The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute ( has won funding to take part in Being Human 2015, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities. The ‘Landscape of Change: Exploring the Rousay Clearances’ event will involve two workshops, in August and November, on the island of Rousay exploring the 19th century Clearances of Quandale and Westside.

Following the success of their 2014 Wilder Being event, the UHI Archaeology Institute is taking part in the national festival for the 2nd year running, and the funding from the School of Advanced Study will help the university bring together researchers and local communities to engage with the humanities. The Landscape of Change: Exploring the Rousay Clearances, will be part of a national programme of big ideas, big debates and engaging activities for all ages.

Understanding the Clearances

Even today, the 19th century  “Highland Clearance” landscape in Quandale,  in Orkney is interpreted by the descendants of the cleared as a monument to the evils of landlordism.  This is still hotly contested by those descended from the “Respectables” siding with the Laird, who saw the valley as inhospitable, indebted, and who recall the tenants as feckless and argumentative, and so abandonment as inevitable.  The then British government feared a tenants uprising and sent a gun boat.  This year UHI Institute of Archaeology are working in the Rousay landscape amongst the remains of the crofts, as part of the Being Human programme, 2015.

The relevance of modern research

Dr Keir Strickland (UHI Lecturer in Archaeology) said: “we’re delighted to be taking part in the Being Human festival, and to have this chance to not only share our research with the local community, but also to demonstrate the importance and relevance of humanities research. The Rousay Clearances remain an emotionally charged episode and we’re really looking forward to engaging with the community at the two workshops”.

The first Landscape of Change: Exploring the Rousay Clearances event in late August will explore the mapping and recording of the clearance landscapes of Quandale and Westside, while the November workshop will examine the oral histories of both the Clearances themselves, and more broadly of 19th century life on Rousay.


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