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Jim McLean

Cold is the wind and the wet,
As we make our beds down in the sands;
Gathering dulce and clabby-doos,
Down on the shores of Sutherland.
High on the hills our sheilings are sheltering
            Factors and robber bands.
Shepherds and sheep are asleep as we die
            On the shores of Sutherland.

Lying beside the sea,
Awaiting the very first boat to land;
Begging for crabs and herring
Along on the shores of Sutherland.
Once our corn grew high and as tall and as
            Straight as a highlandman.
Now we must harvest the seaweed that lies
            On the shores of Sutherland.

Blood from our cows and meal,
And nettle broth made with barley bran,
Banned from the beds of mussels by the dog
            And their master of Sutherland.
Big are the shellfish they’re guarding for
            Fishers who come from some other land.
Cockles are baiting their hooks while we starve
            On the shores of Sutherland.

Butter and brose and meal,
Salmon and deer and ptarmigan,
Honey and milk and cheese
Were the food of the children of Sutherland,
Now we are burned from our clachans and banished
            Away from our motherland.
Starved at the edge of the sea by the Duke and
            The Duchess of Sutherland.

Footnote: Paisley-born (1938) songwriter Jim McLean shares the same birthday, 21 April, with the Queen of England, but that is the only thing they have in common! For Jim McLean is a dedicated Republican and campaigner for Scottish Independence whose many songs richly added to the Scottish Folk Revival and the rise in the 1960s of the Scottish National Party. This song is a reminder of the blight on Scottish consciousness left by The Highland Clearances. In Sutherland were amongst the most notorious of The Clearances. The effect of The Clearances was well summed up by historian James Halliday –

‘The country from which they were evicted suffered too. Scotland lost half her heritage and the desolation which then began has never found a remedy.’

(Scotland - A Concise History 1990)



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