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Pristine or purged?

"... and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones." Ezekiel 37.1

Yesterday Anne Martin showed a group of us around the cleared village of Greaulain, which lies behind Linicro in the far north of Skye. Here too eye-witness accounts of the cruelty of eviction have trickled through the generations in local lore, to add voice to the extensive ruins which decay silently beneath the tip of the mighty Trotternish Ridge. A Canadian descendant of highland emigrants spoke for many when he compared the majesty of the Canadian northwest territories, where one could feel as if no one but God had been there before, with the ruined townships of the Scottish highlands and islands, where it feels as if everyone worth knowing is dead and gone.

If we base our thinking on the present layout of many crofting villages, we may conclude that those who were forced into exile had a lucky escape. Yet we forget that these villages were not where people chose to live but where they were forced to move, so that the choicer land could be turned over to sheep runs and deer parks. One of our group, an agricultural consultant, confirmed that Greaulain's neglected soil was of fine quality and would have richly supported its indigenous community. The wickedness of what occurred from the mid 18th century and into the 20th has yet to be fully recognised and accounted for. Only when the land returns to those who occupy it and the glens are teeming with a balanced ecology of human, animal and plant life will justice have been served.

In the evening we lightened the tone with an informal ceilidh of music, stories and poetry. Unfortunately the big pipes were considered "a note too loud", on account of the other residents and customers in Columba 1400, so they remained silent. But our fiddlers, singers, guitarist and box player did us proud and sustained the party!



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