During the 18th and 19th centuries a significant number of tenants in the Scottish Highlands found themselves unable to support themselves and were evicted by their landlords. These evictions were known as the Highland Clearances. This song is titled after a village on the east coast of Caithness where some of the tenants were moved after the Highland Clearances. Badbea (pronounced Badbay) is now deserted, "a ruined monument to life and death."
Hardship was the way in Badbea Desperate toil and hidden danger Tethered child, the rocks below Loss and heartbreak, never show
Edwyn Collins explained to Mojo magazine: "The remains of the village are about five miles from our house. I've been going there since I was a small boy. It's gradually falling down - the remains were much bigger when I was young. It must have been a hard place to live. They used to tether the children and animals on ropes so they wouldn't be blown away by the strong winds."