Adventurers & Exiles

The mass emigrations from Scotland, beginning in earnest in the late 18th century and lasting through most of the 19th, have shaped the country we live in today. Marjory Harper ( tells the story of the evictions and emigration from Highlands and Lowlands. She also understands the ambition that drove many to seek out a better life in the new world.


The author draws on a rich cache of sources: letters, diaries kept on voyages, orphanage archives and oral testimony, much of it previously unpublished.  For example there is a diary kept by Charles Robertson, an articulate and sensitive 13-year-old. He sailed to Quebec in 1846, along with his parents and six siblings. His mother was on the point of giving birth:


“Monday 27th. Terrible morning of wind and rain. The pishpots are tumbling everywhere . . . My mother very sick today.


Tuesday 28th. My mother was delivered of a girl during the night. She was not able to nurse it.


Sunday 3rd. Tonight about nine o’clock my poor mother drew her last breath . . . The children little know their want.”


We read also of the orphanages of William Quarrier and Thomas Barnardo which were large suppliers of destitute children to the colonies, where they might enjoy ‘the reward of hard work’. Overall, the reader gets the impression of incredible hardship endured by the diaspora, but also the very real opportunity that exile did offer to the lucky survivors.


Listen to a discussion about the Clearances on a Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ episode, first broadcast 08 March 2018. With Sir Tom Devine (Professor Emeritus of Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh), Marjory Harper (Professor of History at the University of Aberdeen and Visiting Professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands) and Murray Pittock (Bradley Professor of English Literature and Pro Vice Principal at the University of Glasgow). Follow link here


Check if this well researched work on the clearances and diaspora is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at



432 pages in Profile Books

First published 2003

ISBN  978-1861973047


Professor Marjory Harper



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