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The History of the Highland Clearances
Sutherland - Hugh Miller on the Sutherland Clearances


So much has been already said about these disastrous Sutherland evictions that we greatly fear the reader is sickened with the horrid narrative, but as it is intended to make the present record of these atrocious proceedings, not only in Sutherland but throughout the whole Highlands, as complete as it is now possible to make it, we shall yet place before the reader at considerable length Hugh Miller's observations on this National Crime—especially as his remarks largely embody the philosophical views and conclusions of the able and farseeing French writer Sismondi, who in his great work declares:- "`It is by a cruel use of legal power—it is by an unjust usurpation—that the tacksman and the tenant of Sutherland are considered as having no right to the land which they have occupied for so many ages. . . A count or earl has no more right to expel from their homes the inhabitants of his county, than a king to expel from his country the inhabitants of his kingdom." Hugh Miller introduces his remarks on Sutherland by a reference to the celebrated Frenchman's work, and his opinion of the Sutherland Clearances, thus:---

There appeared at Paris, about five years ago, a singularly ingenious work on political economy, from the pen of the 'late M. de Sismondi, a writer of European reputation. The greater part of the first volume is taken up with discussions on territorial wealth, and the condition of the cultivators of the soil; and in this portion of the work there is a prominent place assigned to a subject which perhaps few Scotch readers would expect to see introduced through the medium of a foreign tongue to the people of a great continental state. We find this philosophic writer, whose works are known far beyond the limits of his language, devoting an entire essay to the case of the Duchess of Sutherland and her tenants, and forming a judgment on it very unlike the decision of political economists in our own country, who have not hesitated to characterise her great and singularly harsh experiment, whose worst effects we are but beginning to see, as at once justifiable in itself and happy in its results. It is curious to observe how deeds done as if in darkness and in a corner, are beginning, after the lapse of nearly thirty years, to be proclaimed on the house-tops. The experiment of the late Duchess was not intended to be made in the eye of Europe. Its details would ill bear the exposure. When Cobbett simply referred to it, only ten years ago, the noble proprietrix was startled, as if a rather delicate family secret was on the eve of being divulged; and yet nothing seems more evident now than that civilised man all over the world is to be made aware of how the experiment was accomplished, and what it is ultimately to produce.

In a time of quiet and good order, when law, whether in the right or the wrong, is all-potent in enforcing its findings, the argument which the philosophic Frenchman employs in behalf of the ejected tenantry of Sutherland is an argument at which proprietors may afford to smile. In a time of revolution, however, when lands change their owners, and old families give place to new ones, it might be found somewhat formidable,—sufficiently so, at least, to lead a wise proprietor in an unsettled age rather to conciliate than oppress and irritate the class who would be able in such circumstances to urge it with most effect. It is not easy doing justice in a few sentences to the facts and reasonings of an elaborate essay; but the line of argument runs thus:--

Under the old Celtic tenures—the only tenures, be it remembered through which the Lords of Sutherland derive their rights to their lands,—the Klaan, or children of the soil, were the proprietors of the soil —"the whole of Sutherland," says Sismondi, belonged to "the men of Sutherland." Their chief was their monarch, and a very absolute monarch he was. "He gave the different tacks of land to his officers, or took them away from them, according as they showed themselves more or less useful in war. But though he could thus, in a military sense, reward or punish the clan, he could not diminish in the least the property of the clan itself;"—he was a chief, not a proprietor, and had "no more right to expel from their homes the inhabitants of his county, than a king to expel from his country the inhabitants of his kingdom." "Now, the Gaelic tenant," continues the Frenchman, "has never been conquered ; nor did he forfeit, on any after occasion, the rights which he originally possessed; "in point of right, he is still a co-proprietor with his captain. To a Scotchman acquainted with the law of property as it has existed among us, in even the Highlands, for the last century, and everywhere else for at least two centuries more, the view may seem extreme; not so, however, to a native of the Continent, in many parts of which prescription and custom are found ranged, not on the side of the chief, but on that of the vassal. "Switzerland," says Sismondi, "which in so many respects resembles Scotland,—in its lakes, its mountains, its climate, and the character, manners, and habits of its children,—was likewise at the same period parcelled out among a small number of lords. If the Counts of Kyburgh, of Lentzburg, of Hapsburg, and of Gruyeres, had been protected by the English laws, they would find themselves at the present day precisely in the condition in which the Earls of Sutherland were twenty years ago. Some of them would perhaps have had the same taste for improvements, and several republics would have been expelled from the Alps, to make room for flocks of sheep. But while the law has given to the Swiss peasant a guarantee of perpetuity, it is to the Scottish laird that it has extended this guarantee in the British empire, leaving the peasant in a precarious situation. The clan,—recognised at first by the captain, whom they followed in war, and obeyed for their common advantage, as his friends and relations,then as his soldiers, then as his vassals, then as his farmers,—he has come finally to regard as hired labourers, whom he may perchance allow to remain on the soil of their common country for his own advantage, but whom he has the power to expel so soon as he no longer finds it for his interest to keep them."

