A LOVE OF SUTHERLAND & THE CLEARANCE OF SKIBO -
THE INSPIRATION BEHIND 65 YEARS OF EUROPEAN FREEDOM
David Maxwell Fyfe was his mother Isobel's only child. She was brought up in Dornoch, daughter of David and Janet Campbell. In 1877 when Isobel was 17, her uncle and Janet's brother Donald Fraser committed suicide the day before his family was evicted from their tenancy, a mill in Migdale, part of the Skibo estate. This eviction was part of the late clearance of the Skibo estate that predated the acquisition by Andrew Carnegie, and was reported to the Napier Commission.
Maxwell Fyfe spent his childhood holidays in Dornoch, and loved the land. When he was appointed Lord Chancellor he chose as his titles Baron Fyfe of Dornoch, and Viscount Kilmuir of Creich. Kilmuir is not necessarily a place but more likely a tribute to the Cathedral in Dornoch (Mary's church) and Creich, once a village, is now a graveyard of his ancestors.
Certainly the treatment of his mother's uncle will have provide a vivid background to his committment to human rights.
From David Maxwell Fyfe's forward to the Duke of Sutherland's autobiography.
To the imagination of my boyhood the countryside … had a magic of its own.
I shall never forget the joy of walking over the heather, finding a place to bathe and later pulling a heavy boat in half a gale on Loch Shin and watching its length fade into the hills or further west seeing the mass of Ben Mohr Assynt climb into the clouds.
In 2012 and 2014 English Cabaret visited Dornoch and Creich to try and identify the roots of David Maxwell Fyfe's passion for human rights. It was clear from his autobiography and other papers that he closely identified with this place, that he felt that his self-professed idealism somehow grew up from this world.
In our visits it became clear that this area was changed by the nineteenth century clearances, changed forever as one population was removed distributed around the world, whilst another slowly has taken root. The clans are now gone, the bonds broken. A once populated landscape is now empty, still achingly beautiful.
During this period we discovered the story of what had happened to Maxwell Fyfe's mother's family, told by his uncle to the Napier Commission. And we discovered songs about the clearances, some like Hush, Hush quite recently written, but still resonating that bitter past.
The house in Dornoch where his mother was born.
The tower of Dornoch Cathedral
The graveyard at Creich.
A view at Bonar Bridge.
All photos on this page taken by Lily Blackmore during the English Cabaret visits. See more of Lily's photography at her website by clicking here.
One of many Kilmuir, the Churches of St Mary. This one on the Black Isle
In 2016 as a prologue to Dreams of Peace & Freedom: Nuremberg to Strasbourg we have woven this song with extracts from the Napier Commission Report to establish the story of Sutherland as a root of Maxwell Fyfe's passion for securing fundamental freedom for all people.
Lily Blackmore sings Hush Hush as part the performance of Dreams of Peace & Freeom at the St Luke's Sevenoaks patronal festival 2015.