Showing posts with label highland clearances. Show all posts
Showing posts with label highland clearances. Show all posts

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Clearing away the Scots

 "Should the Czar of Russia take possession of these lands next term that we couldn't expect worse treatment at his hands than we have experienced in the hands of your family for the last fifty years." (In 1854 Highland landowners were asked to recruit troops from their tenants to fight in the Crimean War. One retort was the above)

 Fuadaich nan GĂ idheal, the expulsion of the Gael, is a name given to the forced displacement of the population of the Scottish Highlands from their ancient ways of warrior clan subsistence farming, leading to mass emigration from the Highlands to the coast, the Scottish Lowlands, and abroad. This was part of a process of agricultural change throughout the United Kingdom, but the late timing, the lack of legal protection for year-by-year tenants under Scottish law, the abruptness of the change from the clan system and the brutality of many of the evictions gave the Highland Clearances particular notoriety.The Highland Clearances are a notorious part of Scottish history. The Clearances' was not just a hundred or so victims who suffered eviction, but tens of thousands of men, women and children alike, often violently, from their homes to make way for large scale sheep farming. The stories of the Clearances are endless, whether they are individual cases or something that effected whole communities. Although the clearances are associated with the Highlands there were other parts of Scotland which suffered as well, like Argyll and Perthshire, not to the same extent as the likes of Sutherland, but they were cleared never the less. Rural England had already experienced areas of depopulation in the agricultural revolution and the Enclosure Acts, but not to the extent of what the Highlands would experience. Similar developments also began in Scotland in the Lowlands and this Scottish agricultural revolution was changing the face of the Lowlands and transformed the traditional system of subsistence farming into a more productive agricultural system. This also had effects on population and precipitated a migration of Lowlanders. Towards the end of the 18th century ships were leaving from all parts of Scotland with those who were being forced to leave in one way or another.

From the late 16th century the clan-leaders increasingly took up droving, taking cattle to sell in the Lowlands. Increasing demand in Britain for cattle and sheep and the creation of new breeds of sheep, such as the black-faced which could be reared in the mountainous country gave the landowners and Chieftains the opportunity of higher rents to meet the costs of their increasingly aristocratic lifestyle. As a result, many families living on a subsistence level were displaced. Yet despite the emigration, the population of every highland county increased between 1755 and 1821. Population was not the only thing on the way up. Rent was increasing and ordinary people found it more and more difficult to pay. Crofters had become a source of virtually free labour to their landlords, forced to work long hours, for example, in the harvesting and processing of kelp. Burning seaweed produced kelp ash, an alkali source, an important constituent in glassmaking at the end of the 18th century. It was also crucial in the textile industry: mixed with quicklime it was used as a bleach; in soap form it washed wool and, for dying, it was an ingredient in potash. The requirements of shipbuilding led to legislation which prevented wood being burned to produce this so the seaware of the Western Isles became extremely attractive as an economic resource. The kelp, though, did not come from just any seaweed washed ashore, the best sources lay underneath rocks some distance offshore which had to be cut by workers wading out and cutting it with scythes. It was then dragged ashore and dried, before burning, all in all a most labour-intensive activity and a most unpleasant one.To landlords, 'improvement' and 'clearance' did not necessarily mean depopulation. Hard and unpleasant though the work was it was very lucrative for the landlord that is. The wages of the kelp harvester was between £1 and £3 per ton for the entire period from 1790 until the collapse of the industry. It was during this period that fortunes were made by the landlords who “owned” the kelp. During the Napoleonic Wars kelp prices reached £20 per ton. As the entire manufacturing process was carried out by cheap island labour, this constituted pure profit for the landowners. Even the small cost of labour did not really need to be met: the labourers were crofters and either had a requirement to work so many days each year for their landlord or, alternatively, the kelping was deducted from their rent payments. At least until the 1820s, when there were steep falls in the price of kelp, landlords wanted to create pools of cheap or virtually free labour, supplied by families subsisting in new crofting townships. Kelp collection and processing was a very profitable way of using this labour, and landlords petitioned successfully for legislation designed to stop emigration. This took the form of the Passenger Vessels Act passed in 1803. Its net effect was to raise the minimum cost of a passage (Many of the requirements of the 1803 Act were lost in new legislation in 1817 and emigration, which now suited the landlords, was made easier). It was little wonder, then, that landlord after landlord was prepared to subordinate all other land management considerations to the almost unbelievably lucrative business of making and marketing kelp.The landlord to benefit most from this industry was Lord Macdonald of Sleat.

