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Re: Clearances and other history

John S.Q. wrote:
"And of course it would be refreshing to be able to say in some detail
that not every Scottish noble or landlord cooperated with the Clearances,
and the contemporary Sinclair Earl of Caithness could make a good story."

You are very correct in that statement, John.  Our Sinclairs came from the Isle of Islay,
just off the coast from Glasgow (and Greenock, its port).Most of the Island was owned
by Campbells in the 1700and 1800s, starting with Daniel Campbell of Shawfield, in 1726.  He set about improving agriculture, and starting a flax industry, from growing to processing  it into woven linen, employing several locals.

He was succeeded by his grandson, Daniel the Younger in 1753, who continued his grandfather's progress with more agricultural innovations to make the land more fertile and productive, encouraged a fishing industry and lead mining, and built a new model village, Bowmore, with the famous round church in 1767.  Not only did this provide a great deal of employment, but the houses were built to accomodate those tenants who were willing to leave the farms, due to overcrowding.  Each of  the townsfolk had an allotment of 5 acres to grow vegetables and graze a cow.  Commercial development
naturally followed, including  a steam packet(ferry), the first between the mainland and the islands, carryied freight, passengers, and the post.  He also established a Stent Committee,  which was an early form of municipal government for the island.

When his brother Walter enherited Islay, he also inherited Daniel's considerable debts.
He tried to carry on the progressive works of the previous owners, and they were
actually exporting  produce and especially livestock (no sheep!)   They grew enough barley to produce whiskey, for which Islay is still reknown.    When he couldn't get government assistance to build roads and bridges, he paid for them himself, believing better communication would increase trade and prosperity for the Island.  "Thus the island enjoyed a period of perhaps unprecedented prosperity, and virtually full employment, so much so that it attracted beggars from Scotland and Ireland"  From
CNJupp's "A History of Islay".  Walter sold other property he owned on the mainland, and  invested in the island.

Upon his death, he was also succeeded by a grandson,  Walter F., in 1816 just after the end of the wars with France.  There was little market for the fine produce, and tenants
went into arrears, a situation which the new laird could ill afford.   As an MP, "he explained in 1826 in a report to the Parliamentary Select Committee which was investigating the possibility of encouraging emigration as a means of alleviating overpopulation in the islands and highlands of Scotland, he preferred to solve land pressures by persuading the surplus population to move to villages, which he proposed to create .....only those who refused to fall in with his plan would be encouraged to emigrate."(again from Jupp).

He proceeded to build the villages of  Port Ellen, Port Wemyss, Port Charlotte and Keills.  The linen (flax) production was failing after stiff competition from the cotton available from the US, and the abundant wool (oh, those pesky sheep again!)  In the meantime, the population had skyrocketed from about 5,300 in the mid 1700s, to 15,000 by 1831.   After the 1835 disastrous harvest (almost complete failure of all grain and potato crops), "which simply rotted in the ground due to a very cold spring - there was snow in June,  hay could not be gathered, there was not even enough  for grazing.  Animals had to be slaughtered, which would temporarily feed the population, but this  destroyed the basis of their future livelihood." (Jupp)

Most  Ileachs  were not forced to leave for any other reason than overcrowding and near starvation.  Disease naturally followed.   They had an opportunity  to bring their families away to a place where they might finally own their land, build a home, and feed their children.  1833 saw a large emigration of Islay folk to Ontario, as well as in the next three decades.  The population by 1861 was just over 10,000, and in the year 2000, its
about 5,000 again. When the Island was sold in the 1850s, one of the purchasers, John Ramsay, actually aided the emigres with his own funds.  So concerned was he about their well-being, after being accused of "clearing" his former tenants, he travelled to Canada in 1870 to visit them himself, to ascertain whether they were destitute in the wilderness, or surviving.  They were thriving!

