A Description of
Of Scotland

(CIRCA 1695)


Martin Martin, Gent

A Voyage to St. Kilda
By the same author


A Description Of
Of Scotland

By Sir Donald Monro

Edited with Introduction by
Donald J. Macleod,
O.B.E., M.A., D. Litt., Officer d'Académie



AMONG the books from the Advocates’ Library now part of the National Library, Edinburgh, there is, as noted by Mr. Fred T. MacLeod, F.S.A. Scot., in his paper on Martin’s Description of the Western Isles in Vol. IX. of the Transactions of the Inverness Scientific Society and Field Club, p. 170, a copy of the first edition (1703) of Martin’s work with the following inscription in Boswell’s hand-writing: ----- "This very book accompanied Mr. Samuel Johnson and me in our tour to the Hebrides in April, 1773. Mr. Johnson told me that he had read Martin when he was very young. Martin was a native of the Island of Skye, where a number of his relations still remain. His book is a very imperfect performance, and he is erroneous as to many particulars, even some concerning his own Island. Yet as it is the only book upon the subject, it is very well known. I have seen a second edition of it. I cannot but have kindness for him, notwithstanding his defects. James Boswell, 16th April, 1774."

There is good reason for concluding that Martin’s Description of the Western Isles was one of the main causes that induced Johnson to visit the Hebrides. In his Journal of their famous tour Boswell states that Dr. Johnson "told me, in summer 1763, that his father put Martin’s Account in his hands when he was very young and that he was much pleased with it." Stephen’s Dictionary of National Biography states: "although Johnson was interested in this work and took the book with him to the Highlands, he had a poor opinion of its literary merit. "No man," he said, "now writes so ill as Martin’s account of the Hebrides is written." Martin Martin, the author of the work referred to, and also of another most valuable book, "A Late Voyage to St. Kilda, the Remotest of all the Hebrides, or Western Isles of Scotland," published in 1697, was evidently born at Bealach, near Duntulm, Skye, ca. 1655-1660. The precise year is not known, but in 1681 he graduated M.A. at Edinburgh University where he was educated along with other members of his family. He belonged to a very well-known Skye family (Martainn a’Bhealaich) whose position and family tree are set forth in the monumental history of Clan Donald (Vol. III. p. 558) published in 1904 at Inverness by Rev. A. MacDonald, D.D., Killearnan, and Rev. A. MacDonald, D.D., Kiltarlity, the well-known Clan historians and authors of other well-known and valued works dealing with the history and literature of the Highlands. Mr. George M. Fraser, Portree, Solicitor and Factor to the MacDonald Estates, Skye, to whose courtesy we owe access to some MS. papers in connection with Duntulm in Martin’s time writes under date 12th October, 1931, "When recently arranging some old MacDonald Charter chest papers I came across an obligation by a Captain Hugh MacDonald, dated 30th March, 1686, and as this Deed was witnessed by Mr. Martin Martin, in whose work you are interested, I think you may be also interested in seeing a copy of the Deed, which I enclose. You will notice that Mr. Martin was there described as Governor to the Laird of MacDonald, Younger. Attached to it I have put a facsimile tracing of Martin Martin’s signature. No doubt you note the reference in the "Clan Donald" to Martin Martin where he is shown as a descendant of the Martins of Bealach. I think some people are of the impression that he was one of the Martins of Flodigarry. Personally, I think this latter is not correct and the idea may have arisen from the fact that his brother John Martin had a tack of Flodigarry as I have traces of it in the estate papers . . . . . ."

Mr. Fraser summarises the reference in "Clan Donald" as follows: -----


"Aonghas na Gaoithe," the first of the family of whom there is any trace, is said by tradition to have been a seafaring man, with no fixed place of residence. He received the name by which he became known from his wandering life among the Western Isles in his galley in all seasons and in all kinds of weather. Before he came to the Isles, he, it is said, was celebrated for his exploits in Ireland, where he fought in the wars of Sorley Buy MacDonald. He is said to have married a Danish Princess called Biurnag, or Bernice, and had seven sons. Over his grave at Kilmuir is a stone representing a recumbent warrior, brought by himself from Iona.

Angus’s son, Martin, commonly called Gille-Martin, from whom evidently the family took their name, settled in Troternish, and received a wadset of the lands of Bealach from Donald Gorm MacDonald of Sleat. He married Janet MacDonald, a near relative of the family of Sleat, and had by her: -----

1. Donald.
2. Lachlan.
3. John.
4. Angus.
5. Martin.

Martin was succeeded at Bealach by his son, Donald III. He fought under the Macdonald banner in the campaign of Montrose, and acted shortly thereafter as chamberlain of Troternish. He married Mary, daughter of Alexander, brother of Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat, and by her had: -----

1. Donald.
2. John.
3. Martin, who in 1686 was "governor to Donald, younger of Sleat." He was the author of "A Voyage to St. Kilda," which was published in 1698, and of "A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland," published in 1703. Martin, who was a man of ability and culture, qualified for the medical profession, but he never practised. He lived latterly in London, where he died unmarried.

Donald Martin of Bealach was succeeded by his son, Donald IV.

From Dr. Erskine Beveridge’s "North Uist," pp. 335, 336 we note that, "For some period until 1686 he was ‘governor’ to Donald MacDonald, younger of Sleat-afterwards fourth baronet, evidently born ca. 1665, who led the Sleat men at Killiecrankie in 1689 and died in 1718, two years after being forfeited. From 1686 to 1692 Martin Martin acted as ‘governor’ to young MacLeod of Dunvegan, the earliest receipt for his salary in this capacity being dated 13th August, 1686, and the latest 16th August, 1692.

Nothing seems to be known of Martin Martin in his later years, except that he entered Leyden University, 6th March, 1710, and there graduated as M.D., afterwards residing in London until his death unmarried, in 1719. It has been stated that Martin was ‘factor’ to the laird of MacLeod, but this is wholly incorrect. These particulars, the result of careful research, have come to light since the last edition of Martin in 1884. Leslie Stephen’s Dictionary of National Biography further adds that Martin contributed two papers to the Royal Society, the first in 1697 forming the ground work of his vol. of 1703 and also that Martin "mainly at the request of Sir Robert Sibbald, the antiquary, travelled over the western islands of Scotland, collecting information regarding the condition and habits of the islanders." There can be no doubt that he was, for his period, a person of means and position as he styles himself "Gentleman," and likewise must have spent much time and money in the investigations and journeyings he made among his native Islands. It is particularly interesting to note that in the 17th century a native of the remote Hebrides was in a position to give informative addresses before the Royal Society and to produce and publish works of interest and importance. Only a Highlander with a full and intimate knowledge of the people and their language could have done so with such sympathy and understanding. With the exception of Dean Monro’s small work 150 years previous it is the earliest description of the Western Islands we have and the only lengthy work on the subject before the era of modern innovations. Its value is justly held at a high rate, more especially when it is borne in mind that the whole is the result of personal observation. Martin had the intelligence and enterprise to devote himself to Hebridean investigation ----- a field from a literary point of view almost entirely new and unoccupied, and readers will find his style exceedingly interesting, if often quaint. His writings formed a new departure in Scottish literature and were for long the only productions of consequence in their especial walk. They have been quoted by all subsequent writers of note who have dealt with the same subject. As time goes on their value as descriptive of a type of Scottish and Highland life, now to a very great extent a thing of the past, is being more and more realised. The entire literature of this sort left to us is lamentably small and limited in extent. Had Martin omitted to write what he has written our knowledge regarding earlier life in Celtic Scotland would be much more limited than it is.

To round off this volume in an interesting and useful way the publisher has decided to include the "Description of the Western Isles of Scotland" by Sir Donald Monro, High Dean of the Isles (1549). This is the earliest description of the Western Islands made from personal observation. The first printed issue of this extremely rare work was published in Edinburgh in 1774 but only fifty copies were printed.

In addition to this issue the work was included in one of the volumes of the Miscellanea Scotica.

In 1884 a limited edition of two hundred and fifty copies was published.

The present edition, like that of 1884, is a verbatim reprint with all the old curious spellings and names strictly retained. This feature should prove of special interest to students who may desire to have the original forms, as noted by Monro, ready at hand. Of the Dean himself little is known beyond the fact that he travelled through the Isles in 1549 on a pastoral visit of inspection. One of the Rectors of St. Columba’s Church, Eye, Island of Lewis, in the sixteenth century was a Sir Donald Monro and Mr W. C. Mackenzie, the Highland historian, considers that he "was probably the sixteenth century Archdeacon of the Isles with whose description of the Hebrides the historian is familiar."

Many of the names as noted by the Dean suggest that he was either not very familiar with Gaelic or that he was unable to write it with any accuracy. It is also probable that he did not concern himself with recording many of the names accurately and that in several instances the forms he gives were written down by him from memory some time subsequent to his visit. In any case not a few of them are difficult to identify as well as to explain. But the contrast between the glimpses he provides of insular economic and social life in the islands in the sixteenth century and those noted in Martin’s fuller record towards the end of the seventeenth century cannot fail to attract the interest of the reader.

Copy of Deed from the Macdonald Charter Chest

referred to by Mr G. M. Fraser, Portree.

I Captain Hugh Mconal Lawfull son to umq Alexr Mcdonal of pabellseary binds and oblidges me and my heirs to procure from Mistris Anna Macky my mother and from Mr Hugh Munro minister of Durness her husband a full and ample disposition and discharge to Sir Donal Mconal of Slait or his heirs of all they can ask or crave of him after the term of Whitsunday next to come eightie six years either upon the account of the sd mistris Anna Mckys matrimoniall contract or any other transaction or agreement made betwixt the Late Lord Reay her brother (with her consent) and Sir James Mackdonald of Slait, but still w’out prejudice of qt is due to her be the sd Sir Donal preceeding the forsd term. And in case I the sd Captain Hugh fail in procuring the forsd disposition & discharge betwixt the dait hierof and the term of Mertimess next to come eightie six years. Then and in yt case I bind and oblidge me and my heirs not only to give up to the sd Sr Donal or his heirs an contract of Wodsett granted be him to me of the Lands of Dustill more, but Likewayes to renounce the sds Lands in favours of the sd Sr Donal or his forsds, and also to be bound to pay to the sd Sir Donal or his forsds the usuall rent of the sds Lands at the term of mertimess abovmention’d, and ilk year thereafter during my stay there, and yt allenerly in case of failing in the fullfilling of the premises. And the sd Capt Hugh binds and oblidges me and my forsds to give up to the sd Sir Donal or his heirs an bond of five thousand merks granted be him to me at Edr the day of years. And farder I bind & oblidge me & my forsds to renew this my obligation to the sd Sir Donal or his heirs ay and while they find themselves sufficiently secured in witness qrof I have subscribed thir prit at Armidell the thirtieth day of March on thusand six hundred & eightie six years, before these wittnesses Donald Mconal off Castletown and Mr Martin Martin governour to the Laird of Mcdonal younger

H. Mconal

Donald Mcdonald Witness



IN modern times there has grown up a very considerable literature dealing with the history, folklore and customs of the Western Isles of Scotland. All works of consequence upon this subject refer directly or indirectly to Martin’s book, and quotations from it are numerous; in fact, Martin’s work which attracted Johnson and Boswell to the Western Isles may, in a sense, be regarded as the basis of them all. It drew the attention of the outer world in a language which the outer world could understand to the existence of a people and a type of civilisation which were known only in the vaguest way to British citizens dwelling south of the Grampians. In the 17th and early 18th centuries the Islands and Western Highlands were more vaguely known to the people of London than Patagonia or Alaska is to-day to children in the remotest Hebrides. A journey to the Scottish Western Isles was then looked upon as one of the most formidable feats of travel which an explorer could undertake, and indeed, even for Martin himself, who was a Skyeman and knew the Islands and their conditions from the inside, the journeys accomplished by him were clearly, in the circumstances, performances of no mean achievement. This was particularly the case in the Outer Isles, which were roadless and frequently storm-swept, while for his long sea journeys, only open boats of no great size could have been available. To-day, of course, all these Islands, especially the larger ones, can be reached regularly by means of fairly fast, commodious steamers and even the smaller ones can be quickly visited in motor-boats which can be hired at reasonable charges from convenient centres throughout the Islands. From Barra to the Butt of Lewis there is almost an embarrassment of choice of cars to bear one rapidly and comfortably about, and hotel or other suitable accommodation is very easily obtained by the tourist or Traveller. The motor-car and ‘bus and commodious steamer are things of yesterday in the Islands, but these, along with the motor-boat, have revolutionised insular life. Nevertheless, side by side with these phases of modern civilisation we have, to-day, phases of life typical of Martin’s time, and the intelligent and tactful investigator can still explore them with interest and profit. He will be able to understand and appreciate, as Martin himself did, the beliefs and modes of thought of the islanders in a sympathetic and intelligent way if he is equipped with a knowledge of the Gaelic vernacular which the older generation are still only familiar with. Johnson and Boswell and others after them evidently had no high opinion of Martin as a writer, but their judgment appears to have been at least hasty if not prejudiced. Few books dealing with the Highlands fetch to-day as high a price as a second-hand copy of Martin. Certainly, any book by Johnson or Boswell still in request by the public, can be bought for less. For the comparative folklorist, who seeks to deal scientifically with primitive ways and customs, Martin’s work is a mine of authoritative information for it deals throughout with things seen and heard by himself and, since his observation is accurate and trustworthy, even if he appears to us, at times, a little credulous, we could well wish that he had placed on record in much greater detail, attitudes and social customs which, though perfectly familiar to himself, he only hints at. There can be no doubt that thousands of interesting and important phases of life which are now forgotten and can never be placed on record have disappeared from the Highlands and Islands since his time. For particulars of the historical circumstances of the Islands in Martin’s time and previous to it, reference can nowadays be made to a vast number of carefully compiled modern works, and the stream of folklore literature now available enables us to link up Martin’s records with the ancient customs, not only of Celtic and pre-Celtic Britain, but with those of countries further afield.

When Caesar states that certain people in Britain were forbidden to eat , the cock or the goose, he is not recording a mere dietetic peculiarity on the part of the ancient Britons. The words convey little or nothing to the modern reader, but Caesar must have felt that he was recording something of importance in the historical sense, as we hope to show presently. These ancient taboos are not quite the trifles they seem, and some of them are extant to this day in the Highlands, if not in other parts of Scotland. Has folklore of this type any contribution to make to the history of the civilised races? Evidence from archaeology, language and tradition shows an original very widely spread race in the Highlands, and Scotland generally, prior to the advent of Picts, Gaels and Norsemen. These pre-Celts have left their remains in barrows and megalithic monuments, weapons and utensils, and it is not difficult to this day, in some of the remoter parts, to recognise by headmark, people possessing their physical characteristics ----- slight build, swarthy complexion, comely features. The clash of these races is still represented in folk-lore, though history records only a few isolated scraps as to their presence, but the Highland section of folk-lore in particular is rich in traditional names, customs, rites, beliefs and folk-tales, all of which material, if cautiously studied, may be made to yield interesting information in point. The customs and superstitions in the Highlands are not the result of ignorance and stupidity, though compared with the knowledge and culture of an advanced civilisation they may appear to be ----- this is a comparison which should never be made. Survivals such as those noted by Caesar are not so much a link between a primitive and a more advanced culture, as evidence of antagonism between the higher and the lower cultures. Such survivals reach us down the stream of time through people whose culture-stage is on a level with the culture to which the survivals belonged. Once the higher civilisation reaches them effectively, the survival and its connotation are lost; hence survivals are to be looked for nowadays only among the peasantry, the uneducated, and those who live a primitive life out of touch with our rapidly advancing civilisation. As the earliest race was, however, so widely spread, and as their physical characteristics still persist in modern Scotland (according to the anthropologists Burns, the national poet, was of this Iberian stock) it will not be without significance, racially, if we can segregate in our folk-lore, beliefs, rites or customs which are reasonably traceable to them.

The earliest names we have, such as Orkney, Caithness, contain significant roots: "Orc" signifies in old Celtic "boar," "Cat" means that animal, and Gaelic Cataibh (now Sutherland) means "among the Cats"; Gaelic Arcaibh (Orkney), "among the Orcs"; Inis Cat, Isle of Cats, was the pre-Norse name for Shetland. Other northern tribes noted by Ptolemy had names considered by Dr. Watson to signify "sheep-folk" and "raven-folk." "Lorn," from the name of one of the sons of Erc, the original settler from Ireland, means "wolf." So also the Epidii, "horse-folk" of Kintyre, the ancient home of the Maceacherns, "horse-lords." The crests of various Highland Clans contain figured animals, the Mackintosh (Clan Chattan) crest with its motto, "Touch not the Cat bot a glove," being typical. Again Ossian, the name of the great Celtic bard, means "little deer" (his mother having the animal form through being under a magic spell), while Cuchulainn, the Celtic hero’s name, means "hound of Culann." Totems, such as animal or bird crests, were individual or tribal; the symbol indicated the accepted origin of the bearer of it, or that he had some intimate peculiar connection with the animal or bird concerned. He was on no account to use the totem bird or animal as food; this is a peculiar custom among the rudest savage races to-day. Cuchulainn was forbidden to eat of the flesh of the dog, and he came by his death through transgressing the law. The Book of Leinster (1150) says: "And another of the things that he must not do was eating his namesake’s flesh."

The hare, cock and goose were of this class in ancient times, and the evidence on Celtic ground explains Caesar’s reference. Respect for the hare in one district did not mean respect for it in all districts, only in its own totem district. It served as an omen for tribesmen. Boadicea is said to have drawn an augury from a hare taken from her bosom; the course taken by it was deemed a lucky course for her army to take against the Romans. O’Curry (in his "Manners of the Ancient Irish") relates that Conaire, the Irish Chieftain, was interdicted from eating the flesh of a fowl, as he was regarded as descended from the bird; in Scotland, among some of the Hebrides, the goose was looked upon as sacred ----- too sacred to be eaten.

The same phase of belief is unconsciously seen in food prejudices still in the islands; some favour skate, others dog-fish, some limpets and razor fish; and those who do not, do not esteem greatly those who do. Caesar’s remark therefore tells us something of the culture conditions of the early Britons.

Tribal or hero names such as those mentioned, reaching us from the remotest times, are not adequately explained as occupation or quality names. They point probably to the primitive pre-Celtic totem organisation, which the Celtic invasions (Pictish and Gaelic) arrested, or in part assimilated. Affinity of this nature between certain tribes and animals is exemplified in modern times by the MacCodrums of North Uist, who are popularly regarded as being derived from the seal race. There are now none of this name in the island, though the tradition that they were very brown-skinned and slim, in spite of their Norse name (Guttormr), is not without significance. Cf. also Mrs. Kennedy-Fraser’s "Seal Croon," recently recovered in the Hebrides. Beliefs of this kind were localised tribally in primitive times, and point to a culture easily paralleled among primitive races still existing, but traceably connected through their contact-cultures with British Neolithic peoples, such as the aborigines of the Scottish Highlands. They bring us back to a time when certain animals, birds, plants or natural features were regarded by the inhabitants as divinities, each locality or tribal district with its own form of animism or totem belief. It indicates also probably a time anterior to blood-kinship, when various tribes signalised their identities in this fashion, and when culture was so primitive that only motherhood was recognised. The megalithic cultures were general, the specialised forms of animism more or less local. This pre-Celtic recognition of motherhood only, shows its influence in the acceptance by the Picts, a people with some Aryan culture since they spoke a Celtic language, of the principle of matriarchy, and we have an echo of it to this day in common expressions in Gaelic, such as that of which the English equivalent is "I’ll call no man brother except the son of my mother." Various rivers, such as the Lochy, noted by as early a writer as Adamnan as the abode of the "black goddess " ("loch" in old Celtic means "black"), the Ness, etc., mountain tops, fords, valleys, locks and tarns were all looked upon by this earlier race as the abodes of local deities, benevolent or otherwise, and to this day one may listen to tales of water-horses, river kelpies, sprites and such like, from the lips of old people who speak Gaelic only, and who, though living in the midst of a Christian culture, are still thoroughly in touch with the traditional pagan beliefs of their earliest youth. These old people are nowadays extremely reluctant to speak of such things, and it requires much tact and the most careful approach in homely Gaelic to excite their memories and set them a-speaking.

There can be little doubt that Celtic poetry, song, legend and folk-tale that are so live with fancy, and so sympathetic with nature, owe much of their inspiration to the spirit-qualities and beliefs of this gifted early race. The most wide-spread water-cult of all, due to these pre-Celts, is in connection with the holy wells associated in historic times with various Christian saints. The early church efforts to Christianise the earlier races in the Scottish Highlands, and elsewhere throughout Britain, was long resisted by this pagan water-cult, and the success of the Church was due in part to the policy of consecrating such wells and other heathen foci for Christianising purposes, but to this day this well-cult persists, and it persists strongest of all in the remote Celtic-speaking areas of Wales, Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. The rites and ceremonies in connection with these wells are ultimately part and parcel of a common neolithic cult. After the Reformation it was noted that the Scottish wells "were all tapestried with old rags." Examples reaching well into modern times can be noted among the Hebrides and the northern counties, including Banff, Aberdeen, Perth, Inverness, Ross and Caithness. As noted by Martin, Kilmuir in Skye has Loch Seunta, where offerings of small rags, pins and coloured threads were made to the divinity of the Loch. At St. Malruba’s well, Ross-shire, rags were left on bushes, nails driven into a neighbouring oak tree, or sometimes a copper coin was driven in. Have we an unconscious echo of this in the nails which contributors in Germany during the war were entitled to drive into the statue of Marshal Hindenburg ? At a well in Gigha it was the custom to leave a piece of money, a needle, pin, or one of the prettiest variegated stones that could be found; and at a well in Jura devotees left an offering of some small token, such as a pin, needle, farthing or the like. At Montblairie, in Banffshire, the offerings of those who came to the fountain adorned the impending boughs with rags of linen and woollen garments, and the well was "enriched with farthings and bodles." In Aberdeenshire, at Fraserburgh, "Sinclair’s Statistical Account" records "the superstitious practice of leaving some small trifle." In Perthshire, at St. Fillan’s Well, Comrie, the worshippers left rags of linen or woollen cloth. In Caithness, at Dunnet they threw pieces of money in the water, and at Wick it was the custom to leave a piece of bread and cheese and a silver coin, which the people alleged disappeared in some mysterious way. In Ross, at Alness, pieces of coloured cloth were left as offerings, and at Fodderty and at Kiltearn shreds of clothing were hung on the surrounding trees. At Penpont, in Dumfries, a part of the dress was left as an offering; at Kirkcudbright, at Buittle, either money or clothes was left, and at Houston, in Renfrewshire, pieces of cloth were left, as a present or offering to the saint, on the bushes. These wells or fountains were credited from the remotest times with healing properties, and the invalids approached the wells sunways, or "deiseal," as the Gaelic phrase has it. This was pre-eminently the custom in the Highlands in connection with other ceremonies, and is probably primarily connected with some form of primitive pre-Celtic sun-worship. A funeral procession in the Highlands in the olden days approached the cemetery in this fashion, and it is not unusual to note the custom at a burial still, in connection with placing the dead in the grave. Moderns unconsciously do something of the same kind when passing round a dram or dealing out cards.

