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The Clearance of the Highland Glens
From the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness


After forty years absence from this part of the country I shall state the opinions that I now entertain of matters in the Highlands. I shall as briefly as possible place before you the impressions on my mind with regard to the most prominent changes in the Highlands during this long interval.

In the first place I feel bound to express my sincere pleasure at the sight of the noble efforts of the Gaelic Society of Inverness to rescue our ancient and venerable language from decay and dissolution. Professor Geddes of Aberdeen says that “it can boast a pedigree better far than that spoken in the highest places in the land, and can claim the start of English on the soil of Britain by ten centuries, and that in a literary form.” Professor Morley, of London, states that “a man cannot be a thorough English scholar without a knowledge of Celtic”; and Professor Allison, of Glasgow, said “that the man who speaks two languages is equal to two men, and advances in usefulness at the same ratio for every language he speaks.” It augurs well for the development and success of your Society that the Provost, the Chief Magistrates, and Town Councillors of Inverness have opened the Town Hall of the largest county in Scotland for your deliberations. All thanks to them for it, and for their friendly appearance among us at our principal meetings.

It is a source of pleasure for me to state without favour or prejudice that this town of Inverness has improved in every imaginable respect during the forty years alluded to. Jn sanitary respects the town is unquestionably 500 per cent, better than it was in my early recollection. In well-designed and stately houses there are portions of Inverness that will compare favourably with, if not surpass, equal lengths of London streets and London shops. Large and spacious hotels with every accommodation, comfort and civility; an abundant meat, vegetable, and fish market; suburban villas, and every fanciful architecture. Add to this the daily arrival and departure of railway trains to and from every part of the Kingdom, as well as the steamboats plying both by salt and fresh water. Old nature seems to have designed the town and environs of Inverness as the Madeira of Scotland, but it remained for the scientific acumen of our friend Mr Murdoch to demonstrate the salubrity of the town; and it is satisfactory to note that his labours on this score stand unanswered and unchallenged. My house being on a rising ground above the town where, according to tradition, the Cross or centre of Old Inverness stood, I can see from my windows for many miles, and it is most gratifying to see the surrounding country studded with small but substantial stone and slated houses and offices to correspond with the moderate size of the farms on which they are built. All honour to the proprietors of these estates. They belong principally to the Baillies of Doeh-four, Leys, and Redeastle.

Let us now leave the immediate neighbourhood of Inverness and wend our way North, South, East or West, and what do we see on all sides? Large farms infested with game and burrowed like honey-eomb by rabbits. If we extend our walk to the Glens, we find them thoroughly cleared—the native population sent to the four quaiters of the globe, wild beasts, wild birds, and game of every description in quiet possession and feeding among the crumbled walls of houses where we have seen happy families of stalwart Highlanders reared and educated! This is no exaggeration. During the last twelve monthsI travelled through the counties of Inverness, Ross, Cromarty, Sutherland, Moray, Banff, Perth and Argyle ; and I can bear testimony to the general depression and desolation caused throughout the Highlands, I maintain, by the operation of the iniquitous Class Laws called Came Laws. They are like the Upas Tree, withering all within their unhallowed atmosphere, sending the bone and sinew of the Highlands to foreign lands. They turn large tracts of country into cheerless and inhospitable deserts. They sever the proverbial and ancient bond of union and attachment between chief and clansman. The chief is distrusted frequently for his acts, communicated through his factor, and the clansman is thereby disheartened. Thus another town-land or perhaps a whole Glen is laid waste and placed at the disposal of wild beasts. The work of destruction and depopulation in the Highlands has gone on so regularly for nearly a hundred years, and especially during the last fifty years, that the few farmers left on the Lowlands have a difficulty in finding servants and labourers to work their farms. Every part of the Highlands through which I have passed seemed to be much in the same way —the surface of the land, as it were, in sombre mourning covered with heather lamenting the absence of the strong arm that used to till and ought to reclaim it, to enable it to fulfil the purposes for which land was given to man, viz., to make it support the greatest possible number of human beings in the greatest possible degree of comfort and happiness. The law that enables one man to say to another; “I will not cultivate one acre, and I will not allow you to do so,” is most unnatural and most iniquitous in its results.

