Alexander Mackenzie.

The history of the Highland clearances online

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fluence of religion alone that they refrain from breaking
out into open and turbulent resistance of the law. I en-
close you the defence of this proceeding, with a list of the
names and numbers of each family in Glencalvie in all
92 persons.*

* Condon Times of Tuesday, 2oth May, 1845.



In a " Sermon for the Times," the Rev. Richard Hibbs'
of the Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, referring to these
evictions, says : " Take first, the awful proof how far in
oppression men can go men highly educated and largely
gifted in every way property, talents, all ; for the most
part indeed, they are so-called noblemen. What, then,
are they doing in the Highland districts, according to the
testimony of a learned professor in this city ? Why,
depopulating those districts in order to make room for
red deer. And how ? By buying off the cottars, and
giving them money to emigrate ? Not at all, but by
starving them out ; by rendering them absolutely in-
capable of procuring subsistence for themselves and
families ; for they first take away from them their ap-
portionments of poor lands, although they may have paid
their rents ; and if that don't suffice to eradicate from
their hearts that love of the soil on which they have been
born and bred a love which the great Proprietor of all
has manifestly implanted in our nature why, then, these
inhuman landlords, who are far more merciful to their
very beasts, take away from these poor cottars the very
roofs above their defenceless heads, and expose them,
worn down with age and destitute of everything, to the
inclemencies of a northern sky ; and this, forsooth, be-
cause they must have plenty room for their dogs and deer.
For plentiful instances of the most wanton barbarities
under this head we need only point to the Knoydart
evictions. Here were perpetrated such enormities as
might well have caused the very sun to hide his face at
noon-day." Macleod, referring to this sermon, says :

" It has been intimated to me by an individual who
heard this discourse on the first occasion that the state-
ments referring to the Highland landlords have been con-
troverted. I was well aware, long before the receipt of
this intimation, that some defence had appeared ] and
here I can truly say, that none would have rejoiced more
than myself to find that a complete vindication had been


made. But, unhappily, the case is far otherwise. In
order to be fully acquainted with all that had passed on
the subject, I have put myself during the week in com-
munication with the learned professor to whose letter,
which appeared some months ago in the Times, I referred.
From him I learn that none of his statements were
invalidated nay, not even impugned ; and he adds,
that to do this was simply impossible, as he had been
at great pains to verify the facts. All that could be called
in question was the theory that he had based upon those
facts namely, that evictions were made for the purpose
of making room for more deer. This, of course, was open
to contradiction on the part of those landlords who had
not openly avowed their object in evicting the poor High-
land families. As to the evictions themselves and this
was the main point no attempt at contradiction was

In addition to all that the benevolent Professor [Black]
has made known to the world under this head, who has
not heard of " The Massacre of the Rosses," and the
clearing of the glens ? "I hold in my hand," Mr. Hibbs
continued, " a little work thus entitled, which has passed
into the second edition. The author, Mr. Donald Ross
a gentleman whom all who feel sympathy for the down-
trodden and oppressed must highly esteem. What a
humiliating picture of the barbarity and cruelty of fallen
humanity does this little book present ! The reader,
utterly appalled by its horrifying statements, finds it
difficult to retain the recollection that he is perusing the
history of his own times, and country too. He would
fain yield himself to the tempting illusion that the ruthless
atrocities which are depicted were enacted in a fabulous
period, in ages long past ; or at all events, if it be con-
temporaneous history, that the scene of such heart-
rending cruelties, the perpetrators of which were regard-
less alike of the innocency of infancy and the helplessness
of old age, is some far distant, and as yet not merely
unchristianized, but wholly savage and uncivilized region
of our globe. But alas ! it is Scotland, in the latter half
of the nineteenth century, of which he treats. One feature


