Three Clearances and a Wedding

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John R A Cameron
Scottish Highlands

The paternal ancestors of John Roderick Alexander Cameron ended up in Tasmania as the direct or indirect result of clearances in three different areas of Scotland:

  • His great great grandfather, Duncan, left his ancestral lands in the Fort William area and moved up to the Tain area of the Eastern Highlands, where Duncan's son John, John RA's great grandfather, was born.
  • That great grandfather, John, and his family, including his son Donald, subsequently left those lands near Tain and emigrated to Tasmania.
  • John RA's paternal grandmother, Barbara Mackenzie, left her ancestral land near Ullapool in the Western Highlands and emigrated with her parents and siblings to Tasmania

We do not know whether the departures were forced or not. However, in all three cases there had been clearances in the area just prior.

In Tasmania, Barbara Mackenzie met and married Donald Cameron.

They had a son, born in Tasmania, called John. That son returned to Ullapool in Scotland where he married Annie Cameron. The wedding took place in Ullapool. Then John brought Annie back with him to Australia where they had three children, one of whom was John RA.

This is the story of the three clearances and the wedding.

The First Clearance

Kilmonivaig area

Duncan Cameron was born around 1761 in Kilmonivaig, Inverness-shire [note 1] - in the region also known as Lochaber. However, by around 1806 when his son John was born he was living far away in East Ross-shire. He may have been cleared from Lochaber.

Lochaber is the traditional home of the Cameron clan. The Camerons had supported the Jacobite rising in 1715 and also in 1745 under the banner of Bonnie Prince Charlie. After Culloden, the 19th chief, Donald Cameron, the Gentle Lochiel, escaped to France and died there in 1748. The Cameron estate was forfeited to the government. However, in 1784 the General Act of Indemnity was passed and Donald's grandson, another Donald Cameron - the 22nd chief - was allowed to buy back the land. He was only 15 at the time and had grown up in France and London. When he left school, he travelled and got into serious debt. In order to raise money he borrowed against some of the Cameron lands which would come under his control in 1790 when he turned 21. In 1790 he visited Lochaber country for the first time. Shortly afterwards he disclosed to his guardians the deal he had done. They were not pleased! The deal was successfully challenged in court and declared null and void. Donald was judged unfit to manage the estate - which was handed over to a trust until 1819. [1] [note 2]

All this was bad news for the subtenants. [note 3] The estate was now managed by the trust which was only concerned with making it profitable.

The first evictions were carried out in 1801. They were as ugly as clearances elsewhere. Quoting from the Cameron Clan Museum display at Achnacarry:

The six families removed spent the night in the graveyard above Clunes and watched their houses burn.

Major emigrations (notably to Canada) had started around 1802 and by December 1804 the situation was described by Captain Alexander Cameron in a letter to a friend who had emigrated:

Everything is turned upside down since you left Lochaber, and the remainder of those unfortunate people you will see emigrating, or at least as many of them as have the means in their power. Families who had not been disturbed for 4 or 500 years are turned out of their house and home and their possessions given to the highest bidders. So much for Highland attachment between Chief & clans. But my own opinion is that the great gentlemen alluded to are doing a general good without any intention of doing so, by driving those people to desperation and forcing them to quit their country. I am very happy to hear that all who accompanied you are well and I sincerely hope they will never have any cause to repent the change. [2]

Duncan was born in the parish of Kilmonivaig which is across Loch Lochy from the the seat of the Cameron clan, Achnacarry. Although part of traditional Cameron country, in 1770 control had passed to the Duke of Gordon [note 4] who proceeded to raise rents and clear the land with the aid of his factor, the Reverend John Anderson. [note 5] The Duke's clearances from his Lochaber estate through the good works of the obedient Reverend went on until 1806. [3]

Kilmonivaig in 1755 was recorded as one of the areas containing the heaviest concentration of Catholics. [4] Duncan's future son, daughter in law and grandson were eventually buried together in a Catholic cemetery in Launceston, Tasmania - so Duncan may well have been Catholic. Possibly that was a factor in him leaving the area.

Anyway it is clear that Duncan Cameron was just one of many in Lochaber who left the area at that time. He probably headed North between 1801 and 1806. He may have followed work on the construction of the Caledonian Canal, and ended up at Inverness. From there he may have continued a bit further North up into East Ross-shire where he eventually settled and raised his family - which leads us to the next chapter in our story.

