Abandoned Communities ..... Strathcarron
On 9 February 1842 an advertisement appeared in the Inverness Chronicle stating that farms were to be let on the estates of Greenyard and Glencalvie. These two estates were to be let as sheep walks. Further particulars could be obtained from James F Gillanders, to whom offers should be addressed.

Greenyard and Glencalvie lay on the banks of the River Carron in the parish of Kincardine, Ross-shire. People living there would have realised that the conversion of the estates into sheep walks implied that they could expect imminent eviction. Large parts of the Highlands of Scotland had already been cleared of people and turned into huge sheep farms. Just over 20 years earlier, in the most notorious series of clearances, most of the inhabitants had been removed from the valley of Strathnaver. People in Strathcarron would have been dreading the possibility that the same fate might come to them.

Before describing what happened at Glencalvie and Greenyard I will give a few impressions of life on those estates obtained from reports appearing in the local press. From these reports we can gain glimpses of the sort of relations that existed between different social groups, opportunities for adult education, the hardship that might be suffered by old or disabled people at a time when no organised social services existed, and the harshness of the judicial system.

On 3 May 1816 the Inverness Journal reported the death at Glencalvie of Alexander Campbell, said to have died at the age of 117. This astonishing claim was backed up by an assertion that Campbell had carried arms in 1715. Until his death Campbell had showed the characteristic hardihood of a Highlander to an unusual degree. In severe weather he went with his neck and breast bare, and to the last he walked perfectly erect; his dress the short coat, kilt and plaid, and his staff generally across his breast. Just a year earlier he had started to learn the alphabet and spelling at a Gaelic Society School but his progress was arrested by the failure of his sight. At the last Harvest he had waited on the Right Honourable Lord Ashburton, who had given him a shilling for each year of his life, and a further sum to buy a little of his favourite Usquebaugh. The report noted that the donation outlived Campbell, but helped to put the hoary veteran decently under the turf.

On 3 October 1817 the Inverness Journal reported on the trial of William Ross, a tenant in Glencalvie,  and his son Alexander. They were accused of stealing three sheep belonging to John Geddes, the tacksman of Ardmore. William Ross failed to appear in court, and was declared an outlaw. Alexander Ross pleaded guilty, but his counsel, Mr J P Grant, argued that the sentence should be lenient as Alexander had acted under the influence of his father and had tried to protect his father by taking the blame for the crime. In addition Grant urged the court to distinguish theft for lucre and the same crime committed to assuage the calls of nature, including hunger, bearing in mind that the plaintiff’s family were suffering extreme want. Even so Alexander Ross was sentenced to seven years transportation.

On 11 April 1823 the same newspaper reported that on Wednesday se’ennight a fine young woman was drowned in the river Carron near Glencalvie. The wooden bridge had recently been swept away, and the local peasantry were too poor to replace it. The woman ventured into a deep and dangerous ford, but was overwhelmed by the stream and cast on the bank a short distance below, a lifeless corpse. She had been the only daughter, and sole support, of very aged and elderly parents.

The Inverness Chronicle and the Inverness Journal can be read on microfilm at Inverness public library.

By 1842 there had already been some decline in the population of Strathcarron. A lot of men had been killed in the Napoleonic Wars, it appears that some people had already been evicted, and others may have moved away or emigrated in search of a more secure livelihood. However, those remaining when James Gillanders advertised his intention to turn Glencalvie and Greenyard into sheep walks were alarmed by his plans and determined to resist his attempts to remove them. They had strong roots in the valley, believing that their ancestors had lived there for several generations, perhaps for centuries.

James Gillanders was the factor, or local agent, for the landowner, William Robertson, who in 1842 was 77 years old and spent most of his time at his home in London. Gillanders decided to tackle Glencalvie first, about 10 miles west of the small town of Ardgay, on land lying between the Carron and Calvie rivers.
The River Carron