An important eye witness account of the conditions on the slave ships that plied between Africa and North America has been unearthed in Scotland by a Canadian-born historian. The account in the Scottish Catholic Archives is contained in a journal that has lain in Fort Augustus Abbey since the 19th century and also gives an insight into the progress Irish Catholics were making since their emancipation in 1829, and how many supported the expansion of the British Empire.
Dr Karly Kehoe from Inverness County, Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, who works in the Highlands, is trying to piece together the life story of its author, Richard Carr McClement, and what happened to the family he left behind. One of her few clues is a decaying photograph of a family group outside an ivy-clad house in Argyll.
She said: “The archivist, Andrew Nicol, showed me what looked like a large, old-fashioned ledger. It was approximately 400 pages of writing. I took it up to the reading room at about 1pm and sat and read it until I was made to leave about five hours later. I just couldn’t put it down."
Richard Carr McClement traveled around the world aboard six vessels of the Royal Navy. The McClement Project centers on the journal of McClement, an Irishman and assistant surgeon who served with the Royal Navy between 1857 and 1869. McClement’s 400 page journal is a tremendous historical resource for students, scholars and the general public. This project is interactive - it is about making history accessible and allowing people to participate in the development of an historical project.
You can read the diary of Richard Carr McClement at http://www.scottishcatholicarchives.org.uk/mcclement. You can read more background information about the diary at http://www.heraldscotland.com/life-style/real-lives/unearthed-journal-gives-eye-witness-account-of-slavery-1.995613.