Letter to The National, 02/11/16
I recently visited the battlefield at Culloden and was impressed both by the visitor centre and the memorial cairn and clan stones. It is an interesting presentation of the eight month campaign by the Jacobites to restore the Stuart monarchy and of the battle itself, which lasted just under an hour, and it is right that such a significant event is commemorated. What surprised me was when I discovered that there is no National Memorial to the Highland Clearances, an even more significant event the effects of which were far reaching and went on for years afterwards, being felt to the present day. John Sadler’s excellent book on the Battle of Culloden touches on the campaign of violence and rape and ethnic cleansing which was waged across Scotland, particularly in the Highlands and Islands, land reading left me aghast at some of the incidents which took place. To read of the Royal Navy sailing from one Scottish island to another, raping the women, killing indiscriminately and plundering what little these folk had made my blood boil. When we hear of “The Clearances” we think of people being moved on, and we have been presented a sanitised version of events, where excuses are made such as that the Clearances were brought about by a change from mixed farming to sheep farming, and this leaves us with no real picture of the horrors inflicted on these poor souls.
While there are a few monuments across the country to those who suffered transportation or forced emigration, nowhere do we have a have a single centre which remembers those murdered, raped, tortured, exiled and transported; which presents a full and frank account of why these people were treated as they were and just how vile that treatment was. Such a national memorial is long overdue and the Scottish Government must surely take the lead in creating what would be an important focal point in understanding Scotland’s history, both for people in Scotland and the international diaspora.