Then & Now: Home Truths

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14 June, 1813: 68 years after the Jacobite rebellion was halted at Culloden, the sheep are being moved into Sutherland and the Highlanders shipped out. In his book, 'The Highland Clearances', John Prebble writes of the Year of the Burnings:

'Betsy MacKay was 16 and she lived at the river's edge by Skail. 'Our family was very reluctant to leave,' she remembered, 'and stayed for some time, but the burning party came round and set fire to our house at both ends, reducing to ashes whatever remained within the walls. The people had to escape for their lives, some of them losing all their clothes except what they had on their backs. The people were told they could go where they liked, provided they did not encumber the land that was by rights their own.'

Grace Macdonald, a girl of 19 living by Langdale, took shelter up the hill with her family when the township was burnt, and waited there a day and a night, watching Sellar's men sporting about the flames. When a terrified cat sprang from a burning house, it was seized and thrown back, and thrown back again until it died there. 'There was no mercy or pity shown to young or old,' said Grace Macdonald. 'All had to clear away, and those who could not get their effects removed in time had it burnt before their eyes.' '

2 September, 1992: Crofters of Assynt in Sutherland are planning to buy - for pounds 473,000 - the North Lochinver Estate, which a bankrupted Scandinavian firm purchased from the Vestey family. If successful, they will set a precedent that could radically alter the pattern of Scottish land ownership.