circumstances, without any arrears of rent, but were practically banished from their homes in the most inconsiderate and cruel manner, and it afterwards became known that their farms had been secretly let to sheep farmers from the south, without the knowledge of the native population in possession.

Mr. Colin Chisholm, who was present at the meeting at Cannich, writes:—“I leave you to imagine the bitter grief and disappointment of men who attended with glowing hopes in the morning, but had to tell their families and dependents in the evening that they could see no alternative before them but the emigrant ship, and choose between the scorching prairies of Australia and the icy regions of North America.” It did not, however, come to that. The late Lord Lovat, hearing of the harsh proceedings, proposed to one of the large sheep farmers on his neighbouring property to give up his farm, his lordship offering to give full value for his stock, so that he might divide it among those evicted from the Chisholm estate. This arrangement was amicably carried through, and at the next Whitsunday—1831—the evicted tenants from Strathglass came into possession of the large sheep farm of Glenstrathfarrar, and paid over to the late tenant of the farm every farthing of the value set upon the stock by two of the leading valuators in the country; a fact which conclusively proved that the Strathglass tenants were quite capable of holding their own, and perfectly able to meet all claims that could be made upon them by their old proprietor and unnatural chief. They became very[190] comfortable in their new homes; but about fifteen years after their eviction from Strathglass they were again removed to make room for deer. On this occasion the late Lord Lovat gave them similar holdings on other portions of his property, and the sons and grandsons of the evicted tenants of Strathglass are now, on the Lovat property, among the most respectable and comfortable middle-class farmers in the county.

The result of the Strathglass evictions was that only two of the ancient native stock remained in possession of an inch of land on the estate of Chisholm. When the present Chisholm came into possession he found, on his return from Canada, only that small remnant of his own name and clan to receive him. He brought back a few Chisholms from the Lovat property, and re-established on his old farm a tenant who had been evicted nineteen years before from the holding in which his father and grandfather died. The great-grandfather was killed at Culloden, having been shot while carrying his commander, young Chisholm, mortally wounded, from the field. The gratitude of that chief’s successors had been shown by his ruthless eviction from the ancient home of his ancestors; but it is gratifying to find the present chief making some reparation by bringing back and liberally supporting the representatives of such a devoted follower of his forbears. The present Chisholm, who has the character of being a good landlord, is descended from a distant collateral branch of the family. The evicting Chisholms, and their offspring have, however, every one of them, disappeared, and Mr. Colin Chisholm informs us that there is not a human being now in Strathglass of the descendants of the chief, or of the south country farmers, who were the chief instruments in evicting the native population.

To give the reader an idea of the class of men who occupied this district, it may be stated that of the descendants of those who lived in Glen Canaich, one of several smaller glens, at one time thickly populated in the Strath, but now a perfect wilderness—there lived in the present generation, no less than three colonels, one major,[191] three captains, three lieutenants, seven ensigns, one bishop, and fifteen priests.

Earlier in the history of Strathglass and towards the end of last century, an attempt was made by south country sheep farmers to persuade Alexander Chisholm to follow the example of Glengarry, by clearing out the whole native population. Four southerners, among them Gillespie, who took the farm of Glencruaich, cleared by Glengarry, called upon the Chisholm, at Comar, and tried hard to convince him of the many advantages which would accrue to him by the eviction of his tenantry, and turning the largest and best portions of his estate into great sheep walks, for which they offered to pay him large rents. His daughter, Mary, already referred to as Mrs. James Gooden, was then in her teens. She heard the arguments used, and having mildly expressed her objection to the heartless proposal of the greedy southerners, she was ordered out of the room, crying bitterly. She, however, found her way to the kitchen, called all the servants together, and explained the cause of her trouble. The object of the guests at Comar was soon circulated through the Strath, and early the following morning over a thousand men met together in front of Comar House, and demanded an interview with their chief. This was at once granted, and the whole body of the people remonstrated with him for entertaining, even for a moment, the cruel proceedings suggested by the strangers, whose conduct the frightened natives characterised as infinitely worse than that of the freebooting Lochaber men who, centuries before, came with their swords and other instruments of death to rob his ancestors of their patrimony, but who were defeated and driven out of the district by the ancestors of those whom it was now proposed to evict out of their native Strath, to make room for the greedy freebooters of modern times and their sheep. The chief counselled quietness, and suggested that the action they had taken might be construed as an act of inhospitality to his guests, not characteristic, in any circumstances, of a Highland chief.

The sheep farmers who stood inside the open drawing-[192]room window, heard all that had passed, and, seeing the unexpected turn events were taking, and the desperate resolve shown by the objects of their cruel purpose, they adopted the better part of valour, slipped quietly out by the back door, mounted their horses, galloped away as fast as their steeds could carry them, and crossed the river Glass among the hooting and derision of the assembled tenantry, heard until they crossed the hill which separates Strathglass from Corriemony. The result of the interview with their laird was a complete understanding between him and his tenants; and the flying horsemen, looking behind them for the first time when they reached the top of the Maol Bhuidhe, saw the assembled tenantry forming a procession in front of Comar House, with pipers at their head, and the Chisholm being carried, mounted shoulder-high, by his stalwart vassals, on their way to Invercannich. The pleasant outcome of the whole was that chief and clan expressed renewed confidence in each other, a determination to continue in future in the same happy relationship, and to maintain, each on his part, all modern and ancient bonds of fealty ever entered into by their respective ancestors.

This, in fact, turned out to be one of the happiest days that ever dawned on the glen. The people were left unmolested so long as this Chisholm survived—a fact which shows the wisdom of chief and people meeting face to face, and refusing to permit others whether greedy outsiders or selfish factors—to come and foment mischief and misunderstanding between parties whose interests are so closely bound together, and who, if they met and discussed their differences, would seldom or ever have any disagreements of a serious character. Worse counsel prevailed after Alexander’s death, and the result under the cruel daughter of the notorious Marsali Bhinneach, has been already described.

Reference has been made to the clearance of Glenstrathfarrar by the late Lord Lovat, but for the people removed from there and other portions of the Lovat property, he allotted lands in various other places on his own estates, so that, although these changes were most[193] injurious to his tenants, his lordship’s proceedings can hardly be called evictions in the ordinary sense of the term. His predecessor, Archibald Fraser of Lovat, however, evicted, like the Chisholms, hundreds from the Lovat estates.


The modern clearances which took place within the last quarter of a century in Guisachan, Strathglass, by Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, have been described in all their phases before a Committee of the House of Commons in 1872. The Inspector of Poor for the parish of Kiltarlity wrote a letter which was brought before the Committee, with a statement from another source that, “in 1855, there were 16 farmers on the estate; the number of cows they had was 62, and horses, 24; the principal farmer had 2000 sheep, the next 1000, and the rest between them 1200, giving a total of 4200. Now (1873) there is but one farmer, and he leaves at Whitsunday; all these farmers lost the holdings on which they ever lived in competency; indeed, it is well known that some of them were able to lay by some money. They have been sent to the four quarters of the globe, or to vegetate in Sir Dudley’s dandy cottages at Tomich, made more for show than convenience, where they have to depend on his employment or charity. To prove that all this is true, take at random, the smith, the shoemaker, or the tailor, and say whether the poverty and starvation were then or now? For instance, under the old régime, the smith farmed a piece of land which supplied the wants of his family with meal and potatoes; he had two cows, a horse, and a score or two of sheep on the hill; he paid £7 of yearly rent; he now has nothing but the bare walls of his cottage and smithy, for which he pays £10. Of course he had his trade then as he has now. Will he live more comfortably now than he did then?” It was stated, at the same time, that, when Sir Dudley Marjoribanks bought[194] the property, there was a population of 255 souls upon it, and Sir Dudley, in his examination, though he threw some doubt upon that statement, was quite unable to refute it. The proprietor, on being asked, said that he did not evict any of the people. But Mr. Macombie having said, “Then the tenants went away of their own free will,” Sir Dudley replied, “I must not say so quite. I told them that when they had found other places to go to, I wished to have their farms.”

They were, in point of fact, evicted as much as any others of the ancient tenantry in the Highlands, though it is but fair to say that the same harsh cruelty was not applied in their case as in many of the others recorded in these pages. Those who had been allowed to remain in the new cottages, are without cow or sheep, or an inch of land, while those alive of those sent off are spread over the wide world, like those sent, as already described, from other places.


In 1849 more than 500 souls left Glenelg. These petitioned the proprietor, Mr. Baillie of Dochfour, to provide means of existence for them at home by means of reclamation and improvements in the district, or, failing this, to help them to emigrate. Mr. Baillie, after repeated communications, made choice of the latter alternative, and suggested that a local committee should be appointed to procure and supply him with information as to the number of families willing to emigrate, their circumstances, and the amount of aid necessary to enable them to do so. This was done, and it was intimated to the proprietor that a sum of £3000 would be required to land those willing to emigrate at Quebec. This sum included passage money, free rations, a month’s sustenance after the arrival of the party in Canada, and some clothing for the more destitute. Ultimately, the proprietor offered the sum of £2000, while the Highland[195] Destitution Committee promised £500. A great deal of misunderstanding occurred before the Liscard finally sailed, in consequence of misrepresentations made as to the food to be supplied on board, while there were loud protests against sending the people away without any medical man in charge. Through the activity and generous sympathy of the late Mr. Stewart of Ensay, then tenant of Ellanreach, on the Glenelg property, who took the side of the people, matters were soon rectified. A doctor was secured, and the people satisfied as to the rations to be served out to them during the passage, though these did not come up to one-half what was originally promised. On the whole, Mr. Baillie behaved liberally, but, considering the suitability of the beautiful valley of Glenelg for arable and food-producing purposes, it is to be regretted that he did not decide upon utilizing the labour of the natives in bringing the district into a state of cultivation, rather than have paid so much to banish them to a foreign land. That they would themselves have preferred this is beyond question.

Mr. Mulock, father of the author of “John Halifax, Gentleman,” an Englishman who could not be charged with any preconceived prejudices or partiality for the Highlanders, travelled at this period through the whole North, and ultimately published an account of what he had seen. Regarding the Glenelg business, he says, as to their willingness to emigrate:—“To suppose that numerous families would as a matter of choice sever themselves from their loved soil, abolish all the associations of local and patriotic sentiment, fling to the winds every endearing recollection connected with the sojourneying spot of vanished generations, and blot themselves, as it were, out of the book of ‘home-born happiness,’ is an hypothesis too unnatural to be encouraged by any sober, well-regulated mind.” To satisfy himself, he called forty to fifty heads of families together at Glenelg, who had signed an agreement to emigrate, but who did not find room in the Liscard, and were left behind, after selling off everything they possessed, and were consequently reduced to a state of starvation. “I asked,”[196] he says, “these poor perfidiously treated creatures if, notwithstanding all their hardships, they were willing emigrants from their native land. With one voice they assured me that nothing short of the impossibility of obtaining land or employment at home could drive them to seek the doubtful benefits of a foreign shore. So far from the emigration being, at Glenelg, or Lochalsh, or South Uist, a spontaneous movement springing out of the wishes of the tenantry, I aver it to be, on the contrary, the product of desperation, the calamitous light of hopeless oppression visiting their sad hearts.” We have no hesitation in saying that this is not only true of those to whom Mr. Mulock specially refers, but to almost every soul who have left the Highlands for the last sixty years. Only those who know the people intimately, and the means adopted by factors, clergy, and others to produce an appearance of spontaneity on the part of the helpless tenantry, can understand the extent to which this statement is true. If a judicious system had been applied of cultivating excellent land, capable of producing food in abundance, in Glenelg, there was not another property in the Highlands on which it was less necessary to send the people away than in that beautiful and fertile valley.


Great numbers were evicted from the Cameron country of Lochaber, especially from Glendesseray and Locharkaig side. Indeed it is said that there were so few Camerons left in the district, that not a single tenant of the name attended the banquet given by the tenantry when the late Lochiel came into possession. The details of Cameron evictions would be found pretty much the same as those in other places, except that an attempt has been made in this case to hold the factor entirely and solely responsible for the removal of this noble people, so renowned in the martial history of the country. That is a question, however, which it is no part of our present purpose to discuss. What we wish to expose is the unrighteous system which allowed such cruel proceedings to take place here and elsewhere, by landlord or factor.



The people of Skye and the Uist, where the Macdonalds for centuries ruled in the manner of princes over a loyal and devoted people, were treated not a whit better than those on the mainland, when their services were no longer required to fight the battles of the Lords of the Isles, or to secure to them their possessions, their dignity, and power. Bha latha eile ann! There was another day! When possessions were held by the sword, those who wielded them were highly valued, and well cared for. Now that sheep skins are found sufficient, what could be more appropriate in the opinion of some of the sheepish chiefs of modern times than to displace the people who anciently secured and held the lands for real chiefs worthy of the name, and replace them by the animals that produced the modern sheep skins by which they hold their lands; especially when these were found to be better titles than the old ones—the blood and sinew of their ancient vassals.

Prior to 1849, the manufacture of kelp in the Outer Hebrides had been for many years a large source of income to the proprietors of those islands, and a considerable revenue to the inhabitants; the lairds, in consequence, for many years encouraged the people to remain, and it is alleged that they multiplied to a degree quite out of proportion to the means of subsistence within reach when kelp manufacture failed. To make matters worse for the poor tenants, the rents were meanwhile raised by the proprietors to more than double—not because the land was considered worth more by itself, but because the possession of it enabled the poor tenants to earn a certain sum a year from kelp made out of the sea-ware to which their holdings entitled them, and out of which the proprietor pocketed a profit of from £3 to £4 per ton, in addition to the enhanced rent obtained from the crofter for the[198] land. In these circumstances one would have thought that some consideration would have been shown to the people, who, it may perhaps be admitted, were found in the altered circumstances too numerous to obtain a livelihood in those islands; but such consideration does not appear to have been given—indeed the very reverse.


In 1849 Lord Macdonald determined to evict between 600 and 700 persons from Sollas, in North Uist, of which he was then proprietor. They were at the time in a state of great misery from the failure of the potato crop for several years previously in succession, many of them having had to work for ninety-six hours a week for a pittance of two stones of Indian meal once a fortnight. Sometimes even that miserable dole was not forthcoming, and families had to live for weeks solely on shell-fish picked up on the sea-shore. Some of the men were employed on drainage works, for which public money was advanced to the proprietors; but here, as in most other places throughout the Highlands, the money earned was applied by the factors to wipe off old arrears, while the people were permitted generally to starve. His lordship having decided that they must go, notices of ejectment were served upon them, to take effect on the 15th of May, 1849. They asked for delay, to enable them to dispose of their cattle and other effects to the best advantage at the summer markets, and offered to work meanwhile making kelp, on terms which would prove remunerative to the proprietors, if only, in the altered circumstances, they might get their crofts on equitable terms—for their value, as such—apart from the kelp manufacture, on account of which the rents had previously been raised. Their petitions were ignored. No answers were received, while at the same time they were directed to sow as much corn and potatoes as they could during that spring, and for which, they were told, they would be fully compensated, whatever happened. They sold much of their effects to procure seed, and continued to work and sow up[199] to and even after the 15th of May. They then began to cut their peats as usual, thinking they were after all to be allowed to get the benefit. They were, however, soon disappointed—their goods were hypothecated. Many of them were turned out of their houses, the doors locked, and everything they possessed—cattle, crops, and peats—seized. Even their bits of furniture were thrown out of doors in the manner which had long become the fashion in such cases. The season was too far advanced—towards the end of July—to start for Canada. Before they could arrive there the cold winter would be upon them, without means or money to provide against it. They naturally rebelled, and the principal Sheriff-Substitute, Colquhoun, with his officers and a strong body of police left Inverness for North Uist, to eject them from their homes. Naturally unwilling to proceed to extremes, on the arrival of the steamer at Armadale, they sent a messenger ashore to ask for instructions to guide them in case of resistance, or if possible to obtain a modification of his lordship’s views. Lord Macdonald had no instructions to give, but referred the Sheriff to Mr. Cooper, his factor, whose answer was that the whole population of Sollas would be subject to eviction if they did not at once agree to emigrate. A few men were arrested who obstructed the evictors on a previous occasion. They were marched off to Lochmaddy by the police. The work of destruction soon commenced. At first no opposition was made by the poor people. An eye-witness, whose sympathies were believed to be favourable to the proprietor, describes some of the proceedings as follows:—

“In evicting Macpherson, the first case taken up, no opposition to the law officers was made. In two or three minutes the few articles of furniture he possessed—a bench, a chair, a broken chair, a barrel, a bag of wool, and two or three small articles, which comprised his whole household of goods and gear—were turned out to the door, and his bothy left roofless. The wife of the prisoner Macphail (one of those taken to Lochmaddy on the previous day) was the next evicted. Her domestic plenishing was of the[200] simplest character—its greatest, and by far its most valuable part, being three small children, dressed in nothing more than a single coat of coarse blanketing, who played about her knee, while the poor woman, herself half-clothed, with her face bathed in tears, and holding an infant in her arms, assured the Sheriff that she and her children were totally destitute and without food of any kind. The Sheriff at once sent for the Inspector of Poor, and ordered him to place the woman and her family on the poor’s roll.”

The next house was occupied by very old and infirm people, whom the Sheriff positively refused to evict. He also refused to eject eight other families where an irregularity was discovered by him in the notices served upon them. The next family ejected led to the almost solitary instance hitherto in the history of Highland evictions where the people made anything like real resistance. This man was a crofter and weaver, having a wife and nine children to provide for. At this stage a crowd of men and women gathered on an eminence a little distance from the house, and gave the first indications of a hostile intention by raising shouts, as the police advanced to help in the work of demolition, accompanied by about a dozen men who came to their assistance in unroofing the houses from the other end of the island. The crowd, exasperated at the conduct of their own neighbours, threw some stones at the latter. The police were then drawn up in two lines. The furniture was thrown outside, the web was cut of the loom, and the terrified woman rushed to the door with a infant in her arms, exclaiming in a passionate and wailing voice—“Tha mo chlann air a bhi’ air a muirt” (My children are to be murdered). The crowd became excited, stones were thrown at the officers, their assistants were driven from the roof of the house, and they had to retire behind the police for shelter. Volleys of stones and other missiles followed. The police charged in two divisions. There were some cuts and bruises on both sides. The work of demolition was then allowed to go on without further opposition from the crowd.

Several heart-rending scenes followed, but we shall only[201] give a description of the last which took place on that occasion, and which brought about a little delay in the cruel work. In one case it was found necessary to remove the women out of the house by force. “One of them threw herself upon the ground and fell into hysterics, uttering the most doleful sounds, and barking and yelling like a dog for about ten minutes. Another, with many tears, sobs, and groans put up a petition to the Sheriff that they would leave the roof over part of her house, where she had a loom with cloth in it, which she was weaving; and a third woman, the eldest of the family, made an attack with a stick on an officer, and, missing him, she sprang upon him, and knocked off his hat. So violently did this old woman conduct herself that two stout policemen had great difficulty in carrying her outside the door. The excitement was again getting so strong that the factor, seeing the determination of the people, and finding that if he continued and took their crops away from those who would not leave, even when their houses were pulled down about their ears, they would have to be fed and maintained at the expense of the parish during the forthcoming winter, relaxed and agreed to allow them to occupy their houses until next spring, if the heads of families undertook and signed an agreement to emigrate any time next year, from the 1st of February to the end of June. Some agreed to these conditions, but the majority declined; and, in the circumstances, the people were permitted to go back to their unroofed and ruined homes for a few months longer. Their cattle were, however, mostly taken possession of, and applied to the reduction of old arrears.”

