To The New World

I

n the summer of 1843, James Robertson of the Invervack family was Sheriff of Tobermory on the Island of Mull when the Chas Humberstone and the Catherine, packed with emigrants bound for America dropped anchor in the bay. He tells what happened in his Journal.

‘The ships were almost full of the poor creatures, and the agents took care to keep them employed and amused with their preparations, piping and dancing. They are sensible and savage looking fellows, and Capital dancers. A few of the girls were comely, and two or three absolutely good looking, and demeaning themselves accordingly as if they had been inured to a fashionable life from their infancy. I spoke to one or two among them, one a Macdonald with all the old feelings of attachment to his Chief. - “If he had his own,” said the poor fellow, “we would not have been here today”. How unworthy of his position in life has this wretched and contemptible trifler proved himself; by his folly and vanity he has ruined an honourable and ancient family and almost exterminated a faithful and noble race of followers........MacNiven engaged with several hundred Emigrants to ship them to America at so much a head of freight. In payment they made over to him their crops, stocking and effects at a certain price, to be converted into money at his sole risk....He paid the first installment, and offered his bill for the balance. This was declined by the agent for the Owners, upon which MacNiven maintained that, as they had taken the Emigrants on board, the vessel must now sail whether the freight is paid or not, and that the Emigrants cannot be put ashore again. The Agent and Master went on board, took the Constable with them, called up the Emigrants, and informed them that if the freight was not paid, the ship would not sail and they would be landed again. This of course created a great sensation among the poor Emigrants, and it was feared serious disturbance would take place among them.’

James Robertson was party to the negotiations to sort out this impasse. 'MacNiven signed papers making over the emigrants’ crops etc. to certain gentlemen in Moydart in securitty, and Mr Ranken set out for Moydart in the middle of the night to endeavour to obtain their signatures to Bills for the Balance due to the Ship owners.’ He was successful, and three days later Robertson records that ‘Emigrant ships sailed with a fair wind. Went to Bloody Bay hills to see them pass - heard the poor Highlanders cheer as they went up the Sound.’