Scottish Kilts: Suppression and Prohibition


Figure 1.--

The English and their Lowland allies in 1746 crushed the forces of the Scottish Prentender, Bonny Prince Charlie--Charles Edward Stewart, at the Battle of Culloden. The British redcoats and Lowlanders stalked and killed kilt-clad clansmen in the Highlands. Many clansmen after the battle were hunted down and sumarily executed. They never succeded, however, in arresting the Prince. The English were determined to ensure that there would never again be another uprising of the Highland clans. It is no true that the Jacobite Wars culminating at Culloden was the sole cause of the destuctioin of the Higland clan system, but it was certainly a major factor. They Government proceeded to attack Highland culture to ensure that the clans would never be able to rise gain. They prohibited the wearing of the kilt in Scotland as part of their effort to destroy Scotish culture and continuing resistance to English rule. Both men and boys were prohibited from wearing the kilt, although we are unsure how strictly this was enforced in the case of boys. Some reports suggest that the bagpipe was also banned, but other sources insist that this was not the case. The penalties for wearing the kilt or violating other legal prosccruptions could be quite severe. The Scottish clearances which had begun before Culloden were changing the very character of the Higlands. The population was removed so sheep could be raised on large estates. Clansmen and their families had to leave the Highlands. Many emmigrated to America as Canada until the 1760s was still French.

Repression

The English and their Lowland allies in 1746 crushed the forces of the Scottish Prentender, Bonny Prince Charlie--Charles Edward Stewart, at the Battle of Culloden. The British redcoats and Lowlanders stalked and killed kilt-clad clansmen in the Highlands. Many clansmen after the battle were hunted down and sumarily executed. Some surviving Highlanders were sent sent to the Caribbean as slaves to work on sugar plantations. The British, however, never succeded, however, in arresting the Prince. Even well after Culloden, large number of Higlanders, including men, women and children, were killed on mere suspicion of disloyalty.

British Policies

The English were determined to ensure that there would never again be another uprising of the Highland clans. They imposed many strict, often cruel edicts and laws upon the Higlands. It should be stressed that many of these steps were supported by Lowlanders who were benefitting economically by association with England. The new edicts and laws were aimed especially at the clan system. Roads were drivem into the heart of the Highlands making it easier foir troops to move. The Government proceeded to attack Highland culture to ensure that the clans would never be able to rise gain. The Act of Proscription baned the wearing of tartan, the teaching of Gaelic, the right of Highlanders to "gather," and the playing of bagpipes in Scotland. Instruments of war such as swords and targes were banned. Policies toward the bagpipes are less clear. Some reports suggest that the bagpipe was also banned, but other sources insist that this was not the case. The Government also prohibited the wearing of tartan, kilt, and other clothing of Scottish origin. This was part of their overall effort to destroy Highland culture and continuing resistance to English rule. Both men and boys were prohibited from wearing the kilt, although we are unsure how strictly this was enforced in the case of boys. The penalties for wearing the kilt or violating other legal provisions could be quite severe.

The Highland Clearances

One of the most tragic episodes in Scottish history is the shocking evictions resulting from the Higland clearnces during the late 18th and 19th centuries. Thousands of men, women and children were evicted, in many cases brutaly. Landowners wanted the land for more protitable sheep raising--four legged clansmen bitter Higlanders complained. The clearances were evicted from the Highlands and islands, sometimes brutally, where their families had lived for centuries. The Scottish clearances had begun before Culloden, but were mostly carried out in the 100 years following the battle. It should be stressed that the clan chiefs were deeply involved in the calamity of the Highland Clearances. Some early accounts of evictions are noted before Culloden, such as an incident at Skye in 1939. The clearances began in a major way well after Culloden in the 1760s-90s as sheep were introduced to the Higlands. Sir John Lockhart-Ross in 1762 brought sheep to his estate at Balnagowan. He proceed to raise tenant rents, installed fences and broughtin Lowlander shepherds. Thomas Gillespie and Henry Gibson in 1782 leased a sheep-walk at Loch Quoich. They removed over 500 tenants, most emmigrated to Canada which had been added to the British Empire. lands. Donald Cameron of Lochiel in the 1780s began clearing his family lands, which extended from Loch Leven to Loch Arkaig. Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster brought the first Cheviot sheep to the Higlands. His Caithness estates were cleared fir them and the later became known as four-footed Clansmen. (Cheviot became a popular fabric for sailor suits and other boys' garments in the 19th century.) Similar clearances were conducted thoughout the Higlands. These clearances changed the very character of the Higlands. The population was removed so sheep could be raised on large estates. Landowners found that it was far more profitable to raise sheep for wool, which was much in demand, than rent the land to small scale teneant farmers. These farms had offered only a meager living to the tenants, but of greater concern to the landowners, only minimal income. It has supported, however, the poulation of the Highlands. As the Higlands were cleared, clansmen and their families had to leave the land where their families had lived for centuries. The clearances left the Highlands void of most, perhaps as much as 90 percent, of its population, trees and forests. Vast streaches are baren and deserted even today.

Emmigration

Clansmen who joined the Jacobite uprising who were not killed or tried and executed were forced to emigrate. Many clan leaders had their lands and fortunes proscribed and thus reverted to the Crown. This and the continuing clearances caused substantial emmigration. Many emmigrated to America as Canada until the 1760s was still French. It was not just the displace clansmen that emmigrated. Lowlanders also moved to the far corners seeking business opportunities. Thus in America there were Scots who hated the English and were a source of support for the Revolutionary forces when the American Revolution broke out. There were also Scttish loyalists who supported the crown.

The Lowland Economy

One reason that the English found so much support in Scotland is the Act of Union in 1707 had proven of great benefit economically. Union provided the Scots access to the opportunities created by the expanding British empire. The 18th century in fact proved to be one of themost prosperous period in Scottish history, at least in the cities of the Lowlands. The condiion in the Highlands becaus of the clearances ws a different matter. The 18th century was a period of significant population movement from the Highlands and Lowland villages to the expanding cities. Scots in the 18th century played a remarkable role in the expanding British economy and the beginning phases of the industrial education. To theese Scots the Higlands and the clan sysyem appeared a barabarous as it di to the English.





Christopher Wagner




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Created: March 17, 2002
Last updated: March 17, 2002