Sunday, 15 October 2006

Clearances in Lewis

Heard the other day that Lewis was thought to be less affected by the 18th and 19th century clearances than other islands in the Hebrides. Fewer people were shunted off overseas, as those that were cleared from land were relocated elsewhere in the island.

I cannot agree with the sentiment behind that assertion. Clearances still took place in Lewis, right throughout the 19th century. The district of Eishken was cleared in the 1820s, with its villagers moved to Lemreway and other places in Lochs, if not elsewhere in the island. Being forced, at a moment's notice, to quit home and hearth is at best a distressing experience. Sometimes machinations would be put in place to make it impossible for tenants to hold on to their land, such as an extortionate rent increase. The torch to the thatch is a potent symbol too.

Those that so wish can debate the point at the annual Angus "Ease" MacLeod memorial lecture in Gravir School on October 24th (2006). I'm not at all sure whether Angus would have liked to see the Clearances in Lewis belittled like this.

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