Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Highland Clearances

In the Scottish Highlands and Islands the years following the Jacobite Rebellion lead to considerable social unrest, made worse by a sharp rise in the population putting pressure on the use of the land. This brought about schemes to resettle abroad in North America, or in Australia, but in some cases, especially in Sutherland, emigration came after the people had been forcefully evicted from their homes and had seen their roof-timbers burned down.

This displacement of people to allow the introduction of large numbers of sheep, is a painful but important part of our heritage which deeply affects Scottish life today. The clusters of deserted crofts which litter the Highlands and Islands are an eloquent reminder of treatment of whole townships deprived of their land. The 'wilderness' that is the Highlands today is a direct man -made result of these events and the impact can be seen too, in the Scottish cultural influences throughout the world.

In writing, in song, and in the accounts of the dispossessed the lessons of the Clearances still relate to Scotland today:

"In but too many instances the Highlands have been drained, not of their superfluity of population, but of the whole mass of inhabitants, dispossessed by an unrelenting avarice which will be one day found to be shortsighted as it is unjust and selfish". - Sir Walter Scott