The Battle of Culloden
The Battle of Culloden, oil on canvas, David Morier, 1746. Royal Collection Trust. Public Domain. Created 1 Jan. 1746. This battle resulted in a bitter defeat for the Scottish Jacobites. The British, under the Duke of Cumberland, lost only 50 men, while the Scottish fighters lost one-fifth of their 5,000 man army, a devastating loss for the Highland clans.

Scottish History and Emigration

From Highlands of Scotland by Seton Gordon

Excerpt from Pages 11 to 13

“… the earliest race in the Highlands, as elsewhere in Britain, was probably a people of the Iberian type, small, dark-skinned and curly haired.  They were followed by the Celts, one branch of which race, according to Skene, was named by the Romans, Picts or Painted People.  These were a fair-skinned, red-haired race, sometimes called Tuatha De Danaan by people of Eire.  The other branch of the Celts was early named the Milesians, and after the fourth century, the Scots.  They were also a fair-skinned people with brown hair … the true Highlander is an aristocrat, with a veneration for old families and old traditions and customs … clansmen are loyal and devoted subjects to their chiefs; in their eyes he is second only to king of the realm.  The Highland chief was not only leader of war; he was the father of his people … The Highlanders were so inured to hardship that it is said they could with difficulty be persuaded to sleep in tents during the campaign of 1745.  The old story, often told, of the Highlander who was expelled with ignominy from the clan because, when sleeping out in the open in the snow, he fashioned a pillow of snow for his head, illustrates the contempt in which he people of the Highlands held comforts.”

From The Scottish Highlands by John A. Lister

Excerpt from Page 1

“… Even before the regionalization of Scotland, with the reorganization of local government in May 1975, defining the Highlands was difficult enough.  To most people though the Highlands are what were known as the seven Crofting Countries: Argyll, Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney and Shetland.”

From Hebridean Pioneers by Malcolm A. Macqueen

Excerpt from Pages 5 to 9

“… The destruction of the clan system at Culloden, in 1746, was followed by a long period of economic distress and social unrest.  The chief, no longer a petty monarch, as in fact he had been for ages, required no defenders.  These methods gave the landlords greater returns, but, unfortunately for the tenants, required fewer hands.  The tenants thus faced the hard lot of those driven by penury from the land which their forebears had occupied for generations and which they regarded as their own.  The clansmen surveyed the future with bewilderment and anxiety.  Where were they to go?  What were they to do?  Thousands walked to the Lowlands where they got work on farms and in factories.  For those who could afford it, emigration with its promise of free land, offered an appealing answer.  So with what was realized from the sale of their scanty worldly goods, many abandoned the land of their nativity and sought new homes in the vast primeval forest of America … famous philosopher, Dr. Samuel Johnson, on his memorable tour of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in 1773, in company with his biographer Boswell, was struck by the magnitude of the exodus and the choleric old Doctor was moved to refer to it as the ‘Epidemic fury of emigration’ … in the first six years of the nineteenth century 10,000 Highlanders migrated to North America, chiefly to that part known today as the Maritime Provinces, according to a pamphlet published in Edinburgh by one Robert Browne.”

From Atlantic Canada by Miriam Chapin

Excerpt from Pages 28 and 29

“… The Scots came to Cape Breton and the counties along Northumberland Strait.  They came in the eighteenth century, when the crofts in Scotland were being enclosed for sheep-runs, because the lairds could make more profit from wool than from their retainers … The Scots came homeless, greedy for land in their new country, for land ownership meant security … Every man was a jack-of-all-trades, carpenter, fisherman, farmer.  Women wove, tended stock, knit, sewed … They kept whatever religion their forefathers brought, and the Gaelic too, the old speech, the old songs … They intermarried perhaps not closely enough to weaken the stock, but enough so that most of a man’s townfolk will likely be his cousins.  Clannishness is not merely a descriptive term, but a reality of daily life.”

