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Collection HD - Highland Destitution

Identity area

Reference code

GB 234 HD


Highland Destitution


  • 1783-1859 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

16 linear metres

Context area

Name of creator

Central Board of Management for Highland Relief (1783-1859)

Administrative history

The Central Board of Management for Highland Relief was formed in February 1847, based around three existing Relief Committees: that of the Free Church of Scotland, and separate committees in Edinburgh (established December 1846) and Glasgow (established January 1847). Of the earlier committees, the Free Church's Destitution Committee, which existed from November 1846 to February 1847, carried out some notable work. The Highland Relief Board was essentially an independent charitable body, but the government took great interest in its affairs, especially via Sir Charles Trevelyan (1807-1886), who was Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Edward Pine Coffin (1784-1862), and Sir John McNeill (1795-1883), who was Chairman of the Board of Supervision. The government was, however, more of an enabling body, the administration being left to the Board.

The Central Board of Management had 117 members, including church figures, landowners, provosts of major towns in Scotland and others. The Board's task was to relieve Highland destitution, using funds subscribed voluntarily for that purpose; many thousands of pounds were raised. Funds were received from all over the UK, and abroad. The Central Board had two Sections: Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Sections had Local Committees who distributed meal, but those Committees were replaced when famine continued into 1848 by inspectors and relief officers. This was more bureaucratic, but the intention was that recipients of meal were to provide work in return. Landowners were expected to provide subsistence to those dwelling on their properties, and those who received it were to pay or work for it. Many intended recipients of relief were unhappy about the conditions imposed upon them, however.

The Board's activities ceased in 1850, but famine continued until at least 1855.
[Source: Scottish Archive Network]

Archival history

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Scope and content

HD/1 Registers 1840-1852
HD/2 Accounts 1846-1850
HD/3 Letterbooks 1846-1851
HD/4 Highland and Island Emigration Society 1852-1859
HD/5 Schedules 1847
HD/6 Miscellaneous volumes, including reports of the Edinburgh section 1783-1851
HD/7 Commissary general and treasury 1837-1849
HD/8 Miscellaneous correspondence 1846-1851
HD/9 Letters from Captain Eliott to W F Skene (Skye and Wester Ross) 1847-1849
HD/10 Captain Fishbourne's correspondence (Skye) 1847-1849
HD/11 Captain H B Rose's correspondence (Wester Ross) 1847-1848
HD/12 Correspondence of W F Skene, secretary of the highland section of the Highland Relief Board 1847-1850
HD/13 Captain Craigie's letters and reports to W F Skene (Shetland) 1847-1850
HD/14 Correspondence of Captain Smith (Skye) 1848-1851
HD/15 Correspondence of Captain Ewan Ross (Ullapool and Dysart) 1847-1849
HD/16 General accounts and papers 1846-1851
HD/17 Papers relating to Shetland 1847-1852
HD/18 Papers relating to Orkney 1847-1851
HD/19 Papers relating to Caithness, Inverness, Ross and Sutherland 1847-1850
HD/20 Papers relating to Skye and other islands 1847-1851
HD/21 Papers relating to Wester Ross 1844-1850
HD/22 Papers relating to Skye and Wester Ross 1847-1850

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Language of material

  • English

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Paper records

Finding aids

Full catalogue available through National Records of Scotland online catalogue at

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