Instances of the persistence to quite recent times of pagan faith in the water cures are numerous. In Loch Maree, after patients had drunk from the well, they were towed round the island; in Strath Fillan the patient bathed after sunset and before sunrise, and was then laid on his back bound to a stone in the Chapel of St. Fillan, and, if next morning he was found loose, the cure was considered perfect. In Ness, Lewis, a somewhat similar operation was carried out at the old temple in Europie, in the case of those mentally afflicted. At Farr, in Sutherlandshire, the patient, after a plunge in the water, drinking thereof and making his offering, had to be away from the banks, so as to be out of sight of the water before the sun rose, otherwise the cure was ineffective. It is important to note that the ceremony had to take place during the absence of the sun; thus at Muthill, in Perthshire, the time for drinking the water was before the sun rose, or immediately after it set. There was also the condition that the water had to be drunk from a "quick cow’s horn" (a horn taken from a live cow), "which indispensable horn was in keeping of an old woman who lived near the well." This latter survival suggests an original custodian priestess. In the Island of Lewis, St. Andrew’s Well, in the village of Shader, was made a test by the natives to know if a sick person was to die from his affliction. They sent someone with a wooden dish containing some of the water to the patient, and the dish was thereafter laid gently upon the surface of the water; if it turned round sunways it was concluded that the patient would recover from his illness, but if not, he would die. There are not wanting examples where the primitive guardian deity of the sacred spring is found in animal form. At Kilbride, in Skye, was a well with "one trout only in it; the natives are very tender of it, and though they often chance to catch it in their wooden pails, they are very careful to preserve it from being destroyed" ----- Martin. In the well at Kilmore, in Lorne, were two fish called by the inhabitants, "Iasg Sianta" or holy fishes. Other guardian deities were represented by frogs, worms or flies. The whole of this traditional evidence identifies the wells in question as the shrines of ancient local deities, in close touch with primitive non-Celtic ideas and thought. It is very significant in this respect that the area over which this cult is found is coterminous with that of megalithic monuments, a fact which suggests a megalithic date for such worship. It is also significant that it is so prominent in the Highlands of Scotland, in the country of the Picts, where St. Columba, according to Adamnan, found a "fountain famous among this heathen people, worshipped as a god," and where in its waters he overcame the Druids, and "then blessed the fountain," and from that day the demon separated from the water. Similar research in the direction of mountain, tree or rock worship would no doubt confirm the foregoing conclusion. Analogous, but more savage, pagan sacrifices to propitiate the demons of sickness and murrains are numerous even in recent times.

In 1678 the Presbytery of Dingwall note the proceedings against four Mackenzies "for sacrificing a bull in ane heathenish manner in the Island of St. Ruffus, commonly called Ellan Moury, in Lochew, for the recovery of the health of Cirstane Mackenzie."

Within twenty miles of Edinburgh a relative of the late Professor Simpson, as related in P.S.A.S., vol. 4, offered up a live cow as a sacrifice to this spirit of murrain. Miss Gordon Cumming records a similar instance on her father’s estate at Dallas, in Morayshire, about 1850. In Mull, in 1767, in consequence of a disease among the cattle, the people carried out a sacrifice of this type in an elaborate way, though they thought it wicked to do so. They carried to the top of a hill a wheel and nine spindles of wood. After extinguishing every fire in sight of the hill, the wheel was turned from East to West, long enough to produce fire by friction. If the fire was not produced before the moon, the incantation had no effect. A heifer was then sacrificed and the diseased part burned. They then lighted their own hearths from the fire, and feasted on what remained of the heifer. An incantation was repeated by an old man from Morven during the whole time the fire was being raised. Keating records similar practices in Ireland to preserve the herds from contagious disorders. Similarly a commonly practised cure for epilepsy in the Highlands and Islands was to bury a black cock alive, under the spot upon which the patient had the last fit. The demon of illness was understood to pass into the body of the bird. This rite is not more than moribund yet. The principle clearly is a life for a life, and possibly points to a time of human sacrifice or substitution. (Cf. the belief that St. Oran was sacrificed in St. Columba’s time). As this was one of the principles of the Druids, and as the sacrifice of one animal for the sake of the herd is not apparently recorded for primitive non-Aryan races, the survival here may not be pre-Celtic though in line with the practices of the early race. The term Druid (druvid ----- very wise, very knowing ----- Thurneysen) may have been extended, as Henderson suggests, to the "wise men" of the pre-Celtic peoples, who brought over their own rites when the incorporation of the various races took place.

The cult of witchcraft, white or black, still with us in some form of magic belief in very remote areas, but disappearing fast, though not so fast as it is believed to be, is another belief which, along with its rites, seems firmly traceable by means of folk-lore to this pre-Celtic race which appears to have, archaeologically, physically and psychologically, woven itself into the very web of our early history and racial qualities. Witchcraft has its own history, and not a very savoury one in even fairly recent Scottish annals. In the Highlands it had two main forms, white and black; white, benevolent and protective; black, malevolent and injurious. The protective form took the shape of incantations, charms and blessings, and many of them are really of a Christian character, intended to invoke the Trinity to defy evil agencies or effect cures. These incantations are difficult to recover, but various useful collections, which may be consulted, have been made by MacBain, Mackenzie of the Crofters’ Commission, and Carmichael. During the Great War, Hebridean soldiers setting out for the front were not unknown in some of the more outlandish and primitive communities to proceed to France fortified with an amulet, over which a magic "sian" or invocation had been made. An example of this white magic, which we personally witnessed not so long ago, was performed by a pious octogenarian lady. One of her cattle, which had been grazing on the hillside, had apparently become suddenly unwell. Her first inquiry, in her anxiety, was whether anybody had passed by the animal’s neighbourhood. On being informed by her daughter-in-law that a certain man, who was locally reputed to have the "droch shuil" or evil eye, had passed and made some complimentary remark about her cow, she immediately took a basin of water and, after placing a shilling in it, scattered the water over the animal’s back. The animal, which had apparently suffered from some temporary disability, quickly recovered, and the old lady and her neighbours were duly confirmed in their faith. Another form of magic cure, which we remember practised when animals were found suffering from wounds of any kind, consisted of washing the wounded parts with water, in which three ancient tiny stone whorls had been dipped. These whorls, which were really of soap stone (steatite) and had in an age long forgotten been used as spindle whorls, were believed, and are probably still believed, to be "clachan nathrach" (serpent stones), produced by snakes on rare occasions in the hills. The charm was always in the custody of an old woman, who was spoken of as "wise," and was frequently in demand by the people of the locality.

A very interesting form of magic horoscope is the Frith, belonging to the Outer Isles only. It is, however, as the word indicates, of Norse origin (N. fret: an inquiry of the gods as to the future), though it had its apparently Celtic counterpart. This horoscope commences with an incantation, and the person making it looks out over the country-side, and from the omens which meet the eye divines the fate of the man or animal for whom the Frith is being made. The possible signs are very numerous. For example, a man approaching is an excellent sign, and so is a cock looking towards you. A man standing, means recovery; a man lying down, sickness; a beast lying down, illness or death; a beast rising up, recovery; a bird on the wing, a good sign; a woman standing, some untoward event; a woman passing or returning, fairly good; a woman with red hair, not lucky; a woman with black hair, lucky; a woman with brown hair, luckier; a lark or dove, a good sign; crow or raven, bad sign; a cat, good for Mackintoshes only; a pig, very good for Campbells and fairly good for others (there is a boar’s head in the Campbell crest), etc. Love charms, charms to obtain justice, increase of stock, for recovery or protection against fairies, etc., are too numerous to more than mention. Not so long ago one of the lecturers in Irish in Dublin University showed us an old Gaelic prayer book containing an appeal for protection from the fairies and their darts. Malevolent witchcraft included specially the deprivation of milk of its substance, i.e., milk which did not produce cream was said to be bewitched. We have known of three worthy old church elders solemnly proceeding together to test all the milk basins of a whole village in order to detect the delinquent. A penny was gently placed upon the surface of the cream in each basin. If it sank, the milk was regarded as honest; if the cream was consistent enough to bear the weight of the penny, it came under suspicion, and the owner was regarded as having by some magic means added the cream rightly belonging to his Neighbour’s milk to his own. Various counter-charms, a list of which will be found in Campbell’s "Witchcraft and Second Sight in the Scottish Highlands," were practised, but the most effective of these was no doubt also the best disinfectant. Here we have in our own day a primitive cult arrested by a higher cult, but still found side by side with it.

Martin’s full notes on the island folk-medicine of his day could well be made the basis of an excellent medical thesis.

The supposed power of witches to raise winds, to transform themselves into animal shapes such as cats, hares, mice, is well known in the Highlands. The point to note is the close connection in this lore between witches and the lower animals. In primitive communities, originally non-Aryan, the same beliefs abound, and the close parallel clearly suggests that the contact between the conquering Celts and the older race resulted in a continuity of the latter’s mythic influences or beliefs. We are carried a step further in this argument in connection with well-known clay images of intended victims, which were injured in certain ways before being placed, to waste away, in a stream. In some cases stone arrow-heads, or elf-shots as they were called, were used by reputed witches for the purpose. Here we have a prehistoric implement, an untouched detail of early life, preserved for a peculiar use by witchcraft, and pointing directly to a prehistoric race.

They are supposed to be fairy darts, or arrows, thrown by the fairies at mortal man or beast, and always in folk-lore with deadly effect; and so, as Nilsson observes, it proves that it was not the Celts themselves, but a people considered by them to be versed in magic, who fabricated and used these stone arrows, and who were such a powerful racial factor as to inspire mythic conceptions in the minds of the conquering Celts. "Who," asks Mr. Campbell, in his "Popular Tales," "were these powers of evil who cannot resist iron, these fairies who shoot stone arrows, and are of the foes to the human race? Is all this but a dim, hazy recollection of war between a people who had iron weapons and a race who had not ----- a race whose remains are found all over Europe?" In the Highlands the possession of a piece of iron was, of old, sure protection against fairies or evil spirits. The theory that the fairies represent traditionally an ancient pygmy race has been favoured by some folk-lorists; it is worth noting that beliefs such as these originated, not with the primitive race, but with the conquering race which displaced them, if it did not absorb them. The conquered race driven out or despised would in time inspire their conquerors with mythic conceptions of their qualities and powers, or both, which ultimately developed along the lines of fairy folk-lore. Fairy craft itself may therefore be well explained in Scotland as Celtic beliefs regarding the powers, good and evil, of the aboriginal inhabitants.

