8th August

The Mannie

Lift your eyes to the hills and there is the statue. The ‘Mannie’ is the local name for it. A useful term, familiar and playfully derogatory, for cutting down to size one hundred feet of sandstone; for levelling a duke, a man folk would once hardly have dared look in the face.

The Mannie was erected to the Duke’s memory after his death. But what is that memory, and whose?

He was a hard-headed but benevolent landowner, who saw that life as it was lived by the people of the glens and straths was unsustainable; that they were impoverished and starving and too numerous; and so he relocated them to the coasts, or encouraged them to emigrate, and made the interior a vast pasture for sheep, in part to pay for these improvements.


He was a cold, greedy man, indifferent to the sorrows of the people, whom he cleared by force and fire, destroying their way of life – their world, in effect – for profit. And he did this by proxy, setting cruel and rapacious factors to the task, so that they, not he, would be the chief villains of the play.

You can see the Mannie for miles around. He dominates the landscape as once the Duke did. There have been attempts to blow him up, dislodge, demolish or topple him. The plinth has had a few insults sprayed upon it. So far, he has survived.

The original Duke is long gone.

If you stand underneath and look up at the Mannie with the clouds racing over his head, you might think he is perpetually falling.

Knock him down or blow him up, and in a generation the arguments will be over. Good man, wicked man, nobody will care. Maybe that would be a relief.

But when the Mannie goes, the story will go. And if the story goes, the memory too will go. And when the memory has gone, the people will be empty shells. They will have no language of anger or dissent. They will find new names for names they cannot pronounce. They will not be of the land, only on it. And this will be the final act of clearance.

Reader: Gerda Stevenson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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