Thursday, October 20, 2016

Facing the past in Helmsdale, Scotland

After my morning visit to Brora back in early May it was time to hop the bus and head further north to Helmsdale which took about twenty minutes. The purpose of my trip was to visit the Timespan Museum and learn more about the Highland Clearances.  The Highland Clearances were the forced removal of crofters from their rented land in order for English landlords to graze their newly acquired sheep. Sheep, it turned out were much more profitable than the rent the landowners received from their tenants. Tenants and their families were either moved to the coast to work or given one way tickets to Canada for a new life.  Families were forcibly separated never to see each other again. The museum had a fantastic virtual reality area where you could see what a croft would have looked like in the early 1800's.  It was really an amazing little museum and gave me a better understanding of what my ancestors' life would have been like before moving to Canada.  I must say that while the heartbreak of leaving their families and homeland behind must have been intense, in most instances I am sure a much better life in Canada awaited them.  That's not to say I agreed with the Highland Clearances; not at all!  They say that Scottish Canadians are more passionate about the bagpipes and all things Scottish than the Scottish are!  I love the bagpipes and "Scotland the Brave" gives me the shivers so I plead guilty to that sentiment. Even if we aren't physically there a little bit of Scotland is still in all of us.

I then headed off to explore the town. An interesting note is that Helmsdale was planned and created to create accommodation and employment for those that were forced off their land. Many crofters became fishermen.  My first stop was at the 10 foot Emigrant statue which overlooks the town and is dedicated to those who were forced to leave the Highlands.  I sat there for quite a while just thinking about how terrible it must have been for families to be torn apart.  My father's paternal family relocated to Canada in 1815 first settling in Nova Scotia and then Ontario. The same statue is in Winnipeg, Manitoba so yet another reason to revisit that nearby prairie city soon.

The Emigrants

Commemorates the people of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland who, in the face of great adversity, sought freedom, hope and justice beyond these shores. They and their descendants went forth and explored continents, built great countries and cities and gave their enterprise and culture to the world. This is their legacy.

Their voices will echo forever thro the empty straths and glens of their homeland. 

The text above is what is written on the side of the monument.  Very moving.

The River Helmsdale

Isn't the gorse spectacular?  A much welcomed sign of Spring for the Highlanders.

I walked around the harbour area as well.

By this time (mid afternoon) I was getting hungry so stopped at Thyme and Place bistro for a lamb shank and veggies.  Nom, nom!!!

Time to go for a walk so I headed over to the river and walked along this path for some gorgeous views.

More daffodils!!!

I could have sat on that bench for an hour or so just enjoying the view but time was a wastin'.

One last look down the main street and then it was time for the bus...buses in these parts only run every few hours so you don't dare miss one.

View from the bus going back to Golspie.

Another view..

When I got off the bus in Golspie I decided it was much too early to go back to the B and B and I still had lamb shank to burn I walked over to the sea and headed south this time.

The Golspie pier

I walked along this path chatting with a woman walking with her child and three dogs - all were rescues. (well not the kid I assume)  I decided I wanted to cut across to the highway so she told me how to get there however it involved trespassing across a golf course.  I was convinced I was going to get whacked with a ball but luckily the golfers were calling it quits for the day. (yes there were only three of them..this is Golspie after all!)  I dithered on about it - I kept asking her if it was okay and I am sure she thought I was a nut case. (probably not too far off)

This is the view from the road to the main highway.

I stopped and had a staring contest with this lady - I won!  I am surprised I could look her in the eyes after what I had eaten a couple of hours earlier but I could and I did!  I actually blew this photo up and framed it.  You know, with my sheep obsession and all...

And that was my day!!!  

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