Gloomy memories

It is unknown whether they cleared Rosal in 1814. It may have survived until later, less violent clearances in 1819.

Patrick Sellar

In 1814 Patrick Sellar, an employee of the estate, obtained the lease of a sheep farm in Strathnaver, and began to clear the ground. He did so ruthlessly, sometimes burning houses to prevent tenants returning.

There were allegations that he caused the deaths of two old and sick tenants. In 1816 he was tried on charges of culpable homicide but was found not guilty, though history remembers his name as a symbol of a dark episode in Highland history.

Archaeological excavations of part of the township show no signs that the buildings burnt down. This may explain why Donald MacLeod of Rosal was called to testify in support of Patrick Sellar at his trial.

Donald MacLeod may be the same person who later, in 1857, wrote letters for the Edinburgh Weekly Chronicle telling of his memories of life in Sutherland. He called them Gloomy Memories.

The evictions

Personal accounts, at the time, claim that Sellar did undertake at least one violent eviction at Rosal, although it appears not to have gone to court.

Sellar demanded the removal of several old women. The people of Rosal ignored this demand. John MacKay testified that the evictors came and set fire to the house with the women in it. Rescuers saved the women but the house burnt down.

"have never seen such an object in my lifetime, and I hopes in God I shall never see such another," John MacKay (year unknown), translated from Gaelic