It is most satisfactory to know, I think, that the British Government has ignored freedom of contract between landlord and tenant in Ireland by the Ulster Tenant Bight and the Irish Land Bill of 1870. Since the Bill of 1870 was passed into law the landlord in Ireland is not the judge between his tenants and himself. It is the Chairman of Quarter Sessions, a Government Officer, independent of both landlord and tenant, who must decide whether t^e rent demanded is excessive or not. There may be legal quibbles still in the way of amicable settlements between landlord and tenant in Ireland; but the Land Bill of 1870 (which I read over and over again) seems to me to bear this construction. It is not long since a tenant farmer got £700 damages from his landlord in Ireland for raising his rent and thereby compelling him to leave the farm. At this moment English good sense stands like a bulwark between the landlord and cultivator of the soil in Ireland. Landlords, factors, and leases are no longer supreme in Ireland. The Chairman of Quarter Sessions is arbitrator from this time forward. England abolishes landlordism in Ireland by advancing money through the Board of Works to every honest tenant who has ambition to purchase his firm in fee simple from his landlord. The repurchase system has made rapid progress in some of the Continental kingdoms of Europe. Notably in Prussia. From the day that Napolean I. crossed the Rhine the Government of Prussia looked with sorrow and astonishment at the number of young Germans who flocked around Napoleon’s standard. They soon discovered that these men were lining from landlord tyranny. Having discovered the cause, they applied the remedy; they valued every farm on large estates throughout Prussia; enacted laws to-enable tenants in possession to purchase their farms, and on certain conditions advanced money to enable the farmer to pay for his land. In Austria they have a re-purchase system also.

They have a land system of their own in France since 1789, one feature of which (I think) is, that no man can derive more than ,£5000 per annum from land in France. Large landed estates have often been the cause o f revolutions and bloodshed.

Macaulay, in his review of Mitford’s History of Greece, justly says—“In Rome the oligarchy was too powerful to be subverted by force, and neither the tribunes nor the popular assemblies, though constitutionally omnipotent, could maintain a successful contest against men who possessed the whole property of the State. Hence the necessity for measures tending to unsettle the whole frame of Society and to take away every motive of industry — the abolition of debts and the agrarian laws — propositions absurdly condemned by men who do not consider the circumstances from which they spring. They were the desperate remedies of a desperate disease. In Greece the oligarchical interest was not in general so deeply rooted as in Rome. The multitude, there/ore, redressed by force grievances which at Rome were commonly attacked under the form of the Constitution. They drove out or massacred the rich and divided their property.” This is ancient history, but the French Revolution of 1789 is modern. Thus we see in ancient and modern history, that the land was the bone of contention. The first grand error of Britons was selling what did not belong to us. That which is on the land belongs to man, because he made it, or helped to rear it, but the land itself, belongs to no man, and no generation of men because they did not make it. The law of England, interpreted by the ablest, expressly declares that man can only hold an estate in land. The modern theory of a general commerce in land was unknown in England, till the demise of the Stuart dynasty. More than one half of some English counties was held in common. On the lowest computation, says a report of the Commons Preservation Society, “5,000,000 acres of common land have been enclosed since the reign of Queen Anne.” It is not easy in the various and conflicting statements set forth occasionally to estimate the amount of land still unenclosed and subject to common rights in England and Wales. I have seen it put as low as 2,600,000 acres. On the other hand it is stated that so recently as the reign of George III., eight million acres of commonage still remained. There was no pauperism under such a system. Milk, butter, cheese, bacon, poultry and some sheep were within the reach of all. There was no absolute ownership of land either by great or small, but there was fixity of tenure during good behaviour to all.

The King or Queen, as representing the public, exercised strict, just, and impartial control. We are no more than trustees for our successors. But we have divested ourselves of the power of compelling any man to cultivate an acre. Yet history tells us that this want of cultivation has on several occasions been very nearly the downfall of England.

In the face of all former experience, it is melancholy to see our landed proprietors through the Highlands encouraging a system among us that would not be tolerated in England. The noblemen and capitalists who come among us from England to elbow out of house and home our native population know too well that it would be not only impolitic but most dangerous to try such experiments on their own countrymen.

