There’s two newspapers, for example. There’s the Scottish Highlander, which is owned by Alexander Mackenzie and very much promotes Fraser-Mackintosh, one of the politicians in the region who’s very much a Unionist and kind of anti-Irish, and there’s the Highland News, which is owned by Angus Sutherland, or certainly editorially dominated by Angus Sutherland, who is very much in favour of Ireland and links with the Irish. And whilst both of these are extremely vociferous in arguing the case for the crofters, they really hate each other and they’re kind of criticising each other all the time. The Scottish Highlander refers to the ‘Highland Nuisance’ rather than the Highland News and it’s kind of petty but, within Inverness, it’s obviously a very serious difference of opinion between the two. There are religious aspects to it. One of the religious aspects which often gets brought up is that the Irish are seen as Catholic and you shouldn’t do something that the Catholics are doing. Edward McHugh comes to Skye in 1882 as a kind of envoy of the Irish Land League and there’s some police correspondence that he was shunned because he was a Catholic. Not sure, it could be. It would be surprising, in a way, if it wasn’t true to an extent, but a lot of the Highland crofters are fishing in Ireland. They know what Irish people are like, like in real life rather than just the caricature. So there might have been one or two anti-Catholic voices against McHugh going to Skye in 1882 but I’m not sure if that’s a very important factor against setting up a land reform movement in the Highlands. And certainly Catholic enclaves of the Highlands, like Barra and Morar, they’re not really differentiated in a Highland context at this point so there is land reform on Barra but they’re not seen as being any better or worse than their counterparts on Skye just because they’re Catholic. There is some complaints from the Barra crofters that they get referred to as Fenians and so on, but so do non-Catholic Highlanders at this point who are seen to be copying the Irish.

  • Andrew Newby
Thursday 29th April 2010