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TITLE
Clearances in Strath Sgitheach, Ross-shire
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_ROBGIBSON_01
PLACENAME
Strath Sgitheach
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Dingwall
DATE OF RECORDING
1991
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
Rob Gibson
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
1775
KEYWORDS
Improvers
estates
audio

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The Highland Clearances is an emotive subject which has stimulated much debate. In this audio extract, Rob Gibson talks about the clearances which took place at Clare, in Strath Sgitheach, near Dingwall, Easter Ross. The extract is from Moray Firth Radio's 'Recollections' series.

The upland straths, like Strath Sgitheach, did hold a population of hundred, hundred and fifty people, for well over five thousand years and it's only really in the period since about 1700 that landowners started to bring in improvements and wanted to clear people out of bits that they were either running as farms on the lower straths, which they drained, like in Strathpeffer, or in the upland, where they wanted to run sheep, and therefore remove people.

In particular, I was very attracted to the issue in Clare, just behind Dingwall, in Strath Sgitheach, because it was cleared very late, in the 1870s, and the story is one of a Munro laird who was wanting to sell the estate and gradually moving tenants out. It was suggested that the clearance took place in 1875 and I started looking through the pages of the 'Ross-shire Journal' and I found that there were two large areas of corn being sold by auction in September 1875 at Clare - sixteen acres and eleven acres - and it seemed to me interesting that they were being sold by auction. Indeed, this may well be the point at which those particular crofters or farmers were being moved off because the estate was sold in the 1880s.

In a placename guide by the factor of the Ardross Estate, Mr. Roderick MacLean, who figured in the earlier political history against the crofting movement in the 1880s, he noted that Clare had been unable to support corn for the previous forty years. Now that clearly was not true, because there was corn being sold from there in 1875. And come the Deer Commission in the 1890s, there was a great debate about ten pages, about whether you could grow corn at Swordale or whether you could grow it about a mile further along and a couple of hundred feet higher up, and it suggests that indeed there was a battle between how people used to live, in small crofts, which mainly tended animals and used their crops to feed those animals, and the people who wanted to clear the folk out and run it as a sheep farm and also make it available to shooting tenants. The evidence is quite plain to see on General Roy's military map of 1755 where West Clare, Clare, and Strath Sgitheach are shown as having crop marks so I would suggest from the evidence of 1875 that there were adequate crops being grown there, even if it was high up and that people did make their money by selling stock, and that people in fact, as was given in evidence in the 1892 Commission, grazed their sheep and cattle to the top of Ben Wyvis.

Interviewer: Are they any stories of physical hardship being caused to the people?

Well, in those cases, because it took place over, say, a ten-year period there's no concerted action but it's quite clear that people thought that would happen when Strathconon was cleared by the Balfour family in 1850, when the young H. I. Balfour, who was to become a British prime minister, was sent up for the summer to the estate. He wasn't put in the first coach as they expected to meet great resistance when the family arrived, but all they met was bowing and scraping because the people who were left were the ones who had jobs. However, the MacKenzies at Castle Leod did take in people from there, and the Gower crofts at Loch Ussie, behind where we live here, were laid out at that time and took some of the people from Strathconon so the picture of clearance and change was not always one of harshness but there are many, many harsh stories that go with the way the landed estates treated their small tenants before the Crofting Acts came in

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Clearances in Strath Sgitheach, Ross-shire

ROSS: Dingwall

1990s

Improvers; estates; audio

Moray Firth Radio

MFR: Clearances

The Highland Clearances is an emotive subject which has stimulated much debate. In this audio extract, Rob Gibson talks about the clearances which took place at Clare, in Strath Sgitheach, near Dingwall, Easter Ross. The extract is from Moray Firth Radio's 'Recollections' series.<br /> <br /> The upland straths, like Strath Sgitheach, did hold a population of hundred, hundred and fifty people, for well over five thousand years and it's only really in the period since about 1700 that landowners started to bring in improvements and wanted to clear people out of bits that they were either running as farms on the lower straths, which they drained, like in Strathpeffer, or in the upland, where they wanted to run sheep, and therefore remove people. <br /> <br /> In particular, I was very attracted to the issue in Clare, just behind Dingwall, in Strath Sgitheach, because it was cleared very late, in the 1870s, and the story is one of a Munro laird who was wanting to sell the estate and gradually moving tenants out. It was suggested that the clearance took place in 1875 and I started looking through the pages of the 'Ross-shire Journal' and I found that there were two large areas of corn being sold by auction in September 1875 at Clare - sixteen acres and eleven acres - and it seemed to me interesting that they were being sold by auction. Indeed, this may well be the point at which those particular crofters or farmers were being moved off because the estate was sold in the 1880s. <br /> <br /> In a placename guide by the factor of the Ardross Estate, Mr. Roderick MacLean, who figured in the earlier political history against the crofting movement in the 1880s, he noted that Clare had been unable to support corn for the previous forty years. Now that clearly was not true, because there was corn being sold from there in 1875. And come the Deer Commission in the 1890s, there was a great debate about ten pages, about whether you could grow corn at Swordale or whether you could grow it about a mile further along and a couple of hundred feet higher up, and it suggests that indeed there was a battle between how people used to live, in small crofts, which mainly tended animals and used their crops to feed those animals, and the people who wanted to clear the folk out and run it as a sheep farm and also make it available to shooting tenants. The evidence is quite plain to see on General Roy's military map of 1755 where West Clare, Clare, and Strath Sgitheach are shown as having crop marks so I would suggest from the evidence of 1875 that there were adequate crops being grown there, even if it was high up and that people did make their money by selling stock, and that people in fact, as was given in evidence in the 1892 Commission, grazed their sheep and cattle to the top of Ben Wyvis. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: Are they any stories of physical hardship being caused to the people? <br /> <br /> Well, in those cases, because it took place over, say, a ten-year period there's no concerted action but it's quite clear that people thought that would happen when Strathconon was cleared by the Balfour family in 1850, when the young H. I. Balfour, who was to become a British prime minister, was sent up for the summer to the estate. He wasn't put in the first coach as they expected to meet great resistance when the family arrived, but all they met was bowing and scraping because the people who were left were the ones who had jobs. However, the MacKenzies at Castle Leod did take in people from there, and the Gower crofts at Loch Ussie, behind where we live here, were laid out at that time and took some of the people from Strathconon so the picture of clearance and change was not always one of harshness but there are many, many harsh stories that go with the way the landed estates treated their small tenants before the Crofting Acts came in