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Background to 'The Highland Clearances'

Maryrrf 16 May 01 - 09:36 AM
Lyndi-loo 16 May 01 - 09:57 AM
Lyndi-loo 16 May 01 - 10:02 AM
Murray MacLeod 16 May 01 - 10:10 AM
Maryrrf 16 May 01 - 10:20 AM
Lyndi-loo 16 May 01 - 10:28 AM
Les from Hull 16 May 01 - 10:32 AM
Murray MacLeod 16 May 01 - 10:34 AM
Lyndi-loo 16 May 01 - 10:36 AM
Malcolm Douglas 16 May 01 - 10:44 AM
Malcolm Douglas 16 May 01 - 10:46 AM
Sorcha 16 May 01 - 10:52 AM
Les from Hull 16 May 01 - 11:02 AM
Big Mick 16 May 01 - 11:04 AM
Maryrrf 16 May 01 - 11:14 AM
Mary in Kentucky 16 May 01 - 11:31 AM
Lyndi-loo 16 May 01 - 11:39 AM
Les from Hull 16 May 01 - 01:16 PM
Maryrrf 16 May 01 - 01:54 PM
Dita 16 May 01 - 02:24 PM
Maryrrf 16 May 01 - 02:34 PM
Sorcha 05 Apr 02 - 12:09 PM
GUEST,maryrrf 05 Apr 02 - 12:28 PM
Peg 05 Apr 02 - 04:27 PM
GUEST,Boab 06 Apr 02 - 04:41 AM
GUEST,Ard Mhacha. 06 Apr 02 - 03:00 PM
michaelr 06 Apr 02 - 07:20 PM
Maryrrf 07 Apr 02 - 12:21 AM
Susanne (skw) 07 Apr 02 - 07:42 PM
Maryrrf 07 Apr 02 - 11:12 PM
Hrothgar 07 Apr 02 - 11:37 PM
GUEST,Ard Mhacha 08 Apr 02 - 08:32 AM
Malcolm Douglas 08 Apr 02 - 09:13 AM
greg stephens 08 Apr 02 - 09:38 AM
GUEST,maryrrf 08 Apr 02 - 09:41 AM
GUEST,Boab 09 Apr 02 - 04:48 AM
Teribus 09 Apr 02 - 06:23 AM
Teribus 09 Apr 02 - 06:32 AM
greg stephens 09 Apr 02 - 06:45 AM
GUEST,pict 16 Feb 14 - 07:24 PM
Jim McLean 17 Feb 14 - 07:33 AM
meself 17 Feb 14 - 10:49 AM
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Subject: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Maryrrf
Date: 16 May 01 - 09:36 AM

This song, as recorded by Silly Wizard, is in the data base but there are some things I don't understand. Why the reference to "The woods of Germany". What does "black is the wood on the roofance was braw" mean? and who are the "cruel Gillanders". Thanks to anyone who can clarify. I did search but didn't find anything specific on this song.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Lyndi-loo
Date: 16 May 01 - 09:57 AM

The Cruel Gillanders refers to James Falconer Gillanders of Highfield, a factor who evicetd many families from the estates of Rosskeen, Kindeace, Strathconan, all I believe in Inverness -shire, although I could be wrong. Can't help with the other refs, I'm afraid. Try reading "The Highland Clearances" by John Prebble, although this book is not without its critics


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Lyndi-loo
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:02 AM

Me again.Lyric I think should read "Black on the roof ance (separate word) was braw. This refers to the roof which was once beautiful being blackened by fire. The houses were burnt and one the roof was off were deemed to ne uninhabitable. Can't help with the woods of Germany


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:10 AM

Lyndi-loo, I think the estates you mention are actually in Ross-shire (although I too could be wrong).

Murray


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Maryrrf
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:20 AM

The song is so beautiful but the words are confusing. What does "Gor a'would have stayed wi'the deil himsel' mean? I can't seem to find the Scots dictionary that I know is on Mudcat somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Lyndi-loo
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:28 AM

You're right Murray; it is in Ross -shire, but I'm Welsh so I don't know any better. Gor is the Scots word for a carrion crow. I don't know if it makes sense but it's soething to do with preferring to live with the devil (deil) than to spend one hour in Gllanders' company


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Les from Hull
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:32 AM

I notice that the song mentions Victoria (presumably the Queen of that name). Was she clearing people of Royal Highland Estates, or personal estates in Scotland, or just getting the blame for the acts of others?

