Scots-Irish And The Clearances – The Movement Of People Between Scotland And Ireland – And Onward Emigration To North America, Australia And New Zealand
Notes covering the origins of the Scots and Irish peoples, some aspects of the history of England, Ireland and Scotland; the clearances in Scotland; associated religious disputes and the Covenant: all being influences on the movement of Scots people to Ireland and onward to the former British colonies or directly to those colonies. Includes a list of potentially useful references.
Compiled by Iain Kerr email
I have been asked by a number of conventional correspondents and more recently contacts on the CompuServe Genealogy Forum to answer queries on the background to the emigration of Scots and Irish people to the Americas and beyond. These notes cover the main historical background to those movements. They attempt an approximately chronological outline of the major incidents which caused population movements in Scotland, from Scotland to Ireland and either directly, or through an intervening refuge, from Scotland and Ireland to the Americas and later Australasia.
The racial mixture of the populations of the British Isles is highly complex; largely due to the continued movement of significant portions of the population throughout recorded history. The population of Scotland in the 16th and early 17th centuries was made up from the remnants of the early Celtic inhabitants of the British Isles, of Roman invaders and settlers, the Angles, Jutes, Saxon and Viking invaders of the Dark Ages from continental Europe, later Flemings from the Low Countries and the Normans (themselves of Viking origin) who came north after the conquest
of England in 1066. The Irish population at the same time was a mix of the early Celts, Picts and other Hibernian invaders plus Viking and other incomers.
The movement of people between Scotland, England and Ireland over the centuries has been driven by a variety of pressures; political, economic, family ties, religious issues and the problems suffered during times of all types of armed conflict and war. There is also a very long history of such movements from the days of the Viking invaders in the Dark Ages of the 5th to 7th centuries up to the times of the potato blight in Ireland of the mid 19th century.
Some movements have sometimes been loosely referred to as clearances; there were several actual clearance campaigns in Scotland and in Ireland, conducted either directly by the English/British Crown or by substantial land-owners on with the tacit support of a benign government. Although history and romantic fiction tend to focus on the Highland Clearances in Scotland, they were effected across the whole of Scotland; evicting, if not wiping out, the resident Highlander, Lowlander or Borderer populations. Similarly, the massive movement of people from Ireland before, during and after the potato blight and consequent famine (the Great Hunger) of the 1840s has attracted much interest; sometimes obscuring substantial but otherwise routine movements at other times.
The “dark romance” of such Celtic evictions obscures the scale of movements of people from other parts of Britain and Europe. There are clearly documented forced migrations of people, especially religious minorities or economically disadvantaged classes, from the south west of England to the Americas and from Kent to Australia. A remarkably similar modern campaign, the forced emigration of orphans from all parts of Great Britain to Australia, only ceased in the 1950s.
It should be recalled that the West Coast of Scotland has a mass of sea-lochs and two belts of islands; the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Furthermore, the County Antrim and County Down coasts of Ireland are very close to Scotland, north-west England and the Isle of Man. The local fishing industry, small-scale trading and the historic movements of populations ensured ready movement by sea between what are now seen as separate countries. In times of crisis, famine or war it was sometimes safer to move family and flocks to another safer or more economically attractive
residence. Such escapes were often followed within a generation by a return to the original homeland once conditions there had returned to normal. It is understandable that the family histories of many of the surnames represented in Scotland, Ulster and even Northern England are quite confused.
In an extreme example of routine movements, it should be recalled that in the 18th and 19th centuries, the people of St Kilda (some 40 miles into the Atlantic, west of the Outer Hebrides) were prepared to row to Uist or Harris, against prevailing winds and seas, in order to trade their sole produce, the down of the island’s sea-birds for use as mattress filling.
The troubles in Scotland began in the reign of King Henry VIII, who was attempting to wage war on France – Scotland’s “auld allie”. Henry defeated King James IV at Flodden Field on 9 September 1513. The Scottish Crown fell to a series of young, often infant monarchs, who were under the influence of their Mothers or Regents. The Regents inevitably were the powerful barons of Scotland, who feuded for that power. The disputes between the barons becoming more complicated with religious differences; between Catholic, Presbyterian and Episcopalian (Anglican).
The uneasy peace between the two kingdoms broke down during the Reformation with the rise of Presbyterianism in Scotland and the evolution of Anglican church in England. King James V attempted to assert Scots power, but after defeat in battle, Henry’s armies invaded Scotland and beat the Scots at Hadden Rig near Berwick in August 1542. The Scottish Army then mounted a counter-attack at Solway Moss which turned into a rout with the Scottish Army suffering many casualties.
The families of the defeated Scots soldiers were immediately at risk. No sooner than the battle of Solway Moss was over than the retreating Scottish Army found itself beset by Borderers or border reivers – those families who lived in the Border Marches, where neither English or Scottish Crown held sway. The reivers were eager as always to snap up plunder and prisoners, whichever side they belonged to. Some of the Scottish soldiers who escaped were reputedly so reduced by panic and confusion, that they were prepared to surrender to women. The news of Solway Moss was literally a fatal blow to the sick and dejected King James V who died in despair at Falkirk. No sooner was his body cold than the Scotts and Kerrs, down on the English Border, were raiding the royal flocks and farms.
