Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Evictions begin in Langwell, Berriedale and Ausdale

Badbea had long supported the family of William Sutherland but by the early 19th Century he must have been scratching his head to figure out how more families could survive here.

The Highland Clearances are well documented on-line so I won’t explain the complex reasons the land use was changing. I have added three of my personal favourite Clearances websites to my website page.

Three specific historical characters associated with the clearance of people to Badbea worth mentioning are:

First, Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster who lived in Thurso.
A statue of Sir John Sinclair in Thurso

Sir John was an enterprising man who was very interested in improving agricultural methods.
Sir John Sinclair and his wife purchased the Langwell estate in 1788. In 1792, five hundred Cheviot Ewes were brought to Langwell to see if they would thrive. They were large framed hardy sheep that produced good wool and meat. Sir John was said to be well meaning and humane in consideration of his tenants but ‘improvements’ soon turned to ‘evictions.’ Sheep and small scale tenants were incompatible. Soon part of the plan to farm sheep on Langwell was to move the tenants from the Berriedale Strath and the Langwell settlements to coastal settlements, the nearest being Badbea.
The first removal from Langwell to Badbea was one Alexander Gunn in 1793. By 1802 evictions in Berriedale saw the whole Strath cleared out. Sir John provided free passage from Glasgow to America for those who wanted it but most of those who went to Glasgow on seeing the conditions of the ships wouldn’t board and stayed in Glasgow in poverty.

Second James Anderson.
The house built by James Anderson in 1804 at Ausdale.

In 1804 Ausdale was let out as a sheep farm to James Anderson. Eight families were removed immediately. Some made their way to Badbea without any shelter to go to while James Anderson built a very fine house for himself and his family. This house is still used by the head shepherd of Ausdale. This sheep farm did not do well and Anderson left in disgust after a few years. In the Obituary of John Badbea Sutherland we learn that his family  - mother, Kathrin a widow with five, possibly six children - was evicted from their home which was stone’s throw from where James Anderson built his substantial house. Kathrin and her children had no dwelling to go to at Badbea and would have had to build one in a hurry from stones available on-site. Kathrin Sutherland was a sister to William Sutherland of Badbea so it is likely that William and his sons helped her family gather materials and build a house.
Ausdale Farmhouse 2012

Ousdale 1934. The tree to the right of the Anderson house would have been about the exact location of the home of Widow Sutherland who with her 5 or 6 children was evicted to make room for the new house. 

Third, James Horne is mentioned in the letter below but he needs to have a separate blog to tell all the stories associated with him. James Horne was a proprietor of Langwell after Sir John Sinclair. 

Of the families mentioned below probably about twelve families settled permanently in Badbea on tiny little plots of land on which they could scarcely survive and on which they still had to pay rent in ‘cash or kind’ doing such obligatory jobs as helping with harvesting on the Laird’s property.
The Badbea destination of the evicted. 

In a letter to the Northern Ensign in 1884 Alexander Gunn (not the same Alexander Gunn evicted as above)  has this to say:

To the Editor of the Northern Ensign
SIR, - Allow me through your valuable columns, to give a detailed account of the evictions in Berriedale, both by Sir John Sinclair and by Mr James Horne, his successor. The account of the matter by your correspondent, “Old Man Narrator,” is not altogether correct. Sir John Sinclair, who was considered the greatest agriculturist in the country, and who was a real or honorary member of almost every agricultural society in the three kingdoms, as well as of several societies on the continent of Europe, was the first to introduce what were called the “big sheep” to Caithness. The small sheep or “Kerry,” was the only breed in the country before that time. To make room for his sheep, Sir John evicted 61 families from the Berriedale straths, and laid the whole under sheep.

The townships on the Millary or Berriedale straths were these, viz., Glut,1 tenant; Eskbin,1; Eskmaealmag,1; Haborgue,1; Esknabing,1; Upper Millary,1; Lower Millary,1; Ardachigh,1; Toreshey,1; Duin 3; Taigh-an-Duin,1; Dalgheamich,2; Knock Feune,1; Ellaw-an Duinag,1; Upper Borgue,2 – in all 19.
From the Langwell Strath there were evicted from the township of Inver,5; Knocktorinrectan,1; Elonluisg,1;  Capernach,1;  Taigh-an-Asary,1;  Ruharigy,1; Turnal,1 (held by George Gunn who had seven sons, the equal of whom were not in the country); Taighnault,1;  Bardnachie,1;  Struan,1; Bualnahaoden,1;  Bualtarach,1;  Garvary,1;  Brainaheaglash,1;  Auldnabeath,1;  Uag More 1; Uag Bhaig,1;  Borgue, Langwell,1 (where my great-grandfather, who came from Cattag, lived during the proprietorship of Sutherland of Langwell); Corrag,1;  in all 23.

From the Ousdale district there were evicted from the township of Ousdale, 9 families: Borgue of Ousdale, 2;  Struie, 8; in all 19; giving a grand total of 61.

 It is singular that after Sir John had turned out these 61 families, and occupied their places with his sheep, he began to break up large tracks of ground on the hill-side to the west of Berriedale, at a place called Carterfield, and got it under cultivation, having taken several crops of oats off it. Also at Borgue, Langwell, he brought in a large park, the first turf of which was cut by Lady Janet, and was known ever after as Park-na-Bainthighearn, or “Her Ladyship’s Park.” There was also broken up a large square piece of moor, or moss, to the west of Carterfield. It was planted with curly greens about Christmas, and, as might be expected, the frosts of winter destroyed every plant of them. These fields which were broken up and put under crop for a year or two, instead of being given to the tenants evicted from the straths, were allowed to fall out of cultivation into grazings for sheep, and a few years saw them covered with their original heather.
The singular thing is that while by all accounts the Ulbster family have been the most extensive evictors in the country, as appears from the recent correspondence in your spirited paper, they were yet looked up to and esteemed by the whole community. No doubt there were some good traits in their character, but these were sullied and tarnished by their treatment of those respectable and happy families that were so ruthlessly driven out of their comfortable holdings. As stated in some of my previous communications, when Sir John got his regiment of Fencibles embodied, he got 60 men from Berriedale, said to be the finest men in the regiment, and yet this was the treatment they received at his hands.

Your correspondent is also at fault in saying that James Horne evicted none at Berriedale. Horne evicted 13 families in the township of Auchencraig. Three families were evicted by him from the Cairn, 4 from Rinsary, and 6 from Badbea. True, some of these as your correspondent says, got miserable patches elsewhere on the estate, but so did some of those evicted by Sir John; but I consider they were entitled to be numbered among the evicted nevertheless, as they were driven from their comfortable homes without justice or reason, and the plots on which they were allowed to settle down were not entitled to the name of land, being bare rocks or black moss, whilst the arable land they were driven from was given over for sheep grazings.

The Ulster family may well pray to be saved from their friends, since Mr Logan, who shows great zeal on their behalf , has been the means of bringing to light matters that had been entirely forgotten, and which would never appeared before the public but for Mr Logan’s zeal without knowledge. I would venture to give him a bit of advice for his guidance in the future, and that is let sleeping dogs lie. – Yours &c.,

Alex Gunn. Glasgow

Cheviot ewes and lambs on the Ousdale side of the Badbea stone wall

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