A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57


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The old impediments of poverty and reluctance to leave made themselves felt. Crofting itself probably became more supportable as the real level of crofter rents declined - though harvest shortfalls and bad weather recurred from time to time. This tenacious attitude to land was reinforced by the terms of the Napier Commission Report which established unprecedented conditions of tenure and landholding security. The conventional image of the Highland Diaspora does not fit easily with the idea that the Highlanders were clinging on, rather than populating the colonies, for which they were endlessly recommended by economists, governments and landlords.

The social psychology of emigration is, therefore, at the very centre of the story of the Highland Diaspora. The question of collective mentality requires direct access to the thinking of the migrants and equally that of non-emigrants. This avoids the reductive iconography which so often dominates the subject. In this context emigrant letters exchanged between the colonies and the Highlands provided a dialogue with home, sometimes a commentary on conditions in both places, and takes the form of direct unmediated testimony. This two-sided exchange allows us into the very centre of these otherwise obscure worlds.


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One such exchange of migrant correspondence connected the classic West Highland district of Gairloch with the Goulburn Plains in New South Wales in the middle years of the nineteenth century. These letters derived from a middling stratum in the hungry Highlands: Hector McDonald was one of several sons of Murdo McDonald, a farmer and dealer on the West Coast at Charlestown and Auchtercairn, involved in provisioning and herring curing as well as financing local fishermen.

Hector McDonald emigrated to Australia with his wife and two sons and another born en route and settled near Goulburn, employed by William Craig. In he arranged the passages for his younger brother John and also two cousins who went to Melbourne and evidently were caught up in the gold rushes at that time. The surviving letters were written by Murdo McDonald from Gairloch in which he transmitted his version of conditions prevailing at that time on the West Coast. The first in , a year after the departure of his son, celebrated the news they had received in Charlestown from New South Wales regarding the arrival of his son.

Evidently such letters were widely circulated in the community and aroused interest in emigration. Famine conditions had damaged the local community which was dependent on food imports. In March Murdo explained that he had been as far as Banff to buy in meal which had consumed 16 days by travel. In he was pleased with prices and fishing was good and he was trading with Skye at this time. But he was concerned about not hearing from his son. In October he remarked that times were now rather better:. We had a pretty good season here this year — good prices for Cattle and sheep and a good herring fishing and the Potatoes have stood very well this year unless they go in the Pits, they are very plentiful indeed, but after all I do believe that some people would do better in Australia if they would muster the courage to go.

And a year later in July the news was better still — the herring were doing very well and the region was now even exporting some of its potatoes. Murdo McDonald reported that there had been quite heavy emigration from Skye but not much from Gairloch itself, though there was much talk of the gold rushes in Australia. Juicier news related to the recent death of the local estate manager, Macleod. As for Hector McDonald, the story was not sustained and the last of the letters from his father in notes that his colonial son had become tired of Australia.

The father was evidently sceptical about this likelihood. This, therefore, was the world of Gairloch and the context of decision-making among some prospective emigrants. It reflected the straitened times and the ravages of famine and the slow recovery. It showed the mobilisation of a family into emigration, lubricated by assistance to Australia. It showed the critical undercurrents aimed against the landlord and, even more, the contempt for the factor — all classic attitudes in the West Highland context.

The candid calculation of prospects in the district was clear enough, even when the good times returned. The criticism of people who would not think of emigrating to rescue themselves and their families is clear enough — they lacked courage. And the unwisdom of returning home was registered despite the relative failure of the son in Goulburn — he would be better advised to battle on in New South Wales than return to Gairloch.

Henrik Ibsen, by Edmund Gosse

Behind all this was obviously a west Highland economy which gave little encouragement to the next generation. But the way out was not easy; it was compounded by the inertia of the poor themselves. There was a further agenda identifiable beneath the surface of the McDonald letters. The McDonalds were at odds with their landlord, whose policies were prompting them to leave Gairloch. The Mackenzies were generally regarded as improving humanitarian and progressive landlords. The population of Gairloch had increased from in to in and continued to increase. The laird, Sir Francis Mackenzie, was committed to improvement without recourse to emigration and was unusually sympathetic to his small tenantry of the west coast.

The landlord embarked on Utopian schemes for estate improvement which entailed a plan for croft culture and management founded on a continental model and inaugurated in the mid s. At its centre was the conversion to individual crofts and careful spade cultivation and regulation. The system involved house-feeding of cattle, the preservation of liquid manures, as well as trenching and draining, and the rotation of crops. About small tenants were re-organised and were required to trench and drain and follow special rotations including vegetables they had never heard of before.

Tenants were to repay at 6. The project caused great turmoil and much recrimination and by the Inverness Courier was already describing the experiment as a failure. The experiment seems to have been overwhelmed by excess population, poor land and the refusal to encourage emigration. The final verdict was not quite a total write-off because the idea of compact small farms became the norm for much of the modern Highlands. It showed that even on the landlord side of the Highland equation, there were efforts to deflect and diminish emigration which, in this case, probably added to persistent congestion in Gairloch.

Highland emigration was therefore a heavily contested matter and the issue is not yet resolved among historians. If the problem in the Highlands was one of diminishing the population to bring it into balance with the circumstances of population growth and structural change in the Highland economy — for which solution there are many advocates — then the improvement of living standards depended on this process of evacuation. In this light the crucial historical question was, not what expelled the people and forced them out, but why the process was so slow and what kept them in the region?