Henry’s Rough Wooing
The Scottish crown passed to James’ infant daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. Henry VIII sought to gain control over Scotland (and to advance his cause against France) by proposing marriage with his infant son Edward, Prince of Wales under the Treaties of Greenwich of August 1543. The treaties were rejected by the new Scottish Parliament. Henry’s response was to loose his English troops upon Scotland with instructions to kill, burn and spoil. The invasions of Scotland in 1544 and 1545, known as Henry’s “rough wooing”, brought slaughter, burning and indiscriminate extermination wasting southern Scotland and inflicting irreparable damage on the Scottish abbeys and driving the populations away deeper into Scotland or across the sea to Ireland.
The work was entrusted to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. By threat and bribe he revived the old English Warden’s policy of securing the toughest of the Scottish clans to work in England’s interest; the time would come when he could claim that he had turned Dumfries into virtually an English province. In the meantime he managed to control the Scottish reivers’ activities to an extent that the old Lord Dacre had not achieved. He played skilfully on the feuds which, as always, were in progress along the line, turning the Armstrongs on to the Kerrs and Scotts who were themselves engaged in their perpetual vendetta.
Henry maintained suzerainty over Scotland until, losing campaigns in France, the English armies were withdrawn from Scotland in 1550.
Religious Ferment – the Reformation
The next 20 years of Reformation in Scotland saw the firm establishment of the Calvinist Church of Scotland (the Presbyterians), although there were still Roman Catholic communities, especially in the Islands and West Highlands, and a significant minority who tended to an Episcopalian Church. This event is focused on the Confession of Faith (later to be revived as the Covenant) and by the Act of Settlement of 1560. Two decades of confusion followed during the attempted Counter-Reformation by Roman Catholic supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary abdicated in 1567 and Scotland was governed by four disputatious Regents during the childhood of King James VI. Mary was executed at Fotheringay on 8 February 1587 by order of Queen Elizabeth I. James VI succeeded to the English throne on Elizabeth’s death on 26 March 1603. James VI and I, as he became after being crowned in London, continued a campaign to bring order to the Borders, begun in the 1590s, and sought to do so by sending some of the Border reivers to serve in the Continental wars.
James VI and I – Highland Clearances
James VI and I, although absent from Scotland for most of his reign, pursued a campaign to bring into order the ‘peccant’ parts of the realm – the Borders, the Highlands and the Islands. For example, the 7th Earl of Argyll led the pursuit of and violent measures against the MacGregors under a commission of “fire and sword” of 1610. In 1617, Parliament confirmed a Privy Council ordinance of 1603 which abolished the very name of MacGregor. These pressures contributed to the significant number of Scottish (and Irish) emigrants in the first colonial ventures in the North Americas. Some of the Scots settlers established Nova Scotia under the leadership of Sir William Alexander, afterwards Earl of Stirling.
The later years of James VI and I reign saw gradual revelation of his personal adherence to the Roman Catholic church and to more overt support for the reintroduction of the Episcopal Church in Scotland. His persecution of the English Puritans and the Scottish Presbyterians were to create more emigration pressure during the reign of his son Charles I.
Presbyterian Revolution – The National Covenant
Charles I, who claimed to be King of Great Britain, continued his support of the Episcopal Churches in Scotland and England and maintained closer relations with Catholic allies in Europe. Charles was uncompromising in his dealings with the Scottish, as well as the English, Parliaments and with Archbishop Laud, proposed that the Episcopacy be re-introduced in Scotland. The Scottish opposition to this was both general and intense. The Scottish Parliament and Kirk produced the National Covenant on Wednesday 28 February 1635. In an astonishing “avalanche” the Covenant was rapidly distributed throughout Scotland. By years-end, 95% of the Scottish people had bound themselves to the Covenant. The Covenant bound its adherents to “uphold and to defend the true religion” and to oppose all “innovations on the purity and liberty of the gospel”. This led to the so-called Bishop’s Wars.
The Scottish Parliament seized the royal fortresses and stores, made an alliance with France and sent an army under General Alexander Leslie across the English border early in 1640. The Scots were well prepared; the country was filled with old soldiers who had served Germany in the Thirty Years war who served as the nucleus for untrained levies. Leslie seized Newcastle. King Charles responded by calling his fourth, the so-called Short, English Parliament which was dismissed after 3 weeks.
King Charles having failed to regain power in Scotland, then made a truce with the Scots and called the fifth, or Long, English Parliament which met on 30 November 1640. In 1641, the English Parliament, which was packed with anti-monarchists and libertarians (who became the Puritan Party), presented the King with the Grand Remonstrance which recited all of the acts of tyranny and misgovernment of the previous sixteen years. King Charles attempted to arrest five of the members of Parliament but failed and on 10 January 1642 he left London, never to return, save as a prisoner.