Arguments like those of Sismondi, however much their force may be felt on the Continent, would be formidable at home, as we have said, in only a time of revolution, when the very foundations of society would be unfixed, and opinions set loose, to pull down or re-construct at pleasure. But it is surely not uninteresting to mark how, in the course of events, that very law of England which, in the view of the Frenchman, has done the Highland peasant so much less, and the Highland chief so much more than justice, is bidding fair, in the case of Sutherland at least, to carry its rude equalising remedy along with it. Between the years 1811 and 1820, fifteen thousand inhabitants of this northern district were ejected from their snug inland farms, by means for which we would in vain seek a precedent, except, perchance, in the history of the Irish massacre.

But though the interior of the county was thus improved into a desert, in which there are many thousands of sheep, but few human habitations, let it not be supposed by the reader that its general population was in any degree lessened. So far was this from being the case, that the census of 1821 showed an increase over the census of 1811 of more than two hundred; and the present population of Sutherland exceeds, by a thousand, its population before the change. The county has not been depopulated—its population has been merely arranged after a new fashion. The late Duchess found it spread equally over the interior and the sea-coast, and in very comfortable circumstances;--she left it compressed into a wretched selvage of poverty and suffering that fringes the county on its eastern and western shores, and the law which enabled her to make such an arrangement, maugre the ancient rights of the poor Highlander, is now on the eve of stepping in, in its own clumsy way, to make her family pay the penalty. The southern kingdom must and will give us a poor-law; and then shall the selvage of deep poverty which fringes the seacoasts of Sutherland avenge on the titled proprietor of the county both his mother's error and his own. If our British laws, unlike those of Switzerland, failed miserably in her day in protecting the vassal, they will more than fail, in those of her successor, in protecting the lord. Our political economists shall have an opportunity of reducing their arguments regarding the improvements in Sutherland, into a few arithmetical terms, which the merest tyro will be able to grapple with.

There is but poor comfort, however, to know, when one sees a country ruined, that the perpetrators of the mischief have not ruined it to their own advantage. We purpose showing how signal in the case of Sutherland this ruin has been, and how very extreme the infatuation which continues to possess its hereditary lord. We are old enough to remember the county in its original state, when it was at once the happiest and one of the most exemplary districts in Scotland, and passed, at two several periods, a considerable time among its hills; we are not unacquainted with it now, nor with its melancholy and dejected people, that wear out life in their comfortless cottages on the sea-shore. The problem solved in this remote district of the kingdom is not at all unworthy the attention which it seems but beginning to draw, but which is already not restricted to one kingdom, or even one continent.