Verse Speaking Associations nowadays find favour among the most cultured circles, but they and our Musical Festivals find their prototypes among the most ancient and most characteristic institutions of the Gael. Not less important in giving us a bird’s-eye view of the most ancient times were also the Prose Recitation Circles or Ceilidhs of the Highlanders. These story-telling circles remain to our own day, though in feeble form, in our remote glens and island villages. Nevertheless, a generation ago, they were still flourishing vigorously, and there lived Highlanders, men and women, with long memories for what they had heard from their fathers. Book lore for them had no meaning; they were the living books themselves, from whom famous collectors and folk-lorists, such as J. F. Campbell, Gregorson Campbell, MacInnes, MacDougall, the late Dr. Carmichael and many others, gathered in the most direct and reliable way the very large amount of Highland oral popular literature now available in the original Gaelic, or in translation, to the reading public of every country. Campbell of Islay, along with his assistants, spent some years wandering up and down the Highlands and Islands recording the folk-tales from the lips of the uneducated peasantry. Four large volumes published in 1860 and 1862 resulted. Much later five volumes, "The Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition," were published under the aegis of Lord Archibald Campbell, and last year a second edition of Carmichael’s "Carmina Gadelica," two large handsome volumes, was issued. This last collection, the result of forty years’ careful gleaning in the Hebrides among the people who then formed the last visible link between the remote past and the present, has compelled the admiration of Celtic scholars and comparative folk-lorists all over the world. Still more recently we have the five large volumes of Folk Songs gathered by Mrs. Kennedy-Fraser and Kenneth Macleod. In addition, other publications, such as the "Celtic Review," and the "Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness" (32 vols., still proceeding), constitute a most valuable consulting library for those who may be desirous of extending their study of Highland folk-lore from original sources. Then again we now have the comprehensive Folk-lore Studies of Donald A. Mackenzie, a native born Highlander.

From oral sources in the last century were also obtained the very important collections of Gaelic proverbs made by Mackintosh and the late Sheriff Nicolson. Nicolson’s work (1882) contains over 400 pages of Gaelic maxims with translations. It is one of the richest mines we have for enabling us to judge of the philosophy of life current among the old Highlanders. The long winter evenings, especially in the Isles, the lack of intercourse on any scale worth speaking of between the mass of the folk and strangers, the fact that they were shut up, so to speak, in their native Gaelic, their traditional custom from time immemorial in every village for cronies of the old seanachie type to gather together, evening after evening, round the large peat fire on the middle of the floor, in their favourite ceilidh house, there to recount from memory in prose or poetry tales of the past, and perhaps discuss the present and the future, provided conditions favourable for the perpetuation of the Highland folk-tales. But for the collections mentioned, the present generation would lack the most valuable evidence they have of the social conditions of their fathers, and of many phases of cultural life, for which their present complicated domestic civilisation offers no adequate compensation. The training received, consciously and unconsciously, by young and old at these evening ceilidhs was invaluable in the direction of strengthening the memory, in cultivating rapid and fluent oral composition (for correct and careful diction was much admired), in exercising the faculties of observation and reasoning and in inspiring, as many of the tales and poems do, love of kindred, country, hospitality, courtesy, physical prowess and self sacrifice. The tales, as we have them now, consist of various strata, such as those of the earliest or mythological type, the Ultonian with its central figures such as Conchobar Cuchulainn (more concerned with Ireland than with Scotland, but Cuchulainn is the recognised race hero), the Fionn-Ossianic Saga, and lastly the historical and, until recently, living folk-tales

The Dalriadic Scots, who ultimately gave its name to our own country, imported with them from Ireland much of the ancient Celtic pantheon from about the second century A.D., and, as a general rule, many of the tales in Ireland have very close parallels in Scottish Gaelic. This is only natural. But on the other hand, some of the Gaelic folk-tales, especially those of unconscious genesis, have no doubt been bequeathed to Gaelic by the more ancient race displaced or absorbed by the Scottish Gaels. For centuries, until the plantation of Ulster, the cultural relationship between Ireland and the Scottish Highlands must have been very close, as many bards and professional story-tellers were in the habit of wandering up and down for purposes of entertainment in both lands, not to mention the Bardic or Ecclesiastical Schools which functioned until late mediæval times. The most ancient of the tales clearly indicate that the Celts believed in a future Elysium, but apart from that central fact details are vague. There was at any rate a happy Other World accessible sometimes to people whilst still alive, and reached over the sea to the west, or by entering a sidh or fairy mound, or by diving under the waves. To the Tireeman it was the Green Island (An Eilean Uaine), to other islanders on the west it was Land under Waves (Tir fo Thuinn), Land of the Ever Young (Tir nan Og), and to this day the Barraman, in intimate mood, tells tales with unconscious fervency of the mythic isle, visible on rare occasions to privileged fishermen, far on the dim west horizon, which he calls by the name of Roca Barraidh, a name of doubtful etymology. Our Scottish Gaelic Folk-lore, though so recently committed to writing, is not in itself recent, and no one can say definitely to what dim ages the original compositions belong, but there is a very vivid description in a very early folk poem of clearly pagan conceptions, which graphically portrays the Celtic Valhalla. The MS. of this poem, recovered in Ireland, is definitely ascribed by both Thurneysen and Zimmer to not later than the 7th century, whatever the date of the original composition may be. Twenty-eight quatrains describe this wonderful land. We give Kuno Meyer’s translation of several of the quatrains:

"There is a distant isle
Around which sea-horses glisten,
A fair course against the white-swelling surge,
Four feet uphold it.

Feet of white bronze under it,
Glittering through beautiful ages.
Lovely land throughout the world’s age
On which the many blossoms drop.

An ancient tree there is with blossoms,
On which birds call to the Hours;
‘Tis in harmony, it is their wont
To call together every hour."

"Unknown is wailing or treachery
In the familiar cultivated land,
There is nothing rough or harsh
But sweet music striking on the ear.

Wealth, treasures of every hue,
Are in the gentle land, a beauty of freshness,
Listening to sweet music,
Drinking the best of wine.

Golden chariots on the sea plain,
Rising with the tide to the sun,
Chariots of silver in the plain of sports
And of unblemished bronze.

There will come happiness with health
To the land against which laughter peals.
Into Imchiuin (the very calm place) at every season
Will come everlasting joy.

It is a day of lasting weather
That showers (down) silver on the land;
A pure-white cliff in the verge of the sea,
Which from the sun receives its heat."

Similar conceptions are to be noted from the most ancient folk-tales of other Celtic countries, notably those of Brittany (Le Braz: La Légende de la Mort), and while they partake, of course, of the mythology of other ancient Aryan peoples, they are naturally best conserved in those remote parts where the Celtic languages are living fossils, still able to bear relevant witness. Folk-tales of the Highlanders also supply the folk-lorist with evidence of other pagan religious beliefs, such as the bird and animal souls, the soul-forms of moths, butterflies, bees, trees, and even stones. Closely connected with the blood-soul is the blood-covenant of the old folk-tales. Blood brotherhood existed in the Highlands until at least the 18th century. Ancient leagues of friendship were confirmed "by drinking a drop of each other’s blood, which was commonly drawn out of the little finger." This had a religious and sacred significance, and anyone breaking the pact became practically an outlaw. One old Gaelic song says: -----

"Thy wounds I did staunch,
and many were they;
Thine heart’s blood I drank -----
sweeter than wine, I will say."

Another old Hebridean song, frequently still sung (Ailean Donn), says: "I could drink, though to the aversion of others, not of the red wine of Spain, but of the blood of thy body after being drowned." The earlier and more conscious heroic Sagas of Cuchulainn, Fionn, Ossian, Oscar, Conan, always have a great central and historic figure, whose velour, deeds and qualities form the main themes, and much vague legend, myth and magic lore are mixed up with elements of historical and social import. The dramatic element, especially in the Cuchulainn Saga, as in that of the Celtic Arthur and his Knights, is of a truly elemental type and contains material for the master hand to some day set forth on the world’s stage.

The elements are certainly there for the dramatist who can use these themes for his play, as Malory in prose and Tennyson in poetry made use of King Arthur and his Knights. The style of this Gaelic folk-heroic poetry may be inferred from the following translation of a description of Cuchulainn’s chariot: ----- "It was not long until Ferdiad’s charioteer heard the noise approaching, the clamour and the rattle and the whistling, and the tramp, and the thunder, and the clatter and the roar, namely the shield-noise of the light shields, and the hissing of the spears, and the loud clangour of the swords, and the tinkling of the helmet, and the ringing of the armour, and the friction of the arms; the dangling of the missive weapons, the straining of the ropes, and the loud clattering of the wheels, and the creaking of the chariot, and the trampling of the horses, and the triumphant advance of the champion and the warrior towards the ford approaching him." The Fionn-Ossianic Sagas are set forth in great detail and variety in the West Highland Popular Tales and Ballads. It is the later cycle of the two in folk-lore, and the manners and customs are changed. In the earlier Saga it is hero against hero, and their retinues are left in the shade. Cuchulainn, like Hercules or other demi-gods, stands isolated in his deeds of valour; in the latter cycle reaching our own day, the tales concern a body of heroes called the Feinn, understood to be a sort of standing army to defend the country against invaders. The Chief is Fionn, who does not outshine his companions in bravery or strength, but, by putting his thumb under his wisdom tooth, he is, when occasion needs it, omniscient. Hunting and the chase are a main theme, and the history in it is more easily separated from the supernatural. The qualifications for joining the Feinn were as follows: ----- The candidate must give security that no revenge is to be secured for his death; he must at least compose a war song, be a perfect master of his weapon, and his running and fighting qualities must pass test by his comrades; he must be able to hold out his weapon by the smaller end without a tremble; in the chase, through plain and wood, his hair must remain tied up ----- if it fell he was rejected. He must be so light and swift as not to break a rotten stick by standing on it; he must leap a tree as high as his forehead, and get under a tree no higher than his knee; without stopping he must be able to draw a thorn from his foot; he must not refuse a woman without a dowry; offer violence to no woman; be charitable to the poor and weak, and he must not refuse to fight nine men of any other nation that might set upon him.