From Highland Settler by Charles W. Dunn

Excerpt from Pages 7 and 8

“… This mountainous environment explains much of Highlander’s character and way of life.  Knowing this setting, we can understand why Samuel Johnson wrote after his tour of the Highlands in 1773: ‘To the southern inhabitants of Scotland the state of the mountains and the islands is equally unknown with that of Borneo or Sumatra; of both they have only heard a little and guess the rest’.  Presumably Scotland’s southern inhabitants were actually more curious about the Highland people than about the people of Borneo or Sumatra, but geography’s formidable barriers of mountain, river and sea made the Highlander’s homeland discouragingly inaccessible … Daniel Defoe, for instance, who had so enthusiastically glorified life on a desert island, returned from his tour of Great Britain (1727) with the undisguised feeling that to live in the mountains of Scotland was a fate worse than shipwreck.”

Excerpt from Page 21

“… Hazardous as the journey was, the Highlanders were not daunted.  Even the aged ventured to spend their few remaining years in a new home.  Occasionally a census has been preserved which suggests remarkable facts. In a list of newly arrived Highland settlers, prepared in 1815 for district of Pictou (Nova Scotia), we find the following:



C. McKay


M. McLean




H. McIntosh


C. McKay


A. Murray


Sailing lists reveal the same story.”

Excerpt from Page 33

“… Violence with which Highland immigrants disputed property rights astonished their more peaceful neighbours, who could not understand the Highlander’s lust for land … Joseph Howe wrote in 1830 of his Highland neighbours in Nova Scotia: ‘A curious feature in character of Highland population spread over eastern parts of Province is the extravagant desire they cherish to purchase large quantities of land’ … he realized … ‘their urge was a natural result of an upbringing in mother country where possession of a few hundred acres could, as he said, raise the owner ‘to the first circle of rank and influence in the kingdom’.”

From Scottish Emigration to the Maritimes 1770 – 1815 by J. M. Bumsted Acadiensis Volume X

Excerpt from Page 68

Table 11; Emigration of Scots to British North America, 1770 – 1815


Number Ships

P. E. I.


Nova Scotia

Red River

1770 – 1775






1776 – 1789






1790 – 1793






1794 – 1800






1801 – 1803












1805 – 1811






1812 – 1814
















Origin: 82.4% from Western Highlands and Islands

Source: All known passenger sailings to the provinces of British North America recorded in newspapers, books, manuscripts, customs records, local and family histories.

Excerpt from Pages 84 and 85

“… Britain wanted its Maritime provinces populated, but not at the expense of the mother country … of the Maritime provinces, New Brunswick enjoyed the best initial planning and financial support, but only because of the Loyalists, who received most of the best lands.  Scots, especially Highlanders, were never attracted there directly from the mother country in great numbers, although many settled in the province with the disbanded regiments.  Foreign protestants – mainly Germans – were never a successful proposition, and except for the loyalists, the American Revolution ended the flow of emigration from the American colonies … In the many-stranded web of factors which retarded the early development of the Maritime region under British control, one clear thread is the failure of the British government to take the lead in providing proper assistance and support for immigrants on a regular basis … At the same time, it should be acknowledged that the absence of development on Cape Breton, around Pictou, and on Prince Edward Island, was a positive feature for most of these Highlanders drawn to these regions in the early formative period.  These were not demoralized refugees, but a people who saw British North America as a positive alternative to their situation at home.  They sought most of all a chance to be left alone to continue their traditional way of life … The Highlanders were sensible enough to recognize that the more populated and organized jurisdictions of the New World would not encourage he maintenance of the old ways.  They were a people well equipped to preserve their cultural identity, and predisposed to resist both urbanization and industrialization.  And in the wilderness regions of the Maritimes they managed to replicate most of the features of the pastoral and independent existence they had long enjoyed, minus the worst problems of landlord oppression, military service, and religious persecution.”

From Cape Breton Over by Clara Dennis

Excerpt from Pages 173 and 174

“… many hundreds of these homeless people came to Nova Scotia’s hospitable shores, seeing in the new Scotland the hills and glens of their old Highland homes.  The Frances Ann, a ship crowded with people drawn from Sutherlandshire was leaving Loch Broom for Pictou, N.S. … It was a heart-rending sight, the departure of these people from their loved Highland home.  The hills of Loch Broom resounded to the wail of the bagpipes as the pipers played a dirge of death while some 400 people were going aboard the vessel. … The ship finally reached Pictou in safety in 1817 after springing a leak – all available blankets were utilized, to help stop the leak, and the men passengers took turns at the pump.”