The Second Clearance

Old map of Strathoykel and Strathcarron areas - 1896

Strathoykel is the valley carved out by the Oykel river [note 6] which flows into Dornoch Firth by way of the Kyle of Sutherland in the far North Eastern highlands of Scotland. This is where Duncan Cameron settled and raised his family. Tain is the largest nearby town. [note 7]

Strathoykel had already been partially cleared for sheep in 1780. [note 8] It had also been involved in the Ross-shire Sheep Riot of 1792 where people had tried, unsuccessfully, to drive sheep out of the area. [note 9] Duncan may have considered that the worst was past in Strathoykel which is why he decided to try and build a life there. [note 10]

Marriage of John Cameron to Ann McKay

He may have arrived with his wife, Anne, because we know from census records that she was not born in the area. Their son John was born there no later than 1806. He married Ann McKay in 1827 in the parish of Kincardine and Croick.

At the time of the births of their children, they appear to have been living in Brae. [note 11] See the old map of Strathoykel - if you follow the river Oykel along from Oykel Bridge at the top left of the map, you will come to the townships of Langwell, Tutin, Brae, Doune, Oape, Ochtow and Rosehall. All these names occur in parish registers, census records and other accounts in this part of our story.

Donald Cameron's birth certificate

In particular, their son Donald, one of the main characters in our story, was born in Brae in 1833. He was baptised at the Rosehall mission. His sister Chirsty was baptised in 1829 at the government church at Croick by Revd Robert Williamson, [note 12] who was the first minister of that church which would eventually become well known for its connection with one of the most notorious clearances in Scottish history. We will come to that shortly but for now we will just note that Croick lies in the parallel valley of Strathcarron a little to the South of Strathoykel. See the old map at the bottom and a little left of centre.

"The Second Statistical Account of Kincardine", [note 13] attributed to "a parishioner" and dated August 1840, gives a wonderful snapshot of life in the area. It talks of the Mission at Rosehall, the church at Croick, schools, a library, the savings bank (!) in Tain, the local fair, and the local pub in Ardgay (near Bonar Bridge) as well as information on wages, rent and assistance for the poor. Regarding the rise of sheep farming it says:

...the system of turning whole straths, where formerly peaceful cottages were to be seen, into sheep-walks, is becoming too prevalent, and is productive of the worst consequences, for every succeeding summer sends the finest of our peasantry to a foreign shore, there to seek those means of subsistence which are denied them in their father-land. These evil consequences have not as yet, we are happy to say, been much felt in this parish.

Apart from a clearance at the other end of the valley twenty years ago in 1820 [note 14] conditions had been tough but fairly stable. It appeared that Duncan had chosen his new home wisely. Unfortunately things were about to get a lot worse in the area.

Duncan Cameron in 1841 Census
John Cameron and family in 1841 Census

By 1841 Duncan was living with his wife in Brae and his son John was living with his young family in nearby Doune. The Statistical Account quoted above shows that life was not easy but there were schools and even a library and a "reading club". They all attended school and learned to read and write. This would turn out to be particularly important for them.

Two years later events were to take place in their remote part of the world which would prompt headlines in newspapers around the country, including the Times of London. Questions would be asked in the parliament at Westminster. The events would come to the attention of Queen Victoria herself, and would even be reported by Karl Marx in his book Das Kapital. [note 15]

In 1843 a process was started to evict tenants from Strathcarron. They were eventually evicted by force in May 1845. 80 of them ended up taking shelter in the graveyard of the church at Croick. A reporter from London Times witnessed the eviction and wrote three articles for the paper: one a few days before the eviction deadline, one afterwards and a third on his return the following year.

Quoting from the second Times article:

With the new Scottish Poor Law in prospect, cottages were everywhere refused to them. I am told it was a most wretched spectacle to see these poor people march out of the glen in a body, with two or three carts filled with children, many of them mere infants; and other carts containing their bedding and other requisites. The whole country side was up on the hills watching them as they silently took possession of their tent.

Duncan, Anne and John and his family would probably have been among those watching on the hills above.

