Category Archives: Scotland

How Profits From Slavery Changed the Landscape of the Scottish Highlands

Money earned through enslavement played a key role in the eviction of Highlanders in the 18th and 19th centuries, study finds

Between roughly 1750 and 1860, wealthy landowners forcibly evicted thousands of Scottish Highlanders in order to create large-scale sheep farms. Known today as the Highland Clearances, this era of drastic depopulation sparked the collapse of the traditional clan system and the mass migration of Scotland’s northernmost residents to other parts of the world.

As Alison Campsie reports for the Scotsman, new research argues that this pivotal period in Scottish history had close ties to the enslavement of people in British colonies, with a cadre of individuals enriched by slavery evicting at least 5,000 people from their property and buying up more than one million acres of land relinquished during the clearances.

Read full article via https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-research-investigates-how-enslavement-profits-changed-landscape-scottish-highlands-180976311/

(1915*) Mrs Barbours’ Army by Alistair Hulett

If I could marry a song it would probably be this one. Alistair Hulett on fine form writing about Mary Barbour and the Glasgow Women’s rent strike at the start of the 1914-1918 war.

Mrs Barbour’s Army by Alistair Hulett

In the tenements o’ Glesga in the year one nine one five
It was one lang bloody struggle tae keep ourselves alive
We were coontin’ oot the coppers tae buy wor scraps o’ food
When the landlords put the rent up just because they could
A’ the factories were hummin’, there was overtime galore
But wages they were driven doon tae subsidise the war
Oot came Mrs. Barbour from her wee bit single end
She said, I’ll organise the lassies if I cannae rouse the men

‘Cos I’m from Govan and your from Partick
This one here’s from Bridge o’ Weir and they’re from Kinning Park
There’s some that’s prods, there’s some that’s catholic
But we’re Mrs. Barbour’s Army and we’re here tae dae the wark

Mrs. Barbour made a poster sayin’, We’ll no’ pay higher rent
Then she chapped on every door of every Govan tenement
She said, Pit this in the windae when you hear me bang the drum
We’ll run oot an’ chase the factor a’ the way tae kingdom come
When the poor wee soul cam roon’ he was battered black and blue
By a regiment in pinnies that knew just what tae do
Mrs. Barbour organised the gaitherin’ o’ the clans
And they burst oot o’ the steamie armed wi’ pots an’ fryin’ pans

Mrs. Barbour’s Army spread through Glesga like the plague
The maisters got the message and the message wisnae vague
While our menfolk fight the Kaiser we’ll stay hame & fight the war
Against all the greedy bastards who keep grindin’ doon the poor
If ye want tae stop conscription stand and fight the profiteers
Bring the hale big bloody sandpit crashin’ doon aroon’ their ears
We’ll no’ starve, said Mrs. Barbour, While the men we care for ain
Are marchin aff to hae their heart’s blood washed like water doon a drain

Well it didnae take the government that lang tae realise
If you crack doon on the leaders then the rest will compromise
They arrested Mrs. Barbour and they clapped her in the jile
Then they made an awfy big mistake, they let her oot on bail
She called men out the factories on the Clyde and on the Cart
They marched up tae the courthoose sayin’, We’ll tear the place apart
Mrs. Barbour’s Army brought the maisters tae their knees
Wi’ a regiment in pinnies backed by one in dungarees

Fabulous essay on the history of Glasgow around the 1914-1918 ‘great’ war

It’s a long read but this is a fabulous essay on the history of Glasgow around the 1914-1918 ‘great’ war. Featuring Mrs Barbour’s Army which some of you will know of from Three Acres And A Cow shows.

https://portside.org/2020-01-09/radical-atmosphere-red-clyde

Wikipedia also has a dedicated page to Red Clydeside which is how this period of history is often known

(1814*) Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh by Ewan Robertson

Mo mhallachd aig na caoraich mhòr
My curse upon the great sheep
Càit a bheil clann nan daoine còir
Where now are the children of the kindly folk
Dhealaich rium nuair bha mi òg
Who parted from me when I was young
Mus robh Dùthaich ‘IcAoidh na fàsach?
Before Sutherland became a desert?

Tha trì fichead bliadhna ‘s a trì
It has been sixty-three years
On dh’fhàg mi Dùthaich ‘IcAoidh
Since I left Sutherland
Cait bheil gillean òg mo chrìdh’
Where are all my beloved young men
‘S na nìonagan cho bòidheach?
And all the girls that were so pretty?

Shellar, tha thu nist nad uaigh
Sellar, you are in your grave
Gaoir nam bantrach na do chluais
The wailing of your widows in your ears
Am milleadh rinn thu air an t-sluagh
The destruction you wrought upon the people
Ron uiridh ‘n d’ fhuair thu d’ leòr dheth?
Up until last year, have you had your fill of it?

Chiad Dhiùc Chataibh, led chuid foill
First Duke of Sutherland, with your deceit
‘S led chuid càirdeis do na Goill
And your consorting with the Lowlanders
Gum b’ ann an Iutharn’ bha do thoill
You deserve to be in Hell
Gum b’ fheàrr Iùdas làmh rium
I’d rather consort with Judas

Bhan-Diùc Chataibh, bheil thu ad dhìth
Duchess of Sutherland, where are you now?
Càit a bheil do ghùnan sìod?
Where are your silk gowns?
An do chùm iad thu bhon oillt ‘s bhon strì
Did they save you from the hatred and fury
Tha an diugh am measg nan clàraibh?