of the heart-harrowing case is the shocking and barbarous
cruelty that was practised on this occasion upon the
female portion of the evicted clan. Mr. D. Ross, in a
letter addressed to the Right Hon. the Lord Advocate,
Edinburgh, dated April 19, 1854, th us writes in reference
to one of those clearances and evictions which had just
then taken place, under the authority of a certain Sheriff
of the district, and by means of a body of policemen as
executioners : ' The feeling on this subject, not only
in the district, but in Sutherlandshire and Ross-shire,
is, among the great majority of the people, one of uni-
versal condemnation of the Sheriff's reckless conduct,
and of indignation and disgust at the brutality of the
policemen. Such, indeed, was the sad havoc made on the
females on the banks of the Carron, on the memorable
3ist March last, that pools of blood were on the ground
that the grass and earth were dyed red with it that the
dogs of the district came and licked up the blood ; and
at last, such was the state of feeling of parties who went
from a distance to see the field, that a party (it is under-
stood by order or instructions from headquarters) actually
harrowed the ground during the night to hide the blood !

" The affair at Greenyard, on the morning of the 3ist
March last, is not calculated to inspire much love of
country, or rouse the martial spirit of the already ill-used
Highlanders. The savage treatment of innocent females
on that morning, by an enraged body of police, throws
the Sinope butchery into the shade ; for the Ross-shire
Haynaus have shown themselves more cruel and more
blood-thirsty than the Austrian women-floggers. What
could these poor men and women with their wounds
and scars, and broken bones, and disjointed arms,
stretched on beds of sickness, or moving on crutches,
the result of the brutal treatment of them by the police
at Greenyard have to dread from the invasion of Scot-
land by Russia ? ' "

Commenting on this incredible atrocity, committed in
the middle of the nineteenth century, Donald Macleod
says truly that : " It was so horrifying and so brutal
tha the did not wonder at the rev. gentleman's delicacy


in speaking of it, and directing his hearers to peruse Mr.
Ross's pamphlet for full information. Mr. Ross went
from Glasgow to Greenyard, all the way to investigate the
case upon the spot, and found that Mr. Taylor, a native of
Sutherland, well educated in the evicting schemes and
murderous cruelty of that county, and Sheriff-substitute
of Ross-shire, marched from Tain upon the morning of the
3 ist March, at the head of a strong party of armed con-
stables, with heavy bludgeons and fire-arms, conveyed
in carts and other vehicles, allowing them as much ardent
drink as they chose to take before leaving and on their
march, so as to qualify them for the bloody work which
they had to perform * fit for any outrage, fully equipped,
and told by the Sheriff to show no mercy to any one who
would oppose them, and not allow themselves to be
called cowards, by allowing these mountaineers victory
over them. In this excited, half-drunken state, they
came in contact with the unfortunate women of Green-
yard, who were determined to prevent the officers from
serving the summonses of removal upon them, and keep
their holding of small farms where they and their fore-
fathers lived and died for generations. But no time was
allowed for parley ; the Sheriff gave the order to clear the
way, and, be it said to his everlasting disgrace, he struck
the first blow at a woman, the mother of a large family,
and large in the family way at the time, who tried to keep
him back ; then a general slaughter commenced ; the
women made noble resistance, until the bravest of them
got their arms broken ; then they gave way. This did
not allay the rage of the murderous brutes, they con-
tinued clubbing at the protectless creatures until every
one of them was stretched on the field, weltering in their
blood, or with broken arms, ribs, and bruised limbs.
In this woeful condition many of them were hand-cuffed
together, others tied with coarse ropes, huddled into carts,
and carried prisoners to Tain. I have seen myself in the
possession of Mr. Ross, Glasgow, patches or scalps
of the skin with the long hair adhering to them, which was
found upon the field a few days after this inhuman affray.
I did not see the women, but I was told that gashes were


found on the heads of two young female prisoners in
Tain jail, which exactly corresponded with the slices of
scalps which I have seen, so that Sutherland and Ross-
shire may boast of having had the Nana Sahib and his
chiefs some few years before India, and that in the per-
sons of some whose education, training, and parental
example should prepare their minds to perform and act
differently. Mr. Donald Ross placed the whole affair
before the Lord Advocate for Scotland, but no notice was
taken of it by that functionary, further than that the
majesty of the law would need to be observed and at-
tended to.

