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The Clearance of Orinsay
The Clearance of Orinsay
Extract from the Inverness Courier, 15 June 1842:
Deforcement of the Law
Another of those painful scenes which lately have been too prevalent, connected with the removal of Highland cottars, took place on the 21st of June at the farm of Loch Shell [Orinsay], parish of Lochs, in the county of Ross. The farm has been taken by an extensive sheep farmer from the south, and with the view of carrying out rural improvement, the occupiers of the soil were summoned to remove. The sheriff, procurator-fiscal, and factor, with a party of ground officers, constables, and others, proceeded to the spot, and commenced throwing down the huts. A number of women then rushed upon the party, and drove them off the field, without committing any bodily injury, except a little rough handling to one of the officers. The people told the sheriff that they could not leave their homes with ruined characters, as one cause assigned for removing was that they had stolen a number of sheep from the adjoining farm; whereas, in reality, not one single act of theft had been proven against them. From three to four hundred souls reside on this farm; the men are principally fishermen, who earn their living by occasional fishing and piloting distressed vessels into Loch Shell and Stornoway. They are not in arrears of rent, and the proprietor's trustees, it is said, will not augment the value of the property by renting the whole to one individual. Nothing can be more dangerous than to sanction a violation of the lay, and thus render both life and property secure. At the same time the condition of the poor people is distressing in the extreme. The Lord Advocate has, we understand, been applied to for advice and direction on the subject.
The resistance proved futile as the inhabitants were cleared in 1843. The 1841 census shows a population of 97 in 14 houses; in 1851, not a soul was living there. About half the Orinsay families moved to Crossbost in North Lochs, with others going to Leurbost, Steimreway (itself cleared in 1857), Grimshader and Sandwick. See a further account of the evictions.
The village of Orinsay was replaced by the Park Sheep Farm, later the Park Deer Farm, with the Orinsay and Steimreway lands let for sheep to Roderick Martin of Crobeg.
In 1891 an attempt was made by men descended from the Orinsay cottars to reoccupy the land, which landed several of them in prison. After the Great War, pressure for land for crofters increased and in 1920 Orinsay was again raided. The land raiders were forced to withdraw but in 1922-3 the township was again finally lotted into 14 crofts.