The First English Civil War 1642 – 1649
In 1643, a General Assembly held in Edinburgh accepted the overtures of the English Parliament – the “Solemn League and Covenant”. Both parties agreed to preserve the reformed religion in England and Ireland and to suppress all opponents of the League and to preserve peace between England and Scotland. The Presbyterian cause was joined. In 1643, the Scottish Covenanting Army, under Leslie, swept the royal forces before him and advanced to besiege York before playing an important part in the battle of Marston Moor.
Montrose’s Venture 1644 – 1645
Montrose, who had refused to have any part in the Solemn League, accepted the King’s commission as Lieutenant General, commanding the Royalist Army in Scotland. After defeat at Marston Moor, he returned to Scotland in disguise and raised a small force including some 1,000 wild Irishmen and Islemen commanded by Alistair MacDonald. Montrose led his small force to victory in six battles against the odds and carried fire and sword into the lands of the Campbells. Just when the Lowlands lay before him, Montrose was defeated by Leslie at Philliphaugh. But the Covenanting victory was stained by a horrible massacre of Royalist prisoners, echoing that which has occurred after the Battle of Naseby. The first English Civil War ended with the impeachment, trial by Parliament and execution of King Charles I in 1649
The second English Civil War 1651 – 1652
Immediately after the execution of King Charles I in Whitehall, the Scottish Parliament proclaimed King Charles II as monarch. The King accepted this odd offer which was conditional upon his recognition of Presbyterianism and, arriving from his exile in The Hague, Netherlands, off Garmouth on Spey, he signed both Covenants on 23 June 1649. King Charles II was crowned King of Scotland at Scone early in 1651. Cromwell could not accept this and in July he crossed the Border with 16,000 men, mainly veterans, and a fleet sailed up the east coast. Cromwell seized a tactical advantage at the Battle of Dunbar. In victory he showed no mercy and the few able Scottish survivors were sentenced to exile in the ‘Plantations’ of Ulster and the Americas.
He then led his Royalist armies in an attempt to regain power in England. This failed with defeat at the Battle of Worcester where Highlanders, following the Royalist cause into England, fell in significant numbers. The Highlander’s homelands became forfeit to the victorious Roundhead supporters; their families refugees. King Charles had a long and exiting journey into exile in France.
The Usurpation (Commonwealth and Protectorate) 1649 – 1660
The English Parliament under Cromwell first attempted to treat Scotland as a mere province and attempted to create a Union between the nations during the Barebones Parliament (which contained only 5 Scots members out of 140) with Cromwell as Lord Protector. The Commonwealth and Protectorate broke up as an institution after the death of Oliver Cromwell and the succession of his son Thomas as Lord Protector. The restoration of the Crown in 1662 came as relief to most Scots because they were Royalists at heart and hoped to be permitted to practice their own form of Presbyterianism which emphasised the direct responsibility of every individual to his Maker.
Restoration and the Covenanters 1660 – 1689
King Charles II has sworn at his coronation in Scotland in 1st January 1651 to uphold the Solemn League and Covenant and to establish a Presbyterian Government. The crown was placed on his head by the Marquis of Argyll. Yet, little more than a year after his restoration to the throne, Charles had Argyll executed at the Cross of Edinburgh because Argyll adhered to Presbyterianism.
King Charles II, known to his English subjects as “the Merry Monarch”, was wont to say that Presbyterianism was no religion for a gentleman and restored the Episcopacy in Scotland. He quickly developed had a vindictive attitude both to his former enemies and to the Presbyterians in Scotland who had been his allies. In England, the Act of Uniformity 1662, the Conventicle Act of 1664 and the Five Mile Act of 1665 were concerted efforts to persecute those Protestants who failed to accede to the 49 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer. In Scotland, the Act of Proclamation 1662 banished from their manses and parishes all ministers who lacked an episcopal licence. The result was that on 1 November 1662, over 400 ministers came out of their churches and manses. This was followed by the Act of Fines of 1663, designed to punish those revolting clergy. The enforcement of those fines was placed under military control using the newly formed standing Army.
The collection of those fines led to the first military rising of the Covenanters, at St John’s Town of Dalry in Galloway on 12 November 1666. A small party of armed Covenanters overpowered some troopers under the command of Sir James Turner who were torturing a Covenanter who would not pay his fine. The Covenanters then marched from Dumfries to Lanark, increasing to some 2,00 in number. At Rullion Green they encountered the superior forces of the Crown under General Dalziel. 1,000 Covenanters who determined to go forward at all costs were disastrously defeated. Over 100 prisoners were taken to be afterwards executed after various degrees of torture at appointed spots all over the country. Other prisoners were subsequently transported as indentured labour to the Americas.
