The Mathesons from Helmsdale
The Sutherland area was renowned as one of the most brutal
during the Highland Clearances, when the owners of the land decided to graze sheep in the Scottish Highlands, and remove the
Highland tribes to the coast. These were Gaelic speaking people, with little knowledge of English . Some of the Highlanders
were moved to the village of Helmsdale, where cottages were built for them, but the Highlanders were not accustomed to living
in a town. They were subsistence farmers, and extremely poor, but could no longer graze their cattle and provide
for themselves. They were encouraged to join the fishing trade, but were not trained for this.
Many families emigrated or moved to cities where they
thought they could get work. It is possible that the Matheson family, with their children including Thomas, moved with many
others to Aberdeen. When Thomas Matheson married Mary Strath, the service was conducted by the minister of the Gaelic Chapel
in Aberdeen, although registered at the Church of St Nicholas. This would suggest
that Mary Straths family were Gaelic speakers as well, perhaps also originally
from the Highlands, as the name Strath also originated in the north.
Thomas age on the passenger lists in April 1838 was given
as 27 in April last, and the only birth record found for Thomas Matheson was in 1809, at Midgarty, which is very close to
Helmsdale. Four other children have been found for this family, but only the fathers name, Alexander. When Thomas emigrated,
only his mothers name, Margaret, and profession were given, suggesting that his
father had died.
At his marriage his trade was given as tailor, and his
immigration papers also describe him as a tailor and Mary as a dressmaker. Thomas
would have learnt this trade in Aberdeen, and probably moved there at a very young age.