Quoting again, they also may well have attended the outdoor church service mentioned below: [note 16]

I drove over on Sunday to the parish church of Croick, which is near Glen Calvie. Close by a bridge leading to the glen the whole of these poor people, and the inhabitants of one or two neighbouring straths, were assembled to hear one of their elders read the Psalms to them. They numbered about 250 persons. They were all seated in the Gaelic fashion, on the hillside, in a circle facing the officiating elder; the women all neatly dressed in net cape, and wearing scarlet or plaid shawls; the men wearing their blue bonnets, and having their shepherd's plaids wrapped round them. This was their only covering, and this was the Free Church. There was a simplicity extremely touching in this group on the bare hill side, listening to the psalms of David in their native tongue, and assembled to worship God - many of them without a home.

John Cameron and family in 1851 Census - illegible town is Balphuil which was near Oape

In the 1851 census John and his family were still in the area. Duncan is living with them and is recorded as a widower. Anne must have died. [note 17] They appear to have weathered the storm so far (including the potato famine in 1846-7) - but it was not yet over.

In March 1854 another clearance occurred in Strathcarron. It was well documented at the time by a series of newspaper articles written by Donald Ross, a Glasgow lawyer, who visited the area shortly after the law had been enforced. His articles were eventually published in a pamphlet entitled "The Russians of Ross-shire or The Massacre of the Rosses". [note 18] This was the time of the Crimean war, hence the reference to Russians.

This clearance was notorious for its brutality, particularly against the women of the area who blocked the road to the village. A number of them were killed.

According to Donald Ross, the constables...

struck with all their force ... not only when knocking down, but after the females were on the ground. They beat and kicked them while lying weltering in their blood ... (and) more than twenty females were carried off the field in blankets and litters, and the appearance they presented, with their heads cut and bruised, their limbs mangled and their clothes clotted with blood, was such as would horrify any savage.

When the 2nd Duke of Sutherland [note 19] subsequently attempted to raise troops from among his tenants (!) to fight in the Crimea, one is reputed to have replied:

Should the Czar of Russia take possession of (these lands) next term, we couldn't expect worse treatment at his hands than we have experienced in the hands of your family for the last fifty years.

and another famous reply...

We have no country to fight for! You robbed us of our country and gave it to the sheep.

Therefore, since you have preferred sheep to men, let sheep defend you!

St Andrews Immigration Society advertisement in Glasgow Courier
Extract of passenger list of Storm Cloud showing John Cameron and family

By 1855 John, Ann and their family, including their 21 year old son Donald, were sailing on the Storm Cloud for Tasmania. Duncan was not with them and does not appear in the 1861 census, so he had probably died.

They probably left before they were cleared. They could see that there was no future for them in the area. They were right. Today Strathoykel and Strathcarron are both virtually deserted.

Somehow they became aware of the free passages to Tasmania available from the St Andrews Emigration Society. They may have seen an advertisement similar to the one on the left.

The Society was set up "for the purpose of aiding the immigration of a superior class of labour, into this Colony, from Scotland" and to that end "they despatched an agent to select the people best adapted to the requirements of this colony". [5] Among other things, "superior class of labour" meant that they were looking for people who could read and write, which John's family could according to their entry in Storm Cloud's passenger list, thanks to the school, library and "reading club" mentioned earlier.

John's family had concentrated on working as servants of one kind or another rather than operating their own property. You can see this particularly in the 1851 census records where many of John's children turn up in the entries for other families - as female or male servants, or agricultural labourers. This must have made their situation more secure while in Strathoykel since they were not totally dependent on their own land. It also made them more attractive to the St Andrews Emigration Society who were specifically looking for servants of various kinds to work on properties in Tasmania.

Storm Cloud sailed from Glasgow on 17th June 1855 and arrived 71 days later at George Town, Tasmania on Sunday afternoon, 26th August 1855. See the account of the arrival. [note 20] We don't know exactly where John and his family went to work after arriving in Tasmania. The family may well have been split up. We do know that they all ended up in the Launceston area.

Donald Cameron would eventually meet and marry Barbara Mackenzie whose family had arrived a couple of years earlier after having left their traditional land in the Western highlands of Scotland - which brings us to the third clearance in our story.

The Third Clearance

Map of Coigach

Alexander and Rachel Mackenzie lived near Ullapool [note 21] in the area known as Coigach. [note 22] One of their daughters was Barbara who is a leading character in our story.

Coigach was part of the traditional Cromartie estate [note 23] which was owned in 1745 by George McKenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie. Like Donald Cameron of Lochiel, George Mackenzie of Cromartie backed the losing side in 1745 (the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie) and had his lands confiscated. He narrowly escaped with his life, and ended his days in debt and poverty. Like the Cameron land, the Cromartie land was restored in 1784 - to George's son, John Mackenzie, Lord Macleod, but he died in 1789 and after that ownership passed... a succession of tenuously-connected relatives, most of whom knew little or nothing of the lands and their people. ...None of these people was particularly qualified, or endowed with capital or talent, to preside over the development and welfare of large tracts of the Highlands. [6]

McKenzie family in 1841 census

In 1849 a fateful marriage took place. The current heir to the Cromartie estate, Anne Hay-Mackenzie, married the heir to the title of Duke of Sutherland - the same Sutherlands referred to in the last chapter, the noble family behind the appalling Strathnaver clearances! [7] Anne and her husband were not yet the new Duke and Duchess of Sutherland - that would happen in 1861. For the period of our story they were known as the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford (or Lord and Lady Stafford) - but the fear was that they might apply traditional, heavy handed Sutherland techniques to the "crofter problem" in Cromartie. In fact, neither they [note 24] nor their factor, Andrew Scott, [note 25] were as ruthless as their predecessors. However, they were under financial pressure to live from their Cromartie estates until they inherited the Sutherland title and wealth. [8] So there were tough times ahead for the Coigach crofters.

The potato famine of 1846/7 had hit the Cromartie area particularly hard. [note 26] People were starving. In 1847 George Macleod the Free Church minister for the parish of Lochbroom warned...

...unless something is done, and that immediately, for their relief, hundreds of my poor parishioners will, ere two months elapse, be in eternity.

Relief was available but, quoting from "Cromartie: Highland Life" ...

Famine relief in the West Highlands came in various forms depending on the degree of landlord particpation. there was much private relief but also large public subscription relief in the form of subsidised food imports. In both cases, however, there were usually work tests applied to the assistance given to the common people. In effect the people were required to work before relief was given; the work usually took the form of road construction [note 27] or agricultural improvements. [9]

The famine continued into 1850. Staying alive was a challenge. Paying the rent was difficult if not impossible, with the result that many crofters were years in arrears. This was not good for the finances of the Cromartie estate.

McKenzie family in 1851 census

Things came to a head in February 1852 when 18 tenants in Badenscallie refused to be moved to new land in Badentarbat. On 18th March the police from Ullapool attempted to serve the notices of removal. They were attacked and the notices taken from them and burned. Another attempt was made with a larger force, but when they saw that they were clearly outnumbered they abandoned the second attempt. A third attempt was made but, again, the notices were seized and burned. They decided to postpone the move for 12 months, but 12 months later in February 1853 they were no more successful.

Requests were made to bring in the military but these requests were denied and another attempt was made using the police which again ended in another humiliating defeat. [note 28] The lawyer for the Coigach estate wanted to wait one more year then try again - this time definitely with the aid of the military.

In June 1853 while the next escalation in this stalemate was still being planned, Alexander Mackenzie and his family were persuaded [note 29] to emigrate to Australia supported by the Highland and Island Emigration Society. [note 30] [10] They eventually sailed from Birkenhead (Liverpool) on the Sir Alan McNab on 28th October 1853, bound for Hobart in Van Diemens Land (Tasmania).

The Cromartie estate's lawyer continued to agitate for bringing in the military. However, in the end it did not happen. Lord and Lady Stafford decided to get on with their much more amusing lives down South - and threw in the towel. The Coigach tenants were never moved.

Finishing this episode with one final quote from Richards and Clough's wonderful book which links us back to the second clearance in our story:

For the people of Coigach it was a famous victory almost unprecedented in Highland history. Rarely if ever had the common people of the Highlands resisted successfully the authority of a clearing landlord. It was a victory that entered the folk memory. Thirty years later the Coigach crofters were still remembered as heroes of the land-war in the Highlands. More immediately the success of the Coigach people helped to inspire crofters in the eastern Highlands to emulate their collective resistance. But Coigach had also put steel into the minds of the landlords and police in the Highlands - and consequently the years 1853-5 witnessed bloody conflict between landlord agents and crofters in renewed clearances at [Strathcarron]. [11]

Our heroes of this part of the story, Alexander Mackenzie and his family, including their 12 year old daughter Barbara, arrived in Hobart on 1st February 1854.

