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Environmental and ecological readings

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Philippe Laplace

Part I. Nature and the Environment: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

The Representation of Land in the Gaelic Poetry of the Clearances

Christian Auer

Texte intégral

  • 1 T.M. Devine, Clanship to Crofters’ War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), p. 209.
  • 2 I.F. Grant, Highland Folk Ways (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1961), p. 78.
  • 3 James Hunter, The Making of the Crofting Community (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1976) p. 84
  • 4 Donald MacKinnon, ‘Song on the Crofters’ Plight’, in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald E. Meek ( (...)

1Most historians of the Clearances (the period that saw thousands of inhabitants from the Highlands of Scotland evicted from their homes and very often forced to emigrate to America, Australia or New Zealand) have used an entire series of terms to designate the nature and the consequences of the process. Destruction, devastation, desolation, trauma, chaos, cataclysm, and disorientation are only some of the most significant terms. T.M. Devine has written that ‘the economic transformation had caused social havoc, enormous displacement of populations and the destruction of an ancient way of life’1 while I.F. Grant has argued that ‘sheep have caused wider devastation and changes in the Highlands than all the feuds, civil wars and other disturbances of the past’.2 Finally, according to James Hunter, ‘to the people affected by them, Clearances were utterly overwhelming catastrophes whose effects – psychological as well as physical – were profound and long lasting.’3 Although the victims of the Clearances left very few written documents, it is possible to get an idea of how they perceived their plight through sources such as emigrant letters, articles published in the radical press or testimonies of the people who were interviewed by the 1883 Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands, with Francis Napier (an ex-Indian civil servant) as its chairman. The report issued by the Commission in 1884 represents a fascinating source of information about how the Highlanders perceived the Clearances that had taken place in the 1850s. But most of the time those are indirect sources; what makes the Gaelic poetry of the time particularly interesting to study is that, apart from its poetical value, it provides commentaries on social change and can thus be considered as a form of popular journalism. The numerous poems written about the Clearances and the social unrest of the 1880s provide a unique opportunity to understand how the Highland society perceived its own disintegration. Here is an example taken from a poem written by poet Donald MacKinnon: ‘Much soil that is good is in the possession of Lowlanders, | and there is no place for the descendants of the Gaels; | if they ask for land, they will be rewarded at present | by having “Englishmen’s” hounds sent speedily there.’4

  • 5 Alexander MacDonald, better known as Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, was born c 1690 in Moidart. (...)

2Gaelic poets, who enjoyed immense prestige in their communities, played the role of spokesmen of a social order that had started to be eroded in the eighteenth century. One of the fundamental characteristics of Gaelic poetry is its celebration of nature such as with this example of an excerpt of a poem by Alexander MacDonald:5

  • 6 Alexander MacDonald in Derik Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry (1974; Edinburgh: Edinburgh (...)

Honey-sucking of striped bees,
With their fierce crooning hum,
Among the clustered, brindled flowers, the sunny blossoms on the trees;
Brown viscous drops through straws
Fall from your grasses’ breasts;
They have no livelihood or food
But the roses’ pleasant scent.6

3The poet does not need to define nature as nature is a fundamental component of his being. Yet, the land, one of the elements that constitute nature, has received considerable attention in Gaelic poetry. This paper will focus on the polysemy of the term ‘land’ as the term can have several complementary and interdependent meanings: geographical first, with the land perceived as territory; physical with the image of a land where man lives in perfect symbiosis with the environment; economic, with constant references to the arable nourishing land; aesthetical, with the land represented as a space of sublime beauty; historical, with the emphasis on the land transmitted from generation to generation; and finally, mythical, with the land set in a timeless and eternal continuum.

  • 7 Donald Baillie, ‘Satire on Patrick Sellar’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by D. Meek, p. 191.
  • 8 According to Eric Richards, ‘Patrick Sellar came to serve as the all-purpose target of condemnation (...)
  • 9 John MacRae, ‘Song about the Crofters’ Bill’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by D. Meek, p. 257.
  • 10 William Livingston, ‘A message for the Poet’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by D. Meek, p. 201. A se (...)

