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Migration patterns into two rural parishes in Sutherland in 1851.

By Peter Lawrie, ©1997


Do Ravenstein’s laws of migration (Pryce, p11, schema C) apply to migration into two mainly rural Highland parishes? Although at a considerable distance from the main centres of nineteenth century urbanisation, the ‘laws of migration’ might be expected to act more strongly in drawing population away. The principal primary sources are the 1851 CEBs for the parishes of Kildonan and Loth in Sutherland. The two parishes are treated as one (LK), since the Sutherland Clearances physically moved most of the population of Kildonan into Loth, and a boundary change in 1845 apparently moved the bulk of Loth’s population back into Kildonan. (Groome, Vol IV, p361, 559).
There was a particular problem with 26 CEB fisher households (127 people or almost 5% of the population of LK) which were excluded initially as temporary migrants. Subsequent research in the Statutary records demonstrated that they were very recent but permanent in-migrants. This group has a significant effect on my conclusions. They appear to have been recruited and brought in as a group to develop the White Fishery, (in place of the un-dependable Herring Fishery) rather than as individuals. For that reason I considered it to be valid to develop a discussion of Ravenstein both with and without them.

Law 9: Migration increases as industries develop and communications improve.
In 1801 the bulk of the population of Sutherland lived on pastoral farms in the inland straths from where they were removed by the Marquis of Stafford’s agents between 1809 and 1825. ‘Memories’ of the injustices (though quite in accordance with the law of Scotland) and brutalities of these clearances, (see Grimble, MacLeod, MacKenzie, Cobbett - p128, also Devine in Scottish Past, p133-141) linger to this day among the descendants of the cleared. The cleared lands were let to capitalist sheep-farmers from southern Scotland and northern England who brought in their own shepherds. The native population was settled on tiny crofts in townships on poor land near the coast to provide labour for the herring fishery, larger farmers (Gray, p224-226), road projects, and the coal mine and salt pans at Brora (Adam, i, p180-182). (Refer also to Loch, Richards and Sage). The sine qua non of development and subsequent in-migration of shepherds, fishermen and merchants was the new road from Inverness to Wick, built under the auspices of the Commission for Highland Roads and Bridges between 1805 and 1816. (Haldane, p135,189 and Adam i, lxxiii- lxxiv) The William Daniell print of 1821 shows an impression of Helmsdale two years after the harbour had been completed, illustrating the newly introduced industries of commercial fishing for herring and large-scale sheep farming as well as the bridge (completed in 1812).

<Law 1: The majority of Migrants go only a short distance.
The in-migrant heads of household were tabulated by county and parish of birth and their approximate distance by road from Helmsdale. (Note, however, Rathven is 135 miles from Helmsdale via Inverness but only 40 miles by boat, with a favourable wind). The 1st law (Drake, chapter 7 by Grigg and Pryce, Ch 1-3) may well apply in more populous areas, (and see also Devine - Scottish Past - p124 to p128) but in this study, the mean distance from the place of birth of the 129 non-Sutherland in-migrant heads of household was 126 miles and the median 80 miles. Excluding the Rathven fishers and three sporting Englishmen, this dropped to a mean of 103 and median 50 miles, with a standard deviation of 128 indicating the high extreme values. (Drake & Finnegan, ch.8). Hildebrandt’s 5% sample (actually 8% of LK in-migrant heads) picked up ten individuals, including two from England and one from Berwick, resulting in a mean of 209 miles, median 150 miles and standard deviation of 183. (This shows the danger of using sampled results at the level of individual parishes. On a larger scale such discrepancies would probably be smoothed out.) The seven non-LK, but Sutherland-born heads selected by Hildebrandt show a mean distance of 25 miles, median 25 miles and standard deviation of 14 miles, which is almost identical to the calculated figures for the 85 Sutherland in-migrants in the parish. Half (65 of 129) of the non-Sutherland in-migrants heads originated outwith the three mainland northern counties and therefore it appears that most in-migrants have travelled larger distances than would be found in areas with large urban centres.