These folk-tales gather up references to the historical Norse invasions, though, of course, the historical Fionn and his heroes belong to a much earlier age. One of the popular Norse heroes, who figures honourably in these folk-tales and ballads, is Magnus Barefoot, King of Norway, who died in 1103. As his name implies, he favoured and assumed the Highland dress of the Islands, and along with his nobles introduced its use to Norway. In the folk-tales Fionn is not only the popular hero, but he embodies also the Highlanders’ conception of the gentleman ----- a kind friend, an adviser of judgment, wise in counsel, able to solve doubts and difficulties, hospitable to all, ever ready to protect those who were weak or defenceless. His dog, Bran, and his famous sword, Mac an Luin, which never required to be swung twice on any occasion, have given rise to popular proverbs still current. The heroic song, "Brataichean na Feinne" ("Standards of the Feinn,") compares favourably for its operatic element with the best. It takes a first-class singer to do it justice, and it is well worth hearing should the opportunity present itself. Oscar’s banner "never went a foot back until the heavy grey earth trembled." The currency and popularity of these tales in mediaeval and later times, when the Highlanders’ religion was mainly a medley of the simpler elements of Christianity and his own superstitions, may be gauged from the fact that Bishop Carswell (1569), in his preface to his Gaelic translation of Knox’s Liturgy, the first Gaelic book ever printed in Scotland, complains that his countrymen were fonder of listening to idle tales about the Feinn than they were of taking interest in the Word of God.

These tales, then, reveal a real world, though they do so through the shadow of supernatural Celtic fancy. They show us how the Celts from time immemorial loved feasts, banqueting ceremonies show details of serving men, cup-bearers, wine, cask-shaped jars of earthenware or silver, meat served on platters of brass, or wood, or on plated baskets. The wine of Gaul appears very early in a Saga of the 8th century (Meyer). There are wheaten cakes with honey. Weapons, of course, are described from the spears and swords of the earliest times to the guns of the historical period. Several of the longer and more interesting Sagas contain "runs" of peculiar onomatopoetic rhythm, probably the oldest section of the tales. Narrators, relating these tales from time to time, added words of their own, and variants are numerous. Here is an old sea "run," as given in the Highland oral version, after the three warriors embark in their vessel:

"They gave her prow to sea and her stern to shore,
They hoisted the speckled, flapping, bare-topped sails,
Up against the tall, tough, splintering masts,
And they had a pleasant breeze as they might choose themselves,
Would bring heather from the hill, leaf from grove, willow from its roots,
Would put thatch of the houses in furrows of the ridges,
The day that neither the son nor the father could do it,
That same was neither little nor much for them,
But using it and taking it as it might come,
The sea plunging and surging,
The red sea, the blue sea lashing,
And striking thither and thither about her planks;
The whorled dun whelk that was down on the floor of the ocean,
Would give a snag on her gunwale and a crack on her floor,
She would cut a slender oaten straw with the excellence of her going."

Rhyming, including extempore rhyming, was, and is, a favourite pastime of the Celt. His traditional laws were frequently handed down in oral rhyme, and even his property was divided in gifts, according to rhyme formula. The Chief of the Macdonalds, in a Gaelic traditional rhyme says: -----" I, Donald, chief of the Macdonalds, give here, in my castle, a right to Mackay, to Kilmahumag, from this day till to-morrow and so on for ever."

The folk-tale latterly, as well as personal and local legend, comes into close contact with history. One of Campbell of Islay’s tales, condensed, relates how a man, at one time well off, gave a well-stocked farm to each of his children. When old and a widower, he divided all that was left among his children, and lived with them turn about. His sons and daughters, ungrateful and tiring of him, tried to get rid of him when he came to stay with them. An old friend, finding him tearful by the wayside and learning the cause of his distress, took him home; there he gave him a bowl of gold, and a lesson upon which the old man acted. He went to a green hillock, where his grandchildren were at play, and, spreading out his gold, he muttered ----- "Ye are mouldy, ye are hoary, ye will be the better for the sun." The grandchildren told what they had seen, and thereafter all strove who should be kindest to the old grandfather. Still acting on the advice of his wise old friend, he carried a stout, little black chest about with him. When he was questioned as to its contents, he said: ----- "That will be known when the chest is opened." When he died the chest was opened by the expectant heirs. In it were found broken potsherds and bits of slate and a wooden mallet, with a legend on its head in Gaelic rhyme, of which the English is: -----

"Here is the fair mall,
To give a knock on the skull
To the man who keeps no gear for himself,
But gives all to his bairns."

Here is some historical matter, though, as the folk-lorist knows, not in its essence peculiar to Celtic lands. The sub-division among members of a family was and is well-known to the class who told this tale, but does it not also represent the very old custom of the tribal period of swarming off from the parent household? Then there is the actual handing over of the estate during the life of the owner, a well marked survival, in the Hebrides possibly, associated with Norse practice (Du Chaillu). The father living with the children probably points to the old Highland group of houses, worked by families in common. The desire to get rid of the old father suggests prehistoric native customs, very possibly also in close association with Norse Saga history (Elton). Cf. also the practice of savage primitive races. The hammer may be associated with the cult of Thor and with primitive practice in ancient Scandinavia. Nothing more truly indicates the grade of civilisation of a race than the esteem in which women are held; and no popular sayings or proverbs speak of women more respectfully than those of the Gaelic-speaking Highlander, though economic conditions have been as trying for them in their social system as in corresponding peasant communities. These sayings, like the longer popular tales, are not wanting in humour, but they never regard women as inferior beings, or as mere sources of mischief, which is very often the point of view of the proverbs of greater nations. We may conclude then from a survey of the Highlanders’ folk-tales, that he and his race are, in a very real way, mirrored in them, that if his character favours combat for the sake of glory, it favours it still more for the sake of fair play (Cothrom na Feinne), for the element of danger, and for the attraction of the unknown. Equally discernible is his spirit of indomitable personality everywhere.

It has been shown that Highland folk-lore is not myth in the sense that it is imaginative only. The amalgam of races in the Highlands ----- Iberian, Pict, Gael, Norseman ----- has naturally produced a folk-culture with various ethnic bases and indeed explains the existence of the folk-lore itself. There is also the influence of the Christian culture, which, though not of ethnic significance, has arrested or held in suspense the earlier Pagan rites and beliefs. In addition to traditional materials, the folk-lorist must also take serious notice of the psychological conditions of the earlier race or races who remained satisfied with primitive explanations. Tradition in the Highlands has been strikingly persistent on account of remoteness and natural barriers. Roman culture itself did not penetrate north or west of the Grampians, and though the Highlands to-day are no more inhabited by uncivilised folk than other parts of Britain, contact with the modern world for the mass is a matter of yesterday. Remote communities still exist which are not quite in tune with the civilisation around them, and people exist who are capable of thinking as their forefathers did and in terms of the older psychology. Life around them continues to impress them in a primitive way. The aged Uist man, as he gazes far across the Western sea, glimmering in the sunlight, raises his cap reverently from his head as he remarks, "How worthy of honour is the ocean!" (Nach urramach an cuan!) The young Uist man, in similar circumstances, exclaims only, "Not a blade of seaweed will come ashore to-day if the wind remains like this." (Bile feamainn cha tig air tir an diugh fhad’s a bhios a’ ghaoth ‘san aird’s a bheil i).

The older man’s psychology continues to show an element of Pagan nature-worship, though he himself is unaware of it. The older race lives on though it has been conquered by Celt and Norseman, and an interesting task is to separate out in our Highland folk-lore, the differences due to different race-origins, and, if possible, make each item of folk-lore tell its own life history. Simple primitive races all the world over have been and are influenced in the same way to a marvellous extent by their natural surroundings. The moaning of the wind at night, the rush of the winter torrent, the surge of the surf on the shore, fleeting shadows, etc., account for many universal beliefs of supernatural type. Caesar himself repeated charm-spells to avoid misfortune, and Voltaire became quite depressed if he heard a raven croak. But apart from such common beliefs as these the Celts have preserved their own culture areas and living as they have lived, for untold centuries, on the fringe of West European civilisation, they have conserved, as set forth by Martin and others, in their folk-lore and in their practice a remarkable body of peculiar rites of their own. These show in the various Celtic countries intimate contact at many points such as domestic and field deities, Christmastide customs, fire-festivals, processions, incantations, charms and remedies. The field deities of the ancient British Celts were recognised by the Romans: an altar dedicated to them, with Latin inscription, was discovered in the wall of Antoninus Pius. In the Highlands they have become a traditional memory only, but in one of the Outer Isles a household deity, Ni Chlach Urlar (Old Lady of the Hearth Stone), who personifies domestic strife, is still very much alive, and represented in the short Gaelic plays now in vogue in the island. The Highlander’s alleged peculiar indifference to the passage of time is well illustrated by his folk-lore. Three giants lived in a cave by the sea. One day one the giants said, "I heard a cow low." After a year and a day the second giant said, "What’s that you said the other day?" A day and a year thereafter the third giant said, "If you don’t cease your loud chatter I’ll leave the cave to yourselves." At any rate it illustrates a Celtic giant’s way of looking at things.

Burial customs, or what may be called the cult of the dead, manifest in the Celtic countries remarkable folk-lore affinities. The Breton people especially seem more physically intimate with the spirits of the dead than the other Celts. The dead retain, as it were, their place in the house, and the cemetery is merely a continuance of the fireside. In Brittany those who have gone are not quite gone; they are still quite close, and have only changed their dwelling. The spirits may be doing temporary penance at the bottom of a well, in a tree, bird, animal or insect, and after expiation, accelerated by the tender devotional duties of near relatives, finally secures release and enters bliss. The spirits, as in our own Highland lore, and in that of the Isle of Man, Wales and Ireland, often return to the domestic hearth and take a serious and practical interest in household affairs. Death rites and beliefs are a prominent feature of this folk-lore. The dreaded "Ankou," or Death personified, visibly visits abodes in Brittany to claim his victim: we have an analogous belief extant in some of the Western Isles where the spirit of the last person interred keeps watch and ward over the cemetery gateway (Faire chlaidh) until relieved by the spirit of the next person buried. Funeral processions on coming within sight of one another have been known to make all the haste possible to secure the right of first entry to the cemetery. Thus the person first interred would have only a very short spell of sentinel duty. Primitive notions are abundant. A cock crowing at night presages death, and a dog barking at an unusual hour for no apparent reason indicates the presence of phantoms. It is not uncommon still to see a plate with salt placed upon the breast of a corpse, and in a recent instance in one of the Inner Hebrides, in addition to the salt, we noted an open Bible placed face downwards upon the lower half of the face of a very aged man who has passed away. The Bible was meant to prevent the ingress or approach of any evil spirit. The windows had been all opened to facilitate the egress of the soul.

To protect the living from evil spirits it was customary in the evenings, as the Gaelic folk-rhyme has it, to

"Shut the North window,
Close quickly the South one,
Shut the window to the West,
Evil never came from the East."

It was also the custom when one was afraid of evil spirits to bless oneself and draw a circle within which to stand. Nothing evil could come inside the circle. Children not so long ago even on the mainland, habitually, as a game, took a stick, alight at the farther end, and swung it rapidly in a fiery circle while repeating a Gaelic invocation.

