Scottish Emigration

For nearly 400 years there has been a stream of emigrants leaving Glasgow and other ports in the west of Scotland for destinations overseas. In the early seventeenth century the majority were headed for the Plantation of Ulster, while a few were sailing to the continent, and a handful to the Nova Scotia settlements. As transatlantic trade developed, the economic links led to further settlement overseas either as servants or managers of estates, particularly along the American coast and in the West Indies. Initially the plantations received many war prisoners, and persons banished for dissent or other civil crimes, often as `slaves`. The mix later became one of indentured servants, agreeing to work for a period (often four years) to repay their fare, and eventually whole families with some capital (howsoever small) to invest in their new home and country.

The Union of England and Scotland in 1707 removed all restrictions on Scottish trade with the English colonies and soon Glasgow virtually monopolised the Tobacco trade with the Chesapeake, this, too, led to further settlement in America. Within a generation Glasgow and Greenock became two of the most prominent ports in British intercontinental trade, soon becoming the main exit ports for Scots migrants. There are three significant areas of settlement where Highland communities were established: Jamaica, North Carolina and Prince Edward Island (PEI). The first distinct emigration, mainly Presbyterian, from Scotland was to South Carolina in 1682 where the settlement of the Stuartstown and Ashley River area survived for twenty years. Such early experiences as this - and later in New Jersey - were used as a basis for future ventures as at Darien ( Panama). Notable personages from Argyll and Ayrshire were involved in these early days - leaders included Lord Neil Campbell and Ewan Cameron of Locheil. Other establishments, of the 1720s and 1730s, were in the Savannah area of Georgia and around Cape Fear in North Carolina.

The rate of emigration increased rapidly in the mid eighteenth century due to changes in land tenure in Western Scotland and the Highlands (the "Highland Clearances"). Hitherto the movement of people  tended to follow agricultural cycles as labourers ended one contract or hiring and sought further work, if necessary elsewhere. The hiring of labour persisted in Scotland until well into the 19th century. A consequence of hirings were short internal moves in and around a locality. But as the century progressed so more apprentices and skilled tradesmen moved to swell the population of the towns.  Another factor was that the Poor Law payments were not given to the able bodied unemployed, thus failure of a labourer to be hired often meant a move to the towns. Scotland in fact had the greatest urban growth in Europe between 1650 and 1850. During this time there were substantial moves from the Highlands as a result of recruitment to migrant schemes often organised by a local `tacksman` who knew directly of an individuals circumstances through the rent collections. During 1801 -1803 Canadian and American recruiting agents were very active , and Lord Selkirk recruited for the Red River colony in 1813 -14. About 20,000 Scots ( two thirds Highlanders) migrated in the period  1768-75. Included were some 831 persons from Ross and Cromarty,  288 from Bute and Argyll, and 735 from Sutherland during  1772-3. Some 50 from Glenorchy and 77 from Appin set out for North Carolina in 1775 where families settled on small plantations and farms. There were eight large ships from Skye between August 1771 and October 1790 that carried away some 2,400 emigrants, while 176 persons (of a total population of 399) emigrated from the tiny isle of Eigg between 1788 and 1790.

This trend continued throughout the 19th century  with about 250,000 Highlanders migrating as a result of the Highland Clearances. This was land consolidation of small lots of land/farms allegedly to facilitate `improvements`. This consisted of  cruelly and brutally ejecting small tenants by simply refusing to continue their leases and sending in bailiffs / thugs to physically remove people and burn their houses. The object was to create large sheep farms and increase the revenue for the usually absentee landowners. On the face of it some tenants were compensated by an allotment of land ( usually less than they previously had) and forced removal to the waste lands around the sea shore. The theory, some might say the excuse, was that the farmers could become fishermen  It was a murderous farce with many killed in the flames of their homes or dying from starvation and exposure.

 A reported 16,553 Highlanders migrated during the Scottish potato famine assisted by  landowners and the Highland and Island Emigration Society.

The pioneering spirit is clearly seen in the fact that so many Ulstermen (Scotch Irish) went to areas where land was available either free or very cheap. The land itself tended to be in the remoter parts, in need of clearance and often required defence against the native Indians. Thus they took land 40 - 50 miles inland from Philadelphia, PA and similarly in Maryland. An Ulster settlement was established at Donegal, PA and spread from there into the Cumberland Valley and then to Virginia and Carolina.; the Shenandoah Valley and Appalachian Mountains. The descendants of these settlers moved on to Arkansas and Missouri, and with fresh immigrants via New Orleans moved into Mississippi to join those immigrants coming down the Ohio Valley. Even then, still seeking space, they migrated to Texas and the Mid west - Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

Today over 100,000 descendants of the early American Orr`s are scattered across all states of the USA.

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