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The History of the Highland Clearances
Ross-Shire - The Island of Lewis


No one was evicted from the Island of Lewis, in the strict sense of the term, but 2231 souls had to leave it between 1851 and 1863. To pay their passage money, their inland railway fares on arrival, and to provide them with clothing and other furnishings, the late Sir James Matheson paid a sum of 11,855. Notwithstanding all this expenditure, many of these poor people would have died from starvation on their arrival without the good offices of friends in Canada.

In 1841, before Mr. Matheson bought it, a cargo of emigrants from the Lews arrived at Quebec late in the autumn, accompanied by a Rev. Mr. Maclean, sent out to minister to their spiritual wants, but it appears that no provision had been made for the more pressing demands of a severe Canadian winter ; and were it not for the Saint Andrew's Society of Montreal, every soul of them would have been starved to death that winter in a strange land. The necessities of the case, and how this patriotic Society saved their countrymen from a horrid death will be seen on perusal of the following minutes, extracted from the books of the Society, during the writer's recent tour in Canada:—"A special meeting of the office-bearers was summoned on the loth September, 1841, to take into consideration an application made by Mr. Morris, President of the Emigration Association of the district of St. Francis, for some pecuniary aid to a body of 229 destitute emigrants who had recently arrived from the Island of Lewis (Scotland), and who were then supported chiefly by the contributions of the charitable inhabitants of the town of Sherbrooke and its neighbourhood. Mr. Morris' letter intimated that unless other assistance was received, it would be impossible for these emigrants to outlive the winter, as they were in a state of utter destitution, and the inhabitants of the township could not support so large a number of persons from their own unaided resources. The meeting decided that the Constitution of the Society prohibited them from applying its funds to an object like the one presented—it did not appear to authorise the granting of relief from its funds except to cases of destitution in the city; but as this case appeared of an urgent nature, and one particularly calling for assistance, Messrs. Hew Ramsay and Neil M`Intosh were appointed to collect subscriptions on behalf of the emigrants. This committee acquitted itself with great diligence and success, having collected the handsome sum of 234 14s. 6d., the whole of which was, at different times, remitted to Mr. Morris, and expended by him in this charity. Letters were received from Mr. Morris, expressing the gratitude of the emigrants for this large and timely aid, which was principally the means of keeping them from starvation." The whole of these emigrants are now in easy circumstances.

Commenting on the conduct of those in power, who sent out their poor tenantry totally unprovided for, is unnecessary. The idea of sending out a minister and nothing else, in such circumstances, makes one shudder to think of the uses which are sometimes made of the clergy, and how, in such cases, the Gospel they are supposed not only to preach but to practise, is only in many instances caricatured. The provisions sent by the Society had to be forwarded to where these starving emigrants were, a distance of 80 miles from Sherbrooke, on sledges, through a trackless and dense forest. The descendants of these people now form a happy and prosperous community at Lingwick and Winslow.


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