Four of the men were afterwards charged with deforcing the officers, and sentenced at Inverness Court of Justiciary each to four months’ imprisonment. The following year the district was completely and mercilessly cleared of all its remaining inhabitants, numbering 603 souls.[18]


The Sollas evictions did not satisfy the evicting craze which his lordship afterwards so bitterly regretted. In 1851-53, he, or rather his trustee, determined to evict the people from the villages of


His lordship’s position in regard to the proceedings was most unfortunate. Donald Ross, writing as an eye-witness of these evictions, says—

“Some years ago Lord Macdonald incurred debts on his property to the extent of £200,000 sterling, and his lands being entailed, his creditors could not dispose of them, but they placed a trustee over them in order to intercept certain portions of the rent in payment of the debt. Lord Macdonald, of course, continues to have an interest and a surveillance over the property in the matter of removals, the letting of the fishings and shootings, and the general improvement of his estates. The trustee and the local factor under him have no particular interest in the property, nor in the people thereon, beyond collecting their quota of the rents for the creditors; consequently the property is mismanaged, and the crofter and cottar population are greatly neglected. The tenants of Suisinish and Boreraig were the descendants of a long line of peasantry on the Macdonald estates, and were remarkable for their patience, loyalty, and general good conduct.”

The only plea made at the time for evicting them was that of over-population. Ten families received the usual summonses, and passages were secured for them in the Hercules, an unfortunate ship which sailed with a cargo of passengers under the auspices of a body calling itself “The Highland and Island Emigration Society.” A deadly fever broke out among the passengers, the ship was detained at Cork in consequence, and a large number of the passengers died of the epidemic. After the sad fate of so many of those previously cleared out, in the ill-fated ship, it was generally thought that some compassion would be shown for those who had been still[203] permitted to remain. Not so, however. On the 4th of April, 1853, they were all warned out of their holdings. They petitioned and pleaded with his lordship to no purpose. They were ordered to remove their cattle from the pasture, and themselves from their houses and lands. They again petitioned his lordship for his merciful consideration. For a time no reply was forthcoming. Subsequently, however, they were informed that they would get land on another part of the estate—portions of a barren moor, quite unfit for cultivation.

In the middle of September following, Lord Macdonald’s ground officer, with a body of constables, arrived, and at once proceeded to eject in the most heartless manner the whole population, numbering thirty-two families, and that at a period when the able-bodied male members of the families were away from home trying to earn something by which to pay their rents, and help to carry their families through the coming winter. In spite of the wailing of the helpless women and children, the cruel work was proceeded with as rapidly as possible, and without the slightest apparent compunction. The furniture was thrown out in what had now become the orthodox fashion. The aged and infirm, some of them so frail that they could not move, were pushed or carried out. “The scene was truly heart-rending. The women and children went about tearing their hair, and rending the heavens with their cries. Mothers with tender infants at the breast looked helplessly on, while their effects and their aged and infirm relatives, were cast out, and the doors of their houses locked in their faces.” The young children, poor, helpless, little creatures, gathered in groups, gave vent to their feelings in loud and bitter wailings. “No mercy was shown to age or sex, all were indiscriminately thrust out and left to perish on the hills.” Untold cruelties were perpetrated on this occasion on the helpless creatures during the absence of their husbands and other principal bread-winners.

Donald Ross in his pamphlet, “Real Scottish Grievances,” published in 1854, and who not only was an eye-witness, but generously supplied the people with[204] a great quantity of food and clothing, describes several of the cases. I can only find room here, however, for his first.

Flora Robertson or Matheson, a widow, aged ninety-six years, then residing with her son, Alexander Matheson, who had a small lot of land in Suisinish. Her son was a widower, with four children; and shortly before the time for evicting the people arrived, he went away to labour at harvest in the south, taking his oldest boy with him. The grandmother and the other three children were left in the house. “When the evicting officers and factor arrived, the poor old woman was sitting on a couch outside the house. The day being fine, her grandchildren lifted her out of her bed and brought her to the door. She was very frail; and it would have gladdened any heart to have seen how the two youngest of her grandchildren helped her along; how they seated her where there was most shelter; and then, how they brought her some clothing and clad her, and endeavoured to make her comfortable. The gratitude of the old woman was unbounded at these little acts of kindness and compassion; and the poor children, on the other hand, felt highly pleased at finding their services so well appreciated. The sun was shining beautifully, the air was refreshing, the gentle breeze wafted across the hills, and, mollified by passing over the waters of Loch Slapin, brought great relief and vigour to poor old Flora. Often with eyes directed towards heaven, and with uplifted hands, did she invoke the blessings of the God of Jacob on the young children who were ministering so faithfully to her bodily wants.

Nothing could exceed the beauty of the scene. The sea was glittering with millions of little waves and globules, and looked like a lake of silver, gently agitated. The hills, with the heather in full bloom, and with the wild flowers in their beauty, had assumed all the colours of the rainbow, and were most pleasant to the eye to look upon. The crops of corn in the neighbourhood were beginning to get yellow for the harvest; the small patches of potatoes were under flower, and promised well; the sheep and cattle, as if tired of feeding, had lain down[205] to rest on the face of the hills; and the dogs, as if satisfied their services were not required for a time, chose for themselves pleasant, well-sheltered spots and lay basking at full length in the sun. Even the little boats on the loch, though their sails were spread, made no progress, but lay at rest, reflecting their own tiny shadows on the bosom of the deep and still waters. The scene was most enchanting; and, although old Flora’s eyes were getting dim with age, she looked on the objects before her with great delight. Her grandchildren brought her a cup of warm milk and some bread from a neighbour’s house, and tried to feed her as if she had been a pet bird; but the old woman could not take much, although she was greatly invigorated by the change of air. Nature seemed to take repose. A white fleecy cloud now and then ascended, but the sun soon dispelled it; thin wreaths of cottage smoke went up and along, but there was no wind to move them, and they floated on the air; and, indeed, with the exception of a stream which passed near the house, and made a continuous noise in its progress over rocks and stones, there was nothing above or around to disturb the eye or the ear for one moment. While the old woman was thus enjoying the benefit of the fresh air, admiring the beauty of the landscape, and just when the poor children had entered the house to prepare a frugal meal for themselves, and their aged charge, a sudden barking of dogs gave signal intimation of the approach of strangers. The native inquisitiveness of the young ones was immediately set on edge, and off they set across the fields, and over fences, after the dogs. They soon returned, however, with horror depicted in their countenances; they had a fearful tale to unfold. The furniture and other effects of their nearest neighbours, just across the hill, they saw thrown out; they heard the children screaming, and they saw the factor’s men putting bars and locks on the doors. This was enough. The heart of the old woman, so recently revived and invigorated, was now like to break within her. What was she to do? What could she do? Absolutely nothing! The poor children, in the plenitude of their knowledge of the humanity of lords and[206] factors, thought that if they could only get their aged grannie inside before the evicting officers arrived, that would be safe,—as no one, they thought, would interfere with an old creature of ninety-six, especially when her son was not there to take charge of her; and, acting upon this supposition, they began to remove their grandmother into the house. The officers, however, arrived before they could get this accomplished; and in place of letting the old woman in, they threw out before the door every article that was inside the house, and then they placed large bars and padlocks on the door! The grandchildren were horror-struck at this procedure—and no wonder. Here they were, shut out of house and home, their father and elder brother several hundred miles away from them, their mother dead, and their grandmother, now aged, frail, and unable to move, sitting before them, quite unfit to help herself,—and with no other shelter than the broad canopy of heaven. Here, then, was a crisis, a predicament, that would have twisted the strongest nerve and tried the stoutest heart and healthiest frame,—with nothing but helpless infancy and old age and infirmities to meet it. We cannot comprehend the feelings of the poor children on this occasion; and cannot find language sufficiently strong to express condemnation of those who rendered them houseless. Shall we call them savages? That would be paying them too high a compliment, for among savages conduct such as theirs is unknown. But let us proceed. After the grandchildren had cried until they were hoarse, and after their little eyes had emptied themselves of the tears which anguish, sorrow, and terror had accumulated within them, and when they had exhausted their strength in the general wail, along with the other children of the district, as house after house was swept of its furniture, the inmates evicted, and the doors locked,—they returned to their poor old grandmother, and began to exchange sorrows and consolations with her. But what could the poor children do? The shades of evening were closing in, and the air, which at mid-day was fresh and balmy, was now cold and freezing. The neighbours were all[207] locked out, and could give no shelter, and the old woman was unable to travel to where lodgings for the night could be got. What were they to do? We may rest satisfied that their minds were fully occupied with their unfortunate condition, and that they had serious consultations as to future action. The first consideration, however, was shelter for the first night, and a sheep-cot being near, the children prepared to remove the old woman to it. True, it was small and damp, and it had no door, no fire-place, no window, no bed,—but then, it was better than exposure to the night air; and this they represented to their grandmother, backing it with all the other little bits of arguments they could advance, and with professions of sincere attachment which, coming from such a quarter, and at such a period, gladdened her old heart. There was a difficulty, however, which they at first overlooked. The grandmother could not walk, and the distance was some hundreds of yards, and they could get no assistance, for all the neighbours were similarly situated, and were weeping and wailing for the distress which had come upon them. Here was a dilemma; but the children helped the poor woman to creep along, sometimes she walked a few yards, at other times she crawled on her hands and knees, and in this way, and most materially aided by her grandchildren, she at last reached the cot.

The sheep-cot was a most wretched habitation, quite unfit for human beings, yet here the widow was compelled to remain until the month of December following. When her son came home from the harvest in the south, he was amazed at the treatment his aged mother and his children had received. He was then in good health; but in a few weeks the cold and damp of the sheep-cot had a most deadly effect upon his health, for he was seized with violent cramps, then with cough; at last his limbs and body swelled, and then he died! When dead, his corpse lay across the floor, his feet at the opposite wall, and his head being at the door, the wind waved his long black hair to and fro until he was placed in his coffin.

The inspector of poor, who, be it remembered, was[208] ground officer to Lord Macdonald, and also acted as the chief officer in the evictions, at last appeared, and removed the old woman to another house; not, however, until he was threatened with a prosecution for neglect of duty. The grandchildren were also removed from the sheep-cot, for they were ill; Peggy and William were seriously so, but Sandy, although ill, could walk a little. The inspector for the poor gave the children, during their illness, only 14 lbs. of meal and 3 lbs. of rice, as aliment for three weeks, and nothing else. To the grandmother he allowed two shillings and sixpence per month, but made no provision for fuel, lodgings, nutritious diet, or cordials—all of which this old woman much required.

When I visited the house where old Flora Matheson and her grandchildren reside, I found her lying on a miserable pallet of straw, which, with a few rags of clothing, are on the bare floor. She is reduced to a skeleton, and from her own statement to me, in presence of witnesses, coupled with other inquiries and examinations, I have no hesitation in declaring that she was then actually starving. She had no nourishment, no cordials, nothing whatever in the way of food but a few wet potatoes and two or three shell-fish. The picture she presented, as she lay on her wretched pallet of black rags and brown straw, with her mutch as black as soot, and her long arms thrown across, with nothing on them but the skin, was a most lamentable one—and one that reflects the deepest discredit on the parochial authorities of Strath. There was no one to attend to the wants or infirmities of this aged pauper but her grandchild, a young girl, ten years of age. Surely in a country boasting of its humanity, liberty, and Christianity, such conduct should not be any longer tolerated in dealing with the infirm and helpless poor. The pittance of 2s. 6d. a month is but a mockery of the claims of this old woman; it is insulting to the commonsense and every-day experience of people of feeling, and it is a shameful evasion of the law. But for accidental charity, and that from a distance, Widow Matheson would long ere this have perished of starvation.


Three men were afterwards charged with deforcing the officers of the law before the Court of Justiciary at Inverness. They were first imprisoned at Portree, and afterwards marched on foot to Inverness, a distance of over a hundred miles, where they arrived two days before the date of their trial. The factor and sheriff-officers came in their conveyances, at the public expense, and lived right royally, never dreaming but they would obtain a victory, and get the three men sent to the Penitentiary, to wear hoddy, break stones, or pick oakum for at least twelve months. The accused, through the influence of charitable friends, secured the services of Mr. Rennie, solicitor, Inverness, who was able to show to the jury the unfounded and farcical nature of the charges made against them. His eloquent and able address to the jury in their behalf was irresistible, and we cannot better explain the nature of the proceedings than by quoting it in part from the report given of it, at the time, in the Inverness Advertiser:—

“Before proceeding to comment on the evidence in this case, he would call attention to its general features. It was one of a fearful series of ejectments now being carried through in the Highlands; and it really became a matter of serious reflection, how far the pound of flesh allowed by law was to be permitted to be extracted from the bodies of the Highlanders. Here were thirty-two families, averaging four members each, or from 130 to 150 in all, driven out from their houses and happy homes, and for what? For a tenant who, he believed, was not yet found. But it was the will of Lord Macdonald and of Messrs. Brown and Ballingal, that they should be ejected; and the civil law having failed them, the criminal law with all its terrors, is called in to overwhelm these unhappy people. But, thank God, it has come before a jury—before you, who are sworn to return, and will return, an impartial verdict; and which verdict will, I trust, be one that will stamp out with ignominy the cruel actors in it. The Duke of Newcastle had querulously asked, ‘Could he not do as he liked with his own?’ but a greater man had answered, that ‘property had its[210] duties as well as its rights,’ and the concurrent opinion of an admiring age testified to this truth. Had the factor here done his duty? No! He had driven the miserable inhabitants out to the barren heaths and wet mosses. He had come with the force of the civil power to dispossess them, and make way for sheep and cattle. But had he provided adequate refuge? The evictions in Knoydart, which had lately occupied the attention of the press and all thinking men, were cruel enough; but there a refuge was provided for a portion of the evicted, and ships for their conveyance to a distant land. Would such a state of matters be tolerated in a country where a single spark of Highland spirit existed? No! Their verdict that day would proclaim, over the length and breadth of the land, an indignant denial. Approaching the present case more minutely, he would observe that the prosecutor, by deleting from this libel the charge of obstruction, which was passive, had cut away the ground from under his feet. The remaining charge of deforcement being active, pushing, shoving, or striking, was essential. But he would ask, What was the character of the village, and the household of Macinnes? There were mutual remonstrances; but was force used? The only things the officer, Macdonald, seized were carried out. A spade and creel were talked of as being taken from him, but in this he was unsupported. The charge against the panel, Macinnes, only applied to what took place inside his house. As to the other panels, John Macrae was merely present. He had a right to be there; but he touched neither man nor thing, and he at any rate must be acquitted. Even with regard to Duncan Macrae, the evidence quoad him was contemptible. According to Allison, in order to constitute the crime of deforcement, there must be such violence as to intimidate a person of ordinary firmness of character. Now, there was no violence here, they did not even speak aloud, they merely stood in the door; that might be obstruction, it was certainly not deforcement. Had Macdonald, who it appeared combined in his single person the triple offices of sheriff-officer, ground-officer, and inspector of poor,[211] known anything of his business, and gone about it in a proper and regular manner, the present case would never have been heard of. As an instance of his irregularity, whilst his execution of deforcement bore that he read his warrants, he by his own mouth, stated that he only read part of them. Something was attempted to be made of the fact of Duncan Macrae seizing one of the constables and pulling him away; but this was done in a good-natured manner, and the constable admitted he feared no violence. In short, it would be a farce to call this a case of deforcement. As to the general character of the panels, it was unreproached and irreproachable, and their behaviour on that day was their best certificate.”

The jury immediately returned a verdict of “Not guilty,” and the poor Skyemen were dismissed from the bar, amid the cheers of an Inverness crowd. The families of these men were at the next Christmas evicted in the most spiteful and cruel manner, delicate mothers, half-dressed, and recently-born infants, having been pushed out into the drifting snow. Their few bits of furniture, blankets and other clothing lay for days under the snow, while they found shelter themselves as best they could in broken-down, dilapidated out-houses and barns. These latter proceedings were afterwards found to have been illegal, the original summonses, on which the second proceedings were taken, having been exhausted in the previous evictions, when the Macinneses and the Macraes were unsuccessfully charged with deforcing the sheriff-officers. The proceedings were universally condemned by every right-thinking person who knew the district, as quite uncalled for, most unjustifiable and improper, as well as for “the reckless cruelty and inhumanity with which they were carried through.” Yet, the factor issued a circular in defence of such horrid work in which he coolly informed the public that these evictions were “prompted by motives of benevolence, piety, and humanity,” and that the cause for them all was “because they (the people) were too far from Church.” Oh God! what crimes have been committed in Thy name, and in that of religion! Preserve us from such piety and hu[212]manity as were exhibited by Lord Macdonald and his factor on this and other occasions.


Before leaving Skye, it will be interesting to see the difference of opinion which existed among the chiefs regarding the eviction of the people at this period and a century earlier. We have just seen what a Lord Macdonald has done in the present century, little more than thirty years ago. Let us compare his proceedings and feelings to those of his ancestor, in 1739, a century earlier. In that year a certain Norman Macleod managed to get some islanders to emigrate, and it was feared that Government would hold Sir Alexander Macdonald of Sleat responsible, as he was reported to have encouraged Macleod.

The baronet being from home, his wife, Lady Margaret, wrote to Lord Justice-Clerk Milton on the 1st of January, 1740, pleading with him to use all his influence against a prosecution of her husband, which, “tho’ it cannot be dangerouse to him, yett it cannot faill of being both troublesome and expensive.” She begins her letter by stating that she was informed “by different hands from Edinburgh that there is a currant report of a ship’s haveing gone from thiss country with a greate many people designed for America, and that Sir Alexander is thought to have concurred in forceing these people away.” She then declares the charge against her husband to be “a falsehood,” but she “is quite acquainted with the danger of a report” of that nature. Instead of Sir Alexander being a party to the proceedings of this “Norman Macleod, with a number of fellows that he had picked up execute his intentions,” he “was both angry and concern’d to hear that some of his oune people were taken in thiss affair.”

What a contrast between the sentiments here expressed and those which carried out the modern evictions! And yet it is well-known that, in other respects no more humane man ever lived than he who was nominally responsible for the cruelties in Skye[213] and at Sollas. He allowed himself to be imposed upon by others, and completely abdicated his high functions as landlord and chief of his people. We have the most conclusive testimony and assurance from one who knew his lordship intimately, that, to his dying day, he never ceased to regret what had been done in his name, and at the time, with his tacit approval, in Skye and in North Uist.


