Treasure Island

Peter Hall

(Sydney, Australia.)

Highland clearances or human clearances?


On the Isle of Skye and Raasay
In eighteen fifty one,
The English Government army
Cleared Scotland's daughters and sons,
Cumberland burned their villages
To ensure cultural disappearance,
Was this Highland subjugation?
Or Was this a human clearance? .

There was a ban on tartan
And breaking the law you'd be libel,
If you spoke the Gaelic tongue
Or read a Gaelic bible,
With potato famine and poverty
And without the tartan regalia,
Scotland's most precious resource
Sailed for Canada and Australia.

40,000 cleared from the glens
Left clan chiefs to the land,
Turning them into landlords
And into an upperclass band,
Some crofters came to the meetings
To discuss the so-called fair rent,
Only to be tossed on boats
Like sheep being sent to their death.

But despite these human clearances
And loss of life by the ton,
They've had their final say
You could say they still have won,
The new world is heavily populated
With those of highland appearances,
To ensure we never forget
The highland and human clearances.

Submitted: Thursday, August 22, 2013
Edited: Friday, August 23, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

The highland clearances in the Scottish highlands were devastating. I wrote this poem on the Isle of Skye with a view of the Isle of Raasay in the distance.

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