Consider the Lilies

By Iain Crichton Smith

Synopsis

The Highland Clearances, the eviction of crofters from their homes between 1792 and the 1850s, was one of the cruellest episodes in Scotland's history. In Consider the Lilies Iain Crichton Smith captures its impact through the thoughts and memories of an old woman who has lived all her life within the narrow confines of her community. Alone and bewildered by the demands of the factor, Patrick Sellar, she approaches the minister for help, only to have her faith shattered by his hypocrisy. She finds comfort, however, from a surprising source: Donald Macleod, an imaginative and self-educated man who has been ostracised by his neighbours, not least by Mrs Scott herself, on account of his atheism. Through him and through the circumstances forced upon her, the old woman achieves new strength. Written with compassion, in spare, simple prose, Consider the Lilies is a moving testament to the enduring qualities which enable the oppressed to triumph in defeat.

Year of Publication

Review

This fine and tight historical novel asks a question the historical novel often eschews: is this inevitable? Set during the Clearances, we have the elderly Mrs Scott, disillusioned by the Kirk’s certainties and complicities. Crichton Smith weaves a story about possibilities untaken and chances unsought, the constraints that are imposed from outwith and within, to devastating effect. -- Stuart Kelly

Author Biography

Iain Crichton Smith (1928 - 1998) was born in Glasgow, Scotland's second-largest city, but moved to the Hebridean island of Lewis when he was two. Raised with his two brothers in a small Gaelic-speaking community, Smith learned English at School and later studied English at the University of Aberdeen. Smith wrote prose and poetry in both English and Gaelic. A school teacher, Smith was also a prolific writer and translator of Gaelic texts. His best-known novel, Consider the Lilies, like many of his poems, explores the cruelty of the Highland Clearances.