Frost in Glen Garry, Invernesshire
THE HISTORY AND ORIGINS of the Clearances are well known. From the late 18th
century and for more than the
next 100 years, the Gaelic-speaking people of the Scottish Highlands and Islands were banished from their own country
at the demand of their clan overlords, whose greed had outstripped their peoples' ability to pay, and were replaced by
Lowland sheepfarmers who paid a much higher rental for the land. Today it might well be called ethnic cleansing
and though the deliberate extermination of the people was never intended, there were in fact many deaths from
disease, starvation and simple heart-break during the forced migrations. During about a century and a half, almost
an entire race of people was banished from the land of their forebears and transported to Canada, the USA or
Australasia and abandoned on their shores, usually in abject poverty. Many died on the transport-ships, from
cholera, typhus or smallpox; many more were to die at their destinations from hunger or grief.
MANY SURVIVED THIS
and began to thrive in their new-found homes, while keeping
alive their memories of the old Highlands, and their Gaelic language and traditions. Social and educational policies
in Scotland during the 19th and early 20th centuries actively discouraged all Gaelic and Gaelic culture, so that the
language almost died out in its native territories. There were soon many more native Gaelic-speakers scattered
throughout the former colonies than there were in the Highlands, and the people of this Highland diaspora
have done much to foster and encourage the great revival of Celtic culture which has been seen
during the past decade or so. Today in the Highlands & Islands there is a new confidence -
people are returning - and instead of the great outflow of population which in the end
lasted nearly 200 years, today there is a net inflow.
of the ancient
clans today, many sad ruins lie scattered in quiet glens and
along lonely shores not visited by our modern roads. With the passing years the walls tumble slowly into the heather and
bracken; the stones are used by farmers and crofters for building and repair-work, and scattered by clambering sheep,
cattle and deer. Before many more years these mute memorials to the passing of a people may have disappeared,
and an essential part of our history will have been lost.
I AM NOT A HIGHLANDER by family origin, but my parents moved north to the Highlands when I was a very
small child, and they live there still. I was brought up there,and though I lived in the south for many years, the Scottish
Highlands have always been my home. I have recently returned to live in the HIghlands, in Glencoe, and over the next
few years I hope to visit and document all the major clearance sites throughout the Highlands & Islands. Many of my images
will appear on this web-site. Eventually I hope to publish these photographs in a fully-illustrated book which will probably be
called THE GLENS OF SILENCE. I am fortunate to be working with the distinguished author, DAVID CRAIG, whose fine book
ON THE CROFTERS' TRAIL has done so much to raise consciousness of the Clearances story. Until the book is published
these few pictures posted here will remain my first attempt to record this priceless part of our heritage, before it disappears.
David Paterson, September 1998.
I would be happy to
get email to from anyone who
has any particular knowledge of, or interest in, the Clearances (or use the link on the Contacts page).
Further pages of
images will be added to this site, as photographs become
until all the major clearance areas are represented. Please keep visiting the site
until places in which you have a special interest are shown; or email us with the name
and location of a clearance village with which you have a connection.