We are very fortunate to have a lot of information on this group of immigrants - largely due to the research by Tasmanian historian Hugh Campbell, [note 31] who was a descendant of one of the families. Hugh generously allowed his research to be posted online at Donald Macdonald-Ross's invaluable Coigach website. That website also has other useful data including the passenger list and hiring list of the Sir Alan McNab. Ours is family number 532 in the lists.

The young Barbara Mackenzie begins her new life in Tasmania and leads us to the final chapter in our story - the wedding. Not her wedding, but that of her son John who returns to his mother's country and finds a wife.

The Wedding

Alexander and Rachel's headstone in Winkleigh cemetery

The Mackenzies landed in Hobart but ended up settling, along with others from that little Coigach group, in the small town of Silver Mines [note 32] , now known as Winkleigh, not far from Launceston.

Alexander and Rachel Mackenzie are buried in Winkleigh cemetery. Their headstone attests to their origins in Ullapool. [note 33]

The Camerons of Strathoykel ended up in the same area and two Cameron brothers, Donald and John, married two Mackenzie sisters, Barbara and Catherine.

Donald Cameron ended up running a number of successful pubs in Launceston. [note 34] He was quite a man of property in 1899 when he died, leaving a considerable estate to his widow Barbara, his son John (known as Jack) and his two daughters.

Jack was clever at school and completed a university degree in Tasmania. He taught for while and then used his inheritance to travel to England to do a degree at Cambridge University. He entered into residence at Trinity College in October 1901, and graduated in 1904 (Natural Sciences Tripos).

While at Cambridge, he would head North to Ullapool on his holidays looking for his Scottish roots. The headmaster of the school in Ullapool for many years was another John Cameron - but no relation. Nevertheless, they were fellow teachers and Jack became close to the headmaster's family. [note 35] He even taught some classes at the school. [note 36] He also became fond of the headmaster's daughter, Nana.

Ullapool 1914: Two John Camerons standing at back. Front L-R: Catherine, Donald, Lilias, Nana
Jack and Nana Cameron's marriage certificate

On his return to Australia he first taught at his old school in Launceston, then moved to Geelong College in 1906 - one of Victoria's premier schools. During all this time he had kept in touch with Nana by correspondence, and eventually he proposed to her.

In 1909 he returned to Ullapool for their wedding. They were married there in February 1909 and then returned to live in Australia.

In 1914 they returned to Ullapool to show off their children to their grandparents. The photo on the left was taken just before the outbreak of the first World War. It shows the headmaster and his wife Catharine on the left, together with Jack and Nana and their two children.

Barbara McKenzie & family c1920. L-R: Ding, Lilias, Nana, Donald, Jack, Barbara

The photo on the right is the only one we have of Barbara Mackenzie (and we have none of Donald Cameron). It was taken outside the school house at Winkleigh where her daughter Barbara, known as Ding, was the teacher.

John R A Cameron, second son of Jack and Nana, grandson of Barbara Mackenzie of Ullapool, grandson of Donald Cameron of Strathoykel, great, great grandson of Duncan Cameron of Lochaber, was born in Sydney in 1924. He now lives in Balwyn, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. He married Betty Duncan and has two children and four grandchildren.

Ancestry of John R A Cameron

Pedigree of John R A Cameron


  1. See for notes on the Inverness-shire area.
  2. As a post script on Donald Cameron, the 22nd chief, he didn't stay in Lochaber for long. His wife wasn't happy there and eventually left him. He left Lochaber soon after and never lived there again. On regaining control of the Cameron estate after 1819, he continued the pattern of evictions established by the trust. He died in Toulouse, France in 1832. From time to time it is claimed that there were no evictions from the Lochiel estate, but that people left voluntarily. This is nonsense - the legal processes drawn up at the time are matter of written record. Somerled MacMillan in his book "Bygone Lochaber" cites numerous examples taken from the official records.
  3. Some clearance vocabulary:
    The land owner's agent
    Pays rent (tack) to land owner for use of land
    same as tacksman
    Small land holder - pays rent to tenant
    Small farmer - paying rent typically directly to land owner through factor.
    Small farmer, occupying plot of a tenant's land. They provided their labour in place of rent.
  4. This is the Gordon of the famous Gordon Highlanders. Many of the men recruited for his regiment came from Lochaber - but often the choice was a stark one - join up or be evicted from your land.
  5. "Precepts of Warning" were fixed to the door of the parish kirk to:

    flit and remove yourself, your wife, bairns, family, subtenants, cottars, servants and dependants, and all and sundry, your goods, gear and cattle, forth and from your possession of the said land

    The Precept was sometimes read out after divine service by the minister.

