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The History of the Highland Clearances
The Hebrides - A Contrast

Before leaving Skye, it will be interesting to see the difference of opinion which existed among the chiefs regarding the eviction of the people at this period and a century earlier. We have just seen what a Lord Macdonald has done in the present century, little more than thirty years ago. Let us compare his proceedings and feelings to those of his ancestor, in 1739, a century earlier. In that year a certain Norman Macleod managed to get some islanders to emigrate, and it was feared that Government would hold Sir Alexander Macdonald of Sleat responsible, as he was reported to have encouraged Macleod.

The baronet being from home, his wife, Lady Margaret, wrote to Lord Justice-Clerk Milton on the 1st of January, 1740, pleading with him to use all his influence against a prosecution of her husband, which, "tho' it cannot be dangerouse to him, yett it cannot faill of being both troublesome and expensive." She begins her letter by stating that she was informed "by different hands from Edinburgh that there is a currant report of a ship's haveing gone from thiss country with a greate many people designed for America, and that Sir Alexander is thought to have concurred in forceing these people away." She then declares the charge against her husband to be "a falsehood," but she "is quite acquainted with the danger of a report" of that nature. Instead of Sir Alexander being a party to the proceedings of this "Norman Macleod, with a number of fellows that he had picked up execute his intentions," he "was both angry and concern'd to hear that some of his oune people were taken in thiss affair."

What a contrast between the sentiments here expressed and those which carried out the modern evictions! And yet it is well-known that, in other respects no more humane man ever lived than he who was nominally responsible for the cruelties in Skye and at Sollas. He allowed himself to be imposed upon by others, and completely abdicated his high functions as landlord and chief of his people. We have the most conclusive testimony and assurance from one who knew his lordship intimately, that, to his dying day, he never ceased to regret what had been done in his name, and at the time, with his tacit approval, in Skye and in North Uist.

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