But what, asks the reader, was the economic condition --the condition with regard to circumstances and means of living—of these Sutherland Highlanders? How did they fare? The question has been variously answered : much must depend on the class selected from among them as specimens of the whole,—much, too, taking for granted the honesty of the party who replies, on his own condition in life, and his acquaintance with the circumstances of the poorer people of Scotland generally. The county had its less genial localities, in which, for a month or two in the summer season, when the stock of grain from the previous year was fast running out, and the crops on the ground not yet ripened for use, the people experienced a considerable degree of scarcity—such scarcity as a mechanic in the South feels when he has been a fortnight out of employment. But the Highlander had resources in these seasons which the mechanic has not. He had his cattle and his wild potherbs, such as the mug-wort and the nettle. It has been adduced by the advocates of the change which has ruined Sutherland, as a proof of the extreme hardship of the Highlander's condition, that at such times he could have eaten as food broth made of nettles, mixed up with a little oatmeal, or have had recourse to the expedient of bleeding his cattle, and making the blood into a sort of pudding. And it is quite true that the Sutherlandshire Highlander was in the habit at such times, of having recourse to such food. It is not less true, however, that the statement is just as little conclusive regarding his condition, as if it were alleged that there must always be famine in France when the people eat the hind legs of frogs, or in Italy when they make dishes of snails. With regard to the general comfort of the people in their old condition, there are better tests than can be drawn from the kind of food they occasionally ate. The country hears often of dearth in Sutherland now. Every year in which the crop falls a little below average in other districts, is a year of famine there, but the country never heard of dearth in Sutherland then. There were very few among the holders of its small inland farms who had not saved a little money. Their circumstances were such, that their moral nature found full room to develop itself, and in a way the world has rarely witnessed. Never were there a happier or more contented people, or a people more strongly attached to the soil ; and not one of them now lives in the altered circumstances on which they were so rudely precipitated by the landlord, who does not look back on this period of comfort and enjoyment with sad and hopeless regret.
But we have not yet said how this ruinous revolution was effected in Sutherland, how the aggravations of the mode, if we may so speak, still fester in the recollections of the people,—or how thoroughly that policy of the lord of the soil, through which he now seems determined to complete the work of ruin which his predecessor began, harmonizes with its worst details. We must first relate, however, a disastrous change which took place, in the providence of God, in the noble family of Sutherland, and which, though it dates fully eighty years back, may be regarded as pregnant with the disasters which afterwards befell the county.

The marriage of the young countess into a noble English family was fraught with further disaster to the county. There are many Englishmen quite intelligent enough to perceive the difference between a smoky cottage of turf, and a whitewashed cottage of stone, whose judgments on their respective inhabitants would be of but little value. Sutherland, as a county of men, stood higher at this period than perhaps any other district in the British Empire; but, as our descriptions have shown, it by no means stood high as a county of farms and cottages. The marriage of the countess brought a new set of eyes upon it,—eyes accustomed to quite a different face of things. It seemed a wild, rude county, where all was wrong, and all had to be set right,--a sort of Russia on a small scale, that had just got another Peter the Great to civilize it,—or a sort of barbarous Egypt, with an energetic All Pasha at its head. Even the vast wealth and great liberality of the Stafford family militated against this hapless county! It enabled them to treat it as a mere subject of an interesting experiment, in which gain to themselves was really no object,—nearly as little so, as if they had resolved on dissecting a dog alive for the benefit of science. It was a still farther disadvantage, that they had to carry on their experiment by the hands, and to watch its first effects with the eyes, of others. The agonies of the dog might have had their softening influence on a dissecter who held the knife himself ; but there could be no such influence exerted over him, did he merely issue orders to his footman that the dissection should be completed, remaining himself, meanwhile, out of sight and out of hearing. The plan of improvement sketched out by his English family was a plan exceedingly easy of conception. Here is a vast tract of land, furnished with two distinct sources of wealth. Its shores may be made the seats of extensive fisheries, and the whole of its interior parcelled out into productive sheep farms. All is waste in its present state; it has no fisheries, and two-thirds of its internal produce is consumed by the inhabitants. It had contributed, for the use of the community and the landlord, its large herds of black cattle ; but the English family saw, and, we believe, saw truly, that for every one pound of beef which it produced, it could be made to produce two pounds of mutton, and perhaps a pound of fish in addition. And it was resolved, therefore, that the inhabitants of the central districts, who, as they were mere Celts, could not be transformed, it was held, into store farmers, should be marched down to the sea-side, there to convert themselves into fishermen, on the shortest possible notice, and that a few farmers of capital, of the industrious Lowland race, should be invited to occupy the new sub-divisions of the interior.

