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Clearances from Arran

Painting of an Arran family being ‘Cleared’, courtesy of the Sannox Centre, Arran

The Clearances, as most iScot readers will no doubt already be aware, took place during the 18th and 19th centuries and involved the displacement of tens of thousands of people from their homes in the Scottish Highlands. This removal from the land, which many families had worked for generations, led to large-scale emigration to the Scottish Lowlands and North America.

Although commonly known as the Highland Clearances, the phenomenon was not just restricted to what we now think of as the Highlands. This article will take a look at how the Clearances affected the island of Arran, just 40 miles from Glasgow.

Arran in the 18th Century

The island of Arran in the 18th century was very different to how it looks today. The previous century’s Civil War had left its mark and the various communities on the island lived a fairly basic existence. A large part of the island was covered in peat which made it unsuitable for farming. However, there were low-lying areas of good soil, particularly in the south of the island, that were suitable for arable farming, while cattle, sheep and horses could be grazed in the hillier areas in the north. Farming, therefore, was the most common way for Arran folk to make a living, with fishing less prominent at this time.

Involved the displacement of tens of thousands of people from their homes in the Scottish Highlands

None of the modern villages we see today were in existence but, rather, the people lived in small settlements scattered across the landscape.

Reasons for the Clearances

One of the main justifications for the Clearances was to improve farming methods by replacing the old ‘runrig’ system of farming with a new system of enclosed farms.

Runrig farming involved small family groups running their narrow strips of cultivation side-by-side. The strips were reallocated annually so there was little incentive to improve the land. Robert McLellan explains:

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About iScot Magazine

iScot June 2017 issue - the one with The Proclaimers 'Turn that frown upside down' front cover 116 jam packed pages of the best craic in Scotland from the only truly independent pro Scottish magazine. Alyn Smith MEP - "You're Welcome Here" Robbie Dinwoodie - Saying 'AYE" with LFI Dave Bowman - The Angus Roberston Interview Derek Bateman - More Democracy? Dave Bowman - Gala's Pride Tom Morton - Cadenhead celebrates & Scotland's best Whisky Column Wee Ginger Dug - Nae North Britain Blaze's Trail - Dog for Sale! David J Black - A bedtime story Grousebeater - Promoting The Proclaimers Jason Michael McCann - Subversion of Democracy? John MacKenzie - The Arran Clearances ( yes, 40 miles from Glasgow!) Zoe Weir - Within its walls - Linlithgow Palace Iain McLaren - Photo Essay Mary Edward - The Jews of Glasgow Indy Lawyer - Your very good health Vivien Martin - Spaceman & Spies iScot Short Story - David McVey - Mr Scotland Major Bloodnok and Mystic Mons Meg Heidbyler Soduko ( No, not Sudoko!) Readers Letters