Dh’fhag sluagh mor anns an linn a h-ochd deug air son iomadh aite air feadh an t-saoghal. Cha do thill iad riamh ach chaidh cuir an ceil iomadh duan cianalach. Ged a chaidh uine mhor a dhol seachad, tha siol nan daoine sin a’ cumail cuimhne fhathast.
“Whether Highlanders abroad sustained especially cohesive identities, or whether, in their new destinations, they punched above or below their weight, are ultimately difficult questions. More accessible, but no less contentious, are questions relating to the causes of their emigrations and the consequences for the Highlands” (Eric Richards).
Poll Start Date: 28th August 2010
It would be helpful to the website and to gauge interests if visitors without a query in the form of a post could complete the survey:
A fascinating Case History of emigration in the 1800s from the Western Isles is that of the ship ‘Lulan’ which left South Uist in 1848 with emigrants for Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. About a quarter of the passengers died of smallpox on board or shortly after arrival. Deaths on so-called ‘coffin ships’ were not unusual during that period but mostly from cholera or typhus. Some questions which remain unanswered about the ‘Lulan’ voyage and that may be informative about mass emigration from the Isles around that period are:
1. Was the Lulan the only voyage from the Uists to PEI?Nova Scotia? (answer: no, there is one more that we know of which was in 1851).
3. Were the departures in most cases brought about by Clearances? (answer: variable, for example definitely from South Uist but probably not from Benbecula)
4. Was the ‘Lulan’ voyage chartered by a human trafficker? (answer: perhaps and with the knowledge of the shipowner although Captain George MacKenzie of Pictou was generally held in high regard).
5. Was the ‘Lulan’ incubating the smallpox virus as the Uists were free of smallpox? (answer: perhaps, or it was brought on board by passengers embarking in Glasgow. Uist was known until up to recently as perhaps the healthiest and disease-free place in Scotland. It escaped the worst ravages of epidemics of the time such as smallpox, TB, cholera and typhus).
6. Were hopes and expectations raised in Uist people about a better life in Canada than they could get in Glasgow? (yes, which was the reason they did not disembark in Glasgow and take their chances. They were led to believe they were going to a different part of Canada to join relatives).
7. Did Uist people have relatives in Canada who sent word home? (answer: Many Uist people had connections with Wester Ross on the Highland mainland but letters home were a rarity. The exception was the occasion when a party of disbanded Fraser Highlanders entreated their Uist relatives to join them in Canada. 100 of them duly arrived with their leader, the Laird of the Glen, at Prince Edward Island on the ‘Alexander’ in 1772 and formed a settlement at Glenaladale).
8. Did the passengers pay their own way? (answer: probably not as a quarrel arose in Nova Scotia on their arrival about the payment of their fares).
9. Did the passengers with non-Uist names such as Lowther and Samson embark in Glasgow and were they from Lowland Scotland? (answer:probably).
10. Did most of the Uist people have poor or no English? (answer:yes, they could not communicate in English well,a smattering of words at best).
11. Was any attempt made to inhabit evicted people in less populated neighbouring islands such as St. Kilda, Heisker or Taransay to spare them emigration? (answer:probably not. In any event, these islands had their own problems such as plagues of rats that would have put people off).
12. Did Hebridean people make good in North America? (If they did it was on occasion against antipathy. They were described by some influential Canadians as a ‘canting, oat-eating, money-gripping tribe of second-hand Scots’ who were accused of ‘speaking Gaelic and you can’t raise wheat from that’).
These questions are all conjectures at this stage which should be capable of more disproof. Correspondence from PEI, Cape Breton and Nova Scotia would be especially welcome to illuminate these issues.