Why was migration so retarded? Here it is instructive to look beyond the Highlands for comparisons with other parts of rural Britain at the time. Commentators on the problem of rural poverty in England frequently and adamantly insisted that the root cause was the reluctance of agricultural labourers to migrate and thereby reduce competition in the rural labour market. This immobility was described by the Colonial Emigration Commissioner, TF Elliot, in the midst of his efforts to recruit such people for the colonies. Their obstinate bloody-mindedness resisted all cajoling, incentives, manipulation and the normal dictates of the labour market which told the people to leave the land.

And so the rural problem in many parts of eastern and southern England continued to fester. The advocates of emigration were frustrated by the failure of rural people to solve the problem of congestion and poverty by escaping out of their own predicaments. They were not behaving in their own best interests, especially when the colonies beckoned so vigorously and offered to pay their fares and provided employment and even land.

Part of the trouble was that the colonies would normally take only the young and the able, those who could be quickly inducted into the labour force. They did not want the old, the sick and the lame and the mass of dependents who were part and parcel of typical poverty. In this respect, therefore, the Highlanders were hardly unusual: it was everywhere difficult to persuade rural folk to emigrate.

British emigration was highly volitional and almost always the initiative came from individuals themselves, without the pressure of inducements or exile. The tenacity of rural people was legendary, and there were familiar echoes of this psychology in, for instance, the North Yorkshire Pennines. This was another rural district which, throughout the nineteenth century, experienced relative decline of agricultural employment opportunities, and little engagement with the forces of industrialisation.

Thus from Swaledale the first people to leave for America in the late s and s were farmers and tradesmen with capital — facilitated by the sale of their farms. It was escape, often accompanied by melancholy scenes of departure. Eventually, notably in the Swaledale district, the population fell by a quarter in the s and by two-thirds over the longer period of , though it was still greater than the local population of This was also true of much of the Highlands across this period.

Much of the West Highlands seemed to follow a similar pattern though in a much accentuated form. In the Highlands the productivity increase was mainly confined to sheep farming, and the rest of the community became no more secure than before. Nevertheless the crofters clung on, and managed to reaffirm their grip on the land, and squeezed a living from their crofts against the odds and against the insistent advice of the emigrationists.

The ultimate solvent of this psychology seems to have been the progressively widening gap between conditions in the Highlands and the south of Scotland and other prospective destinations of Highland migrants. The widening differential of income and living standards, and especially of education, appears to have generated mobility against the opposite forces.

The crofter system was retentive, a sort of unsatisfactory compromise, a half-way house between independence and communalism, between the market and peasant existence. It survived against the odds. Back in Gairloch, Dr John Mackenzie told of a conversation about the mischievous effect of education: a tenant told him that.

And now nothing will serve them but being off to Inverness and Glasgow, and even London, quite discontented with what their forefathers were happy with all their lives in Gairloch. Local conditions in many parts of the Highlands evidently operated to impede migration. In the very long run there was an absolute decline of population even in the most westerly districts. Moreover it is too easy to exaggerate the slow character of Highland emigration which, after all, continued fitfully throughout the century and spread the Highlanders across the face of the British world.

Moreover there is a certain tyranny among available sources which may distort the Highland story, especially in Australia but also in New Zealand. The best statistics and nominal data about individual emigrants come from shipping lists and are mainly confined to the assisted immigrants, i.

This is particularly true of the great schemes of the s and the s and this source favours the poorest strata among the migrants, a nice reversal in the historical record. At the other extreme the plutocratic migrants from the Highlands tend to show up in triumphant form in the various national Dictionaries of Biography — and it is possible to consider a prosopography of the class of Highland emigrant to both Australia and New Zealand.

But this bilateral division, the dual structure, of Highland emigration sources obscures a missing link in the story, the other Highlanders who probably constitute the silent majority. For instance, in the great year of immigration into Victoria, , the Highland and Island Emigration Society brought in 2, emigrants from the Highlands. There was another, somewhat wilder, claim that there were 20, Highlanders in Victoria in They are generally better known to genealogists than to academic historians and they remain mainly uncharted and unrecognised.

But, in this respect, the Highlanders overseas were not more disadvantaged than the rest of the British Diaspora. The period to was one of enormous economic and social upheaval for the Scottish Highlands, and this was particularly the case for the Sutherland estate, which saw the clearance of small tenants on a large scale as part of a complete re-organisation of tenancy structures, from small scale mixed farming to large scale sheep farming.

At its peak after , the estate covered nearly the whole county of Sutherland, roughly one million acres, with the seat of the family in the east of the county, at Dunrobin Castle. The family were elevated from the earldom to the Dukedom of Sutherland in , a reflection of their close court connections, as well as their great wealth and territorial dominance. In addition, they had roughly 30, acres of land in England, plus three further country mansions, as well as their London palace, Stafford House.

On top of this, the ducal family were not averse to high personal spending. The 2 nd Duke of Sutherland spent a large chunk of the family fortune re-modelling and improving all of his homes. Although one of the richest families in Britain, there was constant worry among the estate management about finances, principally dealt with by the estate Commissioner, or head factor. The post was widely regarded as among the most prestigious in Britain, although James Loch may have wryly questioned that assessment.

