Discovering and sharing the history of Scotland’s island communities

Island Emigrants

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The History of Emigration from the Hebrides over the Centuries

In the summer of 2009, to mark Scotland’s Year of Homecoming, The Islands Book Trust Island held a conference entitled ‘Island Emigrants’ to explore the remarkable story of emigration from the islands to places such as Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Patagonia. The aim was to bring together outstanding speakers, local people, visitors to the islands, and descendants of families who left the Outer Hebrides over the last 250 years. Set in the beautiful surroundings of Harris, the event concluded that the traumatic events of the Clearances and evacuations of islands such as St Kilda, while leaving deep scars on community memory and remembered evocatively in Gaelic songs, are not typical of all migration over the past 250 years. There were also periods when the pull factor of new opportunities abroad was the driving force, and many examples of pioneers and extraordinary achievement in the destination countries which deserve to be celebrated. The conference also looked forward, inspiring a passionate debate on the image of Gaeldom itself and how young people see themselves in the modern world. The various contributions to the conference are collected here in this fascinating volume, which will appeal to anyone with an interest in the story of emigration.

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