BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

BBC Homepage
»Island Blogging
Western Isles

North Uist
South Uist

Argyll & Clyde Islands
Northern Isles

House Rules

From the BBC

Contact Us


This statue, entitled Exiles, was unveiled by First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday, at Helmsdale on the east Sutherland coast. It shows a family, leaving their homes for a new life overseas. Helmsdale lies at the mouth of the Strath of Kildonan, one of many valleys in Sutherland cleared of their residents in the 19th century. The full background story can be read here.

Whilst I applaud the efforts of Mr Macleod (who initiated the project) to keep the memory of the Clearances alive, I somehow find the positive gloss being cast on this appalling episode in Scotland's history very, very difficult to stomach. Particularly, bearing in mind Mr Salmond's political hue, I would have expected to hear rather stronger language than "deplorable".

Thousands of people were forced by means fair and foul to leave their homes - the practice of burning the thatch over people's heads is well documented. The Isle of Skye, 35 miles south of here, has been the scene of some atrocious evictions. Late last year, the assertion was being made that the Isle of Lewis had suffered relatively lightly under the Clearances. Well, I couldn't disagree more.

Early in 2006, I published the below map on this blog, showing the district of Eishken and 27 villages which used to be there until 1820.

They were all cleared, mostly to other places within Lewis. But still a forcible eviction.

I agree that the people who were cleared out of northern Scotland did make a contribution in the areas where they settled. But I think it is a stinging indictment that their contribution was not appreciated in their homecountry, and I am waiting for the First Minister to say something about that too.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 12:00


I watched this on the news last night. I thought, "about time it was marked" for, some of my own ancestors ended up in places like Nova Scotia and New Zealand due to the clearances. And whilst I can`t deny the success of many of the emigrants, and the way the highlands we know today have been shaped, it was an appalling period in Scottish history. Folks can accuse us of `harping back to the past` but without that past, we`re nothing, it`s shaped us all, like it or not. Good Blog entry AL.

Hermit from Sanday

And is this still going on? Different time, different tools, same result.

Bruce from Overhere

to go into the future,we must keep the past,its our heritage

carol from over here

My family was evicted from Lewis during the clearances. They came to Bruce County, Ontario and were instrumental, albeit in small ways, in making Canada the country it is today. It is good to see some recognition for these pioneers. I am proud to say my ancestors were from Lewis.

David from Canada

This blog is now closed and we are no longer accepting new posts.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy