The Lowland Clearances
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Studies: Publications

Educational Resources

Historic Sites in Scarborough Heights

Links for Toronto Links

Scarboro Heights Record

The Lowland Clearances

Table of Contents



Scottish Diaspora Tapestry


Coming to a Burns Supper Near You...
Robert Burns
The Lowland Clearances


Now Available from The McCowan Society...

"The Lowland Clearances": The Book, by Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell -- more of the data that was gathered for the acclaimed three-part BBC Radio Scotland Series -- Including interviews with descendants of Scarborough's Scottish families (Tuckwell Press) $29.00. Order a copy...

This publication is a followup to the BBC-Radio Scotland series this past spring. The McCowan Society was pleased to help with this exciting investigation into a little-known -- and devastating -- socio-economic disruption in Scotland.


The James McCowan Memorial Social History Society
In Cooperation With
The Scarboro Heights Record

Community Studies Essay Competition

Your Community
In a World History Context

Discuss the impact of the agricultural revolution in Lowland Scotland on the development of rural Scottish communities in pre-Confederation Canada.

Lesson Plans


Learning Objectives -- Building A Country

  • To identify some signs and effects of over-population
  • To identify some of the forces that can initiate socio-economic change
  • To recognize that value systems evolve over time
  • To acknowledge that value systems contribute to community-building

Developing a Value System
That Rendered Success Around the World

The Agricultural Revolution had a profound effect on people. Many who were displaced from their plots of land emigrated to Canada. The value system of these new Canadians had evolved over several generations. The values that these immigrants brought to Canada were significant factors in the development and success of their new communities and institutions.

Freedom and

and Competition

Law and

and Leadership
Values Arising
From Profound Rural Change
In Lowland

Respect for...

Appreciation of...

Faith and

Material Wealth and
Determination and Honest Toil
Importance of
Good Health
and Stress Relief

Sense of Security and Control of Destiny
On The Land

A Good Education and Lifelong Learning


Tying It All Together
A Student Learning Opportunity


The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #10

Scottish Heritage Afternoon

May 31 2003, 1:30 PM
The Bluffs Gallery
Scarborough Arts Council
1859 Kingston Road, Scarborough

  • 10,000 Years of Toronto History: Bruce McCowan of the James McCowan Memorial Social History Society will speak about the archival and artifact collections of the McCowan family, Scottish immigrants to Scarborough in 1833. From the oldest known evidence of human occupation in Toronto -- 10,000 year-old aboriginal spear points -- to oral histories gathered very recently for the latest McCowan Society publication, Bruce will survey a broad range of leases, wills, personal letters, bankruptcy papers, coins, furniture and architectural and agricultural relics, all weaving the story of an ordinary Scottish Canadian farm family into the wider context of their community. The impact of the Lowland Clearances on the McCowan family will be covered in some detail.
  • The Lowland Clearances: We will also listen to this BBC-Radio Scotland program. This series has a strong focus on the impact of the agricultural revolution on Scots who emigrated to Scarborough in the early 19th century.

Cost: Free
Refreshments: Provided by Bea McCowan, Associate Broker,  Executive Editor, "Scarboro Heights Record"

McCowan Society local history publications will be available for sale. 35% of sales will be donated to the Scarborough Arts Council.

The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #5

Broadcast times for the BBC-Radio Scotland series, The Lowland Clearances, have now been confirmed:

Sundays, 11:00 am UK time:

  • May 18, 2003
  • May 25, 2003
  • June 1, 2003

Each program will also be repeated on the following Saturday at 20:30 UK time:

  • May 24, 2003
  • May 31, 2003
  • June 7, 2003

You will need RealOne Player. For that day's programming, in your browser:

  • go to
  • click on "Radio" (or "National Sites=Scotland")
  • click on "What's On"
  • click on "BBC Radio Scotland" for the schedule for that day

In addition, the programs are available in the BBC archives for 7 days, also over the internet:

Here is some of the media coverage of "The Lowland Clearances".

