The halls, where our ancestors first saw the light,
Now blackened in ruins they lie.
And the moss-covered cairns are all that remain
Of the once pleasant homes of MacKay.
I spent twenty-three years on Strathnaver, in my birthplace Ceann-na-coille, and I am confident they were the happiest days I ever spent. We were very happy and comfortable on the Strath.
There were seven houses in Ceann-na-coille, which I, with a sad heart, saw burnt to the ground. I saw Rossal, with upwards of twenty houses, also burnt. Sellar's orders to the people were to have their furniture, and whatever else they wished to bring with them, removed from these townships before a certain day.
My friends, and several of the townspeople endeavored to obey this cruel summons, and carried their effects down to the river's side. Here they formed a kind of raft, whereon was placed all their furniture, farm implements, clothes, etc., in fact all their wordly possessions, except their cattle. Then they took shelter, and anxiously awaited the rising of the river to enable them to float the raft down the stream towards their new home.
Soon, however, the furious burners came, and in spite of the poor people's entreaties and promises, the raft was easily set on fire, and before the party left the ground it was all in ashes along the banks of the river.
Nor did the ruthless work of Sellar's party end here. They now turned their course to the township of Baclinleathaid, and there commenced the burning again. In a certain hut there, there was an old woman who, perhaps, had none of her friends alive, or at least at hand, to be of any help to her in the hour of need. The party came to the hut of this friendless woman, set fire to the house, and instantly marched off, leaving the poor decrepit woman, who was within the house, to burn. It is true the woman's body was taken out by some neighbours who, too late, knew what was taking place, but death relieved her from pain ere they carried her across the threshold of her burning house.
I was well acquainted with Donald Macleod, who wrote "The Gloomy Memoirs of Sutherland", and always found him to be a truthful man. I heard some parts of his book read, and can emphatically say from my own experience, which now extends over a period of eighty-nine years, that it states the truth.
Macleod only wrote what hundreds could testify to ten years ago, but now almost all the people who knew much about the Strathnaver cruelties are dead, and the young generation, though they have heard sof these things from the lips of their fathers, cannot testify to them as eye-witnesses could. People now-a-days cannot imagine the awful cruelties perpetrated on Strathnaver by Sellar and his minions.
I declare this statement of mine is true.
-- Ann MacKay
-- Murdo Mackay
29th Aug. 1883