The Sutherland Estate was divided into three managements, of roughly , acres each: the Dunrobin management, which covered the eastern and southern portions of the county, the Tongue management, which covered the north, and the Scourie management, which covered the western portion of the county. Aside from the usual factoring duties, such as rent and rate collection, administering both the large and small lets, advertising and keeping farm and later, catering for shooting tenants, they were also expected to be the lynchpin of local public administration.

After the Sutherland factors chaired every Parish Board in the county, for example, with similar roles on Education Boards after ; they also acted in a legal capacity — indeed, a sound knowledge of the law was seen as essential to the job. They had to speak Gaelic, be physically robust, travelling many miles in all weathers, trustworthy with finances and of the required social standing to be seen as equal to the large sheep farm tenants and local clergymen. Overall, the Sutherland Estate, due to its vast territorial size, had a complex and elaborate management hierarchy; this was necessary, but became problematic in times of great internal change as deep tensions developed between the staff, at times paralysing activity until resolved.

The marriage of Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, to Lord Stafford in meant that both the improving ideology and the financial resources were in place to generate reform. The clearances in Sutherland completely re-organised the tenancy structure on the estate, for two main purposes: first, to generate a larger rental roll for the estate, but secondly, a genuine if perhaps misguided desire to improve the economic and social condition of the poverty stricken population.

The central thesis of the clearance policy was that by removing a numerous and growing population of small tenants from the interior glens and replacing them with large sheep farms, the small tenants could be set up along the coasts and therefore encouraged to take up the more secure and remunerative employment of fishing. Firstly, the landlord had a duty to improve his estate for his family and future heirs; large scale improvements were seen as long term investments for the future income and standing of the family. Secondly, the landlord was seen to have a duty to improve the economic and moral circumstances of the poor tenants on the estate.

Emigration was one of the more controversial areas of landlord improvements, on the Sutherland Estate and elsewhere. It was never part of the clearance policy to remove small tenants from the estate entirely, but in the decades that followed, emigration became more attractive to the poverty-stricken population and to the estate factors.

This was especially the case during and after the Great Highland Famine , when a sustained debate on emigration emerged in lowland and metropolitan circles as a possible response to the collapse of the Highland economy. The Sutherland factors reported huge demand among the small tenants for help to emigrate, as Evander McIver, Scourie factor from , recounted in his memoirs,.

Such was the terror inspired by the potato disease, that numbers of the crofters came to me to express the opinion that the sooner they left the country and emigrated to America the better for them, and asking me to recommend the United Kingdom to assist them to go. I recommended Mr James Loch, the commissioner on the estate, to take up the question seriously. He at once cordially entered into my views, and the consequence was that in the three following years nearly one thousand people emigrated, principally to Upper Canada and Cape Breton; an immense blessing for most of those who went and a valuable relief in the various parishes of this district.

In fact, James Loch took a more critical approach to emigration as a solution, especially in the economically desperate circumstances of the late s and early s. His principal recommendation was emigration. It is clear that the ducal family and estate management felt they were meeting an expressed desire on the part of the Sutherland crofters when helping them to emigrate.

Most of this help came in the form of payment for passages, but also in encouraging emigration agents in the county and negotiating with government on behalf of crofters. One such was a prominent doctor and commentator, William Pulteney Alison, Edinburgh-based and with no personal connections to the Highlands, he nevertheless wrote extensively on them in the wake of the Famine. The ducal family of Sutherland were extremely sensitive about their public reputation, especially in the metropolitan and Court circles where they lived most of their lives.

The bitter public criticism that had followed the Sutherland Clearances, including the trial for homicide of Patrick Sellar and questions in Parliament, made the ducal family keen to clear their reputation. Famine relief, money given to employment and emigration schemes, land reclamation and purchase schemes and educational and medical facilities were all funded by the family, with at least a partial motivation of repairing their negative reputation as clearance landlords. One of the motivations for this was to protect the social and political arm of the Sutherland family.

The 2 nd Duchess, Harriet, for example, was a leading anti-slavery campaigner from the s; such was her standing that when the famous American anti-slavery campaigner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, visited Britain in the early s, she was hosted by Duchess Harriet both at Stafford House in London and Dunrobin Castle. It is clear that the ducal family and estate management of Sutherland were deeply concerned about the protection and reparation of its reputation in the wake of the great Sutherland clearances of the early nineteenth century.

This was so far the case that they were willing to institute financially disadvantageous estate policies to avoid public disapprobation or to garner public support, such as during the Famine. It seems that despite their best efforts — and they do represent among the most coordinated and dedicated of British aristocratic families in the management of their public image — they failed. The response made by the Sutherland crofters has to be examined. Their responses and tactics varied over the decades, but one point can be made with certainty: they were not simply passive recipients of the estate policies that ruled their lives.

Secondly, the response of commentators, writers and the press has to be considered; comment on the Sutherland estate tended to appear in clumps, focussing on key events, such as the trial of Patrick Sellar, or in later decades, events such as the Famine, as proof of the failure of the clearance policy. The bulk of the clearances in Sutherland were over by the early s, but the Highland Famine of the late s created a stir in the Sutherland estate management.

This deep subsistence crisis was just the type of event that the clearances were supposed to end; by removing the population to the coasts and encouraging them to take up fishing as their main source of income, the estate had hoped to prevent the regular subsistence crises that had dogged the small tenants up to the early nineteenth century. By the late s there were only two uncleared townships in Sutherland: Knockan and Elphin, both in the Scourie management.