Which today permeates the press?

Mo mhallachd aig na caoraich mhòr
My curse upon the great sheep
Càit a bheil clann nan daoine còir
Where now are the children of the kindly folk
Dhealaich rium nuair bha mi òg
Who parted from me when I was young
Mus robh Dùthaich ‘IcAoidh na fàsach?

(1960) Freedom Come All Ye by Hamish Henderson

I was told about Hamish Henderson a few weeks ago and just spent a delightful hour making friends with his best known song ‘Freedom Come All Ye’.

There have been a few translations into English but I didn’t really like any of them so I’ve written my own, building on unattributed previous efforts. It’s such a shame that ‘down’ and ‘bloom’, and ‘more’ and ‘bare’ don’t rhyme in my southern English accent!

Hamish Henderson – Freedom Come All Ye

Original scots:

Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawin
Blaws the cloods heilster-gowdie owre the bay
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin
Thro the Great Glen o the warld the day

It’s a thocht that wad gar oor rottans
Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay
Tak the road an seek ither loanins
Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play

Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan
Mourn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw

Broken faimlies in lands we’ve hairriet
Will curse ‘Scotlan the Brave’ nae mair, nae mair
Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare

Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom
Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom
In yer hoos aa the bairns o Adam
Will find breid, barley-bree an paintit rooms

When Maclean meets wi’s friens in Springburn
Aa thae roses an geans will turn tae blume
An the black lad frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun.

Robin’s English translation

Rough the wind in the clear day’s dawning
Blows the clouds topsy turvy about the bay,
But there’s more than a rough wind blowing
Through the great glen of the world today.

It’s a thought that will make our tyrants
(Rogues who fancy themselves so fine and gay)
Take the road, and seek other pastures
For their ill ploys to sport and play

No more will our bonnie callants
March to war when our braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee ones from pit-head and hamlet
Mourn the ships sailin’ down the Broomielaw.

Broken families in lands we’ve harried,
Will curse our names no more, no more;
Black and white, hand in hand together,
Will drive the tyrants from every shore

So come all ye at home with Freedom,
Never heed the crooked hoodies croak for doom.
In your house all the bairns of Adam
Can find bread, barley-bree and painted room.

When MacLean meets with friends in Springburn
Sweet the flowers will all bloom that day for thee
And a black boy from old Nyanga
Will break his chains and know liberty

BBC ‘In Our Time’ on the Highland Clearances (51 mins)

I’ve posted links to Melvyn Braggs ‘In Our Time‘ podcasts/radio shows a number of times on this website but it has to be said that I’ve always been a little weary of them… something about the fact that the large majority of the guests are Oxbridge academics and the number of massively posh accents always leaves a little bell of warning ringing somewhere that I’m getting the official ruling classes imperial spin on history.

I remember having a post show email disagreement with one of Melvyn’s academic guests after their ‘Putney Debates’ show managed to completely ignore the issue of land during the civil war period which still seems a critical oversight from other things I’ve learnt and read.

I’ve had a number of people email me the recent episode on the Highland Clearances (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09tc4tm) which seemed quite revisionist to my mind when I listened to it. I thought nothing more of it at the time, but then someone posted a fine response via Bella Caledonia which I think is worth bringing to your attention: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/11/in-our-time-but-not-in-our-voice/

15th Anniversary of 2003 Scottish Land Reform Act (70 mins)

BBC Radio Scotland on the 15th anniversary of the 2003 Scottish land reform act,  interviewing many of the people key to the reform bill happening – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nrtq1/episodes/downloads

It is primarily focused on the right to roam aspect of the act and it gives the best insight into how key battles were won of anything i’ve seen, heard or read.

Who Owns England blog – one year on

Guy Shrubsole is doing some excellent work here digging into data to find out who owns our land – https://whoownsengland.org/2017/09/12/who-owns-england-one-year-on-what-we-now-know/

(1790*) Smile In Your Sleep by Jim McLean

Ewan McLennan just suggested this song ‘Smile In Your Sleep‘ to me, written by Jim McLean about the Highland Clearances.

Beautiful and achingly sad, I personally wonder if it needs another few verses, as I felt from The Cheviot The Stag and The Black Black Oil, that there were a number of defiant pockets of (mostly female) resistance to the Clearances which this song doesn’t touch on.

Hush, hush, time tae be sleepin
Hush, hush, dreams come a-creepin
Dreams o peace an o freedom
Sae smile in your sleep, bonnie baby

Once our valleys were ringin
Wi sounds o our children singin
But nou sheep bleat till the evenin
An shielings stand empty an broken

We stood, wi heads bowed in prayer
While factors laid our cottages bare
The flames fired the clear mountain air
An many lay dead in the mornin

Where was our fine Highland mettle,
Our men once sae fearless in battle?
They stand, cowed, huddled like cattle
Soon tae be shipped owre the ocean

No use pleading or praying
All hope gone, no hope of staying
Hush, hush, the anchor’s a-weighing
Don’t cry in your sleep, bonnie baby