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The History of the Highland Clearances
Argyllshire - The Island of Mull


In many parts of Argyllshire the people have been weeded out none the less effectively, that the process generally was of a milder nature than that adopted in some of the places already described. By some means or other, however, the ancient tenantry have largely disappeared to make room for the sheep farmer and the sportsman. Mr. Somerville, Lochgilphead, writing on this subject, says, "The watchword of all is exterminate, exterminate the native race. Through this monomania of landlords the cottier population is all but extinct; and the substantial yeoman is undergoing the same process of dissolution." He then proceeds:-

"About nine miles of country on the west side of Loch Awe, in Argyllshire, that formerly maintained 45 families, are now rented by one person as a sheep farm; and in the island of Luing, same county, which formerly contained about 5o substantial farmers, besides cottiers, this number is now reduced to about six. The work of eviction commenced by giving, in many cases, to the ejected population, facilities and pecuniary aid for emigration ; but now the people are turned adrift, penniless and shelterless, to seek a precarious subsistence on the sea-board, in the nearest hamlet or village, and in the cities, many of whom sink down helpless paupers on our poor-roll ; and others, festering in our villages, form a formidable Arab population, who drink our money contributed as parochial relief. This wholesale depopulation is perpetrated, too, in a spirit of invidiousness, harshness, cruelty, and injustice, and must eventuate in permanent injury to the moral, political, and social interests of the kingdom. . . The immediate effects of this new system are the dissociation of the people from the land, who are virtually denied the right to labour on God's creation. In L— ., for instance, garden ground and small allotments of land are in great demand by families, and especially by the aged, whose labouring days are done, for the purpose of keeping cows, and by which they might be able to earn an honest, independent maintenence for their families, and whereby their children might be brought up to labour instead of growing up vagabonds and thieves. But such, even in our centres of population, cannot be got; the whole is let in large farms and turned into grazing. The few patches of bare pasture, formed by the delta of rivers, the detritus of rocks, and tidal deposits, are let for grazing at the exorbitant rent of £3 10s. each for a small Highland cow; and the small space to be had for garden ground is equally extravagant. The consequence of these exorbitant rents and the want of agricultural facilities is a depressed, degraded, and pauperised population."

These remarks are only too true, and applicable not only in Argyllshire, but throughout the Highlands generally.

A deputation from the Glasgow Highland Relief Board, consisting of Dr. Robert Macgregor, and Mr. Charles R. Baird, their Secretary, visited Mull, Ulva, Iona, Tiree, Coll, and part of Morvern, in 1849, and they immediately afterwards issued a printed report on the state of these places, from which a few extracts will prove instructive. They inform us that the population of


according to the Government Census of 1821, was 10,612 ; in 1841, 10,064. In 1871, we find it reduced to 6441, and by the Census of 1881, now before us, it is stated at 5624, or a fraction more than half the number that inhabited the Island in 1821.

TOBERMORY, we are told, "has been for some time the resort of the greater part of the small crofters and cottars, ejected from their holdings and houses on the surrounding estates, and thus there has been a great accumulation of distress." Then we are told that "severe as the destitution has been in the rural districts, we think it has been still more so in Tobermory and other villages "—a telling comment on, and reply to, those who would now have us believe that the evictors of those days and of our own were acting the character of wise benefactors when they ejected the people from the inland and rural districts of the various counties to wretched villages, and rocky hamlets on the sea-shore.

ULVA.—The population of the Island of Ulva in 1849 was 36o souls The reporters state that a "large portion" of it "has lately been converted into a sheep farm, and consequently a number of small crofters and cottars have been warned away" by Mr. Clark. "Some of these will find great difficulty in settling themselves anywhere, and all of them have little prospect of employment. . . . . Whatever may be the ultimate effect to the landowners of the conversion of a number of small crofts into large farms, we need scarcely say that this process is causing much poverty and misery among the crofters." How Mr. Clark carried out his intention of evicting the tenantry of Ulva may be seen from the fact that the population of 36o souls, in 1849, was reduced to 51 in 1881.

KILFINICHEN.—In this district we are told that "The crofters and cottars having been warned off, 26 individuals emigrated to America, at their own expense and one at that of the Parochial Board; a good many removed to Kinloch, where they are now in great poverty, and those who remained were not allowed to cultivate any ground for crop or even garden stuffs. The stock and other effects of a number of crofters on Kinloch last year (1848), whose rents averaged from £5 to £15 per annum, having been sequestrated and sold, these parties are now reduced to a state of pauperism, having no employment or means of subsistence whatever." As to the cottars, it is said that " the great mass of them are now in a very deplorable state." On the estate of

GRIBUN, Colonel Macdonald of Inchkenneth, the proprietor, gave the people plenty of work, by which they were quite independent of relief from any quarter, and the character which he gives to the deputation of the people generally is most refreshing, when we compare it with the baseless charges usually made against them by the majority of his class. The reporters state that "Colonel Macdonald spoke in high terms of the honesty of the people and of their great patience and forbearance under their severe privations." It is gratifying to be able to record this simple act of justice, not only as the people's due, but specially to the credit of Colonel Macdonald's memory and goodness of heart.

