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Child Poverty
In 1847 a famine affected most of the Highlands of Scotland.

The number of people living in the Highlands had doubled between the 1750s and the 1840s. This meant that most farms had been divided up among a number of families. Each family had only a small amount of ground to grow crops.

Most families grew potatoes as their main crop. The advantage of potatoes was that a field of potatoes could feed twice as many people as a field of grain. However, in 1847 a new crop disease called "Potato Blight" destroyed all the potatoes. The Highlanders had no food at all.

The following items contain evidence about why there was a famine in Skye.

There are two sources in this section.

Source 5A
Map of Distressed Districts
Click to view Source 5A
In 1848 the government drew up a map of the Scottish Highlands to show the "Distressed Districts". This means the areas where the people were starving.

Source 5A is a section of a map showing the island of Skye.

Study it carefully and find the following areas:

  1. Kilmuir

  2. Snizort

  3. Portree

  4. Strath

  5. Sleat

  6. Bracadale

  7. Diurinish (or Durnish)
Source 5B
Skye population
Click to view Source 5B
Click to enlarge the images, then answer the following questions.


  1. Chose two areas in Skye and copy down what the population was in 1755, 1801 and 1841

  2. Use these figures to decide whether the population has gone up, stayed about the same, gone down.

  3. By how much has the population changed. You can draw a bar chart to show this.
Source 5C
Letter from Alexander MacGregor
Click to view Source 5C
Source 5C - Letter from Alexander MacGregor, Minister of Kilmuir.

The Highland Famine lasted for a number of years. The minister of Kilmuir sent this letter to the Committtee which was organising food supplies for the Highlands in 1849.

Click to enlarge the images, then answer the following questions.


  1. The minister gives three reasons why the people in his parish (area) were poor. What are the three reasons?

  2. What is the minister worried about?
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