The persecution of the outed clergy and Covenanters, and anyone providing them shelter or support, continued along with heavy fines. By 1677, landowners and masters were required to sign bonds for all persons residing on their land. Their landowners refused to accept this impossible undertaking. The Government loosed upon the south-west, and Ayrshire in particular, the Highland Host – a body of 6,000 Highlanders and 3,000 Lowland militia who lived in free quarters while they extracted the bonds and looted the country. The simmering uprising led to the assassination of Archbishop Sharp, the symbol of the episcopacy and the persecutor of many Covenanters, at Magus Moor near St Andrews on 3rd May 1679.
Following the assassination, a company of Covenanting extremists held a Conventicle in Avondale on 25th May. They prepared a public manifesto, ratified at public meetings and published at Rutherglen on 29th May – a date deliberately chosen as the unpopular public holiday for the King’s birthday. General John Graham of Claverhouse (“Bloody Clavers” later Viscount Dundee and “Bonnie Dundee”) attempted an attack on the Covenanters at a great Conventicle at Drumclog on Sunday 1st June but was repulsed. This was one of the Covenanter’s few military victories.
Three weeks later at Bothwell Brig, the 5,000 strong Covenanter Army was disastrously defeated by a Royal force under Monmouth; 400 being left dead on the field; and 1,500 carried away as prisoners to Edinburgh. There they were confined in the open for five months in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Two ministers were hanged, some other prisoners were executed at Magus Moor. [The names of all Covenanter martyrs are recorded on the National Covenant Memorial in Greyfriars Kirkyard.] 400 prisoners who took a bond not to rise in arms again were released. The remainder were sentenced to be transported to Barbados, but their ship sank off the Orkneys with 200 of the captives battened below hatches.
Monmouth, who was considered by the King as too kindly and lenient, was replaced by James, Duke of York (later King James VII and II). The strict Covenanters, reduced in numbers but not in spirit, continued to resist with increased fervour. Led by the minister Andrew Cargill and by Richard Cameron, a St Andrews graduate, they were known as the Society men” or the Cameronians. [The British Army regiment which bore that name for nearly 300 years, were known as “the Covenanters”; they took their rifles to the Kirk and posted sentries outside. The regiment went into suspended animation in the 1968, resolved to return should Scotland or the Covenant ever have need of them.]
On 22nd June 1680, the first anniversary of the dark day of Bothwell Brig, the Cameronians assembled at the market Cross at Sanquhar and published a Declaration for the deposing of the Stuart King Charles II. Cameron was killed at Airsmoss a few weeks later. But the Society People continued to harry the authorities.
The period of the Restored Monarchy in Scotland was a period of marked economic and political development. Yet the continued persecution of dissidents drove men to lands abroad where thought was more free. A small Quaker-Scottish colony was established in East New Jersey in the 1660s and in 1684; a Presbyterian settlement in Stuart’s Town in South Carolina.
The Glorious Revolution 1688
James VII and II was proclaimed King of Scots on 10 February 1685 but he omitted to take the Coronation oath to defend the Protestant religion. The Indemnity which he published to celebrate his accession omitted all his Covenanting enemies. By 1688, the King’s open support of the mass and promotion of Roman Catholics to power and office confirmed the fears of the English and Scots Protestants. The birth of a Prince of Wales in June 1680 [Prince James Frances Edward Stuart – the ‘Old Pretender’] convinced the English magnates that James’s policy would survive his death. They therefore invited William of Orange, the husband of Queen Mary, to take the English and Scots Crowns. The battles of the “Glorious Revolution” included the Battle of Killiecrankie where “Bonny Dundee” was killed commanding the western clans against the Williamite army. The Revolution ended in King James’ final defeat at the Battle of the Boyne achieving what the Covenanters and other dissidents had striven to achieve – the firm establishment of a Protestant Crown for Great Britain. James and his family fled to France where amongst other things they changed the spelling of their name to Stuart.
The Revolution Settlement including the Treaty of Limerick, by which William of Orange became King de jure as well as de facto, was not universally welcome in Scotland. Opposition came from various quarters. The Jacobites, seeking the return of James, were still active; the Episcopalians resented the establishment of the Presbytery; the Cameronians were outraged by the disregard of the Covenant; and disappointed politicians united themselves in the ‘Country Party’.
The Massacre of Glencoe
The newly established government promised indemnity to all Scots who would eschew any Stuart loyalties and take the oath of allegiance before 1 January 1692. They clearly hoped that the recalcitrance of the Highland chiefs who sympathised with the deposed Stuarts, would provide a pretext for a crusade against them. MacDonald of Glencoe (the leader of a small branch clan of the Clan Donald), partly through truculence and partly due to bad weather, was a few days late in giving his pledge of allegiance.
‘Letters of Fire and Sword’ were issued against his small clan also known as MacIans, which had a reputation for thievery, and was hated by the Campbells, who were serving the Crown. On the night of 13 February 1692, thirty-eight MacDonalds, including two women and two children, were treacherously murdered by a party of Campbells which had been quartered in their midst. The few surviving MacDonalds fled over the snow-clad mountains; some to Ulster where they changed their name to McDonnell. This was the source of a long-lived feud between the MacDonalds and the Campbells.