4The first dimension that needs to be mentioned is the geographical dimension – with the land perceived as a space of liberty – even if the poet tends to depict his immediate environment, the brook that flows through his plot of land or the hills that surround it. That is precisely one of the reasons why the poet casts a critical eye on the economic transformations changing the fragile balance of the Highland society and why the poet lays stress on the absurdity of a system which aims at measuring or delimiting a space that, in essence, lives without any constraint. The land, according to the poet, cannot be segmented or imprisoned: ‘Sellar and Roy | were guided by the very Devil | when they commanded that the compass | and the chain be set to [measure] the land.’7 Patrick Sellar, the factor on the Sutherland estate who implemented a series of evictions in the 1810s and who was brought to trial in Inverness in April 1816, is here accused of sacrilege.8 The primary function of the land is to provide food for those who work on it. This economic dimension is essential in Gaelic poetry; references to the land as arable land are numerous: ‘What we want is a place | where cows could find grazing | and the low land to produce meal | for the growing generation.’9 Agricultural activities are sometimes described in detail: ‘The Gaels have gone, and they will never return; | cultivation, sowing and reaping have ceased; | the foundations of the sad ruins | bear witness to this.’10 The poet conveys the image of a living, vibrant community where man lives in perfect harmony with the environment:

  • 11 Iain MacLachlainn, ‘Alas, my state’ in Derik Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, p. 227. Iai (...)

Not sweet the sound that waked me from slumber,
Coming down to me from the mountain tops:
The Lowland shepherd whose tongue displeases,
Shouting there at his lazy dog.
In May, on rising at early morning
There’s no birds’ music nor moorland lowing, only creatures screeching in English,
Calling dogs, setting deer a-scamper.11

  • 12 William Livingston, ‘A message for the Poet’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p. 201.
  • 13 John MacLachlan, ‘Climbing up towards Ben Shiant’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p.  (...)

5It is significant to note that the poet establishes a hierarchy between the sounds in the hills and valleys of the Highlands: the dissonance of shepherds’ cries is clearly opposed to the harmony of nature’s sounds. Prominence is given to the senses when the poet writes about the land: sight, with the marvellous unspoiled Highland landscape, and hearing, with the peasants’ songs. Highland nature thus acquires a kind of synesthetic value, sounds and landscape fusing harmoniously. Nothing surprising then that the poet should bemoan the passing of the union of the senses: ‘The spirited ditty of maidens will not be heard, | With a chorus of songs at the waulking-board.’12 Gaelic poetry evokes the end of an ancestral tradition and deplores the violence of the confrontation between two visions of the world, traditional and modern. The poet sees with emotion and resignation that the cultivated land has become nothing but a space where desolation reigns: ‘As I climb up towards Ben Shiant | my thoughts are filled with sadness, | seeing the mountain as a wilderness, | with no cultivation on its surface.’13 Gaelic poets found it difficult to hold the former clan chiefs, who had become more and more interested in making profit, responsible for the radical process of dislocation. Poets tended to accuse factors, sheep owners and their sheep, all those who were the most immediate and visible signs of their plight. Suspecting former clan chiefs of being responsible for the peasantry’s moral and physical sufferings would have amounted to an act of transgression:

  • 14 Allan MacDougall, ‘Song to the Lowland Shepherds’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, to (...)

A calamity has befallen us in Scotland;
poor folk are starkly exposed before it,
without food, without clothes, without shelter;
the north has been devastated;
only sheep and lamb are visible,
Lowlanders surrounding them on every slope;
all the lands have gone to waste,
chickweed has grown over Highlanders’ heads.14

  • 15 Allan MacDougall, ‘Song to the Lowland Shepherds’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p.  (...)
  • 16 John Smith, ‘The Spirit of Kindliness’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p. 219. John S (...)

