Copyright
Alexander Mackenzie.

The history of the Highland clearances online

. (page 9 of 25)
Online LibraryAlexander MackenzieThe history of the Highland clearances → online text (page 9 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


is by nature a simple-minded man) believe his servants
are innocent of all the charges brought against them,
and doing justice to himself and to his people, when they
are doing the greatest injustice to both ; so that instead of
calling his servants to account at any time, and enquiring
into the broad charges brought against them as every
wise landlord should do it seems the greater the enor-
mities of foul deeds they commit, and the louder their
accusations may sound through the land, the farther
they are received into his favour. The fact is, that
James Loch was Duke of Sutherland, and not the " tall,
slender man with rather a thin face, light brown hair,
and mild blue eyes," who armed you up the extraordinary
elegant staircase in Stafford House.

The Duchess of Sutherland pays a visit every year to



ioo HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

Dunrobin Castle, and has seen and heard so many suppli-
cating appeals presented to her husband by the poor
fishermen of Golspie, soliciting liberty to take mussels
from the Little Ferry Sands to bait their nets a liberty
of which they were deprived by his factors, though paying
yearly rent for it ; yet returned by his Grace with the
brief deliverance, that he could do nothing for them.
Can I believe that this is the same personage who can set
out from Dunrobin Castle, her own Highland seat, and
after travelling from it, then can ride in one direction
over thirty miles, in another direction forty-four miles, in
another, by taking the necessary circuitous route, sixty
miles, and that over fertile glens, valleys, and straths,
bursting with fatness, which gave birth to, and where were
reared for ages, thousands of the bravest, the most moral,
virtuous, and religious men that Europe could boast of ;
ready to a man, at a moment's warning from their chiefs,
to rise in defence of their king, queen, and country ;
animated with patriotism and love to their chief, and
irresistible in the battle contest for victory ? But these
valiant men had then a country, a home, and a chief worth
the fighting for. But I can tell her that she can now ride
over these extensive tracts in the interior of the county
without seeing the image of God upon a man travelling
these roads, with the exception of a wandering Highland
shepherd, wrapped up in a gre} T plaid to the eyes, with a
collie dog behind him as a drill sergeant to train his ewes
and to marshal his tups. There may happen to travel
over the dreary tract a geologist, a tourist, or a lonely
carrier, but these are as rare as a pelican in the wilderness,
or a camel's convoy caravan in the deserts of Arabia.
Add to this a few English sportsmen, with their stag
hounds, pointer dogs, and servants, and put themselves
and their bravery together, and one company of French
soldiers would put ten thousand of them to a disorderly
flight, to save their own carcases, leaving their ewes and
tups to feed the invaders !

* ; The question may arise, where those people, who
inhabited this country at one period, have gone ?
In America and Australia the most of them will be



SUTHERLAND. 101

found. The Sutherland family and the nation 'had
no need of their services ; hence they did: nut . r,egar<J
their patriotism or loyalty, and disregarded tii-eir -past
services. Sheep, bullocks, deer, and game, became
more valuable than men. Yet a remnant, or in
other words a skeleton, of them is to be found along the
sea shore, huddled together in motley groups upon barren
moors, among cliffs and precipices, in the most impover-
ished, degraded, subjugated, slavish, spiritless, condition
that human beings could exist in. If this is really the
lady who has " Glory to God in the highest, peace on
earth, and good will to men," in view, and who is so
religiously denouncing the American statute which
" denies the slave the sanctity of marriage, with all its
joys, rights, and obligations which separates, at the
will of the master, the wife from the husband, the children
from the parents," I would advise her in God's name to
take a tour round the sea-skirts of Sutherland, her own
estate, beginning at Brora, then to Helmsdale, Port-
skerra, Strathy, Farr, Tongue, Durness, Eddrachillis,
and Assynt, and learn the subjugated, degraded, impover-
ished, uneducated condition of the spiritless people of
that sea-beaten coast, about two hundred miles in length,
and let her with similar zeal remonstrate with her hus-
band, that their condition is bettered ; for the cure for
all their misery and want is lying unmolested in the fertile
valleys above, and all under his control ; and to advise
his Grace, her husband, to be no longer guided by his
Ahitophel, Mr. Loch, but to discontinue his depopulating
schemes, which have separated many a wife from her
husband, never to meet which caused many a premature
death, and that separated many sons and daughters,
never to see each other ; and by all means to withdraw
that mandate of Mr. Loch, which forbids marriage on the
Sutherland estate, under pains and penalties of being
banished from the county ; for it has already augmented
illegitimate connections and issues fifty per cent above
what such were a few years ago before this unnatural,
ungodly law was put in force.

