View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Picture post 27/28 November

The Clearances - a myth debunked

First published on Pentland Road

I quote from Wikipedia on the background to this statue, which was erected near Helmsdale in 2007:

[It] commemorates the people who were cleared from the area by landowners and left their homeland to begin new lives overseas. The statue, which depicts a family leaving their home, stands at the mouth of the Strath of Kildonan, and was funded by Dennis Macleod, a Canadian mining millionaire of Scottish descent. An identical 10 ft-high bronze "Exiles" statue has also been set up on the banks of the Red River at Winnipeg, the city founded by those who left Scotland for Canada.

Mr Macleod has said that the statues celebrate the achievements made by Scots who went to Canada. Well, I would be quite happy to acknowledge the fact that some of the Scots did go on to do great things. But those having departed Helmsdale, and that's what we're talking about, certainly did not do well. I am going through the Napier Commission's Report, which was sitting at Helmsdale on 6 October 1883. The answers to questions 38252 and 38253 actually serve to negate the reasoning for the erection of the statue.

38252. Then you stated that the expatriated people, some of them, found their way to America, where they experienced a worse fate. What ground have you for believing that the emigrants generally experienced a worse fate ?
—The fate of my great-grandfather's family. My great-grandfather's family, except himself, all went out in Lord Selkirk's expedition to the Red River. My grandfather was married before he went out, and I have seen in my grandfather's house and my father's house a pile of correspondence describing the vicissitudes they underwent. They were left exposed on the north coast, and they had to find their way from Hudson's Bay to the Red River settlement; and they were exposed to the rigours of a lengthened winter, and, to crown all, the Indians came in and killed some of them, and the rest fled over the winter's snow to Canada. Only seven or eight managed to survive and settle in Canada afterwards.

38253. Are there many evicted families from this part of the country who cast in their lot with Lord Selkirk's settlement ?
—Yes, and that accounts for the difference between those who settled here and those who were in Kildouan before.

38254. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Had Lord Selkirk a settlement called Kildonan?
—Yes, and it is called Kildonan to this day. It is near Winnipeg. Fort Garry was the principal town in the old Red River settlement, and it has now become Winnipeg. You will see an account of it in the book called The Great Lone Land, by General Butler.

Sunday 28 November

Day 3 of the cold snap and absolutely no sign of it letting up. In fact, the thermometer plummeted to -18C in Wales last night and -15C at Loch Glascarnoch, a location well-known to travellers between Inverness and Ullapool on the A835 road. Here in Stornoway, we did not go below -2C last night, although the northeasterly wind does make it feel cold when you're exposed to it. Looking at the distant horizon, there is still a bad swell running in the Minch, but ferry operators Calmac say the ferry will sail as normal this afternoon. Images from Stornoway, from yesterday morning, featured on the BBC TV news earlier today, showing the heavy snow showers failing to dampen spirits at the farmers market at An Lanntair. It also showed cars stuck on the steep section of the A859 above Scaladale, where the road climbs up to the pass below the Clisham. 
The Met Office says there is colder air blowing in from Siberia. Over there, they can't use mercury in their thermometers: mercury freezes at -38C, and in extreme instances the temperature goes down to -70C in places.

I'll have a post with pictures later today.

It is bad enough that people who are involved in an accident drive away from the scene without checking on the well-being of others involved in it; it is even worse when the accidents results in someone's death. In Smethwick, Birmingham, a baby boy of 2 months of age died following a hit-and-run crash between two vehicles. The BBC News page carries further details of the fugitive vehicle.