A propitiatory fire-procession takes place regularly still on the last day of the old year at Burghead. Similar practices are on record in the other Celtic countries. Excessive grief on the part of the living is regarded as very undesirable: it is understood to cause great worry to those who have gone and to retard seriously their progress to happiness. Primitive superstitions with a psychological element, connected with natural phenomena such as fire-balls or shooting stars, are fairly rife among very old people. While we were conversing in Gaelic recently with a very old woman in one of the Hebrides a star shot across the sky, and noticing it she exclaimed, "The Stranger’s Portent" (Manadh coigrich), meaning that a stranger would soon arrive. The fire-balls in the current folk-lore signalise the imminent deaths of people of consequence. One curious practice still extant in at least one remote locality when a person is "in extremis" from heart trouble is to pour molten lead into a basin of cold water. The piece of lead which assumes the shape most resembling a heart is taken by a relative to the shore and flung far out into the sea. The thrower exclaims in Gaelic: "May this heart illness disappear as you disappear for ever!" The ceremony has to be slowly and carefully performed. The curious custom of curing scrofula, or king’s evil, through the agency of a seventh son is still practised, and, according to current belief, frequently with complete success after ordinary medical skill has failed: toothache and similar ailments are cured by drinking from certain wells. No doubt the remedy is as effective as most of our patent pills.

Horoscopes from sheep shoulder blades have passed out of fashion, but divination from pouring white of egg into a glass of water is by no means unknown. Only an expert can do it well. Of all the psychical phenomena of Highland folk-lore, no relic of superstition, if indeed it is correct to so describe it, persists more than that which is commonly called "second-sight." This is a misnomer for the belief. The Gaelic phrase really means "the two sights," "the two-fold vision," or "vision in two planes"; one material, the other spiritual. Belief in this form of clairvoyance or some aspect of it is found in oral and written Celtic folk-lore (Le Braz, Sebillot, Sauve, Gwerziou Breiz, Campbell, etc.), and Martin’s contribution on the subject is one of the most important. It is specially prominent in Brittany and the Scottish Highlands. Only a limited number of people possess the gift which is regarded by themselves and their friends as an undesirable affliction more than anything else. Such people may be held in some awe, but the general attitude towards them is one of great sympathy. The central fact of the belief nowadays is that certain people inherit or in some other way acquire the abnormal faculty of perceiving apparitions or phantoms, usually of sinister import, which have immediate connection with untoward events about to take place. There are varying degrees of the faculty from the elementary form of sensitiveness which is limited to hearing uncanny sounds or knocks at unusual times or perceiving lights in unexpected places to the fuller form which included clear visions of spectral human forms, resembling people living or dead.

In Brittany these spectral appearances are called in the native Breton, seblanchou (semblant); in French they are "intersignes"; in Gaelic, "samhla" or "taibhs," equivalent roughly to the English "apparition."

It is also significant that the formula used in the Highlands when a person dies, "A Chuid de Pharas dha!" (May he have his share of paradise!) has its counterpart in the Breton formula, "Doue da bardono d’an anaon." (God pardon the dead). One or two instances from the present-day Highlands will frustrate the doctrine as well as fifty. The particular instances given are carefully selected at first hand, and not even remotely concerned with people who are neurotic, temperamental, excessively emotional, or in a low grade of mental or physical health; but, on the contrary, with people who seem normal in every way, and, so far as they are aware, without any form of control over the circumstances of their experiences. A well-known and eminent clergyman was on his way to visit a lad whom he knew to be ill. As he approached the house he noticed a number of people standing on the roadway and about the door. He spoke to several of them but got no answer, which he thought strange. On entering the house he enquired after the lad, and then asked what the people on the road were doing there. The mother, in great excitement, exclaimed, "What people?" and, on looking outside, they found the vision had gone. In a day or two the boy passed away.

Another clergyman in perfect physical health, athletic, holding several University degrees, was sleeping with a friend in a bedroom connected by a passage with a room in which his aunt, under the care of a nurse, was lying seriously ill. In the middle of the night both men were suddenly startled from their slumber by very loud knocks on the door. The clergyman got up, thinking he was summoned by the nurse. On opening the door he found nobody there, and, proceeding along the passage, he found both nurse and patient quietly sleeping. The following night similar knocks at the same time aroused both men once more, but this time it was really the nurse to intimate that the aunt had just passed away. This was related to us by the clergyman concerned.

In one of the islands of the west recently, a middle aged-farmer, in perfect health, was visited by a sailor friend home on furlough. After a chat, both proceeded for a stroll. The sailor suddenly pulled his friend aside to make way, as he said, for a funeral that was about to pass. The farmer could see nothing and thought the sailor had taken leave of his senses, but the latter said quietly that he was subject to spectral visions and that nothing untoward happened on board his ship without his being made aware of it. He named to the farmer the people attending the phantom funeral during the few seconds the vision lasted, but was unable to say who was in the coffin. He became rather unwell after the experience, and had to return and spend the night with the farmer. Three weeks later, long after the sailor had rejoined his ship, at about the same hour, as on the former occasion, the farmer strolling along met an actual procession, made up of the men named by the visionary, proceeding to inter the body of an unknown seaman, which had been found cast up on the shore. This same sailor, on a previous occasion, told his farmer friend, who related all these circumstances to us, that he had been fishing one evening about a mile from the shore in the company of his sister’s fiancé. The fiancé sat in the stern of the boat, and suddenly appeared to the sailor to rise up and walk past him, as he sat in the middle of the boat, and disappear over the bows into the sea. On his return home, on one pretext or another, he persuaded his sister to postpone her marriage for a few months. In the interval her fiancé was lost at sea. In the house occupied by the narrator referred to, and as related by him, there is a small kitchen stool which periodically, without rhyme or reason, and plainly visible to all the occupants of the kitchen, rises uncannily clear into the air. The inmates associate this apparently poltergeist performance with the fact that beer and whisky jars, for use at funerals, are always filled as they rest on this stool. The members of this household are frequently awakened on still nights by the loud rattling of these jars on their shelf. Whatever the explanation of these mysterious illusions or delusions may be, whether it be simple or scientific, there is no gain-saying the trustworthiness of the witnesses. Sneering indifference, complacent contempt, or violent prejudices, will neither explain them, nor explain them away, even if they prove to be destitute of permanent significance. As a folk-belief of psychical type they remain, as for centuries they have remained, firmly entrenched.

A kindred belief in one of the western isles, for which we can find no exact parallel in Celtic folk-lore elsewhere, concerns the mysterious "sluagh" or "Spirit Air Host," which is said to travel in numerical strength, approaching from any direction but the east, in crescent form, resembling the flight of grey birds. They are said to be able to pick up a person bodily and transport him, willy-nilly, long distances, through the air, and from one island to another. Tales of their doings are told around the evening fire. They can rescue a man from a dangerous rock-cleft, but usually bode no good to mortals, and cattle are said to be injured by them.

With care, the Highland culture-evolution, as set forth in folk-lore, and especially by recorders at first hand such as Martin, can be made a fruitful line of research. It is at present virgin ground and no exhausted soil. In addition to the soul-history and social organisation of the race, the student of this folk-lore will find that he has succeeded in increasing not only his own knowledge, but mayhap also knowledge generally.

A particularly pathetic interest attaches to Martin’s account of his voyage to St. Kilda. This remote island occupied from the earliest times, was in 1930 evacuated, and the remnant of the native population, some thirty-six people in all, transferred under Government auspices to the mainland. It is a cause for reflection that in Martin’s time, two hundred years ago, the island carried a fairly thriving and contented population of 180, which could entertain liberally the steward’s "company" of 40, 50 or 60 persons. Not only that, but the steward selected the most "meagre" among his friends in the neighbouring islands, to that number and took them periodically to St. Kilda to enjoy the nourishing and plentiful, if primitive, fare of the island, and so be restored to their wonted health and strength.

Modern readers of Martin’s account will no doubt find it of interest to excogitate for themselves the philosophy of the island’s decay and its causes.

To His Royal Highness Prince GEORGE of Denmark,
Lord High Admiral of England and Ireland,
and of all her Majesty’s Plantations, and Generalissimo
of all Her Majesty’s Forces, &c.

May it please your Royal Highness,

AMONGST the numerous crowd of congratulating addresses, the Islanders described in the following sheets presume to approach your royal person: They can now, without suspicion of infidelity to the Queen of England, pay their duty to a Danish Prince, to whose predecessors all of them formerly belonged.

They can boast that they are honoured with the sepulchres of eight Kings of Norway, who at this day, with forty-eight Kings of Scotland, and four of Ireland, lie entombed in the Island of Iona, a place famed then for some peculiar sanctity.

They presume that it is owing to their great distance from the imperial seat, rather than their want of native worth, that their islands have been so little regarded; which by improvement might render a considerable accession of strength and riches to the Crown, as appears by a scheme annexed to the following treatise. They have suffered hitherto under the want of a powerful and affectionate patron; Providence seems to have given them a natural claim to your Royal Highness: and though it be almost presumption for so sinful a nation to hope for so great a blessing, they do humbly join their prayers to God that the protection which they hope for from two princes of so much native worth and goodness, might be continued in your royal posterity to all generations. So prays,

May it please your Royal Highness,
Your Highness’s most humble
and most obedient servant,


THE Western Islands of Scotland, which make the subject of the following book, were called by the ancient geographers Æbudæ and Hebrides; but they knew so little of them, that they neither agreed in their name nor number. Perhaps it is peculiar to those isles, that they have never been described till now by any man that was a native of the country or had travelled them. They were indeed touched by Boethius, Bishop Lesly, Buchanan, and Johnston, in their histories of Scotland; but none of those authors were ever there in person: so that what they wrote concerning them was upon trust from others. Buchanan, it is true, had his information from Donald Monro, who had been in many of them; and therefore his account is the best that has hitherto appeared, but it must be owned that it is very imperfect: that great man designed the history, and not the geography of his country, and therefore in him it was pardonable. Besides since his time there is a great change in the humour of the world, and by consequence in the way of writing. Natural and experimental philosophy has been much improved since his days; and therefore descriptions of countries, without the natural history of them, are now justly reckoned to be defective.

This I had a particular regard to, in the following description, and have every where taken notice of the nature of the climate and soil, of the produce of the places by sea and land, and of the remarkable cures performed by the natives merely by the use of simples; and that in such variety as I hope will make amends for what defects may be found in my style and way of writing: for there is a wantonness in language as well as in other things, to which my countrymen of the Isles are as much strangers as to other excesses which are too frequent in many parts of Europe. We study things there more than words, though those that understand our native language must own that we have enough of the latter to inform the judgment and work upon the affections in as pathetic a manner as any other languages whatever. But I go on to my subject.

The isles here described are but little known or considered, not only by strangers, but even by those under the same government and climate.

The modern itch after the knowledge of foreign places is so prevalent that the generality of mankind bestow little thought or time upon the place of their nativity. It is become customary in those of quality to travel young into foreign countries, whilst they are absolute strangers at home; and many of them when they return are only loaded with superficial knowledge, as the bare names of famous libraries, stately edifices, fine statues, curious paintings, late fashions, new dishes, new tunes, new dances, painted beauties, and the like.

The places here mentioned afford no such entertainment; the inhabitants in general prefer convenience to ornament both in their houses and apparel, and they rather satisfy than oppress nature in their way of eating and drinking; and not a few among them have a natural beauty, which excels any that has been drawn by the finest Apelles.