  6. From Wikipedia: "A strath is a large valley, typically a river valley that is wide and shallow (as opposed to a glen which is typically narrower and deep)."
  7. See the map of the Scottish Highlands at the beginning of this story.
  8. Apparently Oykel had already been cleared in 1780 see The Rev. Donald Sage on the Sutherland Clearances
  9. In an event known as the Ross-shire Sheep Riot in 1792 around 400 people from the river Oykel area drove 6,000 sheep south until they were eventually stopped by the military just north of Alness. This was all against the background of the French revolution which meant that the landlords were particularly nervous about any kind of large scale rebellion.
  10. The Sheep Riot in 1792 was triggered by the actions of two sheep farming Camerons from Lochaber (Captain Alan Cameron and his brother Alexander) who had taken to impounding cattle which wandered on to their land. Duncan may well have known the brothers but he does not appear to have any other connection to them. Nevertheless, I suppose that their presence in the area may have influenced his decision to settle - even though they would have been controversial members of the community.
  11. See picture of Brae today.
  12. Revd Robert Williamson appears to have been well liked by his parishioners. By 1840 he had emigrated to Canada taking some of his congregation with him. As someone with a close connection with his common parishioners, he may have decided to emigrate as the church increasingly supported the landlords in the clearing of their lands - a movement which eventually led to the disruption of 1843.
  13. The full Statistical Accounts of Scotland are available at See also this good video introduction to the accounts. See Rosehall Mission from Report of the Commissioners of Religious Instruction, Scotland for another good contemporary snapshot. The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland is another good online source of local historical information
  14. The clearance in Culrain in lower Strathoykel in 1820 was at the other end of the strath from where Duncan, John and family were living. The land was owned by Hugh Munro of Novar (a patron and friend of the painter Turner!). There was significant resistance by the locals, assisted by their neighbours from Strathcarron, but to no avail. See Prebble, chapter 3. That was the last major clearance until over twenty years later in Croick.
  15. In his book, Das Kapital, Karl Marx refers to the Highland Clearances in Chapter 27, entitled "Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land". In that chapter, he specifically talks of the clearances which took place on land belonging to the Duchess of Sutherland. He also took aim at the current (second) Duchess in his article on The Duchess of Sutherland and Slavery which originally was published in the New York Tribune. He ends chapter 27 describing the clearances in the following terms:

    The spoliation of the church's property, the fraudulent alienation of the State domains, the robbery of the common lands, the usurpation of feudal and clan property, and its transformation into modern private property under circumstances of reckless terrorism

  16. The Church, to its shame, usually took the side of the landowners during the clearances, turning its back on its more humble parishioners. This particular event effectively marked the end of the traditional church at Croick. Quoting from

    At one point during the clearances, the desperate people turned to the Church of Scotland for help, but it was the church of the landlords. They told the Highlanders that the evictions were God's Will and a chance for sinners to repent. Many Highlanders broke away from the church to find one that could speak to them; to satisfy their needs for spiritual comfort.

    This eventually became the Free Church of Scotland. In retaliation the landlords told the Highlanders that when they were cleared and resettled elsewhere, it would be forbidden to build Free Churches. They also were forbidden to give a Free Church minister shelter or aid.

    According to author John Prebble, with a few noble exceptions, most Presbyterian ministers defended the lairds (the evictors) from whom they had received their Highland parishes, threatening the people with damnation if they did not obey the writs of eviction. The clearances, and the support given them in the name of God, were contributory factors in the great disruption of the kirk. The division between moderates and the Evangelicals, among others, was wide and took years to resolve.

