Highlands & Islands

New children's book tackles the Highland Clearances

Novelist Barbara Henderson Image copyright Cranachan Publishing
Image caption Novelist Barbara Henderson was inspired by real-life events for her story

A new children's book tackles one of the most controversial periods of Scottish history.

Writer Barbara Henderson's debut novel, Fir for Luck, is set during the Highland Clearances.

It tells of a 12-year-old girl who takes a stand against the threatened clearance of her village in 1841.

Henderson was inspired by real events in Strathnaver in Sutherland which saw women and children resist an attempt to clear their community.

Starting in the late 18th Century and running into the 19th Century, the Highland Clearances saw townships occupied by generations of families cleared to make way for large-scale sheep farming and the rearing of deer.

Landowners were seeking to "improve" their estates at the time of the industrial revolution. Their hope was to make more capital from the land by running shooting estates, or starting industrial-scale livestock farming.

In some cases people who had lived on the land for generations left voluntarily, while others were forcibly evicted and their homes burned and demolished.

'Suitable book'

The clearances have been tackled in fiction and factual books before, as well as in music and in film, including Slow West starring Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee and directed by Scottish musician John Maclean.

Henderson said one of the reasons for writing her novel was to offer a modern telling of the clearances for young readers.

Image copyright Lionsgate
Image caption Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee in the film Slow West

She told BBC Radio Scotland: "While on holiday up at Strathnaver and the Sutherland coast with my family I looked for a suitable book for my children to read about the subject.

"I found The Desperate Journey, which is by Kathleen Fidler and is a book schools are still studying, but it was published in 1964.

"While I rate the book and I think it is a good book and it is well-written it maybe has a slightly dated feel to it.

"I was hoping, maybe, I would write something that is more appropriate for a modern reader."

Henderson drew on the real-life events that happened in Strathnaver for her story.

She was fascinated by the actions of women and children to resist a sheriff officer sent to evict the families while the men in the community were away.

Launches for the new book are being held in Inverness where Henderson lived for 12 years.

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