Each section of the play is designed to confront some aspect of change:

  • change through industrialisation
  • cultural change
  • attitudinal change

Change through industrialisation

Industrialisation made a wholescale change in traditional farming methods inevitable. This process was already underway at the point when people were removed from their homes and cleared from the land. This is explained by the character of the Old Man.

What was really going on? There is no doubt that a change had come to the Highlands: the population was growing too fast for the old, inefficient methods of agriculture to keep everyone fed. Even before the Clearances, emigration had been the only way out for some.

Change was coming to the Highlands. But the Clearances, driven by money and self-interest, forced northern communities to confront the harsh realities of economic and social change far sooner than they were ready to and to deal with repercussions that no-one could have envisaged.

Cultural change

A number of characters present themselves as progressive types, whose duty it is to educate the uncivilised Highland folk.

As Patrick Sellar and James Loch are introduced, the Second Woman asserts: I hope they have not come to improve us. The dialogue between Loch and Sellar reveals that they are indeed on a mission to improve the people.

During Sellar’s trial, the character is vitriolic in his justification of his actions, claiming they were necessary for the common good:

These people here are absolutely a century behind and lack common honesty. I have brought them wonderfully forward, and calculate that within two years I shall have all the Estate arranged.

Sellar's sentiments are echoed later by Andy McChukemup. He explains how Crammem Inn Investments Ltd. intends to develop this backward area into a paradise. Andy’s assessment of the Highlands is that it is populated with regressive thinkers, and that it is a provincial backwater.

His company have made it their mission to haul the Highlands into the 20th Century. This condescending attitude and misplaced superiority directly parallels the attitude expressed by Lord Selkirk and Patrick Sellar earlier in the play.

Attitudinal change

The play argues that, while the methods the landowners and wealthy elite use to evict people evolves, the attitudes they express never change.

By the time Texas Jim enters the play, the lack of attitudinal change is abundantly clear. Nothing will stand in the way of people making money.

By the end of the play the attitude of the people being evicted has changed. The section with the Crofter and his Wife shows them putting up no resistance to change. They have resigned themselves to the fact that change will happen.

As they contemplate moving to a flat somewhere it is with a heavy heart they conclude we can't live here. They have been priced out of their home.