There was a time, several hundreds of years ago, that many more people lived on Islay. There were as much as 15,000 people around 1830 working on and living from the land. Nowadays the population has dropped to a little over 3,000 people. The remains of those crowded days are clearly visible all over the island, there are many ruined houses and settlements dotted around the landscape.
Ever since the start of the Islay Info website I was interested in the rich history of Islay and automatically found out about these emigrations, although in little detail. We all know that many descendants from Islay live scattered all over the world, most of them in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia. The reasons why these people left vary. Poverty, famine and the expectation of more prosperity in another country were the main reasons, also because opportunities on Islay were few. These migrations didn't take place at once but they were spread over several distinct time-periods. Continue reading...
In other parts of Scotland, The Highlands, these (e)migrations were forced by land owners and are referred to as the Highland Clearances. There were no forced clearances on Islay, at least not compared to these Highland Clearances, although gentle and sometimes strong persuasion was used to move people from their homes.
The questions I had all along was where exactly did all these people go? And how did they start their lives in these foreign countries? What difficulties did they overcome? Answers to questions that were not easy to find online. A while back I discussed these questions with Sue Visser, a friend from the Islay List. Sue got me in touch with Toni Sinclair, another respected member of the Islay Genealogy List. Toni had worked on a similar story a while ago and she was willing to answer my questions and help me with a new page that explains in detail where all the emigrants went and what has become of them, something for which I'm deeply grateful. The result of Toni's hard work is a highly interesting and well written page on the Islay Info website, titled "Leaving Islay".