Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Highlands of Scotland

I have always wanted to visit Scotland, and now I have an even better reason to travel there. My Sutherland ancestors. What a great way to experience the life,the beauty, the culture, and all the people of the land than to visit the place where your ancestors grew up. I may still have family there that I never even know about! Which is a good reason to continue writing this blog. Right now, I'm stuck on the Sutherland branch of my family tree. Alexander, well he's giving me fits right now; where is his information hiding? Is his data in an archive building somewhere collecting dust in the corner of a dark room that nobody ever goes to anymore? Well Alexander, I will find you! One day soon before I'm old and gray I hope! In this post, I kind of want to talk about the Highlands of Scotland where some of my Sutherland family come from. 

The Highlands of Scotland lives up to the picturesque postcards with scenes of outstanding natural beauty, and while its' just natural for you to think of this region as mountainous, there are also miles and miles of beautiful coastlines with turquoise waters and wildlife. The Highlands aren't just all landscapes of green valleys and majestic mountains, but also the historic, remote castles, and the distinctive culture and language of the welcoming towns. 

Even though Scotland is so beautiful, there was such hardship for the Highlanders of the region;   the Scottish Clearances were during the time when Alexander Sutherland came to America. He probably thought it was in his best interest to join the British Army and come to the mainland than it would be to stay in Scotland and most likely starve. The Clearances were the terrible clearing of people from Scottish lands so that they could instead, raise sheep.

"These clearances were in the Highlands -- where the Sutherland family comes from. The Highlands of Scotland is from the Northern border of Scotland and south (about the top third of Scotland). Sutherland County is from the East coast to the West coast of Scotland. Caithness is in the upper Northeast area of Scotland. Some Sutherland's were from Caithness -- but most are from the coast to coast band across Scotland. The people were moved from the lands so they could raise sheep and many were starved or driven out."

(text content was taken from an email I received recently, name if author is confidential for privacy reasons).

"For the people who moved to the coast, life was inevitably hard. They had to adjust to a new lifestyle and try to earn some semblance of a living from fishing- something that most people had no experience doing. In many cases they continued to farm on their small plots of land. The early clearances were the most harsh of all because no alternative was offered. Emigration and migration were discouraged by the landlords as being against the interests of the country and most notably themselves. Kelping demanded a large workforce and while it prospered the landlords and to some extent the people prospered. However, once the kelp prices began to fall during the 1820s this situation changed. Those who did choose to migrate or emigrate were seldom the poorest people in society. They had the means to support themselves in Scotland if they had wished for the emigrating Highlander of this period chose to go to America."
The Clearances of Scotland

Geographically Scotland consists of 2 parts: the mainland and the islands. On the mainland, one can discern 3 clear landmasses: the northern Highlands, the central Highlands and the Lowlands. The Highlands are divided by the Great Glen, a narrow gap in the mountain landscape. It's no wonder many people thought America was the land of opportunity. As compared to the life style they had been living, this must have been such a life saver for them. No pun intended. 

I think that is enough for tonight! (Remember I'm on Hawaii time) More to come tomorrow. What would you like to read on this blog? Dunrobin Castle of Highland, Scotland? Let me know! 

Other Image Source: (Top of Page)
Eilean Donan Castle, West Highlands, Scotland
Photo Credit: Photographer, Medioimages/Photodisc


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