As with most townships in the west and north of the estate, the small tenants were struggling to pay their rents while under the shadow of the Famine; out of the three managements, Scourie consistently defied all attempts by the estate at economic and social improvement.

In addition, McIver wanted to remove a section of grazing, Altnachy, from the Elphin tenants and attach it to a neighbouring sheep farm let, Cromault, using their rent arrears as a pretext. As he explained to Loch,. This year [] the Elphin arrears have increased too much…Two tenants have emigrated from this township and there are one or two more so poor and so deeply in arrear that I must deprive them of their lands.

I propose to add it to Cromault which is too small a place for one shepherd…and the effect of this change will be to stimulate the tenants of these townships to pay more punctually. This was a common tactic of Highland estate managements, and would remain so until the late nineteenth century; it usually worked well, but in , it backfired on McIver when the Sheriff Officer deputed to serve the notices of eviction was violently deforced.

Unfortunately for McIver, the response of his superiors to the case was not in line with his wishes. James Loch was well aware that the 2 nd Duke had no stomach either for clearances or the publicity that would quickly surround a legal dispute with his small tenants, particularly in the difficult economic circumstances of the early s, when a great deal of Lowland and metropolitan attention was focussed on the plight of the region. What Loch was trying to highlight to McIver was that although in the eyes of the law the Elphin tenants had behaved illegally, and that the estate was entitled to use the law against them in a severe manner, it would be better for the reputation of the estate and its relations with the small tenants generally, if they took a more conciliatory approach.

Loch and the Duke had another view of landlord-tenant relations, however; this view prioritised a paternalistic image of the landlord, committed to the moral economy of the estate, rather than as a remote and domineering approach, forced to resort to legal action. This is not to claim that the factors were without sympathy for the small tenants, or that they were not aware that the clearances were often blamed for their economic difficulties. I wish the Duke to fix on a limited sum for each parish to be expended in the improvement of their lots.

Bear in mind that the increase in the population leads to a yearly increasing consumption of food, that at the present rate of improvement the increase of people will outstrip the increase of food produced. Recollect also that these people have no leases, no means, no knowledge, that they are at present very dependent on their landlord, that it is his duty, when he has the means, to do all in his power consistent with reason and with position for their amelioration; that you and I are responsible for our dealings with them…we have also a duty to perform towards a number of poor, ignorant and simple men.

It was just this type of dependence that Loch had striven his whole career to break. By the time of his death in , he recognised that all his efforts had failed; the crofters were not a thriving community of fishermen, the Great Famine had put paid to any notion that the clearances would prevent subsistence crises and the Duke was not free from direct responsibility for his tenants or a problematic public reputation. The Sutherland estate faced other, external, challenges to its policies, both past and present, in the early nineteenth century.

The huge scale of the clearances undertaken on the estate roused public controversy as soon as they were begun, and this controversy continued to raise its head throughout the nineteenth century, to the frustration of the ducal family. The person who stood at the head of this economical revolution was a female Mehemet Ali, who had well digested her Malthus — the Countess of Sutherland. Where did they find a home? In the United States of North America. Ironically, Beecher Stowe praised the Sutherlands for the same reasons that Marx condemned them; for their paternalistic view of the responsibilities of landlordism.

He pointed to the contemporary poverty of the Sutherland crofters as evidence, before going on to discuss the nature of landownership more generally, as Marx had done. The Sutherland estate staff were horrified by what they saw as the libellous slanders contained in the book, and the fact that they were again required to comment on and defend the past actions of the estate. George Loch, who succeeded his father in , as an MP and regular of the London club and political scene, decided in to put together a definitive defence of the clearances as a policy, the methods used, and the long term results.

He called upon the estate factors to help, by using their management records, as none had been in post when the clearances were actually carried out. Horsburgh pointed out to Loch that. The general view of the estate staff on the ground was that the clearances were in the past, and so were not relevant to contemporary discussion, particularly in the wake of the Highland Famine, when questions of emigration, Poor Law reform and landlord responsibilities were far more pressing in their eyes.

The cloud of the clearances hung over the family, with the potential to damage their political and social careers. I know there is an immense amount of spurious platitudes abroad on the subject of Removals and Clearances in the Highlands and especially Sutherland, and that in many cases humane and generous feelings are strongly entertained by many intelligent persons who, if they knew practically the difficulties which soil, position and climate interpose to the well being of the people of the Highlands, and who, if they had lived among the people during the trying years of the destitution, would hold very different ideas.

McIver argued that it was not the responsibility of the estate to try to change the views of the public; indeed, the very remoteness of the estate made it practically impossible that they should attempt it, and the staff should not be swayed by public opinion at all. As he pointed out to Loch,. Surely not. Despite the worries of the ducal family and Loch, the estate did not compile an organised defence of its past or present estate policies, and were swayed by the views of the factors. Indeed, even during the s, when real political pressure and the threat of legislation loomed, the Sutherland estate refused to recognise the need for a sophisticated explanation and defence of the clearances.

Although the Highland Famine was recognised by the estate staff as evidence of the long term failure of the clearance policy, the emigration which followed in its wake was perceived as an alternative form of improvement, generously bestowed on the people by their liberal and rich landlord. One the one hand, there was presented an idealised, historically informed view of the paternalistic clan chief; the individual who held the economic and social well being of his tenants as his greatest responsibility, the two tied together by history and kinship.

