Thursday, 20 March 2008

125 years ago - paragraph 4191

Many more pages to go, but this was one of the most harrowing chapters I have come across as yet. It tells the story of the inhumanity visited upon the people on the western side of the Isle of Skye in the course of clearances.

4191. How many altogether were removed by Mr Gibbons?—Seventeen. He placed these families as close together as the sea would allow him; and we have but very little land, and it will not support us ; and some of those he took from Minginish were placed upon peat soil, which had never previously been cultivated. When he packed the people in that way Ebost tack was then free, and he thought that was a better bargain, and gave up Feorlick. Then Major M'Kinnon succeeded him. He was not very severe on the people. They were paying rent in work, but he removed some of the people,—Malcolm Stewart and Murdo Macdonald ; these had not a place on earth on which they could put a foot. I myself saw them living under a sail spread on three poles under high-water mark. He warned off Donald Campbell for giving shelter to a poor man who had not a place to live in. I saw the officer coming to his house and breaking into it; and he went in with a pad of water and extinguished the fire, and a great steam arose in the house; and what with the noise of the fire extinguishing and the denseness of the steam, his wife went out of her senses. We were then advised that if we would tow her after a boat in the sea, she would get better; and we took her out, and she would not sink deeper than up to her breast. I myself was two years in an asylum in Glasgow. I was a keeper there, and I never saw one that was so mad as her. Now Major M'Kinnon went to Edinburgh, and it was said he was brained there. He was succeeded by Mr John Scobie, who came to Harlosh, where I live. He told us freely that M'Leod of Dunvegan had  overgiven to him, that he might do what he liked with us, and he said it was God who sent him there. He came and took a view of Harlosh, as the spies did who went to spy out the land of Canaan. There is a place there called Ardmore Point—a peninsula in Harlosh He thought that would make a splendid park for tups, and he thought that whatever became of the people, he would have such a park there, and he removed four of them, and said he would make them as comfortable up at Balmore as they were before. He said that he had told M'Leod about it, and that he had promised M'Leod he would make them as comfortable as they were before. The four people went up to see where they were to be located. There was a piece of mossy ground there, which had never been cultivated, and was in its primeval state, and when the people saw the place they would not go into it. John Campbell was one of them, John Macdonald was another, and they said they would trust to the providence of God; and if God should support them, they would go to Australia.


  1. This is captivating reading Guido.  What an awful existance they had.  I am confused about the woman..was she literally towed behind a boat with the thought it would cure her madness?  

  2. Lisa, you did read it correctly. The woman was towed behind a boat to cure her madness.

  3. Man's inhumanity to man 125 years ago.  I have never heard of this before now so must find a book to read up on it.

  4. Lisa asked a question that I was going to ask so thank you for answering.  This is horrific.  In the ninth line when it says Major M'Kinnon went to Edinburgh and it was said he was brained there, does that mean educated?  At first I thought about the morbid labotomies where they used the ice pick tool through the tear duct.  And why was it surmised I wonder that the steaming up of her home is what drove her mad?  I would think it was the suddenness of becoming homeless.  
    The treatment of these people remind me so much of Upton Sinclair's novel called THE JUNGLE.  Thanks for allowing me to ask questions.  This was fascinating to me.


  5. what is so sad about this account is that it's still happening today in other countries.

  6. This is very horrific.