6The land as described by the poet, after the inhabitants have been forced to leave to make room for the invaders from the South, has been emptied of the farm implements that were part of the landscape. The land has undergone a process of metamorphosis and been transformed into mere grass for shepherds’ sheep: ‘They [the shepherds] meet with one another; | when they start to tell a story, | their conversation consists of talk about grass.’15 Certain poems put the stress on that radical transformation and bemoan the fact that the Highlands have also become a playing field for the British aristocracy: ‘The land that those heroes had, | who saved you in your straits, | has now become a field of sports | for those wasters without morals.’16 It is with such comments on the economic and social situation of the Highlands that the reader can fully perceive the journalistic value of Gaelic poetry. The economic and geographic dimensions reflect only part of the polysemy of the term land. A large number of poems celebrate the symbiosis between man and nature and the land is often represented as a space of sublime beauty. William Livingston, from the isle of Islay, was one among those who wrote with emotion and lyricism of the magical harmony between man and nature:

  • 17 William Livinsgston ‘A Message to the Poet’, in Derik Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, pp (...)

The morning’s bright and sunny,
And the west wind softly blows,
The Loch is smooth and peaceful
With the strife of sky at rest.
[…]
There are cattle in their thousands,
On the plains, white sheep on slopes,
And the deer in the wild mountains
Undisturbed by foreign scent,
Their offspring, wild and powerful,
Wet with dew from mildest breeze.17

  • 18 John MacLean, ‘To Donald MacFarlane’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p. 250. John Mac (...)

7For the poet, nature, a constant source of fascination, is neither inhospitable nor savage; on the contrary, it is, as has already been said, cultivated and domesticated. The poet describes this world with such meticulousness that his personality seems to disappear to become diluted in the object he describes: ‘The beautiful country of the generous men, | of the roes and deer and salmon.’18 One of the central characteristics of Gaelic poetry is the fact that it lays emphasis on the land transmitted from generation to generation, which explains the poet’s quasi veneration for the land of his ancestors:

  • 19 Donald Baillie, ‘Satire on Patrick Sellar’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by D. Meek, p. 191.

When death comes upon you [Patrick Sellar]
you will not be placed in the ground,
but your dung-like carcass will be spread
like manure on a field’s surface.19

8This is perhaps the most important element that enables the reader to understand the Highland peasant’s deep-rooted attachment to his land. It is not only his land, the land where he lives in the present, the land he cultivates to make a living for his family but also the land where his forefathers lived and are buried. The Highlander feels a moral obligation to conserve his ancestors’ land and to transmit it to his descendants. Those who evict them from their lands commit a form of sacrilege. Highland peasants at the beginning of the nineteenth century still thought that their right on the land was inalienable. Most of the historians of the Highlands who have tried to understand the reasons of that feeling have noted the recurrence of the term “immemorial” in contemporary discourse:

  • 20 Donald MacDonald, crofter from Arisaig, (Napier Report, vol. 3, p. 2079).

Seeing that our forefathers have been here from time immemorial, we consider that we have as much right to live in comfort here as the proprietor has to be superior over us. As to emigration what land has a greater right to sustain us than the land for which our forefathers suffered and bled? Why should we emigrate? There is plenty of waste land around us; for what is an extensive deer forest in the heart of the most fertile part of our land but waste land ?20

  • 21 The Inverness Courier, Late Disturbances in Harris, 7 August 1839.

9Thus, the Inverness Courier, reporting about a movement of resistance that had taken place on the island of Harris, wrote that the peasants refused to leave their plots of land because they had been ‘occupied from themselves and ancestors from time immemorial’.21 Accepting a legal framework of a privileged relationship between peasant and land through a written lease amounted to recognizing that the proprietor could put an end to the moral contract between peasant and landlord. An official document had paradoxically less value than a moral obligation. The following excerpt, from the report of the Napier Commission, demonstrates that this particular feeling was still deeply anchored in the psyche of the peasantry in the 1880s:

  • 22 Napier Report, vol. 5, p. 8.

The opinion so often expressed before us that the small tenantry have an inherited title to security of tenure in their possessions, while rent and service are duly rendered is an impression indigenous to the country, though it has never been sanctioned by legal recognition and has long been repudiated by the actions of the proprietor. We are bound to express the opinion that a claim to security of tenure founded on the old usage of the country cannot be seriously entertained. The clan system no longer exists.22

10The land is perceived as a link between generations and the poet deplores both the impossibility to live on his ancestors’ land and to transmit it to his descendants. The land thus acquires a timeless and eternal mythical dimension. It is then not surprising that the poet, confronted to the instability of the present and the future, should turn his attention to the past:

  • 23 Calum Campbell MacPhail, ‘The Paupers of the Kingdom’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, (...)

