Macaulay Family of Lewis - Hebridean Feuds - 19th Century: Evictions, Clearances, and Emigration

19th Century: Evictions, Clearances, and Emigration

Although the Lewis evictions were not on the same scale as those elsewhere in the Highlands, the mass evictions, and deserted villages within the parish of Uig, were a testament to the Highland Clearances. In 1793, Francis Humberston Mackenzie advertised the whole parish as a sheep farm; later in 1796 he issued 133 summonses of removal to its tenants. By the 1820s, the Earl of Seaforth attempted to evict up to 1,000 people from the parishes of Uig and Lochs. Seaforth planned to re-settle the tenants in Stornoway and Barvas, and encourage them to take up work in his proposed fishery. Tenants in Loch Roag, were removed from their homes to newly lotted settlements on the coast; one of these new settlements was later cleared for a sheep farm and its tenants were shipped away to North America. In 1825, the Uig evictions began when Kirkibost and Little Bernera were cleared to make way for Linshader Farm. Between the years 1825–1828, the tenants of Uig were deprived of moorland pasture land, as well as their wintering islands. The houses of the inhabitants of Timsgarry were "rased out" to make room for the glebe of Rev. Alexander Macleod. In 1838, Mealista, the largest township in West Uig, was cleared and the majority of the former inhabitants went to Canada.

In 1833, the New Statistical Account of Scotland declared that Lewis was "a full century behind other parts of Scotland, in agricultural and domestic improvements, the town and inhabitants of Stornoway excepted, and a few tacksmen". In 1828, provisions were scarce in Uig. The spring of 1835 was wet and cold; the potato crop of 1837 was a complete failure. It was estimated that 1,000 bolls of meal were needed to relieve the distress of the inhabitants of Uig. In 1845, the potato crop failed; the next year was even worse. In 1850, there were 12,892 people living off charity. The new owner of Lewis, Sir James Matheson, offered to pay the passage of the destitute to the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Many Lewis folk took advantage of the offer and settled in Quebec, around Sherbrooke, in what came to be known as "Scotch County". According to Hebridean genealogist Bill Lawson, emigrants from Uig tended to migrate to the St Francis district in Quebec. Donald Macdonald noted that a Lewis Macaulay was among the three most notorious Lewis tacksmen, who aggressively evicted their tenants—Dr. Donald Macaulay of Linshader, "a land grabber and oppressor with an insatiable appetite".

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