Does the woods of Germany relate to planting conifers?

I believe there was always a problem in transferring Celtic (real Celtic, not people who live in 'Celtic' lands) ideas into more 'modern' societies. The Celts 'owned' land by the tribe (although they also had 'nobles' and slaves), but when this was translated into a feudal society the clan chief became a hereditary earl or duke.

I sometimes wonder at people with Scottish surnames (particularly Highland Scots) who return to the auld country who are thrilled to meet their clan chief. I'd want to kick his arse!

Les


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:34 AM

The ironic thing about this song is that nobody who actually grew up in the areas affected by the Clearances ever spoke in this fashion. The purity of the language as spoken by the Highlanders is legendary. No one from Rosshire would ever say "Mony hae gane ......".

Not decrying the song, or the Broad Scots as spoken by my Lowland compatriots, you understand, just an observation.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Lyndi-loo
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:36 AM

I can't believe that the woods of Germany refers to forestry, because the Highlands were cleared for sheep. Most of the Clearances took place before Victoria came to the throne, so she can'd be blamed for it. Perhaps the reference to the German bit came because the Georges were of German origin?


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:44 AM

Some of this has already been said, but, having been away checking references and typing, I'll just drop it in, with apologies for any repetition:

Gillanders was James Falconer Gillanders of Highfield, factor of, amongst others, William Robertson, Laird of Kindeace.  Gillanders was particularly notorious for his evictions of inconvenient tenants, and the story of what happened in Strathcarron in 1854 -which received wide publicity at the time- is told in detail in Alexander Prebble's book, The Highland Clearances, which is fairly easy to find.  Basically, local constables were called in by Gillanders to help him enforce eviction orders, and a riot ensued; the policeman lost their heads and savagely beat a number of people, including women.  The reference to Victoria presumably refers to the fact that law-enforcement officers were officers of the Crown, and bore the Crown's insignia; certainly the batons carried by the policemen had the letters VR painted on them.

Victoria herself had of course nothing to do with the business, as the person who wrote this fairly modern song must have known; "German" would likely be the usual Jacobite reference to the House of Hanover, the traditional enemy to be blamed for pretty much everything.  "roofance" is a typo; instead read, "roof ance", that is, "roof once".  "Black is the wood" presumably refers to the fact that dwellings were often burnt after evictions.   "The Woods of Germany" may be a rather slanted way of saying that the land once lived on was later planted with trees, but I that is a guess only; forestation did take place, mind, but that may have been later.  Still, it is a recently composed song.

I would recommend Prebble's book, though as Murray remarks, with any account of such emotive subjects, there will always be disagreements as to interepretation, to anyone wishing to understand the complex nature of the tragedy of the Clearances, particularly anyone who presently believes that it was some sort of action taken by England against Scotland>

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:46 AM

Ah; that should have been Lyndi-loo, not Murray.  Apologies.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Sorcha
Date: 16 May 01 - 10:52 AM

And here Click! is the Glossary of Scottish words thread by John in Brisbane. Took me forever to find it, so I finally put a trace on it!


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Les from Hull
Date: 16 May 01 - 11:02 AM

Thanks Malcolm, that was very helpful. I have the Prebble book, it looks like is due for rereading.

Les


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Big Mick
Date: 16 May 01 - 11:04 AM

This is a wonderful thread! Thanks for the great information.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Maryrrf
Date: 16 May 01 - 11:14 AM

This song is very enigmatic. Does anybody know if it is a traditional song or if it was recently written? Is it possible "woods of germany" is a mispronounciation of something else? Sorry to keep hammering, but the song really moved me.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 16 May 01 - 11:31 AM

Here's some more info and links on The Highland Clearances

And Sorcha, I just saw this thread, but could have given that link easily. I've found the glossary very useful. I think if you search for the word glossary it's easy to find.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Lyndi-loo
Date: 16 May 01 - 11:39 AM