There was once a garden in Eden
and it was regal beyond others,
until the writhing serpent came
with covenants of death;
its fences then fell down,
and its sweet fruit became tart,
and that same serpent is presently
ripping the Highlanders apart.23

  • 24 Neil Macpherson, crofter from the island of Skye (Napier Report, vol. 1, p. 16).

11This Arcadian vision of a lost Eden offers an idyllic representation of the Highlands which only partly corresponds to reality since it has been well established that the Highlands experienced numerous spells of famine in the past. Neither does Gaelic poetry mention that the land of the Highlands could be of poor quality, a point which was regularly made by the crofters interviewed by the Napier Commission: ‘The land which we have got is too shallow. In some places it is not more than one inch in depth, and other parts of it are so rocky that it cannot be called land. We can make no use whatever of it, and we are paying rent for it all the same.’24 The report of the Napier Commission also indicated that the best arable land had been taken from the local peasants, which made it even more difficult for them to make a decent living:

  • 25 Angus Stewart, crofter from the isle of Skye (Napier Report, vol. 1, p. 4).

The smallness of our holdings and the inferior quality of the land is what has caused our poverty; and the way in which the poor crofters are huddled together, and the best part of the land devoted to deer forests and big farms. If we had plenty of land there would be no poverty in our country. We are willing and able to work it.25

12As has been previously indicated, Gaelic poetry condemned the economic system which had started to become predominant in the Highlands in the course of the nineteenth century and thus accused its main agents of being responsible for the sufferings experienced by the peasantry. It must be noted, though, that the peasants themselves probably bore some part of responsibility too, since it would appear that they used to subdivide their plots of land among members of their families. The factors interviewed by the Napier Commission laid emphasis on that particular point:

  • 26 Thomas Brydone, factor for Lord Dunmore, Isle of Harris, (Napier Report, vol. 2, p. 861).

As far as the crofts are concerned there seems to be some misunderstanding, because the blame seems to be laid on the proprietors and factors as to the size of the crofts. A crofter, in general, if he keeps a croft, in most cases divides it with some of his sons, who get married, without the consent of the proprietor or factor. It stands to reason that a whole croft will carry one family better than two or three, divided up, and I think if only one family lived on a croft they could make a comfortable living, but it is the cottar that ruins them, and it is cottars who deteriorate the land by constant cropping.26

  • 27 Quoted in T.M. Devine, The Great Highland Famine (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1988), p. 247.

13What was the choice left to the Highlanders who had been deprived of their land? Emigration was one option and the Highland elite tried to convince the peasants that emigration represented the ideal solution for them. Emigration in fact became one of the key words in the 1840s and 1850s and the government implemented a series of measures destined to help “redundant” Highland peasants to emigrate to America, Canada or Australia. John Mac Neill, the president of the Board of Supervision of the Scottish Poor Law, handed a report on the Highlands to the government, which served as the basis of the 1851 Emigration Advances Act, an Act that gave landowners the possibility of obtaining money to help them get rid of their “redundant” population. The scheme was completed by the creation of the Highland and Island Emigration Society the following year whose president, Charles Trevelyan, shared the ideas of many observers of the time: ‘The kindest thing in every point of view [people] can do to the people of Skye is to leave them to themselves, and then they will see the necessity of emigrating and working for their subsistence, instead of living in idleness and habitually imposing upon benevolent persons.’27 The Highland and Island Emigration Society saw emigration as a blessing for the destitute Highlanders:

  • 28 ‘The Skye Emigration Society’, The Inverness Courier, 19 February 1852.

Those who […] are now suffering from the evils of insufficient food and clothing, whose children are surrounding them in hunger, rags and ignorance, to whom the present affords at best but a miserable and precarious existence, and the future a hopeless blank; for persons in such circumstances – and, alas, there are many such amongst us! – emigration to a land where they may by their own exertions secure a comfortable livelihood, and the prospect of a respectable independence, where their children will be a source of wealth, and not a burden or a cause of anxiety to them, must be, indeed, a blessed change.28

  • 29 T.M. Devine, The Great Highland Famine, p. 261.

