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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter XXXII. - Emigration

THE people he turned out of their holdings did not hate or curse the Laird, but rather pitied him and excused him on the score of youth, alien upbringing and education, the influence of English views on property rights, and of the new Scotch Toryism which left nothing really Highland to many young men with large estates and long lines of ancestors glorified in Gaelic songs (which these degenerates could not understand) beyond empty pride in a vanished past and the gewgaws of Highland dress and accoutrements. The larger number of those he evicted never saw him again. He remained in England or on the Continent or elsewhere in Scotland until they cleared away; but for that absence he fully atoned by providing them with work and wages during the year they had necessarily to remain for delivering their crops at Martinmas, selling their household chattels, and winding up their whole affairs in Scotland. The trustees had been chary in spending money on improvements; but they saved money which the laird was now spending freely, and wisely also, in planting, draining, fencing, repairing and enlarging Meggernie Castle, and generally making up for arrears of neglect during his long minority.

The majority of the evicted at once resolved to emigrate as soon as their affairs were settled. Emigration indeed was always more or less steadily going on since the war with France ended. The idea of it was never absent from the thoughts of the young and adventurous. In the year before the eviction a small band of young people from the Culdares estate had gone to Ontario, then called Upper Canada. Some years earlier a larger band from the Glen had gone to Port Philip, Australia, which now means Melbourne not then in existence. Stray individuals had also found their way to New Zealand and South Africa. The migrations at home which had been perpetually, if silently and little noticed by historians, going on from immemorial times had now become brisker than ever before. Expanding cities and towns, railway construction, mining districts, and manufacturing districts offered boundless openings to incomers. But although at first sight it might seem natural that Highland families should follow the "calanas," that coal, steam, and mill-machinery had taken away from them, the southward migration from the central Highlands remained for many years what it had ever been, a drifting of individuals rather than of families. The potato disease, however, caused a great drove to go to Glasgow and its neighbouring districts from Argyll, the Isles, and the West Coast.

To our Glen people emigration was a familiar and far from disagreeable idea, and the thought of town life and work, especially for the women and children, was more than unattractive, positively abhorrent. They thought deeply, reasoned thoroughly, and resolved wisely. If they went with their families to manufacturing towns, they would have to begin life anew as unskilled labourers, their women and children would be the slaves of the mill, and they would have to put up with miserable homes amidst low- class neighbours, who had no faith or morals. They admitted that many Highlanders who went south flourished in business or professions, both in England and Scotland, and they were proud that among them were Glensmen and relatives of their own; but they said that only young men without family cares, and with determination to succeed, could be certain of getting on by migrating, while emigration would enable whole families to live and work together as they had been accustomed to do. In towns, the knowledge of farming and country life which they possessed would be of no use; while in a new country and on land of their own, they would be of infinite value to themselves and of advantage to the new country. So they resolved to emigrate. They could not have done anything better. They could pay their passage, and, after arriving in Canada, have money with which to buy forest farms and to keep themselves supplied with necessaries until they cleared land and raised crops. Habitable dwellings could be easily run up in the woods, and what had they to learn in respect to cattle and farming except slight climatic differences, to which a year's experience would teach them to adapt themselves? In their estimate of themselves there was no exaggeration or mistake. They were about the fittest and most resourceful farming colonists that any new country could possibly have. The United States had no attraction for them. They were full of British loyalty, and wished to live under the British flag, and their descendants to do the same in secula, seculorum.

They preferred Canada to all other Colonies, because they had there many kith and kin to give them welcome and helpful advice. The connection with Canada began with the capture of Quebec, when among the other Highland soldiers who remained behind as colonists, were two or three Glenlyon men who drew out their relations across the Atlantic to join them. The connection thus formed broadened a good deal during and after the war between Great Britain and the United States, and about 1816 it received a new accession of strength by the company of Glenlyon emigrants who joined other Highlanders in colonising Glengarry and its chief village or town, Lancaster, some seventy miles above Montreal. Our people of 1845 never thought of any other place of refuge. Although the time of mail steamers and cheap postage had yet to come, they had correspondence with emigrated friends in various parts of what is now the wide Dominion of Canada, and with at least one Glensman on the hunting prairies, Robert Campbell, who rose high in the service of the Hudson Bay Company. They were therefore fairly well informed about Canadian scenery, climate, productions, and varieties of soil. Their later emigrants and many Breadalbane acquaintances had gone to Upper Canada now Ontario and settled in a successful way about places subsequently called London and Ailsa Craig.