Both Marx and MacLeod viewed the early nineteenth century Highlands as a demonstration of what happened when the first image of paternalistic clan chief, was replaced by the second, and the resulting poverty and emigration as the symptoms of this change. In other words, the changes heralded by the clearances were more than an economic reform of Highland agriculture, but an ideological change as well.

These controversies created fault lines of division within the Sutherland estate management. For the ducal family and the Commissioner, financial penalties were worth paying and effort worth making to defend their historical and contemporary reputation from these attacks. The circles they moved in; parliament, clubs and Court, were sensitive sounding boards to the type of scandal that was attached to their name, and they were willing to make a sustained effort to combat them. The factors in Sutherland, however, did not accept this view.


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For them, the clearances were an event in the irrelevant past; they simply had to deal with the situation as it stood. Effort was concentrated on breaking the perceived dependence of the small tenants on the largesse of the Duke, something which they failed to achieve in our period. Although the Sutherland estate came under sustained public attack in print in the s, there was no increased political pressure to either account for their past actions or reform their contemporary management techniques.

That type of change would come in the s with the Crofters War, when a combination of press attention, government criticism and internal breakdown forced some abdication of landlord powers. By the Highland soldier was fully involved in the British imperial war effort. Whether in home defence or in counter-insurgency operations in Ireland, or in the Austrian Netherlands, South Africa, India, Ceylon or the West Indies, Highland soldiers had made an extensive contribution to British military activities.

Highlanders had not only joined the existing Highland regiments - the 42 nd and 73 rd later the Black Watch , 71 st and 74 th later the Highland Light Infantry , 72 nd later 1 st battalion, Seaforth Highlanders and the 75 th Stirlingshire Highlanders later 1 st battalion, Gordon Highlanders - but also those formed in response to the French Revolutionary challenge. The last of the new Highland regular regiments was the 93 rd Sutherland Highlanders formed in Service during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars consummated the rehabilitation of the highlander in the eyes of the rest of Britain.

They distinguished themselves at Ticonderoga and the Plains of Abraham, and fought so staunchly that parliament repealed the Disarming Act in In , officers of Scottish origin accounted for over a quarter of infantry officers. After the passage of a Militia Act in , another ten thousand enlisted in new fencibles corps and the Scottish militia during , albeit after riots over the threat of conscription.

Meanwhile the militia, limited to young unmarried men drawn by ballot who had not evaded through the paying of substitutes, undertook home defence duties anywhere in the British Isles. Finally, Scots responded enthusiastically to the call for volunteers, thereby avoiding militia service, and did so in numbers that far exceeded their proportion of the British population, providing Recruiting motivations had evolved considerably since the large-scale enlistments during the North American wars.

By the s patriotism and opposition to revolutionary forces in France, or at least a desire to demonstrate this opposition played a part. He then returned in to raise the Perthshire Volunteers, a regiment that recruited across the British Isles but principally in the Lowlands. The claims of lairds to be able to fill new corps reflected their continuing importance as landlords able to exploit local patronage.

But raising a new regiment was an expensive undertaking, especially when competition for men drove the cost of bounties well above the official sum. Yet the benefits of raising a new regiment were considerable. Francis Humberston MacKenzie of Seaforth, without any military experience, became the first lieutenant-colonel commandant of his newly raised 78 th. Cameron of Erracht commanded the 79 th from until and obtained commissions for his four sons in the regiment, the eldest of whom succeeded him as lieutenant colonel.

Even more importantly, raising a regiment enhanced reputation with the government of the day and gave access to inner circles of power. MacKenzie was made lord lieutenant of Ross in , then Lord Seaforth and Baron MacKenzie of Kintail in , then governor of Barbados in , and then given permanent military rank as lieutenant general in Within the Highlands, the raising of a regiment conferred obligations on families and friends of minor gentry who also profited from the venture.

When the fourth Duke of Gordon raised the th Foot in , he employed his charismatic son, George, the marquis of Huntly, as its first commanding officer and the fabled charms of Duchess Jean. He also exercised his feudal links and friendship with Lochiel, chief of Clan Cameron, to raise a third of his recruits from Inverness-shire. Even so, he still had to complete his quota from the Lowlands, England and Ireland. After the massive surge of recruitment in , the numbers of Highland and Scots-born recruits began to diminish and so reduced territorial influence and pressure.

In , Erracht found difficulty in re-raising the 79 th after the original regiment had been decimated by disease in the West Indies and of the survivors had drafted into other regiments. Erracht had to recruit throughout the British Isles and Graham sent recruiting parties out in London, Manchester, Nottingham, Shrewsbury and Leicester. He subsequently admitted that Manchester or Birmingham produced twice as many men for the 90 th as his own county. Even the 42 nd could find only fifty per cent of its recruits from the Highlands in and the 71 st had to bring itself up to strength in by securing six hundred volunteers from the Scottish fencible corps in Ireland.

Recruits responded from desire to escape economic hardship, the appeal of cash bounties for the economically destitute, a sense of adventure and the other attractions of military service. Recruitment was often drummed up by recruiting parties with liberal amounts of ale and impressments by landowners and commissioners under the Recruiting Acts.

