The Highland Clearances are a well documented episode in Scotland’s past but they were not unique. The process began in the Scottish Lowlands nearly a century before the glens and straths were emptied of people. Tens of thousands of Lowlanders were moved from the land by estate owners who replaced them with livestock or enclosed fields of crops.
This revolution of ‘improvement’ helped shape the landscape we accept today as the Scottish countryside. But it also swept aside a traditional way of life, causing immense upheaval and trauma for rural dwellers, many of whom moved to the new towns and cities or emigrated. In the later eighteenth century the simple act of losing land and becoming landless was much more significant for large numbers of people in Lowland society than it was for those in the Gaelic- speaking Highlands of Scotland. The Lowland Clearances also set in train the trend of depopulation which continues to affect Scotland to this day; the number of people who left the Lowlands during the agricultural revolution far exceeded the number exiled from the Highlands. And yet, compared to the Highlands, very little has been written or published about the Lowland Clearances. This book, based on the highly acclaimed BBC documentary series, aims to redress that imbalance. It does not deny the clearances in the Highlands and Islands but reflects pioneering historical research which establishes them as part of a wider process of clearance which affected the whole of Scotland.
Andrew Cassell is the BBC’s Scotland correspondent based in Glasgow.
Peter Aitchison works as a news editor with the BBC in Glasgow. He is author of the highly acclaimed ‘Children of the Sea – the story of the Eyemouth Disaster’ (Tuckwell Press 2001) which formed the basis of a recent television documentary.