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Table of Contents



Please Refer to the
Lesson Plans

These exercises are intended to assist with finding some focal points for your investigation of the Lowland Clearances. Some of the exercises depend on earlier Lessons as well. Discuss the evidence and explain your answers in detail.


1  Introduction and Lowland Scotland 1650-1750

  1. Why do you suppose diet in the "fermtouns" was so limited?
  2. At the beginning of this period, how effective do you think support for the poor could have been?
  3. Were the Towns' protectionist policies in the lowlands beneficial to the rural people?
  4. What was one of the hindrances to enhancing regional trade?
  5. What was a butt and ben and what was so peculiar about it?


2 The Land and the People

  1. What was runrig? Explain the "pros" and "cons" of runrig.
  2. What single word best describes rural life in 1700?
  3. Why did landlords give tenants a temporary rent reduction in times of poor harvest?
  4. What did the land mean to many rural people?
  5. Explain the logic for allowing tenants to take away their timber roof members at the end of their lease.
  6. Compare and contrast the libraries of James Whyte (landowner and professional property manager to the Duke of Douglas) and James McCowan, farmer of very modest background. Based on their libraries, were the two men more similar than different? How do you account for this?
  7. Why was a farm important to a coalmine?
  8. Suppose James McCowan was discussing coalmine management opportunities with the Earl of Dumfries' property manager in Cumnock. Write some dialogue of the exchange between them.
  9. Write an assessment of the risks that James McCowan was taking when he started his own coalmine. What would it take to succeed?
  10. What did the land mean to James McCowan?
  11. Why do you think that the early 19th century Scots cared about their history?


3 Modest Progress and Agents of Change

  1. Why was having land so important to the upper class?
  2. What was a primary cause of the increase in the number of beggars and vagrants at the beginning of the 17th century?
  3. Draw a diagram of the class hierarchy on a typical estate.
  4. Identify some of the factors that led to consolidation of farms that had previously been worked in runrig.
  5. What incentives did David McCowan offer to emigrants in 1808 and why? What was "in it" for David McCowan?
  6. How many employees of Dumfries House in Cumnock had copies of "The Practical Figurer". Why?
  7. You are a lawyer trying to convict a forestaller of contravening the Act of 1709. Write a short cross-examination of the forestaller in the witness box.
  8. If a pedlar and a Lanark merchant met on the street, what would they likely talk about? Write a short dialogue between them. Write two scenarios.
  9. Explain the role of pedlars in bringing about change in the late 17th century.
  10. How did James McCowan apply in Lesmahagow what he had learned from James Taylor in Cumnock?
  11. Who formed the Secession Church and why?
  12. In 1757, what was the likely ratio of country folk to townsfolk in Cumnock Parish?
  13. What is so significant about the McCowan leases of 1700, 1702, 1713, 1728, 1751 and rents of 1742?
  14. When did the agricultural revolution begin in Cumnock? Explain your reasoning.


4 The Agricultural Revolution

  1. Summarize Robert Burns' experiences as a tenant farmer. Explain what went wrong.
  2. List three forces or factors that contributed to agricultural change.
  3. What were the two principle aspects of the agricultural revolution?
  4. Describe the state of agriculture in Lesmahagow in 1792.
  5. James McCowan and James Whiteford met with James Corbet in 1799. Write a script of their conversation.
  6. Why was coal important to the agricultural industry.
  7. To obtain the lease of a farm, what was the single most important requirement?
  8. What else did the landlord require from the prospective tenant farmer? Why?
  9. What was the landlord willing to do to help the tenant?
  10. What would be a likely result if your rent increased four-fold?


5 Options, Responses and Results

  1. What was a downside of industrialization?
  2. What was the difference between being on the Meal List  and being on the Poor Funds list?
  3. Summarize the pros and cons for appointing an anti-reform right wing person as Inspector of the Poor. Include some assumptions.
  4. What were some of the problems that farmers were dealing with in the period 1816-21?
  5. Summarize the crisis that was developing in 1821. Go back in time to also discuss the evolution of that crisis.
  6. What was the purpose of the parade in Lesmahagow in 1832? Summarize the significance.
  7. Contrast the experiences and personalities of Daniel Meikle, born app 1784 in Lesmahagow, and David McCowan, born 1826 in Cumnock. How do you account for the radically different outcomes in their lives?
  8. Discuss "Risk Management" as it applies to the social well-being of a nation. How did social risk management evolve between 1700 and 1900?
  9. What was the most obvious outcome of the agricultural revolution?