And, pray, what objections can be urged against so liberal and large-minded a scheme? The poor inhabitants of the interior had very serious objections to urge against it. Their humble dwellings were of their own rearing; it was they themselves who had broken in their little fields from the waste; from time immemorial, far beyond the reach of history, had they possessed their mountain holdings,—they had defended them so well of old that the soil was still virgin ground, in which the invader had found only a grave ; and their young men were now in foreign lands fighting at the command of their chieftainess the battles of their country, not in the character of hired soldiers, but of men who regarded these very holdings as their stake in the quarrel. To them, then, the scheme seemed fraught with the most flagrant, the most monstrous injustice. Were it to be suggested by some Chartist convention in a time of revolution that Sutherland might be still further improved—that it was really a piece of great waste to suffer the revenues of so extensive a district to be squandered by one individual—that it would be better to appropriate them to the use of the community in general —that the community in general might be still further benefited by the removal of the said individual from Dunrobin to a roadside, where he might be profitably employed in breaking stones—and that this new arrangement could not be entered on too soon-the noble Duke would not be a whit more astonished, or rendered a whit more indignant by the scheme than were the Highlanders of Sutherland by the scheme of his predecessor.

The reader must keep in view, therefore, that if atrocities unexampled in Britain for at least a century were perpetrated in the clearing of Sutherland, there was a species of at least passive resistance on the part of the people (for active resistance there was none), which in some degree provoked them. Had the Highlanders, on receiving orders, marched down to the sea-coast and become fishermen with the readiness with which a regiment deploys on review day, the atrocities would, we doubt not, have been much fewer. But though the orders were very distinct, the Highlanders were very unwilling to obey ; and the severities formed merely a part of the means through which the necessary obedience was ultimately secured. We shall instance a single case as illustrative of the process.

In the month of March, 1814, a large proportion of the Highlanders of Farr and Kildonan, two parishes in Sutherland, were summoned to quit their farms in the following May. In a few days after, the surrounding heath on which they pastured their cattle and from which, at that season, the sole supply of herbage is derived (for in those northern districts the grass springs late, and the cattle-feeder in the spring months depends chiefly on the heather), were set on fire and burnt up. There was that sort of policy in the stroke which men deem allowable in a state of war. The starving cattle went roaming over the burnt pastures, and found nothing to eat. Many of them perished, and the greater part of what remained, though in miserable condition, the Highlanders had to sell perforce. Most of the able-bodied men were engaged in this latter business at a distance from home, when the dreaded term-day came on. The pasturage had been destroyed before the legal term, and while in even the eye of the law it was still the property of the poor Highlanders ; but ere disturbing them in their dwellings, term-day was suffered to pass. The work of demolition then began. A numerous party of men, with a factor at their head, entered the district, and commenced pulling down the houses over the heads of the inhabitants. In an. extensive tract of country not a human dwelling was left standing, and then, the more effectually to prevent their temporary re-erection, the destroyers set fire to the wreck. In one day were the people deprived of home and shelter, and left exposed to the elements. Many deaths are said to have ensued from alarm, fatigue, and cold.

Our author then corroborates in detail the atrocities, cruelties, and personal hardships described by Donald MacLeod and proceeds:—But to employ the language of Southey,

"Things such as these, we know, must be
At every famous victory."

And in this instance the victory of the lord of the soil over the children of the soil was signal and complete. In little more than nine years a population of fifteen thousand individuals were removed from the interior of Sutherland to its sea-coasts or had emigrated to America. The inland districts were converted into deserts through which the traveller may take a long day's journey, amid ruins that still bear the scathe of fire, and grassy patches betraying, when the evening sun casts aslant its long deep shadows, the half-effaced lines of the plough.