Law 3: Migrants going longer distances generally go to one of the great centres of Commerce.
Despite the long distances some of the migrants travelled, Helmsdale is hardly a major centre of Commerce, but the majority of in-migrants came from rural parishes with village centres comparable to or not much larger than Helmsdale. The exceptions were two from Aberdeen, one from Dundee and one from Edinburgh. There is too little evidence to debate the 5th Law (natives of towns less migratory) except to repeat that only four out of 126 non-Sutherland in-migrants came from the cities of Scotland.

Law 2: Migration proceeds step by step.
The 121 in-migrant male heads of households with co-residing children (excluding Rathven) in the CEBs were analysed, with a percentage analysis (after Pryce, table 4-1 of Anderson’s study of Preston, p107). Due to the size of the parishes, larger distance bands have been used and Anderson’s table was adjusted to match. (Showing very little real difference except that in LK there are only three parish centres within 20 miles therefore it is to be expected that intermediates are lower - one Golspie and three Latheron fathers and a fourth from Latheron with a child born in Clyne). In-migrants comprise 45% of 113 households in Helmsdale, 36% of 39 in the Strath, 25% of 132 in Loth and only 9% of 252 in the townships. Over all distances, but excluding Rathven, the total percentage split is close to Anderson’s (figures in brackets), although there are fewer intermediates and more LK births. There are 21% intermediate (28%), 67% LK (60%) and 12% at the father’s birthplace (12%). Loth (though entirely rural) comes closest to Preston with the highest percentage of intermediates out of 33 heads. Helmsdale with the greatest proportion of in-migrant families has just 20% intermediate. The Strath should probably be discounted as there are only fourteen cases in all and of the seven who came from Northumberland and Roxburgh only one had a child (elsewhere in Sutherland) before coming to Kildonan, although three of these brought wives from near their birthplace and four married in Sutherland. The 31 in-migrants travelling more than 60 miles were much more likely to have a child born at an intermediate location (45%). The townships with 23 examples (only 2 from more than 60 miles) show the lowest % of children born at an intermediate location, and some of these heads are probably the children of an earlier generation of native out-migrants returning home. To summarise, migrants did move step-wise, but necessarily by larger distances, and to less of an extent than in Preston. The figures are distorted by a few instances of very large single steps, in particular the shepherds brought to the parish by their employer, rather than finding their own way. When I included the 21 Rathven male heads with co-residing children, the ‘father’s birthplace’ for Helmsdale became 32% and, in total for LK, 24%, which is quite significantly different. As the migration of this group was probably direct from Buckie it could be argued that it contradicts the 2nd Law, but equally demonstrates the problem of special circumstances causing undue distortions in small studies.

Law 7: Most migrants are adults, Families rarely migrate.
In the analysis (excluding Rathven) it appears considerably more likely that a first child of a migrant male would be born in LK (67%) than at the father’s place of birth (12%) or at an intermediate location (21%) which supports the 7th law. In thirteen of the fourteen cases of eldest co-residing children born at the father’s place of birth the father had migrated less than 60 miles, and most of these originated within Sutherland or Caithness. However, the inclusion of 21 Rathven fisher families among migrants travelling more than 60 miles changes this to 40% father’s birthplace, 29% intermediate and 31% LK, thus, apparently contradicting the 7th law.
The 368 conjugal units (some of which may be sub-ordinate units in extended families) were analysed by the birth-place of the husband and wife. The entries for the 79 ‘no children born in the parish’ include older couples whose children may have left, younger couples without children and seven couples with children, but not born in the LK parishes, who may be recent migrants. Ignoring these and concentrating on the 289 families with children born in the parishes just 21% of 67 Helmsdale families had both spouses locally born, and 46% were both Sutherland born. Outside Helmsdale (222) 59% were locally born and 80% both Sutherland born. Just 9% of couples with local children where both parents were in-migrants came from outside Sutherland. Although 9% of females and 8% of males with locally born children originated outwith the Northern counties area, in just 3% of cases were both spouses from outwith the counties, suggesting that it was more common for migrants to be single on arrival. As there were only 7 instances of non-LK born children among the 79 ‘no children born in parish’, it seems justified in taking this approach. This, however, become 28 out 98 when Rathven was included, and the migration of these families is clearly contradictory to conclusions based on the rest of the evidence.