War with France
Another source of friction was that from 1689 to 1697, King William III was at war with France, and France was Scotland’s old ally. Scottish money was spent and Scottish lives were lost – the Cameronians, for example, suffered dreadfully at the battle of Steenkerk (in modern Belgium) in 1692 – in a quarrel which was repugnant to Scots sentiment.
The Darien Scheme
William Paterson, a Scot whose claim on history was the foundation of the Bank of England, was less memorable to his own countrymen. In 1693, he set up a company to establish an entrepot on the Ithmus of Darien (now known as Panama) which would command the trade of the two great oceans. Scots put up L400,00 – about half of the national capital available – every Scot who had L5 to spare invested in the Darien scheme. The colony of New Edinburgh was set up in 1698 but fever, dissension and English opposition ruined the venture. The colony was abandoned with great loss of life (over 2,000 men) and capital (over L200,000).
The Scottish distrust of the English was further fuelled by the Act of Union of the Scottish and English Parliaments of 1707; an Act intended to unite the two nations, but all too often to the advantage of the English side. Discontent in Scotland remained wide and deep, being intensified by the ascendancy to the throne of Great Britain of George I, a German from Hanover, while the ‘legitimate’ Stuart monarch – the ‘Old Pretender’ or James III, was still extant. Four times over the next three decades it seemed as if the Stuart White Rose would bloom again.
The Jacobite Attempts 1708, 1715, 1719 and 1745
After the punitive shock of Glencoe, the clans tuned their backs to the South, believing that they could continue to live as they always done, despite tax collectors and red-coat garrisons. But the irritations of English rule persisted. While the Hanoverian Kings ruled Britain, there were four attempts by Jacobite forces to restore the Stuart monarchy; the best known being the “Fifteen” and the “Forty-Five”.
In 1708, King Louis XIV of France, was anxious to avenge Marlborough’s victories in Continental Europe and aware that Scotland was ill-defended. He launched a strong fleet destined for the Firth of Forth, but bad weather, faulty navigation and the arrival of the English ships prevented the invaders from making any landing. A seed had been sown.
With the accession of George I in 1715, the Jacobites had good reason to believe that the Stuart house might be restored through rebellion. The Scots were all tired of the Union. The Earl of Mar raised the Stuart standard at the Braes of Mar in September with the support of a few Scottish nobles, mainly Lowlanders. But he was soon at the head of a force of 12,000 men. By the end of the month he had occupied Inverness and Perth. Yet this venture failed completely. The towns, except for a few, held for the English Crown. The Earl of Sutherland raised the extreme North for the Crown, but no help came from France. Mar dallied at Perth sending aides to attempt to raise the country in Jacobite south-west Scotland and northern England. Mar then advanced on Stirling, engaged in an indecisive battle at Sheriffmuir, before retiring to Perth.
Fortunes ware not reversed by the arrival of the Chevalier, the Old Pretender, who while personally brave was not supportive of the campaign. The Chevalier and Mar slipped off by sea from Montrose in February 1716, leaving their supporters to shift for themselves. The Crown was markedly lenient with leaders of the rebellion, only two being executed. In 1717 an Act of Grace and Free Pardon was offered to all except MacGregors. The Crown’s attempt to sell off forfeited estates was singularly unsuccessful; most of the land was returned to Jacobite landlords.
The attempt to raise the Jacobite cause in 1719 was very small in scale. Cardinal Alberoni assisted James Stuart to despatch two Spanish frigates and a force of 300 white-coat soldiers to Eilean Donan Castle on Loch Duich. They met with little support and in June were routed halfway up Glen Shiel and promptly surrendered.
The “Forty-Five” has attracted most interest because of its romance and because it seemed to come very near to success. It was not however, a spontaneous rising of a great part of Scotland but more a major diplomatic play in the greater business of Western Europe. The Jacobites had suffered badly in the 20 years after the Loch Shiel debacle. The Highlands were strongly garrisoned with locally raised regiments, including the Black Watch – regiments which also served with great success abroad. The garrisons were based in strong forts (such as Fort William) linked by new military roads. Overseas things had not gone well for the “King over the Water”; expelled from France by the Peace of Utrecht, he had sought refuge with the Pope at Avignon, then in Rome. George II had succeeded to the English throne in 1727 without any Stuart intervention.