Mention has been made that the Highlanders made up a large part of the British Army and the title page of Prebble's book contains the quote "since you have preferred sheep to men, let sheep defend you". Britain was at war with France at the beginning of the Clearances and many Highlanders on coming home discovered that their glens had been cleared as in the song "I will go" (in the DT)Thought I'd mention this as another perspective


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Les from Hull
Date: 16 May 01 - 01:16 PM

It's true that there were quite a few Highland Regiments at the time. As Great Britain had no conscription then, the Army (and the Navy) were filled up with people from the poorest classes, who got a cash bounty when they joined. Unfortunately, you joined more or less for life (or until invalided).

So there was always a higher percentage of the Scots and Irish populations serving in the forces than the English.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Maryrrf
Date: 16 May 01 - 01:54 PM

Certainly history is never simple and as remembered in song and story is probably often more myth and legend than true history. There are many stirring songs about Prince Charlie, for example. And he really wasn't that inspirational a character. More out for self promotion, I think, than anything else. And in many of the battles there were more Scots fighting Scots than there were Englishmen fighting Scots. Oh well... By the way I found the glossary by typing in "glossary" not "dictionary".


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Dita
Date: 16 May 01 - 02:24 PM

This song was written by Andy M. Stewart of Silly Wizard, in the late 1970's.
Maryrrf - The "Woods of Germany" is correct, that verse is the only peice of lyrics that appear on the cover of "So Many Partings." "This is a lament for the glens of Scotland, seen through the eyes of a man standing in a ruined croft"
I think Malcolm is spot on, Andy has gone for emotion at the expense of facts, and in this case many of the historical facts are wrong.
Only a hunch but I wonder if Andy wrote this after seeing John McGrath's play "The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil", which featured both the "Clearances" and Victoria's attitude to Scotland, and ran the two together.
love, john


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Maryrrf
Date: 16 May 01 - 02:34 PM

John, thanks for clearing that up. I was wondering if the song was traditional or not. Andy M. Stewart did write some great ones that really do sound traditional, didn't he! Really sorry I missed meeting you in Girvan! I hope I will be able to attend again next year!


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Sorcha
Date: 05 Apr 02 - 12:09 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: GUEST,maryrrf
Date: 05 Apr 02 - 12:28 PM

Thanks! It is a beautiful song and I love the way Andy M. Stewart does it.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Peg
Date: 05 Apr 02 - 04:27 PM

Capercaille does a song called "Waiting for the Wheel to Turn" which also references the clearances.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: GUEST,Boab
Date: 06 Apr 02 - 04:41 AM

I'm a latecomer again, Maryrrf. Harking back to your quote, I think it was "Gor I had stayed wi' the devil..." I have the notion that this word "gor" is perhaps a variant of the still well-used word in the south west at least--"gin", which can be translated as "suppose" in most contexts--e.g. "Gin I were a baron's heir"[another great song, by the way!}


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: GUEST,Ard Mhacha.
Date: 06 Apr 02 - 03:00 PM

Les from Hull has got it right when he says, the Highlanders who returned to the old country should have took a flying kick at the Lairds who replaced the Highland people with sheep. Prebble`s book may have had it`s critics, but he hits hard and heavy at the bastard usurpers. And many of the able bodied Highlanders who were left took the King`s Shilling to be used as cannon fodder in Britain`s quest for Empire. Ard Mhacha.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: michaelr
Date: 06 Apr 02 - 07:20 PM

Peg - I believe the Capercaillie song refers not to the original Highland Clearances but to what's being called the New Clearances: the influx of wealthy southerners who buy up land in the North, driving up real estate priced and pricing out poorer locals.

"Silently our history is coming to life again..."

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Maryrrf
Date: 07 Apr 02 - 12:21 AM

I'm interested in finding some of those songs about wealthy English aristocrats buying up land in the Highlands and treating the locals in a condescending manner. There was a hilarious one somebody performed at the Girvan Festival last year - only lines I recall was part of the chorus - "And get off my land" - it was performed with an exagerated hoity toity English accent. I guess it would be really a long shot to find that one, though.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 07 Apr 02 - 07:42 PM

Maryrrf, could it be the seven Men of Knoydart you're looking for? (Scroll down to roughly the middle of the file.) Not particularly funny, though!


