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they became clamourous for food. Their distress was
made known through the public press ; public meetings
were held, and it was managed by some known knaves
to saddle the God of providence with the whole misery a
job in which many of God's professing and well-paid
servants took a very active part. The generous public
responded ; immense sums of money were placed in the
hands of Government agents and other individuals, to
save the people from death by famine on British soil.

" Colonel Gordon and his worthy allies were silent con-
tributors, though terrified. The gallant gentleman solicited
Government, through the Home Secretary, to purchase
the Island of Barra for a penal colony, but it would not
suit. Yet our humane Government sympathised with the
Colonel and his coadjutors, and consulted the honour-
able and brave MacNeil, the chief pauper ganger of Scot-
land, upon the most effective and speediest scheme to
relieve the gallant Colonel and colleagues from this clamour
and eye-sore, as well as to save their pockets from able-
bodied paupers. The result was, that a liberal grant
from the public money, which had been granted a twelve-
month before for the purpose of improving and culti-
vating the Highlands, was made to Highland proprietors
to assist them to drain the nation of its best blood, and
to banish the Highlanders across the Atlantic, there to
die by famine among strangers in the frozen regions of
Canada, far from British sympathy, and far from the
resting-place of their brave ancestors, though the idea of
mingling with kindred dust, to the Highlanders, is a con-
solation at death, more than any other race of people I
have known or read of under heaven.

" Oh ! Christian people, Christian people, Christian
fathers and mothers, who are living at ease, and
never experienced such treatment and concomitant
sufferings ; you Christian rulers, Chrstian electors,
and representatives, permit not Christianity to
blush and hide her face with shame before
heathenism and idolatry any longer. I speak
with reverence when I say, permit not Mahomet Ali to


deride our Saviour with the conduct of His followers
allow not demons to exclaim in the face of heaven,
' What can you expect of us, when Christians, thy chosen
people, are guilty of such deeds of inhumanity to their own
species ? "

" Come, then, for the sake of neglected humanity
and prostrated Christianity, and look at this help-
less, unfortunate people ; place yourselves for a
moment in their hopeless condition at their em-
barkation, decoyed, in the name of the British Govern-
ment, by false promises of assistance, to procure homes
and comforts in Canada, which were denied to them at
home decoyed, I say, to an unwilling and partial con-
sent and those who resisted or recoiled from this con-
ditional consent, and who fled to the caves and mountains
to hide themselves from the brigands, look at them,
chased and caught by policemen, constables, and other
underlings of Colonel Gordon, handcuffed, it is said, and
huddled together with the rest on an emigrant vessel.
Hear the sobbing, sighing, and throbbings of their
guileless, warm Highland hearts, taking their last look,
and bidding a final adieu to their romantic mountains
and valleys, the fertile straths, dales, and glens, which
their forefathers from time immemorial inhabited, and
where they are now lying in undisturbed and everlasting
repose, in spots endeared and sacred to the memory of
their unfortunate offspring, who must now bid a mourn-
ful farewell to their early associations, which were as
dear and as sacred to them as their very existence, and
which had hitherto made them patient in suffering. But
follow them on their six weeks' dreary passage, rolling
upon the mountainous billows of the Atlantic, ill-fed,
ill-clad, among sickness, disease, and excrements. Then
come ashore with them where death is in store for them
hear the captain giving orders to discharge the cargo of
live stock see the confusion, hear the noise, the bitter
weeping and bustle ; hear mothers and children asking
fathers and husbands, where are we going ? hear the
reply, ' chan eil fios againn ' we know not ; see them in
groups in search of the Government Agent, who, they


