1816: Clearances on trial – he’s found not guilty of murder

The era of the Highland Clearances is one of  the most controversial times in Scotland’s history. The fallout after the Jacobite rising of 1745 had led to a hammering of Highland culture, including determined efforts to wipe out the tartan dress and Gaelic language of the north.

Clan chieftains, who’d held lands in trust for their extended family, were advised that under the laws of the United Kingdom they actually owned the land themselves – and it could make them rich.

With the Empire expanding and troops engaged in wars across the world, there was more money to be made from sheep’s wool than from the clansmen the chiefs had formerly protected.

The clearances saw thousands of people dispossessed, and many left to die of poverty. And one of the darkest characters to oversee the driving out of men, women and children was lawyer Patrick Sellar.

After a particularly vicious eviction, which led to the slow and painful death of 67-year-old Margaret McKay, he was called to answer for the crime of murder.

But a jury of his peers quickly found him innocent – and the judge apologised to Sellar for having taken up his time.

In a bar in Glasgow Sellar’s name is engraved in a urinal in the gents’ toilet… so that modern Scots may do to him what he did to their ancestors 200 years ago.