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A History of Rannoch
The Vanished Races


There is no doubt that Rannoch did become an admirable and prosperous place after its troubles.  From the time of Small and Buchanan, for the next 50 or 60 years, the area experienced its most prosperous period.  There were of course years when crops failed but on the whole it became practically self-supporting, while it exported a great number of the best citizens, who went to many parts of the Kingdom as well as abroad, and made good.

It is difficult for newcomers to the district to realise that one time this valley was full of people and villages.  If you walk the hills and get away from the by-ways you will see the many larachs, the countless tumble of stones with the neighbouring green patches and signs of cultivation which are all the remain of the once populous villages and settlements.  Or follow the old drove routes to the cattle stances, or wander along the old dyke, or sit by the cairns on the coffin roads and you will son be aware that these hills and places were not always lonely.

At the height of its prosperity Rannoch housed 2,500 inhabitants in 35 villages.  Now there are 400 people (not counting the population of Rannoch school) and two villages, three, if you count Killochonan.  Someone has described it well as the Land of the Vanished Races. There is still a MacGregor, a Cameron, a Menzies, a Stewart, a Campbell, a MacDonald and a Robertson or two, but hundred’s of their namesakes and fellow clansmen have disappeared.  What has happened to them all?

Rannoch has become depopulated throughout the years for the same reasons as other parts of the Highlands; evictions, economy, food shortages, black-faced sheep, fall in wool prices, decline in the crofts, and the increase in sporting ground for grouse and deer.  IN 1755 there were 2,500 people here.  Some say that there were not many evictions but I will give you the words of a writer in 1883 called Alexander Mackenzie who gets quite hot under the collar about the Rannoch Clearances.  He thinks that “certain landlords should be held up to public scorn and execration to deter other’.  He says that in 1800 the three tenant farmers of Ardlarich were turned out in 1820 seven tenants were evicted from Liaran and 50-60 families vanished from Aulich, Craiganour and Annat, or were virtually banished.  These were all on Slios Min which belonged to Menzies.

On Slios Garbh all the crofters were evicted from Finnart and twenty-six houses were knocked down by the late laird of Struan at Georgetown.  Elsewhere tenant were removed from their holding at Dalchosnie, Lassintulloch, Crossmount and Tullochrcroisk, and over the River Dubhag, which is the old name for the Tummel, countless families lost their homes, including 16 at Auchtarsin.

If I may venture an opinion I am inclined to think that Mr Mackenzie has been extreme in his findings, and that many of the Rannoch Clearances were due to economic necessity.  Once sheep were introduced, the country could not support the same amount of people.  Unfortunately for the small holder the large sheep farm was far more economic than the small crofter’s holding and the small crofts gradually disappeared.  With the growth of popularity of deer shooting and grouse shooting in Victorian times the departure of the tenant was accelerated.

Although fifty years ago the population had dropped to twelve hundred, the Menzies still occupied Slios Min and the Robertsons still owned some parts of the Slios Garbh so that things were much as they had always been.  But in a few years all has changed; the Menzies lost their lands in 1914, and 1926 saw the last Robertson possession sold.  Most of the Robertson and Menzies territory is now owned by the Forestry Commission and there are new lairds in the district from as far afield as Germany, Italy and Holland.  Opportunities for work in the area are limited but the present inhabitants live busy lives.  There are half a dozen farms, there are the Estates, three or four shops, the hotels, the Forestry Commission, the Hydro Electric, the tradesmen, the Garages, and the Coucil.  Also Rannoch School and Loch Rannoch Hotel, with its Time-shared Lodges bring much trade into the valley and a regular flow of people.  There is still plenty happening at Rannoch, but how different it is!  How different is life in 1984 from what it was in the old days!  No more do the hills resound with the cries of clansmen and clash of swords.  No more are there feuds and persecutions.  No more the times, the starvation and the testing loyalties.  No more the peaceful life on the hill pastures.  All is changed.  None of these are left.  Only the memories remain.


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