Napoleon Bonaparte, at one time, took 500 prisoners and was unable to provide food for them. Let them go he would not, though he saw that they would perish by famine. His ideas of mercy suggested to him to have them all shot. They were by his orders formed into a square, and 2000 French muskets with ball cartridge was simultaneously levelled at them, which soon put the disarmed mass of human beings out of pain. Donald Macleod refers to this painful act as follows:—

“All the Christian nations of Europe were horrified, every breast was full of indignation at the perpetrator of this horrible tragedy, and France wept bitterly for the manner in which the tender mercies of their wicked Emperor were exhibited. Ah! but guilty Christians, you Protestant law-making Britain, tremble when you look towards the great day of retribution. Under the protection of your law, Colonel Gordon has consigned 1500 men, women, and children, to a death a hundred-fold more agonising and horrifying. With the sanction of your law he (Colonel Gordon) and his predecessors, in imitation of his Grace the Duke of Sutherland and his predecessors, removed the people from the land created by God, suitable for cultivation, and for the use of man, and put it under brute animals; and threw the people upon bye-corners, precipices, and barren moors, there exacting exorbitant rack-rents, until the people were made penniless, so that they could neither leave the place nor better their condition in it. The potato-blight blasted their last hopes[214] of retaining life upon the unproductive patches—hence they became clamourous for food. Their distress was made known through the public press; public meetings were held, and it was managed by some known knaves to saddle the God of providence with the whole misery—a job in which many of God’s professing and well-paid servants took a very active part. The generous public responded; immense sums of money were placed in the hands of Government agents and other individuals, to save the people from death by famine on British soil.

“Colonel Gordon and his worthy allies were silent contributors, though terrified. The gallant gentleman solicited Government, through the Home Secretary, to purchase the Island of Barra for a penal colony, but it would not suit. Yet our humane Government sympathised with the Colonel and his coadjutors, and consulted the honourable and brave MacNeil, the chief pauper gauger of Scotland, upon the most effective and speediest scheme to relieve the gallant Colonel and colleagues from this clamour and eye-sore, as well as to save their pockets from able-bodied paupers. The result was, that a liberal grant from the public money, which had been granted a twelve-month before for the purpose of improving and cultivating the Highlands, was made to Highland proprietors to assist them to drain the nation of its best blood, and to banish the Highlanders across the Atlantic, there to die by famine among strangers in the frozen regions of Canada, far from British sympathy, and far from the resting-place of their brave ancestors, though the idea of mingling with kindred dust, to the Highlanders, is a consolation at death, more than any other race of people I have known or read of under heaven.

“Oh! Christian people, Christian people, Christian fathers and mothers, who are living at ease, and never experienced such treatment and concomitant sufferings; you Christian rulers, Christian electors, and representatives, permit not Christianity to blush and hide her face with shame before heathenism and idolatry any longer. I speak with reverence when I say, permit not Mahomet Ali to[215] deride our Saviour with the conduct of His followers—allow not demons to exclaim in the face of heaven, ‘What can you expect of us, when Christians, thy chosen people, are guilty of such deeds of inhumanity to their own species?’

“Come, then, for the sake of neglected humanity and prostrated Christianity, and look at this helpless, unfortunate people; place yourselves for a moment in their hopeless condition at their embarkation, decoyed, in the name of the British Government, by false promises of assistance, to procure homes and comforts in Canada, which were denied to them at home—decoyed, I say, to an unwilling and partial consent—and those who resisted or recoiled from this conditional consent, and who fled to the caves and mountains to hide themselves from the brigands, look at them, chased and caught by policemen, constables, and other underlings of Colonel Gordon, handcuffed, it is said, and huddled together with the rest on an emigrant vessel. Hear the sobbing, sighing, and throbbings of their guileless, warm Highland hearts, taking their last look, and bidding a final adieu to their romantic mountains and valleys, the fertile straths, dales, and glens, which their forefathers from time immemorial inhabited, and where they are now lying in undisturbed and everlasting repose, in spots endeared and sacred to the memory of their unfortunate offspring, who must now bid a mournful farewell to their early associations, which were as dear and as sacred to them as their very existence, and which had hitherto made them patient in suffering. But follow them on their six weeks’ dreary passage, rolling upon the mountainous billows of the Atlantic, ill-fed, ill-clad, among sickness, disease, and excrements. Then come ashore with them where death is in store for them—hear the captain giving orders to discharge the cargo of live stock—see the confusion, hear the noise, the bitter weeping and bustle; hear mothers and children asking fathers and husbands, where are we going? hear the reply, ‘chan eil fios againn’—we know not; see them in groups in search of the Government Agent, who, they[216] were told, was to give them money; look at their despairing countenances when they come to learn that no agent in Canada is authorised to give them a penny; hear them praying the captain to bring them back that they might die among their native hills, that their ashes might mingle with those of their forefathers; hear this request refused, and the poor helpless wanderers bidding adieu to the captain and crew, who showed them all the kindness they could, and to the vessel to which they formed something like an attachment during the voyage; look at them scantily clothed, destitute of food, without implements of husbandry, consigned to their fate, carrying their children on their backs, begging as they crawl along in a strange land, unqualified to beg or buy their food for want of English, until the slow moving and mournful company reach Toronto and Hamilton, in Upper Canada, where, according to all accounts, they spread themselves over their respective burying-places, where famine and frost-bitten deaths were awaiting them.

“This is a painful picture, the English language fails to supply me with words to describe it. I wish the spectrum would depart from me to those who could describe it and tell the result. But how can Colonel Gordon, the Duke of Sutherland, James Loch, Lord Macdonald, and others of the unhallowed league and abettors, after looking at this sight, remain in Christian communion, ruling elders in Christian Churches, and partake of the emblems of Christ’s body broken and shed blood? But the great question is, Can we as a nation be guiltless and allow so many of our fellow creatures to be treated in such a manner, and not exert ourselves to put a stop to it and punish the perpetrators? Is ambition, which attempted to dethrone God, become omnipotent, or so powerful, when incarnated in the shape of Highland dukes, lords, esquires, colonels, and knights, that we must needs submit to its revolting deeds? Are parchment rights of property so sacred that thousands of human beings must be sacrificed year after year, till there is no end of such, to preserve them inviolate? Are sheep walks, deer forests, hunting parks,[217] and game preserves, so beneficial to the nation that the Highlands must be converted into a hunting desert, and the aborigines banished and murdered? I know that thousands will answer in the negative; yet they will fold their arms in criminal apathy until the extirpation and destruction of my race shall be completed. Fearful is the catalogue of those who have already become the victims of the cursed clearing system in the Highlands, by famine, fire, drowning, banishment, vice, and crime.”

He then publishes the following communication from an eye-witness, on the enormities perpetrated in South Uist and in the Island of Barra in the summer of 1851:—

“The unfeeling and deceitful conduct of those acting for Colonel Gordon cannot be too strongly censured. The duplicity and art which was used by them in order to entrap the unwary natives, is worthy of the craft and cunning of an old slave-trader. Many of the poor people were told in my hearing that Sir John M’Neil would be in Canada before them, where he would have every necessary prepared for them. Some of the officials signed a document binding themselves to emigrate, in order to induce the poor people to give their names; but in spite of all these stratagems, many of the people saw through them and refused out and out to go. When the transports anchored in Loch Boisdale these tyrants threw off their masks, and the work of devastation and cruelty commenced. The poor people were commanded to attend a public meeting at Loch Boisdale, where the transports lay, and, according to the intimation, any one absenting himself from the meeting was to be fined in the sum of two pounds sterling. At this meeting some of the natives were seized and, in spite of their entreaties, sent on board the transports. One stout Highlander, named Angus Johnston, resisted with such pith that they had to handcuff him before he could be mastered; but in consequence of the priest’s interference his manacles were removed, and he was marched between four officers on board the emigrant vessel. One morning, during the transporting season, we were suddenly awakened by the screams of a young female who had been re-captured in[218] an adjoining house, she having escaped after her first capture. We all rushed to the door, and saw the broken-hearted creature, with dishevelled hair and swollen face, dragged away by two constables and a ground officer. Were you to see the racing and chasing of policemen, constables, and ground officers, pursuing the outlawed natives, you would think, only for their colour, that you had been, by some miracle, transported to the banks of the Gambia, on the slave coast of Africa.

“The conduct of the Rev. H. Beatson on that occasion is deserving of the censure of every feeling heart. This ‘wolf in sheeps’ clothing’ made himself very officious, as he always does, when he has an opportunity of oppressing the poor Barra men, and of gaining the favour of Colonel Gordon. In fact, he is the most vigilant and assiduous officer Colonel Gordon has. He may be seen in Castle Bay, the principal anchorage in Barra, whenever a sail is hoisted, directing his men, like a gamekeeper with his hounds, in case any of the doomed Barra men should escape. He offered one day to board an Arran boat, that had a poor man concealed, but the master, John Crawford, lifted a hand-spike and threatened to split the skull of the first man who would attempt to board his boat, and thus the poor Barra man escaped their clutches.

“I may state in conclusion that, two girls, daughters of John Macdougall, brother of Barr Macdougall, whose name is mentioned in Sir John M’Neil’s report, have fled to the mountains to elude the grasp of the expatriators, where they still are, if in life. Their father, a frail, old man, along with the rest of the family, has been sent to Canada. The respective ages of these girls are 12 and 14 years. Others have fled in the same way, but I cannot give their names just now.”[19]

We shall now take the reader after these people to Canada, and witness their deplorable and helpless condition and privations in a strange land. The following is extracted from a Quebec newspaper:—

“We noticed in our last the deplorable condition of the 600 paupers who were sent to this country from the Kil[219]rush Unions. We have to-day a still more dismal picture to draw. Many of our readers may not be aware that there lives such a personage as Colonel Gordon, proprietor of large estates in South Uist and Barra, in the Highlands of Scotland. We are sorry to be obliged to introduce him to their notice under circumstances which will not give them a very favourable opinion of his character and heart.

“It appears that his tenants on the above-mentioned estates were on the verge of starvation, and had probably become an eye-sore to the gallant Colonel! He decided on shipping them to America. What they were to do there was a question he never put to his conscience. Once landed in Canada, he had no further concern about them. Up to last week, some 1100 souls from his estates had landed at Quebec, and begged their way to Upper Canada; when in the summer season, having only a daily morsel of food to procure, they probably escaped the extreme misery which seems to be the lot of those who followed them.

“On their arrival here, they voluntarily made and signed the following statement:—‘We, the undersigned passengers per Admiral, from Stornoway, in the Highlands of Scotland, do solemnly depose to the following facts:—That Colonel Gordon is proprietor of estates in South Uist and Barra; that among many hundreds of tenants and cottars whom he has sent this season from his estates to Canada, he gave directions to his factor, Mr. Fleming of Cluny Castle, Aberdeenshire, to ship on board of the above-named vessel a number of nearly 450 of said tenants and cottars, from the estate in Barra; that, accordingly, a great majority of these people, among whom were the undersigned, proceeded voluntarily to embark on board the Admiral, at Loch Boisdale, on or about the 11th August, 1851; but that several of the people who were intended to be shipped for this port, Quebec, refused to proceed on board, and, in fact, absconded from their homes to avoid the embarkation. Whereupon Mr. Fleming gave orders to a policeman, who was accompanied by the ground officer of the estate[220] in Barra, and some constables, to pursue the people, who had run away, among the mountains; which they did, and succeeded in capturing about twenty from the mountains and islands in the neighbourhood; but only came with the officers on an attempt being made to handcuff them; and that some who ran away were not brought back, in consequence of which four families at least have been divided, some having come in the ships to Quebec, while the other members of the same families are left in the Highlands.

“‘The undersigned further declare that those who voluntarily embarked did so under promises to the effect that Colonel Gordon would defray their passage to Quebec; that the Government Emigration Agent there would send the whole party free to Upper Canada, where, on arrival, the Government agents would give them work, and furthermore, grant them land on certain conditions.

“‘The undersigned finally declare, that they are now landed in Quebec so destitute, that if immediate relief be not afforded them, and continued until they are settled in employment, the whole will be liable to perish with want.’

(Signed) “Hector Lamont,
and 70 others.

“This is a beautiful picture! Had the scene been laid in Russia or Turkey, the barbarity of the proceeding would have shocked the nerves of the reader; but when it happens in Britain, emphatically the land of liberty, where every man’s house, even the hut of the poorest, is said to be his castle, the expulsion of these unfortunate creatures from their homes—the man-hunt with policemen and bailiffs—the violent separation of families—the parent torn from the child, the mother from her daughter, the infamous trickery practised on those who did embark—the abandonment of the aged, the infirm, women, and tender children, in a foreign land—forms a tableau which cannot be dwelt on for an instant without horror. Words cannot depict the atrocity of the deed. For cruelty less savage, the slave-dealers of the South have been held up to the execration of the world.


“And if, as men, the sufferings of these our fellow-creatures find sympathy in our hearts, as Canadians their wrongs concern us more dearly. The fifteen hundred souls whom Colonel Gordon has sent to Quebec this season have all been supported for the past week, at least, and conveyed to Upper Canada at the expense of the colony; and on their arrival in Toronto and Hamilton the greater number have been dependent on the charity of the benevolent for a morsel of bread. Four hundred are in the river at present, and will arrive in a day or two, making a total of nearly 2000 of Colonel Gordon’s tenants and cottars whom the province will have to support. The winter is at hand, work is becoming scarce in Upper Canada. Where are these people to find food?”[20]

We take the following from an Upper Canadian paper describing the position of the same people after finding their way to Ontario:—

“We have been pained beyond measure for some time past to witness in our streets so many unfortunate Highland emigrants, apparently destitute of any means of subsistence, and many of them sick from want and other attendant causes. It was pitiful the other day to view a funeral of one of these wretched people. It was, indeed, a sad procession. The coffin was constructed of the rudest material; a few rough boards nailed together was all that could be afforded to convey to its last resting-place the body of the homeless emigrant. Children followed in the mournful train; perchance they followed a brother’s bier, one with whom they had sported and played for many a healthful day among their native glens. Theirs were looks of indescribable sorrow. They were in rags; their mourning weeds were the shapeless fragments of what had once been clothes. There was a mother, too, among the mourners, one who had tended the departed with anxious care in infancy, and had doubtless looked forward to a happier future in this land of plenty. The anguish of her countenance told too plainly these hopes were[222] blasted, and she was about to bury them in the grave of her child.

“There will be many to sound the fulsome noise of flattery in the ear of the generous landlord, who had spent so much to assist the emigration of his poor tenants. They will give him the misnomer of a benefactor, and for what? Because he has rid his estates of the encumbrance of a pauper population.

“Emigrants of the poorer class who arrive here from the Western Highlands of Scotland are often so situated that their emigration is more cruel than banishment. Their last shilling is spent probably before they reach the upper province—they are reduced to the necessity of begging. But, again, the case of those emigrants of whom we speak is rendered more deplorable from their ignorance of the English tongue. Of the hundreds of Highlanders in and around Dundas at present, perhaps not half-a-dozen understand anything but Gaelic.

“In looking at these matters, we are impressed with the conviction that, so far from emigration being a panacea for Highland destitution, it is fraught with disasters of no ordinary magnitude to the emigrant whose previous habits, under the most favourable circumstances, render him unable to take advantage of the industry of Canada, even when brought hither free of expense. We may assist these poor creatures for a time, but charity will scarcely bide the hungry cravings of so many for a very long period. Winter is approaching, and then—but we leave this painful subject for the present.[21]


This island, at one time, had a large population, all of whom were weeded out in the usual way. The Rev. Donald Maclean, Minister of the Parish of Small Isles, informs us in The New Statistical Account, that “in 1826 all the inhabitants of the Island of Rum, amounting at least to 400 souls, found it necessary to leave their native[223] land, and to seek for new abodes in the distant wilds of our colonies in America. Of all the old residenters, only one family remained upon the Island. The old and the young, the feeble and the strong, were all united in this general emigration—the former to find tombs in a foreign land—the latter to encounter toils, privations, and dangers, to become familiar with customs, and to acquire that to which they had been entire strangers. A similar emigration took place in 1828, from the Island of Muck, so that the parish has now become much depopulated.”

In 1831 the population of the whole parish was 1015, while before that date it was much larger. In 1851 it was 916. In 1881 it was reduced to 550. The total population of Rum in 1881 was 89 souls.

Hugh Miller, who visited the Island, describes it and the evictions thus:—

“The evening was clear, calm, golden-tinted; even wild heaths and rude rocks had assumed a flush of transient beauty; and the emerald-green patches on the hill-sides, barred by the plough lengthwise, diagonally, and transverse, had borrowed an aspect of soft and velvety richness, from the mellowed light and the broadening shadows. All was solitary. We could see among the deserted fields the grass-grown foundations of cottages razed to the ground; but the valley, more desolate than that which we had left, had not even its single inhabited dwelling; it seemed as if man had done with it for ever. The island, eighteen years before, had been divested of its inhabitants, amounting at the time to rather more than four hundred souls, to make way for one sheep farmer and eight thousand sheep. All the aborigines of Rum crossed the Atlantic; and, at the close of 1828, the entire population consisted of but the sheep farmer, and a few shepherds, his servants: the Island of Rum reckoned up scarce a single family at this period for every five square miles of area which it contained. But depopulation on so extreme a scale was found inconvenient; the place had been rendered too thoroughly a desert for the comfort of the occupant; and on the occasion of a clearing which took[224] place shortly after in Skye, he accommodated some ten or twelve of the ejected families with sites for cottages, and pasturage for a few cows, on the bit of morass beside Loch Scresort, on which I had seen their humble dwellings. But the whole of the once-peopled interior remains a wilderness, without inhabitants,—all the more lonely in its aspect from the circumstance that the solitary valleys, with their plough-furrowed patches, and their ruined heaps of stone, open upon shores every whit as solitary as themselves, and that the wide untrodden sea stretches drearily around.

“The armies of the insect world were sporting in the light this evening by the million; a brown stream that runs through the valley yielded an incessant poppling sound, from the myriads of fish that were ceaselessly leaping in the pools, beguiled by the quick glancing wings of green and gold that fluttered over them; along a distant hillside there ran what seemed the ruins of a grey-stone fence, erected, says tradition, in a remote age to facilitate the hunting of the deer; there were fields on which the heath and moss of the surrounding moorlands were fast encroaching, that had borne many a successive harvest; and prostrate cottages, that had been the scenes of christenings, and bridals, and blythe new-year’s days;—all seemed to bespeak the place of fitting habitation for man, in which not only the necessaries, but also a few of the luxuries of life, might be procured; but in the entire prospect not a man nor a man’s dwelling could the eye command. The landscape was one without figures.