After pointing out how at the Disruption sites for churches were refused, Hugh Miller proceeds:—We have exhibited to our readers, in the clearing of Sutherland a process of ruin so thoroughly disastrous, that it might be deemed scarcely possible to render it more complete. And yet with all its apparent completeness, it admitted of a supplementary process. To employ one of the striking figures of Scripture, it was possible to grind into powder what had been previously broken into fragments,—to degrade the poor inhabitants to a still lower level than that on which they had been so cruelly precipitated, — though persons of a not very original cast of mind might have found it difficult to say how the Duke of Sutherland has been ingenious enough to fall on exactly the one proper expedient for supplementing their ruin. All in mere circumstance and situation that could lower and deteriorate had been present as ingredients in the first process; but there still remained for the people, however reduced to poverty or broken in spirit, all in religion that consoles and ennobles. Sabbath-days came round with their humanising influences; and, under the teachings of the gospel, the poor and the oppressed looked longingly forward to a future scene of being, in which there is no poverty or oppression. They still possessed, amid their misery, something positively good, of which it was impossible to deprive them; and hence the ability derived to the present lord of Sutherland of deepening and rendering more signal the ruin accomplished by his predecessor.

These harmonise but too well with the mode in which the interior of Sutherland was cleared, and the improved cottages of its sea-coasts erected. The plan has its two items. No sites are to be granted in the district for Free Churches, and no dwelling-houses for Free Church ministers. The climate is severe,—the winters prolonged and stormy,—the roads which connect the chief seats of population with the neighbouring counties, dreary and long. May not ministers and people be eventually worn out in this way? Such is the portion of the plan which his Grace and his Grace's creatures can afford to present to the light. But there are supplementary items of a somewhat darker kind. The poor cotters are, in the great majority of cases, tenants-at-will; and there has been much pains taken to inform them that, to the crime of entertaining and sheltering a Protesting minister, the penalty of ejection from their holdings must ineviably attach. The laws of Charles have again returned in this unhappy district, and free and tolerating Scotland has got, in the nineteenth century, as in the seventeenth, its intercommuned ministers. We shall not say that the intimation has emanated from the Duke. It is the misfortune of such men that there creep around them creatures whose business it is to anticipate their wishes; but who, at times, doubtless, instead of anticipating misinterpret them; and who, even when not very much mistaken, impart to whatever they do the impress of their own low and menial natures, and thus exaggerate in the act the intention of their masters. We do not say, therefore, that the intimation has emanated from the Duke; but this we say, that an exemplary Sutherland-shire minister of the Protesting Church, who resigned his worldly all for the sake of his principles, had lately to travel, that he might preach to his attached people, a long journey of forty-four miles outwards, and as much in return, and all this without taking shelter under cover of a roof, or without partaking of any other refreshment than that furnished by the slender store of provisions which he had carried with him from his new home. Willingly would the poor Highlanders have received him at any risk; but knowing from experience what a Sutherlandshire removal means he preferred enduring any amount of hardship rather than that the hospitality of his people should be made the occasion of their ruin. We have already adverted to the case of a lady of Sutherland threatened with ejection from her home because she had extended the shelter of her roof to one of the Protesting clergy,—an aged and venerable man, who had quitted the neighbouring manse, his home for many years, because he could no longer enjoy it in consistency with his principles; and we have shown that that aged and venerable man was the lady's own father. What amount of oppression of a smaller and more petty character may not be expected in the circumstances, when cases such as these are found to stand but a very little over the ordinary level?

The meannesses to which ducal hostility can stoop in this hapless district, impress with a feeling of surprise. In the parish of Dornoch for instance, where his Grace is fortunately not the sole landowner, there has been a site procured on the most generous terms from Sir George Gunn Munro of Pontyzfield ; and this gentleman, believing himself possessed of a hereditary right to a quarry, which, though on the Duke's ground, had been long resorted to by the proprietors of the district generally, instructed the builder to take from it the stones which he needed. Never had the quarry been prohibited before, but on this occasion a stringent interdict arrested its use. If his Grace could not prevent a hated Free Church from arising in the district, he could at least add to the expense of its erection. We have even heard that the portion of the building previously erected had to be pulled down and the stones returned.

