James McCowan Memorial Social History Society
BBC Radio Scotland is delighted to endorse this student essay competition. The experiences of both Lowland and Highland settlers are an important part of the history of Scotland and the development of Canada. Delving into the stories of where these people came from, and why they left their homes offers fascinating insights into the past.
The Lowland Clearance programmes were important to BBC Scotland, and the material that our team recorded in Canada was an integral part of the production. I am very pleased that the study of our shared heritage is so vibrant in Toronto.
With all best wishes for the future.
The James McCowan Memorial Social History Society will be offering a prize for the best essay on the following subject:
For further information about this essay contest, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Heritage Learning Resources --
Stage Drama and Radio Documentary
Does this sound a bit like the conversation you overheard at the bank or at the lawyer's office last week? Perhaps -- very well could be. In actual fact, this conversation (and thousands like it) took place in Lowland Scotland almost 200 years ago. And we will hear it again in a new production of "With, I Hope, A New Face: A Newcomer to a New Land". The story of James and Margaret McCowan is also an important part of a BBC-Radio Scotland series, "The Lowland Clearances", to be broadcast in May / June this year.
Why is it important to tell the story of the Lowland Clearances? How does what happened in Scotland two centuries ago have any bearing on life in Canada today? The Lowland Clearances phenomenon was all about change -- radical change. When the landlords decided to evict tenants and hike the rents four or five-fold, it was all for the sake of profit. "Improvement" was the keyword -- mind you, investing in making the farms better usually fell largely onto the tenants. The matter of improvements that were required to be paid by the tenants is the one major difference between the situation then and now.
The Lowland Clearances was all about "response" to dramatic socio-economic forces. If you think we're lucky to have food banks and a social safety net today -- well, back then there were no such social services. The ordinary and poor folk just had to move on. Some became coal miners, others weavers in the village, some went to the power mills in the cities, some became entrepreneurs, others like James and Margaret McCowan emigrated.
The Lowland Clearances was all about a "new economy" and re-configuring the workforce. The weaver of 1824 is the HTML-coder of 2004.
The Lowland Clearances was all about the evolution of a by-product value system which Scots carried around the world to excel in politics, in business and in Ministry. These ordinary Scots had profound respect for freedom, order, individuality, faith, family, honest toil and material wealth.
In particular, the evolution of the Canadian identity is, to a large degree, the evolution of our relationship with the land. The Canadian identity cannot be understood unless we comprehend our values with respect to the land -- from home ownership to preservation of the family farm. The story of the evolution of our values with respect to land must be told if we are to comprehend the vital importance of any future commitment to the land. If we understand the changing relationship between humanity and land in the past, we surely must be much better prepared to deal with the forces of change in the future. The Lowland Clearances is a profoundly important chapter in the evolution of our values with respect to the land.
The rather unpolished behaviour patterns of the ordinary rural Scots at the dawn of the nineteenth century matured as they assumed a greater role in social and economic decision-making. Their sense of competition during play was easily adaptable to accelerating competition in the work world. Social intercourse fostered exchange of ideas. Meaningful membership and leadership roles in Friendly Societies, Funeral Societies, Emigration Societies, Agricultural Societies, Temperance Societies and the Church, access to reasonable credit, the right to vote and responsible government all contributed to an attitudinal change at the grass-roots level. Ordinary Scots slowly achieved full partnership in the socio-economic planning process. The upper classes finally gave them full credit for their ideas, their actions and their printed statements. But along with achieving respect and dignity, the ordinary Scots assumed greater responsibilities. They realized that they were now partially accountable for the actions of their governments and fully accountable to the smaller community in which they lived. However, they would no longer be paraded in front of the Kirk Session and the public for some trifling wrong-doing.The Lowland Clearances is a lesson from the past from which we can all learn a thing or two -- about values, compassion, balancing profit and social justice.
In Volume 11 Number 5 of The Scarboro Heights Record, "Interpreting Passage: Pointing to Our Heritage Learning Resources", we explained that the twenty-plus pairs of ribs pointing upwards on Passage are pointers to valuable information that is embedded in our own heritage. We can't just point to it though.
Through efforts such as the BBC Radio Scotland series, "The Lowland Clearances", and the new production of "With, I Hope, A New Face: A Newcomer to a New Land" we can do our small bit to help ensure that past mistakes won't happen again and that achievements from yesterday triumph once more. We have been working closely with BBC-Radio Scotland's Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell. Larry Westlake of Capricorn 9 Productions is our enthusiastic partner in the stage drama.
Here are some upcoming heritage learning opportunities in or in connection with Scarborough's heritage:
May 24, 2003: 2 PM
May 31, 2003: 1:30 PM
For broadcast times for the BBC-Radio Scotland series, "The Lowland Clearances", and for further information about these heritage learning opportunities, go to: www.scarboroughrecord.com or call 416-447-4895 or email email@example.com.
May 17 2003 to Aug. 2 2003
Toronto Reference Library, TD Canada Trust Gallery
789 Yonge Street, Toronto (1 block north of Bloor),
Mon-Thur. 10-8; Fri-Sat. 10-5
Sept. 20 2003: 2 PM
The Pioneers' Kingston Road Historic Walk
Fourth Scarborough Heights Historic Sites Walking Tour
To Get You Started
Here is a list of some key pages in this web site. Note that each page has an address of the form: http://www.beamccowan.com/zzzzzzz.htm.
James McCowan Memorial Social History Society
Scarboro Heights Record
Visitors since April 27, 2003