Highland Clearances: Community-owned island of Ulva is gradually undoing a historic tragedy – Scotsman comment

Ulva’s population has doubled from five to ten since 2018 and there are plans for further expansion

In 1841, the island of Ulva, off Mull, had a thriving population of 570. Today, it is home to just ten people. The main reason for the decline was the Highland, or in this case, Island Clearances with Ulva’s population falling to less than a tenth of the 1841 level within 40 years, under the ownership of one Francis William Clark. The ghostly ruins of 16 abandoned settlements can still be seen.

However, following a community land buyout in 2018, when the island had a population of five, the trend appears to be reversing. In January last year, when The Scotsman last commented on Ulva’s “exciting times”, the figure was eight. Now, a family is being sought to move into the newly renovated, four-bedroom manse and there are hopes of building 15 new homes.

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"Things are really moving forward on Ulva and we have ten people living here, but we need more people to build a community,” said John Addy, of North West Mull Community Woodland Company, which led the community buyout.

The Clearances were a historic tragedy. Their undoing is most welcome.

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