" In this unfortunate country, the law of God and hum-
anity may be violated and trampled under foot, but the
law of wicked men which sanctions murder, rapine, and
robbery must be observed. From the same estate (the
estate of Robertson of Kindeace, if I am not mistaken in
the date) in the year 1843 the whole inhabitants of Glen-
calvie were evicted in a similar manner, and so unpro-
vided and unprepared were they for removal at such an
inclement season of the year, that they had to shelter
themselves in a Church and a bury ing-ground. I have
seen myself nineteen families within this gloomy and
solitary resting abode of the dead, they were there for
months. The London Times sent a commissioner direct
from London to investigate into this case, and he did his
duty ; but like the Sutherland cases, it was hushed up
in order to maintain the majesty of the law, and in order
to keep the right, the majesty of the people, and the laws
of God in the dark.

" In the year 1819 or '20, about the time when the
depopulation of Sutherlandshire was completed, and the
annual conflagration of burning the houses ceased, and
when there was not a glen or strath in the county to let
to a sheep farmer, one of these insatiable monsters of
Sutherlandshire sheep farmers fixed his eyes upon a glen
in Ross-shire, inhabited by a brave, hardy race for time
immemorial. Summonses of removal were served upon
them at once. The people resisted a military force
was brought against them the military and the women


of the glen met at the entrance to the glen, and a bloody
conflict took place ; without reading the riot act or taking
any other precaution, the military fired (by the order of
Sheriff MacLeod) ball cartridge upon the women ; one
young girl of the name of Mathieson was shot dead on the
spot ; many were wounded. When this murder was
observed by the survivors, and some young men con-
cealed in the background, they made a heroic sudden
rush upon the military, when a hand-to-hand melee or
fight took place. In a few minutes the military were put
to disorder by flight ; in their retreat they were unmerci-
fully dealt with, only two of them escaping with whole
heads. The Sheriff's coach was smashed to atoms, and he
made a narrow escape himself with a whole head. But no
legal cognizance was taken of this affair, as the Sheriff
and the military were the violators. However, for fear of
prosecution, the Sheriff settled a pension of 6 sterling
yearly upon the murdered girl's father, and the case was
hushed up likewise. The result was that the people kept
possession of the glen, and that the proprietor and the
oldest and most insatiable of Sutherlandshire scourges
went to law, which ended in the ruination of the latter,
who died a pauper."

Hugh Miller, describing a " Highland Clearing," in one
of his able leading articles in the Witness, since published
in volume form, quotes freely from an article by John
Robertson, which appeared in the Glasgow National
in August, 1844, on the evictions of the Rosses of Glen-
calvie. When the article from which Hugh Miller quotes
was written, the inhabitants of the glen had just received
notices of removal, but the evictions had not yet been
carried out. Commenting on the proceedings Hugh
Miller says :

" In an adjacent glen (to Strathcarron), through which
the Calvie works its headlong way to the Carron, that
terror of the Highlanders, a summons of removal, has
been served within the last few months on a whole com-
munity ; and the graphic sketch of Mr. Robertson relates
both the peculiar circumstances in which it has been
issued, and the feelings which it has excited. We find


from his testimony that the old state of things which
is so immediately on the eve of being broken up in this
locality, lacked not a few of those sources of terror to the
proprietary of the county, that are becoming so very
formidable to them in the newer states.''

The constitution of society in the Glens, says Mr.
Robertson, is remarkably simple. Four heads of families
are bound for the whole rental. The number of souls
was about ninety, sixteen cottages paid rent ; they sup-
ported a teacher for the education of their own children ;
they supported their own poor. " The laird has never
lost a farthing of rent in bad years, such as 1836 and 1837,
the people may have required the favour of a few weeks'
delay, but they are not now a single farthing in arrears ; "
that is, when they are in receipt of summonses of removal.
" For a century," Mr. Robertson continues, speaking of
the Highlanders, " their privileges have been lessening ;
they dare not now hunt the deer, or shoot the grouse or
the blackcock ; they have no longer the range of the hills
for their cattle and their sheep ; they must not catch a
salmon in the stream : in earth, air, and water, the rights
of the laird are greater, and the rights of the people are
smaller, than they were in the days of their forefathers."
The same writer eloquently concludes :