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Maryrrf
Date: 07 Apr 02 - 11:12 PM

That wasn't the song but I found several other songs I'd been looking for on that site and I've bookmarked it for future reference. (Are you the Suzanne that does that site - if so well done! Very extensive song notes!) I heard the song I was referring to at a pub and it just cracked everybody up. Scathing mockery of the English upper class!


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Hrothgar
Date: 07 Apr 02 - 11:37 PM

I suppose it's not fashionable to suggest that one of the reasons so many Highlanders emigrated was that they found that they could?

After living as subsistence farmers under a feudal system for centuries (and don't try to convince me it was much better than that), they suddenly heard about places like Canada and the various smaller American colonies. Getting the push from some fairly brutal landlords (more of them Scots than English) at least helped them make their decisions.

Ah, well, politically incorrect again.....


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: GUEST,Ard Mhacha
Date: 08 Apr 02 - 08:32 AM

Have to agree Hrothgar, and the greedy Lairds helped them on their way as there was more money in Sheep. Ard Mhacha.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 08 Apr 02 - 09:13 AM

Much of the early emigration was middle-class led, with small landowners often taking whole collections of tenants and dependants along with them. The evictions were largely later; most of the lairds concerned were, as has been said, Scottish (though at this stage they had got well into the habit of having their sons educated at English public schools); a whole mythology has grown up around the Clearances, and many people believe that this was some sort of action taken against Scotland by England, though it was nothing of the kind.

Apart from John Prebble's book, referred to above, a very useful source of historical and statistical information is John G. Gibson's Traditional Gaelic Bagpiping, 1745 - 1945 (McGill-Queen's University Press/ National Museums of Scotland, 1998), which examines in detail post-Culloden emigration patterns and also demolishes the popular myth that the bagpipes were banned in the wake of the Jacobite rebellions.

What is often forgotten is that similar dispossession took place in England during the Enclosure movement (income from wool being, again, a principal motive), with a great many people being burned out of their homes or otherwise evicted. No assisted passages to the colonies for most of them, though.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Apr 02 - 09:38 AM

Malclm Douglas raises a very interesting point about the huge numbers of English country people cleared from tthe land in the same era. As therewas no English nationalism movement to use them as a political symbol, their plight has not become any part of peoples' memories.Except perhaps to give the powerful edge to classic songs of rural nostalgia, when the feelings of loss are often mixed with lost love for greater effect (North Country Maid, Oh the Broom, Pleasant and Delightful, Banks of the Sweet Primroses etc etc)


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: GUEST,maryrrf
Date: 08 Apr 02 - 09:41 AM

Certainly true that the English working/laboring classes didn't have it easy. They were pretty downtrodden too.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: GUEST,Boab
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 04:48 AM

Hrothgar, you aren't in any way incorrect! While the destruction of the clan system was brutally accomplished, the fact that it was destroyed was a damn' good thing. It was just about the worst social set-up imaginable, and was a guarantee of continual internecine warfare---a bit like Afghanistan of today.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Teribus
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 06:23 AM

Very well put Hrothgar,

"I suppose it's not fashionable to suggest that one of the reasons so many Highlanders emigrated was that they found that they could? "

To illustrate your point below please find a peom by Robert Burns written in the late 1700's- the note at the beginning makes interesting reading.

Address Of Beelzebub

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To the Right Honourable the Earl of Breadalbane, President of the Right Honourable and Honourable the Highland Society, which met on the 23rd of May last at the Shakespeare, Covent Garden, to concert ways and means to frustrate the designs of five hundred Highlanders, who, as the Society were informed by Mr. M'Kenzie of Applecross, were so audacious as to attempt an escape from their lawful lords and masters whose property they were, by emigrating from the lands of Mr. Macdonald of Glengary to the wilds of Canada, in search of that fantastic thing-Liberty.

Long life, my Lord, an' health be yours, Unskaithed by hunger'd Highland boors; Lord grant me nae duddie, desperate beggar, Wi' dirk, claymore, and rusty trigger, May twin auld Scotland o' a life She likes-as butchers like a knife.

