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.
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
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.
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.