Glenorchy, of which the
Marquis of Breadalbane is sole proprietor, was, like many other places,
ruthlessly cleared of its whole native population. The writer of the New
Statistical Account of the Parish, in 1843, the Rev. Duncan Maclean, "Bior
Ghael" of the Teachdaire, informs us that the census taken by Dr.
Webster in 175, and by Dr. Maclntyre forty years later, in 1795, "differ
exceedingly little," only to the number of sixty. The Marquis of the
day, it is well known, was a good friend of his reverence ; the feeling
was naturally reciprocated, and one of the apparent results is that the
reverend author abstained from giving, in his Account of the Parish, the
population statistics of the Glenorchy district. It was, however,
impossible to pass over that important portion of his duty altogether,
and, apparently with reluctance, he makes the following sad admission
:"A great and rapid decrease has, however, taken place since [referring
to the population in 1795]. This decrease is mainly attributable to the
introduction of sheep, and the absorption of small into large tenements.
The aboriginal population of the parish of Glenorchy (not of Inishail)
has been nearly supplanted by adventurers from the neighbouring district
of Breadalbane, who now occupy the far largest share of the parish.
There are a few, and only a few, shoots from the stems that supplied the
ancient population. Some clans, who were rather numerous and powerful,
have disappeared altogether; others, viz., the Downies, Macnabs,
Macuicols, and Fletchers, have nearly ceased to exist. The Macgregors,
at one time lords of the soil, have totally disappeared ; not one of the
name is to be found among the population. The Macintyres, at once time
extremely numerous, are likewise greatly reduced."
By this nobleman's mania
for evictions, the population of Glenorchy was reduced from 1806 in 1831
to 831 in 1841, or by nearly a thousand souls in the short space of ten
years! It is, however, gratifying to find that it has since, under wiser
management, very largely increased.
In spite of all this we
have been seriously told that there has been no
DEPOPULATION OF THE COUNTY
in the rural districts.
In this connection some very extraordinary public utterances were
recently made by two gentlemen closely connected with the county of
Argyll, questioning or attempting to explain away statements, made in
the House of Commons by Mr. D. H. Macfarlane, M.P., to the effect that
the rural population was, from various causes, fast disappearing from
the Highlands. These utterances were—one by a no less distinguished
person that the Duke of Argyll, who published his remarkable
propositions in the Times the other by Mr. John Ramsay, M.P., the Islay
distiller, who imposed his baseless statement on his brother members in
the House of Commons. These oracles should have known better. They must
clearly have taken no trouble whatever to ascertain the facts for
themselves, or, having ascertained them, kept them back that the public
might be misled on a question with which, it is obvious to all, the
personal interests of both are largely mixed up.
Let us see how the
assertions of these authorities agreed with the actual facts. In 1831
the population of the county of Argyll was 100,973; in 1841 it was
97,371; in 1851 it was reduced to 88,567; and in 1881 it was down to
76,468. Of the latter number the Registrar-General classifies 30,387 as
urban, or the population of "towns and villages," leaving us only 46,081
as the total rural population of the county of Argyll at the date of the
last Census, in 1881. In 1911 the total population for the county had
dropped to 70,902.
It will be necessary to
keep in mind that in 1831 the county could not be said to have had many
"town and village" inhabitants—not more than from 12,000 to 15,000 at
most. These resided chiefly in Campbeltown, Inveraray, and Oban; and if
we deduct from the total population for that year, numbering 100,973,
even the larger estimate, 15,000 of an urban or town population, we have
still left, in 1831, an actual rural population of 85,973, or within a
fraction of double the whole rural population of the county in 1881. In
other words, the rural population of Argyllshire was reduced in fifty
years from 85,973 to 46,081, or nearly by one-half.
The increase of the urban
or town population is going on at a fairly rapid rate ; Campbeltown,
Dunoon, Oban, Ballachulish, Blairmore, and Strone, Innellan,
Lochgilphead, Tarbet, and Tighnabruaich, combined, having added no less
than some 5500 to the population of the county in the ten years from
1871 to 1881. These populous places will be found respectively in the
parishes of Campbeltown, Lismore, and Appin, Dunoon and Kilmun, Glassary,
Kilcalmonell and Kilbery, and in Kilfinan ; and this will at once
account for the comparatively good figure which these parishes make in
the tabulated statement in the Appendix. That table will show exactly in
which parishes and at what rate depopulation progressed during the last
fifty years. In many instances the population was larger prior to 1831
than at that date, but the years given will generally give the best idea
of how the matter stood throughout that whole period. The state of the
population given in 1831 was before the famine which occurred in 1836;
while that in 1841 comes in between that of 1836 and 1846-47, during
which period large numbers were sent away, or left for the Colonies.
There was no famine between 1851 and 1881, a time during which the
population was reduced from 88,567 to 76,468, notwithstanding the great
increase which took place simultaneously in the "town and village"
section of the people in the county, as well as throughout the country