How are we to account for a hostility so determined, and that can stoop so low? In two different ways, we are of opinion, and in both have the people of Scotland a direct interest. Did his Grace entertain a very intense regard for Established Presbytery, it is probably that he himself would be a Presbyterian of the Establishment. But such is not the case. The church into which he would so fain force the people has been long since deserted by himself. The secret of the course which he pursues can have no connection therefore with religious motive or belief. It can be no proselytising spirit that misleads his Grace. Let us remark, in the first place, rather however in the way of embodying a fact than imputing a motive, that with his present views, and in his present circumstances, it may not seem particularly his Grace's interest to make the county of Sutherland a happy or desirable home to the people of Scotland. It may not be his Grace's interest that the population of the district should increase. The clearing of the sea-coast may seem as little prejudicial to his Grace's welfare now as the clearing of the interior seemed adverse to the interests of his predecessor thirty years ago; nay, it is quite possible that his Grace may be led to regard the clearing of the coast as the better and more important clearing of the two. Let it not be forgotten that a poor-law hangs over Scotland,—that the shores of Sutherland are covered with what seems one vast straggling village, inhabited by an impoverished and ruined people,—and that the coming assessment may yet fall so weighty that the extra profits accruing to his Grace from his large sheep-farms may go but a small way in supporting his extra paupers. It is not in the least improbable that he may live to find the revolution effected by his predecessor taking to itself the form, not of a crime,—for that would be nothing,—but of a disastrous and very terrible blunder.

There is another remark which may prove not unworthy the consideration of the reader. Ever since the completion of the fatal experiment which ruined Sutherland, the noble family through which it was originated and carried on have betrayed the utmost jealousy of having its real results made public. Volumes of special pleading have been written on the subject,—pamphlets have been published, laboured articles have been inserted in widely-spread reviews,—statistical accounts have been watched over with the most careful surveillance. If the misrepresentations of the press could have altered the matter of fact, famine would not be gnawing the vitals of Sutherland in a year a little less abundant than its predecessors, nor would the dejected and oppressed people be feeding their discontent, amid present misery, with the recollections of a happier past. If a singularly well-conditioned and wholesome district of country has been converted into one wide ulcer of wretchedness and woe, it must be confessed that the sore has been carefully bandaged up from the public eye,—that if there has been little done for its cure, there has at least been much done for its concealment. Now, be it remembered that a Free Church threatened to insert a tent into this wound and so keep it open. It has been said that the Gaelic language removes a district more effectually from the influence of English opinion than an ocean of three thousand miles, and that the British public know better what is doing in New York than what is doing in Lewis or Skye. And hence one cause, at least, of the thick obscurity that has so long enveloped the miseries which the poor Highlander has had to endure, and the oppressions to which he has been subjected. The Free Church threatens to translate her wrongs into English, and to give them currency in the general mart of opinion. She might possibly enough be no silent spectator of conflagrations such as those which characterised the first general improvement of Sutherland,—nor yet of such Egyptian schemes of house-building as that which formed part of the improvements of a later plan. She might be somewhat apt to betray the real state of the district and thus render laborious misrepresentation of little avail. She might effect a diversion in the cause of the people, and shake the foundations of the hitherto despotic power which has so long weighed them down. She might do for Sutherland what Cobbett promised to do, but what Cobbett had not character enough to accomplish, and what did he not live even to attempt. A combination of circumstances have conspired to vest in a Scottish proprietor, in this northern district, a more despotic power than even the most absolute monarchs of the Continent possess; and it is, perhaps, no great wonder that that proprietor should be jealous of the introduction of an element which threatens, it may seem, materially to lessen it. And so he struggled hard to exclude the Free Church, and, though no member of the Establishment himself, declares warmly in its behalf. Certain it is that from the Establishment as now constituted he can have nothing to fear and the people nothing to hope.