The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #4

Background to the Lowland Clearances Series

Beginning about 250 years ago, there was a profound re-ordering of society in Lowland Scotland -- now sometimes called the "Lowland Clearances" by a few scholars.

Unfortunately, very few others know a thing about it! Many have at least heard of the "Industrial Revolution" -- or can at least imagine that "something" neat must have happened to bring us all the machines that we have today. Some know that the "Highland Clearances" happened at one time or another. The famous romantic character, Bonnie Prince Charlie and that watershed event, the Battle of Culloden and the banning of the tartan are connected to it somehow, we recall. That horrendous period when despotic Highland aristocrats herded crofters to the seashore in the last half of the nineteenth century is particularly notorious.

But practically no one has any notion at all of the "Lowland Clearances". How could we know about it? There was no folk hero, no legendary leader, no decisive battle, not even a good rebellion. Outside academic circles, the Lowland Clearances have truly become a forgotten part of Scottish history.

So, BBC Radio Scotland decided to do something about it. A three part series, "The Lowland Clearances", will be broadcast in late May / early June 2003. Two of the segments could fairly easily be created partially out of the work of excellent scholars who have looked at the 18th century on certain macro levels, often based on regional patterns and statistics. But BBC came to realize that something was missing -- this tragedy was all about people, all about displaced families. The Producers also wanted to tell the family side of the Lowland Clearances.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, Canada, someone else -- in his own small way -- was also doing something about it. To Sustene the Personis: The Agricultural Revolution was published in 1994 and When the Ground Fails: An Economic Watershed was published in 1996. Excerpts from these two booklets were placed on this web site along with several other bits of historical research into that very interesting period. These pages caught the attention of BBC Radio Scotland. A few emails later, it was agreed -- the "missing" segment would be based on the experiences of the McCowan family of Cumnock, Lesmahagow and Scarborough. James McCowan will be the central figure in the story. Suffice it to say... we were absolutely thrilled to be part of this amazing radio series project!

"The Lowland Clearances: One Family's Story", McCowan Society publications and this section of our web site will answer such questions as:

  • Who were the McCowans of Ayrshire?
  • Where did they live and what did they do there in the mid-18th century?
  • What socio-economic forces were at work around them -- local, regional, international?
  • What were their responses to these forces?
  • What was the net effect of that web of action-reaction?
  • Where did they go and what did they do when they got there?
  • What values did they pass on to the next generation?

We will also look at the emigration to Scarborough, Canada, of the James McCowan family and some of their old neighbours in Scotland:

  • How were the first few years in Canada?
  • What were their aspirations?
  • What were their accomplishments?

We hope that this section of our web site will nicely complement the BBC series "The Lowland Clearances". Over the next few months we'll add more pages in connection with this profound socio-economic upheaval. Please follow the child-links at the top of this page as well as the links in the table below.

Here is an index of pages regarding our evolving values with respect to the land and a perspective on the right of real estate ownership.

The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #1


Our Publications About Lowland History

When the Ground Fails An Economic Watershed
To Sustene the Personis The Agricultural Revolution
Fairs and Frolics Scottish Communities at Work and Play
Catching Up With the Market Economy A local case study in socio-economic change -- a work in progress


