View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Clearances: Rodel, Harris

Donald Macdonald, an man of 74, was called to give evidence to the Napier Commission of Inquiry into the conditions of crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands when it came to Tarbert, Harris. He represented the village of Grosebay, corrupted to Grosaway in the Napier Report. In response to question 18122, this story emerges of the clearance of Rodel.

I saw my mother with her youngest child taken out of the house in a blanket and laid down by the side of a dyke, and the place pulled down. My mother was in child-bed at the time. The child was only born the previous night, and my father asked M'Leod, who was proprietor at the time, whether he would not allow them to remain in the house for a few days, but permission was not given, only he came to the dykeside where she lay and asked what this was, and when he was told he asked him to lift her up and remove her to an empty barn, and it was there she was put. 


The Napier Commission is sitting in Tarbert, Harris, in June 1883. Another excerpt from the submission by Ardhasaig crofter John Mcleod. He describes the consequences of the clearances in Harris. 

The end of it was that my family, when they grew up, scattered into all parts of the earth; and some ot them are dead in a foreign land, and others I know not where they are,—and I am alone. Hundreds suffered equally with myself. There are at least twice as many both in North and South Harris without lands as there are that have land. I think it is a sad condition of affairs in this place. There is not a family in the whole of Harris where there are two sons but one of them at least is in the service of the Queen, perhaps two, and neither they nor their fathers can obtain a foot of the soil upon which they could live. It would appear that, when Britain becomes involved in a struggle with another nation in the future, they must send for the deer and sheep of Harris as well as its young men, and then they can see which is the best bargain.

Saturday 24 July

A very wet start to the day, but the rain appears to be moving away into the Minch. I'm processing the Napier Report into the conditions of the crofters of the Highlands and Islands from 1883. The excerpt, presented in the previous post, is an example of the arbitrary nature of the some of the clearances.

The Scottish Government has turned down an invitation from a US Senate Committee to answer questions on the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Megrahi, in August 2009. The United States government was unhappy with that decision, taken on humanitarian grounds. There are suspicions that the release was linked to an oil deal between BP (yes, them) and Libya. However, the Scottish Government is independent of the UK government as regards justice matters. Neither Justice Secretary, Kenny Macaskill, nor First Minister Alex Salmond, are prepared to go to Washington, saying it is an autonomous matter for Scotland, on which they are solely answerable to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

I do understand that the USA has a vested interest in the Lockerbie disaster, bearing in mind that most of the casualties were US citizens. However, 11 of the dead were citizens of the town of Lockerbie, and the crime took place on Scottish soil.

I just want to make one closing remark on the issue of immigration, which I raised this week. I understand that illegal immigrants are treated as if they are legal immigrants. That is patently wrong, and an issue sorely neglected by successive administrations (both Republican and Democrat). I will go so far as to commend the current administration for at least addressing the issue. Please bear in mind that the number of illegal immigrants in the US is 11 million, and just kicking the 6 million Mexicans among them back across the Rio Grande is not practicable. I don't think it is up to me to be in favour or against the currently proposed measures, bearing in mind the strength of feeling on the issue that I have detected in comments on preceding blog posts.

Why did John Mcleod lose his lands?

Wednesday, June 13th, 1883. The Napier Commission is sitting in Tarbert, the main village in Harris and is interrogating 62-year old John Mcleod, a crofter and fisherman from Ardhasaig, a few miles west of Tarbert. Commissioner Sheriff Nicolson asked him how he lost his land thirty years ago.

Thereby hangs a tale. There was a lady in Uist and a gentleman in Skye, and my brother had a vessel, and he came in the vessel with Donald Macdonald from Monkstadt [Isle of Skye], and he went to Balranald [North Uist] in order to remove from thence the young lady, whose parents were not willing that she should marry the young gentleman in the ordinary way. They wished her to marry the man who was at the time factor upon the estate; but this man took her away. The factor, Macdonald, had his revenge upon me and my two brothers for this act, though we were quite innocent of it. One of my brothers was at the time in Borv, and another in Scalpa, and I had a sister in West Tarbert. The four of us had lands at the time, and he deprived us of them all. One of my brothers went to Australia, where he is still. That is how I lost my land—the sole cause. I did not get lands since.