Men also joined the volunteers in response to patriotic fears over home defence, especially in when France had allies across the North Sea and there was hardly any naval presence north of the Forth of Clyde. The volunteers derived monetary and other benefits from this part-time, localised military service. This included removal from the ballot for the militia, if not from conscription, under the Army of Reserve Act. Tom Morris, a Middlesex Volunteer, enrolled in the 73 rd Foot after hearing tales of military service in Spain. Some men enlisted on a whim in a moment of deep despair. Overseas service, once a cause of mutiny over accusations of broken promises in the Letters of Service, had limited appeal but highlanders served like other British soldiers in all the major overseas campaigns.

The dispersal of Highland soldiery and the diversity of their experience was extraordinary. Arthur Wellesley later the Duke of Wellington. When the Duke ordered his seven thousand men to assault the main Mahratta army of over forty thousand troops at Assaye, the 78 th led the left flank to engage and rout the enemy.

The 74 th and 78 th fought in the subsequent victory at Argaum and, together with the 94 th Scotch Brigade , stormed the supposedly impregnable fortress of Gawilghur in After a lengthy period of garrison duty, the 78 th helped to capture of Java in The 72 nd and 93 rd remained on garrison duty for several years but the 71 st served in an abortive campaign in South America where Buenos Aires and Montevideo were captured in but relinquished a year later.


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Of all the campaigns in this era, none was more important than the expedition to Egypt in This boosted the reputation of Highland regiments and revived the fortunes of the British army after several defeats in continental Europe. Another Scot, Sir Ralph Abercromby, led a carefully planned amphibious landing at Abouir Bay and the 42 nd in Reserve repulsed a French cavalry attack with two volleys of musketry. In the advance on Alexandria, the junior regiments acted as riflemen, leading the right and left of the army, and withstood another cavalry attack at Mandora, albeit at heavy cost the 92 nd lost some fifty per cent of officers and men in killed and wounded.

The army marched on to victory at Alexandria but lost Abercromby, who was mortally wounded. When the army advanced on Cairo, an day march in sweltering conditions, 1, fell sick with dysentery and opthalmia before the Anglo-Turkish force compelled the surrender of the French garrison in June After recuperating in Cairo, the expeditionary force completed the six-month campaign by securing the capitulation of the French garrison in Alexandria in September The unexpected victory earned acclamation and honours for the returning army.

During the temporary truce that followed the British government demobilised and disbanded the fencibles and volunteers but when the Peace of Amiens collapsed in , and the threat of invasion recurred, the Volunteer Force was revived, amassing some four hundred thousand men in local units across the Great Britain by Once again Scottish volunteering vastly exceeded its share of the British Isles population and many more offered themselves as volunteers than were needed.

Volunteers in Argyll represented fifteen per cent of its population, and the seven per cent return in Perthshire was the second highest percentage for any inland county. Under the Army of Reserve Act the House of Commons sought to raise an additional fifty thousand men by conscription for home defence but allowed men to volunteer for general service. Brought up to strength by regular recruiting, the second battalions served as depot battalions, supplying the first battalions with drafts, and some served in Ireland or overseas.

Scouring the glens for recruits was proving less productive at a time when crofters and cottars were being cleared from their homes to make way for sheep. During the bleak recruiting year of , over double the number of parties operated compared to elsewhere in the British Isles but they only produced an average of eight men per party. This was well below the yields in large urban areas of England and well below the 22 recruits per party in Ireland. With the army competing in coastal areas with the Royal Navy, which offered higher bounties and the chance of sharing prize money, the government sought volunteers from trained militiamen.

However, fourteen of the fifteen Scottish Militias failed to fulfil their quotas in , and in the ensuing period from the Act to , recruitment from the Kincardine and Forfar Militia and the Aberdeen Militia, at forty five per cent apiece, was among the worst in the British Isles. These policies had the effect of concentrating Scottish infantry within ten regiments. By , seventyper cent of Scots in the infantry of the line served in these regiments: five of the Highland regiments were over eighty per cent Scottish in composition; and the other five, three Highland and two Lowland, were over sixty per cent Scottish.

Many of the Highland regiments served throughout most of the British involvement in the Iberian Peninsular war. In clearing the French from Portugal the 71 st fought in the battles of Roleia, and the decisive one at Vimiera in where Piper George Clark, wounded in both legs, continued to play his comrades forward, so earning a set of silver mounted pipes for his bravery from the Highland Society of London. Five Highland regiments experienced another facet of Peninsular campaigning in the dismal retreat through appalling December weather to Corunna. Notwithstanding such lapses, the losses of the Highland regiments men or per battalion compared favourably with the overall infantry losses of 6, men or per battalion.

Moreover, when allowed to engage the French in a rearguard action at Corunna 12 January , they repelled the enemy albeit at the loss of another revered Scottish commander, Sir John Moore. In the abortive assault upon Walcheren Island in the mouth of the River Scheldt, soldiers lived on salt meat and biscuits sometimes only apples and corn without any proper clothing, blankets or cover in the flat, swampy, fever-ridden conditions.

Of the forty thousand British soldiers, four thousand died only in combat and another twelve thousand were returned to England for hospital treatment. About three-quarters of the 71 st fell ill but only 69 died and this regiment like the 1 st battalions of the 42 nd , 91 st and 92 nd were out of action for many months.