Among the pioneer Highland settlers in that region was Iain Mor Stewart from Innerwick, who, with his wife and a large family of children, chiefly sons, went out in 1833. Iain Mor was the eldest son of his father, but as he got a farm of his own and married in his father's lifetime, his next brother, Gilleaspa Mor, who, after the old man's death, married my aunt (Mary Campbell), took his place in the paternal Craigelig holding, and his widowed mother remained with him. Now Gilleaspa Mor, with his wife and eight children, and his two widowed sisters, each with families almost equally large, formed the solid core of the 1846 band of Glenlyon emigrants, and in one way or another, by kinship or affinity, the others were almost all connected with them. The old settlers made arrangements for receiving those who were to emigrate from Glenlyon and Breadalbane in 1846, and facilitated the placing of them. The outgoers formed a numerous company. They had a favourable but tedious voyage, in a sailing ship of course, and lost none of their number by sea or on the land journey afterwards. Glad indeed they were when they reached their destination.

The most picturesque figure of the Glenlyon exodus was Margaret Macnaughton, a dame of ninety, who was still as straight as a girl of eighteen, and walked with firm and almost springy step. She was the mother of Gilleaspa Mor and the two widowed sisters, and the grandmother of their children, more than twenty in number. With this squad of descendants she was marching away to Ontario, where she would see once more her eldest son and his wife and their large family. Another son, Duncan, the youngest, who was an officer of Excise on the Moray Firth, and had also a large family, remained behind in Scotland. She had, at the head of her emigrating band, therefore, good cause to consider herself a patriarchal chieftainess. But her thoughts took another line. She was afraid of being left behind and provided for, as had often been done in cases like hers when old people feared to face the long voyage and land travelling. She feared none of these things, and yet, I daresay, had never in her long life been fifty miles away from her birthplace. Her father had followed Prince Charlie into England, and had fought at Culloden. His adventurous spirit had descended to his daughter, although she did not know it until the belated test came. I may mention that her rebel father, Black John of Culloden, as he came to be called, was my maternal great-grandfather. He lived till he was within a few months of completing his hundredth year. Four of his five children died without reaching the age of seventy ; while Margaret, who went with her troop of descendants to the Ontario woods at ninety, lived fully seven years after arriving there. She was a great spinner of flax and wool, and had had a turn at her wheel before breakfast on the day on which she died. After breakfast she told her grand-daughter that she did not feel well, and would go and rest in bed for a while. She went to bed, and seemed to feel comfortable, but in an hour or so when her grand-daughter went to look at her she was dead. On the voyage she was the only one of the party of emigrant passengers who was not sea-sick. She felt more tired of the land travelling, but bore its discomforts bravely and patiently. Black John's elder brother, Duncan, was with him at Culloden, having left his newly-married wife behind him ; and while he was campaigning their first child, Janet Mor, was born, and in his absence baptised by Mr Ferguson, minister of Fortingall, who was hated by the Jacobites because he prayed so emphatically for "our lawful sovereign, King George," and acted so resolutely against their cause. Of Janet's brothers and sisters, only one, Duncan the Maor, attained the age of eighty. He was my godfather, and always gave me sixpence a great sum in my eyes, when a penny was the usual gift to buy sweets or apples at the annual local fair at Innerwick; but when I was small and shy he plagued me terribly by saying that Janet Mor wanted to marry me. That was a joke of his which two generations of boys had to put up with. When I knew Janet more intimately, that joke of his lost its sting. She was a merry old soul with a youthful mind, and with a good memory, up to the last, of ordinary events of Glen life during her time, and of the genealogies of Glen people. But she was not half so interesting as her cousin, Margaret, who had a large store of legends and songs. I wish I had paid more attention to her local songs, and written them down ; for several of them were of high merit, and had stories attached to them. All of them have now perished, with the exception of two taken down by Turner, the "Lament for Macgregor of Roro," and the lament of his Campbell widow for Gregor, the Chief of the Clan, who was beheaded at Bealach or Taymouth in 1570. Turner, in taking down the lament for Gregor, fell into a blunder, because he thought the lamenting widow was the daughter of Sir Duncan Campbell, or his father, Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy, when in reality she was the daughter of their near kinsman, Duncan Campbell of Glenlyon. To my grand-aunt's annoyance, he muddled two verses to suit his theory. Gregor had committed atrocities which the Regent could not overlook. His hunting down was a State affair; and when captured he was tried at Bealach before the Earl of Atholl, Lord Justice Clerk, and an assemblage of local barons. He was fully convicted, and forthwith beheaded. The correct verses are