Faith you and Applecross were right To keep the Highland hounds in sight: I doubt na! they wad bid nae better, Than let them ance out owre the water, Then up among thae lakes and seas, They'll mak what rules and laws they please: Some daring Hancocke, or a Franklin, May set their Highland bluid a-ranklin; Some Washington again may head them, Or some Montgomery, fearless, lead them, Till God knows what may be effected When by such heads and hearts directed, Poor dunghill sons of dirt and mire May to Patrician rights aspire! Nae sage North now, nor sager Sackville, To watch and premier o'er the pack vile, - An' whare will ye get Howes and Clintons To bring them to a right repentance- To cowe the rebel generation, An' save the honour o' the nation? They, an' be d-d! what right hae they To meat, or sleep, or light o' day? Far less-to riches, pow'r, or freedom, But what your lordship likes to gie them?

But hear, my lord! Glengarry, hear! Your hand's owre light to them, I fear; Your factors, grieves, trustees, and bailies, I canna say but they do gaylies; They lay aside a' tender mercies, An' tirl the hallions to the birses; Yet while they're only poind't and herriet, They'll keep their stubborn Highland spirit: But smash them! crash them a' to spails, An' rot the dyvors i' the jails! The young dogs, swinge them to the labour; Let wark an' hunger mak them sober! The hizzies, if they're aughtlins fawsont, Let them in Drury-lane be lesson'd! An' if the wives an' dirty brats Come thiggin at your doors an' yetts, Flaffin wi' duds, an' grey wi' beas', Frightin away your ducks an' geese; Get out a horsewhip or a jowler, The langest thong, the fiercest growler, An' gar the tatter'd gypsies pack Wi' a' their bastards on their back! Go on, my Lord! I lang to meet you, An' in my house at hame to greet you; Wi' common lords ye shanna mingle, The benmost neuk beside the ingle, At my right han' assigned your seat, 'Tween Herod's hip an' Polycrate: Or if you on your station tarrow, Between Almagro and Pizarro, A seat, I'm sure ye're well deservin't; An' till ye come-your humble servant,

Beelzebub.


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Subject: Lyr Add: ADDRESS OF BEELZEBUB (Robert Burns)
From: Teribus
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 06:32 AM

Apologies I forgot to insert the line breaks in my previous post - This should be easier to read!!

Address Of Beelzebub

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To the Right Honourable the Earl of Breadalbane, President of the Right Honourable and Honourable the Highland Society, which met on the 23rd of May last at the Shakespeare, Covent Garden, to concert ways and means to frustrate the designs of five hundred Highlanders, who, as the Society were informed by Mr. M'Kenzie of Applecross, were so audacious as to attempt an escape from their lawful lords and masters whose property they were, by emigrating from the lands of Mr. Macdonald of Glengary to the wilds of Canada, in search of that fantastic thing-Liberty.

Long life, my Lord, an' health be yours,
Unskaithed by hunger'd Highland boors;
Lord grant me nae duddie, desperate beggar,
Wi' dirk, claymore, and rusty trigger,
May twin auld Scotland o' a life
She likes-as lambkins like a knife.

Faith you and Applecross were right
To keep the Highland hounds in sight:
I doubt na! they wad bid nae better,
Than let them ance out owre the water,
Then up among thae lakes and seas,
They'll mak what rules and laws they please:
Some daring Hancocke, or a Franklin,
May set their Highland bluid a-ranklin;
Some Washington again may head them,
Or some Montgomery, fearless, lead them,
Till God knows what may be effected
When by such heads and hearts directed,
Poor dunghill sons of dirt and mire
May to Patrician rights aspire!
Nae sage North now, nor sager Sackville,
To watch and premier o'er the pack vile, -
An' whare will ye get Howes and Clintons
To bring them to a right repentance-
To cowe the rebel generation,
An' save the honour o' the nation?
They, an' be d-d! what right hae they
To meat, or sleep, or light o' day?
Far less-to riches, pow'r, or freedom,
But what your lordship likes to gie them?