14The Highland landlords immediately understood the benefits they could derive from the scheme: ‘it would be absolute insanity not to take advantage of the present opportunity of getting rid of our surplus population.’29

15The Gaelic poetry of the Clearances makes constant references to the process of emigration. The following lines illustrate the deep trauma experienced by the Highland peasant forced to leave the lands of his ancestors and sent to far and distant countries:

O dear-loved glen where I was born!
And must it be that rudely torn
From thee, with wife and bairns I sever,
To see thy face no more for ever?

And must I travel far away
When strength is small and locks are grey,
And years are few, that bear me down
Like a stone that rolls from the mountain’s crown?
[…]
Farewell, my children, we must go,
Though our will say ten times no!
The Ben and the glen, and the tree and the river
Must vanish from our sight for ever,

Farewell to the deer on the mountain heather,
I’ll track them no more with my face to the weather;
No more the roe on the lawn shall flee,
Nor the silly young kid on the crag from me!

  • 30 Quoted in John Stuart Blackie, The Language and the Literature of the Scottish Highlands (1876; Edi (...)

Farewell to the birds that sing in the morn,
The wood and the Ben with his old grey horn;
Farewell to the brindled goat on the brae,
The sheep with the white-fleeced lambs at play!30

16The poet emphasizes the emigrant’s lack of choice, which seems to confirm the thesis of those who saw emigration as a compulsory and not as a voluntary process. The contemporary press endlessly debated about whether the Highland peasants were leaving because they wanted to or because they were forced to. For Thomas Mulock, the fiery editor of the Inverness Advertiser, it was obvious that the peasants were the victims of a tyrannical system:

  • 31 ‘Highland Depopulation – The Sollas Trials’, The Inverness Advertiser, 23 October 1849.

I do not entertain the slightest objection to natural, wholesome, voluntary emigration – whether the movement is on the part of individuals, families or associated bodies – free to choose their change of lot, and anxious to betake themselves to another hemisphere […] when I see all the arts of persecution employed to impoverish, degrade, and render miserable the smaller tenants of an estate, with the view of making them vacate their little lands to swell the grazing solitudes of some insatiable sheep-master; when I hear of shiploads of these poor expatriated creatures departing from their native coast, stripped of their substance to pay the price of a compulsory passage – leaving land, and stock, and crop, in the clutch of an inexorable factor; and pursuing them to their despotic destination – when I find them vomited out upon some unfriendly shore – harassed, hopeless and penniless – can I hesitate in affirming that these results are the product of tyranny and covetousness excluding all semblance of free agency on the part of the unhappy victims of a ruthless and […] an utterly unwise system?31

17As the Highland peasant seemed to find no place either in the present or in the future it is then not surprising to see the poet extolling the past: the poetry of the Clearances is a poetry of nostalgia and despair even if occasionally it considers a better future for the Highlands. In a poem about the crofters of the island of Skye, Neil MacLeod expresses his hopes about a better future in which peasants will be given back the lands stolen from them:

An end will come to oppression
food and possessions,
peace and joy also
will abound in the land;
the youth will sing wetly
their tunes and their ditties,
and lovely young maidens
tend the calves at the fold.

  • 32 Neil MacLeod, ‘The Skye Crofters’ in Derik Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, pp. 228-29. N (...)

The heir and the bailiff
will with tenants deal kindly,
with no pride or deceit,
as they did in the past;
and Gales without number
will live in the Highlands,
enhancing the country,
enjoying good name.32

  • 33 Quoted in Robert Mathieson, Survival of the Unfittest: The Highland Clearances and the End of Isola (...)
  • 34 Pierre Bourdieu and Abdelmayek Sayad, Le Déracinement (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1964), p. 20.
  • 35 Pierre Bourdieu and Abdelmayek Sayad, Le Déracinement, p. 161.

