A Plaintive Harvest

THE CLEARANCE SONG.

From Lochourn to Glenfinnan the gray mountains ranging,
Naught falls on the eye but the changed and the changing;
From the hut by the lochside, the farm by the river,
Macdonalds and Cameron pass—and for ever.

The flocks of one stranger the long glens are roaming,
Where a hundred bien homesteads smoked bonny at gloaming.
Our wee crofts run wild wi’ the bracken and heather,
And our gables stand ruinous, bare to the weather.

To the green mountain shealings went up in old summers
From farm-town and clachan how mony blithe comers!
Though green the hill pastures lie, cloudless the heaven,
No milker is singing there, morning or even.

Where high Mam-clach-ard by the ballach is breasted,
Ye may see the gray cairns where old funerals rested,
They who built them have long in their green graves been sleeping,
And their sons gone to exile, or willing or weeping.

The chiefs, whom for ages our claymores defended,
Whom landless and exiled our fathers befriended,
From their homes drive their clansmen, when famine is sorest,
Cast out to make room for the deer of the forest.

Yet on far fields of fame, when the red ranks were reeling,
Who prest to the van like the men from the shealing?
Ye were fain in your need Highland broadswords to borrow,
Where, where are they now, should the foe come to-morrow?

Alas for the day of the mournful Culloden!
The clans from that hour down to dust have been trodden,
They were leal to their Prince, when red wrath was pursuing.
And have reaped in return but oppression and ruin.

It’s plaintive in harvest, when lambs are a-spaining,
To hear the hills loud with ewe-mothers complaining—
Ah! sadder that cry comes from mainland and islands,
The sons of the Gael have no home in the Highlands.

— John Campbell Shairp.

Precious Few Heroes

I was listening to the news the other day
I heard a fat politician who had the nerve to say
He was proud to be Scottish, by the way
With the the glories of our past to remember
“Here’s tae us, wha’s like us?” Listen to the cry
No surrender to the truth and here’s the reason why
The power and the glory’s just another bloody lie
They use to keep us all in line

Chorus:
For there’s no gods and there’s precious few heroes
But there’s plenty on the dole in the Land o’ the Leal
And it’s time now to sweep the future clear
Of the lies of a past that we know was never real

Sae farewell to the heather in the glen
They cleared us off once and they’d do it all again
For they still prefer sheep to thinking men
Ah but men who think like sheep are even better
There’s nothing much to choose between the old laird and the new
They still don’t give a damn for the likes of me and you
Just mind ye pay your rent to the factor when it’s due
And mind your bloody manners when ye pay!

(Chorus)

And tell me, will we never hear the end
Of puir bluidy Charlie at Culloden yet again?
Though he ran like a rabbit down the glen
Leaving better folk than him to be butchered
Or are you sittin in your Council house dreaming o’ your clan?
Waitin’ for the Jacobites tae come and free the land?
Try goin doon the broo with your claymore in your hand
And count a’ the Princes in the queueI

(Chorus)

So don’t talk to me of Scotland the brave
For if we don’t fight soon there’ll be nothing left to save
Or would you rather stand and watch them dig your grave
While ye wait for the Tartan messiah?
He’ll lead us tae the promised land wi laughter in his eye
We’ll all live on the oil and the whisky by and by
Free heavy beer, pie suppers in the sky
Will we never have the sense to learn?

That there’s no gods and there’s precious few heroes
But there’s plenty on the dole in the Land o’ the Leal
And I’m damn sure that there’s plenty live in fear
Of the day we stand together with our shoulders at the wheel
Aye there’s no gods

No Gods and Precious Few Heroes,  Brian McNeill.

Highland Clearances in Das Kapital

Sheep in Glencoe, Scottish Highlands.

The Highland Celts were organised in clans, each of which was the owner of the land on which it was settled. The representative of the clan, its chief or “great man,” was only the titular owner of this property, just as the Queen of England is the titular owner of all the national soil. When the English government succeeded in suppressing the intestine wars of these “great men,” and their constant incursions into the Lowland plains, the chiefs of the clans by no means gave up their time-honored trade as robbers; they only changed its form. On their own authority they transformed their nominal right into a right of private property, and as this brought them into collision with their clansmen, resolved to drive them out by open force. “A king of England might as well claim to drive his subjects into the sea,” says Professor Newman. This revolution, which began in Scotland after the last rising of the followers of the Pretender, can be followed through its first phases in the writings of Sir James Steuart and James Anderson. In the 18th century the hunted-out Gaels were forbidden to emigrate from the country, with a view to driving them by force to Glasgow and other manufacturing towns. As an example of the method obtaining in the 19th century, the “clearing” made by the Duchess of Sutherland will suffice here. This person, well instructed in economy, resolved, on entering upon her government, to effect a radical cure, and to turn the whole country, whose population had already been, by earlier processes of the like kind, reduced to 15,000, into a sheep-walk. From 1814 to 1820 these 15,000 inhabitants, about 3,000 families, were systematically hunted and rooted out. All their villages were destroyed and burnt, all their fields turned into pasturage. British soldiers enforced this eviction, and came to blows with the inhabitants. One old woman was burnt to death in the flames of the hut, which she refused to leave. Thus this fine lady appropriated 794,000 acres of land that had from time immemorial belonged to the clan. She assigned to the expelled inhabitants about 6,000 acres on the sea-shore —2 acres per family. The 6,000 acres had until this time lain waste, and brought in no income to their owners. The Duchess, in the nobility of her heart, actually went so far as to let these at an average rent of 2s. 6d. per acre to the clansmen, who for centuries had shed their blood for her family. The whole of the stolen clanland she divided into 29 great sheep farms, each inhabited by a single family, for the most part imported English farm-servants. In the year 1835 the 15,000 Gaels were already replaced by 131,000 sheep. The remnant of the aborigines flung on the sea-shore tried to live by catching fish. They became amphibious and lived, as an English author says, half on land and half on water, and withal only half on both.

— Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Chapter 27.