Even when the convalescents returned to action, the debilitating effects continued. Slightly less affected than the other Highland regiments, the 79 th and 90 th returned to the peninsula, where they fought in the defence of Cadiz and later in the defensive battle of Busaco in When Wellington embarked on his spring offensive of , Highland regiments fought in an army properly equipped at last with a siege train, hospitals and tents.

Highland soldiers fought at the decisive battle of Vittoria, then the fierce battles at Maya and the Pyrenees. The 91 st lost casualties, the 79 th lost casualties, and the 42 nd lost casualties out of the officers and men that went into action. This battle was unnecessary since Napoleon had abdicated ten days previously, and another extremely costly loss occurred at New Orleans where the 93 rd suffered 75 per cent casualties in a battle fought after a peace treaty had been signed in Ghent but the news had not reached the British expeditionary force.

Once again legends were made and reputations were enhanced. Although all the accolades were won at Waterloo, where Piper Kenneth McKay distinguished himself by piping outside his square to rally the hard-pressed 79 th , and myths were forged about the stirrup charge of the Gordons and the Greys, the Highlanders were even more heavily engaged in the previous battle. As regiments formed squares to resist these attacks, the 42 nd had to complete the improbable feat of closing their square with French lancers on the inside.

In the six hours of fighting the 79 th lost nearly half of its fighting strength and the 42 nd lost their revered colonel who was mortally wounded in the groin. In his official despatch, Wellington commended the services of these three Highland regiments, as well as the 28 th and the battalion of Hanoverians. Yet Waterloo established the reputation of the Highland soldiers as no battle had ever done. When the highlanders eventually returned home after a brief occupation of Paris, they received ecstatic receptions not only in Scotland but also in England as they marched north to Edinburgh.

The kilted battalions were depicted as descendants of the clans and their dress, though still restricted to a handful of regiments the 42 nd , 78 th , 79 th , 92 nd and 93 rd , became increasingly identified as emblematic of the Scottish nation. Major-General David Stewart of Garth, formerly of the 42 nd Highlanders, founded the Celtic Society of Edinburgh in and wrote Sketches of the Highlanders , a description of the old clan society and a chronicle of the Highland regiments.

The two-week event, the first visit of a Hanoverian monarch to Scotland, turned into an extravaganza of tartan as the elite of Scottish society and the king himself worn tartan at spectacular pageants, stage-managed by Scott, that commemorated the mythical customs and traditions of the clans. In these circumstances former Highland regiments understandably sought to recover their former status.

Highland and former Highland regiments, nonetheless, were retained on the peacetime establishment in far larger numbers than the population of the Highlands warranted. This sense of loyalty may have derived as much from prolonged military service as from the background of the Highland soldier. Nevertheless, Highland regiments discharged their public order duties in Ireland as they did in mainland Britain.

When heavily pressed by mobs, they responded to the orders of local magistrates and fired on their assailants, as the 93 rd did at Tullow in , killing two Irishmen and wounding another three. In the same year, the 78 th fired on rioters in Glasgow, and during the industrial disturbances and Chartist riots in the north of England in the late s and s, when Highland regiments were routinely deployed, often by rail in aid of the civil power, the 72 nd fired on mobs in Preston and Blackburn in If such duties were distasteful to all concerned, as Anton conceded, they could still be discharged without completely alienating the local citizenry.

At a time when tensions between the army and society were fairly acute, the reputation of Highland regiments benefited from the extensive patronage bestowed by Queen Victoria, whose affection for Scotland and its people blossomed from her first visit to the country in , followed by her first sight of Balmoral six years later, and by her long and frequent visits thereafter. Yet Highland regiments had limited opportunities to enjoy royal patronage. Like the rest of the British army, they had to perform their share of overseas postings in India and the colonies. These were often hazardous postings: yellow fever proved a scourge in the West Indies - the 91 st Argyllshire lost 20 officers and NCOs and other ranks when quartered in Jamaica from — and even transit by sea could prove disastrous, notably for the passengers and crew of the Birkenhead , which struck rocks off the Cape of Good Hope on 26 February Some 12 officers and NCOs and men were on board of whom Lieutenant —Colonel Alexander Seton of the 74 th was the senior officer, and the 73rd, 74 th and 91 st all had sizeable contingents.

The officers and men maintained impeccable discipline, enabling all the women and children to escape but only persons survived the shark-infested waters, and the largest number of military fatalities, 56, came from the 73rd. The heroism and discipline of the soldiers impressed royalty across Europe and earned a commendation from the venerable Duke of Wellington in his last public appearance. Prior to the outbreak of the Crimean War Highland regiments were involved in some colonial campaigns and wars but not the major wars in India. Consequently their impact tended to be somewhat localized but still distinctive.

When the 71 st arrived in Montreal in , it arrived in a town split between English- and French-speaking Canadians with a sizeable Irish Catholic minority. There had already been election riots in the town and a small-scale rebellion along the American border, and the 71 st had to serve alongside an irregular militia, the Glengarry Highlanders, in suppressing a second rebellion.

The 72 nd and 75 th served in the Sixth War , punishing the Xhosa tribesmen for their raids upon settler communities. Supported by the Cape Mounted Rifles, and Mfengu and Khockhoi levies, the highland soldiers burned villages, captured cattle and dispersed the enemy. Similar fighting recurred in when companies of the 73 rd and 91 st launched assaults upon the Xhosa strongholds in the kloofs thickly wooded valleys of the Amatola Mountains. When the Xhosa again mounted raids in , the 74 th joined the reinforcements sent to the Cape. Under the instructions of Colonel Fordyce, the regiment discarded their scarlet jackets, plaids and other accessories in favour of canvas blouses, forage caps with leather peaks and lighter pouches.