Attitudes changed during the 1820s and for many landlords, the potato famine which began in 1846 became another reason for encouraging or forcing emigration and depopulation. As in Ireland, the potato crop failed in the mid 19th century, and a widespread outbreak of cholera further weakened the Highland population. The ongoing clearance policy resulted in starvation, deaths, and a secondary clearance, when families either migrated voluntarily or were forcibly evicted. There were many deaths of children and old people. As there were few alternatives, many emigrated, joined the British army, or moved to the growing urban cities, like Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee in Scotland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Liverpool in England. In many areas people were given economic incentives to move.

 Landlords of the clan estates removed the local people to make way for sheep. Sheep were given priority over people, but not just any people, for the folk burned out of their homes were the descendants of the clansmen, the native people of the land - the Highlanders,  those who had fought or fell in previous campaigns to preserve their clan identity. Many chiefs engaged Lowland, or sometimes English, factors with expertise in more profitable sheep farming, and they "encouraged", sometimes forcibly, the population to move off the land. 1792, infamously known as the Year of the Sheep, signalled another wave of mass emigration of Scottish Highlanders. The people were accommodated in poor crofts or small farms in coastal areas where farming could not sustain the communities and they were expected to take up fishing. Population fell significantly in some areas, where large numbers of Highlanders relocated to the lowland cities, becoming the labour force for the emerging industrial revolution, many emigrated to other parts of the British Empire, particularly Nova Scotia, Quebec and Upper Canada and later Cape Breton and the Carolinas of the American colonies. 

Karl Marx could accurately write that "The history of the wealth of the Sutherland family is the history of the ruin and of the expropriation of the Scotch-Gaelic population from its native soil." (The Duchess of Sutherland and Slavery )


1724 --25 Anticipating the clearances of the Highland lairds, the gentry of Galloway and Dumfriesshire evict farmers and the tenants who rose and destroyed the stane-dykes and slaughtered cattle. They had already been passive resisters of rent; the military were called in; women were in the forefront of the resistance

1729 -- That good Jacobite, Mackintosh of Borlum, who in 1715 led the Highlanders to Preston, wrote a book recommending enclosures and plantations so a defeat of the Hanovarians would have meant little what took place.

1747 -- The Act of Proscription was introduced which was to ban the wearing of tartan, the teaching of Gaelic, the right of Highlanders to "gather," and the playing of bagpipes in Scotland. The Heritable Jurisdictions Act forced Highland landowners to either accept all English rule or else forfeit their lands. Many Highland landowners and Clan chiefs moved to London. The Act of Proscription is repealedin 1782 , but many Highland landowners, who have been born and raised in London or other metropolitan areas, remain in their urban homes, distancing themselves from the tenant clan members on their lands.

1762 -- Sir John Lockhart-Ross brings sheep to his Balnagowan estate, raises tenant rents, installs fences and Lowlander shepherds.

1782 -- Thomas Gillespie and Henry Gibson lease a sheep-walk at Loch Quoich, removing more than 500 tenants, most of who emigrate to Canada.

1780s  -- Donald Cameron of Lochiel begins clearing his family lands, which span from Loch Leven to Loch Arkaig.

1791 --The Society of the Propagation of Christian Knowledge reports that over the previous 19 years more than 6,400 people emigrated from the Inverness and Ross areas.

1791 -- "The dis-peopling in great measure of large tracts of country in order to make room for sheep is taking place," observes the Reverend Kemp after visiting the Highlands.

1792 -- Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster brings the first Cheviot Sheep to his Caithness estates. These sheep would later be referred to as four-footed Clansmen, indicating the tenants' rage at being removed in favour of animals.

1792  -- Angry tenant farmers drive all the Cheviots in Ross-shire to Boath. The 42nd (Royal Highlanders) Regiment intervenes, and the sheep are returned to Ross-shire.

1800-1813 -- Extensive clearances in Strathglass, Farr, Lairg, Dornoch, Rogart, Loth, Clyne, Gospie, Assynt, and lower Kildonan.

1801 -- The first clearances of the Strathglass area by William, the 24th Chisholm. Nearly 50% of the Clan living there are evicted.

1807  -- Evictions at Farr & Lairg -- the first major Sutherlandshire clearances.

