People

People

1st Cyclist Brigade of the 1st Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment (Lovat Scouts) in 1917..
Highland communities sustained one of the highest per capita casualty rates in Europe...

The Highlands of Scotland are recognised as being the area north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault. The Gaelic name for the region - A' Ghàidhealtachd - translates as "the place of the Gaels".  It is an area of outstanding natural beauty, home to one National Park, in the Cairngorms, and a host of sites of archaeological, geological and scientific significance.

Once described by 1st Century Roman historian, Tacitus, as ‘the most distant dwellers upon the earth’ the people of the Highlands remained culturally distinct from their Lowland neighbours right through until the 19th Century. Today, following the romantic fascination with Highland ways popularised by Queen Victoria, the Gaelic, Tartan, Bagpipes and Reels that originated in the crofts and castles of Caithness, Inverness-shire, Ross-shire and Sutherland are recognised worldwide as signs of ‘Scottish-ness’. Highlanders continue to share these traditions attracting visitors from across the globe.

The population of 232,000 inhabitants live in one of the more sparsely populated areas of Europe and the density is less than 1/7th of Scotland's as a whole. In 1831, the population of the Highlands peaked at 8.5% of the total population of Scotland. By 1931, it had dropped to 2.6%. This decline was due to the outlawing of the traditional Highland way of life following the Jacobite Rising of 1745, the Highland Clearances, and an ensuing mass migration to Lowland cities and overseas. Archibald MacMillan, one of the organisers of a mass emigration of former Cameron Estate tenants from Lochaber to Montreal, reflected in 1802 on the mixture of emotions felt by all facing into such migrations:

We cannot help looking at our native spot with sympathy… Yet considering… the total extinction of the ties betwixt chief and clan we are surely better off to be out of reach of such unnatural tyranny

By the time of the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 the people of the Highlands had already experienced decimation both demographically and culturally. Just as had been the case during the Napoleonic Wars, the region was a principle recruiting area for the military. World War One had a devastating impact throughout the area. Highland communities sustained one of the highest per capita casualty rates in Europe. An estimated one in seven men of the Inverness parish alone was killed and the War Memorial in the small village of Reay, in Caithness, attests that no fewer than 31 of the men of that community ‘fell in the Great War’. 

 

[Text © High Life Highland]