“I do not much like extermination carried out so thoroughly and on system;—it seems bad policy; and I have not succeeded in thinking any the better of it though assured by the economists that there are more than enough people in Scotland still. There are, I believe, more than enough in our workhouses—more than enough on our pauper rolls—more than enough muddled up, disreputable, useless, and unhappy, in their miasmatic valleys and typhoid courts of our large towns; but I have yet to learn how arguments[225] for local depopulation are to be drawn from facts such as these. A brave and hardy people, favourably placed for the development of all that is excellent in human nature, form the glory and strength of a country;—a people sunk into an abyss of degradation and misery, and in which it is the whole tendency of external circumstances to sink them yet deeper, constitute its weakness and its shame; and I cannot quite see on what principle the ominous increase which is taking place among us in the worse class, is to form our solace or apology for the wholesale expatriation of the better.

“It did not seem as if the depopulation of Rum had tended much to anyone’s advantage. The single sheep farmer who had occupied the holdings of so many had been unfortunate in his speculations, and had left the island; the proprietor, his landlord, seemed to have been as little fortunate as the tenant, for the island itself was in the market, and a report went current at the time that it was on the eve of being purchased by some wealthy Englishman, who purposed converting it into a deer forest.

“How strange a cycle! Uninhabited originally, save by wild animals, it became at an early period a home of men, who, as the gray wall on the hillside testified, derived in part at least, their sustenance from the chase. They broke in from the waste the furrowed patches on the slopes of the valleys,—they reared herds of cattle and flocks of sheep,—their number increased to nearly five hundred souls,—they enjoyed the average happiness of human creatures in the present imperfect state of being,—they contributed their portion of hardy and vigorous manhood to the armies of the country, and a few of their more adventurous spirits, impatient of the narrow bounds which confined them, and a course of life little varied by incident, emigrated to America. Then came the change of system so general in the Highlands; and the island lost all its original inhabitants, on a wool and mutton speculation,—inhabitants, the descendants of men who had chased the deer on its hills five hundred years before, and who, though they recognized some[226] wild island lord as their superior, and did him service, had regarded the place as indisputably their own. And now yet another change was on the eve of ensuing, and the island was to return to its original state, as a home of wild animals, where a few hunters from the mainland might enjoy the chase for a month or two every twelve-month, but which could form no permanent place of human abode. Once more a strange, and surely most melancholy cycle!”[22]

In another place the same writer asks,

“Where was the one tenant of the island, for whose sake so many others had been removed?” and he answers, “We found his house occupied by a humble shepherd, who had in charge the wreck of his property,—property no longer his, but held for the benefit of his creditors. The great sheep farmer had gone down under circumstances of very general bearing, and on whose after development, when in their latent state, improving landlords had failed to calculate.”

Harris and the other Western Islands suffered in a similar manner. Mull, Tiree, and others in Argyllshire are noticed in dealing with that county.


In many parts of Argyllshire the people have been weeded out none the less effectively, that the process generally was of a milder nature than that adopted in some of the places already described. By some means or other, however, the ancient tenantry have largely disappeared to make room for the sheep farmer and the sportsman. Mr. Somerville, Lochgilphead, writing on this subject, says, “The watchword of all is exterminate, exterminate the native race. Through this monomania of landlords the cottier population is all but extinct; and[227] the substantial yeoman is undergoing the same process of dissolution.” He then proceeds:—

“About nine miles of country on the west side of Loch Awe, in Argyllshire, that formerly maintained 45 families, are now rented by one person as a sheep farm; and in the island of Luing, same county, which formerly contained about 50 substantial farmers, besides cottiers, this number is now reduced to about six. The work of eviction commenced by giving, in many cases, to the ejected population, facilities and pecuniary aid for emigration; but now the people are turned adrift, penniless and shelterless, to seek a precarious subsistence on the sea-board, in the nearest hamlet or village, and in the cities, many of whom sink down helpless paupers on our poor-roll; and others, festering in our villages, form a formidable Arab population, who drink our money contributed as parochial relief. This wholesale depopulation is perpetrated, too, in a spirit of invidiousness, harshness, cruelty, and injustice, and must eventuate in permanent injury to the moral, political, and social interests of the kingdom.... The immediate effects of this new system are the dissociation of the people from the land, who are virtually denied the right to labour on God’s creation. In L——, for instance, garden ground and small allotments of land are in great demand by families, and especially by the aged, whose labouring days are done, for the purpose of keeping cows, and by which they might be able to earn an honest, independent maintenence for their families, and whereby their children might be brought up to labour instead of growing up vagabonds and thieves. But such, even in our centres of population, cannot be got; the whole is let in large farms and turned into grazing. The few patches of bare pasture, formed by the delta of rivers, the detritus of rocks, and tidal deposits, are let for grazing at the exorbitant rent of £3 10s. each for a small Highland cow; and the small space to be had for garden ground is equally extravagant. The consequence of these exorbitant rents and the want of agricultural facilities is a depressed, degraded, and pauperised population.”


These remarks are only too true, and applicable not only in Argyllshire, but throughout the Highlands generally.

A deputation from the Glasgow Highland Relief Board, consisting of Dr. Robert Macgregor, and Mr. Charles R. Baird, their Secretary, visited Mull, Ulva, Iona, Tiree, Coll, and part of Morvern, in 1849, and they immediately afterwards issued a printed report on the state of these places, from which a few extracts will prove instructive. They inform us that the population of


according to the Government Census of 1821, was 10,612; in 1841, 10,064. In 1871, we find it reduced to 6441, and by the Census of 1881, now before us, it is stated at 5624, or a fraction more than half the number that inhabited the Island in 1821.

Tobermory, we are told, “has been for some time the resort of the greater part of the small crofters and cottars, ejected from their holdings and houses on the surrounding estates, and thus there has been a great accumulation of distress.” Then we are told that “severe as the destitution has been in the rural districts, we think it has been still more so in Tobermory and other villages”—a telling comment on, and reply to, those who would now have us believe that the evictors of those days and of our own were acting the character of wise benefactors when they ejected the people from the inland and rural districts of the various counties to wretched villages, and rocky hamlets on the sea-shore.

Ulva.—The population of the Island of Ulva in 1849 was 360 souls. The reporters state that a “large portion” of it “has lately been converted into a sheep farm, and consequently a number of small crofters and cottars have been warned away” by Mr. Clark. “Some of these will find great difficulty in settling themselves anywhere, and all of them have little prospect of employment.... Whatever may be the ultimate effect to the landowners of the conversion of a number of small[229] crofts into large farms, we need scarcely say that this process is causing much poverty and misery among the crofters.” How Mr. Clark carried out his intention of evicting the tenantry of Ulva may be seen from the fact that the population of 360 souls, in 1849, was reduced to 51 in 1881.

Kilfinichen.—In this district we are told that “The crofters and cottars having been warned off, 26 individuals emigrated to America, at their own expense and one at that of the Parochial Board; a good many removed to Kinloch, where they are now in great poverty, and those who remained were not allowed to cultivate any ground for crop or even garden stuffs. The stock and other effects of a number of crofters on Kinloch last year (1848), whose rents averaged from £5 to £15 per annum, having been sequestrated and sold, these parties are now reduced to a state of pauperism, having no employment or means of subsistence whatever.” As to the cottars, it is said that “the great mass of them are now in a very deplorable state.” On the estate of

Gribun, Colonel Macdonald of Inchkenneth, the proprietor, gave the people plenty of work, by which they were quite independent of relief from any quarter, and the character which he gives to the deputation of the people generally is most refreshing, when we compare it with the baseless charges usually made against them by the majority of his class. The reporters state that “Colonel Macdonald spoke in high terms of the honesty of the people and of their great patience and forbearance under their severe privations.” It is gratifying to be able to record this simple act of justice, not only as the people’s due, but specially to the credit of Colonel Macdonald’s memory and goodness of heart.

Bunessan.—Respecting this district, belonging to the Duke of Argyll, our authority says:—“It will be recollected that the [Relief] Committee, some time ago, advanced £128 to assist in procuring provisions for a number of emigrants from the Duke of Argyll’s estate, in the Ross of Mull and Iona, in all 243 persons—125 adults and 118 children. When there, we made inquiry[230] into the matter, and were informed [by those, as it proved, quite ignorant of the facts] that the emigration had been productive of much good, as the parties who emigrated could not find the means of subsistence in this country, and had every prospect of doing so in Canada, where all of them had relations; and also because the land occupied by some of these emigrants had been given to increase the crofts of others. Since our return home, however, we have received the very melancholy and distressing intelligence, that many of these emigrants had been seized with cholera on their arrival in Canada; that not a few of them had fallen victims to it; and that the survivors had suffered great privations.” Compare the “prospect,” of much good, predicted for these poor creatures, with the sad reality of having been forced away to die a terrible death immediately on their arrival on a foreign shore!

Iona, at this time, contained a population of 500, reduced in 1881 to 243. It also is the property of the Duke of Argyll, as well as

The Island of Tiree, the population of which is given in the report as follows:—In 1755, it was 1509, increasing in 1777, to 1681; in 1801, to 2416; in 1821, to 4181; and in 1841 to 4687. In 1849, “after considerable emigrations,” it was 3903; while in 1881, it was reduced to 2733. The deputation recommended emigration from Tiree as imperatively necessary, but they “call especial attention to the necessity of emigration being conducted on proper principles, or, ‘on a system calculated to promote the permanent benefit of those who emigrate, and of those who remain,’ because we have reason to fear that not a few parties in these districts are anxious to get rid of the small crofters and cottars at all hazard, and without making sufficient provision for their future comfort and settlement elsewhere; and because we have seen the very distressing account of the privations and sufferings of the poor people who emigrated from Tiree and the Ross of Mull to Canada this year (1849), and would spare no pains to prevent a recurrence of such deplorable circumstances. As we were informed that the Duke of Argyll had ex[231]pended nearly £1200 on account of the emigrants (in all 247 souls) from Tiree; as the Committee advanced £131 15s. to purchase provisions for them; and as funds were remitted to Montreal to carry them up the country, we sincerely trust that the account we have seen of their sufferings in Canada is somewhat over-charged, and that it is not at all events to be ascribed to want of due provision being made for them, ere they left this country, to carry them to their destination. Be this as it may, however, we trust that no emigration will in future be promoted by proprietors or others, which will not secure, as far as human effort can, the benefit of those who emigrate, as well as of those who are left at home.... Being aware of the poverty of the great majority of the inhabitants of this island, and of the many difficulties with which they have to contend, we were agreeably surprised to find their dwellings remarkably neat and clean—very superior indeed, both externally and internally, to those of the other islands; nay, more, such as would bear comparison with cottages in any part of the kingdom. The inhabitants, too, we believe, are active and enterprising, and, if once put in a fair way of doing so, would soon raise themselves to comfort and independence.” Very good, indeed, Tiree!

The Island of Coll, which is separated from Tiree by a channel only two miles in width, had a population, in 1755, of 1193; in 1771, of 1200; in 1801, of 1162; in 1821, of 1264. In 1841 it reached 1409. At the time of the visit of the deputation, from whose report we quote, the population of the Island was down to 1235; while in 1881 it had fallen to 643. The deputation report that during the destitution the work done by the Coll people “approximates, if it does exceed, the supplies given;” they are “hard working and industrious.... We saw considerable tracts of ground which we were assured might be reclaimed and cultivated with profit, and are satisfied that fishing is a resource capable of great improvement, and at which, therefore, many of the people might be employed to advantage; we are disposed to think that, by a little attention and prudent outlay of[232] capital, the condition of the people here might ere long be greatly improved. The grand difficulty in the way, however, is the want of capital. Mr. Maclean, the principal proprietor, always acted most liberally when he had it in his power to do so, but, unfortunately, he has no longer the ability, and the other two proprietors are also under trust.” Notwithstanding these possibilities the population is undergoing a constant process of diminution.

We shall now return to the mainland portion of the County, and take a glance at the parish of


Uaine gu’m mullach” (green to their tops!). So Dr. Norman Macleod described the bens of Ardnamurchan in his inimitable sketch, the “Emigrant Ship,” and so they appear even to this day. Their beautiful slopes show scarcely a vestige of heather, but an abundance of rich, sweet grass of a quality eminently suitable for pasturage.

As the steamboat passenger sails northward through the Sound of Mull, he sees straight ahead, and stretching at right angles across his course, a long range of low hills culminating in a finely-shaped mass which seems to rise abruptly from the edge of the sea. The hills are those of Ardnamurchan, and the dominating pile is Ben Hiant, 1729 feet in height, and “green to its top.” Around the base of the mountain and for miles in every direction the land is fair, fertile, and well adapted either for arable or grazing purposes. It comprises the farm of Mingary, and, to-day, is wholly under deer.

Down to the second decade of last century it supported about twenty-six families, which were distributed over the component townships of Coire-mhuilinn, Skinid, Buarblaig, and Tornamona. At one sweep, the whole place was cleared, and the grounds added to the adjacent[233] sheep farm of Mingary. The evictions were carried out in 1828, the process being attended with many acts of heartless cruelty on the part of the laird’s representatives. In one case a half-witted woman who flatly refused to flit, was locked up in her cottage, the door being barricaded on the outside by mason-work. She was visited every morning to see if she had arrived at a tractable frame of mind, but for days she held out. It was not until her slender store of food was exhausted that she ceased to argue with the inevitable and decided to capitulate. It is to cases of this character that Dr. John MacLachlan, the Sweet Singer of Rahoy, referred in the lines—

“An dall, an seann duine san oinid
Toirt am mallachd air do bhuaireas.”

(The blind, the aged, and the imbecile calling curses on thy greed.) The proprietor at whose instance these “removals” were carried out was Sir James Milles Riddell, Bart. Of the dislodged families a few were given small patches of waste land, some were given holdings in various townships on the estate—the crofts of which were sub-divided for their accommodation—and some were forced to seek sanctuary beyond the Atlantic.

Additional clearances were effected on the Ardnamurchan estate in 1853, when Swordle-chaol, Swordle-mhor, and Swordle-chorrach, with an aggregate area of about 3000 acres, were divested of their crofting population, and thrown into a single sheep farm. Swordle-chaol was occupied by four tenants, Swordle-mhor by six, and Swordle-chorrach by six. Five years previous to the evictions, all the crofters came under a written obligation to the proprietor to build new dwelling-houses. The walls were to be of stone and lime, 40 ft. long, 17½ ft. wide, and 7½ ft. high. The houses, two-gabled, were to have each two rooms and a kitchen, with wooden ceiling and floors, the kitchen alone to be floored with flags. By the end of 1851 all the tenants had faithfully implemented their promise, and the work of building was quite completed. Tradesmen had been employed in every case, and the cost averaged from £45[234] to £50. When the people were ejected, two years later, they received no compensation whatever for their labours and outlays. They were not even permitted to remove a door, a window, or a fixed cupboard. Some of the houses are still intact in this year of grace, 1914, one being occupied by a shepherd on Swordle farm, and another used as a byre. They compare favourably as regards size, design, and workmanship with the best and most modern crofter houses in the Ardnamurchan district. The Swordle tenants were among the best-to-do on the estate, and not one of them owed the proprietor a shilling in the way of arrears of rent. When cast adrift, the majority of them were assigned “holdings” of one acre or so in the rough lands of Sanna and Portuairk, where they had to start to reclaim peatbogs and to build for themselves houses and steadings. Sir James Milles Riddell was the proprietor responsible for clearing the Swordles as well as the Ben Hiant townships.[24]

Other places which he divested of people and placed under sheep were Laga, held by eight tenants, and Tarbert, which was in the hands of four.

About sixteen years ago Ben Hiant, or Mingary, as well as the Swordles, Laga, Tarbert, and other farms, was swept clean of sheep and converted into a deer forest, the preserve having a total area of 22,000 acres. The woolly ruminants met with a retribution, direful and complete, and the native people viewed the change with mild amusement. Sheep had been the means of ruining their forefathers, whereas deer had never done them or their kinsfolk the smallest injury.

The highest hill on the estate of Ardnamurchan is Ben Hiant, the altitude of which is 1729 feet. It may be described as an isolated peak. It forms no part of any definite mountain range, although, when viewed from the sea, it seems to blend with Ben an Leathaid and other local eminences. For the most part, the elevation of the area embraced in the Ardnamurchan deer forest varies from 600 feet or 700 feet to sea-level.



The population of this extensive parish in 1755 was 1223; in 1795 it increased to 1764; in 1801 to 2000; in 1821, it was 1995; in 1831, it rose to 2137; and in 1841 it came down to 1781; in 1871, it was only 973; while in the Census Returns for 1881 we find it stated at 714, or less than one-third of what it was fifty years before.

The late Dr. Norman Macleod, after describing the happy state of things which existed in this parish before the clearances, says:—

“But all this was changed when those tacksmen were swept away to make room for the large sheep farms, and when the remnants of the people flocked from their empty glens to occupy houses in wretched villages near the sea-shore, by way of becoming fishers—often where no fish could be caught. The result has been that ‘the Parish,’ for example, which once had a population of 2200 souls, and received only £11 per annum from public (Church) funds for the support of the poor, expends now [1863] under the poor law upwards of £600 annually, with a population diminished by one-half [since diminished to one-third] and with poverty increased in a greater ratio.... Below these gentlemen tacksmen were those who paid a much lower rent, and who lived very comfortably, and shared hospitality with others, the gifts which God gave them. I remember a group of men, tenants in a large glen, which now has not a smoke in it, as the Highlanders say, throughout its length of twenty miles. They had the custom of entertaining in rotation every traveller who cast himself on their hospitality. The host on the occasion was bound to summon his neighbours to the homely feast. It was my good fortune to be a guest when they received the present minister of ‘the Parish,’ while en route to visit some of his flock. We had a most sumptuous feast—oat-cakes, crisp and fresh from the fire; cream, rich and thick, and more beautiful than nectar,—whatever that may be; blue Highland cheese, finer than Stilton;[236] fat hens, slowly cooked on the fire in a pot of potatoes, without their skins, and with fresh butter—‘stoved hens,’ as the superb dish was called; and though last, not least, tender kid, roasted as nicely as Charles Lamb’s cracklin’ pig. All was served up with the utmost propriety, on a table covered with a fine white cloth, and with all the requisites for a comfortable dinner, including the champagne of elastic, buoyant, and exciting mountain air. The manners and conversations of those men would have pleased the best-bred gentleman. Everything was so simple, modest, unassuming, unaffected, yet so frank and cordial. The conversation was such as might be heard at the table of any intelligent man. Alas! there is not a vestige remaining of their homes. I know not whither they are gone, but they have left no representatives behind. The land in the glen is divided between sheep, shepherds, and the shadows of the clouds.”[25]

The Rev. Donald Macleod, editor of Good Words—describing the death of the late Dr. John Macleod, the “minister of the Parish” referred to by Dr. Norman in the above quotation, and for fifty years minister of Morven—says of the noble patriarch:—

“His later years were spent in pathetic loneliness. He had seen his parish almost emptied of its people. Glen after glen had been turned into sheep-walks, and the cottages in which generations of gallant Highlanders had lived and died were unroofed, their torn walls and gables left standing like mourners beside the grave, and the little plots of garden or of cultivated enclosure allowed to merge into the moorland pasture. He had seen every property in the parish change hands, and though, on the whole, kindly and pleasant proprietors came in place of the old families, yet they were strangers to the people, neither understanding their language nor their ways. The consequence was that they perhaps scarcely realised the havoc produced by the changes they inaugurated. ‘At one stroke of the pen,’ he said to me, with a look of sad[237]ness and indignation, ‘two hundred of the people were ordered off. There was not one of these whom I did not know, and their fathers before them; and finer men and women never left the Highlands.’ He thus found himself the sole remaining link between the past and present—the one man above the rank of a peasant who remembered the old days and the traditions of the people. The sense of change was intensely saddened as he went through his parish and passed ruined houses here, there, and everywhere. ‘There is not a smoke there now,’ he used to say with pathos, of the glens which he had known tenanted by a manly and loyal peasantry, among whom lived song and story and the elevating influences of brave traditions. All are gone, and the place that once knew them, knows them no more! The hill-side, which had once borne a happy people and echoed the voices of joyous children is now a silent sheep walk. The supposed necessities of Political Economy have effected the exchange, but the day may come when the country may feel the loss of the loyal and brave race which has been driven away, and find a new meaning perhaps in the old question, ‘Is not a man better than a sheep?’ They who ‘would have shed their blood like water’ for Queen and country, are in other lands, Highland still, but expatriated for ever.