were told, was to give them money ; look at their des-
pairing countenances when they come to learn that no
agent in Canada is authorised to give them a penny \
hear them praying the captain to bring them back that
they might die among their native hills, that their ashes
might mingle with those of their forefathers \ hear this
request refused, and the poor helpless wanderers bidding
adieu to the captain and crew, who showed them all the
kindness they could, and to the vessel to which they
formed something like an attachment during the voyage \
look at them scantily clothed, destitute of food, without
implements of husbandry, consigned to their fate, carry-
ing their children on their backs, begging as they crawl
along in a strange land, unqualified to beg or buy their
food for want of English, until the slow moving and
mournful company reach Toronto and Hamilton, in
Upper Canada, where, according to all accounts, they
spread themselves over their respective bury ing- places,
where famine and frost-bitten deaths were awaiting them.
" This is a painful picture, the English language
fails to supply me with words to describe it. I wish
the spectrum would depart from me to those who
could describe it and tell the result. But how can
Colonel Gordon, the Duke of Sutherland, James Loch,
Lord Macdonald, and others of the unhallowed league and
abettors, after looking at this sight, remain in Christian
communion, ruling elders in Christian Churches, and
partake of the emblems of Christ's body broken and shed
blood ? But the great question is, Can we as a nation
be guiltless and allow so many of our fellow creatures to
be treated in such a manner, and not exert ourselves
to put a stop to it and punish the perpetrators ? Is
ambition, which attempted to dethrone God, become
omnipotent, or so powerful, when incarnated in the shape
of Highland dukes, lords, esquires, colonels, and
knights, that we must needs submit to its revolting
deeds ? Are parchment rights of property so sacred that
thousands of human beings must be sacrificed year after
year, till there is no end of such, to preserve them invio-
late ? Are sheep walks, deer forests, hunting parks,


and game preserves, so beneficial to the nation that the
Highlands must be converted into a hunting desert, and
the aborigines banished and murdered ? I know that
thousands will answer in the negative * yet they will fold
their arms in criminal apathy until the extirpation and
destruction of my race shall be completed. Fearful is
the catalogue of those who have already become the
victims of the cursed clearing system in the Highlands,
by famine, fire, drowning, banishment, vice, and crime."

He then publishes the following communication from
an eye-witness, on the enormities perpetrated in South
Uist and in the Island of Barra in the summer of 1851 :

" The unfeeling and deceitful conduct of those acting for
Colonel Gordon cannot be too strongly censured. The
duplicity and art which was used by them in order to
entrap the unwary natives, is worthy of the craft and
cunning of an old slave-trader. Many of the poor people
were told in my hearing that Sir John M'Neil would be in
Canada before them, where he would have every necessary
prepared for them. Some of the officials signed a docu-
ment binding themselves to emigrate, in order to induce
the poor people to give their names ; but in spite of all
these stratagems, many of the people saw through them
and refused out and out to go. When the transports
anchored in Loch Boisdale these tyrants threw off their
masks, and the work of devastation and cruelty com-
menced. The poor people were commanded to attend a
public meeting at I/och Boisdale, where the transports
lay, and, according to the intimation, any one absenting
himself from the meeting was to be fined in the sum of
two pounds sterling. At this meeting some of the
natives were seized and, in spite of their entreaties, sent
on board the transports. One stout Highlander, named
Angus Johnston, resisted with such pith that they had to
handcuff him before he could be mastered ; but in con-
sequence of the priest's interference his manacles were
removed, and he was marched between four officers on
board the emigrant vessel. One morning, during the
transporting season, we were suddenly awakened by the
screams of a young female who had been re-captured in


an adjoining house, she having escaped after her first
capture. We all rushed to the door, and saw the broken-
hearted creature, with dishevelled hair and swollen face,
dragged away by two constables and a ground officer.
Were you to see the racing and chasing of policemen,
constables, and ground officers, pursuing the outlawed
natives, you would think, only for their colour, that you
had been, by some miracle, transported to the banks of
the Gambia, on the slave coast of Africa.

"The conduct of the Rev. H. Beatson on that occasion is
deserving of the censure of every feeling heart. This
' wolf in sheeps' clothing ' made himself very officious,
as he always does, when he has an opportunity of opprsse-
ing the poor Barra men, and of gaining the favour of
Colonel Gordon. In fact, he is the most vigilant and assid-
uous officer Colonel Gordon has. He may be seen in Castle
Bay, the principal anchorage in Barra, whenever a sail is
hoisted, directing his men, like a gamekeeper with his
hounds, in case any of the doomed Barra men should
escape. He offered one day to board an Arran boat, that
had a poor man concealed, but the master, John Crawford,
lifted a hand-spike and threatened to split the skull of
the first man who would attempt to board his boat, and
thus the poor Barra man escaped their clutches.