  17. The parish records contain no record of the death of Duncan's wife Anne, or of Duncan's own death. However, it is likely that they had cut their connection with the established church by now and moved to the Free Church, whose records, if any, have not survived.
  18. Apart from the Donald Ross account, much has been written about the Massacre of the Rosses. Online, see Mackenzie. See also Prebble and Richards. There is also an episode on Youtube from Scottish Television's series "Highlands" which covers the Strathcarron clearances.
  19. The first and second Dukes and first and second Duchesses of Sutherland are controversial figures in the Highland Clearances. They owned huge tracts of lands in the highlands including the lands around Strathoykel on the Northern side of the river. The clearances in Strathnaver were notoriously cruel - See Prebble chapter 2. There is no doubt that they made a lot of money from the clearances. The third Duchess was to become instrumental in the third clearance of our story.
  20. Regarding the account of the arrival of Storm Cloud in George Town:
    • The Tamar River would not have been navigable as far as Launceston which is why the Storm Cloud docked at George Town at the mouth of the Tamar.
    • The "Cobre" mentioned in the account would have been a boat able to navigate the Tamar. It set out from Launceston carrying the St Andrews Immigration Society representatives to meet the Storm Cloud in George Town.
    • The Storm Cloud brought with it the "European News", notably the latest news of the Crimean war referred to in the article.
  21. The census has Alexander and Rachael living in Morefield. Morefield still exists, just outside Ullapool. It was once part of the old farm called Keanachrine (or Kenachrine or Keanchrine). Morefield is a corruption of the original name Morchyle meaning "the big wood". See
  22. There is an extraordinary historical website about Coigach at
  23. Cromartyshire was very fragmented. Along with Coigach on the West coast, it included separate areas around the towns of Cromarty (on the Black Isle) and Tarbat (near Tain) on the East coast, and separate inland areas such as Strathpeffer (near Dingwall) and the area around Loch Fannich.
  24. Anne and her husband lived in London and Shropshire. Cromartie was a financial worry and a nuisance - but not something that they were prepared to spend much effort on. George was more interested in hunting, while Anne, to quote Richards and Clough:

    ...emerged as an aristocratic star in her own right, a favourite at Court and, increasingly, an intimate friend of the Queen herself. The Sutherland family into which she had married presided over a dazzling social life in London - Stafford House was one of the most opulent private palaces in the capital and the second Duchess "made her assemblies the most sought after in London".

  25. We get a good picture of Andrew Scott from his own words thanks to the book "Cromartie: Highland Life" by Richards and Clough. That book contains numerous quotations from the "Cromartie Papers" - original letters relating to the running of the estate which have fortunately been preserved. Scott comes across as a serious minded, professional man trying to do his duty. He is not a great lover of the Highlanders and shows no sympathy with any "moral" rights they may feel to their land, but neither is he a thug along the lines of a Patrick Sellar of the Strathnaver clearances or James Falconer Gillanders of the Strathcarron clearances. He writes in one letter that sometimes he is required to perform things...

    ...neither agreeable to myself nor pleasant to those with whom I have to deal ... Such things must be done by some one and if I perform any not very pleasant duty with as little harshness as another would be likely to show there can be no causes for serious complaint against me.

  26. For some reason the potato famine affected the Western highlands more than the East.
  27. There are a number of roads today in the area known as Destitution Road.
  28. The failures to serve the notices in Coigach were, indeed, humiliating. There is an account where an officer was stripped...

    ...and was put on board the Boat in which he went to Coigach in a state of almost absolute nudity.

    Another account talks of burning the boat and forcing the officers to walk back to Ullapool without their pants. A piping tune entitled "The March of the Cold Testicles" was supposedly written to commemorate the event.

  29. The emigrants were not particularly happy to leave. There is a report by the factor, Kenneth Mackenzie, who accompanied them as far as Glasgow. He concludes by saying...

    ...I am certain if I had not been with them, that one half of them would not have come this length.

    See Richards and Clough, p233-4 and also the additional notes to the passenger list.

    This article from the Inverness Advertiser in 1853 is another indication that they left with mixed feelings. It describes an emotional farewell in the Free Church school house in Ullapool where their minister addressed them quoting a passage from the bible - Isaiah Chapter 11 - suggesting that they might form ideal society flourishing in exile and predicting their eventual return. They never returned but their ancestors did - as described in this family history.

  30. The "Highland and Island Emigration Society", which provided loans at low interest to land owners willing to encourage emigration from their estates, was not the philanthropic group it might initially appear. It was founded in 1851 by two prominent public officials, Sir Charles Trevelyan and Sir John McNeill. From Devine, Chapter 5, Section 2, quoting a letter from Trevelyan to McNeil in 1852...

    'A national effort' would now be necessary in order to rid the land of 'the surviving Irish and Scotch Celts'. The exodus would then allow for the settlement of a racially superior people of Teutonic stock. He welcomed ‘the prospects of flights of Germans settling here in increasing numbers – an orderly, moral, industrious and frugal people, less foreign to us than the Irish or Scotch Celt, a congenial element which will readily assimilate with our body politic’.