Some Lowland Socio-Economic History on This Web Site
Media Coverage
An Emigrant's Last Letter Cholera
Full Partnership in Society Leadership roles in new Institutions
James McCowan Collier-Serf, Coalmaster, Farmer
Catching Up With the Market Economy Local Socio-Economic Change
A William Wallace Legend Rural folk craved a romanticized Scottish past
Age of Enlightenment Literacy and Cultural Progress
A Farmer's Modest Library Religion and Scottish History
Fairs and Frolics Scottish Communities at Work and Play
Alexander Muir Author of The Maple Leaf Forever
Moral Standards The Scot's Kirk and Behaviour
Scottish Heritage Days Scarborough's Early Scottish Families
The Evolution of Values Lanarkshire Emigrants
The Fermtoun Cooperative Economy Subsistence
Owner-Occupier Farmers Landed Estates and Bonnet Lairds
The Estate Evolves Landlords Need More Income
Interdependence of the Stakeholders in the Land Farm "Subsidies"
Dependence on the Land Kindly tenancies -- From Father to Son
Meagre Diet Cooperative Mini-Economy
Increased Regional Trade Diet Improvements
Old Boys' Club Patronage Plums
Protectionism Monopolies
Regulating Supply and Price of Food At Least, Attempts to Regulate...
Food Banks And Pride
Valuable Building Materials Origin of the caber-toss
Poor Roads Regional Trade Impeded
Stage Drama With I Hope a New Face
To leave or not to leave Debating their future in Scotland
An Ambitious Emigrant Mason Capitalism Takes Hold
Peddlers Unlikely Heroes of the New Economy
Glossary Old Scottish Terms
Inventions and Taxation Brilliant Minds
Rural Industrial Pollution Environmental Damage
Values with Respect to the Land A Fundamental Notion in the study of the Lowland Clearances
To Sustene the Personis The Agricultural Revolution
Education Leads to business success
When the Ground Fails An Economic Watershed
Land Availability Over-Population and Sustainable Growth
Individuality and Democracy The religious rural Scots
A Century of Transition 1700-1800
Agricultural Revolution Overview
Progressive Tenants Expanding their farms
Improvement Terms of a Lease
Work Horses
Men of Capital The Dot Farm Boom
Lesmahagow: Featured Parish Some Raw Sources
Tenant Structure Stockbriggs Estate
Industry Proposed "Warehouse"
Depopulation A Landuse Planning Strategy
Your Lease is Up And out you go
Dawn of a New Economic Order Entrepreneurism
Capitalist in Training Rise of a Coalmaster
Cost of Food Protectionist Trade Law
Poverty and the Poor A Paradoxical Posting
New Mode of Land Management Articles of Lease
Bankruptcy Of a Farmer
Coal and the Improvement Era Fertilizer and Beautification
Winners and Losers? A New Angle on the Lowland Clearances
Emigration The value of a connection to Land
An Emigrant's Lament Longing for "the heathy hill"
Robert Burns Rise and Fall of a Tenant Farmer
The Tenant Farmers 1700-1759
The Labourers, Wrights and Carriers Tenants in Transition, 1760-1790
The Weavers 1791-1840
The Millwrights Engineers of the Industrial Revolution, 1790-1850
The Coalminers Fuelling the Industrial Revolution, 1800-1850
The Last McCowan Farmers in Cumnock 1841-1900
Capitalists, Entrepreneurs, Professionals Of the nineteenth century
How did Ordinary Lowland Scots Come to Lead the Scottish Englightenment?
Weaving Indenture to learn the trade
Friend of the Farmer The Local Banker
The New Math For the New Cash Economy
Preparing for death Concern for offspring
Great Reform Bill Procession The struggle for democracy
Risk Management And Charity
Initiative From unsung factors
Before the Sheep ...there were sheep
Bibliography Lanarkshire
Bibliography Lowland Scotland
Bibliography Upper Canada
Finding Aid for Subjects Scarboro Heights Record, Volumes 1 to 8
Finding Aid for Subjects Scarboro Heights Record, Volumes 9 -->



With respect to our research in Cumnock, Scotland,
we are very pleased to acknowledge
the generous assistance of
The Most Honourable, The Late Marquess of Bute,
and his archivists, volunteers with the
Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
and Mr. R.D. Hunter M.B.E.,
long-time Town Clerk of Cumnock.
We were given much kind assistance in Lesmahagow by
Jim Hamilton, Jim Hamilton Senior, Robert McLeish, Helen Walker,
Frank Hughes, Bobbie Graham and many others.

Staff at many institutions were also very helpful:
Carnegie Library in Ayr
Cumnock and Doon Valley District Library
Mitchell Library
Strathclyde Regional Archives
Edinburgh Public Library
Old Register House
New Register House / Court of Session Records
Ontario Archives
University of Guelph Library / Scottish Studies Collection
Church of Latter Day Saints Library, Toronto.