18This peregrination through the Gaelic poetry of the Clearances, a poetry of uprooting, depersonalization and disintegration, has given us some access to the voices of those who have remained in the shade of History and enabled us to understand the importance they attached to their land. The following commentary, extracted from the Old Statistical Account (the vast compilation of data collected by John Sinclair at the end of the eighteenth century) is particularly telling: ‘Going to another parish or to another district of another clan, is to the Highlander entire banishment.’33 Pierre Bourdieu and Abdelmayek Sayad have tried to assess the importance of the trauma experienced by the Algerian peasants who were expelled from their lands in the 1960s. The two sociologists have argued that the peasant’s attachment to his land is a key feature of peasant societies, which makes it possible to apply some of their comments to peasant societies in other parts of the words and at other times. Bourdieu and Sayad have written that the peasants were ‘chained to a dead and buried past’34 and that they could be defined ‘by what they no longer were and by what they were not yet’.35 Bourdieu and Sayad have convincingly demonstrated that the loss of land is strongly correlated to the loss of identity, the migrant peasant having lost his original identity and not found his new identity yet. This ontological “in betweenness” is one of the key topics of the Gaelic poetry of the Clearances and numerous are the poets who wrote of the land as the cornerstone of identity construction:

  • 36 Mary Macpherson in Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, p. 247. Mary Macpherson (1821-1898), (...)

I wakened early, with little sadness,
on a morning in May in Os;
with cattle lowing as they gathered,
with the sun rising on Leac an Stoir;
its rays were shining on the mountains,
covering over in haste night’s gloom;
the lively lark sang her song above me,
reminding me of when I was young.
It brought to mind many things I did then,
though some eluded me for all my days,
going in winter to waulkings, weddings,
no light from lantern but a burning peat;
there were lively youngsters, and song and dancing,
but that is gone and the glen is sad;
Andrew’s ruins overgrown with nettles
reminded me of when I was young.
When I walked by each glen and hillock
where I once was carefree, herding cows,
with happy youths who have now been banished,
the native stock without pride or guile,
the fields and plains were under heath and rushes
where I often cut wisps and sheaves of corn;
could I but see folk and houses there now
my heart were light as when I was young.36

Notes

1 T.M. Devine, Clanship to Crofters’ War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), p. 209.

2 I.F. Grant, Highland Folk Ways (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1961), p. 78.

3 James Hunter, The Making of the Crofting Community (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1976) p. 84

4 Donald MacKinnon, ‘Song on the Crofters’ Plight’, in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald E. Meek (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1995), p. 241.

5 Alexander MacDonald, better known as Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, was born c 1690 in Moidart. He attended Glasgow University, though it seems that he did not complete his course. He worked as under-baillie in Canna from 1725 to 1727, and in 1729 was employed as a teacher and catechist in Ardnamurchan, a post he retained until 1745. He was a Scottish as well as a Gaelic nationalist and took part in the second Jacobite rising in 1745. His wrote beautiful love poems, such as ‘A Song to his Newly Wedded Wife’ as well as political poems like ‘A Song Made in 1746’. Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair is generally seen as the greatest Gaelic poet of the eighteenth century.

6 Alexander MacDonald in Derik Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry (1974; Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1989), p. 161.

7 Donald Baillie, ‘Satire on Patrick Sellar’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by D. Meek, p. 191.

8 According to Eric Richards, ‘Patrick Sellar came to serve as the all-purpose target of condemnation, personifying the entire tragedy […] Sellar was exculpated but the case against him continued in the written and oral annals of the Highlands down to the present day.’ Eric Richards, The Highland Clearances (Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited 2000), p. 9.

9 John MacRae, ‘Song about the Crofters’ Bill’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by D. Meek, p. 257.

10 William Livingston, ‘A message for the Poet’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by D. Meek, p. 201. A self-taught student, William Livingston or Uilleam Mac Dhunl`eibhe, the Islay bard (1808-70), showed deep interest in Scottish history and in classical languages. Livingston wrote prose in English in which he attacked Highland landowners and English dominance over Scotland – one example being The Celtic Character that was published in 1850. He also composed long epic poems in which he regularly criticized the economic policies implemented by the landlords of the Highlands. He is described by Magnus Maclean as ‘an Anglophobe of the deepest dye’ and as ‘absolutely incapable of taking an impartial view of historical questions’. Magnus Maclean, The Literature of the Highlands (1903; London: Blackie and Son, 1925), p. 180.

11 Iain MacLachlainn, ‘Alas, my state’ in Derik Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, p. 227. Iain MacLachlainn (Maclachlan John) was born in Rahoy in 1804. He studied medicine at the University of Glasgow. Although he was of aristocratic origin, he showed great interest in the living conditions of the common people. He is mainly remembered for his love poems but he also wrote several poems about the Clearances.

