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Highland & Island Emigration Society

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Highland & Island Emigration Society

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The Highland and Island Emigration Society was established in 1852, originally to assist emigration from Skye to Australia. At first there were three committees (London, Skye and Edinburgh), but the London committee quickly predominated. Contributions were received from a variety of sources, not just from within the UK. The Society owed much to the Skye Emigration Society, created in 1851 as a result of a report written by Sir John McNeill on the destitution of the Highlands of Scotland. The Skye Society's Rules were mostly incorporated into the successor Society's own Rules.

Emigrants would have a third of their passage costs met by their landlord, and they were expected to repay to the Society the funds they were granted by it, which would then be used for future emigrants. It was intended to despatch whole families wherever possible.

It is clear that there was strong government support for the Society. There was a great deal of poverty in Skye, with no evident means of improvement, and there were many who were keen to leave rather than continue in miserable circumstances. 2600 supported by the Society left in 1852. The scheme was then extended to other islands, although fewer left in subsequent years, and the last boats left in 1857. Nearly 5000 Highlanders received help in five years. Most of the emigrants were landless or semi-landless cottars.

In April 1858 the Society was wound up and the residual funds transferred to the Board of Supervision.
[Source: Scottish Archive Network]


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