Law 6: Females are more migratory than males within the county of their birth, but males more frequently venture beyond.
It also appears that in almost every instance more husbands were born in the parish (vertical column) than wives (horizontal) but more wives than husbands were born elsewhere in Sutherland. However more wives than husbands also came from outwith the Northern counties. This appears to show that, in this case, females have been more migratory within the county than males but females have also migrated more from outwith the area (45 males to 50 females) contradicting the 6th law in this community. (This may be distorted by temporary out-migration of males causing CEB entries for female heads designated as married and with no sign of a husband). The inclusion of 21 additional couples, all born and married in Rathven, has no effect on these conclusions.

Law 4: Every migratory current has a counter-current.
Law 4 could be said to be demonstrated by Hildebrandt’s 5% sample finding 8 individuals who were born in LK elsewhere in Sutherland and a further 6 in other Northern Counties. A further unknown number could probably be found throughout Britain and overseas by 1851. Out-migration and emigration particularly of the native born had been on-going since the start of the century. (For instance the “Prince of Wales” took 178 Kildonan people in 1813 and 1815 to Lord Selkirk’s Red River Settlement. (Bumstead 282-287). A number of Kildonan emigrants were identified in Nova Scotia records). The natives formed the bulk of the out-migrants through-out the century (Campbell, p108, see above.) and it is clear from the population decline after 1851 that this counter-current exceeded the current of in-migrants. Or rather, migration into LK represented the counter-current to the main current of migration from Sutherland. There is insufficient data to discuss Law 10: The major direction is from rural areas to towns, except in terms of this counter-current.

Law 11: the major causes of migration are economic.
The Clearances occurred for economic reasons and were conceived and controlled from outwith the county. The ‘pull factors’ (Pryce, schema D, p13) causing in-migrations derived from the economic opportunities for non Gaelic-speaking outsiders with industrial and agricultural skills, created by the Sutherland estate (Adam). Conversely the ‘push factors’ that caused the native people to leave were the poverty, oppressive treatment and lack of opportunity they were subjected to, under the management of the estate factors (MacLeod). This out-migration was actively encouraged by the factors after the famine of the late 1840s and the introduction of the statutory poor-rate in 1845. (Devine, (Famine) p201 onwards)


Primary Sources
“List of Fencible Men aged between 16 and 60 drawn up by the ministers of the parishes”. Unpublished manuscripts dating from 1745 held in Sutherland Papers at National Library of Scotland. Dep 313/3260 CEBs, Census Enumeration Books for Loth (54) and Kildonan (52), 1851
OPR, Old Parish Record for Loth (54), 1803-1854 and Kildonan (52), 1791-1854
Registrar-General for Scotland, Registers of Birth, Marriage and Death, from 1855

List of Secondary References:
Adam, R J “Sutherland Estate Management 1802-1816”, SHS, 1972
Baldwin, J.R. (Ed), “Firthlands of Ross and Sutherland”, University of Edinburgh 1986
Bumstead, J.M. “The People’s Clearance 1770-1815”, Edinburgh University Press 1982
Campbell, “Caithness and Sutherland”, Cambridge 1920
Cobbett, W, “Tour in Scotland”, AUP 1984
Devine, T.M. “The Great Highland Famine”, John Donald, 1988
Devine, T.M. “Exploring the Scottish Past”, Tuckwell Press 1995
Drake, M. (Ed) “Time Family and Community”, OU, 1994
Drake & Finnegan, “Sources and Methods (Vol 4)”, OU 1997
Fraser & Morris, “People and Society in Scotland”, 1830-1914.
Gray, M. “The Highland Economy 1750-1850”, Oliver & Boyd 1957
Grimble, “The Trial of Patrick Sellar”, Routledge, 1962
Groome, F.H. “Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland”, 1894
Finnegan & Drake, “From Family Tree to Family History (Vol 1)”, OU, 1994
Flinn, “Scottish Population History from the seventeenth century to the 1930s”, Cambridge 1977
Haldane,A.R.B. “New Ways through the Glens”, David & Charles, 1973
Hildebrandt, R, Unpublished thesis, “Migration in the Northern Highlands 1851,1871,1891”, Glasgow
Hunter, J, “The Making of the Crofting Community”, John Donald, 1976
Kyd, J.G. “Scottish Population Statistics”, Scottish Academic Press, 1975
Loch, J, “An Account of Lord Stafford’s Improvements on the Estate of Sutherland”, 1820
MacKenzie, Rev. A, “The History of the Highland Clearances”, 1883
MacLeod, D, “Gloomy Memories”, 1892
Pryce, W.T.R. (Ed) “From Family History to Community History (Vol 2)”, OU, 1994
Richards, E, “The Leviathan of Wealth”, Routledge, 1973
Richards, E, “A History of the Highland Clearances”, Croom Helm, 1985
Sage, D, “Memorabilia Domestica”, Wick, 1889
Sellar, T, “The Sutherland Evictions of 1814”, Longman 1883

