Descendants of Highland clearances victims buy back land.

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DESCENDANTS of the Highland clearances victims have bought back their rightful land.
Only 43 miles (69km) from John O’Groats in the north-east of Scotland lies a patch of land that has finally been brought back into community hands – after two centuries.
The 3,000 acre plot of land in Sutherland, Highlands, has been in the hands of the family descended from the man behind the clearances for hundreds of years.
But, back in 2015 the Sutherland estate offered it back to the community for sale.
And now, after a successful fundraising campaign the sale has finally gone through – backed by an estimated £250,000 grant from the Scottish Government.
A volunteer from the community group involved in the celebratory video.
The community group haven’t wasted any time either and have already offered up the first job in the area for over 100 years.
To celebrate their achievement the community group also put together a short video of grinning and delighted volunteers holding up placards that read: “Garbh Allt is on the map. #communityowned.”
The land includes more than 20 historical sites which were invaded during the mass Highland Clearances in the 19th century.
The first Duke of Sutherland, George Granville Leveson-Gower, was blamed as the man behind the clearances for forcing tenants off his land – so he could make more money from sheep farming.
The community initiative have succeeded in buying land which includes Portgower, Gartymore, West Helmsdale and Marrel – which were all the subject of invasions during the 19th century.
A triumphant Facebook post announcing the land sale.
It is estimated that a staggering 70,000 Scot’s were forced to emigrate as a result – with many fleeing to Canada or America.
The buyout now means the land is back in the hands of the local community and they hope that the purchase will lead to a bright future for the area – including more employment opportunities and attracting more visitors.
In 2015, Sutherland Estates offered to put the site on sale, which received a huge backing from local members of the community.
Anne Fraser, 50, chair of The Garbh Allt Community Initiative, said she was “delighted” with the buyout.
She said: “Some people are saying it’s justice, but I think it’s a great opportunity to move on from a horrible part of history.
“The land is protected and we want to keep it that way.”
Anne’s great grandfather was one of the founding members of the local Land League group which fought for land reform rights all them years ago.
She added: “My ancestors would be delighted.
“A few of the directors have ancestors who were involved all them years ago so it’s very emotive.
“I only moved back two years ago, but you never really get away, it [the area] pulls you back.”
With regards to the future, Anne is hoping that the buyout will only encourage more positive attention for the area.
She said: “We’ve been able to offer the first job based in the area for approximately 100 years.
“We just want to get people involved in the area, but we have to do it in a complementary way with the land that already exists.”
The Duke of Sutherland, an English nobleman, inherited vast tracts of northern Scotland when he married and set about making what he called “improvements”.
He carried out extensive clearances between 1811 and 1820, with around 15,000 people thought to have been removed from the estates.
The cleared dwellings were then burned to prevent them being re-occupied, while those evicted were forced to other parts of Scotland or abroad to seek a new life.
The Highland Clearances were the main cause of the depletion of Scottish landscape and almost completely destroyed Gaelic culture.
The Scottish highlands.
When the news was posted on their own Facebook page, locals were delighted with the update.
Alexander MacLeod said: “Fantastic news.”
Pete Carson commented: “This is truly amazing. Looking forward to seeing the whole project move forward. Really tremendous achievement. Well done all.”
Bruce Stuart said: “Congratulations! Well done to all involved.”
Kevin Sutherland commented: “Brilliant news. Onwards and upwards.”

 
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