Sheep, sheep, everywhere... literally. Everywhere. At first these bleating beasties appear a quaint symbol of pastoral Scottish life. A weehistorylesson, however, lends their symbolism a darker meaning... yay history !! .
Beginning in the mid-1700s, Scotland’s landowning gentry found themselves in debt, and realized their centuries-old system of renting land to farming families (“crofting”) wasn’t turning the profit they needed. A much more valuable business: sheep-herding. What began with incentivized urges for the tenants to desert their land (incentives being one-way passage to the New World), soon turned to drastic rent increases and eviction, which soon turned to all-out ethnic cleansing - going so far as to burn down the houses of proud Highland families who refused to leave their ancestral homes. Once the Highlands were “cleared”, the money-making sheep moved in. .
Fast forward for a small silver lining - Scottish culture of the late-1800s through today hits well above its weight class on the World’s Stage, with arguably more global renown than any other country of similar size. This is in large part thanks to the families forced to spread that culture around the world. But longing for lost home is a theme in that culture... if you listen to any number of Scottish folk tunes, you’re likely to hear a handful of homesick songs. Cultural fame is nice, but you can bet they’d rather have had their home. .
And today, the wooly invaders are ubiquitous throughout the still less-densely populated Highlands and Islands, whose human numbers never regained their full strength. While the sheep make for some spectacular landscape photos, after learning their story, I’ve found myself sinking into sobering thoughts when hiking their mystical grazing lands. .
Such is the sad way of knowing the history of a place - it often darkens the lens with which we see it. But, to not know is to visit blindly, and ladies and gents that just won’t do!! Better to learn, and hopefully accept, than to not learn at all. . knowwhereyougo loveitall goodandbad historylessonoftheday historicscotland highlandclearances truth realshit damnsheep