From the dim shieling on the misty island,
Mountains divide us and a world of seas,
But still our hearts are true, our hearts are Highland,
And in our dreams we behold the Hebrides.
Tall are these mountains, and these woods are grand,
But we are exiled from our father’s land.”[26]


Glenorchy, of which the Marquis of Breadalbane is sole proprietor, was, like many other places, ruthlessly cleared of its whole native population. The writer of the New Statistical Account of the Parish, in 1843, the Rev.[238] Duncan Maclean, “Fior Ghael” of the Teachdaire, informs us that the census taken by Dr. Webster in 1755, and by Dr. MacIntyre forty years later, in 1795, “differ exceedingly little,” only to the number of sixty. The Marquis of the day, it is well known, was a good friend of his reverence; the feeling was naturally reciprocated, and one of the apparent results is that the reverend author abstained from giving, in his Account of the Parish, the population statistics of the Glenorchy district. It was, however, impossible to pass over that important portion of his duty altogether, and, apparently with reluctance, he makes the following sad admission:—“A great and rapid decrease has, however, taken place since [referring to the population in 1795]. This decrease is mainly attributable to the introduction of sheep, and the absorption of small into large tenements. The aboriginal population of the parish of Glenorchy (not of Inishail) has been nearly supplanted by adventurers from the neighbouring district of Breadalbane, who now occupy the far largest share of the parish. There are a few, and only a few, shoots from the stems that supplied the ancient population. Some clans, who were rather numerous and powerful, have disappeared altogether; others, viz., the Downies, Macnabs, Macnicols, and Fletchers, have nearly ceased to exist. The Macgregors, at one time lords of the soil, have totally disappeared; not one of the name is to be found among the population. The Macintyres, at once time extremely numerous, are likewise greatly reduced.”

By this nobleman’s mania for evictions, the population of Glenorchy was reduced from 1806 in 1831 to 831 in 1841, or by nearly a thousand souls in the short space of ten years! It is, however, gratifying to find that it has since, under wiser management, very largely increased.

In spite of all this we have been seriously told that there has been no


in the rural districts. In this connection some very[239] extraordinary public utterances were recently made by two gentlemen closely connected with the county of Argyll, questioning or attempting to explain away statements, made in the House of Commons by Mr. D. H. Macfarlane, M.P., to the effect that the rural population was, from various causes, fast disappearing from the Highlands. These utterances were—one by a no less distinguished person that the Duke of Argyll, who published his remarkable propositions in the Times; the other by Mr. John Ramsay, M.P., the Islay distiller, who imposed his baseless statement on his brother members in the House of Commons. These oracles should have known better. They must clearly have taken no trouble whatever to ascertain the facts for themselves, or, having ascertained them, kept them back that the public might be misled on a question with which, it is obvious to all, the personal interests of both are largely mixed up.

Let us see how the assertions of these authorities agreed with the actual facts. In 1831 the population of the county of Argyll was 100,973; in 1841 it was 97,371; in 1851 it was reduced to 88,567; and in 1881 it was down to 76,468. Of the latter number the Registrar-General classifies 30,387 as urban, or the population of “towns and villages,” leaving us only 46,081 as the total rural population of the county of Argyll at the date of the last Census, in 1881. In 1911 the total population for the county had dropped to 70,902.

It will be necessary to keep in mind that in 1831 the county could not be said to have had many “town and village” inhabitants—not more than from 12,000 to 15,000 at most. These resided chiefly in Campbeltown, Inveraray, and Oban; and if we deduct from the total population for that year, numbering 100,973, even the larger estimate, 15,000 of an urban or town population, we have still left, in 1831, an actual rural population of 85,973, or within a fraction of double the whole rural population of the county in 1881. In other words, the rural population of Argyllshire was reduced in fifty years from 85,973 to 46,081, or nearly by one-half.

The increase of the urban or town population is going[240] on at a fairly rapid rate; Campbeltown, Dunoon, Oban, Ballachulish, Blairmore, and Strone, Innellan, Lochgilphead, Tarbet, and Tighnabruaich, combined, having added no less than some 5500 to the population of the county in the ten years from 1871 to 1881. These populous places will be found respectively in the parishes of Campbeltown, Lismore, and Appin, Dunoon and Kilmun, Glassary, Kilcalmonell and Kilbery, and in Kilfinan; and this will at once account for the comparatively good figure which these parishes make in the tabulated statement in the Appendix. That table will show exactly in which parishes and at what rate depopulation progressed during the last fifty years. In many instances the population was larger prior to 1831 than at that date, but the years given will generally give the best idea of how the matter stood throughout that whole period. The state of the population given in 1831 was before the famine which occurred in 1836; while that in 1841 comes in between that of 1836 and 1846-47, during which period large numbers were sent away, or left for the Colonies. There was no famine between 1851 and 1881, a time during which the population was reduced from 88,567 to 76,468, notwithstanding the great increase which took place simultaneously in the “town and village” section of the people in the county, as well as throughout the country generally.



Once upon a time—and the time was 1828—Alexander, tenth Duke of Hamilton, decided that he would make large farms on his estate, and, of course, the will and wish[241] of a duke in his own domains must be respected, even though—as in one instance—the land rented by twenty-seven families was converted into one farm.

For various reasons, the islanders had for many years been discontented, and there seemed no hope of a change for the better. If a man worked his place in a progressive way and made improvements on the farm, the benefit accrued solely to the landed proprietor, who thanked the good tenant by promptly raising his rent. If the farmer objected to paying more rent, his only alternative was to submit to be turned off his holding at the expiration of his lease; then the landlord would collect the increased rent from the new tenant.

So when the duke made overtures to a large number of his tenants to the effect that if they would make room for him by getting away from their ancestral moorings in Arran, he would see that they were well provided for in the new world, it is not to be wondered at that they accepted his proposition. It is so nice when you are cast out to be told where you can go, and be directed what to do. The Duke promised to secure for each family a grant of 100 acres of land in Canada, and the same amount of land for each son in each family who at that time had reached the age of 21.

Arrived at their destination at Johnston Ford, province of Quebec, each family constructed a tent by stretching blankets, quilts, etc., over poles suitably disposed and tied together at the top with withes and ropes. Fortunately the season was favourable and fires were needed only for cooking. As just stated, the Duke of Hamilton had promised that each family and each young man who had attained his majority should receive a grant of 100 acres of land; but, when the colony was actually on the scene, the Government officials refused to give a grant except to the heads of the families.

The matter of grants has been so variously stated that it is difficult to determine what the conditions were, but it appears that the actual agreement of the Duke of Hamilton was that grants should be given for two years only. Those who came out in 1829 and 1830 secured certain[242] grants after a delay. Those, however, who did not arrive till 1831 were told by the agents that grants were no longer to be had.



Regarding the state of matters in this district a correspondent writes us as follows:—I am very glad to learn that you are soon to publish a new edition of your “Highland Clearances.” You have done good work already in rousing the conscience of the public against the conduct of certain landlords in the Highlands, who long ere now should have been held up to public scorn and execration, as the best means of deterring others from pursuing a policy which has been so fatal to the best interests of our beloved land.... And now, if I am not too late, I should like to direct your attention to a few authenticated facts connected with two districts in the Highlands, that I am familiar with, and which facts you may utilise, though I shall merely give notes.

In 1851 the population of the district known as the quoad sacra parish of Rannoch numbered altogether 1800; at the census of 1881 it was below 900. Even in 1851 it was not nearly what it was earlier. Why this constant decrease? Several no doubt left the district voluntarily; but the great bulk of those who left were evicted.

Take, first, the Slios Min, north side of Loch Rannoch. Fifty years ago the farm of Ardlarich, near the west end, was tenanted by three farmers, who were in good circumstances. These were turned out to make room for one large farmer, who was rouped out last year, penniless; and the farm is now tenantless. The next place, further east, is the township of Killichoan, containing about thirty to forty houses, with small crofts attached to each.[243] The crofters here are very comfortable and happy, and their houses and crofts are models of what industry, thrift and good taste can effect. Further east is the farm of Liaran, now tenantless. Fifty years ago it was farmed by seven tenants who were turned out to make room for one man, and that at a lower rent than was paid by the former tenants. Further, in the same direction, there are Aulich, Craganour, and Annat, every one of them tenantless. These three farms, lately in the occupation of one tenant, and for which he paid a rental of £900, at one time maintained fifty to sixty families in comfort, all of whom have vanished, or were virtually banished from their native land.

It is only right to say that the present proprietor is not responsible for the eviction of any of the smaller tenants; the deed was done before he came into possession. On the contrary, he is very kind to his crofter tenantry, but unfortunately for him he inherits the fruits of a bad policy which has been the ruin of the Rannoch estates.

Then take the Slios Garbh, south-side of Loch Rannoch. Beginning in the west-end, we have Georgetown, which, about fifty years ago, contained twenty-five or twenty-six houses, every one of which were knocked down by the late laird of Struan, and the people evicted. The crofters of Finnart were ejected in the same way. Next comes the township of Camghouran, a place pretty similar to Killichoan, but smaller. The people are very industrious, cleanly, and fairly comfortable, reflecting much credit upon themselves and the present proprietor. Next comes Dall, where there used to be a number of tenants, but now in the hands of the proprietor, an Englishman. The estate of Innerhaden comes next. It used to be divided into ten lots—two held by the laird, and eight by as many tenants. The whole is now in the hands of one family. The rest of Bun-Rannoch includes the estates of Dalchosnie, Lassintullich, and Crossmount, where there used to be a large number of small tenants—most of them well-to-do—but now held by five.

Lastly, take the north side of the river Dubhag, which flows out from Loch Rannoch, and is erroneously called[244] the Tummel. Kinloch, Druimchurn, and Druimchaisteil, always in the hands of three tenants, are now held by one. Drumaglass contains a number of small holdings, with good houses on many of them. Balmore, which always had six tenants in it, has now only one, the remaining portion of it being laid out in grass parks. Ballintuim, with a good house upon it, is tenantless. Auchitarsin, where there used to be twenty houses, is now reduced to four. The whole district from, and including, Kinloch to Auchitarsin belongs to General Sir Alastair Macdonald of Dalchosnie, Commander of Her Majesty’s Forces in Scotland. His father, Sir John, during his life, took a great delight in having a numerous, thriving, and sturdy tenantry on the estates of Dalchosnie, Kinloch, Lochgarry, Dunalastair, and Morlaggan. On one occasion his tenant of Dalchosnie offered to take from Sir John on lease all the land on the north side of the river. “Ay, man,” said he, “you would take all that land, would you, and turn out all my people! Who would I get, if my house took fire, to put it out?”

The present proprietor has virtually turned out the great bulk of those that Sir John had loved so well. Though, it is said, he did not evict any man directly, he is alleged to have made their positions so hot for them that they had to leave. Sir John could have raised hundreds of Volunteers on his estates—men who would have died for the gallant old soldier. But how many could be now raised by his son? Not a dozen men; though he goes about inspecting Volunteers and praising the movement officially throughout the length and breadth of Scotland.

The author of the New Statistical Account, writing of the Parish of Fortingall, of which the district referred to by our correspondent forms a part, says:—“At present [1838] no part of the parish is more populous than it was in 1790; whereas in several districts, the population has since decreased one-half; and the same will be found to have taken place, though not perhaps in so great a proportion, in most or all of the pastoral districts of the county.”

According to the census of 1801 the population was[245] 3875; in 1811, 3236; in 1821, 3189; in 1831, 3067; and in 1881 it was reduced to 1690.

Upwards of 120 families, the same writer says, “crossed the Atlantic from this parish, since the previous Account was drawn up [in 1791], besides many individuals of both sexes; while many others have sought a livelihood in the Low Country, especially in the great towns of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Perth, Crieff, and others. The system of uniting several farms together, and letting them to one individual, has more than any other circumstance” produced this result.


Mr. R. Alister, author of Barriers to the National Prosperity of Scotland, had a controversy with the Marquis of Breadalbane in 1853, about the eviction of his tenantry. In a letter, dated July of that year, Mr. Alister made a charge against his lordship which, for obvious reasons, he never attempted to answer, as follows:—

“Your lordship states that in reality there has been no depopulation of the district. This, and other parts of your lordship’s letter, would certainly lead any who know nothing of the facts to suppose that there had been no clearings on the Breadalbane estates; whereas it is generally believed that your lordship removed, since 1834, no less than 500 families! Some may think this is a small matter; but I do not. I think it is a great calamity for a family to be thrown out, destitute of the means of life, without a roof over their heads, and cast upon the wide sea of an unfeeling world. In Glenqueich, near Amulree, some sixty families formerly lived, where there are now only four or five; and in America, there is a glen inhabited by its ousted tenants, and called Glenqueich still. Yet, forsooth, it is maintained there has been no depopulation here! The desolations here look like the ruins of Irish cabins, although the population of Glenqueich were always characterised as being remarkably thrifty, economical, and wealthy. On the Braes of Taymouth, at[246] the back of Drummond Hill, and at Tullochyoule, some forty or fifty families formerly resided, where there is not one now! Glenorchy, by the returns of 1831, showed a population of 1806; in 1841, 831;—is there no depopulation there? Is it true that in Glenetive there were sixteen tenants a year or two ago, where there is not a single one now? Is it true, my lord, that you purchased an island on the west coast, called Luing, where some twenty-five families lived at the beginning of this year, but who are now cleared off to make room for one tenant, for whom an extensive steading is now being erected? If my information be correct, I shall allow the public to draw their own conclusions; but, from every thing that I have heard, I believe that your lordship has done more to exterminate the Scottish peasantry than any man now living; and perhaps you ought to be ranked next to the Marquis of Stafford in the unenviable clearing celebrities. If I have over-estimated the clearances at 500 families, please to correct me.” As we have already said, his lordship thought it prudent, and by far the best policy, not to make the attempt.

In another letter the same writer says:—

“You must be aware that your late father raised 2300 men during the last war, and that 1600 of that number were from the Breadalbane estates. My statement is, that 150 could not now be raised. Your lordship has most carefully evaded all allusion to this,—perhaps the worst charge of the whole. From your lordship’s silence I am surely justified in concluding that you may endeavour to evade the question, but you dare not attempt an open contradiction. I have often made inquiries of Highlanders on this point, and the number above stated was the highest estimate. Many who should know, state to me that your lordship would not get fifty followers from the whole estates; and another says:—‘Why, he would not get half-a-dozen, and not one of them unless they could not possibly do otherwise.’ This, then, is the position of the question: in 1793-4, there was such a numerous, hardy, and industrious population on the Breadalbane[247] estates, that there could be spared of valorous defenders of their country in her hour of danger, 1600; highest estimate now, 150; highest banished, 1450. Per contra—Game of all sorts increased a hundred-fold.”

In 1831, Glenorchy, of which his lordship of Breadalbane was proprietor, was 1806; in 1841 it was reduced to 831. Those best acquainted with the Breadalbane estates assert that on the whole property no less than 500 families, or about 2500 souls, were driven into exile by the hard-hearted Marquis of that day.

It is, however, gratifying to know that the present Lord Breadalbane, who is descended from a different and remote branch of the family, is an excellent landlord, and takes an entirely different view of his duties and relationship to the tenants on his vast property.



The late Rev. Dr. Maclachlan, Edinburgh, wrote a series of articles in the Witness, during its palmy days under the editorship of Hugh Miller. These were afterwards published in 1849, under the title of “The Depopulation System of the Highlands,” in pamphlet form, by Johnston and Hunter. The rev. author visited all the places to which he refers. He says:—

“A complete history of Highland clearances would, we doubt not, both interest and surprise the British public. Men talk of the Sutherland clearings as if they stood alone amidst the atrocities of the system; but those who know fully the facts of the case can speak with as much truth of the Ross-shire clearings, the Inverness-shire clearings, the Perthshire clearings, and, to some extent, the Argyllshire clearings. The earliest of these was the great clearing on the Glengarry estate, towards, we believe, the latter end of the last century. The tradition among the Highlanders is (and some Gaelic poems composed at the time would go to confirm it), that the chief’s[248] lady had taken umbrage at the clan. Whatever the cause might have been, the offence was deep, and could only be expiated by the extirpation of the race. Summonses of ejection were served over the whole property, even on families the most closely connected with the chief; and if we now seek for the Highlanders of Glengarry, we must search on the banks of the St. Lawrence.

“To the westward of Glengarry lies the estate of Lochiel—a name to which the imperishable poetry of Campbell has attached much interest. It is the country of the brave clan Cameron, to whom, were there nothing to speak of but their conduct at Waterloo, Britain owes a debt. Many of our readers have passed along Loch Lochy, and they have likely had the mansion of Auchnacarry pointed out to them, and they have been told of the Dark Mile, surpassing, as some say, the Trossachs in romantic beauty; but perhaps they were not aware that beyond lies the wide expanse of Loch Arkaig, whose banks have been the scene of a most extensive clearing. There was a day when three hundred able, active men could have been collected from the shores of this extensive inland loch; but eviction has long ago rooted them out, and nothing is now to be seen but the ruins of their huts, with the occasional bothy of a shepherd, while their lands are held by one or two farmers from the borders.

“Crossing to the south of the great glen, we may begin with Glencoe. How much of its romantic interest does this glen owe to its desolation? Let us remember, however, that the desolation, in a large part of it, is the result of the extrusion of the inhabitants. Travel eastward, and the footprints of the destroyer cannot be lost sight of. Large tracks along the Spean and its tributaries are a wide waste. The southern bank of Loch Lochy is almost without inhabitants, though the symptoms of former occupancy are frequent.

“When we enter the country of the Frasers, the same spectacle presents itself—a desolate land. With the exception of the miserable village of Fort-Augustus the native population is almost extinguished,[249] while those who do remain are left as if, by their squalid misery, to make darkness the more visible. Across the hills, in Stratherrick, the property of Lord Lovat, with the exception of a few large sheep farmers, and a very few tenants, is one wide waste. To the north of Loch Ness, the territory of the Grants, both Glenmoriston and the Earl of Seafield, presents a pleasing feature amidst the sea of desolation. But beyond this, again, let us trace the large rivers of the east coast to their sources.