1807  --  The Northern Association of Gentlemen Farmers and Breeders of Sheep agree to move their activities into Ross-shire, Sutherlandshire, and Caithness. This decision would lead to massive clearances in those areas.

1809 -- The Chisholm enacts another large clearance of his lands in Strathglass, advertising to interested sheep-farmers lots holding between 1,000 and 6,000 sheep.

1811 -- More than 50 shepherds are brought into Sutherlandshire and made Justices of the Peace -- thereby giving them legal control over the native tenants.

1813 -- Lord and Lady Stafford, the landowners of Sutherlandshire, hire James Loch to oversee the clearing of their lands.  Lady Stafford writes that she would like to visit her Sutherlandshire estate but: "at present I am uneasy about a sort of mutiny that has broken out in one part of Sutherland, in consequences of our new plans having made it necessary to transplant some of the inhabitants to the sea-coast from other parts of the estate"

1813 -- Nearly 100 tenants of Strath Kildonan emigrate to Canada aboard the Prince of Wales and settle near Lake Winnipeg.

1813 -- Sir George  MacKenzie of Coul writes a book justifying the clearances, citing: "The necessity for reducing the population in order to introduce valuable improvements, and the advantages of committing the cultivation of the soil to the hands of a few...."

1813  -- a group of Strath Kildonan residents march towards Golspie in order to have their grievances against the clearances heard. They are met by soldiers and the Sheriff, who, aided by local church ministers, intimidate the tenants into returning to their homes to await their eviction notices.

1813 (December 15) -- Tenants of the Strathnaver area of Sutherlandshire go to Golspie at the direction of William Young, Chief Factor for Lord and Lady Stafford. The tenants are told they have until the following Whitsunday to leave their homes and relocate to the wretched coastlands of Strathy Point.

1814  -- Under the direction of Patrick Sellar, a Factor for Lord and Lady Stafford, heath and pastures surrounding Strathnaver are burned in preparation for planting grass for the incoming sheep. The native tenants of Strathnaver make no motion of moving to Strathy Point, or anywhere else.

1814 (June 13) -- Patrick Sellar begins burning Strathnaver. Residents are not given time to remove their belongings or invalid relatives, and two people reputedly die from their houses burning.

1815 -- The Sheriff-Substitute for Sutherlandshire arrests Patrick Sellar for:willfull fire-raising. Not surprisingly, a jury of affluent landowners and merchants acquit Sellar in 1816. Soon after, Sellar continues clearing vast areas of Sutherlandshire.

1818 -- Patrick Sellar retires to his Sutherlandshire estate, given to him by Lord and Lady Stafford in acknowledgment of his work.

1819  -- Another violent clearing of Strathnaver residents. Donald Macleod, a young apprentice stonemason witnesses: "250 blazing houses. Many of the owners were my relatives and all of whom I personally knew; but whose present condition, whether in or out of the flames, I could not tell. The fire lasted six days, till the whole of the dwellings were reduced to ashes or smoking ruins."

1819  -- The Kildonan area is cleared. Donald MacDonald later writes: "...the whole inhabitants of the Kildonan parish, with the exception of three families--nearly 2,000 souls--were utterly rooted and burned out."

1820 -- James Loch publishes his account of enacting the clearances, or, as he calls them, the improvements. He declares that Gaelic will become a rarity in Sutherlandshire. Journalist Thomas Bakewell severely criticizes both Loch's book and his actions during the clearances.

1820  -- Hugh Munro, the laird of Novar, clears his estates at Culrain along the Kyle of Sutherland. A riot ensues when the Sheriff and military arrive to evict the tenants. Remonstrated by the minister Donald Matheson, the tenants eventually cease fighting and move away.

1821  -- Officials bearing Writs of Removal for the tenants of Gruids, near the River Shin, are stripped, whipped, and their documents are burned. Fearing another riot like Culrain, military and police accompany the Sheriff back to Gruids where, faced with such strong opposition, the tenants gathered their few belongings and moved to Brora.

1821 -- showed an increase over the census of 1811 of more than two hundred. The county has not been depopulated, its population has been merely been re-arranged in a new fashion. "The Duchess of Sutherland found it spread equally over the interior and the sea-coast, and in very comfortable circumstances--but she left it compressed into a wretched fabric of poverty and suffering that fringes the county on its eastern and western shores".

