As Book Week Scotland gets underway, an online petition to reprint an essential piece of local history has gained almost 250 signatures in just 24 hours since it was launched – including Professor Sir Tom Devine.
The petition calls on publishers Birlinn to re-print a currently unavailable history book about the Lowland Clearances.
On Sunday the authors Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell gave a presentation of research from the book at a sold-out event hosted by the Glenkens Story at the Catstrand in New Galloway. The event was so popular that people had to be turned away at the door.
Many attendees were surprised to learn the book in question was unavailable to purchase due to a publishing decision by Birlinn.
Professor Sir Tom Devine said: “I had the good fortune to have been involved in the original influential radio series which was the progenitor for this book.
“The decision of the publisher not to reprint it again is incomprehensible. Birlinn should think again!”
Neil Davidson, author of The Origins of Scottish Nationhood and the Deutscher-Prize winning Discovering the Scottish Revolution, has also backed the petition, adding:
“At a time when demand for a de-mythologised Scottish history is more necessary than ever, it is incomprehensible why Birlinn have refused to republish this important work which helps us understand the transition to capitalist agriculture across Scotland as a whole.”
Local historian Alistair Livingston, whose own research on the Lowland Clearances and the Galloway Levellers was essential to the book project, commented:
“It is impossible to understand the Highland Clearances without knowing that they were preceded by the Lowland Clearances.
“The Clearances began in Galloway in 1724 when it took an entire regiment of soldiers 9 months to suppress an armed uprising against clearance.”
The book’s authors, both former journalists, were grateful for the local community’s support for their book. Peter Aitchison said “I want to thank everyone who is doing this… This shows there is demand.”
The online petition was started by Lucy Brown, a Glenkens native and new member of Dalry Community Council. She said:
“So long as the Highland Clearances are seen as a unique and exceptional part of Scotland’s history while the Lowland Clearances are passed over in silence, emotive myth rather than sober reality will prevail.
“The fortunes of the people in the South of Scotland – and Galloway in particular – were shaped by the social and economic processes described in the book. These events continue to have significant implications for the local community today. But without access to our history, the debate can’t go anywhere.
“It’s heartening to see that there is international interest in the subject.”
Closer to home, signatories to the petition include the Falkirk-born author and activist Alan Bissett, Aberdeen historian Dr Fiona-Jane Brown, Leith campaigner Kevin Williamson, Isle of Lewis academic Alastair McIntosh and Donegal Councillor Micháel Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig.
The petition is online here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/birlinn-please-re-print-the-lowland-clearances