Let us see what the character of these ill-used people



102 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

was ! General Stewart of Garth, in his " Sketches of the
Highlands!" -says : :In the words of a general officer
by 'whom the 93rd Sutherlanders were once reviewed,
" They exhibit a perfect pattern of military discipline
and moral rectitude. In the case of such men disgrace-
ful punishment would be as unnecessary as it would be
pernicious." "Indeed," says the General, ''so remote
was the idea of such a measure in regard to them, that
when punishments were to be inflicted on others, and the
troops in garrison assembled to witness their execution,
the presence of the Sutherland Highlanders was dis-
pensed with, the effects of terror as a check to crime
being in their case uncalled for, as examples of that
nature were not necessary for such honourable soldiers.
When the Sutherland Highlanders were stationed at the
Cape of Good Hope anxious to enjoy the advantages of
religious instruction agreeably to the tenets of their
national church, and there being no religious service in
the garrison except the customary one of reading prayers
to the soldiers on parade, the Sutherland men
formed themselves into a congregation, appointed
elders of their own number, engaged and paid a
stipend (collected among themselves) to a clergyman of
the Church of Scotland, and had divine service performed
agreeably to the ritual of the Established Church every
Sabbath, and prayer meetings through the week."
This reverend gentleman, Mr. Thorn, in a letter which
appeared in the Christian Herald of October, 1814,
writes thus : " When the Q3rd Highlanders left Cape
Town last month, there were among them 156 members
of the church, including three elders and three deacons,
all of whom, so far as men can know the heart from the
life, were pious men. The regiment was certainly a
pattern of morality, and good behaviour to all other
corps. They read their Bibles and observed the Sabbath.
They saved their money to do good. 7000 rix dollars,
a sum equal to 1200, the non-commissioned officers
and privates saved for books, societies, and for the spread
of the Gospel, a sum unparalleled in any other corps in
the world, given in the short space of eighteen months.



SUTHERLAND. 103

Their example had a general good effect on both the
colonists and the heathen. If ever apostolic days were
revived in modern times on earth, I certainly believe
some of those to have been granted to us in Africa."
Another letter of a similar kind, addressed to the Com-
mittee of the Edinburgh Gaelic School Society (fourth
annual report), says : " The 93rd Highlanders arrived
in England, when they immediately received orders to
proceed to North America ; but before they re-embarked
the sum collected for your society was made up and re-
mitted to your treasurer, amounting to seventy-eight
pounds, sterling." " In addition to this," says the
noble-minded, immortal General, " such of them as had
parents and friends in Sutherland did not forget their
destitute condition, occasioned by the operation of the
fire and faggot, ?ms-improved state of the county."
During the short period the regiment was quartered at
Plymouth, upwards of 500 was lodged in one banking-
house, to be remitted to Sutherland, exclusive of many
sums sent through the Post Office and by officers ; some
of the sums exceeding 20 from an individual soldier.
Men like these do credit to the peasantry of a country.
" It must appear strange, and somewhat inconsistent,"
continues the General, " when the same men who are so
loud in their profession of an eager desire to promote and
preserve the religious and moral virtues of the people,
should so frequently take the lead in removing them from
where they imbibed principles which have attracted the
notice of Europe and of measures which lead to a de-
terioration, placing families on patches of potato ground
as in Ireland, a system pregnant with degradation,
poverty, and disaffection." It is only when parents and
heads of families in the Highlands are moral, happy, and
contented, that they can instil sound principles into their
children, who in their intercourse with the world may
become what the men of Sutherland have already been,
" an honourable example, worthy the imitation of all."
I cannot help being grieved at my unavoidable
abbreviation of these heart-stirring and heart-warming
extracts, which should ornament every mantel-piece



104 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

and library in the Highlands of Scotland ; but I could
refer to other authors of similar weight ] among the
last (though not the least), Mr. Hugh Millar of the Witness,
in his " Sutherland as it was and is : or, How a country
can be ruined " a work which should silence and put
to shame every vile, malignant calumniator of Highland
religion and moral virtue in bygone years, who in their
sophistical profession of a desire to promote the temporal
and spiritual welfare of the people, had their own sordid
cupidity and aggrandisement in view in all their unworthy
lucubrations.