6 James McCowan: Evolution of His Value System

  1. In 1896 David Boyle is interviewing James W. McCowan and William P. McCowan. The brothers tell him the stories they had heard from their father: ancestors losing their longstanding connection with a farm; the early years of coalmining; the servile relationship between the collier and the coal owners; the new-found sense of individuality. Write the script.
  2. In 1799 James McCowan (b 1773) and David McCowan (b 1775) are discussing their futures. James wants David to help with a new family coal venture. Write a dialogue between them.
  3. In 1817 James McCowan is meeting with his creditors and the Judicial Factor of Stockbriggs Estate to arrange re-financing of his business affairs. The Glasgow coal cartel and renewal of the Auchanbeg Coalworks lease next year are also on the agenda. Write the script.
  4. Why did James McCowan not take advantage of free land grants in Canada when the Lesmahagow Emigrant Society organized in about 1820?
  5. In 1831, James McCowan and his wife, Margaret Porteous, are discussing their future as the Sheriff's Officer takes inventory of their farm and personal property. The pros and cons of emigrating to Canada come up. Write the dialogue.
  6. Class discussion -- was the Scottish Enlightenment driven by Top-Down (upper class) or Bottom-Up (lower/middle class) forces or a combination of both?
  7. What was the greatest legacy left by John McCowan, tenant in Whitehill and Changue in 1614?


7 Rural Scottish Communities in Canada, 1800-1867

  1. In early 1834 James and Margaret McCowan and their neighbours, the  Stobos and Muirs, were discussing the need for a library in Scarborough. Write the script.
  2. What was the significance of curling to the development of the Scottish community in Scarborough?
  3. At the Scarborough fall ploughing match in 1833 James McCowan, Robert Stobo and John Torrance are debating the merits of the decision at the spring match that "no man will be allowed to compete who has ever turned a furrow in any of the British Islands". Write the script.
  4. In 1839, two widows, Agnes Hamilton Rae and Margaret Porteous McCowan, are discussing the possibilities of buying farms in Scarborough -- and the sacrifices to be made. Write the dialogue.
  5. On December 5 1837, William P. McCowan, Robert McCowan, James W. McCowan and James Weir are waiting outside Gates Inn for orders from Colonel Maclean of the Scarborough Regiment of Militia. They are discussing the armed revolt that now appeared to be threatening Upper Canada. Write the script.
  6. On April 18 1892, Alex McCowan is chairing a meeting of Scarborough dairy farmers, including James Chester, James Cornell, Levi Annis and George McCowan. They are formally debating their rights to a respectable return for their risk and hard work as dairy farmers. Motions are raised and debated. Nominations for offices are held. Write the script.
  7. For the Scottish settlers, how important was their Church and faith?
  8. In May 1833, James McCowan and John Torrance, land surveyor, are discussing the availability of workable land in Scarborough. They debate the pros and cons of an isolated 35 acre parcel at the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs. Write the dialogue.
  9. Summarize the value of the heritage learning resources associated with Springbank, the site of the original McCowan settlement.
  10. In your opinion, what was the most significant factor in the success of Scots in Scarborough in the 19th century?


8 Summary -- Net Effects of the Agricultural Revolution

  1. Class discussion: Was James McCowan a "winner" or "loser" or both? What did he mean when he signed off "...With I hope a new face"? What legacy did he leave his family?
  2. Class discussion: What was it that drove Alex McCowan to lead Scarborough dairy farmers to form a marketing association in 1892? Synthesize the evolution of his value system.
  3. Dramatization of a scene from With I Hope a New Face.


The Scarboro Heights Record V12 #3


James McCowan Memorial Social History Society
c/o 19 Monarchwood Crescent, Toronto, Ontario, M3A 1H3
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A Non-Profit, Non-Charitable Organization Dedicated to Placing the
Scottish Experience Within the Wider Context of the Community
Contributor to the "Lowland Clearances" BBC-Radio Scotland Series

Scarboro Heights Record
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