Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What's Down the Well Comes Up in the Bucket - Old Adage

The stories of the Highland Clearances of the nineteenth century, when Scottish crofters were driven off the land they had called home for centuries, are full of violence, trauma, and devastation. The people were being moved to make way for large sheep farms – or ‘walks.' Highlanders were facing the disintegration of old clan structures. Many people emigrated, while those who stayed behind were forcibly moved to planned settlements. These included the village of Badbea on the edge of a precipitous cliff on the coast of Caithness overlooking the Moray Firth in the tumultuous North Sea.

There are many websites that give accounts of the Highland Clearances.

Despite the evictions and hardships, the written records of Badbea show a village where the people had extraordinary resilience and many positive characteristics including: 
  • Working together to support each other
  • The ability to survive in the most adverse of physical environments. Living on the edge.
  • Hospitable - even to their exploitative factors and lairds
  • Non-violence in the face of violence and cruelty
  • Large, loving, hard-working families
  • Shared faith – Free Presbyterian

The history of Badbea is traceable through a number of records including:
  1. ScotlandsPeople website. Records of births, marriages, deaths, censuses, wills & valuation rolls, of Badbea residents from about 1770 to 1911
  2. Letters of the devout John Badbea Sutherland – born 1785 in Ausdale, died 1864 in Badbea
  3. Correspondence by Alexander Gunn – born 1820 in Badbea died 1897 in Golspie - in the John O Groat Journal and the Northern Ensign newspapers.
  4. Published Obituaries
  5. Names on the Badbea monument
  6. Historical accounts by Allan Sutherland Roydhouse, 1916-2000, who resided in New Zealand and Scotland. Published in the John O Groat Journal 1977
  7. Publications eg Sutherlands of Ngaipu by Alex Sutherland, 1947
    The panel for John Badbea Sutherland and his brother Donald died at Waterloo 1815

 Using the metaphor of the Grey Hen’s Well as an image of life and value, I plan to “pull up” or draw from that well (now stagnant) to bring to the surface a fresh and clear understanding of what the people of Badbea and closely connected settlements were really like.
We will see what’s down that well that comes up in the bucket.

The bucket

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