" I may state in conclusion that, two girls, daughters of
John Macdougall, brother of Barr Macdougall, whose
name is mentioned in Sir John M'NeiTs report, have fled
to the mountains to elude the grasp of the expatriators,
where they still are, if in life. Their father, a frail, old
man, along with the rest of the family, has been sent to
Canada. The respective ages of these girls are 12 and
14 years. Others have fled in the same way, but I
cannot give their names just now."*

We shall now take the reader after these people to
Canada, and witness their deplorable and helpless con-
dition and privations in a strange land. The following
is extracted from a Quebec newspaper :

" We noticed in our last the deplorable condition of the
600 paupers who were sent to this country from the Kil-

*See Note B in Appendices.


rush Unions. We have to-day a still more dismal pic-
ture to draw. Many of our readers may not be aware
that there lives such a personage as Colonel Gordon,
proprietor of large estates in South Uist and Barra, in
the Highlands of Scotland. We are sorry to be obliged
to introduce him to their notice under circumstances
which will not give them a very favourable opinion of his
character and heart.

" It appears that his tenants on the above-mentioned
estates were on the verge of starvation, and had probably
become an eye-sore to the gallant Colonel ! He decided
on shipping them to America. What they were to do
there was a question he never put to his conscience.
Once landed in Canada, he had no further concern about
them. Up to last week, some noo souls from his estates
had landed at Quebec, and begged their way to Upper
Canada ; when in the summer season, having only a daily
morsel of food to procure, they probably escaped the
extreme misery which seems to be the lot of those who
followed them.

" On their arrival here, they voluntarily made and signed
the following statement : ' We, the undersigned pas-
sengers per Admiral, from Stornoway, in the Highlands
of Scotland, do solemnly depose to the following facts :
That Colonel Gordon is proprietor of estates in South
Uist and Barra ; that among many hundreds of tenants
and cottars whom he has sent this season from his estates
to Canada, he gave directions to his factor, Mr. Fleming of
Cluny Castle, Aberdeenshire, to ship on board of the
above-named vessel a number of nearly 450 of said
tenants and cottars, from the estate in Barra ; that,
accordingly, a great majority of these people, among
whom were the undersigned, proceeded voluntarily to
embark on board the Admiral, at Loch Boisdale, on or
about the nth August, 1851 ; but that several of the
people who were intended to be shipped for this port,
Quebec, refused to proceed on board, and, in fact,
absconded from their homes to avoid the embarkation.
Whereupon Mr. Fleming gave orders to a policeman,
who was accompanied by the ground officer of the estate


in Barra, and some constables, to pursue the people,
who had run away, among the mountains ; which they
did, and succeeded in capturing about twenty from the
mountains and islands in the neighbourhood ; but only
came with the officers on an attempt being made to
handcuff them ; and that some who ran away were not
brought back, in consequence of which four families at
least have been divided, some having come in the ships
to Quebec, while the other members of the same families
are left in the Highlands.

'The undersigned further declare that those who
voluntarily embarked did so under promises to the
effect that Colonel Gordon would defray their passage to
Quebec ; that the Government Emigration Agent there
would send the whole party free to Upper Canada, where,
on arrival, the Government agents would give them work,
and furthermore, grant them land on certain conditions.

' The undersigned finally declare, that they are now
landed in Quebec so destitute, that if immediate relief be
not afforded them, and continued until they are settled in
employment, the whole will be liable to perish with want.'

and 70 others.

" This is a beautiful picture ! Had the scene been laid
in Russia or Turkey, the barbarity of the proceeding
would have shocked the nerves of the reader ; but when
it happens in Britain, emphatically the land of liberty,
where every man's house, even the hut of the poorest, is
said to be his castle, the expulsion of these unfortunate
creatures from their homes the man-hunt with police-
men and bailiffs the violent separation of families the
parent torn from the child, the mother from her daughter,
the infamous trickery practised on those who did embark
the abandonment of the aged, the infirm, women,
and tender children, in a foreign land forms a tableau
which cannot be dwelt on for an instant without horror.
Words cannot depict the atrocity of the deed. For
cruelty less savage, the slave-dealers of the South have
been held up to the execration of the world.


