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Childrcn of the



by D¡vid Ros llustr¿t€d by Tony o Doméll @ 2001 Wavdl€y Boots Ltd Reprinred 2002 Públished by Wav€.ley Book Lt¿ New Lam.k, scod¿nd All nshts ¡esered. No pa.t of this !üblcation may be ¡eprodlced, stored in a ret.ievál system, or üansine.l, in lny form or by my ñeas, el€.tmñi., frec!¡nical, photocopins, rccordi¡g o¡ othe.{ise, without the pno¡ pcmisior of th€ copynght holder lsBN I 902407 t8 0 Printeddd hoúnd in Slolenia


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\ n r me .. IP .\ir. I rm gorngro t e ll )o u ¡bout somcofthe thingsthat happenedm Scotland during a time in our history called the Clearances. In the Highlands :nd Islands, m¿ny Scottish clansmenand thei¡ families rvcreforcecito leavetheir homes during the Clearances.They rvcrc living on small firms but the mcn rvho orvnedthe land wanted to set rrp hugesheepfárms.They bclievedthe only u.ay to do this was to drive the ordinary people a\'. And so it w¿sthat poor people,like my family,lost not only their belongings¡nd their homesbut their whoie wáy of life. Many were forccd to leaveScotlandforeve¡to seeka ncw life in the colonies Many children sufferedas ¡ result of the Clearances, includingmy own brothersán¿my sisterI dm goingto tcll you a little abouthorv our livcs changedcluringth;s time. You can also¡ead in this book about how some other people felt about what rvas happening.They include a rich and powerful Duke and his Duchess, tleir firctor fthe man rvho lookedafter thcir lands]and his son. Wlen this story bcgins,I was iiving \a'ith m)' granny and my youngei sisterand brothcrsin Suisinishon the Isle of Skye . . .

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r.1¡ É:ranny is a very old lady. My sister, M¿rga¡et,my trl'o youngerbrothers,Mu¡do ald Alcrander, ¡n¿ I live wjth our Éi¡arny becat¡seour mother died a year ago. Our daddy, AlexanderMathcson,has tione away to the South, to work at thc harveston the big farms.He hastakcn our big hrothcr \a.ithhim. Thcy will come back bcforethe \,vintcr,\^,iththe moncy they haveearncd. Grannycan't n-alkany more but we ai1help cary her out to the ftont of the houservhen the sun is shining. She likes to sit there anclseervhat is happening.From the houscwe look dom onto the blue watersof Loch Slapin.All aroundus a¡e smallfieldsin rvhich there are corn and potatoesgrowing,u,ith cowsand sheepon the grccn hills.Acrossthc loch rve can seehcathe¡,covered hills ancl,risingbcyond them, thc distant pe¿ksof thc greet Cuillin Mountains-I think wc live in the most lovely placcin the rvorlcl \.hcn it isn't rainingl But on this fine, sunny day what do we hcar?The dogs are barking, all along the houses.We can hear peoplc shouting, far off. Something vcry st¡angeis happening.Little Alexanderan.l I staywirh our granny, and Margaretánd Murdo climb over the wall and run to see$¡hat is going oh. Perhapsit is á pedlar come to 8 e


scll nccdlcs and trinkcts? But it docsn't sound likc a pedlar arriving. "Is it our daddycomingback?"asksAlexander, who is too youns to k¡o\.that his daddyrvon't comeback until the harvestis ove¡ an¿it is nearlywinter But when Murdo and Margaretcome running back, rL-. .


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"What's the matter?"I askthem. They are too breathlessto speakproperly. "The men " gaspsMargaret."Men ¿¡ecoming-They are throwing everlthing out of the houseslThey are puttingthc pcoplcout andnailingup thc doorsl" "Thcy arc tipping out the meal chestsand smashing up the furniture,"saysMurdo."Why are they doing it? Who are they?" Cranny throrvsup he¡ armsin hor¡or. "lt is the Lair.l's menl Lorcl MacDonald has sent them, ashe threatenedhe rvould.He wantsto take the land wc havc alwayslivcd on and turn it into a grcat sheepfárm. Alas,that I shouldlive to seethe day." "l won't let them come here,"saysMurdo, rn'ith a fierce face,picLing up a stick asifit wás á swo¡d"tsut where cán we go?"criesMargaret.She looks at me. I am the oldest.But I don't knour "Let us go inside the house,"I say."Take Granny inside.Surclyu'hcn thcy seethere is just an old woman and child¡en here, they \^'ill leave us alone. They wouldn't pl¡t us out.". 10 t

