The Countess of Sutherland, in whose name the worst of the excesses were perpetrated, was born in the south and spent most of her life in Edinburgh and London. She had clearly little emotional attachment to her tenants, although considerable funds were spent on unsatisfactory resettlement in coastal villages; for many, just stopping points on the way to the emigration ships. Around 100 displaced residents left Kildonan in June 1813, including a boatload who went to Hudson's Bay in northern Canada and had to survive the harsh winter before moving on in spring to the red River Settlement around Lake Winnipeg. The Timespan centre at Helmsdale has a message board for descendants from all parts of the world to reconnect via the Timespan project.
The ruins of Caen village (not to be confused with Caen in Normandy) lie a few miles up the Kildonan Strath from Helmsdale in a beautiful side valley with its own burn. The visit was part of Timespan's Excavation project aimed at better understanding the sequence of events that led to the removal of the inhabitants. The visit was guided by enthusiastic heritage officer, Jacquie Aitken.
My final question, I'm sure asked by many was, 'Did the brutal lairds do the people a favour by obliging them to leave supposedly for a better life?' For me the answer has to be a qualified 'Yes.' Certainly not for the generation that endured the stress and hardship of removal but for successive generations thereafter. I'm sure that they were able to progress with more land and opportunity than in the mid nineteenth century Highlands or the slums of Glasgow. It's obvious that in time with or without clearances, depopulation continued in the Highlands and Islands as the young moved away seeking opportunity to the tune of the relentless march of modernity.
Novels by Alan Calder
The Glorious Twelfth- Buy Links
Also by Alan Calder, The Stuart Agenda published by Willowmoon www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005BJ3GNI