The Population in 1851
The table showed male heads of household in the CEBs with occupational groups and place of birth. The crofters were overwhelmingly local, 86% born in the parish and 95% in Sutherland, with most of the rest from the adjoining counties of Ross and Caithness. Among other occupational groups, the native craftsmen (tailors, masons, shoemakers, carpenters etc.) accounted for slightly more than their share of the population. (Many of these craftsmen were also crofters). Even closer in terms of population share, and perhaps surprisingly were those of “independent means”, however, I included in this heading crofters who were pensioners of the 93rd foot, the Sutherland Highlanders, along with three English men of undoubtedly greater affluence, who were probably only temporarily present for shooting and river-fishing. (One described himself in the CEB as ‘Piscator’ rather than fisherman! Another as ‘MA Cantab’.) The fish-processors, that is fish-curers and merchants included some locals as coopers but were dominated by men from the larger fishery based at Wick in Caithness, with only one from Banff and one from Aberdeen. The shepherds included a number of native born, but eight heads of household from Roxburgh and Northumberland, some of whom appear in the parish record from 1820 were also found, producing another peak at 51 and 52 of the plot.
By contrast only 9% of fisherman were natives of LK (14% Sutherland). There were eight fisher couples from Fearn in Easter Ross who had been, from the ages of their LK-born children in the CEB and the evidence of the OPR, resident at Portgower for almost twenty years by 1851. There were 23 fisher families, in adjoining households beside the harbour in the Helmsdale CEB from Buckie in the Banff parish of Rathven, and a further 3 familes by the shore in Navidale just north of Helmsdale harbour, from Portlessie in the parish of Rathven, in which not only the parents but almost all children, including infants were born in Rathven, (there were four children born in Peterhead) so these must have been very recent in-migrants. Initially it was assumed that these were temporary or seasonal migrants and they were omitted from the analyses of the population. However, after examining the Statutory birth and death records frequent occurrences of the names of these fishers were found from 1855 right through to the end of the century. They suffered a well above average rate of infant mortality and close kinship links between households in the group are apparent. Indeed, it is understood that there are a number of Helmsdale residents at the present day with these names. For example, Cowie (4 of the 1851 households) and Jappy (7 households). These names do not appear in the OPR before 1851. It is clear, therefore, that at least some if not most of these families settled permanently, so the tabulations were modified to include them. The Helmsdale 23 included one older couple with a co-resident grandchild but no children, one sibling household, three headed by widows and 18 conjugal units with co-resident children, of which 17 of the respective eldest children were born at the father’s place of birth and one in Peterhead (further away from Helmsdale). The three Navidale families each included a conjugal unit with co-resident children born at the father’s place of birth. This has a substantial effect on the conclusions of this study. From the plot of distance by parish of birth it can be seen the very pronounced peak at ’35’ caused by this group.

The Natives
In 1745 twenty four surnames accounted for almost the entire population. (List of Fencible men) Therefore the names of in-migrants are clearly evident in the OPR from 1819. When examined it was found that the percentage of births to families with “local” names before 1819 was 94%, dropping to 75% between 1819 and 1844. By 1911 barely half the population would bear these names. (Campbell, p108). In the 1851 CEBs, 82% of the heads of households (458 out of 559) had these local names, although only 62% of heads of household were born in the two parishes, and 77% in Sutherland. (Note: some “local” names indicate Northern Highlands origin rather than just LK.)
The following table shows the population of the parishes from 1801 to 1951.
    1801 1831 1851 1891 1931 1951  
  Kildonan 1440 237 2285 1828 1454 1338  
  Loth 1374 2214 640 528 343 252  
  (Total) 2814 2451 2925 2356 1797 1590