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Season 2021 – Talk 16 – The Highland Clearances
In The Highland Clearances Sue Willson uses literature as the basis for her talk. The sources range from the visit to the Western Isles by Dr Johnson and James Boswell in 1775 to modern literature.
Click a thumbnail below to view the image gallery that accompanies the talk.
Modern novelists have to carry out a great deal of research before they write a book and so, although the people may be fictional, key events will be fact.
The Highland Clearances refers to the eviction of many tenant farmers in the Scottish Highlands and islands in the period between 1750 to 1860. They took place in two main phases:
The first resulted from the wish to improve agriculture because landlords needed to increase their income because of their debts. This involved the enclosure of the fields and the creation of larger scale farms thus generating much higher rents.
Displaced tenants were expected to be employed in industries such as fishing, quarrying or the kelp industry.
The second phase involved the emigration of people from the crofting communities created in the first phase because of famine and the collapse of the industries that they relied on. ‘Assisted passages’ were common giving the tenants who were selected for this little choice but to emigrate.
- George Mackay Brown (17 October 1921 – 13 April 1996) was a Scottish poet, author and dramatist and is one of the great Scottish poets of the 20th century. Find out more here.
- Madeleine Bunting (born March 1964) was an associate editor and columnist at The Guardian and is a regular broadcaster for the BBC. Love Of Country: A Hebridean Journey, published in 2016, explores the relationship between England and Scotland through a series of journeys through the Hebrides. Find out more here.
- Alistair MacLeod (July 20, 1936 – April 20, 2014) was a Canadian novelist, short story writer and academic. His 1999 novel, No Great Mischief, tells the story of the MacDonald clan from 1779, when they left Scotland, to more recent times. Find out more here.
- Adam Nicolson, 5th Baron Carnock, (born 12 September 1957) is an English author who has written about history, landscape, great literature and the sea. His book Sea Room is about uninhabited islands in the Hebrides. Find out more here.
- In A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775) Samuel Johnson describes his 83 day journey to Scotland in the late summer and autumn of 1773. He was accompanied by James Boswell. Find out more here.
- Graeme Macrae Burnet (born 1967) is a Scottish writer, born in Kilmarnock. There are family ties to the northwest Highlands on his mother’s side of the family. Find out more here.
- Andrew Miller (born 29 April 1960) is an English novelist born in Bristol. Find out more about his book Now We Shall Be Entirely Free here.
- Alice Munro (born 10 July 1931) is a Canadian writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. Find out more here.
Listen to the podcast and hear Sue tell the full story.
This podcast is a recording of a talk given in the Farnham Maltings during Covid restrictions. These required open windows and doors and so there is some noise on the recording from other activities.
About this podcast:
This podcast is an edited recording of a talk first given to the Farnham u3a World History Group.
The Farnham u3a site is here.
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