I left Lochaber voluntarily, despite suffering a full year of homesickness so heart-wrenchingly acute I travelled back home on the bus most weekends from Glasgow, against the advice of older, wiser students.

Even after 38 years, I still feel a slight twinge in the heart when I turn left onto the A82 from Spean Bridge to drive back to the city.

Like most pupils at that time, the choices for school leavers were pretty much binary. 

For those of us who got half-decent Highers the only career advice was an inquiry about your preferred university and subject. Staying at home was only really held up as an option for less academically inclined pupils at that time.

It was a slightly different story for my maternal grandparents.

My late granny, Kate Agnes Maclean, was among the last babies born on the island of Mingulay in 1908 before the remaining Gaelic-speaking people made a final voyage across the water to forge new lives on Barra, Vatersay and the mainland.

The Herald: Herald reporter Caroline Wilson at the ruin of her granny's house in MingulayHerald reporter Caroline Wilson at the ruin of her granny's house in Mingulay (Image: Newsquest)

A population ground down by the inevitable force of progress and the promise of an easier life.

The family settled in Vatersay and then at 16 my granny left to find work in work in Oban before settling in Lochaber. 

It is where she met my grandfather, Angus MacDonald, whose family had also been forced to leave their homeland.

The Clearances had pushed people onto the Ardnish peninsula from surrounding lands owned by art collector Lady Ashburton.

By 1841 there were 200 adults now settled here – and possibly the same number of children again. Overcrowding and the push for a share of little work, food and income ultimately forced many to leave.

The Herald:

At Peanmeanach, where my grandfather was born, there were 48 people living in seven houses. Within 100 years, no-one remained. Like many, the family moved to Arisaig.

I followed in the footsteps of my Great Aunty Flora who made Glasgow her home, after a spell in London, working as a clippy in a city that had been welcoming Highlanders for generations. 

The New Highland Clearances - Day One:

Reversing depopulation will require policy makers to 'move heaven and earth'

Tourism push in 'forgotten' Highland village 'aggressive and unfair' 

'This is a real place - not a postcard' 

My honours degree, in music and Celtic Studies from the University of Glasgow, led to a postgraduate course in journalism, one of the best decisions I've made in my life so far. 

At 18, I had no clue about what I wanted to do with my life and it's possible I could have pursued a career in journalism in the Highlands but the profession had already shifted with most jobs requiring a university or college qualification.

Young people from rural areas will always be drawn to the cities, that's just a fact.

The Herald: New Highland Clearances

Interviewing a teenager from Barra for this series, it was clear he loved his life on the island but he told me he couldn't wait to go to Glasgow next year, where he plans to find an apprenticeship. 

However, much has changed since I queued up in the Bute Hall to matriculate in October 1993.

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) didn't exist at that time and the college was in its infancy so further education opportunities were limited. 

What is crucial in the debate around depopulation is that young people don’t feel compelled to leave to have a fulfilling career.

Creating more housing for rent or ownership is crucial in rural towns and villages for those who might want to stay in their hometown but not necessarily in their childhood bedroom. 

It also means broadening the range of courses at the UHI and other training courses and apprenticeships and ensuring that jobs in tourism are not just seasonal and offer decent career progression. 

Online learning and hybrid working has opened up more opportunities for school leavers to stay or return.

I interviewed a man in his forties who went back to Lochaber after graduating and has forged a successful career in renewables.

He said: "The world has also changed. You had the big cities and then everything was on the periphery. But now, with connectivity, everything feels connected so it doesn't really matter where you are.

"I know people from Fort William who are working in amazing jobs but doing it from home. Before 2020 that wouldn't have happened - it's been a bit of a game-changer."