From British Immigration Before Confederation by Helen I. Cowan

Excerpt from Pages 6 and 7

“… The Scots were early, persistent and hopeful emigrants.  At time the conversion of northern and western Scottish estates to sheep farming and changes in the kelp and fishing industries left hundreds of half-independent Scots without occupation and sometimes without roofs.  Certain landowners joined with members of the Highland Society who were concerned over the loss of population from emigration and the consequent loss of life on unseaworthy sailing vessels.  To remedy the first loss, they tried to keep the would-be emigrant at home by creating employment in the fisheries and on canals and other public works.  To remedy the second loss, they passed through Parliament – while it was busy with French problems – a passenger vessel law which was partly designed to provide British emigrants as safe ships as slave traders were requested to use with their human cargo, and incidentally designed to decrease emigration by raising costs.  Despite such efforts to reduce the outward movement, in which Scots had reached Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as early as the 1770s, emigrations continued and increased … In one day in 1819, 525 Scots sailed from Crinan in Argyll, in one week 581 sailed from Dumfries … For the Scots, removal to the North American colonies was no longer exile; they went to join Scots who had preceded them.  As Samuel Johnson wrote, they changed nothing but the place of their abode and of that they saw the advantage.”

From Colonists From Scotland : Emigration To North America 1707 – 1783 by Ian C.C. Graham

Excerpt from Pages 1 to 4

“… In the eighteenth century the condition of the Lowlands was deplorable; that of the Highlands even worse.  In almost every respect, whether economic, social, political, or cultural, the Highlands differed from, and compared unfavourably with, the Lowlands.  An eighteenth century traveler passing from one area to the other would have been impressed immediately with the change.  He would have noticed first the topographical transformation.  Wherever he entered the Highlands the land took on a new appearance.  As he approached the hills across the flat or gently rolling hills of the lowlands, a wall of barren mountains faced him, the rounded peaks gray under streaks of patchy rain, while here and there a shaft of sunlight gave depth to the view, bringing forth patches of green and purple on the mountainside.  As he entered this region with few laws and no roads, the traveler crossed an unofficial frontier, christened somewhat later the ‘Highland Line’ … The people of each area were ignorant of the other, holding them in contempt in proportion to their ignorance … The Highlanders, on their side, were unwilling to be taught by Lowlanders, ‘for’, wrote Johnson, ‘they have long considered them as a mean and degenerate race’ … So attached was the peasant to his locality, especially in the Highlands, that to move only a few miles often seemed as much of a hardship for him as to cross the Atlantic.  When, for various reasons, it became fashionable and even common-place to emigrate, the peasant farmer was inclined to gamble on the longer journey rather than the shorter.  Never at any time during the eighteenth century was eviction a major cause of emigration from Scotland.  The greatest single element among those causes was perennial, grinding poverty.”

Excerpt from Page 38

“… the overwhelming bulk of the emigrants from Scotland between 1763, when the French and Indian War ended, and 1775, when war came to America once more, left primarily for economic reasons.  Other motives were usually present, but economic pressures carried weight both with those who, having nothing, hoped to do better in the New World and with those who, having something to lose, wished to safeguard their savings or property during bad times by starting life afresh across the sea.”

Excerpt from Pages 46 and 47

“… The discharged veteran felt confident of a material future in the colonies better than anything he could find in the overpopulated glens of the Highlands.  It was overpopulation that had driven him into the army in the first place.  In the decade after 1753 two Highland parishes were able to furnish 400 recruits for regiments in America without interfering with the work of their farms … they had settled down on lands offered by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763, on easy terms to officers and men who had served in the royal forces during the late war.  Most of them found homes in New York Province and Prince Edward Island (then St. John’s Island).”

Scroll to Top