1826 -- The Island of Rum is cleared except for one family. MacLean of Coll pays for the other natives to emigrate to Canada.

1832 -- Despite the fact that he forcibly evicted them, exiled members of Clan Chisholm swear allegiance to their chief back in Scotland!

1847  --  "The Scotsman," reports that the Highlanders' problems are due to their own laziness and suggests the best solution is for the native tenants: as soon as they are able to labour for themselves, be removed from the vicious influence of the idleness in which their fathers have been brought up and have lived and starved.

1849 -- Despite some rioting by the native tenants, Lord Macdonald clears more than 600 people from Sollas on North Uist.

1850s  -- Clearances of thousands of tenants in the Strathaird district, Suishnish, and Boreraig on Skye; and Coigach at Loch Broom.

1851 -- Sir John MacNeill, under the direction of the Home Secretary, tours the Highlands and reports back that the Highland poor are "parading and exaggerating" their poverty and are basically lazy. The only solution MacNeill sees is emigration.

1851 -- The clearance of Barra by Colonel Gordon of Cluny. The Colonel called all of his tenant farmers to a meeting to "discuss rents", and threatened them with a fine if they did not attend. In the meeting hall, over 1,500 tenants were overpowered, bound, and immediately loaded onto ships for America.

1853 -- Knoydart is cleared under the direction of the widow of the 16th Chief of Glengarry. More than 400 people are suddenly and forcibly evicted from their homes, including women in labor and the elderly. After the houses were torched, some tenants returned to the ruins and tried to re-build their villages. These ramshackle structures were then also destroyed.

1854 -- The clearing of Strathcarron in Ross-shire. Some Clan Ross women tried to prevent the landlord's police force by blocking the road to the village. The constables charged the unarmed women, and, in the words of journalist Donald Ross: "...struck with all their force. ...Not only when knocking down, but after the females were on the ground. They beat and kicked them while lying weltering in their blood....and more than twenty females were carried off the field in blankets and litters, and the appearance they presented, with their heads cut and bruised, their limbs mangled and their clothes clotted with blood, was such as would horrify any savage."

1856 --  Harriet Beecher Stowe author of the anti-slavery Uncle Tom's Cabin visits Sutherlandshire. Her tour is carefully orchestrated by the current Duchess of Sutherland to avoid sites of eviction, and so Stowe proclaims the tales of the clearances to be mostly fictional.

1872 -- A Parliamentary Select Committee is established to investigate claims that tenant farmers are being evicted in the Highlands to make room for deer. As the people had been cleared for sheep and not deer, the Committee finds no evidence.

1874 -- Starving tenants of Black Isle, Caithness and Ross areas attempt to commandeer grain shipments going from Lairds' estate farms to export ships. Military forces are called in to guarantee safe shipment of the grain

20th Century

1976 -- A study concluded that some thirty‑five families or companies possess one third of the Highland's 7.39 million acres of privately owned land.

1977 --  Earl of Airlie’s trustees sold two parcels of this common land, and admitted in the deed of sale they had never claimed the disputed area they were selling on the Hill of Alyth was part of their property. They simply claimed it could be “construed” to be. They also conceded in the deed “we or our predecessors in title have at various times disponed [made over or conveyed legally] parts of the subjects known as The Hill of Alyth to which we or they may have had a right but granted no warrandice [legal guarantees, including that the seller can validly transfer ownership]. So, despite not being able to prove they owned it, they sold it to another landowner who then sold it to the Scottish Government, whose lawyers approved the purchase.

1993 -- One of the world's richest absentee landlords, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoumm of Dubai, bulldozes houses in his Wester Ross "glen of sorrow" to prevent human habitation,  because of "the night-time poaching activities of the local population." Twelve family homes have been reduced to rubble in a district which has 800 applicants on the local authority housing waiting list.

1997  --  The Scotsman reports: "The tenth Earl of Airlie, a former Lord Chamberlain to the Queen and brother of Sir Angus Ogilvy, has started an action to evict Norman Ogg, 58, a farmer, from his 125 acre farm on the 40,000 acre Airlie estate. "Nearby, in a separate action, Captain Alwyne Farquharson, chief of the Clan Farquharson and 16th baron of Invercauld, is trying to evict Jean Lindsay and her son, Sandy, from the 2,500 acre hill farm she has farmed for 26 years in Glenshee. "Capt Farquharson wants to extend the area available for grouse habitat -- and at Kinwhirrie farm, near Cortachy, Lord Airlie wants to improve the pheasant shooting."

