Ali Morris


rum, a landscape without figures, john love, 2001

Location: Small Isles
clearances and resistance

The Rum Clearances

In the New Statistical Account, Reverend Donald Maclean, Minister of the Small Isles, stated that 'in 1826 all the inhabitants of the Island of Rum, amounting at least to 400 souls, found it necessary to leave their native land, and to seek for new abodes in the distant winds of our colonies in America.'

Related to Dr Lachlan MacLean, who had taken the island on as a sheep walk and spared no expenses for its 'improvement', Reverend Maclean was rather economical with the truth: in 1825, the islanders had been given a year’s notice to quit. When they departed for Nova Scotia a year later to be replaced by 8000 sheep. The Rum shepherd provided a more realistic picture: “the wild outcries of the men and the heart-breaking wails of the women and their children filled the air between the mountainous shore of the bay.”

The Edinburgh lawyer supervising the operations admitted later that most islanders were not very willing to leave the land of their ancestors. Indeed, Muck tradition tells of a huge boulder heaved in a prominent place near Kinloch as a poignant memento of their presence by the departing islanders, joined two years later by the few that remained. Rum had to be repopulated with evicted crofters from surrounding areas. By 1839, sheep farming had failed, bankrupting Dr MacLean and forcing the island’s sale in 1845 as a sporting estate. The Clearance of Rum had been the most thorough of any Scottish island.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.