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.
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
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?
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!
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
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.
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