Written by James Hunter
When Scotland’s 1846 potato crop was wiped out by blight, the country was plunged into crisis. In the Hebrides and the West Highlands a huge relief effort came too late to prevent starvation and death. Further east, towns and villages from Aberdeen to Wick rose up in protest at the cost of oatmeal that replaced potatoes as people’s basic foodstuff.
As a bitter winter gripped and families feared a repeat of the calamitous famine ravaging Ireland, grain carts were seized, ships boarded, harbours blockaded, a jail forced open and the military confronted. The army fired on one set of rioters. Savage sentances were imposed on others. But thousands also gained key concessions. Above all they won cheaper food.
Those dramatic events have long been ignored or forgotten. Now, in James Hunter, they have their historian. The story he tells is by turns moving, anger-making and inspiring