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Highlanders flying high as "terrific, timely"

Authors enjoy few things more than positive reviews . . . especially during the run-up to Christmas. Below, excerpts from four different takes on Flight of the Highlanders: The Making of Canada . . .

Celtic Life International:
Best-selling author Ken McGoogan "deep dives into the historical horror of Scottish Highlanders in this terrific and timely tome. Spanning over a century, the scribe chornicles the terrible injustices brought on to families and communities by the British following the 1746 Battle of Culloden. While the cultural genocide of the Clearances showed the Brits at their worst, it brought out the best in the Scots, with tens of thousands of them setting sail for the New World and settling into new lives. More than a mere lesson in history, Flight of the Highlanders showcases the spirit of a people who sacrificed everything to preserve their culture and who were at the very core of constructing a new national identity. -- Stephen Patrick Clare

The Scotsman:
In Flight of the Highlanders, the bestselling Canadian author argues that the Highland Scots – victims of the Clearances and the oppression that followed the Battle of Culloden – were “Canada’s first refugees.” And that makes their story a timely reminder of the contribution refugees and other newcomers have made, and continue to make, to their new homelands.. . . But in a time of rising intolerance toward minorities and immigrants, Flight of the Highlanders is a much-needed reality check. McGoogan’s chronicle of how impoverished but tenacious Scots built new lives in Canada – and transformed their new country – is a reminder that all of us, regardless of origin or race, want the same things: a better life and a brighter future. -- Dean Jobb 

Winnipeg Free Press:
Flight of the Highlanders is a tragic and pathetic tale, well-told by the sympathetic McGoogan, of a people who came from afar to spearhead with others the settlement of Canada before it became a nation. They were thrown out of the Scottish Highlands in a cold-hearted annihilation of their ancient way of life. It was called the Clearances.. . . . The erasure of an independent culture feared and reviled by the English began in 1746, with the Battle of Culloden. McGoogan recounts how a professional English military destroyed a vastly outnumbered ragtag army of the farming Highlanders raised by and under the command of a wishful-thinking and militarily dumb Bonnie Prince Charlie. . . . In the Clearances following the Scots’ defeat, McGoogan explains, about 200,000 Highlanders were evicted from their ancestral lands between 1760 and 1860. They were offered passage to Canada in what became known as "coffin ships" because a number always died in the miserable and diseased conditions below decks. Today, more than five million Canadians claim Scottish ancestry and are proud of it, and the old Scots (among others) are revered as nation-builders -- Barry Craig

Globe and Mail:
[McGoogan] writes that the Highland Scots who were driven off their traditional lands should be looked at through the lens of history as refugees, and he goes a long way toward supporting this thesis by his demonstration of what they suffered. He starts with the misbegotten Battle of Culloden in 1746, when the British army beat Charles Edward Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” in his challenge to the throne. The army then went on to savage the highlands . . .  Over the next century in various waves, landlords brutally drove off tens of thousands of cottars in order to clear the land for sheep, which returned higher profit. McGoogan illuminates this general history with many individual stories. . .  [This] is a volume that rewards dipping into, preferably before a fire with a glass in hand. Ken McGoogan is an amiable companion to have with you there. -- Antanas Sileika

Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.