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that is what we ¿o.Poorold grannyis crying and ^rrd moaninil as lve staggerthrough the nar¡ow doo¡ with hcr chair I push the door shut. lt is nearly dark inside ou¡ little house and smoky from the pcat fire that is stili smouldering.Bright light comes in through the narrow window and we all squeezeclose,trying to look out and secwhat is happening. "Thcy are comingl" cries Margaret,and she catches hold ofme in her frlght and tries to hide her facc in my plaid. In a minute,thcre is a heavyhammeringon the door. "Come outl" roarsa ñan's big voice. We do not move and,with a crash,the door is pushcd open and men come burstinginto the room. "lvVhathavewe got here?"saysone.'An old wif! and a pa¡cel of bairns.Out $'ith the 1ot of you. This place is being cleared." "Leaveus aionel"shoutsMurdq and runs at the man, though hc only comesup to his waist.The mán catches Mu¡do and pushes him out through the door. In anothc¡ moment they havc picked up Granny'schair and carried he¡ outside again.C¡ying, we fo1low,but the men pay no attention to us.Now out through the doo¡ come all the things we have- one or two chairs, ¿ milking stool, the spinningwhcc1,a1ltossedinto a broken heap.It doesnot takc long to empty our poor littlc house.Then hammcr,hammer strongwooden ba¡s a¡e fixed ac¡osst4redoor and windows. 12 .v




"Where can we go?" "Wh¡t can we do?" lhe mcn do rot answerWithout looking back at us, they tramp on to the next hotse. Mary MacDonald,from the next croft, comesto ou¡ rvall and looks ove¡. "They are dcvils,these men. They chose their timc wcll, rvith our men au'ayand only thc old folk and the women and children to face them- Is the old lady all right?"shc calls. "I think so. I don't k¡ou'," I answer hcr "What is happening?What are yoü goingto do?" "We will walk to Broadfbrd,"she said.'l havecousins the¡e who rvill take us in for a short time at least,until mi' husbandreturns.I would offcr to take you too but I have my orvn three chilclren,and their houseis so "My gr¡nny cannot walk," I ansrver."Wc can't leavc hcr We cannotgo from hcre." "lt is a dcsperateday,"said Mary MacDonald."l rvi1l tell them in Broadfordand hope that somethingcanbe done. But I must go, or it $.ill be night belbre I get there,with my baby to carry and my two cowsto drive throuShthe hills." All that day u'c u'atchtlre peopleofSuisinishstragglc avv'ay from their old homes.They carry heavyburdens and long memoriesof the lanclthey had believedto be their own. None of tfem can hclp us. 14

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Clou& a¡e rising now to hide awaythe sun anclthe blue water of Loch Slapin has turned a greeny-grey colour The men had tipped our bagofoatmcal and our little stock of potatocs out on the grass.Murdo ¿nd Margarct gathcr up thc potatoeswhile I scrapethe meal together again, find ¿ dish, mi{ some of the oatmealwith w¿ter ¡nd make us ¿ cold ¿nd mise¡able dish of brose.A chilly rvind is coming in from the sea. We often look back at our house,locked and barred.It seemsso hard to belicvc such a thing could happenin this land. Wlile we eat, I ¿m thinking of rvhat we might do, ¿ndthen I rememberthe sheepcoton the hillside.It is no housebut it has walls and a roof and offers somc kind of sheltcr I makc up my mind. "Wc will go to the old sheepcot,"I sayto the others. And I make them gather up what they can bits of bedding,some clothes and c¡rry them up the hill. After two or three trips, we are readyto move granny. Büt it is one thing to ca¡ry he¡ trom hcr bcd in thc houseto the front door,and somethingclscto carryhcr a long way up a steephill. We cannotdo it we arejust not big and st¡ongenouSh.Havinggot the old lady out ofher chair,we haveto lay her down on the ground. "You aregoodchildren,"shesays,over and overagain, ¡ou do nor de.erverhi' t" haffen to )"u SJowly,slowly,wc hclp hcr along.Most of the way our poor Srannyhas¡o crawl,thoughwhere the ground 1ó




