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The History of the Highland Clearances
Perthshire - Breadalbane


Mr. P. Alister, author of Barriers to the National Prosperity of Scotland, had a controversy with the Marquis of Breadalbane in 1853, about the eviction of his tenantry. In a letter, dated July of that year, Mr. Alister made a charge against his lordship which, for obvious reasons, he never attempted to answer, as follows:-

"Your lordship states that in reality there has been no depopulation of the district. This, and other parts of your lordship's letter, would certainly lead any who know nothing of the facts to suppose that there had been no clearings on the Breadalbane estates; whereas it is generally believed that your lordship removed, since 1834, no less than 500 families! Some may think this is a small matter; but I do not. I think it is a great calamity for a family to be thrown out, destitute of the means of life, without a roof over their heads, and cast upon the wide sea of an unfeeling world. In Glenqueich, near Amulree, some sixty families formerly lived, where there are now only four or five; and in America, there is a glen inhabited by its ousted tenants, and called Glenqueich still. Yet, forsooth, it is maintained there has been no depopulation here! The desolations here look like the ruins of Irish cabins, although the population of Glenqueich were always characterised as being remarkably thrifty, economical, and wealthy. On the Braes of Taymouth, at the back of Drummond Hill, and at Tullochyoule, some forty or fifty families formerly resided, where there is not one now! Glenorchy, by the returns of 1831, showed a population of 1806; in 1841, 831,'—is there no depopulation there? Is it true that in Glenetive there were sixteen tenants a year or two ago, where there is not a single one now? Is it true, my lord, that you purchased an island on the west coast, called Luing, where some twenty-five families lived at the beginning of this year, but who are now cleared off to make room for one tenant, for whom an extensive steading is now being erected? If my information be correct, I shall allow the public to draw their own conclusions; but, from every thing that I have heard, I believe that your lordship has done more to exterminate the Scottish peasantry than any man now living; and perhaps you ought to be ranked next to the Marquis of Stafford in the uneviable clearing celebrities. If I have over-estimated the clearances at 500 families, please to correct me." As we have already said, his lordship thought it prudent, and by far the best policy, not to make the attempt.

In another letter the same writer says :-

"You must be aware that your late father raised 2300 men during the last war, and that 1600 of that number were from the Breadalbane estates. My statement is, that 150 could not now be raised. Your lordship has most carefully evaded all allusion to this,—perhaps the worst charge of the whole. From your lordship's silence I am surely justified in concluding that you may endeavour to evade the question, but you dare not attempt an open contradiction. I have often made inquiries of Highlanders on this point, and the number above stated was the highest estimate. Many who should know, state to me that your lordship would not get fifty followers from the whole estates; and another says:—`Why, he would not get half-a-dozen, and not one of them unless they could not possibly do otherwise.' This, then, is the position of the question: in 1793-4, there was such a numerous, hardy, and industrious population on the Breadalbane estates, that there could be spared of valorous defenders of their country in her hour of danger, 1600; highest estimate now, 150; highest banished, 1450. Per contra--Game of all sorts increased a hundred-fold."

In 1831, Glenorchy, of which his lordship of Breadalbane was proprietor, was 1806; in 1841 it was reduced to 831. Those best acquainted with the Breadalbane estates assert that on the whole property no less than 500 families, or about 2500 souls, were driven into exile by the hard-hearted Marquis of that day.

It is, however, gratifying to know that the present Lord Breadalbane, who is descended from a different and remote branch of the family, is an excellent landlord, and takes an entirely different view of his duties and relationship to the tenants on his vast property.

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