But hear, my lord! Glengarry, hear!
Your hand's owre light to them, I fear;
Your factors, grieves, trustees, and bailies,
I canna say but they do gaylies;
They lay aside a' tender mercies,
An' tirl the hallions to the birses;
Yet while they're only poind't and herriet,
They'll keep their stubborn Highland spirit:
But smash them! crash them a' to spails,
An' rot the dyvors i' the jails!
The young dogs, swinge them to the labour;
Let wark an' hunger mak them sober!
The hizzies, if they're aughtlins fawsont,
Let them in Drury-lane be lesson'd!
An' if the wives an' dirty brats
Come thiggin at your doors an' yetts,
Flaffin wi' duds, an' grey wi' beas',
Frightin away your ducks an' geese;
Get out a horsewhip or a jowler,
The langest thong, the fiercest growler,
An' gar the tatter'd gypsies pack
Wi' a' their bastards on their back!
Go on, my Lord! I lang to meet you,
An' in my house at hame to greet you;
Wi' common lords ye shanna mingle,
The benmost neuk beside the ingle,
At my right han' assigned your seat,
'Tween Herod's hip an' Polycrate:
Or if you on your station tarrow,
Between Almagro and Pizarro,
A seat, I'm sure ye're well deservin't;
An' till ye come-your humble servant,

Beelzebub.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 06:45 AM

I enjoyed the reference to Clinton in the poem. I'm sure he brought the highlanders to repentance. The Howe he refers to would be General William Howe, commander of the British forces in the War of Independence. His brother Admiral Howe had the hornpipe now known as The Fisher's Hornpipe written for him,still remembered by most pickers and fiddlers.Fisher is a miss-spelling really, the fiddler who wrote it was called Fishar. The Admiral was known as "Black Dick", and the tune was originally named after him. And his surname was pronounced Ho.So perhaps Fisher's Hornpipe is more appropriate, you can't go around saying Black Dick Ho's Hornpipe nowadays.


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: GUEST,pict
Date: 16 Feb 14 - 07:24 PM

The 'woods o' Germany' is quite possibly a reference to the fact that impoverished/cleared Highlanders desperate for any employment, or 'king's shillinged', often ended up in Highland and other regiments that went over to the Continent fighting for the Hanoverians' allies, eg the 87th and 88th in Hessen, Germany, in the Seven Years' War (after Culloden)- more here from a tri-lingual Scotophile German scholar:
https://sites.google.com/site/acsailognanron/saighdearan-gaidhealach-ann-an-hesse-1759-62---highland-soldiers-in-hesse-1759-62---hochlandschottische-soldaten-in-hessen-1759-62.
Others were there as mercenaries, often on opposing sides, in the Napoleonic Wars too.
The soldiering /Clearances theme is a recurring one in songs, eg, I will go, I will go.

The conifers theory is just possible too, if taken poetically, as the trees would not have been planted till long after the Clearances. Though I don't really see 'the woods o' Germany' meaning the same as 'German trees'/'trees from Germany'. To me the reference sounds like death in exile.

I would discount the WW1 and WW2 interpretations as too modern.

A reminder of the song itself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvNL81LxhOA


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: Jim McLean
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 07:33 AM

In the ally 1960s I wrote many songs about the Highland Clearances (before the Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil).
The tune is a variant of Butter and Brose.

Shores of Sutherland
(Jim McLean)

Cold is the wind and wet
As we make our beds down on the sand
Scavenging gulls and clappidoos
Down on the shores of Sutherland
High on the hills our shielings
Are sheltering factors that robber band
Shepherds and sheep are asleep
While we die on the shores of Sutherland

Blood from our cows and meal
A nettle broth laid with barley bran
Banned from the beds of mussels
By dogs and their masters of Sutherland
Big are shellfish they're guarding
For fishers who come from some other land
Cockles are baiting their hooks
While we starve on the shores of Sutherland

Water and brose and milk
Salmon and deer and ptarmigan
Honey and bread and cheese
Was the food of the children of Sutherland
Now we are barred from our clachans
And hunted away from our motherland
Starved at the edge of the sea
By the Duke and the Duchess of Sutherland

