Role of women

Readings from accounts of the Clearances follow. The information given validates the Old Man’s claims that:

it was always the women who fought back
  • Reader 2 tells us the first blow was struck by a woman with a stick
  • Reader 3 explains that one of the women threw herself upon the ground and fell into hysterics
  • Reader 4 details a skirmish between the Police and women who fought on the sand until McBain recalled his officers and the women crawled away to bathe their bloody heads

In these factual accounts, the graphic details of the women's injuries confirm their bravery.

An account of the violence in Easter Ross describes:

  • women bearing the brunt of the battle
  • a large number of them being seriously hurt
  • the wounds on their skulls and bodies showing plainly the severe manner in which they had been dealt
  • women were beat and kicked [...] while lying weltering in their blood
  • in the case of Elizabeth Ross batons tore away part of her scalp, shattered frontal and parietal bones

The horrifying accounts of the violence enacted against the women reveal the true human cost of the Clearances.

In a short fictional vignette, a Minister delivers a sermon against the women. He compares them to sheep who have gone astray, who have wandered from the paths of righteousness. He criticises their defiance of authority, saying they have neglected the dignity of [their] womanhood . Rather than support the women, this male representative of the Church wants to put them in their place.

Resistance to change is a key role of women explored in this play, but it is not the only female role presented.

Women and culture

In Scottish folk tradition, women tended to assume the role of storyteller; songs, ballads, folk tales and legends were passed on from mother to child.

The Gaelic Singer represents this important female role. Many of her songs are haunting laments for a lost culture, but many others are rousing calls to action, such as the song with which the play ends. Through characters such as the Gaelic Singer, McGrath presents the role of the women as the preserver of Highland culture as well as communities.