" The father of the laird of Kindeace bought Glen-
calvie. It was sold by a Ross two short centuries ago.
The swords of the Rosses of Glencalvie did their part in
protecting this little glen, as well as the broad lands of
Pitcalvie, from the ravages and the clutches of hostile
septs. These clansmen bled and died in the belief that
every principle of honour and morals secured their
descendants a right to subsisting on the soil. The chiefs
and their children had the same charter of the sword.
Some Legislatures have made the right of the people
superior to the right of the chief ] British law-makers
made the rights of the chief everything, and those of their
followers nothing. The ideas of the morality of property
are in most men the creatures of their interests and sym-
pathies. Of this there cannot be a doubt, however,
the chiefs would not have had the land at all, could the


clansmen have foreseen the present state of the High-
lands their children in mournful groups going into
exile the faggot of legal myrmidons in the thatch of the
feal cabin the hearths of their homes and their lives the
green sheep-walks of the stranger. Sad it is, that it is
seemingly the will of our constituencies that our laws shall
prefer the few to the many. Most mournful will it be,
should the clansmen of the Highlands have been cleared
away, ejected, exiled, in deference to a political, a moral,
a social, and an economical mistake, a suggestion not
of philosophy, but of mammon, a system in which the
demon of sordidness assumed the shape of the angel of
civilization and of light."

That the Eviction of the Rosses was of a harsh
character is amply corroborated by the following account,
extracted from the Inverness Courier : " We mentioned
last week that considerable obstruction was anticipated
in the execution of the summonses of removal upon the
tenants of Major Robertson of Kindeace, on his property
of Greenyards, near Bonar Bridge. The office turned
out to be of a very formidable character. At six o'clock
on the morning of Friday last, Sheriff Taylor proceeded
from Tain, accompanied by several Sheriff's officers, and
a police force of about thirty more, partly belonging to the
constabulary force of Ross-shire, and partly to that of
Inverness-shire,- the latter under the charge of Mr.
Mackay, inspector, Fort William. On arriving at Green-
yards, which is nearly four miles from Bonar Bridge,
it was found that about three hundred persons, fully
two-thirds of whom were women, had assembled from
the county round about, all apparently prepared to resist
the execution of the law. The women stood in front,
armed with stones, and the men occupied the background,
all, or nearly all, furnished with sticks.

" The Sheriff attempted to reason with the crowd, and
to show them the necessity of yielding to the law : but
his efforts were fruitless j some of the women tried to lay
hold of him and to strike him, and after a painful effort
to effect the object in view by peaceable means which
was renewed in vain by Mr. Gumming, the superintendent


of the Ross-shire police the Sheriff was reluctantly
obliged to employ force. The force was led by Mr.
Gumming into the crowd, and, after a sharp resistance,
which happily lasted only a few minutes, the people were
dispersed, and the Sheriff was enabled to execute the sum-
monses upon the four tenants. The women, as they bore
the brunt of the battle, were the principal sufferers. A
large number of them fifteen or sixteen, we believe, were
seriously hurt, and of these several are under medical
treatment \ one woman, we believe, still lies in a pre-
carious condition. The policemen appear to have used
their batons with great force, but they escaped themselves
almost unhurt. Several correspondents from the district,
who do not appear, however, to make sufficient allow-
ance for the critical position of affairs, and the necessity
of at once impressing so large a multitude with the serious
nature of the case, complain that the policemen used their
batons with wanton cruelty. Others state that they not
only did their duty, but that less firmness might have
proved fatal to themselves. The instances of violence
are certainly, though very naturally, on the part of the
attacking force j several batons were smashed in the
melee ; a great number of men and women were seriously
hurt, especially about the head and face, while not one of
the policemen, so far as we can learn, suffered any injury
in consequence. As soon as the mob was fairly dispersed,
the police made active pursuit, in the hope of catching
some of the ringleaders. The men had, however, fled,
and the only persons apprehended were some women,
who had been active in the opposition, and who had been
wounded. They were conveyed to the prison at Tain,
but liberated on bail next day, through the intercession
of a gallant friend, who became responsible for their

" A correspondent writes," continues the Courier, " ten
young women were wounded in the back of the skull and
other parts of their bodies. . . . The wounds on
these women show plainly the severe manner in which
they were dealt with by the police when they were re-
treating. It was currently reported last night that one


of them was dead ; and the feeling of indignation is so
strong against the manner in which the constables have
acted, that I fully believe the life of any stranger, if he
were supposed to be an officer of the law, would not be
worth twopence in the district."

