NQ Scottish History

Audio resources

The Migration of Scots

 

Extract of Minutes: First meeting of the Cabinet Migration Committee

(Dated 15 November 1928)

The Canadian and British governments had an agreement to share the cost of transporting emigrants from depressed areas of Britain over to Canada. There was however some disagreement as to the function of many of the displaced: the Canadian government preferring to encourage individuals who were already employed and not without some means for setting up upon arrival in Canada.

This was preferable to the transportation of unemployed and moneyless single men who had been displaced in Britain, as they were less likely to be able to set up in Canada without some financial assistance. Many were miners that had few prospects in the East of Canada, and thus would have to be financed to travel to the West Coast (some 5000 miles away) if they could convert to a life of agriculture.

The transportation of already employed men could also be expected to free up employment slots back in Britain as those spaces were vacated. The two governments agreed that they would share the cost of subsidising the transport of families, domestic servants and children, but Britain would shoulder the entire cost of transporting unemployed single men.


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Poem: The Highland Clearance by Frank McNie

The Highland Clearance is a heart wrenching poem from the voice of an emigrant who reluctantly must leave his home for the long boat ride to Canada. The poem tells of the immense sense of betrayal experienced by highlanders who had, for centuries, been able to rely on their Lairds and Clan Chieftains for protection against economic change.

Following the rebellion of 1745, Highland chiefs lost a great deal of influence over their clans, and in order to survive constant interaction with the rapidly industrialising English economy, they gradually began to see themselves as landlords, rather than as protectors.

Similar to the enclosures that stripped England’s rural areas and fuelled industrialisation in the larger cities to the south, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, tens of thousands of men, women, and children were forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for large-scale sheep farming.

This poem reflects much of the anguish and despair experienced by forced emigrants as they left their family homes for the unknown.

Frank McNie was born in Falkirk, Scotland, in 1948, and now lives in Ontario, Canada. 


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Sconcer Inquiry

Notes from the proceedings on the forced migration of Skye crofters from Sconcer to the towns of Suisnish and Borreraig

 

Letter from Sheriff Brand

(Dated 20th November, 1900)

In 1900, some crofters from Sconcer who had received notice from their landlord to vacate MacDonald lands, had in opposition to the writ, refused to leave. Short of forcibly removing the tenants and all their livestock, the local Sheriff and others had attempted to reach an amenable agreement between MacDonald and the Crofters.

MacDonald even offered to allow them to relocate to some less congested lands in the villages of Sconcer to Suisnish at the west coast of Skye, but there was an issue of who would pay for the building of houses and roads necessary for such a relocation. This, and the following three segments are excerpts from letters and papers that followed the dispute.


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Letter from Lord Balfour to Sheriff Brand

(Dated 23rd November, 1900)

Lord Balfour’s response to Sheriff Brand’s request that the Congested Districts Board cover the entire cost of relocating excess crofters from Sconcer to Suisnish and Borreraig on Skye. Balfour expresses scepticism at the MacDonald Estate’s inability to pay for the new infrastructure required to furnish a migration to the west coast villages, but does point out that should the crofters be ejected from MacDonald land, they would be eligible for some compensation, and that perhaps they ought to negotiate further with that in mind.


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Minutes from the Sconcer Inquiry

(Dated 17th November 1900)

The Sheriff expresses concern at the impasse reached between the crofters and the trustees of the MacDonald estate. He suggests that the Congested Districts Board and the MacDonald Estate work to come to an appropriate solution to the funding issue.


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Statement by crofter Alexander Mackinnon

(Dated 8th December, 1900)

One of the local crofters questions the need for relocation and announces his unwillingness to relocate.


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The experience of immigrants in Scotland

 

Letter from the Home Office on Irish Immigration

(Dated 4 October 1933)

In response to an earlier letter discussing strategies of slowing the rise in the Irish population moving to Britain, the author considers and rejects the suggestion that immigrants from Ireland be screened in order to prevent the settling of undesirables such as the mentally ill and criminals in Scotland.

The author points out that such a process would require the establishment of border screening at all British ports and along the border between Northern Ireland and the South, all to prevent a mere 1% in undesirable immigrants. The author also points out that the number of Irish presently residing in Scotland was little more than 5000.

As Britain was still allowing foreigners from other ethnic origins through an open-door immigration policy, it did not appear to be entirely sensible to make significant policy changes just to keep out the Irish.


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Scottish Board of Health Memorandum

Poor Removal Act 1862 / Scottish Act: 1898 (dated June 1922)

The Memorandum outlines the conditions required for the removal from Scotland to Ireland of Irish-born poor persons in receipt of relief from their parish council in Scotland.  A number of conditions are made clear as to the eligibility or ineligibility for transport of Irish residents, and rules for exemption. An appeals process is outlined allowing for extenuating circumstances such as health, relation to gainfully employed individuals, and perceptions of hardship that might arise as a result of transportation.


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Scottish Board of Health Minutes

(Dated June 1922)

A note on the absence of reciprocal legislation providing for the expulsion of paupers of English or Scottish origin.


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Jewish testimony: Alec Bernstein

This is an account of the experience of a Scottish-born Jewish boy and his family experience of being immigrants in Scotland during the First World War.


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Jewish testimony: Harry Criven

This is an account of the experience of Harry Criven, a Jewish son of immigrant parents living in Glasgow.


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Jewish testimony: Symie Miller

This is the account of Symie Miller, and his family experience as immigrants in Scotland.


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