At the commencement of the Russian war a
correspondent wrote as follows : " Your predictions
are making their appearance at last, great demands
are here for men to go to Russia, but they are not
to be found. It seems that the Secretary of War
has corresponded with all our Highland proprietors, to
raise as many men as they could for the Crimean war,
and ordered so many officers of rank to the Highlands to
assist the proprietors in doing so but it has been a com-
plete failure as yet. The nobles advertised, by placards,
meetings of the people ; these proclamations were at-
tended to, but when they came to understand what they
were about, in most cases the recruiting proprietors
and staff were saluted with the ominous cry of ' Maa !
maa ! boo ! boo ! ' imitating sheep and bullocks, and,
' Send your deer, your roes, your rams, dogs, shepherds,
and gamekeepers to fight the Russians, they have never
done us any harm/ The success of his Grace the Duke of
Sutherland was deplorable ; I believe you would have
pitied the poor old man had you seen him.

" In my last letter I told you that his head com-
missioner, Mr. Loch, and military officer, was in Suther-
land for the last six weeks, and failed in getting one man
to enlist ; on getting these doleful tidings, the Duke him-
self left London for Sutherland, arriving at Dunrobin
about ten days ago, and after presenting himself upon the
streets of Golspie and Brora, he called a meeting of the
male inhabitants of the parishes of Clyne, Rogart, and
Golspie ; the meeting was well attended ; upwards of



SUTHERLAND. 105

400 were punctual at the hour ; his Grace in his carriage,
with his military staff and factors appeared shortly after \
the people gave them a hearty cheer ; his Grace took the
chair. Three or four clerks took their seats at the table,
and loosened down bulky packages of bank notes, and
spread out platefuls of glittering gold. The Duke ad-
dressed the people very seriously, and entered upon the
necessity of going to war with Russia, and the danger of
allowing the Czar to have more power than what he holds
already ; of his cruel, despotic reign in Russia, etc. ;
likewise praising the Queen and her government, rulers
and nobles of Great Britain, who stood so much in need
of men to put and keep down the tyrant of Russia, and
foil him in his wicked schemes to take possession of
Turkey. In concluding his address, which was often
cheered, the Duke told the young able-bodied men that
his clerks were ready to take down the names of all those
willing to enlist, and everyone who would enlist in the
93rd Highlanders, that the clerk would give him, there
and then, 6 sterling * those who would rather enter any
other corps, would get 3, all from his own private purse,
independently of the government bounty. After ad-
vancing many silly flattering decoyments, he sat down to
see the result, but there was no movement among the
people ; after sitting for a long time looking at the clerks,
and they at him, at last his anxious looks at the people
assumed a somewhat indignant appearance, when he
suddenly rose up and asked what was the cause of their
non-attention to the proposals he made, but no reply ;
it was the silence of the grave. Still standing, his Grace
suddenly asked the cause ; but no reply ; at last an old
man, leaning upon his staff, was observed moving towards
the Duke, and when he approached near enough, he
addressed his Grace something as follows : "I am sorry
for the response your Grace's proposals are meeting here
to-day, so near the spot where your maternal grandmother,
by giving forty-eight hours' notice, marshalled fifteen
hundred men to pick out of them the nine hundred she
required, but there is a cause for it, and a grievous cause,
and as your Grace demands to know it, I must tell you,



