For the well-to-do estate owner, the task at hand may have seemed fairly straightforward: rid the pesky tenant crofters from the land and open it up to a far more profitable income.

It was the early 1850s, a time of Clearances across the Highlands and Islands as people were ruthlessly displaced to make way for sheep and deer.

This time, it was the turn of the small townships dotted around Coigach, a peninsula in Wester Ross to the north of Ullapool.

But as estate factor Andrew Scott and his burly team began the process of removing tenants from the land, he was met by extraordinary resistance from a fearless and extremely uncooperative so-called ‘band of Amazons’.

The young women of Coigach were certainly not about to see their homes and communities devastated to make way for livestock. And in a remarkable show of strength, they not only sent the estate factor, his men and the summons to remove them packing, they did it five times – humiliating him and his men in the process, even down to stripping one naked and throwing others into the sea.

Events of 1852 and 1853 when the women-led Coigach rebels defied authority to protect their homes, are now to be commemorated with a striking art installation created by internationally acclaimed artists Will Maclean – who has family roots in the area - and Marian Leven.

Sited on a high point at Acheninver, near Achiltibuie with spectacular views of the Summer Isles, the installation will feature four towering ‘standing stones’ at its heart. Three to represent the women at the forefront the community’s victory against eviction, and the other symbolising the tightknit community they strove to protect.

Mary Macleod, Anna Bhan Mackenzie and Katie Macleod Campbell were among the women who defied Victorian notions of femininity to lead the fight against moves to tear families from the land.

The Herald: Artists Will Maclean and Marian Leven's design for the Coigach installationArtists Will Maclean and Marian Leven's design for the Coigach installation (Image: Coigach Heritage)

Katie in particular would pay a terrible price for her part in what turned out to be a humiliating episode for the men sent by the estate to prise the tenants from their homes.

Branded as a ringleader who at one point ripped the shoes off one officer who arrived to serve notice on the community and then threw him in the sea, she was eventually barred from living on estate land. It left her and her husband little choice but to make their  home in a new location at Badenscallie, on poor quality land below the high water mark and prone to flooding.

Other elements of the large-scale installation will reflect the five failed attempts to serve eviction papers on the crofters. They will feature in the form of boat like structures, positioned in the direction of where they landed, and where they were met by the furious women-led resistance.

The episode made headlines at the time, with the women’s role singled out: one newspaper described them as a “bad of Amazons” displaying “everything but hospitable intentions in the reception of the unwelcome” sheriff’s officer.

Each attempt by his men to land their boat was met by the “brawny beauties”, according to one writer at the time. The women seized their writs, burnt them, stripped some of the men of clothes before turfing them into the water.

The adverse attention the revolt brought on the estate led to it abandoning efforts to clear the townships, making it one of the very few victories of communities of estate owners of the time.

The art installation is being developed by Achiltibuie’s Coigach Heritage group both in recognition of the women’s brave efforts and the impact their actions  still have on the community: their victory means descendants of the Coigach rebels still live in the area today.

Mairi Thornton of Coigach Heritage says the project has revealed fresh understanding of women’s role in the fight against moves to clear the land by wealthy estate owners and events in the area.

“Tenants at the time had no voice and no influence. They were used to being moved around by the estate which wanted to create more profitable business from sheep and deer farms.

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“This time they must have just thought enough is enough and were going to make a stand.

“The women tended to be in charge of the home, and perhaps that’s why they felt it was their role to be at the forefront.

“Official records don’t mention the names of the women, but the oral history of the area does.

“Because of that, we can identify who they were, and that some of their descendants are still in the village. That brings it all to life.”

The area around Coigach had been part of the Mackenzie’s Cromartie Estate since 1609. By the early 1800s, it was heavily populated and people were in poverty.

The debt-stricken laird, John Hay-Mackenzie, was heading for ruin when his daughter, Anne, married the Marquis of Stafford – who would become heir to the Duke of Sutherland, one of the wealthiest men in the country.

Two weeks after the marriage, however, the laird died. And by 1852, with it under increasing financial pressure, estate factor Andrew Scott suggested it was time to “rationalise” the land use at Coigach.

A large farm at Achiltibuie and Badenscallie which was densely packed with sub-tenants was targeted, but 18 families refused to relinquish their hill grazings and relocate.

It led to a series of stand-offs between landlord and tenants, which saw the women-led resistance repel each of the estate’s five efforts to serve eviction writs.

On one occasion, in February 1853, the sheriff’s party landed at Culnacraig only to be seized upon by the women; the writs removed and burned before the officer was “entirely stripped of his clothes and put on board the boat, in which he went to Coigach, in a state of almost absolute nudity.”

A following effort in March 1853 saw the Sheriff Depute, Procurator Fiscal, and some of the County Police arrive from Ullapool to be met by a crowd of up to 300 mainly women.

They are said to have rushed at the Sheriff and policemen, tearing the writs from them.

Their boat was then hauled up a hill by the women with one of the men still sitting in it, to be dumped on a potato pile in front of the local inn.

But while their resistance was successful and the estate abandoned its efforts to remove the tenants, it had a terrible downside. Stung by the tenants uprising and determined not to let the same thing happen again, further waves of evictions across the estate were carried out with crushing force and little mercy.

Research into the rebels’ story and a fundraising effort by the community for the installation has sparked fresh interest in events of 175 years ago, leading to new discoveries and inspiring new writing and music.

The Herald: Rachel Newton has created new music reflecting her ancestor's role in the rebellionRachel Newton has created new music reflecting her ancestor's role in the rebellion (Image: DECARLO)

Musicians Rachel Newton and Mairearad Green, cousins whose great great grandmother was one of the rebels, Anna Bhan, say it has inspired them to create a new body of work named after their ancestor followed by a tour.

Rachel, 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards, says: “Anna Bhan is a new collection of music inspired by our Great-great grandmother’s involvement in the women-led 1852 Coigach Resistance.

“We spent last summer researching and writing in a residency based in Achnahaird, where Mairearad is from and where my mum was from. 

“We spent time speaking to folk who are interested and involved with the history of the events that took place, including members of our own family.

“Despite playing music together as cousins growing up and being involved in various projects together, this is our first opportunity to make a collaborative piece of work as a duo and it feels appropriate that we should have such a personal and powerful narrative with relatable contemporary resonances in terms of land ownership, women led resistance and class issues to inspire this new work.”