The Emigrants Statue Unveiling by the First
Minister of Scotland 23rd July 2007.
Our thanks to Donald (Dennis) S.
MacLeod for sending us a copy of the brochure produced for this
"Today's unveiling of this remarkable new
presence in the Highland environment marks an important moment for
Scotland. The impulse to create this statue came from a desire to
remember, but also to reconcile; to reflect on the past, but to draw
on it for the future's strength.
The clearances that took place across Scotland in
the eighteenth century were most acutely felt here in the Highlands
- and rarely with such severity as in the communities like those
There is sadness of course in the recollection
that this strath once played home to hundreds of families in dozens
of small communities - a way of life that was transformed forever by
the economic experiments of that period.
But we should take heart, and pride too, from the
resilience of those that left this country and made their
contribution, often a significant one, to the communities of other
countries that showed generosity in receiving them.
Modern Scotland must learn from our history. Yes,
we will continue to give our ideas and innovation and energy to the
world, but we will recognise too that our people are our country's
greatest resource and they must always be treated as such."
The Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP, First Minister of Scotland
The Emigrants Statue is a non-political national
and international project. It is not just to commemorate the
clearance of people from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, but
also to celebrate the extraordinary contributions that Highlanders
and their descendants have made to human progress throughout the
world. It is hoped that the statue will become a focal point, to be
visited by the descendants of the cleared people and also by all who
are interested in this remarkable story of inhumanity, sorrow,
courage and enterprise. It is also hoped that the statue, by
commemorating the Clearances, will help heal the rifts of history.
In addition, by extending a hand of friendship
and welcome beyond the shores of Scotland, the bonds of ancestry
will undoubtedly be strengthened. This statue, therefore, belongs
not just to today's Highlanders but as much, if not more, to all of
Highland descent - be they from the Lowlands of Scotland, England,
USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Africa or elsewhere. It is
hoped that all descendants will embrace and support this statue as
In the summer of 1813, more than 100 people,
evicted that spring from homes near Helmsdale left Sutherland forthe Red River district of what's now Manitoba. Because they
travelled by way of Hudson Bay, where they had to overwinter in
bitter cold, their journey took over a year. But in 1814 they
reached their destination where they helped establish the community
that's become the city ofWinnipeg.
These folk were among hundreds of thousands who
have emigrated from the Highlands and Islands - settling in
countries like Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
From the perspective of such countries our emigrants were a huge
gain - and it's right to commemorate, as Helmsdale's fine statue
does so eloquently, what they achieved in their adopted homelands.
From a Highland standpoint, however, it's impossible to do other
than regret the loss of so much human talent - a loss made
unavoidable by our inability to provide opportunities of the sort
Today we're doing better. Today, for the first
time in centuries, more people are moving into the Highlands and
Islands than are leaving, and our area is at last on the way up. A
key contributor to this process is UHI, the prospective University
of the Highlands and Islands. It's my privilege to be involved with
UHI and, in particular, with the UHI Centre for History, based here
in Sutherland and about to launch the first ever honours degree in
history to have the Highlands at its core. Like the statue we've
gathered to celebratethe UHI Centre for
History would not exist but for the generosity of Dennis MacLeod. As
lots of other Highlanders have done, Dennis has spent much of his
life overseas. It's our good fortune that he continues to be so
supportive of the place he comes from.
Professor James Hunter CBE, Director, UHI Centre for History,
Tha Carragh nan Eilthireach neo-phoileataigeach
agus na proiseact nàiseanta agus eadar-nàiseanta.
Chan ann a-mhàin airson cuimhne a chumail
air mar a chaidh daoine fhuadach bho Ghàidhealtachd
agus Eileanan na h-Alba a tha i,ach tha i cuideachd na comharradh
air na rudan iongantach a chuir na Gàidheil
agus an sliochd ri adhartas daonna air feadh an t-saoghail. Thathar
an dochas gum bi a' charragh na priomh àite-tadhail
do shliochd nan daoine a chaidh fhuadach, agus cuideachd do gach
neach aig a bheil uidh san sgeul shonraichte seo de mhi-dhaonnachd,
bron, gaisgeachd agus iomairt. Thathar cuideachd an dochas gun
cuidich a'charragh, le bhith a'comharrachadh nam Fuadaichean, gus
lotan na h-eachdraidh a shlanachadh. A bharrachd air seo, le bhith
a' cur failte air luchd-tadhail bho thaobh a-muigh cladaichean na
h-Alba, theid ceangalan na sinnsearachd a nearfachadh. Mar sin, chan
ann a-mhain le Gaidheil an latha an-diugh a tha a' charragh, ach
neach a tha bho shliochd Ghaidhealach - co-dhiu a tha iad bho
Ghalltachd na h-Alba, Sasainn, na Staitean Aonaichte, Canada,
Sealain Nuadh, Astrailia, Afraga no aite eile. Thathar an dochas gun
gabh gach neach bho shliochd Ghaidhealach ris a' charragh seo agus
gun toir iad taic dhi seach gur ann leotha fhein a tha i.
Dennis MacLeod, Chairman, Clearances Centre Ltd
What Next? The Selkirk Settlers Monument
in Canada, a full scale bronze replica of The Emigrants statue in
Helmsdale, was erected at the beginning of July in central Winnipeg,
a few yards from the Red River where the first Scots settlers
arrived in 1814, many of them from Kildonan in Sutherland, one of
the areas worst affected by the Clearances. The replica was
commissioned by the St. Andrew's Society in Winnipeg and primarily
sponsored by John Webster and Dennis MacLeod, directors of
Clearances Centre Ltd. There are plans for replicas to be erected in
other countries where Scots emigrants settled.
thought first of the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It is the
archetype for displacement, for whatever reason, voluntary or
involuntary. The sensations are loss, disorientation and anxiety. I
have represented these emotions in the sculpture.
The man is tense, wary, anxious but determined.
The boy is looking to his father for guidance, but at the same time
he is ready for adventure. The Woman, holding her newborn child,
looks back longingly at the familiar place she is leaving.
"Perdre, mais perdre vraiment
Pour laisser place la trouvaille."
(Lose, but lose properly
To make room for discovery)
Change is fundamental to the human condition.
Nothing is permanent.
It has been so since that moment which we refer to as The Fall.
But change brings opportunity for growth.
Gerald Laing, 2007
"The Emigrants commemorates the people of the Highlands and
Islands of Scotland who, in the face of great adversity, sought
freedom, hope and justice beyond these shores. They and their
descendants went forth and explored continents, built great
countries and cities and gave their enterprise and culture to the
world. This is their legacy. Their voices will echo forever thro the
empty straths and glens of their homeland."
Inscription by Dennis MacLeod
These two pictures are of the Emigrants
Statue in Winnipeg, Canada.
With John B. McMillan of the Scottish Studies Foundation
The Winnipeg statue, named the 'Selkirk
Settlers', was unveiled by Lord James Douglas Hamilton (also Lord
Selkirk) and Michael Russell, representing the Scottish government.
Events were spread over two days and were a great success.
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