The land and the sea that encompasses it, produce many things useful and curious in their kind, several of which have not hitherto been mentioned by the learned. This may afford the theorist subject of contemplation, since every plant of the field, every fibre of each plant, and the least particle of the smallest insect, carries with it the impress of its maker; and if rightly considered may read us lectures of divinity and morals.

The inhabitants of these islands do for the most part labour under the want of knowledge of letters and other useful arts and sciences; notwithstanding which defect, they seem to be better versed in the book of nature than many that have greater opportunities of improvement. This will appear plain and evident to the judicious reader, upon a view of the successful practice of the islanders in the preservation of their health, above what the generality of mankind enjoys. And this is performed merely by temperance, and the prudent use of simples, which, as we are assured by repeated experiments, fail not to remove the most stubborn distempers, where the best prepared medicines have frequently no success. This I relate not only from the authority of many of the inhabitants, who are persons of great integrity, but likewise from my own particular observation. And thus with Celsus they first make experiments and afterwards proceed to reason upon the effects.

Human industry has of late advanced useful and experimental philosophy very much. Women and illiterate persons have in some measure contributed to it by the discovery of some useful cures. The field of nature is large, and much of it wants still to be cultivated by an ingenious and discreet application; and the curious, by their observations, might daily make further advances in the history of nature.

Self-preservation is natural to every living creature; and thus we see the several animals of the sea and the land so careful of themselves as to observe nicely what is agreeable and what is hurtful to them; and accordingly they choose the one and reject the other.

The husbandman and the fisher could expect but little success without observation in their several employments; and it is by observation that the physician commonly judges of the condition of his patient. A man of observation proves often a physician to himself; for it was by this that our ancestors preserved their health till a good old age, and that mankind laid up that stock of natural knowledge of which they are now possessed.

The wise Solomon did not think it beneath him to write of the meanest plant, as well as of the tallest cedar. Hippocrates was at the pains and charge to travel foreign countries, with a design to learn the virtues of plants, roots, etc. I have in my little travels endeavoured, among other things, in some measure to imitate so great a pattern; and if I have been so happy as to oblige the republic of learning with anything that is useful I have my design. I hold it enough for me to furnish my observations without accounting for the reason and way that those simpler produce them. This I leave to the learned in that faculty; and if they would oblige the world with such therems from these and the like experiments, as might serve for rules upon occasions of this nature, it would be of great advantage to the public.

As for the improvement of the isles in general, it depends upon the Government of Scotland to give encouragement for it to such public-spirited persons or societies as are willing to lay out their endeavours that way; and how large a field they have to work upon will appear by taking a survey of each, and of the method of improvement that I have hereunto subjoined.

There is such an account given here of the second sight as the nature of the thing will bear. This has always been reckoned sufficient among the unbiassed part of mankind; but for those that will not be satisfied, they ought to oblige us with a new scheme, by which we may judge of matters of fact.

There are several instances of heathenism and pagan superstition among the inhabitants of the islands, related here; but I would not have the reader to think those practices are chargeable upon the generality of the present inhabitants, since only a few of the the oldest and most ignorant of the vulgar are guilty of them. These practices are only to be found where the reformed religion has not prevailed; for it is to the progress of that alone that the banishment of evil spirits, as well as of evil customs, is owing, when all other methods proved ineffectual. And for the islanders in general I may truly say that in religion and virtue they excel many thousands of others who have greater advantages of daily improvement.



Plates in connection with Martin’s Description of the
Western Islands.

Original Title Page ... ... ... ... ... ... 5

A New Map of the Western Isles of Scotland by M. Martin ... ... ... ... 85

The Form of a Heathen Temple ... ... ... ... ... 91


Plates in connection with Martin’s Voyage to St. Kilda.

Original Title Page ... ... ... ... ... ... 394

Map of St. Kilda ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 418

Two Birds of the Island ... ... ... ... ... ... 428



The Isle of Lewis, its different names, shire, and diocese, air-corrective, soil, clay, vessels, fruitfulness, corn; ground how manured; soot produces the jaundice; effects of ground when first tilled, 85

Industry of the inhabitants, way of digging; a strange harrow, how used; trestarig and Usquebaugh-baul, how made, and their effects, 86

An account of the bays and harbours, fish; gallan whale destroys three men; young whales how killed, they are nourishing food, 87

Whales called sea-pork, the larger more loosening; various kind of shell-fish, how they corrupt the air, and the time; coral; grouts and eels, their bait, 88

The custom of crossing Barvas-River by a male and not a female the first day of May; springs and fountains, their qualities; a superstitious experiment about the water, 89

Caves, natural and artificial forts, their form; thrussel-stone, 90

A heathen temple, its figure, &c., 91

Forest, deer and cattle, how fed in time of a storm; old roots of trees, 92

A bush of wood; state of health and constitution of the inhabitants; their diseases, various cures, 93

A preternatural birth, ingenuity of the natives, love of music, their exercises, fatigue; inferior isles, their description; a stone dyke lately discovered in the sea, 94, 95, 96

Flannan Isles, their product; superstitious custom of sailing, fowling, &c., used by the inhabitants, 97, 98

Pigmies, or Lusbird. The Isle Rona, its extent, product, inhabitants, their devotions, way of living, customs. Mr. Morison’s reception, homage; a present given him and his man; he is seen after the manner of the second sight. The inhabitants how they all perished. Colk a rare fowl; a new colony, &c. 99, 104

Siant Isle; eagles, their policy; blue stone; Eoropy Point. The isles above make two parishes; churches, their names and number, 105, 106

Ancient natives say their Pater-Noster at first view of a church: sacrifice offered to a sea god, and how, 107

Inhabitants, their religion; an experiment of holy water, festivals; Stornvay village, proprietor, 108, 109

Harris, extent, soil, air how qualified; harbours, fresh lakes, springs, their various qualities; caves, forts, stones on end, 110, 112

Number of deer, &c. Mertrick, its fur, &c. Two sorts of eagles, 113

A viper, rats how destroyed, a stone circle in the sea, various shells, os cœpiœ how used, molacca beans, amuleti, ambergris, 114, 115

Hearing lost how restored; blindness in sheep how restored; a foal with cloven feet; carrot seed instead of hops, 116

A singular cure for a cold; a worm how taken out of one’s cheek; allium, how successful against the stone; lunar stone, 117

A man lost his sight at the moon’s change; great product of barley; sea-ware enriches the ground; a substance like slake grows in the ground, 118, 119

Several irregularities in the tides; two ravens; stones erected, 120, 121

Pabbay Isle, tokens of wood gained by the sea; a fat pudding calms the sea, and attracts the whales; sheep with big horns, 122

Two chapels; a tradition there proves false; a secret sign among the inhabitants of Taransay; big seals in Gasker Isle; a pair of seals and hammer dug out of a grave in the sands; a vein of adamant in Quedom Isle, no mice can live in it, 123, 124

Hermetra Isle hath the foundations of a magazine, used when the fishery was there; the rocky channel between the Isle of Uist and Harris navigable; festivals; cavalcade, 125

The Isle North-Uist, its figure, soil, great produce, corn, two ploughs, bays, four hundred sail loaded with herring in them; a magazine-house for the great fishery, shell-fish, 126, 128

Mackerel run ashore with spring tides, and how they are preserved; a strange way of thickening cloth; a vast number of fresh lakes, they abound with eels and trouts, 129

Cod, ling, mackerel, &c. Fish caught in lakes; a marled salmon described; shell-fish; ancient forts, cairns of stone, 130

False sentinels, several stones on end; a stone on end to which malefactors were tied at Divine service; the water-cross, 131

Several sorts of fuel; cheese salted with ashes of barley straw; an earthen pitcher full of bones; the policy of ravens, &c. Seals how taken with nets; the yearly attack on seals in Cousmil Rocks; seals, their naturality, &c., 132, 134

Seals, how eat, how preserved, how used against diarrhœa and dysentery; seals used against the chin-cough, its way of leaping, the skin how used, hams made of seals; a dispute whether a seal be fish or flesh, 135, 136

Heisker rocks, 137

The Isle of Borera; a mare brings forth a foal in her second year; fine pulse, monk’s field, gravestones; tradition of monks’ posture in time of prayer, 138

Lingay Isle its produce, it has been esteemed sacred; beef salted in the cow’s hide; cows fattened by sea-ware, 139

Deer fed on sea-ware; eagle how it fishes; fowl of sea and land; black eagle destroys lamb, deer, and fawn; a vow at the eating of a swan; the colk described; the gowlin prognosticates fair weather, 140

The gowlin’s notes played on the pipe; the rain-geese foretell rain: the bishop-fowl cures the sciatica; the bird goylir foretells a storm, 141

The bird screachanattin, its affection to its mate. Observation of eggs. Wild geese, 142

Burren fowl. Air, its properties. Snow, its time. Observations of frost and rain. Observations of the north-east winds. Diseases, cures, 143, 144

A native called the rain almanac. A house in which a cock does not crow from September till March. Longevity of the natives, their charity. An inn a great rarity. Custom of asking grain, cows, &c. gratis, 145, 146

The anniversary cavalcade. A custom tolerated the night before cavalcade. How they run for a prize; bridles, whips, how made. Mutual presents. Proprietor, religion, 147, 148

Benbecula Isle, a harbour, soil. A vault having many small bones in it, opinion concerning them; proprietor. A lay capuchin, his habit, &c., 149, 150

The Isle South Uist, soil, corn, fresh lakes, old forts; ambergris found here. Frost kills fish. Inhabitants, diet, habit. A native 130 years old; stone cairns; superstition of the natives, 151, 152

Erisca Isle, anchorage, fishings, the ground casts up heath. A caution to travellers by land. Vipers of late discovered, 153

Inhabitants, their language, dress, hospitality, their alliances with Protestants; churches, bowing stone; a buckle of gold; proprietor, cavalcade, St. Michael’s cake. Manuscripts in the Irish character and language, 154

The Isle of Barray, its length, situation, produce, corn, 155

Plenty of fish, small ships from Orkney for fish; a harbour; speckled salmon, and how taken, &c., 156

Forts, orchard, tobacco growing there. Kismal the heritor’s seat, a tower, magazine, 157

The officers, cockman, constable. The properties of several wells. Embryoes of cockles; chapel. St. Barr’s image, the inhabitants pay religious worship to it; tradition concering St. Barr, 157, 158

The more Southern Isles described, their produce of fish, corn, &c. A stone rubbed to their breast, and why, 159

Inhabitants, their hospitality a singular way of lodging strangers, 160

An unknown root. The Isle Linmul. Fowl; Climber Gingick, his hazard, reward, &c., 161

Women and men apply to Macneil for a match, and he recommends the match. St. Christopher’s altar, the natives perform their devotion at it. A tenant’s misfortune supplied, 162

The proprietor’s care of his tenants; observation of sheep; anchorage. The steward, his perquisites, 162

Inferior officers, their perquisites. Religion; St. Barr, his anniversary cavalcade; a priest’s reception, and a dispute with him concerning St. Barr. Proprietor, his antiquity, vassalage, tribute, &c., 163, 164

The ancient and modern customs of the inhabitants of the Western Isles of Scotland, 165,-182

Courts of Judicatory, offensive and defensive leagues, the formality of giving a farm to a tenant, 183, 184

