Kildonan Clearances App Launches

Kildonan Clearances App launches










The Cameron family pictured in under a peat stack in Kildonan in 1905. My grandmother Daisy is on the extreme front left in white pinny.


Head for Helmsdale!

I’ve a feeling that Donald Sage, the author of Memorabilia Domestica, would approve of the newly launched app for iPhones and iPads. In the book, the gentle preacher damns the landlord tyranny and the hated policy of clearances disrupting old communities.

The app prepares the way for the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of large scale clearances of men, women and children from the Strath of Kildonan in 2013, and it aims of to give virtual and actual visitors a hands-on and interactive trip around this transfixing area of Sutherland.

The epic voyage made by some families cleared from the Strath of Kildonan is widely viewed by historians as one of the most demanding journeys endured by European emigrants to North America.

Around 100 people left the Strath of Kildonan in 1813, to be replaced by thousands of sheep, as they were more profitable than people. A boatload of the displaced residents sailed to Hudson Bay, in northeastern Canada, where they were forced to build their own shelters as the savage Canadian winter closed in.

The following spring, they began a 1000 mile journey, many walking in handmade snowshoes, before reaching the Red River Settlement around Lake Winnipeg in Canada where Scottish aristocrat, the Earl of Selkirk, had promised them land.

One of these brave individuals was Catherine McPherson, who nursed the sick after typhoid broke out aboard ship and who survived a severe flood that carried away her log-built home. Catherine’s story comes alive on the App.

The area around the Red River went on to become the city of Winnipeg in Manitoba. It is hoped the App will reach across the Atlantic to the ancestors of the displaced Sutherland families.

The 69p App has been developed by Timespan and funded to the tune of £22,407 and £45,900 respectively, by Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) and The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). All monies raised from sales of the App will go to Timespan and contribute towards the maintenance of the trail.

According to project manager Jacqueline Aitken, the e-trail has been completed before an expected influx of visitors from overseas return to Helmsdale next year to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Clearances.

She said: “Timespan wanted to mark the 200th anniversary of the Highland Clearances, which changed the lives of the people and the landscape of the area forever, by engaging local communities and visitors world-wide.

“Users can access the trail information in the comfort of their own homes or they can come to Timespan and download it using the free Wi-Fi or hire an iPod touch from the visitor reception desk.”

The Kildonan Clearances provide the backdrop for Ian Crighton Smith’s moving novel Consider the Lilies, while East Sutherland is the setting for many of Neil Gunn’s novels which are as evocative as they beautifully written.

In my next post I will take an up-close-and-personal look at the area around Helmsdale and Kildonan.














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