BUNESSAN.—Respecting this district, belonging to the Duke of Argyll, our authority says:—"It will be recollected that the [Relief] Committee, some time ago, advanced £128 to assist in procuring provisions for a number of emigrants from the Duke of Argyll's estate, in the Ross of Mull and lona, in all 243 persons - 125 adults and 118 children. When there, we made inquiry into the matter, and were informed [by those, as it proved, quite ignorant of the facts] that the emigration had been productive of much good, as the parties who emigrated could not find the means of subsistence in this country, and had every Prospect of doing so in Canada, where all of them had relations; and also because the land occupied by some of these emigrants had been given to increase the crofts of others. Since our return home, however, we have received the very melancholy and distressing intelligence, that many of these emigrants had been seized with cholera on their arrival in Canada; that not a few of them had fallen victims to it ; and that the survivors had suffered great privations." Compare the " prospect," of much good, predicted for these poor creatures, with the sad reality of having been forced away to die a terrible death immediately on their arrival on a foreign shore!

IONA, at this time, contained a population of 500, reduced in 1881 to 243. It also is the property of the Duke of Argyll, as well as

THE ISLAND OF TIRES, the population of which is given in the report as follows:—In 1755, it was 1509, increasing in 1777, to 1681; in 1801, to 2416; in 1821, to 4181; and in 1841 to 4687. In 1849, "after considerable emigrations," it was 3903; while in 1881, it was reduced to 2733. The deputation recommended emigration from Tiree as imperatively necessary, but they "call especial attention to the necessity of emigration being conducted on proper principles, or, 'on a system calculated to promote the permanent benefit of those who emigrate, and of those who remain,' because we have reason to fear that not a few parties in these districts are anxious to get rid of the small crofters and cottars at all hazard, and without making sufficient provision for their future comfort and settlement elsewhere; and because we have seen the very distressing account of the privations and sufferings of the poor people who emigrated from Tiree and the Ross of Mull to Canada this year (1849), and would spare no pains to prevent a recurrence of such deplorable circumstances. As we were informed that the Duke of Argyll had expended nearly £1200 on account of the emigrants (in all 247 souls) from Tiree ; as the Committee advanced £131 15s. to purchase provisions for them ; and as funds were remitted to Montreal to carry them up the country, we sincerely trust that the account we have seen of their sufferings in Canada is somewhat over-charged, and that it is not at all events to be ascribed to want of due provision being made for them, ere they left this country, to carry them to their destination. Be this as it may, however, we trust that no emigration will in future be promoted by proprietors or others, which will not secure, as far as human effort can, the benefit of those who emigrate, as well as of those who are left at home. . . . Being aware of the poverty of the great majority of the inhabitants of this island, and of the many difficulties with which they have to contend, we were agreeably surprised to find their dwellings remarkably neat and clean—very superior indeed, both externally and internally, to those of the other islands; nay, more, such as would bear comparison with cottages in any part of the kingdom. The inhabitants, too, we believe, are active and enterprising, and, if once put in a fair way of doing so, would soon raise themselves to comfort and independence." Very good, indeed, Tiree!

THE ISLAND of COLL, which is separated from Tiree by a channel only two miles in width, had a population, in 1755, of 1193; in 1771, of 1200 ; in 1801, of 1162; in 1821, of 1264. In 1841 it reached 1409. At the time of the visit of the deputation, from whose report we quote, the population of the Island was down to 1235; while in 1881 it had fallen to 643. The deputation report that during the destitution the work done by the Coll people "approximates, if it does exceed, the supplies given; "they are" hard working and industrious. . . We saw considerable tracts of ground which we were assured might be reclaimed and cultivated with profit, and are satisfied that fishing is a resource capable of great improvement, and at which, therefore, many of the people might be employed to advantage; we are disposed to think that, by a little attention and prudent outlay of capital, the condition of the people here might ere long be greatly improved. The grand difficulty in the way, however, is the want of capital. Mr. Maclean, the principal proprietor, always acted most liberally when he had it in his power to do so, but, unfortunately, he has no longer the ability, and the other two proprietors are also under trust." Notwithstanding these possibilities the population is undergoing a constant process of diminution.

We shall now return to the mainland portion of the County, and take a glance at the parish of

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