12 William Livingston, ‘A message for the Poet’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p. 201.

13 John MacLachlan, ‘Climbing up towards Ben Shiant’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p. 192.

14 Allan MacDougall, ‘Song to the Lowland Shepherds’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, to Alasdair Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry.

15 Allan MacDougall, ‘Song to the Lowland Shepherds’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p. 187.

16 John Smith, ‘The Spirit of Kindliness’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p. 219. John Smith (1848-1881), from Uig on the isle of Lewis, was very critical of landlords’ policies and sympathized with the plight of evicted peasants. One of his most well-known and moving songs is The Spirit of Kindliness. He is a perfect example of the prestige held by poets in Gaelic communities.

17 William Livinsgston ‘A Message to the Poet’, in Derik Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, pp. 236-37.

18 John MacLean, ‘To Donald MacFarlane’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p. 250. John MacLean, a crofter near Muir of Ord in the Black Isle, was appointed poet to the local branch of the Highland Land Law Reform Association in 1885, also known as the Highland Land League, which emerged as a distinct political force during the 1880s.

19 Donald Baillie, ‘Satire on Patrick Sellar’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by D. Meek, p. 191.

20 Donald MacDonald, crofter from Arisaig, (Napier Report, vol. 3, p. 2079).

21 The Inverness Courier, Late Disturbances in Harris, 7 August 1839.

22 Napier Report, vol. 5, p. 8.

23 Calum Campbell MacPhail, ‘The Paupers of the Kingdom’ in Tenants and Landlords, ed. by Donald Meek, p. 208. Calum Campbell MacPhail (1847-1913), born in the parish of Muckairn, Argyll, worked as a shoemaker for most of his life.

24 Neil Macpherson, crofter from the island of Skye (Napier Report, vol. 1, p. 16).

25 Angus Stewart, crofter from the isle of Skye (Napier Report, vol. 1, p. 4).

26 Thomas Brydone, factor for Lord Dunmore, Isle of Harris, (Napier Report, vol. 2, p. 861).

27 Quoted in T.M. Devine, The Great Highland Famine (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1988), p. 247.

28 ‘The Skye Emigration Society’, The Inverness Courier, 19 February 1852.

29 T.M. Devine, The Great Highland Famine, p. 261.

30 Quoted in John Stuart Blackie, The Language and the Literature of the Scottish Highlands (1876; Edinburgh: Edmonton and Douglas, 1973), p. 306. Blackie indicates that the author of the poem cannot be clearly identified.

31 ‘Highland Depopulation – The Sollas Trials’, The Inverness Advertiser, 23 October 1849.

32 Neil MacLeod, ‘The Skye Crofters’ in Derik Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, pp. 228-29. Neil MacLeod (1843-1913), from Glendale on the Isle of Skye, wrote numerous poems which display his profound attachment to his island. They often narrate the tragedy of evictions and the plight of the peasants forced to leave their homes.

33 Quoted in Robert Mathieson, Survival of the Unfittest: The Highland Clearances and the End of Isolation (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 2000), p. 14.

34 Pierre Bourdieu and Abdelmayek Sayad, Le Déracinement (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1964), p. 20.

35 Pierre Bourdieu and Abdelmayek Sayad, Le Déracinement, p. 161.

36 Mary Macpherson in Thomson, An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, p. 247. Mary Macpherson (1821-1898), popularly known as “Big Mary of the Songs”, was from the isle of Skye. She was a prolific songwriter, writing songs of exile, praise and hope as well as songs of protest about the way the Gaels were treated. She became Bard of the Land League agitation in the 1880s.

Auteur

Is professor of British studies at the University of Strasbourg. His main areas of interest are British and Scottish history and more particularly the history of the Highlands of Scotland. His papers have been published in a number of journals and volumes. His present research focuses on the writing of history and the themes of gender and national identity in Scotland. He published two books in 2013: Luttes et résistances des femmes écossaises, 1838-1915, Paris, L’Harmattan. Scotland and the Scots 1707-2007 A Reader, Strasbourg, Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg.

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