106 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

as I see no one else are inclined in this assembly to do it.
Your Grace's mother and predecessors applied to our
fathers^ for men upon former occasions, and our fathers
responded to their call ; they have made liberal promises,
which neither them nor you performed ; we are, we think,
a little wiser than our fathers, and we estimate your pro-
mises of to-day at the value of theirs, besides you should
bear in mind that your predecessors and yourself expelled
us in a most cruel and unjust manner from the land which
our fathers held in lien from your family, for their sons,
brothers, cousins, and relations, which were handed over
to your parents to keep up their dignity, and to kill
the Americans, Turks, French, and the Irish ; and these
lands are devoted now to rear dumb brute animals, which
you and your parents consider of far more value thanmen.
I do assure your Grace that it is the prevailing opinion
n this county, that should the Czar of Russia take pos-
session of Dunrobin Castle and of Stafford House next
term, that we could not expect worse treatment at his
hands, than we have experienced at the hands of your
family for the last fifty years. Your parents, yourself,
and your commissioners, have desolated the glens and
straths of Sutherland, where you should find hundreds,
yea, thousands of men to meet you, and respond cheer-
fully to y2ur call, had your parents and yourself kept faith
with them. How could 3^our Grace expect to find men
where they are not, and the few of them which are to be
found among the rubbish or ruins of the county, has more
sense than to be decoyed by chaff to the field of slaughter ;
but one comfort you have, though you cannot find men to
fight, you can supply those who will fight with plenty of
mutton, beef, and venison.' The Duke rose up, put on
his hat, and left the field."

Whether my correspondent added to the old man's
reply to his Grace or not, I cannot say, but one thing is
evident, it was the very reply his Grace deserved.

I know for a certainty this to be the prevailing feeling
throughout the whole Highlands of Scotland, and who
should wonder at it ? How many thousands of them who
served out their 21, 22, 25, and 26 years, fighting for the



SUTHERLAND. 107

British aristocracy, and on their return wounded,
maimed, or worn out to their own country, promising
themselves to spend the remainder of their days in peace,
and enjoying the blessings and comfort their fathers
enjoyed among their Highland, healthy, delightful hills,
but found to their grief, that their parents were expelled
from the country to make room for sheep, deer, and game,
the glens where they were born, desolate, and the abodes
which sheltered them at birth, and where they were
reared to manhood, burnt to the ground ; and instead
of meeting the cheers, shaking-hands, hospitality, and
affections of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and re-
lations, met with desolated glens, bleating of sheep, bark-
ing of dogs ; and if they should happen to rest their
worn-out frame upon the green sod which has grown upon
their father's hearth, and a gamekeeper, factor, or water
bailiff, to come round, he would very unceremoniously
tell them to absent themselves as smart as they could,
and not to annoy the deer. No race on record has suffered
so much at the hands of those who should be their patrons,
and proved to be so tenacious of patriotism as the Celtic
race, but I assure you it has found its level now, and will
disappear soon altogether ; and as soon as patriotism
shall disappear in any nation, so sure that nation's glory is
tarnished, victories uncertain, her greatness diminished,
and decaying consumptive death will be the result. If
ever the old adage, which says, " Those whom the gods
determine to destroy, they first deprive them of reason,"
was verified, it was, and is, in the case of the British
aristocracy, and Highland proprietors in particular. I
am not so void of feeling as to blame the Duke of Suther-
land, his parents, or any other Highland absentee pro-
prietor for all the evil done in the land, but the evil was
done in their name, and under the authority they have
invested in wicked, cruel servants. For instance, the
only silly man who enlisted from among the great assem-
bly which his Grace addressed, was a married man, with
three of a family and his wife ; it was generally believed
that his bread was baked for life, but no sooner was he
away to Fort George to join his regiment, than his place