I know that this is one small place, where the lairds were very humane to their tenants,
as opposed to the many who treated their tenants with such cruelty and loathing, it totally boggles the mind!  An apology from a new Scottish parliament, whatever their motive, would be irrelevant to the deeds done almost 200 years ago.  Possible tourism as the windfall of such an apology is repugnant.

As an epilogue, Walter Frederick Campbell went bankrupt in 1848, and died poor in France, 1855, at the age of 57.  Who should apologize for him, or his ancestors?   No politician, I hope!

Toni Sinclair,
Niagara, Ontario.
researching all Sinclairs on Islay  (and there were many!)

John S. Quarterman wrote:

I can't speak for others, but I haven't said an apology would be a good idea,
and I'm not thrilled by the motivation of the apology as proposed in the
Scottish Parliament.

More education on the subject would be a good idea.

The misfortunes of American Indians at the hands of whites became well known
through books such as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and those of blacks
through books and movies such as Roots.  Prebble and others have started
a similar process about the Clearances, but it apparently hasn't proceeded
very far yet.

One can go too far in this direction, into political correctness or apologies
for the sake of attracting tourism.

However if we are to understand the history of how our present world
developed from previous years, there is much that would be of use to
be known, both good and bad.  For example, John Elliot's work with the
Indians of Massachusetts and Oglethorpe's similarly peaceful dealings
with his native neighbors are not well known.  As your postings have
illustrated, it is too facile to say that what distinguished Prince Henry
was peaceful dealings with the natives of America.  He wasn't the only
one to act that way.

Why does it matter?  Well, it is too easy for a few known facts to become
settled dogma, repeated automatically without thought.  Good decisions are
seldom made that way.

And in this era of interventions in places as varied as Chechnya and Kosovo,
Iraq and Sierra Leone, we would all do well to know what happened in previous
eras of interventions.  Let us not forget that one of the main motivations
of the British colonial intervention in Africa was suppression of the slave
trade.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Examining the old
bricks may help prevent us from paving the same road again.

What does this have to do with Sinclair history?  If we are to understand
what significance Prince Henry's visits to North America had, it might
be useful to be able to compare them with other European visits to the
same land.  Saying he was not a conquistador is too facile.  The Spanish
who settled a long range of missions in present-day Florida, Georgia, and
the Carolinas as early as 1565 (a century before the better-known ones
in California) weren't conquistadors in the sense of Cortez, either.
They were first Jesuits and then Franciscans, in missions, and they
were generally peaceful.  They did not in the end succeed, being driven
out by the more warlike British colonists before Oglethorpe arrived.
Not quite like what most people think of as the usual history of the
Spanish in America.

How was what Prince Henry did better, or at least different?
Different from what and whom, and in what ways?

I think there are answers to that question.
Answers more comprehensive, interesting, and useful
than "he wasn't Columbus."
    Oh, veiled and secret Power
    Whose paths we seek in vain,
    Be with us in our hour
    Of overthrow and pain;
    That we -- by which sure token
    We know Thy ways are true --
    In spite of being broken,
    Because of being broken
    May rise and build anew.
    Stand up and build anew.

    --Hymn of Breaking Strain, by Rudyard Kipling

John S. Quarterman <jsq@matrix.net>

>I have  reread John, Dale and Rory postings.  I still find myself moved by
>the sadness and suffering that must have overcome the transported.  But
>still I feel a touch of pride in Caithness's actions. The very idea of an
>apology is an anathema to me.  How do you say I am sorry for brutalising
>your country. How do you say sorry for ending your way of life, abetted a
>medieval one. What do we, generations later, have the right to accept such
>an apology on those long dead.  I cannot justify any action by a
>grandstanding petty Parliament.  Dale is correct imperialistly twice we
>spread the British Empire across the world. Is it not the role of man to
>expand  his national interests?  Americas "sea to shinning sea" the Russian
>empire and others to numerous to mention.  Communication made it possible
>and now that we came communicate directly without goverment interference are
>we not in the position to reclaim the world.  This world was inherited from
>our forefathers it is on loan from our children it is to them we owe the
>correctness of our actions.
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