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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

XII. Emigration

79. Highland Emigration, 1845

Texte intégral

  • 6 Glenelg is a village in Skye and Lochalsh, Highland Region, in western Scotland.

1The New Statistical Account, which included contributions from ministers, schoolmasters and doctors, was mostly written in the 1830s and published from 1834 to 1845. The following account gives information about the parish of Glenelg6 (for more information about the Statistical Account, see introduction to text 17).

2New Statistical Account of Scotland by the Ministers of the Respective Parishes, under the Superintendence of a Committee of the Society for the Benefit of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy, vol. XIV, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty (parish of Glenelg, Inverness-shire), 1845, Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, p. 135-137.

The ancient population must have been very considerable, probably double at least of what it is now. The decrease is to be accounted for solely by emigration; for to such an extent has this prevailed, that America too rejoices in a Glenelg, with a population, at least equal to that which the parent parish still possesses. This emigration was at first of necessity and not of choice. The letting of large tracts of land to single individuals caused the original banishment of the hardy and numerous race, who had for so many generations possessed the soil. This class of emigrants did not quit their native shores empty-handed. On the contrary, they carried with them the means of procuring a comfortable home beyond the Atlantic. The population which remained consisted of those who were too poor to follow, and of a few others, who, willing to forego some advantages for the privilege of residing in their much loved native land, tried to content themselves with sadly reduced possessions, until, finding that thus they were losing their all, and induced by the flattering tidings which reached them from the western continent, they too, though in different circumstances from their predecessors, bade farewell to a country, to which they had clung till they could do so no longer. Of this description of inhabitants few (that is, not more than a dozen families,) are left behind; and of those, as they are able to effect their object, occasional families take their flight to what they consider a happier shore. Besides the tacksmen of the large possessions into which the country has been divided,—four of whom possess Glenelg proper, and about as many more the other districts,—besides them and the shepherds and servants whom they require, the population consists of those who dwell in villages near the sea;—divided into two classes,—such as possess from one acre to perhaps six of arable ground, and the grazing of from one to three cows, and others who have nothing but the cottage that shelters them, who depend on the kindness of neighbours for patches of ground for potatoes, and supply all their other wants by fishing, and such work as they may obtain at home or abroad. It is but fair to remark, that the banishment of the original population, and the throwing of the country into a few large possessions, took place long before the time of the present race of proprietors, so that, whether matter of regret or satisfaction, to them belongs neither the blame nor praise. Whatever the views of political economists on this interesting topic, as to the nation’s loss or gain, it is impossible not to contemplate it in reference to those exiles themselves, and, in doing this, not to lament, especially, over the injury sustained by them in a moral point of view. Amidst the plenty for their bodily support which they enjoy in America, they dwell there in a barren wilderness as to provision for their souls. Deprived of the ordinances of religion, or but scantily and occasionally supplied, deprived also of the means of instruction for their children, the many careless and indifferent who go thither become confirmed in their spiritual deadness, whilst those of them who quit their native land under more serious impressions, also yield to the secularising influence of such an order of things; and though they retain their integrity, and hold fast their profession in their day, yet, leaving no successors, the harps which for a time had awakened echoes, that previously enjoyed an unbroken sleep, are at last hung upon the willows, and the Songs of Zion cease to be heard by the streams of the foreign land! How worthy this subject of the consideration of a patriotic and parental Legislature! Nay, how imperative that the thousands who yearly go to swell the population of our growing colony, should not be left to perish for the lack of knowledge!


6 Glenelg is a village in Skye and Lochalsh, Highland Region, in western Scotland.

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