The infamous Highland Clearances is a dark chapter in Scotland’s history that Two centuries haven’t assuaged the bitterness Scots harbour over the Highland Clearances.
Following the Battle of Culloden, Highlanders were systematically targeted, stripped of culture, their heritage and their homeland.
Following the Jacobite rebellion’s slaughter at the hands of the Hanovarians at the battle of Culloden in 1746, the Act of Proscription was passed the following year.
Forty years had passed since the Act of the Union and, catalysed by the period of Scottish enlightenment, lowlanders held more in common with their neighbours to the south than the unruly Highland clans to the North.
Tartan kilts, teaching in Gaelic and playing the bagpipes were all banned to bring the Scottish Highlands in line with the rest of Scotland: modern and loyal to the Hanoverian crown.
The Act was a direct attack at the Highland way of life.
In the decades that followed, Highlanders themselves were pushed out of society. The wool trade grew from strength to strength and landowners recognised a profit was to be made in replacing land tenants with sheep.
In the ten years between 1811 and 1921, the Duchess of Sutherland and her husband the Marquis de Stafford evicted 15,000 Scots to make room for 200,000 sheep.
Many didn’t make it to their next home, freezing in the cold night air, sold into slavery or failing to the fire engulfing their cottages.
During the rough famine in the 1840’s, some 2,000 crofter cottages were burned down every day as landlords found supporting tenants untenable.
For those who survived the eviction and persecution in their homeland, there was a faint hope of a fresh start in the new world.
It made more economic sense for landowners to pay their tenants’ passage to America than to allow them to live on their land.
It’s unknown how many migrants went willingly and how many were forcibly removed.
Some numbers suggest as many as 150,000 Scots were forced out between 1783 and 1881, but the best guess is 70,000. Most clearances went unrecorded and the passage of Scots to far-off shores in America, Canada and Australia went undocumented, so it’s a number lost to the ages.