" And if, as men, the sufferings of these our fellow-
creatures find sympathy in our hearts, as Canadians
their wrongs concern us more dearly. The fifteen hun-
dred souls whom Colonel Gordon has sent to Quebec this
season have all been supported for the past week, at least,
and conveyed to Upper Canada at the expense of the
colony ; and on their arrival in Toronto and Hamilton
the greater number have been dependent on the charity
of the benevolent for a morsel of bread. Four hundred
are in the river at present, and will arrive in a day or two,
making a total of nearly 2000 of Colonel Gordon's tenants
and cottars whom the province will have to support.
The winter is at hand, work is becoming scarce in Upper
Canada. Where are these people to find food ?" *

We take the following from an Upper Canadian paper
describing the position of the same people after finding
their way to Ontario :

" We have been pained beyond measure for some
time past to witness in our streets so many un-
fortunate Highland emigrants, apparently destitute
of any means of subsistence, and many of them
sick from want and other attendant causes. It was piti-
ful the other day to view a funeral of one of these
wretched people. It was, indeed, a sad procession.
The coffin was constructed of the rudest material ; a few
rough boards nailed together was all that could be
afforded to convey to its last resting-place the body of the
homeless emigrant. Children followed in the mournful
train ; perchance they followed a brother's bier, one with
whom they had sported and played for many a healthful
day among their native glens. Theirs were looks of
indescribable sorrow. They were in rags * their mourn-
ing weeds were the shapeless fragments of what had once
been clothes. There was a mother, too, among the
mourners, one who had tended the departed with anxious
care in infancy, and had doubtless looked forward to a
happier future in this land of plenty. The anguish of
her countenance told too plainly these hopes were

* Quebec Times.


blasted, and she was about to bury them in the grave of
her child.

" There will be many to sound the fulsome noise of
flattery in the ear of the generous landlord, who had spent
so much to assist the emigration of his poor tenants.
They will give him the misnomer of a benefactor, and
for what ? Because he has rid his estates of the encum-
brance of a pauper population.

' 'Emigrants of the poorer class who arrive hert from the
Western Highlands of Scotland are often so situated that
their emigration is more cruel than banishment. Their
last shilling is spent probably before they reach the upper
province they are reduced to the necessity of begging.
But, again, the case of those emigrants of whom we speak
is rendered more deplorable from their ignorance of the
English tongue. Of the hundreds of Highlanders in and
around Dundas at present, perhaps not half-a-dozen
understand anything but Gaelic.

"In looking at these matters, we are impressed with the
conviction that, so far from emigration being a panacea
for Highland destitution, it is fraught with disasters of no
ordinary magnitude to the emigrant whose previous
habits, under the most favourable circumstances, render
him unable to take advantage of the industry of Canada,
even when brought hither free of expense. We may assist
these poor creatures for a time, but charity will scarcely
bide the hungry cravings of so many for a very long
period. Winter is approaching, and then but we leave
this painful subject for the present.*"


This island, at one time, had a large population, all of
whom were weeded out in the usual way. The Rev.
Donald Maclean, Minister of the Parish of Small Isles,
informs us in The New Statistical Account, that " in 1826
all the inhabitants of the Island of Rum, amounting at
least to 400 souls, found it necessary to leave their native

* Dundas Warder, 2nd October, 1851.


land, and to seek for new abodes in the distant wilds of
our colonies in America. Of all the old residenters, only
one family remained upon the Island. The old and the
young, the feeble and the strong, were all united in this
general emigration the former to find tombs in a foreign
land the latter to encounter toils, privations, and dan-
gers, to become familiar with customs, and to acquire
that to which they had been entire strangers. A similar
emigration took place in 1828, from the Island of Muck,
so that the parish has now become much depopulated."

In 1831 the population of the whole parish was 1015,
while before that date it was much larger. In 1851 it
was 916. In 1881 it was reduced to 550. The total
population of Rum in 1881 was 89 souls.

