The Scottish Gaelic Immigrant Community of the Cape Fear
(The following blog entry is a summary of a talk about the Scottish Gaelic immigrant community of the Cape Fear of the Carolinas during the eighteenth century, delivered as a public lecture at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, on Sept 15, 2014.)
Some of the circumstances and general facts surrounding the large-scale migration of Scottish Highlanders to the Cape Fear region of the Carolinas in the eighteenth century are well researched and widely understood, despite the very poor and complete record of migrants: the North Carolina Colonial council granted tax breaks to foreign Protestants for the first ten years of settlement to encourage the “desired type of immigrant” and a group of about 350 Gaels from Argyllshire formed the first colony in 1739. There was very little further migration until the 1760s. Between 1768 and 1774 economic and political pressures…
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In the winter of 1876 a journalist, John Sands, was stranded on the island of St Kilda.
He had also visited the archipelago in the previous year and wrote an account of his experiences, Out of this World; or Life in St Kilda, which was published by MacLachlan & Stewart in 1888.
On page 59 of this book Sands provides figures for various items produced by the St Kildans in 1875 and I have used these to calculate the values that follow:
Cloth: 227 yards (Of 47 inches and thumb) at 2s 3d = £ 25 10s 9d
Blankets: 403 at 1s 10d = £ 36 18s 10d
Fulmar oil: 906 pints (each pint equal to 5 pints Imperial) at 1s = 906s = £ 45 6s 0d
Tallow: 17stones 6 pounds (each stone containing 24 lbs.) at 6s 6d = £ 5 12s 1½d
Black feathers: 87 stones 15 pounds (24lb to the stone) at 6s = £ 26 5s 9d
Grey feathers: 69 stones 19 pounds (24 lb to the stone) at 5s = £ 17 8s 11½d
Cheese: 38 stones 6 pounds (24 lb to the stone) at 6s = £ 11 9s 6d
Fish: 1080 “marketable” at 7d each = 7560d = 630s = £ 31 10s 0d
Total £200 1s 11d
These goods were produced by the seventy-five souls living in St Kilda in 1875, giving a per capita income of £2 13s 6d. which we may equate to about £1,650 today.
There were 18 households recorded in the 1871 census, suggesting an average household income of £11 2s 2d, or about £6,870 in today’s money.
Whilst not a vast sum of money, it is nevertheless indicative of the degree to which the people of St Kilda were participating in the wider economy at this time, and also of the prodigious quantities of birds that they were processing. The fact that they sold over 1000 fish in a singly year is, however, perhaps the biggest surprise?
An extract from Sands account account of being stranded may be read online: http://www.widegrin.com/vicmisc/st_kilda.htm