Random Ramblings

The Glencalvie Clearance and Croick Church

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The Glencalvie Clearance and Croick Church

The clearances are amongst the most highly charged periods of Scottish history.  In the aftermath of Culloden the old highland way of life had been swept away and the highlands wrenched abruptly into the modern world.  The Clan chiefs rapidly discovered that in this new world it was the size of your wallet, not the size of your "train", (how many armed clansmen you could summon) that mattered. What they needed was hard cash, what they didn't need was hordes of destitute and dependent clansmen!.  The solution killing two birds with one stone - get rid of the clansmen of the clan land and then rent or sell it as sheep or cattle grazing.

In 1845 the people of Glencalvie were evicted off the land their families had lived on for generations.  Of the 400 to 500 inhabitants cleared 90 or so people had nowhere to go and took shelter in the churchyard of Croick Kirk.  (Click for map)

Their plight was reported in the London Times.........

Report to The Times newspaper - 1845

Behind the church, a long kind of booth was erected, the roof formed of tarpaulin stretched over poles, the sides do@ in with horsecloths, rugs, blankets and plaids ... Their furniture, excepting their bedding, they got distributed amongst the cottages of their neighbours; and with their bedding and their children they all removed on Saturday afternoon to this place. In my last letter I informed you that they had been round to every heritor and factor in the neighbourhood, and 12 of the 18 families had been unable to find places of shelter........


A fire was kindled in the churchyard, round which the poor children clustered. Two cradles with infants in them, were placed dose to the fire, and sheltered round by the dejected-looking mothers. Others busied themselves into dividing the tent into compartments, by means of blankets for the different families. Contrasted with the gloomy dejection of the grown-up and the aged was the, perhaps, not less melancholy picture of the poor children thoughtlessly playing round the fire, pleased with the novelty of all around them.

There were twenty-three children in the churchyard, all under the age of ten, and seven of them were ill. There were also some young and unmarried men and women, but most of the refugees were over forty.  As a lasting testament to their misery they scratched messages in the East window of the church.  If you visit Croick you may feel that there is more than just a few scratched messages left behind !!

"Glencalvie people the wicked generation Glencalvie."

"Glencalvie peopl was in the Churchyard here May 24 1845"

All the words scratched into the East Window of Croick Church

  • BABS
  • JOHN ROSS SHEPHERD CROICK MAY 15 1869
  • GLENCALVIE PEOPLE THE WICKED GENERATION GLENCALVIE
  • GLENCALVIE TENANTS RESIDING HERE
  • GLENCALVIE GREENYARD MURDER WAS IN THE YEAR 1854 MARCH 31
  • ROS. JAMES BORTHWICK
  • THE GLENCALVIE TENANTS RESIDE IN THE KIRKYARD IN MAY 24 1845
  • THE GLENCALVIE AMAT
  • JOHN ROSS SHEPHERD CROICK THE GLENCALVIE …. HERE MAY 24TH 184
  • JOHN ROSS SHEPHERD CROICK ARDGAY ROSS MAY 1869
  • THIS HOUSE IS NEDING REPAIR
  • JULY 5TH 1870
  • JULY 1871
  • …. ANN … CHURCH OFFICER OF THIS PLACE
  • GLENCALVIE IS A WILDERS …. BELOW SHEEP THAT …. TO THE …. CROICK
  • GLENCAL PEOPL WAS IN THE CHURCHYARD HERE MAY 24 1845
  • CROICK
  • MAY 24 1845
  • THE GLEN…. PEOPLES WERE HERE 1845 THE GLENCALVIE ROSS
  • JOHN ROSS 1854 …. GLEN….. 24
  • THE GLENCALVIE TENANTS RESIDED HERE MAY 24 1845
  • GLENCALVIE …. MAY

 

To me the most telling is "Glencalvie people the wicked generation Glencalvie." - Generations of trust, obedience and faith in their church and their chiefs had left the clansmen unable to believe that these were the very people had betrayed and deserted them.  Rather than blame their chiefs, the system, the church, all guilty, they felt that it must really be their faults.  They had sinned in someway and were now being punished.

Within a week of the report to the Times the Churchyard was empty. Where most of these people went is unknown. Some no doubt ended up in some southern industrial slum, some would have faced the perils of emigration to Nova Scotia or the like. At least they left their story and a memorial of sorts at Croick.

For further reading try : - The Highland Clearances by John Prebble