“Trace the Beauly through all its upper reaches, and how many thousands upon thousands of acres, once peopled, are, as respects human beings, a wide wilderness! The lands of the Chisholm have been stripped of their population down to a mere fragment; the possessors of those of Lovat have not been behind with their share of the same sad doings. Let us cross to the Conon and its branches, and we will find that the chieftains of the Mackenzies have not been less active in extermination. Breadalbane and Rannoch, in Perthshire, have a similar tale to tell, vast masses of the population having been forcibly expelled. The upper portions of Athole have also suffered, while many of the valleys along the Spey and its tributaries are without an inhabitant, if we except a few shepherds. Sutherland, with all its atrocities, affords but a fraction of the atrocities that have been perpetrated in following out the ejectment system of the Highlands. In truth, of the habitable portion of the whole country but a small part is now really inhabited. We are unwilling to weary our readers by carrying them along the west coast from the Linnhe Loch, northwards; but if they inquire, they will find that the same system has been, in the case of most of the estates, relentlessly pursued.

“These are facts of which, we believe, the British public know little, but they are facts on which the changes should be rung until they have listened to them and seriously considered them. May it not be that part of the guilt is theirs, who might, yet did not, step forward to stop such cruel and unwise proceedings?

“Let us leave the past, however” he continues, “and consider the present. And it is a melancholy reflection[250] that the year 1849 has added its long list to the roll of Highland ejectments. While the law is banishing its tens for terms of seven or fourteen years, as the penalty of deep-dyed crimes, irresponsible and infatuated power is banishing its thousands for life for no crime whatever. This year brings forward, as leader in the work of expatriation, the Duke of Argyll. Is it possible that his vast possessions are over-densely peopled? “Credat Judæus appelles.” And the Highland Destitution Committee co-operate. We had understood that the large sums of money at their disposal had been given them for the purpose of relieving, and not of banishing, the destitute. Next we have Mr. Baillie of Glenelg, professedly at their own request, sending five hundred souls off to America. Their native glen must have been made not a little uncomfortable for these poor people, ere they could have petitioned for so sore a favour. Then we have Colonel Gordon expelling upwards of eighteen hundred souls from South Uist; Lord Macdonald follows with a sentence of banishment against six or seven hundred of the people of North Uist, with a threat, as we learn, that three thousand are to be driven from Skye next season; and Mr. Lillingston of Lochalsh, Maclean of Ardgour, and Lochiel, bring up the rear of the black catalogue, a large body of people having left the estates of the two latter, who, after a heart-rending scene of parting with their native land, are now on the wide sea on their way to Australia. Thus, within the last three or four months, considerably upwards of three thousand of the most moral and loyal of our people—people who, even in the most trying circumstances, never required a soldier, seldom a policeman, among them, to maintain the peace—are driven forcibly away to seek subsistence on a foreign soil.”

Writing in 1850, on more “Recent Highland Evictions,” the same author says:—

“The moral responsibility for these transactions lies in a measure with the nation, and not merely with the individuals immediately concerned in them. Some years ago the fearful scenes that[251] attended the slave trade were depicted in colours that finally roused the national conscience, and the nation gave its loud, indignant, and effective testimony against them. The tearing of human beings, with hearts as warm, and affections as strong as dwell in the bosom of the white man, from their beloved homes and families—the packing them into the holds of over-crowded vessels, in the burning heat of the tropics—the stifling atmosphere, the clanking chain, the pestilence, the bodies of the dead corrupting in the midst of the living—presented a picture which deeply moved the national mind; and there was felt to be guilt, deep-dyed guilt, and the nation relieved itself by abolishing the traffic. And is the nation free of guilt in this kind of white-slave traffic that is now going on—this tearing of men whether they will or not, from their country and kindred—this crowding them into often foul and unwholesome vessels with the accompanying deaths of hundreds whose eyes never rest on the land to which they are driven. Men may say that they have rights in the one case that they have not in the other. Then we say that they are rights into whose nature and fruits we would do well to enquire, lest it be found that the rude and lawless barbarism of Africa, and the high and boasted civilisation of Britain, land us in the same final results.... It is to British legislation that the people of the Highlands owe the relative position in which they stand to their chiefs. There was a time when they were strangers to the feudal system which prevailed in the rest of the kingdom. Every man among them sat as free as his chief. But by degrees the power of the latter, assisted by Saxon legislation, encroached upon the liberty of the former. Highland chiefs became feudal lords—the people were robbed to increase their power—and now we are reaping the fruits of this in recent evictions.”

At a meeting of the Inverness, Ross, and Nairn Club, in Edinburgh, in 1877, the venerable Doctor referred to the same sad subject amid applause and expressions of regret. We extract the following from a report of the meeting which appeared at the time in the Inverness Courier:—

“The current that ran against their language seemed to[252] be rising against the people themselves. The cry seemed to be, Do away with the people: this is the shorthand way of doing away with the language. He reminded them of the saying of a queen, that she would turn Scotland into a hunting field, and of the reply of a Duke of Argyll it is time for me to make my hounds ready, and said he did not know whether there was now an Argyll who would make the same reply. But there were other folks—less folks than queens—who had gone pretty deep in the direction indicated by this queen. He would not say it was not a desirable thing to see Highlanders scattered over the earth—they were greatly indebted to them in their cities and the colonies; but he wished to preserve their Highland homes, from which the colonies and large cities derived their very best blood. Drive off the Highlander and destroy his home, and you destroy that which had produced some of the best and noblest men who filled important positions throughout the empire. In the interests of great cities, as a citizen of Edinburgh, he desired to keep the Highlanders in their own country, and to make them as comfortable as possible. He only wished that some of the Highland proprietors could see their way to offer sections of the land for improvement by the people, who were quite as able to improve the land in their own country as to improve the great forests of Canada. He himself would rather to-morrow begin to cultivate an acre in any habitable part of the Highlands of Scotland than to begin to cultivate land such as that on which he had seen thousands of them working in the forests of Canada. What had all this to do with Celtic Literature? Dr. Maclachlan replied that the whole interest which Celtic Literature had to him was connected with the Celtic people, and if they destroyed the Celtic people, his entire interest in their literature perished. They had been told the other day that this was sentiment, and that there were cases in which sentiment was not desirable. He agreed with this so far; but he believed that when sentiment was driven out of a Highlander the best part of him was driven out, for it ever had a strong place among mountain people.[253] He himself had a warm patriotic feeling, and he grieved whenever he saw a ruined house in any of their mountain glens. And ruined homes and ruined villages he, alas! had seen—villages on fire—the hills red with burning homes. He never wished to see this sorry sight again. It was a sad, a lamentable sight, for he was convinced the country had not a nobler class of people than the Highland people, or a set of people better worth preserving.”


Mr. Robert Brown, Sheriff-Substitute of the Western District of Inverness-shire, in 1806, wrote a pamphlet of 120 pages, now very scarce, entitled, “Strictures and Remarks on the Earl of Selkirk’s ‘Observations on the Present State of the Highlands of Scotland,’” Sheriff Brown was a man of keen observation, and his work is a powerful argument against the forced depopulation of the country. Summing up the number who left from 1801 to 1803, he says:—

“In the year 1801, a Mr. George Dennon, from Pictou, carried out two cargoes of emigrants from Fort William to Pictou, consisting of about seven hundred souls. A vessel sailed the same season from Isle Martin with about one hundred passengers, it is believed, for the same place. No more vessels sailed that year; but in 1802, eleven large ships sailed with emigrants to America. Of these, four were from Fort William, one from Knoydart, one from Isle Martin, one from Uist, one from Greenock. Five of these were bound for Canada, four for Pictou, and one for Cape Breton. The only remaining vessel, which took a cargo of people in Skye, sailed for Wilmington, in the United States. In the year 1803, exclusive of Lord Selkirk’s transport, eleven cargoes of emigrants went from the North Highlands. Of these, four were from the Moray Firth, two from Ullapool, three from Stornoway, and two from Fort William. The whole of these cargoes were bound for the British settlements, and most of them were discharged at Pictou.”


Soon after, several other vessels sailed from the North West Highlands with emigrants, the whole of whom were for the British Colonies. In addition to these, Lord Selkirk took out 250 from South Uist in 1802, and in 1803 he sent out to Prince Edward Island about 800 souls, in three different vessels, most of whom were from the Island of Skye, and the remainder from Ross-shire, North Argyll, the interior of the County of Inverness, and the Island of Uist. In 1804, 1805, and 1806, several cargoes of Highlanders left Mull, Skye, and other Western Islands, for Prince Edward Island and other North American Colonies. Altogether, not less than 10,000 souls left the West Highlands and Isles during the first six years of the present century, a fact which will now appear incredible.


Sir Walter Scott writes:—“In too many instances the Highlands have been drained, not of their superfluity of population, but of the whole mass of the inhabitants, dispossessed by an unrelenting avarice, which will be one day found to have been as shortsighted as it is unjust and selfish. Meantime, the Highlands may become the fairy ground for romance and poetry, or the subject of experiment for the professors of speculation, political and economical. But if the hour of need should come—and it may not, perhaps, be far distant—the pibroch may sound through the deserted region, but the summons will remain unanswered.”


M. Michelet, the great Continental historian, writes:—“The Scottish Highlanders will ere long disappear from the face of the earth; the mountains are daily depopulating; the great estates have ruined the land of the Gael, as they did ancient Italy. The Highlander will ere long exist only in the romances of Walter Scott. The tartan and the claymore excite surprise in the streets of Edinburgh; the[255] Highlanders disappear—they emigrate—their national airs will ere long be lost, as the music of the Eolian harp when the winds are hushed.”


In his work on the Nationalisation of Land, Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace, in the chapter on “Landlordism in Scotland,” says to the English people:—

“The facts stated in this chapter will possess, I feel sure, for many Englishmen, an almost startling novelty; the tale of oppression and cruelty they reveal reads like one of those hideous stories peculiar to the dark ages, rather than a simple record of events happening upon our own land and within the memory of the present generation. For a parallel to this monstrous power of the landowner, under which life and property are entirely at his mercy, we must go back to mediæval, or to the days when serfdom not having been abolished, the Russian noble was armed with despotic authority; while the more pitiful results of this landlord tyranny, the wide devastation of cultivated lands, the heartless burning of houses, the reckless creation of pauperism and misery, out of well-being and contentment, could only be expected under the rule of Turkish Sultans or greedy and cruel Pashas. Yet these cruel deeds have been perpetrated in one of the most beautiful portions of our native land. They are not the work of uncultured barbarians or of fanatic Moslems, but of so-called civilised and Christian men; and—worst feature of all—they are not due to any high-handed exercise of power beyond the law, but are strictly legal, are in many cases the acts of members of the Legislature itself, and, notwithstanding that they have been repeatedly made known for at least sixty years past, no steps have been taken, or are even proposed to be taken, by the Legislature to prevent them for the future! Surely it is time that the people of England should declare that such things shall no longer exist—that the rich shall no longer have such legal power to oppress the poor—that[256] the land shall be free for all who are willing to pay a fair value for its use—and, as this is not possible under landlordism, that landlordism shall be abolished....

“The general results of the system of modern landlordism in Scotland are not less painful than the hardship and misery brought upon individual sufferers. The earlier improvers, who drove the peasants from their sheltered valleys to the exposed sea-coast, in order to make room for sheep and sheep farmers, pleaded erroneously the public benefit as the justification of their conduct. They maintained that more food and clothing would be produced by the new system, and that the people themselves would have the advantage of the produce of the sea as well as that of the land for their support. The result, however, proved them to be mistaken, for henceforth the cry of Highland destitution began to be heard, culminating at intervals into actual famines, like that of 1836-37, when £70,000 were distributed to keep the Highlanders from death by starvation. ... just as in Ireland, there was abundance of land capable of cultivation, but the people were driven to the coast and to the towns to make way for sheep, and cattle, and lowland farmers; and when the barren and inhospitable tracts allotted to them became overcrowded, they were told to emigrate. As the Rev. J. Macleod says:—“By the clearances one part is depopulation and the other overpopulated; the people are gathered into villages where there is no steady employment for them, where idleness has its baneful influence and lands them in penury and want.

“The actual effect of this system of eviction and emigration—of banishing the native of the soil and giving it to the stranger—is shown in the steady increase of poverty indicated by the amount spent for the relief of the poor having increased from less than £300,000 in 1846 to more than £900,000 now; while in the same period the population has only increased from 2,770,000 to 3,627,000, so that pauperism has grown about nine times faster than population!... The fact that a whole population could be driven from their homes like cattle at the[257] will of a landlord, and that the Government which taxed them, and for whom they freely shed their blood on the battle-field, neither would nor could protect them from cruel interference with their personal liberty, is surely the most convincing and most absolute demonstration of the incompatibility of landlordism with the elementary rights of a free people.

“As if, however, to prove this still more clearly, and to show how absolutely incompatible with the well-being of the community is modern landlordism, the great lords of the soil in Scotland have for the last twenty years or more been systematically laying waste enormous areas of land for purposes of sport, just as the Norman Conqueror laid waste the area of the New Forest for similar purposes. At the present time, more than two million acres of Scottish soil are devoted to the preservation of deer alone—an area larger than the entire Counties of Kent and Surrey combined. Glen Tilt Forest includes 100,000 acres; the Black Mount is sixty miles in circumference; and Ben Alder Forest is fifteen miles long by seven broad. On many of these forests there is the finest pasture in Scotland, while the valleys would support a considerable population of small farmers, yet all this land is devoted to the sport of the wealthy, farms being destroyed, houses pulled down, and men, sheep, and cattle all banished to create a wilderness for the deer-stalkers! At the same time the whole people of England are shut out from many of the grandest and most interesting scenes of their native land, gamekeepers and watchers forbidding the tourist or naturalist to trespass on some of the wildest Scotch mountains.

“Now, when we remember that the right to a property in these unenclosed mountains was most unjustly given to the representatives of the Highland chiefs little more than a century ago, and that they and their successors have grossly abused their power ever since, it is surely time to assert those fundamental maxims of jurisprudence which state that—“No man can have a vested right in the misfortunes and woes of his country,” and that “the Sovereign ought not to allow either communities or pri[258]vate individuals to acquire large tracts of land in order to leave it uncultivated.” If the oft-repeated maxim that “property has its duties as well as its rights” is not altogether a mockery, then we maintain that in this case the total neglect of all the duties devolving on the owners of these vast tracts of land affords ample reason why the State should take possession of them for the public benefit. A landlord government will, of course, never do this till the people declare unmistakably that it must be done. To such a government the rights of property are sacred, while those of their fellow-citizens are of comparatively little moment; but we feel sure that when the people fully know and understand the doings of the landlords of Scotland, the reckless destruction of homesteads, and the silent sufferings of the brave Highlanders, they will make their will known, and, when they do so, that will must soon be embodied into law.”

After quoting the opinion of the Rev. Dr. John Kennedy of Dingwall, given at length on other pages, Mr. Wallace next quotes from an article in the Westminster Review, in 1868. “The Gaels,” this writer says, “rooted from the dawn of history on the slopes of the northern mountains, have been thinned out and thrown away like young turnips too thickly planted. Noble gentlemen and noble ladies have shown a flintiness of heart and a meanness of detail in carrying out their clearings, upon which it is revolting to dwell; and after all, are the evils of over-population cured? Does not the disease still spring up under the very torture of the knife? Are not the crofts slowly and silently taken at every opportunity out of the hands of the peasantry? When a Highlander has to leave his hut there is now no resting-place for him save the cellars or attics of the closes of Glasgow, or some other large centre of employment; it has been noticed that the poor Gael is even more liable than the Irishman to sink under the debasement in which he is then immersed.” The same writer holds:—“No error could be grosser than that of reviewing the chiefs as unlimited proprietors not only of the land, but of the whole territory of the mountain, lake, river, and sea-shore,[259] held and won during hundreds of years by the broad swords of the clansmen. Could any Maclean admit, even in a dream, that his chief could clear Mull of all the Macleans and replace them with Campbells; or the Mackintosh people his lands with Macdonalds, and drive away his own race, any more than Louis Napoleon could evict all the population of France and supply their place with English and German colonists?” Yet this very power and right the English Government, in its aristocratic selfishness, bestowed upon the chiefs, when, after the great rebellion of 1745, it took away their privileges of war and criminal jurisdiction, and endeavoured to assimilate them to the nobles and great landowners of England. The rights of the clansmen were left entirely out of consideration.[28]


The following remarks by the celebrated French economist, M. de Lavaleye, will prove interesting. There is no greater living authority on land tenure than this writer, and being a foreigner, his opinions are not open—as the opinions of our own countrymen may be—to the suspicion of political bias or partisanship on a question which is of universal interest all over the world. Referring to land tenure in this country, he says:—

“The dispossession of the old proprietors, transformed by time into new tenants, was effected on a larger scale by the “clearing of estates.” When a lord of the manor, for his own profit, wanted to turn the small holdings into large farms, or into pasturage, the small cultivators were of no use. The proprietors adopted a simple means of getting rid of them; and, by destroying their dwellings, forced them into exile. The classical land of this system is Ireland, or more particularly the Highlands of Scotland.


“It is now clearly established that in Scotland, just as in Ireland, the soil was once the property of the clan or sept. The chiefs of the clan had certain rights over the communal domain; but they were even further from being proprietors than was Louis XIV. from being proprietor of the territory of France. By successive encroachments, however, they transformed their authority of suzerain into a right of private ownership, without even recognising in their old co-proprietors a right of hereditary possession. In a similar way the Zemindars and Talugdars in India were, by the Act of the British Government, transformed into absolute proprietors. Until modern days the chiefs of the clan were interested in retaining a large number of vassals, as their power, and often their security, were only guaranteed by their arms. But when the order was established, and the chiefs—or lords, as they now were—began to reside in the towns, and required large revenues rather than numerous retainers, they endeavoured to introduce large farms and pasturage.

“We may follow the first phases of this revolution, which commences after the last rising under the Pretender, in the works of James Anderson, and James Stuart. The latter tells us that in his time—in the last third of the 18th century—the Highlands of Scotland still presented a miniature picture of the Europe of four hundred years ago. The rent (so he misnames the tribute paid to the chief of the clan) of these lands is very little in comparison with their extent, but if it is regarded relatively to the number of mouths which the farm supports, it will be seen that land in the Scotch Highlands supports perhaps twice as many persons as land of the same value in a fertile province. When, in the last thirty years of the 18th century, they began to expel the Gaels, they at the same time forbade them to emigrate to a foreign country, so as to compel them by these means to congregate in Glasgow and other manufacturing towns.