Forty years’ residence in England convince me that the free, brave, independent, and justice-loving people of England would not tolerate or brook oppression from any man or from any class of men. Instance—how quickly the voice and press of England brought the Earl of Darnley to his knees when he attempted to dispossess one of his tenants near Gravesend some three or four years ago. It may be urged that the Dukes and nobles, capitalists and sportsmen who come among the ruins of farms and villages in the North had no hand in clearing the people out of the way of sheep, deer, and game. Be that as it may, they are in possession, and it was in anticipation of such unscrupulous tenants that the people were driven out and deprived of farms, houses and homes. In such cases as these the strong arm of the law ought to intei-pose between enormous wealth and honest industry.

To prevent you from thinking that I am dealing in generalities only, just imagine that such men as the Duke of Westminster and the Duke of Portland come from England annually to imitate our Highland Duke of Athole and Northern Duke of Sutherland, in increasing their stock of deer and extending the size of the Ducal Forests. I as k what chance would the cultivator of the soil have in the same atmosphere with the Ducal Deer ? One would think that some, if not all, of these forests were extensive enough. Let us hear what Thomas Graham Murray, Esq., said of the Forest of Athole while he was under examination by a committee of the House of Commons on the 26th July, 1872. In answer to a question, Mr Murray said, “you will find that in Mr Scrope’s book he gives a calculation of the number of acres. His book was written in the time of Duke John, about the year 1828 or 1829, and he makes the whole forest 135,000 acres; but of that 51.000 acres were then under deer, the rest being grouse ground. And you will observe that it is just about the quantity that it is now. I do not think there has been any change scarcely since that time.” Further on in his evidence Mr Murray, speaking of the Athole Forest, says: —“It has been a forest from time immemorial.” Mr Murray is one of the first, and probably one of the most honourable lawyers in the kingdom. He tells us the extent of Athole Forest, but cannot tell us how long that enormous amount of land has been lost to the community.

Ordinary mortals might think this extent of forest, with its “five to seven thousand deer as estimated by Mr Sciope,” ought to satisfy the slaughtering propensities even of a Duke. But nothing of the sort. Last year his Grace of Athole added about 10.000 acres to his old deer forest. The lands cleared for that purpose are Glenmore and Glenbeg, with the Glen of Cromalt and the different smaller glens and comes that branch off from the above mentioned glens.

Be it remembered, however, that all this misappropriation of land is perfectly legal and legitimate according to the present usages of Society. Nay, more, if the four noblemen alluded to, or any other capitalists, had the means and the chance of purchasing every inch of land (perhaps boroughs excepted) in the Highlands of Scotland, convert it into Deer Forests and turn the present remnant of the Highlanders out of house and home, they would be quite within the pale of the law as interpreted by Society in modern times. We see this principle acted on year by year, and it is against this irresponsible power that every well-wisher of justice ought to appeal. It appears to me that some of our Members who are learned in the law might tell us whether the original Charters of our landed proprietors justify them in substituting wild beasts for human beings  If the Charters empower landlords to destroy the people, by depriving them of their birth-right, the land on which they were born, they are quite at variance with recent legislation, in as much as the pauper has now a life interest in the land of his birth. Yes, the proprietors and the paupers are the only two classes of the community who have any hold of the land of this country. There is not a man in Europe so completely divorced from the land of his birth as the Highlander of Scotland.