In 1745, King Louis XV prepared an invasion fleet at Dunkerque; which actually failed through bad weather; he commissioned Charles Edward Stuart, son of the Chevalier to conduct a diversionary attack in Scotland. The Young Pretender seized the moment and with but a few ageing companions laded at Arisaig in July 1745. He managed to raise a small army of clansmen, some unwilling recruits brought in by threats of eviction and burning. His force never exceeded 10,000 foot and often was half that number. Before the rebellion was finally crushed, there were more clans hostile to the Young Pretender and more Scotsmen in arms against him than had ever sworn to die with him. His stubborn adherence to the Church of Rome would lose him all but derisory support in the Lowlands and England. The Young Pretender’s recruiting also suffered from some unwise actions by Highland chieftains during the previous two decades. They had organised their own clearance campaigns – driving out the crofters and runrig farmers in order to farm the more profitable sheep. Some of those evicted families were involuntarily sent to the Americas as “white slaves” or indentured labour. Resulting in most infertile recruiting ground!
Charles Stuart led his Army into Stirling plain in September, defeating the only government army in Scotland at Prestonpans. Charles occupied Edinburgh, although he failed to capture the castle, and then prepared for the invasion of England. The Jacobite Army advanced unopposed by way of Carlisle, Preston and Manchester reaching Derby on 5 December. But their logistics were desperately over-extended and they had failed to rally more than a small group of Manchester Episcopalians to increase their strength. Charles Edward Stuart found himself facing government Armies advancing from Yorkshire and Staffordshire and learned of a major force being raised for the defence of London. In the absence of a French invasion and the lack of English rising in support, there was little choice but to retreat the way they had come. By 15 January 1746, the Jacobite Army was drawn up at Bannockburn ready to receive an attack from the English force under Hawley. But Hawley remained at Falkirk, so the Jacobites fell on them and put a seasoned army to rout.
Culloden 16 April 1746
At dawn on Wednesday April 16, fewer than 5,000 hungry and exhausted Jacobite troops limped into their battle line on a bleak moor above Culloden House. They stood, faces into a sleeting gale, on ground which no senior officer but Charles believed could be defended. Facing them was an army of 9,000 men under the Duke of Cumberland including Lowland Scots troops and a battalion of Campbells. Winnowed by Cumberland’s guns the clansmen at last charged through musketry and grape-shot, slashing their way into three ranks of levelled bayonets. This was the Highlander’s only tactic – massed charge into the enemies ranks. Worn down, the stubborn withdrawal turned into a hysterical rout and the victors marched forward to take ceremonial possession of the field of victory, bayoneting the Jacobite wounded before them. The Scots lost over 1,000 dead. The long brawl of Scottish history had ended in the terrible blood of its best remembered battle – at best a civil war.
Charles Edward Stuart escaped the field of Culloden; while his followers were given over to the brutalities of Cumberland and Hawley, he wandered the Highlands and Islands until 20 September when he made his escape to France from Moidart. His flight was desperate business; he was an embarrassment to the chiefs into whose land he came. The remainder of his life was a sad decline into wife-beating, wine and decay. When the Old Pretender died in 1766, the Pope would not recognise Charles Edward Stuart as King of Scotland. He eventually died without legitimate issue in 1788; however the Stuart claimants continued in a bastard line.
Highland Clearances from 1747
Unlike after the earlier rebellions, the policy of government repression after the “Forty-Five” was inexorable. It began with the extermination of the wounded who still lay on the battlefield and was continued by the imposition of martial law, the shooting and hanging of fugitives, the driving of stock and the burning of house and cottage. The supporters of the Young Chevalier paid heavily for their loyalty to the Jacobite cause, apart from the ravages which the government army and navy which followed Culloden. The prisoners were all tried in England. One hundred and twenty of the prisoners were executed, the officers by the axe, common men by the rope; about 1,150 were banished or transported as slaves to the American plantations. The fate of another 700 men, women and children is unknown, but they probably died in gaol or in the abominable prison hulks anchored in the Thames off Tilbury.
The Highland clearances were then continued by three linked policies; the destruction of the warrior society; the development of hill sheep farming in place of traditional crofting and forestry; and the wasteful expenditure of Highland fighting manpower on government business – fighting English wars overseas.
The Destruction of the Clans
King George II’s Fifth Parliament in 1747 passed the Act for the pacification of the Highlands. This was seen by the English as the means of putting to an end the “chronic condition of petty warfare in which the Celtic population of the Highlands lived”. The structure of the clan was torn down and the powers of the chiefs taken from them. Rigorous laws were passed against the wearing of tartan, kilt or plaid; the carrying of arms was forbidden, with transportation for a repeated offence. The clansmen dipped their traditional cloth in mud or dye and sewed their kilt into ridiculous breeches. When the proscription of Highland dress was eventually lifted in 1782, few of the common people accepted it. The tartan became the affectation of the anglicised lands, the fancy dress of the Lowlanders and the uniform of the King’s Gaelic soldiers. The whole concept of Highland dress was then elaborated by the Victorians who were fascinated with things Scottish. This affectation has persisted into 20th century British and North American societies.
Five years after Charles Edward Stuart boarded ship for France, kilted fugitives were still being hunted by patrols and British commanders pursuing the policy of fire and sword. Lieutenant Colonel James Wolfe, who later achieved immortality at the Heights of Abraham outside Quebec, is on record as seriously considering the massacre of the MacPhersons.