'S truagh nach robh m'athair arm an galar
Agus Cailean ann am plaigh;
'S gach Caimbeulach a bha'm Bealach
Gu giulain nan glas-lamh.

Chuirinn Cailean Liath fo ghlasaibh,
'S Donnachadh Dubh an laimh,
Ged bhiodh nigheari an Ruadhainich,
Suathadh bhas a's lamh.

Pity it is that my father (Duncan Roy of Glenlyon) is not in illness,
And Colin (her brother, afterwards called Cailean Gorach) is not plague stricken,
And every Campbell in Bealach made to wear hand-cuff's.

I would put Grey Colin (Sir Colin of Glenorchy) under lock
And Black Duncan (his son and heir) under arrest.
Although Ruthven's daughter rubbed hands and palms in grief.
[Lonl Ruthven'v daughter was Sir Colin's wife and the mother of his heir, Black Duncan.]

Turner's muddled version is

'S truagh nach robh m' athair ann an galar
Agus Cailean ann an plaigh,
Ged bhiodh nighnean an Ruadhainich
Suathadh bhas a's lamh.

Chuirinn Cailean Liath fo ghlasaibh,
'S Donnachadh Dubh an laimh,
'S gach Caimbeulach a bha'm Bealach
Gu guilan nan glas-lamh.

When the large clearances, and after them the long-continued systematic lesser evictions on the Breadalbane estate, escaped general publicity and criticism, such a small side-swirl in the broad sea of change as the turning out of a few tenants on the Culdares estate was not likely to receive any notice from the press ; yet the unlikely came to pass, through the impression which the stout-hearted chieftainess of ninety made upon a journalist of some fame in his day, and one who had an enviable gift of writing vivid sketches and artistically neat paragraphs. This was Mr Macdiarmid, editor of the Dumfries Courier, who, then on holiday, chanced to meet our emigrants at the head of Loch Long, whence they were to ship to Liverpool and embark on the sailing vessel in which they were to cross the Atlantic. Macdiarmid sought an interview with the old dame, and wrote a paragraph about her in the Dumfries Courier, which many papers copied. Had he been able to converse with her in Gaelic he would have been as much struck with her mental, as he was with her physical, vigour and courage.