Now, lest you should imagine that I content myself with making statements and then conveniently forgetting to prove them, let me briefly revert to the time and circumstances which inaugurated the unhallowed system of depopulation in Inverness-shire. As to the time, I have heard Edward Ellice, Esq., of Glen-Cuaich, stating before a committee of the House of Commons, on the 28th March, 1873, that “the great depopulation was in 1780 and 1790, when the Colony of Glengarry was founded in Canada, by the number of people that were sent out from Scotland to obtain their low lying crofts for the sheep in the winter.” Further on in his evidence, Mr Ellice, in answer to a question, says, “Yes; I may mention one single case that I am well acquainted with. When the depopulation began in 1780, the people were then cleared off to make way for sheep. They had turned out 700 to 800 fighting men in the Rebellion, consequently the population could not have been under 5000 or 6000.” It seems to me that Mr Ellice has Glengarry in his mind’s eye. If I am right in this supposition, it appears to be one of the severest reflections ever made on the depopulation of Glengarry. For every pound sterling of the rental of the particular estate a fighting man was sent from that estate, to support the cause of the Prince whom they believed to be their lawful Sovereign. Imagine that Britain might be threatened in these times either by Turk or Christian, how many fighting men would the estate alluded to be able to send to the service of our Sovereign? I venture to say that it could not raise 50 men. Nay, if you keep clear of the village of Fort-Augustus, which is Lord Lovat’s property, I do not think that even 20 men could be sent out of Glengarry with all its sheep and deer. Not that the men are less patriotic now than they were in 1745, but for this simple reason, there are reither M‘Donnells nor any other men in Glengarry. In justice to Mr Ellice, I must say, however, that he seemed to me to be the most humane and most favourable to Highlanders of all the Members of Parliament that gave evidence at the committee alluded to. During the two days he was under examination, not a word escaped his lips that could be construed into slight or disrespect for Highlanders. It is quite true that Mr Ellice spoke of them as “Crofters.” This was the lingo in which Highlanders were generally spoken of at the Game Law Committee. But the Earl of Chatham dignified them on a former occasion with the name of “Mountaineers.” Speaking of them with great respect in Parliament soon after the mis-managed affair of 1745, his Lordship said in effect:—That the Mountaineers had well nigh changed the dynasty and upset the constitution of the Kingdom.

Now as to the circumstances that inaugurated the depopulation alluded to. They are simple but melancholy, and they occurred as follows :—Marsalaidh Bhinncach, the mother of the last popular “Glengarry,” had the management of the whole properties of Cnoideart and Glengarry, while her son was a minor. The fascinating demon of old unfolded its golden coils before her avaricious mind ; and in an evil hour she surrendered the birthright of her husband’s clansmen to his crafty wiles. To begin with, she gave Glen Cuaich to one unscrupulous south country shepherd, and thereby deprived over 500 persons of houses and home. This was the beginning only of a series of misfortunes which laid the foundations of complications and embarrassments that ended in the sale of the whole of the Glengarry estates. I forbear to mention the maiden name of this woman on account of the esteem in which her noble chief is held. It is said that he is by far the best landlord in the Highlands. However, The Chisholm of Strathglasa married her eldest daughter Eliza in 1795.

The Chisholm was rather delicate and often in bad health, and this threw the management of the estate into the hands of his wife. Hence the cause of the great clearance of Strathglass in 1801. The evicted people from that strath crossed the Atlantic and settled principally in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. They gave the names of some Strathglass farms to their freehold lands in their adopted country. In the Island there is even the county ot Inverness.

In 1810 an heir was born for The Chisholm. He succeeded to the most of the estates on the death of his father in 1817. I say the most, because a portion of the land was still in the hands of his uncle’s widow. It will be necessary here to explain this reserve on entailed land :—.

Alexander, the eldest surviving son of the The Chisholm who entailed the estates in 1777, married Elizabeth, daughter of Dr Wilson of Edinburgh. He died on the 17th February, 1793, aged forty-four years, and left an only child, Mary, who married James Gooden, Esq., merchant, of London. The estates reverted to his half-brother William, who died in 1817,as stated above. The widow alluded to was Dr Wilson’s daughter. Alexander The Chisholm, her husband, made a fair settlement in case of widowhood. He left for her, the option of a certain sum of money annually or the rental accruing from a number of townlands or joint farms. Through the advice of her only child Alary, Mrs Chisholm made choice of the townlands and kept them intact, and kept the tenantry on these farms in easy circumstances until the day of her death, which took place on the 23rd January, 1826, and then the whole of The Chisholm’s estates reverted to the young heir of Strathglass.

By and bye, I will tell you how the tenantry were treated by the young Chief and his advisers. But I feel bound to tell you first, that repeated efforts were made by some of those who were acting for the Chief to get hold of the land still in possession of the widow. However, the great good sense of this noble- minded Edinburgh lady, and the sincere attachment of her daughter, Mrs Gooden, to her father’s tenantry stood firm against all the advances made to deprive her of the faithful Highland tenantry entrusted to her care.

For the long space of thirty-three years she kept her tenantry intact, never turned one of them out of a farm, nor did she ever deprive any man of an acre of land. As The Chisholm, her husband, left them at the time of his death in 1793, so they were left by his beloved widow at the time of her death in 1826. This excellent lady was well known and distinguished in the Highlands by the endearing term of “A Bhantigheama-Bhan”—the English equivalent of which is “the fair lady.”