Hugh Miller, who visited the Island, describes it and
the evictions thus :

" The evening was clear, calm, golden-tinted ;
even wild heaths and rude rocks had assumed
a flush of transient beauty ; and the emerald-green
patches on the hill-sides, barred by the plough
lengthwise, diagonally, and transverse, had bor-
rowed an aspect of soft and velvety richness, from the
mellowed light and the broadening shadows. All was
solitary. We could see among the deserted fields the
grass-grown foundations of cottages razed to the ground ;
but the valley, more desolate than that which we had left,
had not even its single inhabited dwelling ; it seemed as
if man had done with it for ever. The island, eighteen
years before, had been divested of its inhabitants,
amounting at the time to rather more than four hundred
souls, to make way for one sheep farmer and eight
thousand sheep. All the aborigines of Rum crossed the
Atlantic ; and, at the close of 1828, the entire population
consisted of but the sheep farmer, and a few shepherds,
his servants : the Island of Rum reckoned up scarce a
single family at this period for every five square miles of
area which it contained. But depopulation on so ex-
treme a scale was found inconvenient ; the place had been
rendered too thoroughly a desert for the comfort of the
occupant ; and on the occasion of a clearing which took


place shortly after in Skye, he accommodated some ten
or twelve of the ejected families with sites for cottages,
and pasturage for a few cows, on the bit of morass beside
Loch Scresort, on which I had seen their humble dwell-
ings. But the whole of the once-peopled interior remains
a wilderness, without inhabitants, all the more lonely
in its aspect from the circumstance that the solitary
valleys, with their plough-furrowed patches, and their
ruined heaps of stone, open upon shores every whit as
solitary as themselves, and that the wide untrodden
sea stretches drearily around.

" The armies of the insect world were sporting
in the light this evening by the million ; a
brown stream that runs through the valley yielded
an incessant poppling sound, from the myriads
of fish that were ceaselessly leaping in the pools, beguiled
by the quick glancing wings of green and gold that
fluttered over them ; along a distant hillside there ran
what seemed the ruins of a grey-stone fence, erected, says
tradition, in a remote age to facilitate the hunting of the
deer ; there were fields on which the heath and moss of
the surrounding moorlands were fast encroaching, that
had borne many a successive harvest ; and prostrate
cottages, that had been the scenes of christenings, and
bridals, and blythe new-year's days ; all seemed to
bespeak the place of fitting habitation for man, in which
not only the necessaries, but also a few of the luxuries of
life, might be procured ; but in the entire prospect not a
man nor a man's dwelling could the eye command. The
landscape was one without figures.

"I do not much like extermination carried
out so thoroughly and on system ; it seems bad
policy ; and I have not succeeded in thinking any
the better of it though assured by the economists
that there are more than enough people in
Scotland still. There are, I believe, more than enough in
our workhouses more than enough on our pauper rolls
more than enough muddled up, disreputable, useless, and
unhappy, in their miasmatic valleys and typhoid courts of
our large towns ; but I have yet to learn how arguments


for local depopulation are to be drawn from facts such as
these. A brave and hardy people, favourably placed for
the development of all that is excellent in human nature,
form the glory and strength of a country ; a people sunk
into an abyss of degradation and misery, and in which it
is the whole tendency of external circumstances to sink
them yet deeper, constitute its weakness and its shame \
and I cannot quite see on what principle the ominous
increase which is taking place among us in the worse class,
is to form our solace or apology for the wholesale expatri-
ation of the better.

" It did not seem as if the depopulation of Rum had
tended much to anyone's advantage. The single
sheep farmer who had occupied the holdings of so
many had been unfortunate in his speculations, and
had left the island ; the proprietor, his landlord, seemed
to have been as little fortunate as the tenant, for the
island itself was in the market, and a report went current
at the time that it was on the eve of being purchased by
some wealthy Englishman, who purposed converting it
into a deer forest.

" How strange a cycle ! Uninhabited originally, save
by wild animals, it became at an early period a
home of men, who, as the gray wall on the hillside
testified, derived in part at least, their sustenance from

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Online LibraryAlexander MackenzieThe history of the Highland clearances → online text (page 19 of 25)