WHILE the Great Highland Famine between 1846 and 1855 may not have received the same coverage as the Great Irish Famine of the same period, to suggest that it is an indictment of our education that it has been overshadowed by Ireland’s is a gross overstatement (Colin Mayall, Letters, April 28).

I have not read James Hunter’s book Insurrection: Scotland’s Famine Winter, to which Mr Mayall refers, but I have read TM Devine’s The Great Highland Famine, published as long ago as 1988, where he states: “The impact of the potato blight in Western Ireland and in Highland Scotland was similar in that the crises in both societies stimulated a huge increase in emigration. But the differences were more significant. In Ireland, between 1,000,000 and 1,200,00 died during the Great Famine. In the Scottish Highlands, mortality rates did start to climb but eventually the crisis was successfully contained. Several millions were affected by crop failure in Ireland while in the Western Highlands and Islands the numbers seriously at risk were never more than 150,000 and often much less.”

Mr Mayall’s contention that Scotland was hit as badly as Ireland just does not stand up to examination of the facts. While it can be acknowledged that death rates are not the only criteria and that another effect of the Highland Famine was a huge rise in emigration, the rates are again not comparable with Ireland. All of the above is not to suggest that the history of the Highland Famine does not deserve more recognition in Scotland but is to put a proper perspective on its comparison with the Great Famine of Ireland.

While acknowledging to be true Mr Mayall’s comments on the role played by the Free Church of Scotland in the relief work carried out to assist those in need, regardless of religious persuasion, to link that with his statement “it is suggested that the Irish immigration to Glasgow resulted in religious conflict” appears to place doubt on the truth of that statement. There can be no doubt that Irish immigration resulted in religious conflict. Indeed, the Church and Nation Committee of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland put forward in 1923 a report entitled The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality and in 1930 the Assembly approved a motion to boycott Irish labour in Scotland. Thankfully the Kirk has since apologised and only the other day (April 28) the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland published a Declaration of Friendship which the General Assembly will be invited to welcome.

Ian Murray, Dumbarton.

* COLIN Mayall fails to quote the respective percentage population fatalities in Ireland and Scotland as a result of potato famine. Nineteenth century Ireland was arguably much less industrialised than Scotland, with an almost medieval land tenure arrangement of few squires and very many impoverished peasants. The scale of famine in Ireland shook all of society, akin to an autumn gale knocking the ripe apples off a tree.

Landlords did not face starvation, but many suffered financial ruin or were susceptible to an infectious illness epidemic connected to the famine. Countless poor Irish farmers were left destitute or forced into migration, as well as facing plague and starvation. In my hugely enjoyable tours across the Highlands and Islands during my working life, I do not recollect coming across famine burial pit markers, such as crop up quite frequently in Irish districts.

Do some historians now suggest that Westminster guilt at a pathetic government response to the Irish disaster possibly framed positive legal changes in Scotland in the form of the 1886 Crofting Act?

JT Hardy, Belfast.


YOUR columnist Alan Simpson writes a thought-provoking article ("Banning heading the ball will kill football as a sport" , The Herald, April 29).

However, when he writes: "Are any orthopaedic surgeons calling for tennis to be banned because of Andy Murray's hip or Rafa Nadal's knees?" I think that his comparison is misplaced.

For someone who has been crippled by the pain and stiffness of arthritis, successful joint replacement surgery is life-transforming. Thus I would expect Messrs Murray and Nadal to be able to earn a respectable living for many years to come.

By contrast, once the diagnosis of dementia is established, the prognosis is one of relentless physical mental and intellectual decline. This affects not only the individual, but often their wider family and leading to impoverishment, particularly if the disease strikes in later middle age, when the person might normally be considered to be at the peak of their earning capacity.

Christopher W Ide, Waterfoot.


THE Arran ferry saga will continue for a long, long time, and constituent parts of it will impact on Ardrossan, with possible final implications on the ferry route's existence from there – even allowing for delays in the construction, as the harbour alterations have yet to start, due to no agreement on funding between the Scottish Government and Peel Ports.

It is a different situation from that at Troon, where the ABS harbour alterations are complete, ready for the current ferry, and also the "whenever to be completed" MV Glen Sannox. Troon had already bid for the Arran run and lost, however, by default, it is going to achieve success, at least until the MV Sannox and Ardrossan harbour are ready too.

The Ardrossan route will be a long time in returning once the harbour works there start and no doubt it will be suggested that Troon remains king, and should retain the route. Could I therefore mockingly suggest that any funding that may have been laid aside for the ludicrous Paisley Gilmour Street rail link to Glasgow Airport, would be better spent on a cable car from the higher-level Troon station to the far-away, and lower, Troon ferry jetty, unlike Ardrossan where the train terminus is at the harbour, and the bus stop just a short walk away?

The whole situation would be laughable, were it not for the suffering of Arran residents, businesses, and lost tourist trade.

George Dale, Beith.

I HEARD my first cuckoo of the year on this morning’s walk (May 1).
Priscilla Douglas, Killearn.