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The History of the Highland Clearances
Ross-Shire - Strathconon


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. 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 Achadhan-eas ; Carnach was similarly treated, while no fewer than twenty-seven families were evicted from GlenMeine 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, lraol-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 apect 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 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.


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