The Ascendancy of the “four-footed clansman”
The “Forty-Five” altered the economy of the Highlands. The lands owned by the Jacobite rebels were “annexed” by the Crown and redistributed to Government favourites. The new landlords and those chiefs who had remained loyal to the Crown, no longer reckoning their wealth in fighting men. The chiefs began to demand rents from their principal tenants, the “tacksmen” [lease-holders]. The tacksmen’s previous main obligation had been to maintain the military strength of the clan and act as officers. Many tacksmen emigrated; those who remained demanded rents from their sub-tenants. Although the net population continued to increase until 1831, the family holdings became smaller and poorer. The introduction of the potato brought some relief, but the ordinary crofter could obtain ready money by going south to work in the harvest, by breeding black cattle which were driven south for sale, or emigrating. Meanwhile the encroaching sheep advanced.
The great Cheviot Sheep, richer in fleece and mutton than any other contemporary breed, was brought to the Highland glens in the aftermath of the “Forty-Five”. It was the simple answer to the laird’s problems – he had no need to deal with tenants and could contract the tedious business of herding and shearing to Lowland and Northumbrian graziers who were ready to lease his land. The increasing demand for meat during the French wars made mutton more economic than beef and profit supplanted the paternalism of the old chiefs. But before the sheep, the “four-footed clansmen”, could take to the hills, the Highland men and women had to go – their townships from the glen and their cattle from the brae. In valleys where once a hundred young swordsmen had once been raised become home for no more than a Border shepherd and his dogs. The true Highlanders took their grief to the slums of Glasgow and the pains of an industrial work-place or to the emigrant ships at Fort William and Greenock.
The indiscriminate and selfish practice of eviction and clearance was seen by later economists as a benevolent plan for the national good. The bewildered Highlander was portrayed by Adam Smith as unproductive, slothful, superstitious and ignorant.
The Loss of Fighting Men
The raising of Highland regiments, upon commissions granted to their chiefs, took sullen and resentful men away from their despoiled glens, and used them in the creation of an imperial Britain. One of the first, mustered by Simon Fraser of Lovat, contained many of the men who had fought at Culloden, and some of them died with James Wolfe on the Heights of Abraham.
During the next fifty years, the Crown drained the Highlands for 27 line regiments and 19 battalions of fencibles [soldiers destined only for home service]. Frasers, MacLeods and Campbells, Macleans, MacDonalds, Camerons and Mackenzies, Gordons, Grants, Rosses and Munros, Atholl men, Sutherlanders and Mackays; all found their destiny wearing the red coat and a belted plaid of government approved tartan. They were raised in the way of the former clan levies; each chief and his tacksmen bringing in a number of his young tenants by persuasion or force. They were a unique and splendid corps. Crime and cowardice were rare, and when they mutinied, as they sometimes did, it was with dignity because the promises made to them by their chiefs had been broken by the government.
In 1757, Prime Minister Pitt established a national Militia and made further use of the “aye-ready” loyalty of the Highland people by enrolling regiments from the Highlands. Between 1757 and 1799, about a dozen Highland regiments were raised, whose performance form a bright page in the annals of the British Army. In the French wars at the turn of the 18th century, the Highlanders supplied the British Army with the equivalent of seven or eight infantry divisions.
The battle honours tell the tale of spilt Scots blood across the world –
- in India and the Far East: Plassey 1757; Madras 1758; Mysore 1766 – 1769; Philippine 1762; Gujerat 1780; 2nd Mysore War 1780 – 1783; Third Mysore War 1789 – 1792; Fourth Mysore war 1799; Second Marassa war 1803 – 1805; Assaye 1803; Gurkha war 1814 – 1816; Third Maratha war 1817 – 1818;
- in Europe: Minden 1759; Siege of Gibraltar 1779 – 1783; Dutch- English War 1780-1784; Siege of Gibraltar 1801; Saragossa 1808; Vimeiro 1808; Baylen 1808; Corunna 1809; Talevera 1809; Bussaco 1810; Torres Vedras 1810-1811; Salamanca 1812; Vittoria 1813; Ligny, France 1814, Quatre-Bras and Waterloo 1815.
- in Africa: Alexandria 1807; Senegal 1809; Cape Colony 1800 – 1814; Mauritius and Reunion 1810;
- and in the Americas: Fort Ticonderoga 1758; Plains of Abraham, Quebec 1759; Martinique 1762; West Indies and Cuba 1762; Lexington and Concord 1775; Bunker Hill 1775; Trenton 1776; Princeton 1777; Saratoga 1777; Monmouth 1778; Yorktown 1781; West Indies 1794; Martinique 1809; War of 1812
“Improvement of the Highlands” 1813-1850s
The greed of sheep-rearing land-owners increased and became formalised in the 19th century. Justified in hindsight by such economists as Adam Smith, the British Government set in train a formal ‘Policy for the Improvement of the Highlands’ in 1813. The policy was to forcibly remove crofting people from the inland valleys and to settle them on the coast. The first great clearances began in 1814, the “Year of the Burning”, in Sutherland and Ross. The dispersal lasted until the middle of the century and the sheep empire endured until it was destroyed by competition from the wool and mutton of Australia, where many of the Scottish exiles had fled.