They fought alongside the 73 rd and 91 st , with pipers accompanying the regiments on their long marches in the severe heat, pursuing the enemy through the bush, climbing up precipitous slopes, burning villages and seizing livestock and prisoners. Captain W.

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Like Captain James Alexander, a Black Watch staff officer, who had served in the Sixth Frontier War, he deprecated the support for these tribesmen voiced by radicals and missionaries at home. Although six Highland regiments 42 nd , 71 st , 72 nd , 79 th , 92 nd and 93 rd served in the war, the original Highland Brigade 42 nd , 79 th and 93 rd earned many of the plaudits and lasting fame. Within days of landing in the Crimea, it served in the front line under Sir Colin Campbell, storming the Russian positions on the heights above the River Alma 20 September Quite apart from the courage, comradeship and discipline displayed, the Sutherland Highlanders earned widespread praise because, in the words of Colour-Sergeant J.

The reporting of this war by Russell highlighted both the privations of the ordinary soldier and the failings of the high command. Both on the line of march where fewer highlanders fell out than guardsmen in the accompanying brigade, and in the camp at Balaclava, the highlanders displayed remarkable stoicism. The brigade was also spared the carnage of the battle of Inkerman.

Accordingly, when the highlanders were sent under Sir George Brown to storm Kerch and open the Sea of Azov to allied shipping May , they incurred smouldering resentment. Such feelings were not universal. Yet even these services would soon be eclipsed by the exploits of the Highland Regiments during the Indian Mutiny The bloody revolt in Meerut had precipitated a widespread orgy of arson, looting and murder of Europeans, with the most infamous act occurring at Cawnpore where the garrison was massacred after the promise of safe conduct by Nana Sahib 27 June , followed by the murder of 73 women and children and the throwing of naked bodies down a well 15 July Highlanders subsequently fought in many of the principal actions, engaging in fierce fighting and bloody reprisals.

The big, rough-bearded soldiers were seizing the little children out of our arms, kissing them with tears rolling down their cheeks and thanking God they had come in time to save them from the fate of those at Cawnpore. Once again Highlanders served as assault troops, with the 93 rd , aided by Sikhs and artillery, storming Sikandarbagh and the Shah Najaf mosque, killing some 2, sepoys.

Having evacuated the women, children, sick and wounded from Lucknow, Campbell returned with a larger army to rout the rebels at Cawnpore 6 December , capture Lucknow 21 March and defeat the army of Khan Bahadur Khan at Bareilly, capital of Rohikhand 5 May While Campbell moved cautiously through the Ganges valley, Sir Hugh Rose later Baron Strathnairn commanded a field army, including the 71 st , in central India, where it battled the severe climatic conditions and shortages of food, water and ammunition to destroy several rebel armies January-June Over the next six months, British forces, including the 72 nd , 73 rd , 74 th , and 92 nd , supported by loyal sepoys, hunted down the remaining rebels.

In this campaign highlanders proved particularly adroit at exploiting the media. Campbell, possibly acting on the advice of Colonel Sterling, determined to avoid a repetition of the Crimea and co-opt the press. Sir Colin took Russell into his confidence, invited him to dine in the mess, and facilitated his reporting even offering him the use of his horse. Their blood-curdling descriptions of reprisals, blowing captured sepoys from guns, shooting or hanging them en masse , and often leaving the corpses piled in heaps or hanging from gallows, chimed with the public desire for retribution.

Lucknow, September by Frederick Goodall. In this pivotal episode of British imperialism that would be celebrated in Britain and India over the rest of the century, Highland soldiers assumed a place of prominence in much of the commentary. Although the Highland regiments had undoubtedly justified their retention in disproportionate numbers on the British military establishment, recruiting strains were beginning to recur.

Whereas the 93 rd had embarked for India in with 1, men, of whom were Scotsmen, the majority of whom were Gaelic-speaking, the 42 nd attracted only 20 per cent of its recruits from the Highlands in and the 78 th , barely 50 per cent of its recruits from Scotland in Irrespective of changes in the composition of Highland regiments, they had preserved a distinctive identity, increasingly recognised as a national identity within Scotland, and across the Scottish diaspora, but one firmly intertwined with a British identity and ultimately expressed in an imperial mission.

A Hole in the Fence. Small and isolated communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland showed their mettle by how they responded to Clearances and Improvements in the early nineteenth century. Some of the character traits of the people are evident in these case studies of two remote communities in the Hebrides, Colonsay and Benbecula. Law Somner Pty. Pengiun Books Pty. Prudential Assurance Co. Qantas Empire Airways Ltd.

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Fresh unused. Siding-RO c. Kingaroy-RO c. Byrnestown R. Renamed from Kings Creek PO c. Replaced Brookstead Rail PO c. Renamed from Babinda Creek PO c. Renamed from Engelsburg PO c. Renamed from Nanandu PO c. Nice stamp.

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A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57 A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57
A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57 A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57
A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57 A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57
A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57 A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57
A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57 A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57
A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57 A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57
A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57 A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57
A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57 A Ladys Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-57

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