is level, rve help hcr to her feet rnd she u,alksa ferv

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It is horrible insidethe sheepcot.It is made of rough stones¿ndrvind blous through chinksand gaps.Under is slipperyand it is dark,smellyand our feet thc groi-1nd clamp.'l'here is no f:ireplaceor chimney holc and u.e ha\.eto light a firc outside.We stay out as long as we can, sayingnothing, watching the loDSslo$,twilight fall acrossthe hills, wondering\r.hatrvill háppento us.


hcn I grow up, I'm going to be a farme¡. I ll h a re t h o u r¿ n dor [ ' h e - p .T h a r. r ' h a r my daddy says. Sheepfarming is the futu¡e of the Highlands. My daddy's name is Mr William Gunn and he is an important man. He is the factor to the Duke of Suthe¡landand we live in a nice housein Golspic,near thc Duke's castle.'l'heDuke is oltcn arvayand my father managesthings for him. I haveto work ha¡d at my lessons, so that I can lcarn to courlt,ánd rea¿,and rvrite.A farmer needsto know these things. Some of the child¡cn fiom round here never go to school.I knorr some of them. I1rey don t talk English but only Gaelic. I k¡ow a little bit of Gaelicbut I have to be ca¡eful whel I talk to them- If my daddy hearsme talkirg Gaelic,he getsvery angry. He saysit is the languageofthe olden daysand pcople shoulclbe forbiddento speakit. "Everyoneshouldtalk the Quccn's Eniliish,"he says. "Gaelicis lor s¡vagcs." Hcrc in Golspieeveryoneis very polite to my father and men take their hats off to him in the st¡eet. Sometimesthey whisperin his eals,telling him things. Somepeople are very naught¡.,and at night they will go out and catchÍish from thc Dukc's river,or go down 19


to thc scaand €iathershellfishthat belongto the Dukc. Evcrything here belongs to the Duke, you see.My lathe¡ h¡s haclto sendpeoplearvayfrom thc villagefor doing such things.My mothe¡ is always!1pser\\'hen üis lTappens.

"Thesepcople rverehungry,"I hcard her sayto him,


"Thcy can go án.l find thcir fbod somewhereelse," saidmy daddy."Cive them any kindnessand they'11hc backbeggingfor morc. A man must clo his düty." A while ago,I wassick¡nd, when I wasgcttingbetter, my fathcr took me out into the country h'ith him. 'A bit of f¡esh air will do you good,"he s¿id,"we'11 put somecolour into that pcelie-lvallyfaceof yours." I sat proudly in front of him on his big brown horse. About ¡venty mcn were riding n'ith him ¿nd we follorveda path up into the hills. The sun was shining an.l everyoncwas talking ancllaughlng.A man looked acrossat me 'ls he ¿ chip off thc o1dblock?"he asked. "I hope so,"saidm¡. daddli ruffling my hair. We came to a place rvhcre there rve¡e ffe1dsand houses in a green valley. A c¡orvcl of women and children rverewaiting aswe cámeup, and they started cr¡ringout and goingdorvnon thei¡ knccsin lront oIus. My father stoppedhis horse. "Get out of the wáyl lf you makc ¡ny trouble,I will have solüe¡s come and shoot the lot of you," he shouted,in a ffercevoicc. 2l

Then he waveclhis men on. They dismountedfiom their horses,ran into the housesand began throrving out ¿ll thc bits offurniture. I sau.anold, old man being carried out on his bcd. Soon the¡e rvas smoke rising i n ro th e dir M ¡ irl-"r'' m"n rr" e."n.rg ll . r" rh empty houses.With his a¡m round mc, my lather sat on his horse,w¡tching. He gaveme an applc to cat. "What is happening,Daddy?"I askedhim. "Why arc the men doing this?" "Thcse people do not understancl,"he said. "They have to be movcd out. You can't just put sheepon the hillside;1,ouneed the g¡eenvalleystoo. Mcn fiom thc South will pay the Duke a good price to breed sheep here.All these people were given fair w¡rnin8 to get ost. Ji-1stbecaüsethey have ahvaysln ecl here, they L h r n kr h " lccp "n I v,ngher" i.r "rer But D ¿dd r .r hc] "re, rh e ¡ g o . " "There are too many of thcm," hc said."l don't care where they gq aslong as they get awa-\¡ f¡om here and off the Duke's land." "But doesn'tthe Duke own ail the land?" "Yoü're too young to understand,"saiclmy father. "Thcsc pcople don't matter.They are not important. Look at thei¡ houses- no bcttcr than huts.Thcy can't even speakEnglish.This is thc ninctccnth ccntury,not the Middle Ages.They must learn to move ü-ith the times." As rve ¡ode back tq Golspie,I could smell the smoke 22