io8 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

of abode was pulled down, his wife and family turned out,
and only permitted to live in a hut, from which an old
female pauper was carried a few days before to the
churchyard ; there the young family were sheltered,
and their names registered upon the poor roll for support ;
his Grace could not be guilty of such low rascality as this,
yet he was told of it, but took no cognisance of those who
did it in his name. It is likewise said that this man got a
furlough of two weeks to see his wife and family before
going abroad, and that when the factor heard he was
coming, he ordered the ground officer of the parish of
Rogart, named MacLeod, to watch the soldier, and not
allow him to see nor speak to his wife, but in his (the
officer's) presence. We had at the same time, in the
parish, an old bachelor of the name of John Macdonald,
who had three idiot sisters, whom he upheld, independent
of any source of relief ; but a favourite of George, the
notorious factor, envied this poor bachelor's farm, and
he was summoned to remove at next term. The poor
fellow petitioned his Grace and Loch, but to no purpose \
he was doomed to walk away on the term day, as the
factor told him, " to America, Glasgow, or to the devil if
he choosed." Seeing he had no other alternative, two
days before the day of his removal he yoked his cart,
and got neighbours to help him to haul the three idiots
into it, and drove away with them to Dunrobin Castle.
When he came up to factor Gunn's door, he capsized
them out upon the green, and wheeled about and went
away home. The three idiots rinding themselves upon
the top of one another so sudden, they raised an inhuman-
like yell, fixed into one another to fight, and scratched,
yelled, and screeched so terrific that Mr. Gunn, his lady,
his daughters, and all the clerks and servants were soon
about them ; but they hearkened to no reason, for they
had none themselves, but continued their fighting and
inharmonious music. Messenger after messenger was
sent after John, but of no use ; at last the great Gunn
himself followed and overtook him, asked him how did
he come to leave his sisters in such a state ? He replied,
" I kept them while I had a piece of land to support



SUTHERLAND. 109

them ; you have taken that land from me, then take them
along with the land, and make of them what you can ; I
must look out for myself, but I cannot carry them to the
labour market." Gunn was in a fix, and had to give
John assurance that he would not be removed if he would
take his sisters, so John took them home, and has not been
molested as yet.

I have here beside me (in Canada) a respectable girl
of the name of Ann Murray, whose father was removed
during the time of the wholesale faggot removals, but got a
lot of a barren moor to cultivate. However barren-like it
was, he was raising a family of industrious young sons,
and by dint of hard labour and perseverance, they made
it a comfortable home \ but the young sons one by one
left the country (and four of them are within two miles
of where I sit) \ the result was, that Ann was the only one
who remained with the parents. The mother, who had
an attack of palsy, was left entirely under Ann's care
after the family left ; and she took it so much to heart
that her daughter's attention was required day and
night, until death put an end to her afflictions, after
twelve years' suffering. Shortly after the mother's
death, the father took ill, and was confined to bed for
nine months ; and Ann's labour re-commenced until his
decease. Though Ann Murray could be numbered among
the most dutiful of daughters, yet her incessant labour,
for a period of more than thirteen years, made visible
i nroads upon her tender constitution ; yet by the liberal
assistance of her brothers, who did not loose sight of her
and their parent (though upon a foreign strand), Ann
Murray kept the farm in the best of order, no doubt
expecting that she would be allowed to keep it after her
parent's decease, but this was not in store for her ; the
very day after her father's funeral, the officer came to her
and told her that she was to be removed in a few weeks,
that the farm was let to another, and that Factor Gunn
wished to see her. She was at that time afflicted with
jaundice, and told the officer she could not undertake the
journey, which was only ten miles. Next day the officer
was at her again, more urgent than before, and made use



no HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

of extraordinary threats ; so she had to go. When she
appeared before this Bashaw, he swore like a trooper, and
damned her soul, why she disobeyed his first summons ;
she excused herself, trembling, that she was unwell ;
another volley of oaths and threats met her response, and
told her to remove herself from the estate next week, for
her conduct ; and with a threat, which well becomes a
Highland tyrant, not to take away, nor sell a single
article of furniture, implements of husbandry, cattle, or
crop ; nothing was allowed but her own body clothes ;
everything was to be handed over to her brother, who was
to have the farm. Seeing there was neither mercy nor
justice for her, she told him the crop, house, and every
other thing belonging to the farm, belonged to her and her
brothers in America, and that the brother to whom he
(the factor) intended to hand over the farm and effects
never helped her father or mother while in trouble ; and
that she was determined that he should not enjoy what
she laboured for, and what her other brothers paid for.
She went and got the advice of a man of business, adver-
tised a sale, and sold off, in the face of threats of interdict,
and came to Canada, where she was warmly received by
brothers, sisters, and friends, now in Woodstock, and can
tell her tale better than I can. No one could think nor
believe that his Grace would ever countenance such doings
as these * but it was done in his name.

I have here within ten miles of me, Mr. William Ross,



Online LibraryAlexander MackenzieThe history of the Highland clearances → online text (page 9 of 25)