During the publication of the foregoing series of letters in the Chronicle, I have received a very great number of letters, all tending to establish and illustrate, and in no instance to contradict, the facts adduced. Much of this correspondence is valuable from being well written, and containing the graphic descriptions of eye witnesses. I regret, therefore, that the limits to which I had resolved and arranged to confine the size of this pamphlet, will admit of my giving at present but a very small selection of this large and daily increasing mass of corroborative evidence. This is also partly caused by the space unavoidably occupied in the recent case of the so-called Durness riots, as well as by my personal narrative, on neither of which I had originally calculated.
Should the present publication be favourably received, I may, however, soon follow it up with some supplementary matter, especially if the course of proceedings in that devoted county should continue. In this case the correspondence would be an interesting and approp[riate adjunct. I have in the previous pages repeatedly pledged myself to keep watch and ward, and bring the worngs of Sutherland before the public so long as I can hold a pen, or obtain a medium for the publication of them, and, with God’s help, I will not shrink from the engagement.
I am quite aware that great allowances must be made, by readers of education and literary taste, should these pages be honoured with a perusal by any such. I am not capable of writing to please critics; I had a higher aim, and my success in bringing out the case of my countrymen must now stand the ordeal of public opinion. For my own part, zeal and faithfulness are all I lay claim to, and if my conscience tells me true, I deserve to have these conceded to me, by both friends and enemies.
There are three remarkable cases in the correspondence which I cannot think to postpone; the first is that of Angus Campbell, who possessed a small lot of land in the parish of Rogart, in the immediate neighbourhood of the parish minister, the Rev. Mr. McKenzie. This Rev. Divine, it seems, had, like King Ahab, coveted this poor man’s small possession, in addition to his own extensive glebe, and obtained a grant of it from the factor. Angus Campbell, besides his own numerous family, was the only support of his elder brother, who had laboured for many years under a painful and lingering disease, and had spent his all upon physicians.
Angus having got notice of the rev. gentleman’s designs, had a memorial drawn up and presented to her Grace the late Duchess, who, in answer, gave orders to the factor to the effect that, if Angus Campbell was to be removed for the convenience of Mr. McKenzie, he should be provided with another lot of land equally as good as the one he possessed. But, like all the other good promised by her Grace, this was disregarded as soon as she turned her back; the process of removal was carried on, and to punish Angus for having applied to her, he was dealt with in the following manner, as stated in a memorial to his Grace the present Duke, dated 30th March, 1840.
In his absence, a messenger-at-arms with a party, came from Dornoch to his house, and ejected his wife and family; and having flung out their effects, locked the doors of the dwelling house, offices, &c., and carried the keys to the safe keeping of the rev. Mr. McKenzie, for his own behoof. These proceedings were a sufficient warning to all neighbours not to afford shelter or relief to the victims; hence the poor woman had to wander about, sheltering her family as well as she could in severe weather, till her husband’s arrival. When Angus came home, he had recourse to an expedient which annoyed his reverence very much; he erected a booth on his own ground in the church-yard and on the tomb of his father, and in this solitary abode he kindled a fire, endeavouring to shelter and comfort his distressed family, and showing a determination to remain, notwithstanding the wrath and threatenings of the minister and factors. But as they did not think it prudent to expel him thence by force, they thought of a stratagem which succeeded. They spoke him fair, and agreed to allow him to resume his former possession, if he would pay the expenses (£4 13s) incurred in ejecting him. The poor man consented, but no sooner had he paid the money than he was turned out again, and good care taken this time to keep him out of the church-yard. He had then to betake himself to the open fields, where he remained with his family, till his wife was seized with an alarming trouble, when some charitable friend at last ventured to afford him a temporary covering; but no distress could soften the heart of his reverence, so as to make him relent.
This Campbell is a man of good and inoffensive character, to attest which he forwarded a certificate numerously signed, along with his memorial to the Duke, but received for answer, that as the case was settled by his factor, his Grace could not interfere!
The second case is that of an aged woman of four score  – Isabella Graham, of the parish of Lairg, who was also ejected with great cruelty. She too sought redress at the hands of his Grace, but with no better success. A copy of the substance of her memorial, which was backed by a host of certificates, I here subjoin:-
“That your Grace’s humble applicant, who has resided with her husband on the lands of Toroball for upwards of fifty-years, has been removed from her possession for no other reason than that Robert Murray, holding an adjoining lot, coveted her’s in addition. That she is nothing in arrears of her rent, and hopes from your Grace’s generosity and charitable disposition, that she will be permitted to remain in one of the houses belonging to her lot, till by some means or other she may obtain another place previous to the coming winter, and may be able to get her bed removed from the open field, where she has had her abode during the last fifteen weeks! Your Grace’s humane interposition most earnestly but respectfully implored on the present occasion, and your granting immediate relief will confirm a debt of never-ending gratitude, and your memorialist shall ever pray, &c.”
(The following letter will explain the third case without any comment.)
December 8, 1841.
DEAR SIR, – In your descriptions of the inhuman treatment to which the poor Sutherlanders have been, and are still exposed, you have not hitherto represented the unhallowed proceedings which took place between five and six years ago, in the “Episcopal City of Dornoch,” when the parish church underwent an extensive repair, and considerable additions were made to it solely for the private convenience of the great Sutherland family, who defrayed the whole expense.
During the progress of these works, the church-yard, in which the inhabitants had buried their dead for time immemorial, presented the most revolting spectacle imaginable, being strewed with human bones, skulls, and pieces of coffins, &c., exhumed by the workmen employed in digging for the foundations of the new additions to the church, in levelling the church-yard, and forming new and enlarged walks.
These relics of mortality were permitted to remain exposed to view long after the mason-work was completed, and an entire coffin was actually suffered to remain on the surface for a fortnight; while the tomb-stones which indicated their resting place, bearing the endearing inscriptions of parents and children, were rudely thrown aside, and afterwards not replaced nor preserved, but used, it is said, in the formation of a new enclosure wall. It is true indeed, that one or two families of the aristocracy there threatened resistance, but their anger was appeased, if not their vanity gratified, by having their family tomb-stones fixed inside one of the entrance porches. The resident inhabitants of Dornoch, however, whose progenitors had been buried there for ages, were denied even the privilege of re-interring the remains exhumed by workmen brought from a distance who felt no sympathy for the lacerated feelings of the community, and refused to re-inter the human bones; alleging that their instructions were limited to be careful in preserving and delivering to the agent of the Duke, at Golspie, any ancient coins or other relics of antiquity that might be discovered in the course of the excavations. Matters continued in this painful position till a new church-yard was formed at a distance from the town, and where, ultimately, the surplus earth, &c., was removed from the old church-yard.
Whether it was that the inhabitants disliked the idea of being buried beyond the sound of the church bell, or apart from their relatives, or from whatever other cause, it is certain the dying made it a last special request that they should be buried in some of the neighbouring parishes, – and thus the new church-yard was likely to be so only in name. Ultimately, however, the death of a poor person at a distance presented an opportunity of providing at least one tenant, and since that period the objections to the new burying ground are not now so frequently made.
A stranger to the Sutherland tyrannical system of management may well exclaim in wonder and horror – Why did the inhabitants tolerate such unhallowed proceedings? – and why did the clergyman of the parish silently witness the barbarous treatment of the remains of his late parishioners? Those, however, who have perused your graphic account of the dreadful sufferings of the people, will be at no loss to discover from whence arises their apparent apathy.
I am, &c.,
A DORNOCH CORRESPONDENT.
To Mr. Donald McLeod.
[The following letter appeared in the Edinburgh Weekly Chronicle of the 18th Dec., 1841]