    Note that Trevelyan is a notorious character. The Wikipedia article currently includes the statement that "the Irish consider him one of the most detested figures in their history".

    Regarding the reference to potential German immigrants, note that this was also a time of emigration from Germany following political and economic turbulence in that region. See

  31. Unfortunately Hugh died in 2009. Many people owe him a great debt of gratitude for his work and his generosity in sharing it so freely.
  32. There were never any silver mines in the area. Hugh Campbell quotes in his "There is Corn in Egypt" a reporter as saying "... It seems that in the early days, when the gold diggings were at their zenith in Victoria, the splitters in those parts realised considerably more than the average wages in consequence of the great demand for the timber that they produced so easily, and used to say that 'if they had gold mines in Port Phillip, they had silver mines in their timber there'."
  33. Alexander and Rachel's headstone was vandalized in the 1970's and replaced in the cemetery with a simpler headstone which did not record their origins in Ullapool. Alison and John Cameron found the original headstone, lying in pieces, on a nearby property (which used to belong to "Mon" Mackenzie). With kind cooperation of the current owner of the property, Rob Beams, the original headstone was recovered, repaired and reinstalled in the cemetery.
  34. Donald Cameron's pubs were in a rough neighbourhood of Launceston (there was a brothel a couple of doors away). Donald quite often found himself in court - for example (LAUNCESTON POLICE COURT. (1882, May 31). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899), p. 3.

    Assault. The six defendants in the previous case were then charged with having assaulted Donald Cameron, landlord of the Scottish Chief Hotel. Defendants pleaded not guilty, and were defended by Mr. Byron Miller. Complainant deposed that on the night of the 13th inst. his wife told defendants to leave the house after ten o'clock; she took the bagatelle balls from them but they would not go, and defied her to put them out; witness then entered the room and told defendants they would have to leave ; put his hand on one of them (Smith) and was told to take his hand off, and was immediately struck several times, being knocked down got up, but was knocked down again and kicked on the head; lay there till a constable came in; his eyes were blackened, face cut, and head bruised by the kicks; could identify defendants Mackerill and Smith as being the ringleaders; could not recognise the others. By the Bench -Was sober on that night, but could not swear who struck him. Barbara Cameron, complainant's wife, also gave evidence, but would not swear positively to anything material. Richard Sneezwell and Constable Burke gave evidence for the prosecution. Smith was found guilty and fined £2 and costs, the other defendants being dismissed. The fine was paid.

  35. The headmaster's wife was Catherine Macphail. The Macphails are an important and well respected Ullapool family with an interesting history. See Remembering Isabella of Ullapool.
  36. In the school log book (available at the Ullapool Museum) for March 25th, 1904 appears the following entry

    March 25: Headmaster absent all the week on account of illness. Mr John Cameron of Trinity College Cambridge acted as his substitute.


  1. Stewart, John. The Camerons - A History of Clan Cameron, The Clan Cameron Association, 1974. pp146-147
  2. Macmillan, Somerled. Bygone Lochaber, K & R Davidson Ltd, Glasgow, 1971. p182-3
  3. Macdonald, Stuart. Back to Lochaber, The Pentland Press Ltd, 1994. p190
  4. Toomey, Kathleen (1991) Emigration from the Scottish Catholic bounds 1770-1810 and the role of the clergy, PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh,, Chapter 1.
  5. See St Andrews Immigration Society transcript.
  6. Richards, Eric & Clough, Monica. Cromartie: Highland Life 1650-1914. Aberdeen University Press, 1989, p. 112-3.
  7. Prebble, John. The Highland Clearances, Secker & Warburg, 1963. Chapter 2 - The Year of the Burnings
  8. Richards, Eric & Clough, Monica. Cromartie: Highland Life 1650-1914. Aberdeen University Press, 1989, p. 246.
  9. Richards, Eric & Clough, Monica. Cromartie: Highland Life 1650-1914. Aberdeen University Press, 1989, p. 209.
  10. Devine, T. M. To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland's Global Diaspora, Allen Lane, 1 August 2011.
  11. Richards, Eric & Clough, Monica. Cromartie: Highland Life 1650-1914. Aberdeen University Press, 1989, p. 245.


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