Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

11/6/2006

For most Canadians, roots are elsewhere

ISLE OF TIREE, Scotland—My great-grandmother was a refugee.

The realization of something that I should have known already came to me during a recent week-long visit to the west coast of Scotland. Along with my mother, sister, brother and his wife, I travelled for the first time to this beautiful, tiny, windswept isle in the Inner Hebrides for a gathering of the descendants of Scottish farmers who were pushed or coaxed off Tiree in the late 1800s.

In a period that is still controversial, hundreds of the small-scale tenant farmers — called crofters — emigrated from Tiree. Some contend the farmers were forced to migrate, part of the brutal Highland clearances that allowed wealthy landowners to consolidate their holdings into larger, more profitable farms. Others insist the owner of Tiree, the Duke of Argyll, intended only to improve the standard of living for the average crofter on the over-populated island.

One of the official events during the week-long Tiree gathering was the performance of a play based on the transcripts of testimony given to a commission of inquiry that visited Tiree in 1883. Islanders told chilling tales of being forced out of their homes in the middle of the night by the duke’s local representative and being driven away in wagons while their houses burned to the ground behind them. The emigrants were given passage to places like Canada. The vast majority never again set foot on the land of their birth.

Source-Toronto Star

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