Shores of Sutherland (Jim McLean) Cold is the wind and wet As we make our beds down on the sand Scavenging gulls and clappidoos Down on the shores of Sutherland High on the hills our shielings Are sheltering factors that robber band Shepherds and sheep are asleep While we die on the shores of Sutherland Blood from our cows and meal A nettle broth laid with barley bran Banned from the beds of mussels By dogs and their masters of Sutherland Big are shellfish they're guarding For fishers who come from some other land Cockles are baiting their hooks While we starve on the shores of Sutherland Water and brose and milk Salmon and deer and ptarmigan Honey and bread and cheese Was the food of the children of Sutherland Now we are barred from our clachans And hunted away from our motherland Starved at the edge of the sea By the Duke and the Duchess of Sutherland Mackie's History of Scotland has a rather starry-eyed view of the reasons behin d the Clearances, at least in my 1972 edition: [1972:] The story of the Clearances is known to all; yet the Sutherland Clearan ces were part of a policy of improvement undertaken between 1811 and 1820 by the Marquess of Stafford, who had married the Countess of Sutherland in 1785. Aware of the 'improvements' which were being undertaken in Moray and of the hardship and famine which prevailed in his area, he called in experts from the south, and began to move his tenants from the upland glens to the coast in the belief that there they could supplement the crofts which he would supply by fishing. At fi rst he had some success when he moved people from Assynt to the west coast; but later he met with opposition which was repressed by violence, all the more resen ted when it was found that one of the factors employed, who was acquitted on a c harge of homicide, himself entered into one of the sheep farms from which the ev ictions took place. The burning of wretched houses and the eviction of helpless people - some of them decrepit - aroused great condemnation, and the grievances reached the House of Commons. There and elsewhere it was shown that the Marquis, besides getting nothing from his Sutherland estate between 1811 and 1833, had s pent £60,000 of his own money; but the stigma was not removed. [...] Between 1828 and 1851 some proprietors shipped surplus tenants overseas at their own expense; but in 1853 there occurred in Glengarry perhaps the most fer ocious of the violent clearances; this was not a matter of shifting people to th e coast; whole families were put into ships and sent across the ocean, a ing of disease, and, with the introduction of the potato, better food, populatio n was increasing to an extent which could not be supplied by the old economy. Th ey did not realize - indeed, many of them may not have known - that money spent by landlords or by charitable societies on palliatives was spent in vain. All th ey saw was that land was being let to sheep-farmers who could pay three times th e old rent and absorbed small crofts into bigger holdings. To them it seemed tha t nowadays chiefs preferred sheep to men, to men whose ancestors had served thei r ancestors for generations. (Mackie, Scotland 317f) I like this story: [1991:] In the whole shameful episode of the Highland Clearances, no district l ost more of its people to America [than Sutherland], and by the beginning of the Crimean War there were precious few able-bodied men left there. When the Duke o f Sutherland - whose family had been the most consistently ruthless of evictors - stood up at a public meeting in 1854 to ask his tenantry f ds than we have experienced at the hands of your family for the last fifty years ." (Notes Brian McNeill, 'The Back o' the North Wind') This is how the Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown puts it in his autobiography: [1997:] It is likely that [my mother's] near Mackay ancestors had had to endur e the 'clearances' of the early nineteenth century, when whole communities of Ga elic-speaking Highlanders were persuaded or driven out of the valleys where they had lived, a poor but free community under the chiefs of Mackay, for many centu ries. Again, it was 'progress', that religion of nineteenth-century man - that i rresistible force - that destroyed and uprooted everything that seemed to stand in its way. Nothing was sacred or beautiful; only money and pro fits counted. [...] The clan chief was no longer the clan's protector; he had lo ng sided with the establishment, and sent his sons to English public schools and married among the English or Lowland aristocracy. And it had been pointed out t o him that it fishing, it was pointed out to them, was good. It is more than likely that hundr eds of them had never even set eyes on the sea. Somehow they learned to be boatb uilders and fishermen. Somehow they learned to read the ferocious and fruitful m oods of the Pentland Firth. (George Mackay Brown, For the Islands I Sing 21f) More background in John Prebble, The Highland Clearances SKW apr00
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