by Mike McNamee Published 01/08/2016
The People of Mull
The population of Mull peaked in 1821 at 10,612. Since then it has declined to the present-day fairly stable level of around 2,000 (since 1961). Like the rest of the Highland region the population was decimated by the Clearances and what the factors failed to complete was finished off by the wind-blown disease that ravaged the potato crop and brought famine to the island in 1846. Mull is thus dotted with pathetic little rectangles of fallen building stones where people once scraped out an existence. 'Scraped' is a qualified word, the romantic notion of the sturdy Highlander tending his croft is a figment of Victorian imagination.
The reality was grinding poverty with famine never more than a few weeks of adverse weather away if it came at the wrong time in the growing season.
The clans-folk of Mull are Macleans and the Clearances scattered them across the world. There are conservatively 308,000 Maclean families in 132 countries around the world. Sir Fitzroy Maclean said in his book, The Isles of the Sea that the clan had its foundation first and foremost in the deeply rooted Celtic principle of kindness, a mixture of kinship and long tradition, stronger than any written law. As Macleans spread across the globe, the value of kinship is passed down through the generations. Wherever Macleans find themselves and their cousins, there is a distinct feeling of family and friendship, what Sir Fitzroy described as 'kindness.' The present-day distribution of Macleans is:
190,000 North America
As with all clans the 'septs' carry a variety of names and if you look through the list it is obvious how many prominent public figures are descendents of Mull families. They have proven to be a resilient bunch with that 'can-do' attitude of islanders brought about by isolation and the need to survive in a harsh environment.
Are you from Mull?
Auchaneson, Beath, Beaton, Black, Clanachan, Dowart, Dowie, Duart, Duie, Garvie, Gillan, Gillon, Gilzean, Hoey, Huie, Lane, Lean, Leitch, MacBeath, MacBeth, MacBheath, MacCormick, MacEachan, Macfadin, MacFadyen, Macfadzean, Macfergan, Macgeachan, MacGilvra, Macildowie, Macilduy, Macilvera, MacLergain, Maclergan, MacPhaiden, MacRankin, MacVeagh, MacVey, Paden, Patten, Rankin, Rankine.
This scattering of the original population goes a long way to explaining the cruise ships that visit Iona Sound daily; many of the Americans, New Zealanders and Australians pouring up from the jetty are searching for their lost ancestry!
The Highland Clearances remain a disgraceful blot on English history, something we might well dwell upon as we view the current influx of refugees coming in the other direction from Syria. Also for any overseas readers who are puzzled by the intense rivalry at Scotland-England sporting events look no further than the Clearances, we Celts have long memories!!
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