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The History of the Highland Clearances
Inverness-Shire - Glenelg


In 1849 more than 500 souls left Glenelg. These petitioned the proprietor, Mr. Baillie of Dochfour, to provide means of existence for them at home by means of reclamation and improvements in the district, or, failing this, to help them to emigrate. Mr. Baillie, after repeated communications, made choice of the latter alternative, and suggested that a local committee should be appointed to procure and supply him with information as to the number of families willing to emigrate, their circumstances, and the amount of aid necessary to enable them to do so. This was done, and it was intimated to the proprietor that a sum of 3000 would be required to land those willing to emigrate at Quebec. This sum included passage money, free rations, a month's sustenance after the arrival of the party in Canada, and some clothing for the more destitute. Ultimately, the proprietor offered the sum of 2000, while the Highland Destitution Committee promised 500. A great deal of misunderstanding occurred before the Liscard finally sailed, in consequence of misrepresentations made as to the food to be supplied on board, while there were loud protests against sending the people away without any medical man in charge. Through the activity and generous sympathy of the late Mr. Stewart of Ensay, then tenant of Ellanreach, on the Glenelg property, who took the side of the people, matters were soon rectified. A doctor was secured, and the people satisfied as to the rations to be served out to them during the passage, though these did not come up to one-half what was originally promised. On the whole, Mr. Baillie behaved liberally, but, considering the suitability of the beautiful valley of Glenelg for arable and food-producing purposes, it is to be regretted that he did not decide upon utilizing the labour of the natives in bringing the district into a state of cultivation, rather than have paid so much to banish them to a foreign land. That they would themselves have preferred this is beyond question.

Mr. Mulock, father of the author of "John Halifax, Gentleman," an Englishman who could not be charged with any preconceived prejudices or partiality for the Highlanders, travelled at this period through the whole North, and ultimately published an account of what he had seen. Regarding the Glenelg business, he says, as to their willingness to emigrate:- "`To suppose that numerous families would as a matter of choice sever themselves from their loved soil, abolish all the associations of local and patriotic sentiment, fling to the winds every endearing recollection connected with the sojourneying spot of vanished generations, and blot themselves, as it were, out of the book of 'home-born happiness,' is an hypothesis too unnatural to be encouraged by any sober, well-regulated mind." To satisfy himself, he called forty to fifty heads of families together at Glenelg, who had signed an agreement to emigrate, but who did not find room in the Liscard, and were left behind, after selling off everything they possessed, and were consequently reduced to a state of starvation. "I asked," he says, "these poor perfidiously treated creatures if, notwithstanding all their hardships, they were willing emigrants from their native land. With one voice they assured me that nothing short of the impossibility of obtaining land or employment at home could drive them to seek the doubtful benefits of a foreign shore. So far from the emigration being, at Glenelg, or Lochalsh, or South Uist, a spontaneous movement springing out of the wishes of the tenantry, I aver it to be, on the contrary, the product of desperation, the calamitous light of hopeless oppression visiting their sad hearts." We have no hesitation in saying that this is not only true of those to whom Mr. Mulock specially refers, but to almost every soul who have left the Highlands for the last sixty years. Only those who know the people intimately, and the means adopted by factors, clergy, and others to produce an appearance of spontaneity on the part of the helpless tenantry, can understand the extent to which this statement is true. If a judicious system had been applied of cultivating excellent land, capable of producing food in abundance, in Glenelg, there was not another property in the Highlands on which it was less necessary to send the people away than in that beautiful and fertile valley.

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