While little is known about individual family members, much has been written about the times in which they lived. 18th century Highland life is remarkably well described in contemporaneous accounts by Burt*, Thomas Pennant, Robert Southey, William Gilpin, Dorothy Wordsworth and James Boswell and Samuel Johnson. The social history of this period in Scotland is fascinating, much of it focusing on the poverty in the Scottish highlands.
Great academic minds have written copiously and I have no wish to compete at that level. The best I can achieve is to post interesting descriptions of the period as I come across them and if they are relevant to our family's history.
Our family lived through huge change in the 17th, 18th and first half of the 19th century to say nothing of world wars in the 20th;
- The laying waste of lands around Loch Tay in December 1644 when Montrose with MacDonalds, MacNabs, MacGregors and others killed every man with arms, burned all the houses, destroyed corn stacks and drove away the cattle. One house on the south side survived because it was hidden by trees.
- The '15 and 45 rebellions divided loyalties and eventually led to the demise of the clan system. The Breadalbanes, however, sided with the government in the '45 so our ancestors were probably spared Cumberland's depredations that occured elsewhere in the highlands.
- Modernisation of agricultural, which in England was well under way and hastened by the Enclosure Acts, became inevitable in Scotland.
- The raising of Fencible Regiments in the 1790s.
- Depopulation of the Highlands which was dramatic in scale and not all attributable to replacement by sheep. Many Scots simply took the opportunities offered by migration which had never been available before as the industrial revolution created job opportunities in the cities and relatively empty land was being marketed in Canada and elsewhere.
- Improved transport and the introduction of industry.
For those seeking a detailed history of Scotland during this period, the The Scottish nation 1700-2007 by Professor T.Devine, despite never mentioning Breadalbane by name, is outstanding.
*Edmund Burt was an Englishman sent to Scotland in 1730 to collect rents on the Glenmoriston and Seaforth estates, the last unsold estates forfeited after the 1715 rising. For most of the time he was based in Inverness from where he wrote his series of 'Letters from a gentleman in the North of Scotland to his friend in London'. Burt felt compelled to publish the letters anonymously in 1754 whereupon he was accused of presenting the Highlands in a bad light, concentrating on the squalor and backwardness. Nevertheless, his satirical and witty accounts make for entertaining reading and his letters are an important source of information on Highland life and customs in the 18th century, written before a more romantic bias took hold. Burt died in London in 1755.
Page last updated - 27/6/16