1997 -- The Scotsman reported that the owners of the Highland Spring mineral water bottling company are allowing the houses on their 3,000-acre Blackford estate in Perthshire "to crumble as they fall vacant." Scottish National Party MP Roseanna Cunningham said "...the owners appear to be pursuing a policy of deliberately allowing perfectly serviceable properties to fall into disrepair rather than providing much needed rural housing."

1998  -- From The Scotsman: The 6th Earl of Granville, the Queen's godson and a man whose favourite pastimes include scuba diving for scallops, is invoking an archaic law, "foreshore entitlement", which allows him to levy royalties on kelp harvested from his 60,000-acre estate in the Outer Hebrides. While he sits in his elegant seven-bedroom mansion in Callernish accumulating royalty cheques, around 40 crofters on North Uist eke out a meagre living using sickles to hack tonnes of the crop from rocks jutting out of freezing Atlantic waters. After labouring in the bitter cold for as long as eight hours a day, the cutters are likely to earn just £15.20 per tonne. On a good day they may receive £45 for the seaweed harvest, which is shipped to the mainland and turned into a thickening agent for toothpaste, ketchup and jam. The 38-year-old Earl, Fergus Leveson Gower, is entitled to a percentage of the value of the seaweed crop simply because it is washed up on his piece of shore. Earl Granville has done his best to defend the seaweed royalties, amounting to around £800 a year, saying the money was paid by the alginate company Kelco-NutraSweet and did not affect the price paid to cutters. However, the crofters say the Earl's argument is disingenuous. They argue the tax is passed on to them in the form of reduced rates for their crop.

1998 -- leading estate agents Savills market a part of the common land on the Hill of Alyth as part of a farm for sale and were completely frank that the sellers could not prove they owned it. According to the particulars, they had acquired title “from previous heritable proprietors to the Hill of Alyth without warrandice. The purchaser will be given title to the hill on the same terms.”

2000 -- John MacLeod, the 29th MacLeod clan chief, puts the Black Cuillin mountains on Skye up for sale for £10 million. Local residents protest, sparking a debate about who actually owns the land and their rights to sell it.

Some writers see the Clearances as an early version of "ethnic cleansing". Although, landowners and employers were generally callous about the "lower orders", these modern terms such as  "ethnic cleansing"  do not apply, as most of the landlords were fellow Scots. Highlanders were also required to provide factory fodder in the rapidly expanding Scottish cities. Marx noted, "In the 18th century the hunted-out Gaels were forbidden to emigrate from the country, with a view to driving them by force to Glasgow and other manufacturing towns." As early as 1790, 30 percent of the population of Greenock was from the Highlands, while in Glasgow in 1851 there were 16,500 workers who had been born in the Highlands.


Marx and the Clearances

It should not be overlooked that Karl Marx was spurred to his communist conclusions when Rhineland landowners sought to introduce a bill to outlaw as theft the customary right of peasants to collect fallen timber for firewood. This was a time-honored tradition that--for the impoverished peasantry--often meant the difference between life and death during the harsh German winters.

The tenure of land in the Highlands was essentially a tribe or family right.  All the members of the clan had an equal right to their proportionate share of the land occupied by the whole. The equality of title and blood thus enjoyed created a sense of individual self-respect and mutual dependence. The tenures of a clan was of course frequently disturbed by war; and whenever a tribe was driven or emigrated into a district where it had no hereditary claim, if it obtained land it was on the payment of a tribute to the king. Marx commented on the similar legal robbery of clan land in Scotland:

"...the Scotch lairds-chiefs of clans profited, since the insurrection of 1745, of this juridical confusion, of the tribute paid to them by the clansmen, with a “rent” for the lands held by them, in order to transform the whole of the clan-land, the common property of the clan, into their, the lairds, private property; for — said the lawyers, if they were not the landlords, how could they receive rent for that land? And thus this confusion of tribute and rent was the basis of the confiscation of all the lands of the Scottish Highlands for the benefit of a few chiefs of clan who very soon after drove out the old clansmen and replaced them by sheep"

He also writes that "the systemic robbery of the Communal lands swell those large farms, that were called in the 18th Century  capital farms or merchant farms, and 'set free' the agricultural populations as proletarians for manufacturing industry"