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The Clearances (clip)

The history of the Highland Clearances

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A television documentary detailing the history and repercussions of the Highland Clearances. From 1760 - 1860 wealthy landlords drove tens of thousands of clanspeople from their homes. Crofters whose ancestors were affected, historians, and present-day landlords give their opinion of these events.
This clip features Fulton Mackay reading out the order for clearance given by the government in a deserted Glen. Negative opinions and background information on the Clearances. Commentary explaining why the issue of the Clearances is still sorely felt because land ownership in North West Scotland is still an issue, intercut with newspaper cuttings. Visuals and aerials of various Highland Glens affected during the Clearances (Glen Cannich, Strath Glass Glen, Glen Moidart, Island of Alba - near Mull). Various local and native men talk about the ruins that are left with general views of the ruins of crofting townships. Angus Henderson tells the story of John McColl at the latter's graveside at Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan. Jonathon McDonald, a hotelier on Skye repeats a story involving croft burning and another man explains using the name 'Laird' awakens memories passed down from father to son. Shots of the statue of 1st Duke of Sutherland looming over Glen of Strathnaver in Sutherland and views of the ruins at Rossol. Fulton Mackay tells story of Patrick Seller who forced people from their homes and burned their homes. Angus Henderson speaks about the Strathnaver Clearance. Exterior shots of Farr School in Bettyhill. Various interior shots of the schools including the art classroom where children depict the Clearances and the music room where school children perform a musical written by teachers on subject of Clearances. Views of deserted glens and ruined cottages.

Questions & Activities


  • What were the clearances and where did they take place?
  • What resistence was there?
  • Why were people cleared from the land and what replaced them?
  • Where did they go?
  • Why were sheep considered to be economically advantageous and to who?
  • Why was Patrick Sellar'€™s timing of the Strathnaver valley clearances particularly contentious?
  • What were the environemtal influences of the clearances?
  • What extreme measures were taken to clear the people from the land?
  • Why has the right to roam become a political issue in Scotland?


Intermediate history: Emigrants and exiles 1830s 1870s: On a small island why do certain people have the right to own such vast areas of land. Find out who the biggest landowners in Scotland and the UK are today? Research how much land they own.

Modern Studies / Geography: Debate: Should people be able to own vast areas of land in a modern democracy.

Modern Studies: Land rights remain a contentious issue in the 20th Century. One of the first acts put through by the Scottish Government set up land rights for crofting communities. Look at other parts of the world where land rights and clearances are still happening. Why is this and what resistance is this?

Geography: Investigate the different methods of farming and which types of farming support the most numbers of people. Particularly look into the difference between raising cattle and sheep compared to growing of crops such as potatoes and barley.

Social History / Geography: Research modern crofting and recent legislation. Investigate how this affects Highland communities today.

Geography: The film focuses on the push factor for people to migrate to the cities, find out what the pull was factor to go to the cities?

History / Geography: Research Patrick Seller and his role in the Highland Clearances.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-002-507-C
Resource Rights Holder Courtesy of Scottish Television
Project Ref 6126
Date 1760-1860 (highland clearances)1980 (tv programme)
Genre TV Documentary
School Subject Social Studies, Geography, History, Modern Studies, Environmental Studies
Subject Matter Emigration, Clearances
Who Fulton Mackay (presenter), Scottish Television (producer, broadcaster)
Where Bettyhill, Sutherland
Event Highland Clearances
Attributes Colour, Sound
Clip Length 13:35
Film Length 52:55