Highland Clearances

Why are there so many people of Scots descent in places like North America?

A Scottish “Clan” is an extended family of people related by blood and ancestry, not unlike the indigenous tribes of North America. It was the hereditary duty of our chiefs to safeguard the wellbeing of the people. For centuries this tradition prevailed and was considered to be sacrosanct. Clansmen and women responded by giving in return unquestioning and unconditional loyalty and service to the Clan through their chiefs. Betrayal of this age old bond of family loyalty was perpetrated by many of the chiefs who had been corrupted into an aristocracy, distinct and remote from their kinsfolk.

During the 18th and 19th centuries throughout the Highlands and Islands, in what we now call The Highland Clearances or Fuadaich Nan Gaidheal (the expulsion of the Gael), a policy known by the fine euphemism “Land Improvement” was ruthlessly enforced at bayonet point in pursuit of the new creed of Market Forces as the people were driven from the homes and land they and their ancestors had inhabited for thousands of years.

Nothing short of genocide and ethnic cleansing took place throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, especially in Sutherland and Ross. Settlements and sizeable townships were cleared of people to make way for more profitable, perhaps better behaved, and certainly less free-thinking sheep. The ruined cottages which cover the Highlands bear witness to this crime against humanity.

The Church in lonely Glencalvie is one of many reminders of this time. It bears graphic witness to the heartbreak of the people brutally evicted. An inscription scratched in the window pane, probably by someone about to be herded onto a boat to Cape Breton, reads”Glencalvie people the wicked generation.”This tells of the sense of unjust self recrimination that the people bore, reluctant to blame their church or chiefs, believing instead that this was Divine punishment for their sins.

Those crofters who remained and survived took refuge in the seaboard villages and became a source of virtually free labour for the landlords.

This period, more than any other, brought about the end of the Clan system as many of the Chieftains gloried in their anglicised titles of Barons, Dukes and Earls. This heralded the birth, through desperation, of enlistment, some of it enforced, creating many of the famous regiments of the British Army. The “King’s Shilling” was well spent.