When Mary (afterwards Mrs Gooden) was a young lassie in her teens, four south countrymen (Gillespie of Glen Cuaich, I think, was one of the number) came to see The Chisholm and passed the night with him at Comar, where the Chief was staying at that time. In the course of the evening it transpired that the Southerns wanted the most and best portions of Strathglass as sheep walks. In short, the object of their mission was to treat the Chisholms of Strathglass as the Macdonnells of Glengarry were treated a few years before that time.

Mary listened for a time quietly to their proposals; at last she mildly put her veto on the whole transaction. She was ordered off to her room. But, with tears in her eyes, Mary found her way to the kitchen, and called all the servants around her and explained to them the cause of her grief.

Never was Crann-Tara sent through any district with more rapidity than this unwelcome news spread through the length and breadth of Strathglass. Early next morning there were about a thousand men, including young and old, assembled on the ground at Comar House. They demanded an interview with The Chisholm. He came out among them and discussed the impropriety of alarming liis guests. Bat the Chief was told that the guests were infinitely worse than the freebooters who came on a former occasion with sword in hand to rob his forefathers of their patrimony, etc. [This was an allusion to a sanguinary battle fought on the plain of Aridh-dhuiean many years before that time between Clann-’ic-an-Lonathaicli, who wanted to take possession, and the Chisholms, who succeeded in keeping possession of Strathglass to this day.] The guests were at first anxiously listening, at the drawing-room windows, to the arguments between the Chief and his clansmen; but they soon got quietly down stairs and made the best of their way, (I think through the back door and garden) to the stable where they mounted their horses, galloped off helter-skelter, followed by the shouts and derision of the assembled tenantry, across the river Glass, spurring their horses and never looking behind until they reached the ridge of Maoil Bhiudhe, a hill between Strathglass and Corriemony. Imagine their chagrin on turning round and seeing a procession being formed at Comar —pipers playing, and The Chisholm being carried to Invercannich House on the brawny shoulders of his tenantry.

Instead of this being cause of sorrow, it was the happiest day that ever dawned, on Strathglass; Chief and Clansmen expressing mutual confidence in each other, and renewing every manner of ancient and modem bond of fealty ever entered into by their forebears. All this extraordinary episode in the history of Strathglass I heard related over and over again by some of the men who took their part in chasing the Southrons out of that district.

About thirty years ago, I reminded Mrs Gooden, in London, of what was said of her in the North, in connection with the hasty exit of the would-be shepherds, every word of which I found to be substantially correct, and Mrs Gooden then added:—“When my father died in 1793, felt that the welfare of the tenantry left in charge of my mother depended in a great measure on myself. I was brought up among them, I used to be the Gaelic interpreter between them and my mother, and they had great confidence in me. However, it was in after years, when old age began to impair my mother’s memory, that I had the greatest anxiety least the agents of The Chisholm should succeed in depriving her of the tenantry. I had two objects in view. The first was to keep the people comfortable, and the second was to hand them over as an able class of tenantry to my first cousin, the young Chisholm, at the demise of my mother.”

This determination was so well arranged and so completely carried out, that when the Dowager Mrs Chisholm, of whom I have spoken as “the fair lady," died, the tenantry on the portion of The Chisholm’s estate she managed so long and so successfully, were able and willing to rent every inch of the whole of Strathglass, as I will soon prove to you. But let me first fulfil my promise of acquainting you of the manner in which the new accession of property with its native population were treated by the young Chief and his advisers. For a few years the people were left in possession of their respective farms. This, however, was in order to adjust matters for future and more sweeping arrangements, as all the leases in Strathglass were about to expire. To the best of my recollection it was in the year 1830 that all the men in Strathglass were requested to meet the young Chisholm on a certain day at the Inn at Cannich Bridge. The call was readily complied with, the men were all there in good time, but The Chisholm was not. After some hours of anxious waiting, sundry surmises, and well-founded misgivings, a gig was seen at a distance driving towards the assembled men. This was the signal for a momentary ray of hope. But on the arrival of the vehicle it was discovered that it contained only the “sense carrier” of the proprietor, viz., the factor, who told the men that The Chisholm was not coming to the meeting, and that, as factor, he had no instructions to enter on arrangements with them. I was present, and heard the curt message delivered, and I leave yon to imagine the bitter grief and disappointment of men who attended that meeting 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 except the emigrant ship and choose between the scorching prairies of Australia and the icy regions of North America.

