New Exhibition Explores The Rousay Clearances

The Northlight Gallery, Stromness is to host an exhibition which explores the Rousay Clearances of the 19thC.

The exhibition, ‘The Rousay Clearances – Exodus from the Egypt of the North’, features images and art work by Orcadian Martin Laird with explanatory text by Sandwick writer, Fiona Grahame

Martin Laird said:

“I learnt very little of the Clearances at school, and absolutely nothing about what went on in Orkney. It is shocking that before this episode the population of Rousay alone was well over 1100. As is the case with the Highlands, it has never recovered. People should be taught their own history.”

The exhibition, starting on Saturday 28th of November, is part of the St Andrew’s Fair Saturday global cultural event which celebrates community and supports charitable organisations. The event in Stromness will be supporting Orkney Rape and Sexual Assault Service (ORSAS).

The exhibition can be viewed in the windows of the Northlight Gallery and in the building opposite.

On Saturday 28th of November the gallery will be open from 10am to 4pm where visitors can speak to Martin and Fiona about the exhibition. ORSAS will also have information available and donations can be made to them.  Public health measures will be in place with numbers limited. The exhibition can be viewed in the windows of Northlight until Friday 4th of December.

Accompanying the exhibition is an ebook, £3 from Blurb, and  a limited number of quality magazine style  books at £8, published by Orkney News Ltd.(contact )

Fiona Grahame said:

“Most of the farmers and crofters evicted had to leave Rousay. They had farmed on the island for generations.

“Giving evidence to the Napier Commission investigating the conditions of crofters in Scotland, James Leonard, said of landowner General Burroughs: ‘we are under the despotism and terror of the landlord and we want it removed; and even though I shall fail in this battle, I will fight it out.’

” James Leonard was evicted and had to leave Rousay. It is important to tell the story of the Rousay farmers and crofters who showed such dignified determination in their resistance to powerful landowners. ”

You can find out updates about the event here: The Rousay Clearances: Exodus from the Egypt of the North

This is the third Fair Saturday exhibition Fiona and Martin have made for Northlight: the first in 2018 was ‘Woman’s Suffrage – a work in progress’ (a preview of Martin Laird’s prize winning animation ‘A gude cause maks a strong arm’) and last year ‘HMS Pheasant 1917 – who were the lost men and boys?’

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1 reply »

  1. It’s clear to see, on Rousay, that the land was well cared for, for millennia – and then……..
    Goes to show what one greedy, self-interested person can do if they are given the power.
    What was a place where people lived and worked and made their homes, became ….fields full of sheep. I have nothing against sheep – but – what happened there was all wrong, in every way.

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