As I mentioned in my Ship to Shore post, I wanted to do some research into the significance of so many ship sketches carved into the pews of the Barony St. John and this is the first thing I have found;

Ships log

As you can see, this is the passenger list of an American ship, Luevnia, which sailed from Ardrossan to New York on September 2,1854. James L Freeman was the Master of the ship.

This ship, as many others, was taking people emigrating from Scotland to America. As in Ireland, the potato famine had sent the Highland population into starvation and a widespread outbreak of cholera in the 1850’s further weakened them.

MacAlister_(R._R._McIan)The ongoing Clearance policy (moving families out of homes and replacing them with sheep following the unsuccessful Jacobite Rebellion and defeat at Culloden in 1746) resulted in starvation and death by the thousands, so the people moved southwards to the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and eventually onto boats to America, Australia and Canada.

Intriguingly, this particular ships passenger list has passengers names, ages and occupations and children as young as 11 months are classed as labourers. I wonder if families had to work for their passage?

As if famine, plague and Clearances were not enough, the Highland people had also to contend with home grown racism.

From around 1850, the Highland Clearances were supported by a belief that the Celtic “race” was inferior to the Anglo Saxon “race”. Scotland was divided into the Lowlanders (Glasgow & Edinburgh areas) and the Highlanders (Perth upwards).

A popular book at the time, George Combe’s The Constitution of Man (1828), provided a framework which would be used by some to support theories of racial superiority. In 1850, another book was published, The Races of Men by Robert Know, which asserted the inferiority of the Celt compared to the Anglo Saxon and Nordic races.

Now the odd book getting published does not constitute racial hatred on a wide scale but when national newspapers back up these claims, you begin to understand just how this hatred was propagated.

The racist view that the economic failures of the Highlands were due to the shortcomings of the Celtic race was shared and expressed by the three Scottish newspapers, The Scotsman, the Glasgow Herald and even the Inverness Courier.

Shockingly, in 1851, The Scotsman wrote;

Collective emigration is, therefore, the removal of a diseased and damaged part of our population. It is a relief to the rest of the population to be rid of this part.

Similar views were held by senior public officials – Sir Charles Trevelyan was co-founder with Sir John McNeill of the Highland & Island Emigration Society and in a letter to McNeill in 1852 he wrote;

A national effort” would now be necessary in order to rid the land of “the surviving Irish and Scotch Celts”. The exodus would then allow for the settlement of a racially superior people of Teutonic stock. He welcomed “the prospects of flights of Germans settling here in increasing numbers – an orderly, moral, industrious and frugal people, less foreign to us than the Irish or Scotch Celt, a congenial element which will readily assimilate with our body politic.

It’s no wonder that the Highland & Island Emigration Society would soon after go on to sponsor around 5,000 emigrants to Australia from the famine affected Highland areas of Scotland.


Note: Many thanks to Helen Abbott for finding this ship’s passenger log. The painting of the Clan MacAlister Highlander leaving Scotland for Canada is from Victorian times and is by R.R. McIan.