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on my father's coat. Somcwhere along that road I clecidcdthat I ¿idn't want to be a sheepf;¡mer any Dore. But I didn't tell my dacldy.I don't thinh he would undentand.


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am His Graccthc Duke of Sutherland.I ¡m the orvne¡of Suthcrlandshireand I am a very angry man. You n¡ould think the people u.ho live on my estateswould havesomerespectfor me. Well, just listen to this. You may knon' that this year, 1854, Britain and F¡ancehavejüst goneto lvar againstRussia. Now, it is one ofthe Íihc traditionsofthe Highlandsof Scotland that, when the army needs men, the Highlanders are ah4'a)'sfirst to come forward. Our Hie h la n dre S imc n t¿. r. L h - iin. " r r h " ' " - r ¿ r d r ' l may s¡y so,the SutherlandHighlandcrsarc the flinest of all. I called all my tenantsto a meeting¿nd came down from my castlc to talk to them. I invited the young mcn to join up to fiSht the Russians. I offe¡edthem a specialpayment and showed them the gold and the pound notes,right there and thcn. Would you believe it not one singleman steppedlbru-ard.Disgracefull Then at last,an old man stood up. He spokein a lo\t, voice, but in thc silence,every word rvas clear. He rcminded me of the day when my ruife'sgrandmothcr, the Countessof St¡therland,had assembleda regimcnt of nine hundred men in this very p1acc.She could easilyhave doubledtheir number.And then he said: "But in her day,the glensof Sutherlandwere full of 25

people. Ioda)', thc glcns ¡re empty arrd desolatc phccs. The men o[ Srrthcrland hale seen dreir houses tor¡ down, their wives and childrcn lb¡ted out, ¡n,:1 for r.hat? So that the noble and riL:hDukc and D¡¡chessof SuthcrlanJ coultl become cvcn richcr b¡, repl:rcing rhenr \\.ith sheep.Ancl nou' yoLr llnd, l¡cn vou ¡eecl call. Pcrhaps men, thcrc arc none who $'il1 ans$'er -vour you." scnd sheep to fight lor had bettcr ,vou -vour And some of thc lt-llorvs skulking i¡ the back ron calleclout: "ts¡al Baal' ¡' '-' lr s¡. .nr',1-,,h1".l¡rr. o mr 1...r ;^¡ carriagc and rctürnell to m)- .¡stle.

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g T H E D u r'H F ss y pooยก husbandlThesepeoplehavesimply no ideรก of the right wรกy to behaveto a Duke. Soon he's travelling South to our housein London, and he did so want to be ableto tell the dear Queen that he had raised a whole ne.rv regimentof Highlandersto fight in her aยกmy. And after all u'e have done for the people.How can they be so ungrateful?



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nd so our story hascometo an end.For a short I time, you have been with üs thc mcn, Il .fI' women and child¡en of the Clcarances. You havehad ¿ chanceto seewhat it was like fo¡ us during this time. Can you imagine what it felt like living on cold oatmealand water,not just for one day but everyday,and being turned out ofyour homewith nowhcre to go? Thesethings happenedin Scotlanda long time ago. Life in the Highlandsand Islandsis very different now But the wide glensand the greenhillsides,where the children of thc Clea¡ancesonce lived, are still empty. Exccpt, of course,for the soundof sheep. . .

NOTE:The stoús in this book afe basedon actuál ¿.cóunrsoi events, reláted Á Thc Hntu/y oJ the Higlk¡.] Cbannes by l!l¿.kenzn:,frnt ¡ublished in 1883. ^1eaánde.



Children of the Clearances  

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