I am just now travelling through a county whose name
became notorious throughout the civilised world because of the clearances.
They started when the young Duchess married the head of Leveson Gowers,
the Earl of Stafford, who introduced into his Scottish estate the English
system of estate management — which was even more disastrous than
Culloden. One minister, the Rev. Donald Sage, stood by evicted tenants and
was persecuted by his non-Christian brethren of the Church. The Duchess
herself spent a fortune in assisting the starving poor of London and was
never aware of the crimes committed in her name. I published twenty years
ago a pamphlet history called "Hitlerism in the Highlands".
Maybe the title was unjust to Adolph of that ilk!
A statue to the Leveson Gower whose authority reduced
this land largely to the state of a desert stands in the town where I am
now preaching the gospel. When we have recovered our self-respect it will
disappear like the statues of Stalin in Russia’s satellites.
I will he delighted to perform the detonating
Superficially the tale of the Sutherland Clearances is
one of unrelieved blackguardism — heartless landowners driving out
helpless crofters from their homes out of greed.
Actually the Duke of Sutherland used the revenues of
his English estates in order to build 450 miles of roads amid 134 bridges
from which he derived no profit.
The real tragedy of the Sutherlands lay in their
ignorance of the evils done in their name. The story reveals, not so much
the evils of landlordism (which can he equalled in heartlessness by
government departments) but the evils of alien and absentee landlordism.
I have just been passing through nature in all its
majestic grandeur and all its scenic loveliness. 0n my right hand further
than the eye can see, the estate of Colonel Whitbread (of the English
Beerage) who does not allow hikers near his sacred dwelling (inhabited
only six weeks of the year) amid on the other the immense acreage of the
Wills estates, lands sacred to alcohol, nicotine and LSD, the three drugs
of our social system.
It would be a good idea to examine the landlord system
of Scotland in order to distinguish between landowners who perform a
useful social function and those who are useless and even harmful.
Our present system is out of date and owes its
continuance only to the apathy and ignorance of Westminster. In Switzerland
no one can buy land unless he has been resident for five years. This is an
The Dutch have bought 30,000 acres of land in Argyll.
The English will soon he protesting against this invasion of their
The first time I went over the sea to Lewis, I noticed
"Room for passengers in the absence of
sheep". How could Highland history he better summed up? Someone once
wrote a paraphrase:
"The earth, it is the Lord’s,
The sea and all that it contains;
Except the boats and piers,
And they are all MacBrayne's"