In a very short time after this abortive meeting, it transpired that the very best farms and best grazing lands in Strathglass were let quite silently, without the knowledge of the men in possession, to shepherds from other countries, leaving about half the number of the native population without house or home.

Let me now prove to you how the native tenantry at that time in Strathglass were both able and willing to rent every inch of it, if they were only allowed to retain their farms at the rent given for them by the strangers. I will prove it by plain incontrovertible facts. Here they are :—When the late generous Lord Lovat heard of the ugly treatment of the tenantry alluded to, he entered on negotiations with the late Mr George Grieve, the only sheep farmer or flockmaster on his Lordship’s estates at Glen-Strathfarrar, and arranged to take the sheep stock at valuation. llis Lordship sent for the evicted tenants to Strathglaos, and planted —so to speak—every one of them in Glen-Strathfarrar. The stock was valued for the new tenants by Mr Donald McRae, who died some years ago at Fearnaig, Lochalsh, and by Mr Donald McLeod, who died lately at Coulmore, Red castle. These gentlemen were supposed to be two of the best judges in the Highlands, and were also well known to be two of the most honourable men anywhere. I was, along with other young men from Glencanaich, in Glen-Strathfarrar at the time, and saw the stock valued. To the best of my recollection, it was at Whitsunday in 1831. Well, then, at the ensuing Martinmas every copper of the price of the stock was duly paid to Mr Grieve by the new tenants. This is ample proof of their ability to hold their own had they been allowed to remain in Strathglass.

Some fourteen years afterwards, when the rage for deer forests began to assert its unhallowod territorial demands, Lord Lovat informed these self-same tenants that he wanted to add their farms to his deer-forest. However, to mitigate their distress at the prospect of another clearance, his Lordship stated that he did not wish to part with one of them, and pointed out that he intended breaking up the large farms on the estate. I remember seeing twelve ploughs, the property of one farmer, all at the same time at work on the plains of Beauly. But, to his credit, and in honour of his memory be it stated and remembered, the late Lord Lovat made this one and almost all other farms on his estate accessible to ordinary farmers, so that every man he brought to Glen-Strathfarrar, and every one he removed from it, were comfortably located on other parts of his Lordship’s estates. In short, the management on The Chisholm’s estate left only two of the native farmers in Strathglass, the only surviving man of whom is Alexander Chisholm, Raonbhrad. He is paying rent as a middle-class farmer to the present Chisholm for nearly twenty years back, and paid rent in the same farm to the preceding two Chisholms from the time they got possession one after the other until they died. He was also a farmer in a townland or joint-fann in “Balanahann,” on “the fair lady’s” portion of Strathglass. So far, he has satisfied the demands of four proprietors and seven successive factors on the same estate. And, like myself, he is obeying the spiritual decrees of the fifth Pope, protected by the humane laws of the fourth Sovereign, and living under the well-meaning but absent fourth Chief. All tlio rest of the Strathglass tenantry found a home on the Lovat estates, where their sons and grandsons still are among the most respectable middle-class farmers in Inverness-shire.

Glenstrathfarrar, by far the most fertile glen alloted to forestry in the Highlands, has been from that time and still is the free domain of foxes, eagles, and hundreds of red deer, strictly preserved in order to gratify the proclivities of sportsmen. I am very sorry for it, and in obedience to the dictates of my conscience I must add, that in my humble opinion it is a serious misappropriation of much excellent grazing and some good arable lands. My firm belief is, that every portion of God’s earth should be occupied by Christians and made to support the greatest possible number of human beings in the greatest possible degree of comfort and happiness.

As I stated, there were only two native farmers left in Strathglass. But the only one who left his native country of his own free accord at that time was my own dear father. So that when the present Chisholm came home from Canada to take possession of the estate about nineteen years ago, there were only two of his name and kindred in possession of an inch of land in Strathglass. At the first opening he doubled the number by restoring two more Chisholm’s from Lord Lovat’s estate. But I am sorry to say that restoration is a plant of slow growth in Strathglass. It is only right, however, to state that The Chisholm generously re-established and liberally supported one of the tenants in the farm from which he was evicted nineteen years previously. This man’s father and grandfather lived and died as tenants on that same farm, and his great-grandfather, Domhnul MacUilleam, was killed on Druimossie-moor, (better but more detestably known as Cuillodernoor.) I heard it said that this faithful clansman was shot when carrying his mortally wounded commander, The Chisholm’s youngest son, in his arms.