The Northern Ensign, referring to the same case, says :
" One day lately a preventive officer with two cutter
men made their appearance on the boundaries of the
estate and were taken for Tain Sheriff-officers. The
signals were at once given, and in course of half-an-hour
the poor ganger and his men were surrounded by 300
men and women, who would not be remonstrated with
either in English or Gaelic * the poor fellows were taken
and denuded of their clothing, all papers and documents
were extracted and burnt, amongst which was a purse
with a considerable quantity of money. In this state
they were carried shoulder-high off the estate, and left
at the braes of Downie, where the great Culrain riot took
place thirty years ago."


During the first years of the century a great many were
cleared from Kintail by Seaforth at the instigation of his
Kintail factor, Duncan Mor Macrae, and his father, who
themselves added the land taken from the ancient
tenantry to their own sheep farms, already far too exten-
sive. In Glengarry, Canada, a few years ago, we met
one man, 93 years of age, who was among the evicted.
He was in excellent circumstances, his three sons having
three valuable farms of their own, and considered wealthy
in the district. In the same county there is a large
colony of Kintail men, the descendants of those cleared
from that district, all comfortable, many of them very
well off, one of them being then member for his county in
the dominion Parliament. While this has been the case
with many of the evicted from Kintail and their descend-
ants in Canada, the grasping sheep farmer who was the
original cause of their eviction from their native land,
died ruined and penniless ; and the Seaforths, not long


after, had to sell the last inch of their ancient inheritance
in Lochalsh and Kintail. Shortly after these Glenelchaig
evictions, about fifty families were banished in the same
way and by the same people from the district of Letter-
fearn. This property has also changed hands since, and
is now in possession of Sir Alexander Matheson, Baronet
of Lochalsh. Letter of Lochalsh was cleared by Sir Hugh
Innes, almost as soon as he came into possession by pur-
chase of that portion of the ancient heritage of Seaforth
and Kintail. The property has since passed into the
hands of the Lillingstones.


The attempt to evict the Coigeach crofters must also
be mentioned. Here the people made a stout resistance,
the women disarming about twenty policemen and sheriff-
officers, burning the summonses in a heap, throwing their
batons into the sea, and ducking the representatives of
the law in a neighbouring pool. The men formed the
second line of defence, in case the women should receive
any ill-treatment. They, however, never put a finger
on the officers of law, all of whom returned home without
serving a single summons or evicting a single crofter.
The proceedings of her subordinates fortunately came to
the ears of the noble proprietrix, with the result that the
Coigeach tenants are still where they were, and are to-day
among the most comfortable crofters in the north of Scot-


From 1840 to 1848 Strathconon was almost entirely
cleared of its ancient inhabitants to make room for sheep
and deer, as in other places ; and also for the purposes of
extensive forest plantations. The property was under
trustees when the harsh proceedings were commenced by
the factor, Mr. Rose, a notorious Dingwall solicitor.

* By Alexander Mackenzie.


He began by taking away, first, the extensive hill-pasture,
for generations held as club-farms by the townships, thus
reducing the people from a position of comfort and in-
dependence ; and secondly, as we saw done elsewhere,
finally evicting them from the arable portion of the strath,
though they were not a single penny in arrear of rent.
Coirre-Bhuic and Scard-Roy were first cleared, and given,
respectively, as sheep-farms to Mr. Brown, from Moray-
shire, and Colin Munro, from Dingwall. Mr. Balfour,
when he came of age, cleared Coire-Feola and Achadh-
an-eas \ Carnach was similarly treated, while no fewer
than twenty-seven families were evicted from Glen-
Meine alone. Baile-a-Mhuilinn and Baile-na-Creige were

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Online LibraryAlexander MackenzieThe history of the Highland clearances → online text (page 12 of 25)