For some years the kelp industry of the isles sustained a large population, and even encouraged immigration. But in the end it decayed and was replaced by sheep. Emigration to the colonies was now regarded by the Government as a noble purpose and supported by government funds and private subscription. [Similar activities took place, albeit on a smaller and less emotive scale, in Kent and Sussex in England, whose salt-marshes and downs were ripe for sheep farming.]
This period saw frequent famines, the worst of which followed the potato blight of 1846 which affected much of rural Scotland as well as Ireland. There were epidemics of cholera, and whole families were found dead in the rotting straw of their huts. In the food riots which followed both blight and pestilence, Highland regiments marched against Highland men and women. These last clearances of all, in Knoidart, were considered the most terrible, since they were intended to remove a vestigial pauper population before it became a Poor law liability for the incoming graziers.
References Used and Discovered
THE LION IN THE NORTH: John Prebble; an illustrated history of Scotland.
A HISTORY OF SCOTLAND: J.D. Mackie: published by Penguin Books in 1964: 406 pp. A thorough and readable comprehensive history of Scotland.
THE GREAT HUNGER: Cecil Woodham-Smith: published Hamish Hamilton, London 1962 (and subsequently in paper by Penguin(?). The authoritative and very sympathetic history of the origins, events and aftermath of the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s.
GOD’S FRONTIERSMEN: THE SCOTS-IRISH EPIC: Rory FitzPatrick; published by George Wiedenfeld and Nicolson Ltd, London (1989): 296 pp: ISBN 0-297 79435 3. An excellent description of the 400-year history of the Scots- Irish from the first Presbyterian settlers in Ulster in the early 17th century to the present day. Vividly brings to life the experiences of Scots-Irish emigrants to the New World, and later to Canada, Australia and new Zealand. Produced in association with a television documentary series produced for Ulster Television and Channel 4 by Rory FitzPatrick in 1989.
THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES: John Prebble; published in paperback by Penguin.
THE HISTORY OF THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES: by Alexander MacKenzie: published by Aberdeen University Press, 1883. This work includes much of the near-contemporary material which has been subjected to much subsequent revisionism e.g. MacLeod’s ‘Gloomy Memories’ and a detailed report of the trial of the Braes Crofters.
STORIES OF THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES: published by Lang Syne Publishers Ltd: Newtongrange, Midlothian, in 1986.
THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES: by Donald GUNN and Mari SPANKIE. ISBN 0-7502-0753-1. first published by Wayland Ltd, 61 Western Road Hove, East Sussex BN3 1JD, England; an excellent photographic and text book .
THE SCOTCH-IRISH: OR, THE SCOT IN NORTH BRITAIN, NORTH IRELAND, AND NORTH AMERICA: Charles A. Hanna: published in New York, (1902). 2 volumes.
DESTINY OF THE SCOTCH-IRISH: an account of a migration from Ballybay, Ireland to Washington County, New York, Abbeville District, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Prebble County, Ohio, Randoph County Illinois and the Central Illinois Prairie 1720 – 1853: Leonard Porter: published by The Porter Co. Inc., PO Box 7533, Winter Haven, FL 33881 (1990); 125 pages. Provides an explanation for part of the Scotch-Irish migration, when many families would follow a minister when he was called from one church to another.
FROM ULSTER TO CAROLINA: THE MIGRATION OF THE SCOTCH-IRISH TO SOUTH-WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA: Tyler Blethen and Curtis Wood, Jr.: published by Western Carolina University, The Mountain Heritage Centre (1983 second edition 1986). This 44 page booklet gives an overview of the migration to Ulster, then to Pennsylvania, then south and west via the Great Wagon Road. It includes two pages of suggested readings.
THE SCOTCH IRISH A SOCIAL HISTORY; Leyburn: A general work on the Scotch-Irish, showing the gradual development of Lowland Scots to Ulstermen and the modification of these Ulstermen and their institutions when they came, two hundred thousand strong to the American colonies in the 18th century. (1962) 377 pp. Paper: $14.95
HISTORY OF THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE; Christopher Smout: believed available in paperback in the USA (Fontana?).
NEW HISTORY OF SCOTLAND: Michael Lynch: believed available in paperback in the UK.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF ST KILDA: Tom Steel; published by Fontana/Collins Original (paperback) in 1975; ISBN 0-00 613622 2; an excellent narrative description of the way of life of the tight-knit population of this remote island and how the impact of 20th century civilisation led to the community’s death.
This article was written by Iain Kerr who has granted permission for its inclusion in The Wylie/Wiley Family History Project. This text should not be reproduced anywhere else without the express permission of its original author. Queries and comments are welcome and should be directed to Iain Kerr.