“In his observations on Smith’s Wealth of Nations, published in 1814, David Buchanan gives us an idea of the progress made by the clearing of estates. ‘In the Highlands,’ he says, ‘the landed proprietor, without regard to the[261] hereditary tenants’ (he wrongly applies this term to the clansmen who were joint proprietors of the soil), ‘offers the land to the highest bidder, who, if he wishes to improve the cultivation, is anxious for nothing but the introduction of a new system. The soil, dotted with small peasant proprietors, was formerly well populated in proportion to its natural fertility. The new system of improved agriculture and increased rents demands the greatest net profit with the least possible outlay, and with this object the cultivators are got rid of as being of no further use. Thus cast from their native soil, they go to seek their living in the manufacturing towns.’

“George Ensor, in a work published in 1818, says:—They (the landed proprietors of Scotland) dispossessed families as they would grub up coppice-wood, and they treated the villages and their people as Indians harassed with wild beasts do in their vengeance a jungle with tigers.... Is it credible, that in the 18th century, in this missionary age, in this Christian era, man shall be bartered for a fleece or a carcase of mutton—nay, held cheaper?... Why, how much worse is it than the intention of the Moguls, who, when they had broken into the northern provinces of China, proposed in Council to exterminate the inhabitants, and convert the land into pasture? This proposal many Highland proprietors have effected in their own country against their own countrymen.

“M. de Sismondi has rendered celebrated on the Continent the famous clearing executed between 1814 and 1820 by the Duchess of Sutherland. More than three thousand families were driven out; and 800,000 acres of land, which formerly belonged to the clan, were transformed into seignorial domain. Men were driven out to make room for sheep. The sheep are now replaced by deer, and the pastures converted into deer forests, which are treeless solitudes. The Economist of June 2, 1866, said on this subject:—Feudal instincts have as full career now as in the time when the Conqueror destroyed thirty-six villages to make the New Forest. Two millions of acres, comprising most fertile land, have been[262] changed into desert. The natural herbage in Glen Tilt was known as the most succulent in Perth; the deer forest of Ben Alder was the best natural meadow of Badenoch; the forest of Black Mount was the best pasturage in Scotland for black-woolled sheep. The soil thus sacrificed for the pleasures of the chase extends over an area larger than the county of Perth. The land in the new Ben Alder forest supported 15,000 sheep; and this is but the thirtieth part of the territory sacrificed, and thus rendered as unproductive as if it were buried in the depths of the sea.

“The destruction of small property is still going on, no longer, however, by encroachment, but by purchase. Whenever land comes into the market it is bought by some rich capitalist, because the expenses of legal inquiry are too great for a small investment. Thus, large properties are consolidated, and fall, so to speak, into mortmain, in consequence of the law of primogeniture and entails. In the 15th century, according to Chancellor Fortescue, England was quoted throughout Europe for its number of proprietors and the comfort of its inhabitants. In 1688, Gregory King estimates that there were 180,000 proprietors, exclusive of 16,560 proprietors of noble rank. In 1786 there were 250,000 proprietors of England. According to the “Domesday Book” of 1876, there were 170,000 rural proprietors in England owning above an acre; 21,000 in Ireland, and 8000 in Scotland. A fifth of the entire country is in the hands of 523 persons. Are you aware, said Mr. Bright, in a speech delivered at Birmingham, August 27, 1866, that one-half of the soil of Scotland belongs to ten or twelve persons? Are you aware of the fact that the monopoly of landed property is continually increasing and becoming more and more exclusive?

“In England, then, as at Rome, large property has swallowed up small property, in consequence of a continuous evolution unchecked from the beginning to the end of the nation’s history; and the social order seems to be threatened just as in the Roman Empire.

“An ardent desire for a more equal division of the pro[263]duce of labour inflames the labouring classes, and passes from land to land. In England, it arouses agitation among the industrial classes, and is beginning to invade the rural districts. It obviously menaces landed property as constituted in this country. The labourers who till the soil will claim their share in it; and, if they fail to obtain it here, will cross the sea in search of it. To retain a hold on them they must be given a vote; and there is fresh danger in increasing the number of electors while that of proprietors diminishes, and maintaining laws which renders inequality greater and more striking, while ideas of equality are assuming more formidable sway. To make the possession of the soil a closed monopoly and to augment the political powers of the class who are rigidly excluded, is at once to provoke levelling measures and to facilitate them. Accordingly we find that England is the country where the scheme of the nationalisation of the land finds most adherents, and is most widely proclaimed. The country which is furthest from the primitive organisations of property is likewise the one where the social order seems most menaced.”


In a speech delivered at Inverness, on 18th September, 1885, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain said:—

“The history of the Highland clearances is a black page in the account with private ownership in land, and if it were to form a precedent, if there could be any precedent for wrong-doing, if the sins of the fathers ought to be visited upon the children, we should have an excuse for more drastic legislation than any which the wildest reformer has ever proposed. Thousands of industrious, hard-working, God-fearing people were driven from the lands which had belonged to their ancestors, and which for generations they had cultivated; their houses were unroofed and destroyed, they were turned out homeless and forlorn, exposed to the inclemency of the winter season, left to perish on the hillsides or to swell the full flood of misery and destitution in the cities to which they[264] were driven for refuge. In some cases the cruel kindness of their landlords provided the means of emigration—in some cases they were actually driven abroad. They suffered greatly in foreign countries, being unprovided with the means of sustaining themselves until they could earn a livelihood, but the descendants of those who survived have contributed in no mean degree to the prosperity of the countries in which they finally settled. Those who remained behind had, I am afraid, little cause to be grateful for the consideration which was shown to them. In the course of years they were deprived of all the advantages which they had previously enjoyed. They had never had legal security of tenure, and they were transferred from their original holdings in the glens and straths, which at one time resounded with their industry, and they were placed out upon barren patches on the sea-shore where it was impossible for the most exacting toil and industry to obtain a subsistence. The picture that I have drawn was no doubt relieved in some cases by the exceptional generosity and kindness of particular proprietors, but, speaking generally, I think it is the fact that the Highland country was to a considerable extent depopulated by those clearances. The general condition of the people suffered, and it has gone on deteriorating until it has become at last a matter of national concern. If I am correct in the statement in which I have endeavoured to summarise what I have read, and learned upon this subject, I ask you whether it is not time that we should submit to careful examination and review a system which places such vast powers for evil in the hands of irresponsible individuals, and which makes the possession of land not a trust but a means of extortion and exaction?”

By Alexander MACKENZIE.

The reader is already acquainted with the misery endured by those evicted from Barra and South Uist by[265] Colonel Gordon, after their arrival in Canada. This was no isolated case. We shall here give a few instances of the unspeakable suffering of those pioneers who left so early as 1773, in the ship Hector, for Pictou, Nova Scotia, gathered from trustworthy sources during the writer’s late visit to that country. The Hector was owned by two men, Pagan and Witherspoon, who bought three shares of land in Pictou, and they engaged a Mr. John Ross as their agent, to accompany the vessel to Scotland, to bring out as many colonists as could be induced, by misrepresentation and falsehoods, to leave their homes. They offered a free passage, a farm, and a year’s free provisions to their dupes. On his arrival in Scotland, Ross drew a glowing picture of the land and other manifold advantages of the country to which he was enticing the people.

The Highlanders knew nothing of the difficulties awaiting them in a land covered over with a dense unbroken forest; and, tempted by the prospect of owning splendid farms of their own, they were imposed upon by his promise, and many of them agreed to accompany him across the Atlantic and embraced his proposals. Calling first at Greenock, three families and five single young men joined the vessel at that port. She then sailed to Lochbroom, in Ross-shire, where she received 33 families and 25 single men, the whole of her passengers numbering about 200 souls. This band, in the beginning of July, 1773, bade a final farewell to their native land, not a soul on board having ever crossed the Atlantic except a single sailor and John Ross, the agent. As they were leaving, a piper came on board who had not paid his passage; the captain ordered him ashore, but the strains of the national instrument affected those on board so much that they pleaded to have him allowed to accompany them, and offered to share their own rations with him in exchange for his music during the passage. Their request was granted, and his performances aided in no small degree to cheer the noble band of pioneers in their long voyage of eleven weeks, in a miserable hulk, across the Atlantic.


The pilgrim band kept up their spirits as best they could by song, pipe-music, dancing, wrestling, and other amusements, through the long and painful voyage. The ship was so rotten that the passengers could pick the wood out of her sides with their fingers. They met with a severe gale off the Newfoundland coast, and were driven back by it so far that it took them about fourteen days to get back to the point at which the storm met them. The accommodation was wretched, smallpox and dysentry broke out among the passengers. Eighteen of the children died, and were committed to the deep amidst such anguish and heart-rending agony as only a Highlander can understand. Their stock of provisions became almost exhausted, the water became scarce and bad; the remnant of provisions left consisted mainly of salt meat, which, from the scarcity of water, added greatly to their sufferings. The oatcake carried by them became mouldy, so that much of it had been thrown away before they dreamt of having such a long passage. Fortunately for them, one of the passengers, Hugh Macleod, more prudent than the others, gathered up the despised scraps into a bag, and during the last few days of the voyage his fellows were too glad to join him in devouring this refuse to keep souls and bodies together.

At last the Hector dropped anchor in the harbour, opposite where the town of Pictou now stands. Though the Highland dress was then proscribed at home, this emigrant band carried theirs along with them, and, in celebration of their arrival, many of the younger men donned their national dress—to which a few of them were able to add the sgian dubh and the claymore—while the piper blew up his pipes with might and main, its thrilling tones, for the first time, startling the denizens of the endless forest, and its echoes resounding through the wild solitude. Scottish emigrants are admitted upon all hands to have given its backbone of moral and religious strength to the Province, and to those brought over from the Highlands in this vessel is due the honour of being in the forefront—the pioneers and vanguard.

But how different was the reality to the expectations of[267] these poor creatures, led by the plausibility of the emigration agent, to expect free estates on their arrival.

The whole scene, as far as the eye could see, was a dense forest. They crowded on the deck to take stock of their future home, and their hearts sank within them. They were landed without the provisions promised, without shelter of any kind, and were only able by the aid of those few before them, to erect camps of the rudest and most primitive description, to shelter their wives and their children from the elements. Their feelings of disappointment were most bitter, when they compared the actual facts with the free farms and the comfort promised them by the lying emigration agent. Many of them sat down in the forest and wept bitterly; hardly any provisions were possessed by the few who were before them, and what there was among them was soon devoured; making all—old and new comers—almost destitute. It was now too late to raise any crops that year. To make matters worse they were sent some three miles into the forest, so that they could not even take advantage with the same ease of any fish that might be caught in the harbour. The whole thing appeared an utter mockery. To unskilled men the work of clearing seemed hopeless; they were naturally afraid of the Red Indian and of the wild beasts of the forest; without roads or paths, they were frightened to move for fear of getting lost.

Can we wonder that, in such circumstances, they refused to settle on the company’s lands? though, in consequence, when provisions arrived, the agents refused to give them any. Ross and the company quarrelled, and he ultimately left the newcomers to their fate. The few of them who had a little money bought what provisions they could from the agents, while others, less fortunate, exchanged their clothes for food; but the greater number had neither money nor clothes to spend or exchange, and they were all soon left quite destitute. Thus driven to extremity, they determined to have the provisions retained by the agents, right or wrong, and two of them went to claim them. They were positively refused, but they determined to take what they could by force.[268] They seized the agents, tied them, took their guns from them, which they hid at a distance; told them that they must have the food for their families, but that they were quite willing and determined to pay for them if ever they were able to do so. They then carefully weighed or measured the various articles, took account of what each man received and left, except one, the latter, a powerful and determined fellow, who was left behind to release the two agents. This he did, after allowing sufficient time for his friends to get to a safe distance, when he informed the prisoners where they could find their guns. Intelligence was sent to Halifax that the Highlanders were in rebellion, from whence orders were sent to a Captain Archibald in Truro, to march his company of militia to suppress and pacify them; but to his honour be it said, he, point blank, refused, and sent word that he would do no such thing. “I know the Highlanders,” he said, “and if they are fairly treated there will be no trouble with them.” Finally, orders were given to supply them with provisions, and Mr. Paterson, one of the agents, used afterwards to say that the Highlanders who arrived in poverty, and who had been so badly treated, had paid him every farthing with which he had trusted them.

It would be tedious to describe the sufferings which they afterwards endured. Many of them left. Others, fathers, mothers, and children, bound themselves away, as virtual slaves, in other settlements, for mere subsistence. Those who remained lived in small huts, covered only with the bark of branches of trees to shelter them from the bitter winter cold, of the severity of which they had no previous conception. They had to walk some eighty miles, through a trackless forest, in deep snow to Truro, to obtain a few bushels of potatoes, or a little flour in exchange for their labour, dragging these back all the way again on their backs, and endless cases of great suffering from actual want occurred. The remembrance of these terrible days sank deep into the minds of that generation, and long after, even to this day, the narration of the scenes and cruel hardships through which they had[269] to pass beguiled, and now beguiles many a winter’s night as they sit by their now comfortable firesides.

In the following spring they set to work. They cleared some of the forest, and planted a larger crop. They learned to hunt the moose, a kind of large deer. They began to cut timber, and sent a cargo of it from Pictou—the first of a trade very profitably and extensively carried on ever since. The population had, however, grown less than it was before their arrival; for in this year it amounted only to 78 persons. One of the modes of laying up a supply of food for the winter was to dig up a large quantity of clams or large oysters, pile them in large heaps on the sea-shore, and then cover them over with sand, though they were often, in winter, obliged to cut through ice more than a foot thick to get at them. This will give a fair idea of the hardships experienced by the earlier emigrants to these Colonies.

In Prince Edward Island, however, a colony from Lockerbie, in Dumfriesshire, who came out in 1774, seemed to have fared even worse. They commenced operations on the Island with fair prospects of success, when a plague of locusts, or field mice, broke out, and consumed everything, even the potatoes in the ground; and for eighteen months the settlers experienced all the miseries of a famine, having for several months only what lobsters or shell-fish they could gather from the sea-shore. The winter brought them to such a state of weakness that they were unable to convey food a reasonable distance even when they had means to buy it.

In this pitiful position they heard that the Pictou people were making progress that year, and that they had even some provisions to spare. They sent one of their number to make enquiry. An American settler, when he came to Pictou, brought a few slaves with him, and at this time he had just been to Truro to sell one of them, and brought home some provisions with the proceeds of the sale of his negro. The messenger from Prince Edward Island was putting up at this man’s house. He was a bit of a humorist, and continued cheerful in spite of all his troubles. On his return to the Island, the people[270] congregated to hear the news. “What kind of place is Pictou?” enquired one. “Oh, an awful place. Why, I was staying with a man who was just eating the last of his niggers;” and the poor creatures were reduced to such a point themselves that they actually believed the people of Pictou to be in such a condition as to oblige them to live on the flesh of their coloured servants. They were told, however, that matters were not quite so bad as that, and fifteen families left for the earlier settlement, where, for a time, they fared but very little better, but afterwards became prosperous and happy. A few of their children and thousands of their grandchildren are now living in comfort and plenty.

But who can think of these early hardships and cruel existences without condemning—even hating—the memories of the harsh and heartless Highland and Scottish lairds, who made existence at home even almost as miserable for those noble fellows, and who then drove them in thousands out of their native land, not caring one iota whether they sank in the Atlantic, or were starved to death on a strange and uncongenial soil? Retributive justice demands that posterity should execrate the memories of the authors of such misery and horrid cruelty. It may seem uncharitable to write thus of the dead; but it is impossible to forget their inhuman conduct, though, no thanks to them—cruel tigers in human form—it has turned out for the better, for the descendants of those who were banished to what was then infinitely worse than transportation for the worst crimes. Such criminals were looked after and cared for; but those poor fellows, driven out of their homes by the Highland lairds, and sent across there, were left to starve, helpless, and uncared for. Their descendants are now a prosperous and thriving people, and retribution is at hand. The descendants of the evicted from Sutherland, Ross, Inverness-shires, and elsewhere, to Canada, are producing enormous quantities of food, and millions of cattle, to pour them into this country. What will be the consequence? The sheep farmer—the primary and original cause of the evictions—will be the first to suffer. The[271] price of stock in Scotland must inevitably fall. Rents must follow, and the joint authors of the original iniquity will, as a class, then suffer the natural and just penalty of their past misconduct.


Giving evidence before the Deer Forest Commission of 1892, the late Mr. Æneas R. Macdonell of Camusdarroch, Arisaig, made an interesting statement. After mentioning that he was a member of the Scottish Bar, and had previously been proprietor of Morar, he proceeded:—

I am able to speak generally as to the population there used to be in Arisaig in my young days,—in fact, the whole tract of country seemed to be populated and to have numerous houses on all parts of it; but I want to confine my evidence almost entirely to that portion of the district which is now under deer forest. It is now called Rhu-Arisaig, but 100 years ago it was called Dubh-chamus.

Although I am only seventy-two years of age, I am able to speak of thirty years beyond that, from 1794. My grandfather occupied the various places or townships in Dubh-chamus or Rudha. These were Dubh-chamus, Rhu, Tirnadrish, Torbae, Rhubrec, Tormor, Rhuemoch, Claggan, Portavullid, Bal-ur, Ardgaserie, and Achagarrailt. I am able to speak concerning that period from an old account-book belonging to my grandfather, to which I had access a good many years ago, and it was in connection with a very melancholy occasion in which I was unfortunately implicated, viz., an emigration from the estate of Loch Sheil in Moidart. In that account-book I found thirty-seven names of individuals in the various families who were paying rent, as sub-tenants to my grandfather, Archibald Macdonald, Rudha, Arisaig, who died, I think, in 1828 or 1829. I don’t know where that account-book now is. At that time it was in the possession of my uncle, Macdonald of Loch Sheil; and[272] I may as well mention that it was in connection with Rudha that I came to examine the book.

First I should mention that these people occupied Rhu as cottars, and they had land for which apparently they paid no rent, but worked the land, of which Mr. Macdonald of Rudha cropped a portion. They paid rent for grazing,—a small nominal sum, and he himself paid a very small rent also to the then proprietor, Macdonald of Clanranald. In fact he, as well as Macdonald of Borrodale and Macdonald of Glen Alladale, came into possession of the various lands as being sons of the then Macdonald of Clanranald. They took these lands with the population on them, and occupied them.

The rents were paid to the tenants, to these Macdonalds, at a very small rate, because they themselves were not highly charged.

It so came to pass that in Lord Cranston’s time my uncle, Gregor Macdonald, who then occupied Rudha, had to give a large increase of rent, or be quit of it. Well, he could not under the old system on which he held it afford to give more rent. The consequence was that the farm was taken over him; and the cruel thing was, that he was obliged to remove all the sub-tenants upon it who had been there generations before him or his ancestors. The only thing that he could do was to get his brother Macdonald of Loch Sheil to take the people over to Loch Sheil in Moidart. Times grew black, and the potato famine occurred, and the consequence was that there was a redundant population, for Moidart had previously been well inhabitated, and the addition of so many families from Rudha, Arisaig, quite overwhelmed them when the potato famine occurred.