Mackie's History of Scotland has a rather starry-eyed view of the reasons behin
d the
Clearances, at least in my 1972 edition:
[1972:] The story of the Clearances is known to all; yet the Sutherland Clearan
ces were part of a policy of improvement undertaken between 1811 and 1820 by the
Marquess of Stafford, who had married the Countess of Sutherland in 1785. Aware
of the 'improvements' which were being undertaken in Moray and of the hardship
and famine which prevailed in his area, he called in experts from the south, and
began to move his tenants from the upland glens to the coast in the belief that
there they could supplement the crofts which he would supply by fishing. At fi
rst he had some success when he moved people from Assynt to the west coast; but
later he met with opposition which was repressed by violence, all the more resen
ted when it was found that one of the factors employed, who was acquitted on a c
harge of homicide, himself entered into one of the sheep farms from which the ev
ictions took place. The burning of wretched houses and the eviction of helpless
people - some of them decrepit - aroused great condemnation, and the grievances
reached the House of Commons. There and elsewhere it was shown that the Marquis,
besides getting nothing from his Sutherland estate between 1811 and 1833, had s
pent �60,000 of his own money; but the stigma was not removed.
[...] Between 1828 and 1851 some proprietors shipped surplus tenants overseas at
their own expense; but in 1853 there occurred in Glengarry perhaps the most fer
ocious of the violent clearances; this was not a matter of shifting people to th
e coast; whole families were put into ships and sent across the ocean, a
ing of disease, and, with the introduction of the potato, better food, populatio
n was increasing to an extent which could not be supplied by the old economy. Th
ey did not realize - indeed, many of them may not have known - that money spent
by landlords or by charitable societies on palliatives was spent in vain. All th
ey saw was that land was being let to sheep-farmers who could pay three times th
e old rent and absorbed small crofts into bigger holdings. To them it seemed tha
t nowadays chiefs preferred sheep to men, to men whose ancestors had served thei
r ancestors for generations. (Mackie, Scotland 317f)

I like this story:
[1991:] In the whole shameful episode of the Highland Clearances, no district l
ost more of its people to America [than Sutherland], and by the beginning of the
Crimean War there were precious few able-bodied men left there. When the Duke o
f Sutherland - whose family had been the most consistently ruthless of evictors
- stood up at a public meeting in 1854 to ask his tenantry f
ds than we have experienced at the hands of your family for the last fifty years
." (Notes Brian McNeill, 'The Back o' the North Wind')

This is how the Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown puts it in his autobiography:
[1997:] It is likely that [my mother's] near Mackay ancestors had had to endur
e the 'clearances' of the early nineteenth century, when whole communities of Ga
elic-speaking Highlanders were persuaded or driven out of the valleys where they
had lived, a poor but free community under the chiefs of Mackay, for many centu
ries. Again, it was 'progress', that religion of nineteenth-century man - that i
rresistible force - that destroyed and uprooted everything that
seemed to stand in its way. Nothing was sacred or beautiful; only money and pro
fits counted. [...] The clan chief was no longer the clan's protector; he had lo
ng sided with the establishment, and sent his sons to English public schools and
married among the English or Lowland aristocracy. And it had been pointed out t
o him that it
fishing, it was pointed out to them, was good. It is more than likely that hundr
eds of them had never even set eyes on the sea. Somehow they learned to be boatb
uilders and fishermen. Somehow they learned to read the ferocious and fruitful m
oods of the Pentland Firth. (George Mackay Brown, For the Islands I Sing 21f)


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Subject: RE: Background to 'The Highland Clearances'
From: meself
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 10:49 AM

An older MacKay cousin of mine (in Canada) once told me of a trip he had taken, while in the UK, to Sutherland. He told me with some amusement - he seemed to take it as a bit of a joke on himself - that when he asked an old fellow there about the MacKays, he was told "they were all sheep-thieves!" I was a teenager at this time; it wasn't till some years later that I came to realize just WHY those MacKays might have been 'sheep-thieves' - and who it was that was so characterising them ....

The MacKays of my lineage emigrated to Canada in 1815 or thereabouts, if I remember correctly; however, no stories have come down relating to the circumstances, etc.


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