Friday, 28 May 2010

Clearances: South Uist

These quotes from the Napier Commission's report from South Uist, describe the clearances there. It starts with an excerpt from a statement of complaint from the township of Kilpheder in the far south of South Uist. The Commission then proceeds to quiz John Mackay from question 11143 onwards on the actual events. John is 75 years old at the time of the Commission's visit in May 1883.

[People were] compelled to emigrate to America; some of whom had been tied before our eyes, others hiding themselves in caves and crevices for fear of being caught by authorised officers.

11143. Will you relate what you heard and saw?
—I saw a policeman chasing a man down the macher towards Askernish, with a view to catch him, in order to send him on board an emigrant ship lying in Loch Boisdale. I saw a man who lay down on his face and nose on a little island, hiding himself from the policeman, and the policeman getting a dog to search for this missing man in order to get him on board the emigrant ship.

11144. What was the name of the man ?
—Lachlan Macdonald.

11145. What was the name of the previous person you referred to?
—Donald Smith.

11146. Did the dog find this unfortunate youth
—The dog did not discover him, but the man was afterwards discovered all the same. He had got into the trench of a lazy bed.

11147. What was done with him ?
—He was taken off.

11148. And really sent off like an animal that was going to the southern markets ?
—Just the same way.

11149. Did you hear that the same thing was done to others, although you did not see it ?
—A man named Angus Johnston, whose wife gave birth to three children, and another child was dead before, he was seized and tied upon the pier of Loch Boisdalc ; and it was by means of giving him a kick that he was put into the boat and knocked down. The old priest interfered, and said, ' What arc you doing to this man ? Let him alone. It is against the law.' The four children were dead in the house when he was caught and tied, and knocked down by a kick, and put on board.

11156. Were they in the habit of sending away husbands without their wives?
—No. I never heard any instance of that kind, unless a man voluntarily left his wife when they would disagree.

11157. But you understand that one man was put on board a vessel by force with four dead children in the house, where was the wife at that time ?
—She followed him on board.

11158. The dead children would be buried before that ?
—The four dead bodies were buried before the mother went on board.

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