Some years ago I remember reading, I think in the Inverness Advertiser, observations made by a tourist or a traveller who pissed through Glencanaich, on the number of broken houses and crumbled walls he saw in the glen. The writer concluded from such unmistakeable signs that there must have been a considerable number of inhabitants at one time in Glencanaich. He was quite right in his conclusions. Even within my own recollection, there were a number of people comfortably located in the Glen. Of the descendants of Glencanaich men there were living in my own time, one Bishop and fifteen Priests ; three Colonels, one Major, three Captains, three Lieutenants and seven Ensigns. There is not one of all these military men now alive. There are seven of the Priests alive. An elderly man in that district assured me that Colonel Chisholm, who died some years ago at Alexandria, in Upper Canada, was a Glencanaich man. The last of the military men alluded to, died about a year ago, and a Priest was since ordained. This will account for the discrepancy between this statement and that of “Fear Monaidh” in “ The Gael” of August, 1875, page 235. Such were the men mostly reared, and who had the rudiments of their education, either in this Glen or in Strathglass. And now there are eight shepherds, seven gamekeepers, and one farmer only, in Glencanaich. Pray forgive me if you think I have said too much about the depopulation of Strathglass. You have repeatedly expressed a wish to hear how the people were cleared out of that district. In obedience to that wish I have given you a mere outline, intentionally passing over the recent clearances on the estate of Giusachan, because they are well known to all who interest themselves about Highlanders. The future historian may find an account of the doings at that time in Giusachan recorded as “Improvements” in the columns of the Inverness Courier. He may find them also closely criticised and openly censuied in the Inverness Advertiser; and they occupied the time and attention of a Committee of the House of Commons for a portion of three days.

It was not with any degree of pleasure that I approached the subject, and I will leave it for the present. But before doing so I may tell you there is not a human being in Strathglass of the descendants of those who were instrumental in driving the people out of it. I believe the same may be said of Glengarry, and I heard it stated lately by a man who knows Sutherland and the Reay country well, that there are only two families living in those countries who had any hand in or on whose behalf the infamous clearances of 1806 were commenced. It need scarcely be stated here that the wholesale clearances alluded to were inaugurated under the cruel auspices of Elizabeth the sixteenth Countess of Sutherland, and now it appears that the whole race of the Crowbar Brigade, their progeny and abettors, are (by some mysterious agency) fast gliding away from the country they have so ruthlessly desolated.

Glengarry was cleared by “Marsali Bhinnach,” Strathglass was cleared by her daughter Eliza, and Sutherland was cleared by Elizabeth the sixteenth Countess of Sutherland. These three ladies may have been good wives and good mothers; I have nothing to say against their private character. But their public acts in land clearances ought to stand forth as landmarks to be avoided by the present landed proprietors and by all future owners and administrators of land.

In conclusion, let me repeat what I have said, that it is totally beyond my comprehension how our forefathers could have divested themselves of every species of control and power over the land of these countries. I have seen it stated in an Edinburgh paper that nineteen men own half the land in Scotland.

Be that as it may, we know that less than nineteen miserable landed proprietors brought the present desolation on the Glens of the Highlands. And now the simple but important question is —Will you do all in your power to alter this state of things ? Will you collectively and individually endeavour to leave the tenure of land in the Highlands in a better state than you found it? My own humble opinion is, that you ought to petition Parliament forthwith, praying that they may be pleased to interpose between misapplied capital and the cultivators of the land in the Highlands. It would perhaps be presumption on my part to propose or even to suggest any of the terms which ought to be employed in your petition. But I think you might with good grace remind the present Government of what the late Gladstone Government did for the cultivators of the soil in Ireland. Let your petition be legally conceived, wisely worded, numerously signed, or signed, by your Chairman only on behalf of the meeting, respectfully presented and patiently discussed in the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland. In one word, let all your proceedings be strictly within the pale of the ten commandments, and, by the help of Him who made them, you will be sure and certain of success.


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