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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

XII. Emigration

83. Emigration from the Hebrides, 1855

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1The Inverness Courier faithfully recorded the economic and social changes which marked the history of the Highlands of Scotland in the nineteenth century. Week after week the newspaper tried to demonstrate that transatlantic crossings took place without any problems and that emigrants did not meet with any difficulties when they arrived at their destination; in short emigration had to be considered as a positive process (also see introductions to chapter 12, p. 237 and to text 81).

2Emigration from the Hebrides, The Inverness Courier, 25 October 1855.

  • 10 The island of Lewis (the northern part of Lewis and Harris), the largest island of the Western Isl (...)

The barque “Melissa” of Greenock, which left the island of Lews10 in the month of July last, arrived safe with her complement of emigrants at Quebec in the following month of August, and they were all landed in good health. The voyage, owing to the uncommon calm state of the weather, was somewhat longer than usual; but, with this exception, everything turned out as well as could have been desired.

Several of the emigrants have written to their friends here since their arrival, and all are loud in the praise of Captain Reid, the commander, who had acted most kindly to them during their passage; and in this he appears to have been seconded by Dr Munro, the surgeon of the ship. These gentlemen showed them every attention while embarking, and were actuated by the same spirit while they remained under their charge.

Sir James Matheson, during this and former seasons, procured the services of Mr D. A. B. Murray, emigration agent, York Street, Glasgow, to superintend and carry on the emigration from this island. Mr Murray’s extensive and thorough knowledge of the business has enabled him to procure superior vessels, fitted up comfortably, and commanded by efficient and obliging captains; while his personal attention to the emigrants, combined with his gentlemanly and obliging disposition, won him the confidence and respect of all with whom he came in contact during his visit to the Lews. In fact we have never heard a single complaint from regarding the ships, captains, or quality and quantity of provisions supplied by Mr Murray, which is a source of great comfort to all parties concerned, and is very different from what we often hear regarding emigration from other quarters.

  • 11 James Matheson, (1796-1878), bought the Island of Lewis in 1844. In 1845 he began an improvements (...)

The emigrants appear to be very grateful to Sir James Matheson11 for his great liberality in sending them out free; and they express themselves satisfied with all the arrangements made for their comfort, while everything they were promised before embarking was carried out to their entire satisfaction. The emigration was entirely voluntary on the part of the people, for not one of them was summoned out of his lands or forced to emigrate; but the boon was sadly abused by numbers who were the first to apply for passages drawing back when the ship was engaged, and not only landed Sir James in a very useless and heavy outlay—he having to pay their passage money though they remained—but kept back others who were most anxious to avail themselves of the privilege of a free passage. Such disgraceful conduct on the part of some of the people has occurred oftener than once, but we hope not to hear of the like again.

Mr Murray’s agent at Quebec, under the superintendence of Mr Buchanan, the Chief Government Emigration Agent, has forwarded them to their different destinations, at the request and expense of Sir James Matheson. The encouraging letters received from those sent out previous to this year augur well for the future comfort and prospects of their friends, who have joined them this season. We wish them every comfort and happiness in the land of their adoption, where we trust they will experience happy change from the state they were frequently in here, arising from an overpeopled island, a nd the evil effects of early and imprudent marriages, as well as the recurrence of seasons of destitution.


10 The island of Lewis (the northern part of Lewis and Harris), the largest island of the Western Isles or Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

11 James Matheson, (1796-1878), bought the Island of Lewis in 1844. In 1845 he began an improvements programme, including drainage schemes and road construction He was Member of Parliament for Ross and Cromarty from 1852 to 1868.

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