Our emigrants cheerfully and carefully made their preparations for the long journey, following the directions sent them by the friends who had gone before them. They talked hopefully of the homes they would make for themselves, God willing, in the new far-off country to which they were going. It was not until the parting wrench came that they realised or were willing to admit the clutching hold which the scenery of their native Glen, with all its associations, and the graves of their dead of many centuries, had on their hearts. Travelling to and fro on the face of the earth was not then so cheap and easy as it is now. Those who went to the south of the British Isles, or to Ireland, could revisit the places from which they or their fathers had gone, and be thrice welcomed by kindred who listened with interest to the stories they had to tell, and who in return told what had been passing since they or their fathers had gone away. A good deal of money earned in the south filtered back to the Highlands from successful migrants who ever remembered the old folk at home. Emigrants to Canada had no hope, even as late as 1846, of ever seeing again the glens of their youth, and the friends they left behind them unless they followed them, as some of them intended to do, and did ere many years had gone over their heads. "Cha till, cha till, cha till sinn tuille" return, return, return we shall never was still the Highland emigrant's pathetic farewell to the beloved native land, which, with all the hardships of life there, had laid a spell of love on his soul, which he transmitted without much lessening force to his children and children's children. In this twentieth century the Canadian Premier, Sir Wilfred Laurier, has been calling the Scots emigrants the salt of the Dominion. Of that salt the Highland emigrants were not the least important part; for in the first generation they took, as a class, almost exclusively to farming; and although rulers like Sir Allan Macnab and Sir John Macdonald came out of their ranks, their children, as a rule, kept hold of the soil, and sent off-shoots further and further afield till they spread over to the Pacific Coast. None of the elderly people of the Glen emigrants of 1846 did ever come back to revisit their birth-place. But some of the younger generations and of the next swarm of self-evicted ones who went out in the fifties, came back and saw a depopulated Glen, in which all had changed except the grand scenery. The depopulation was completed, as in other places, by the people, of their own free-will, going away to seek better openings for themselves either in the south or in the colonies. What happened in Glenlyon was typical of what was taking place over most of the Central Highlands sixty years ago. As for the West Coast and Isles, the potato disease did the worst and most hurried ravaging of population as it did in Ireland by driving away and pauperising the people. So the old order perished. Nothing could have averted the doom pronounced by radically changed economic conditions of national commerce and industries. From 1600 till the dispersion, Glenlyon population remained essentially unaltered. It consisted of people of about a dozen different surnames, with separate graves in the old churchyard, but who, by intermarrying, were knit together as a kith and kindred clan. The Privy Council Records between 1600 and 1620, in giving lists of the Glenlyon people who were fined for resetting Clan Gregor, denounced as rebels, conclusively proves this assertion. Sir James Macgregor, Vicar of Fortingall, afterwards Dean of Lismore, and his brother Duncan, began a Chronicle about 1500, which was continued by a clansman who was curate of Fortingall until 1579. This Chronicle indicates that between 1400 and the reign of James the Sixth, a few new surnames had been introduced into an older community which still and always retained, numerically, dominating position. Dynasties of proprietors rose and fell, but till the old order passed, the people held their ground without any wholesale change.

In Ontario emigrants from adjacent districts like Breadalbane, Glenlyon, Rannoch, and Fortingall, as long as selection of lots of land was anything like free to choose, clustered together, and continued the religious, moral, and social and industrious life they had led at home. As a body they prospered better than they ever could have done either by remaining on their old holdings or by removing in families to manufacturing towns and mining districts. The large tribe of the chieftainess of ninety has by this time grown into a very large clan, but it is a widely dispersed clan, for while the main section of it remains and prospers in Ontario, there is a strong swarm in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The Highlanders of Canada have always been most loyal to the British Flag and citizenship, notwithstanding the unfriendly feeling to some nineteenth century Highland landlords which they took with them to their new homes, and which indeed they displayed strongly during the crofter agitation in this country twenty years ago. They rose in arms to defeat the Fenian invasions of Canada from the United States. They looked with anger and disgust at advocates of annexation like Mr Goldwin Smith, and they are ever suspicious of Washington policy lest it should have a snake hidden in its fine, innocent-looking grass. When Kiel's rebellion threatened to sever the vast prairie land of the West from Canada, and to establish some mongrel sort of a hostile State between Canada and British Columbia, who volunteered more promptly than Highlanders of Ontario for the expedition to squash that rebellion? And who showed more hardihood and capacity for bearing the discomforts and overcoming the difficulties of the long marches by water and by land? In the gallant band led by Sir Garnet Wolseley were grandsons of our Glenlyon dame of ninety, who, with other Gaelic-speaking acquaintances, resolved when the rebellion was over to settle in Manitoba. It is their children and relatives who are now spreading themselves over into Saskatchewan and further west even to the Pacific.

If the Scottish sections, which are very large, of the Canadian population have a just right to be called the salt of the Dominion, it is because whether of Highland or Lowland descents they devoted themselves more than any other sections to farming and healthy country pursuits, and less than others plunged into the speculating madness and enervating habits of cities and towns. Although it has a fair show of mineral wealth, the Dominion is and always must remain an agricultural, pastoral, fishing, lumbering, and hunting country. For all of these pursuits people of Scotch rural descent have hereditary inclination and both natural and acquired qualifications. The owners and the tillers of the soil must of necessity be the backbone of every nation on the face of the earth which has a patent of long endurance with the force and patriotism requisite to make that patent good. The Highlanders of the Dominion appeared there as farmers, levellers of primeval forests, and Hudson Bay Company hunters. Long may their descendants keep out of the urban life, and retain their hold on the soil and the simple healthy open-air existence.

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