IN Strathcarron, in the county of Sutherland, there's a splendid old church, built all of 192 years ago. As the website of Croik Church says, the church and its then minister 'figured prominently in the Clearance of Glencalvie in 1845', a 'tragic event that is recorded in messages scratched in east window'.

Glasgow photography student Gillian Jamieson was there recently, and one of the still-visible names – Ann – has begun to haunt her.

"That was the most melancholy shoot of all," she says. "It's a lovely church and the messages and the names really make you think. They really put a human element onto the whole thing. I came away wondering just who Ann was, and what became of her in later life."

Jamieson, 46, visited the church as part of a college documentary project in which she set out to illustrate, via atmospheric black-and-white photographs, Letter from America, the celebrated 1987 lament by The Proclaimers.

The song details not only aspects of the Highland Clearances but also some of the industrial devastation wrought on Scotland in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives, name-checking Methil, Bathgate, Irvine and Linwood. Linwood was where the Hillman Imp and many other cars were made; Bathgate was once home to British Leyland's truck and engine plant.

The loss of such industrial concerns prompted considerable bitterness. Back in January 1992, the journalist John Macleod wrote a piece in The Herald in which he looked forward to that year's general election. He wrote these words: "After 13 years of national rape, the Tory regime writhes like a gaffed salmon. And I am here, relishing every moment, awaiting the fall, without pity and without mercy, my will informed by a deep and total contempt for the Conservative Party. Do I need to spell that out for you, dear reader? You remember it all. You have survived those years. Much has not. Singer. Corpach. Invergordon. Linwood. Carron. Methil. Bathgate. Gartcosh. Ravenscraig. All gone, or going, and the meaning of thousands of lives with them, and the heart of many a community."

Back in 2014, in the year of the independence referendum, The Proclaimers – brothers Charlie and Craig Reid – themselves said: "The lyrics in Letter From America are about the job losses and closures that flow from Scotland not having control over her destiny. That is what happened in the 1980s, and that is why Scotland needs independence now.”

From the archive: The Proclaimers

Jamieson, who lives in Glasgow's South Side, visited eight locations over nine or ten weeks.

Her photographs, shot on a Nikon camera, are accompanied by stark captions. "Gearrannan Blackhouse ruins. Villages erased from maps. Dwellings set on fire," run the words next to an image on Lewis.

The picture taken on Skye has as its caption: "Boreraig, Skye; 22 households, 120 residents evicted. Forcibly cleared by Lord McDonald in 1853." The caption for a shot of a pier at Fort William says: "Ships left harbour for America. Many didn’t make it to the end of their journey due to epidemics on board the boats. For some, this would have been the last place their feet touched Scottish soil."

"I started my course at Glasgow Kelvin College two years ago," Jamieson said this week. "I work part-time for the 3D charity in Drumchapel, which works with local families. They've supported me so that I could do this course.

"My 20-year-old daughter Erin is a photographer in her free time and that's how I got into this, just by going out with her. It's only in the last two years that I picked up a camera for myself.

"It was really interesting to work on, but it wasn't easy. It's quite a dark topic. I got quite emotional when I went to Croik Church and saw all those inscriptions and messages etched on the glass.

"And then I did research into all the industrial closures and all the people and their families who were affected by them. Much of my research was online but I got so much information from talking to local people.

"At Bathgate I struggled to get a photograph because there's absolutely nothing left of the old industries. Everything has been pulled down," she continues. "I was looking for an interior of a derelict building there – I found, online, an old picture of the Leyland truck factory after it had closed down. In the end I was able to get into a ruined old slaughterhouse in the town.

"The place used to handle 500,000 lambs a year and it closed down in 2005. I like the way the light makes that photograph work. But it was eerie – I was there on my own and had to trespass in order to get it."

She had, she says, originally intended on embarking on another college project altogether.

"I have my father's old Reader's Digest atlas of the UK. It's probably about 25 years old. I was looking at it, and I was going to do a road trip across Scotland, from the east coast to the west coast, but when I was studying the east coast I came across Methil as a starting-point, and I thought, 'hang on a minute, this might be a good project.

"I looked into Methil, and wondered why it was mentioned in the song, and I started getting more and more interested in the story. I thought it sounded like a really good project. I hadn't really seen much of Scotland, embarrassingly, and I realised this might be an opportunity to find out more about the country's history and also to do some travelling."

Her travels were all self-funded, though she also had a college bursary and a student loan. She went to Stornoway with a cousin who was on the mainland on a visit; he gave her a lift home, she took her photographs on Lewis and stayed at his home for a couple of nights then flew back home. "I was really lucky there," she recalls. "In Skye I stayed in hostels and that was an opportunity to really talk to local people."

An uncle of hers who once worked in the Rootes car factory at Linwood "told me that some people had taken their own lives as a result of losing their jobs there. It was awful, the impact unemployment can have on a place; you're trying to provide for your family and suddenly all of that is taken away from you."

She opted for black and white photographs as she believes they are more atmospheric than colour images and also because they are more appropriate to the solemn nature of the subject.

The project is what is known as a graded-unit exercise and her work will now be assessed by her college lecturer, Simon Murphy. "He's a fantastic photographer and he was really supportive." She also received support from her family and friends, including her 14-year-old son, Connor.

As it turns out, Jamieson has been in touch with The Proclaimers themselves. "I was in touch with their management and told them I was working on this project. I wanted to know why they'd chosen the locations in the song as opposed to other ones. The reply was along the lines of, 'They were chosen because the song is about Thatcherism and it's about the Highland Clearances."

The song is now 32 years old. It has long been able to speak for itself, but Jamieson is pleased to have given it extra resonance with her photographs. Jamieson says: "It's been an amazing journey."