After what manner may his Grace the Duke of Sutherland be most effectually met in this matter, so that the case of toleration and freedom of conscience may be maintained in the extensive district which God, in his providence, has consigned to his stewardship? We are not unacquainted with the Celtic character as developed in the Highlands of Scotland. Highlanders, up to a certain point, are the most docile, patient, enduring of men ; but that point once passed, endurance ceases, and the all too gentle lamb starts up an angry lion. The spirit is stirred and maddens at the sight of the naked weapon, and that in its headlong rush upon the enemy, discipline can neither check nor control. Let our oppressed Highlanders of Sutherland beware. They have suffered much; but, so far as man is the agent, their battles can be fought only on the arena of public opinion, and on that ground which the political field may be soon found to furnish.

Let us follow, for a little, the poor Highlanders of Sutherland to the sea-coast. It would be easy dwelling on the terrors of their expulsion, and multiplying facts of horror; but had there been no permanent deterioration effected in their condition, these, all harrowing and repulsive as they were, would have mattered less. Sutherland would have soon recovered the burning up of a few hundred hamlets, or the loss of a few bed-ridden old people, who would have died as certainly under cover, though perhaps a few months later, as when exposed to the elements in the open air. Nay, had it lost a thousand of its best men in the way in which it lost so many at the storming of New Orleans, the blank ere now would have been completely filled up. The calamities of fire or of decimation even, however distressing in themselves, never yet ruined a country; no calamity ruins a country that leaves the surviving inhabitants to develop, in their old circumstances, their old character and resources.

In one of the eastern eclogues of Collins, where two shepherds are described as flying for their lives before the troops of a ruthless invader, we see with how much of the terrible the imagination of a poet could invest the evils of war, when aggravated by pitiless barbarity. Fertile as that imagination was, however, there might be found new circumstances to heighten the horrors of the scene—circumstances beyond the reach of invention—in the retreat of the Sutherland Highlanders from the smoking ruins of their cottages to their allotments on the coast. We have heard of one man, named Mackay, whose family at the time of the greater conflagration referred to by Macleod, were all lying ill of fever, who had to carry two of his sick children on his back a distance of twenty-five miles. We have heard of the famished people blackening the shores, like the crew of some vessel wrecked on an inhospitable coast, that they might sustain life by the shell-fish and sea-weed laid bare by the ebb. Many of their allotments, especially on the western coast, were barren in the extreme—unsheltered by bush or tree, and exposed to the sweeping sea-winds, and in time of tempest, to the blighting spray; and it was found a matter of the extremest difficulty to keep the few cattle which they had retained, from wandering, especially in the night-time. into the better sheltered and more fertile interior. The poor animals were intelligent enough to read a practical comment on the nature of the change effected; and, from the harshness of the shepherds to whom the care of the interior had been entrusted, they served materially to add to the distress of their unhappy masters. They were getting continually impounded; and vexatious fines, in the form of trespass-money, came thus to be wrung from the already impoverished Highlanders. Many who had no money to give were obliged to relieve them by depositing some of their few portable articles of value, such as bed or bodyclothes, or, more distressing still, watches, and rings, and pins—the only relics, in not a few instances, of brave men whose bones were mouldering under the fatal rampart at New Orleans, or in the arid sands of Egypt—on that spot of proud recollection, where the invincibles of apoleon went down before the Highland bayouet. Their first efforts as fishermen were what might be expected from a rural people unaccustomed to the sea. The shores of Sutherland, for immense tracts together, are iron-bound, and much exposed—open on the Eastern coast to the waves of the German Ocean, and on the North and West to the long roll of the Atlantic. There could not be more perilous seas for the unpractised boatman to take his first lessons on; but though the casualties were numerous and the loss of life great, many of the younger Highlanders became expert fishermen. The experiment was harsh in the extreme, but so far, at least, it succeeded. It lies open, however, to other objections than those which have been urged against it on the score of its inhumanity.


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