Press Release 27 April 1998

SKAT Call For Support From North Carolina

SKAT are writing to expatriate Scottish communities in North Carolina urging them to relinquish any ties they have with NationsBank whose headquarters are based in the state. This move comes in the wake of the recent merger between NationsBank and the owners of the Skye Bridge, BankAmerica, which means that, for the second time in 260 years, North Carolina is again closely associated with activities which are to the detriment of the people of Skye.

In 1739 North Carolina participated in a scurrilous trade which saw hundreds of Skye people being taken across the Atlantic against their will to work, virtually as slaves, in cotton plantations there. The trade was discovered by the authorities only after a ship, the William of Donaghadee in Ireland, carrying more than a hundred men, women and children from Skye who had been forcibly removed from their homes and imprisoned on board, had to put into her home port for repair to storm damage. While in port some of kidnapped Skye folk escaped and the scandalous trade was brought to the notice of the authorities. The episode is still remembered in Skye as the Ship of the People (Soitheach nan Daoine). During the investigation of this human trade, the chiefs of the MacLeods and the MacDonalds in Skye were implicated, though for various reasons the authorities turned a blind eye to their involvement.

Now nearly 260 years later North Carolina’s name is once again associated with a dubious activity which will have severe consequences for the people of Skye. In 1739 plantation owners in the State paid 5 for every poor soul from Skye who managed to survive the Atlantic crossing, now NationsBank of North Carolina, as owners of the bridge, exacts 5.80 from every poor soul who has to cross to the island by car. Coincidentally Skye landlords were involved in both - the clan chiefs in 1739 and Iain Noble in the more recent affair. Furthermore, as in the case of the Ship of the People, the authorities are conspiring to allow those most closely involved in the Skye Bridge fiasco to get away scot-free. Plus ca change……

The uncomfortable similarities between the Skye Bridge saga and the Ship of the People episode leave SKAT Convener and local Councillor, Drew Millar, feeling uneasy. "It’s not quite history repeating itself but the role of North Carolina through NationsBank in the current exploitation of the people of Skye has sinister parallels with the State’s scandalous trade in islanders in the early 18th century. I would hope that the people of North Carolina, who have cause to regret the deeds of their forefathers, will take this to heart and register their disapproval by refusing to deal with NationsBank. This uncanny coincidence should jar the conscience of NationsBank chief executive, Hugh MacColl whose name betrays Hebridean origins. Perhaps he’ll now have a closer look at exactly what they’ve inherited from BankAmerica."

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Copyright Ray Shields, 1998.

Most recent revision, 13 July 1998