I was then puzzled to know how many came from Rhu, Arisaig, and I got access in that way to the old books from which I took an extract, and I have here a list of the names of the various people and the portions of Rudha that they occupied. In Ardgaserich there were 12, viz., Lachlan Mackinnon, Donald Roy Macinnes, John Macintyre, John Mackinnon, Patrick Maccormack, Neil Mackinnon, Ronald Macdonald, Mrs. Macdonald,[273] Donald Macvarish, Duncan Macinnes, John Macdonald, and Allan Mackinnon. In Torbae there were 4, viz., Angus Smith, L. Mackinnon, J. Macdonald, John Maciasaac. In Dubh-chamus, ten, viz., John Kinnaird, John Macisaac, Finlay Mackellaig, Archibald Macfarlane, James Macdonald, Widow Maceachan, Patrick Grant, Allan Mackinnon, Dugald Macpherson, and Widow Maclean. In Rudha, 11, viz., Mrs. Donald Macdonald, Donald Macinnes, Roderick Mackinnon, John Maccormack, Rory Smith, Angus Bain Macdonald, Ewan Mackinnon, Peter Macfarlane, Dugald Gillies, Alexander Macleod, Angus Roy Maceachan. These are in all 37, and they are evidently of different families. The rents were given, and the payments made, and everything in connection with their holdings. The date of this is 1794.

I was going on to explain that these people, or rather the descendants of some of them, had to be removed to Moidart, and in the congested state of the estate it had to be considered what was best to be done. I was then a young man. I had just passed at the Bar, and I and the late respected James Macgregor of Fort William were appointed trustees to do what was best. We could see nothing for it,—it was impossible for the people to subsist,—but to assist them to emigrate, and we were assisted very materially in carrying out the emigration by the resident Catholic clergyman of that time, Rev. Ronald Rankine, who indeed followed them. So many of them went to Australia and a few of them to America. But never shall I forget until my dying day,—it is a source of grief to me that I had anything whatsoever to do with that emigration, although, at the same time, God knows I cannot understand how it could have been averted. Many of the people have succeeded well and are well-to-do, but if they had remained, they would have been impoverished themselves, and they would have impoverished the few that are still on the estate.



In his interesting volume entitled Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Gael, Mr. Duncan Campbell, for over twenty-six years editor of the Northern Chronicle, writes as follows with regard to the Breadalbane Evictions:—

As second Marquis, “the son of his father,” contrary to all prognostications, became, as soon as expiring leases permitted it, an evicting landlord on a large scale, and he continued to pursue the policy of joining farm to farm, and turning out native people, to the end of his twenty-eight years’ reign. But like the first spout of the haggis, his first spout of evicting energy was the hottest. I saw with childish sorrow, impotent wrath, and awful wonder at man’s inhumanity to man, the harsh and sweeping Roro and Morenish clearances, and heard much talk about others which were said to be as bad if not worse. A comparison of the census returns for 1831 with those of 1861 will show how the second Marquis reduced the rural population on his large estates, while the inhabitants of certain villages were allowed, or, as at Aberfeldy, encouraged to increase. When such a loud and long-continued outcry took place about the Sutherland clearances, it seems at first sight strange that such small notice was taken by the Press, authors, and contemporary politicians, of the Breadalbane evictions, and that the only set attack on the Marquis should have been left to the vainglorious, blundering, Dunkeld coal merchant, who added the chief-like word “Dunalastair” to his designation. One reason—perchance the chief one—for the Marquis’s immunity was the prominent manner in which he associated himself with the Nonintrusionists, and his subsequently becoming an elder and a liberal benefactor of the Free Church. He had a Presbyterian upbringing, and lived in accordance with that upbringing. His Free Church zeal may, therefore, have been as genuine as he wished it to be believed; but whether simply real or partly[275] simulated, it covered as with a saintly cloak his evictions proceedings in the eyes of those who would have been his loud denouncers and scourging critics had he been an Episcopalian or remained in the Church of Scotland. The people he evicted, and all of us, young and old, who were witnesses of the clearances, could not give him much credit for any good in what seemed to us the purely hard and commercial spirit of the policy which he carried out as the owner of a princely Highland property. Such of the witnesses of the clearances as have lived to see the present desolation of rural baronies on the Breadalbane estates can now charitably assume that, had he foreseen what his land-management policy was to lead up to, he would, at least, have gone about his thinning-out business in a more cautious, kindly, and considerate manner, and not rudely cut, as he did, the precious ties of hereditary mutual sympathy and reliance which had long existed between the lords and the native Highland people of Breadalbane.

It is quite true that in 1834 the population on the Breadalbane estate needed thinning. The old Marquis had made a great mistake in dividing holdings which were too small before, in order to make room for Fencible soldiers who were not, as eldest sons, heirs to existing holdings. In twenty years, congestion to an alarming extent was the natural result of the old man’s mistaken kindness. There was indeed a good deal of congestion before that mistake was committed, although migration and emigration helped to keep it within some limits. Emigration would have proceeded briskly from 1760 onwards had it not been discouraged by landlords who found the fighting manhood on their estates a valuable asset; and when not positively prohibited, emigration was impeded in various ways by the Government, now alive to the value of Highlands and Isles as a nursery of soldiers and sailors. Although discouraged and impeded, emigration was never wholly stopped, and after Waterloo Glenlyon, Fortingall, and Breadalbane, Rannoch, Strathearn and Balquhidder, sent off swarms to Canada, the United States, and the West Indies. A large swarm[276] from Breadalbane, Lochearnhead, and Balquhidder went off to Nova Scotia about 1828, and got Gaelic-speaking ministers to follow them. In 1829 a great number of Skyemen from Lord Macdonald’s estate went to Cape Breton, where Gaelic is the language of the people and pulpit to this day. The second Marquis of Breadalbane would have won for himself lasting glory and honour, and done his race and country valuable service, if he had chosen to place himself at the head of an emigration scheme for his surplus people, instead of merely driving them away, and further trampling on their feelings by letting the big farms he made by clearing out the native population to strangers in race, language, and sympathies. He was rich, childless, and gifted, and he utterly missed his vocation, or grand chance for gaining lasting fame among the children of the Gael.

At a later period of my life than this of which I am now writing, I looked into many kirk session books, and found that those of the parishes of Kenmore and Killin indicated a worse state of matters in Breadalbane than existed in any of the neighbouring parishes. Pauperism was increasing at a rapid rate, although it was a notorious fact that rents there were lower than on other Highland estates. The old Marquis was never a rack-renter. Other proprietors, when leases terminated, took more advantage than he did of a chance to raise rents, and when once raised they strove ever afterwards to keep them up. But I do not wonder that his son thought that if things were allowed to go on as he found them on succeeding to titles and estates, a general bankruptcy would soon be the result. Without ceasing to regret and detest his methods, I learned to see the reasonableness of the second Marquis’s view of the alarming situation. The population had simply outgrown the means of decent subsistence from the carefully cultivated small holdings which were the general rule. Had it not been for the frugality and self-helpfulness of the people, the crisis of general poverty would have come when the inflated war prices ceased, or at least in the short-crop year of 1826, when the corn raised in[277] Breadalbane, although the hillsides were cultivated as far up as any cereal crop could be expected to ripen in the most favourable season, did not supply meal enough for two-thirds of the people. But the “calanas” of the women, especially as long as flax-spinning continued in a flourishing condition, brought in a good deal of money; and for many years “Calum a Mhuilin” (Calum of the Mill), otherwise Malcolm Campbell, road contractor, Killin, led out a host of young men to make roads in various parts of the country, and these returned with their earnings to spend the winter at home. These sources of profit were beginning to dry up when the old Marquis died.

What came of the dispersed? The least adventurous or poorest of them slipped away into the nearest manufacturing town, or mining districts where there was a demand for unskilled labourers. There some of them flourished, but not a few of them foundered. The larger portion of them emigrated to Canada, mainly to the London district of Ontario, where they cleared forest farms, cherished their Gaelic language and traditions, prospered, and hated the Marquis more, perhaps, than he rightly deserved when things were looked at from his own hard political-economy point of view.



Population in 1831, 1841, 1851, 1881, and 1911, of all the Parishes in whole or in part in the County of Perthshire.

Fossoway and Tulliebole1576172416211267805
Lethendy and Kinloch708662556404327
Little Dunkeld28672718215521751945
Monievaird and Strowan926853790700438
St. Madoes327327288316258
St. Martins11351071983741630

Population in 1831, 1841, 1851, 1881, and 1911, of all the parishes in whole or in part in the County of Argyll.

Ardchattan and Muckairn24202264231320052047
Dunoon and Kilmun24162853451880026107
Gigha and Cara534550547382326
Glenorchy and Inishail180683114501705931
Jura and Colonsay2205229119011343843
Kilbrandon and Kilchattan28332602237517671370
Kilcalmonell and Kilberry3488246028592304815
Kilchrenan and Dalavich1096894776504357
Kilfinichen and Kilviceuen38194102305419821403
Killarrow and Kilmeny71057341488227562552
[280]Killean and Kilchenzie28662401221913861019
Kilmore and Kilbride28364327313151427154
Kilninian and Kilmore48304322395425401811
Kilniver and Kilmelford1072970714405392
Knapdale, North258321701666927656
Knapdale, South21371537217825362100
Lismore and Appin43654193409734333279
Lochgoilhead and Kilmorich119611008348701023
Saddell and Skipness2152179815041163964
Small Isles1015993916550396
Strachur and Stralachan10831086915932700
Tiree and Coll57696096481833762214

Population in 1831, 1841, 1851, 1881, and 1911, of all the Parishes in whole or in part in the County of Inverness.

Boleskin and Abertarff18291876200614481791
Daviot and Dunlichity1641168118571252907
Kilmorach (including Beauly)27092694300726181811
Kingussie and Insh20802047220119872199
Moy and Dalarossie10989671018822696
Urquhart and Glenmoriston29423104328024381675
North Uist46034428391842644096
Small Isles1015993916550396
South Uist68907333617360785469

Population in 1831, 1841, 1851, 1881, and 1911, of all the Parishes in whole or in part in the Counties of Ross and Cromarty.

Resolis or Kirkmichael1470154915511424954
Urquhart and Logie-Wester28642997315325252006


Population in 1831, 1841, 1851, 1881, and 1911, of all the Parishes in whole or in part in the County of Caithness.


Population in 1801, 1811, 1821, 1831, 1841, 1851, 1871, 1881, and 1911, of all the Parishes in whole or in part in the County of Sutherland.




NOTE A. (See Page 115.)

The following pertinent observations appeared in the Dundee Advertiser, of 10th January, 1914. They are from the pen of a notable Dundee lawyer, Mr. John Walker, who has made a special study of the legal aspects of the Highland Clearances:—

At the time of Patrick Sellar’s trial the ruthless evictions carried out by the Stafford family had been so long in process of execution that no one had the slightest doubt of the facts of these taking place. The question tried was not whether they took place, but whether they were carried out, in one particular instance, in such a way as to directly cause the death of Donald M’Beath and Janet M’Kay, two helpless, old, bedridden people. The trial took place at Inverness. Of the 15 jurors 8 were landed proprietors, and the rest were mostly either factors or those interested in factors. The most of the witnesses for the prosecution were evidently terrified to say one word against the accused. When Sellar was arrested, he emitted a declaration which was put in evidence at the trial, and, to be strictly fair, I shall confine myself to that. The gist of it is as follows:—In December, 1813, the crofting lands were advertised to let, and at the set, where apparently the lands were disposed of to sheep farmers, a paper was read that the removed tenants would get allotments “in the lower part of the county.” “That Lord and Lady Stafford directed the declarant (Sellar) to offer at the set for any farm he chose a few pounds beyond the highest offerer; and they directed Mr. Young on his so offering to prefer him.” That thus Sellar got possession of the farms of Rhiloisk and Rossal. That in April, 1814, decrees of removing were got against all the tenants on these farms. That[284] the ejections were carried out in June, 1814, and “that his directions to the officers were that they should lawfully eject the tenants, and that after ejecting ... they should remove the roof of every house in Rhimsdale excepting those occupied by families, wherein sickness was mentioned to have been.” That he was present at the first part of the ejections (of the towns of Garvault, Ravigill, Rhiphail, and Rhiloisk), but after they had ejected from a few houses and had unroofed these the tenants of the others “in the neighbourhood yielded obedience to the warrant, and removed themselves.” “Interrogated. If the declarant’s orders to the officer and party were not to throw down the couples and timber of the different dwelling-houses, barns, kilns, and sheep cots? Declares that the declarant directed the officers ... to remove the tenants’ property and effects from the premises; and thereafter to unroof the huts to prevent them from retaking possession after the declarant should leave that part of the county.” Sellar himself admitted burning only in one case. The proceedings from a judicial aspect were largely a farce, as can be judged from the fact that the first evidence adduced for the defence consisted of written certificates from three landed proprietors, who did not appear, as to “Mr. Sellar’s character for humanity,” and that these certificates, although not evidence, were founded on in Lord Pitmilly’s charge to the jury. But the important thing is that Sellar’s declaration implicates Lord and Lady Stafford as being by their own instructions the direct instruments of putting this tyrannical under-factor in the position of rendering homeless some hundreds of their helpless tenants. The little crofts were made into large sheep farms, which were advertised to let to the highest offerer, and the exposure was a farce, because the Sutherland family had personally arranged that Sellar was to be allowed to cap the highest offer. One would require a double-power microscope to see the noble philanthropy of that transaction! I have extracted the above summary from the report of the trial, which was prepared and circulated by Sellar’s own junior counsel.


On the other hand, the stories yet told in Sutherland represent a much harsher state of matters. I personally have talked with men whose fathers were as young children turned out on the hillside to see their little cottages burned to the ground, and I have had pointed out to me the sites of these same cottages and crofts, where now there is nothing but miles and miles of dreary waste; and this did not happen in one or two instances, but in the whole of Strathnaver, Strathbrora, and many other places in all parts of the county.

NOTE B. (See Page 218.)

The following interesting letter has been handed to the Editor by Mr. J. Stewart Bannatyne, solicitor, Glasgow:

Castlebay, Barra.
September 21st, 1912.

“Dear Sir,

“In reply to your letter of the 6th inst., and after consulting the older inhabitants, I beg to inform you that it was John Bannatyne who rescued Mrs. J. M’Kinnon, her sister and another woman, from compulsory emigration, but it was John Crawford who rescued John M’Lean. I know the women and M’Lean as well as I know my two fingers, and heard the whole story from their own lips different times.

“Both my father and mother were eye-witnesses of people being chased like wild cattle over the hills, not in Barra, but in North and South Uists. People can hardly believe now what took place then, and what my mother, who died in my arms at the fall of last year, told me it would be enough to make the devil himself desperate, if I am not using too strong an expression.

“There is a man still living at Mallaig, Inverness-shire, named Ewen M’Dugald, who sailed with John Bannatyne.

“People nowadays are trying to deny that such[286] brutalities were carried out by landlords, but they need not attempt such nonsense. I have no doubt but the descendants of the perpetrators of those acts are ashamed of the deeds—and no wonder.

“Yours faithfully,
Don. M’Aulay.

John Stewart Bannatyne, Esq.,
“Solicitor, Glasgow.”

NOTE C. (See page 234.)

In the Inverness Courier for 11th October, 1837, appears the following:—

A large body of emigrants sailed from Tobermory, on the 27th September, for New South Wales. The vessel was the “Brilliant,” and its size and splendid fittings were greatly admired. “The people to be conveyed by this vessel are decidedly the most valuable that have ever left the shores of Great Britain. They are of excellent moral character, and, from their knowledge of agriculture, and management of sheep and cattle, must prove a most valuable acquisition to a colony like New South Wales.” The Rev. Mr. Macpherson, of Tobermory, preached a farewell sermon before the party sailed. The total number of emigrants was 322, made up as follows:—From Ardnamurchan and Strontian, 105; from Coll and Tiree, 104; from Mull and Iona, 56; from Morven, 25; and from Dunoon, 28. There were two teachers and two surgeons. A visitor from New South Wales presented as many of the party as he met with letters of introduction, and expressed himself highly gratified with the prospect of having so valuable an addition to the colony. A Government agent superintended the embarkation.

Jamieson & Munro, Ltd., Printers, Stirling.


[1] Mackenzie’s Pamphlet, 1881.

[2] Author of “Gloomy Memories,” etc.

[3] “Clearances” had, however, been effected in some parts of Sutherland previous to this period, although to a smaller extent. From along the banks of the river Oykell, for instance, many families were evicted, in the year 1780. (Statement by the Rev. Dr. Aird, of Creich).

[4] “Sketches of the Highlanders.” First edition.

[5] Leading articles on Sutherland as it was and is.

[6] An Account of the Improvements on the Estates of the Marquis of Stafford, by James Kinloch, General Agent of the Sutherland Estates. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, 1820.

[7] “Sunny Memories,” Letter xvii.

[8] From enlarged edition of “Gloomy Memories,” published in Canada in 1857.

[9] Macleod wrote this in 1854.—Ed.

[10] See Note A in Appendices.

[11] The italics are mine.—Ed.

[12] London Times of Tuesday, 20th May, 1845.

[13] By Alexander Mackenzie.

[14] Major W. S. Butler in MacMillan’s Magazine for May, 1878.

[15] See pamphlet published at the time entitled Report on the Leckmelm Evictions, by Alexander Mackenzie, F.S.A., Scot., Editor of the “Celtic Magazine,” and Dean of Guild of Inverness.

[16] Celtic Magazine for July, 1882.

[17] The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire, 1861, pp. 15, 16.

[18] A very full account of these proceedings, written on the spot, appeared at the time in the Inverness Courier, to which we are indebted for the above facts.

[19] See Note B in Appendices.

[20] Quebec Times.

[21] Dundas Warder, 2nd October, 1851.

[22] Leading articles from the Witness.

[23] Compiled partly from evidence submitted to Deer Forest Commission of 1892 (see Minute of Evidence, vol. ii., pp. 884-5 and pp. 912-3), and partly from notes of conversations which the Editor has had with actual witnesses of the incidents described.

[24] See Note C in Appendices.

[25] Reminiscences of a Highland Parish.

[26] Farewell to Fiunary, by Donald Macleod, D.D., in Good Words for August, 1882.

[27] Megantic, by Dugald Mackenzie Mackillop.

[28] Land Nationalisation, its Necessities and Aims; being a Comparison of the System of Landlord and Tenant with that of Occupying Ownership, in their influence on the well-being of the People, by Alfred Russel Wallace, author of “The Malay Archipelago,” “Island Life,” &c. London: Trübner & Co., 1882.

[29] Including 948 military and militia in Fort-George in 1881.

[30] The lands of Helmsdale and others previously in the parish of Loth were, about this time, added to Kildonan, which accounts for this large increase. It also accounts for the decrease in Loth.

[31] Note that Reay is given both in Caithness and Sutherland records same figures. The parish lies one half in each county.

Transcriber's Note

The following apparent errors have been corrected:

The following are used inconsistently in the text:

p. 204 "“When the evicting" has no corresponding closing quotation mark

p. 256 "“By the" has no corresponding closing quotation mark



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