Church discipline. A form of prayer used by the islanders at sea, 185, 189

The Isle of Skye, its etymology, situation, shire, diocese, south-east moon causeth high tide, 190

Mould, earths various, their effects; marcasites, agate, crystal, marble, limestone, cornua Ammonia, 191

Velumnities, stone resembling goats’ horns. Lapis hecticus, its qualities, 192

Corkir, crotil, talk, 193

Harbours, mountains, 194, 195

The mountain Quilling the cause of rain; soil very good from several instances, 196

Digging yields a better increase than ploughing; springs and fountains, their qualities. Some are under a vow of coming to Lochsiant Well; an offering is left on the stones above the well, 197

The wood near the well esteemed sacred; a trout carefully preserved. Thirty rivers afford salmon; pearl, 197

Prognostic of rain; bait and season for angling trout; a fresh lake affords pearl; this isle anciently covered with wood, some coppices, 198

Herring in several bays, all kinds of fish follow them; all fish have a leader. A strange observation of herring; herring preserved without salt. All-fish abound on this coast; the season for fishing; several sorts of bait, 199, 200

The bays, &c, afford various shell fish; great plenty of oysters. Nurse’s milk how to increase. Jaundice occasioned by eating the patella; observations of the patella, 201

Of the balamos, periwinkle, cockles, &c. Observation of fish, 202

Sea plants, their qualities; sleep to procure, megrim how cured. Slake its qualities, 203

Dulse, its properties; of the alga marina, 203

White and red coral, their effects; a cave petrifies water, 204

Several caves, cairns, stones set on end; the giant Fin-Mac-Cowl, 205

Danish forts serve as beacons, names of forts, houses, Druids’ houses, coal lately found, cattle, &c., 206

A cow how imposed upon by the skin of her dead calf, and how pacified. Cows how deterred from any place. Cows distinguish the tides without sight of the sea. Cows how they presage their master’s death. A native being killed, his cows gave blood instead of milk about that very time, 207, 208

A monstrous calf; a cow brought forth five calves all at once. A calf with double feet; calves having the ear slit. Land and waterfowl; the difference betwixt good and bad cormorants, their broth restores milk in nurses, they foretell the winds. Observation of the oil of land and sea fowl, and of the St. Kilda fowl. Sea-pye presage fair weather, 209, 210

Amphibia observation of otters; various serpents, how they kill; cures for the biting of serpents, 211

Two sorts of weasels, and their effects. The peninsula Oronsay excels in pasturage, 212, 213

The Isle Raasa; a white substance from petrified water, proves good lime. A stone quarry. A law observed in fishing, 214

Forts, proprietor. Pyramids erected for every deceased lady, 215

Hectic stone reddish. Shoals of herring, 215

The Isle Fladda frequented by a monstrous whale. A superstitious custom for procuring a fair wind, 216

A stone much regarded by the natives. The monk Ogorgon. The tour used by birds and men round Table Fort, 217

Scurvy-grass, its size, quality, 218

A singular kind of dulse. The south of Skye earlier in grass, cattle, &c., than the north part, 219

Air, Quillin mountain called an almanac, Several observations of winds, 220

A presage of fair weather. Tides, moon, its influence, 221, 222

The diseases known and not known in the Isle Skye. The cures used by the inhabitants, 223

The alga marina useful in planting. Several cures for diseases, 224

Land plants, their qualities, 225, 226

Cure for cough, or hoarseness; hectic stone. Water-gruel how used, 227

A smith’s cure for the faintness of the spirits, 228

Vulneraries; purges; a tumour to ripen; syroms to take away; blindness how cured. Ashes of sea-ware preserve cheese, 229, 230

Swelled feet; glysters how made. A difficulty in easing nature at sea, how removed, 231, 232

Sweat to procure; the various effects of fishes on several constitutions, 233

A native hath a faculty of erecting ears. A strange worm in some people, 234

Yeast, how preserved many years, 235

Hemlock, its effects; many worms, how destroyed, 235

The inhabitants, complexion, education, great age, beds; a larger dose of physic required here than in the south, 236, 238

They are easily cured; an empiric without letters or education, his success, 239

The natives sagacious, mechanical, lovers of music, 240

Genius for poetry; disadvantage and advantage in the want of converse, 241

Diet, men eat more than women; oon, a dish made of milk or whey, 242, 243

Gradden, a way of dressing corn; two yearly fairs; cattle how skimmed over the ferries, 244, 247

The islanders’ affection to their chief, 248

Their way of fighting, 248

Division of Skye Isle, proprietors, religion, 249, 250

Bute Isle, mould, corn, Rosa-town, churches; an ancient native, he never can ease nature at sea; language, industry of the natives, fishing, proprietors, 251, 253

Arran Isle, its etymology, mountains, bays, earths, stones, rivers, air, 254, 255

Caves, a giant’s house, stones on end, bones found under them, two stone circles, 256

A sanctuary, harbour, forest, cattle, castle of Brodick, 257, 258

Proprietor, deputy, MacLewis, 259

Coroner, his office, &c. Inhabitants, their complexion, habit, language, churches, religion; a stone valued by the inhabitants, &c., 259, 261

Ailsa Isle, a fort, produce, chapels, 262

Gigha Isle, its church, the bowing-stone, cross, bleeding how staunched; religion, no burying on Friday, 263, 265

Jura Isle, its etymology, Paps of Jura, sheriff-dom, proprietor, 266, 267

Wholesomeness of the isle, fountains, their properties; longevity of the natives, cave, harbours, 268, 269

Direction for sailors; serpents; Cory-Vrekan Gulf, 270

A vessel escapes narrowly. Rats flee out of the isle, 271

Religion, they do not bury on Friday; complexion, language; a lead mine, 272

The Isle of Islay, Finlagan Isle, the courts anciently, and seat of judicature, 273

Coronation stone, &c. Forts, caves, 274

Rivers; the judge, how buried, 274

Churches, air, proprietor; a new found isle called Green Isle, 275

The Isle of Colonsay, church, monastery, tombs, proprietor, crosses; a tour made round the church; mould, castle, complexion, diet, language, 278

Religion, women only observe the nativity of the blessed Virgin; stone chests, 279, 280

Mull Isle, air carmel-root aromatic, it prevents drunkenness; mountains, 281

Bays, forts, Tobermory harbour, the Spanish ship blown up here, 282

Indian beans, how used; a stone receives no heat, 286

Iona Isle, traditions concerning Columbus; various names of the isle; its length, it was a seminary of learning; revenues. The Bishop of the Isles, his cathedral, he is styled "Episcopus Sodorensis." Vicar of Iona was parson of Soroby and Dean of the Isles. St. Mary’s Church described, 286, 287

Bishops, abbots, and others of distinction buried within the church; cloister, library, a burying place for murderers and unbaptized persons, Columbus’s tomb, 287

St. Martin’s Cross; monk’s-dun, its use. The black stones on which oaths were sworn; they are called the Great Seal, 288

Tailor’s house. St. Ouran’s Church, several persons of distinction buried in it; their statues, 289

The burial-places of the kings of Scotland, Ireland, and Norway; as also of the ancient families; of an English bishop; several inscriptions. Ronald’s Church, wherein the prioresses are buried, 289

Inscriptions, nunnery, two pavements, Maclean’s cross; Columbus carried eighteen clergymen to Iona; variegated stones, how used. A tradition of the family of porters, 291

Columbus, his life in divers hands; he excluded women from the isle, 292

Cattle excluded, only to be free from women. Beda, his account of Columbus, 293

The Isle of Tiree; experiments to revive ale; yeast how preserved 294

Cow’s milk produced by sea ware; many whales eat by the natives. The isle subject to the agues some of the inhabitants bald; a cave, 295

Forts circles of stone, inhabitants, their religion, 296

The Isle of Coll, it produces more boys than girls, and Tiree more girls than boys, the former feed on oat bread, the latter on barley. A native aged 89; dangerous rocks, 297

The Isle of Rum, mountainous and heathy; its length, rivers, fowl, caves, colour of the rocks, deer, a superstitious observation,299

Chapel, proprietor, language, habit, 299

The Isle Muck, fruitfulness, cattle, fowl, language, hawks, 300

The Isle Cannay, fruitfulness in corn and grass, plenty of fish; a lodestone in the north end. The isle called Tarsin at Sea. Columbus’s Church. Religion, habit, proprietor, anchorage, 301

The Isle of Egg, rocky and mountainous; a natural fort, a harbour, a large cave, a well reputed medicinal, the effect it hath on a stranger that lies at it in the night-time. The natives make a round about a heap of stone. A heap of stone consecrated to the Virgin Mary. A well consecrated by a Popish priest, much esteemed by the inhabitants. The ceremony at the consecration, 302

St. Catherine’s anniversary; the inhabitants well proportioned, language, habit, religion, St. Donnan’s Church and anniversary. A sepulchral urn, a passage under ground. Protestants denied access to the burials in this isle, 303

St. Kilda or Hirta, etymology of the name, its distance, in a Dutch map it is called Kilder; its length, fountains, cattle low of stature, sheep have big horns, 305

The Fort of the Volscii, 305

A barren tribe of solan geese; a pudding made of their fat, and its effect, 306

Solan goose egg pectoral, their nests how made; a red coat, sun dial, arrow, and molucca beans found in one of their nests. The fowl called fulmar, its size, it prognosticates the west wind, it feeds on live whale, eats sorrel, it spouts out pure oil at its bill, properties of this oil. Number of the inhabitants, language, habit, they are all not subject to many diseases; the men very strong, strangers infect the natives with a cough, 307

Diet of the natives, it causes a leprosy. They have a genius for poesy; they escape narrowly by climbing; the ingenuity of one among them, 308, 309

A significative sign, understood at a distance by all the women. The women labour the ground one year, 310

They swear decisive oaths by the crucifix, and it is of brass. The impostor, his deceit, how he was taken out of the isle, his confession and repentance, &c 311

St. Kilda man’s notion of the City of Glasgow, and of every object he saw in it. Proprietor, steward, product, 312, 313

Steward’s deputy, omer and cubit, no silver or gold used here, they fight for property, they live contentedly, nice in property, 314, 315

Stout rowers, no compass, pot-penny, fire-penny, the fire-penny lost by the discovery of crystal,

They excel in climbing. Two ropes belonging to the commonwealth. Great purchase of fowl; eggs, two thousand caught in a day’s time; gins wherein fowl are caught. One of the natives escapes narrowly. They perish in climbing. Lamentation songs, 316-317

Rock fowl, how a present; horses, fuel, cavalcade, fine hawks. One of the inhabitants travels to Glasgow, his strange idea of every object there, 317, 19

A child taken away by an eagle, and preserved, 320

An account of the second sight, or faculty of foreseeing things to come, by way of vision; several instances of it narrated, 321

A scheme of trade, particularly of fishing, 349

The language of the inhabitants, and their remoteness, no obstacle to this design, ibid

They are capable of acquiring all arts; many go abroad for want of employment, ibid

The ground capable to maintain double the number of the inhabitants; their cattle die in the spring by starving. The soil richer than in several other parts, ibid

The want of skill in agriculture a great loss. Many families how easily maintained. The isles are proper for a solitary life, and living at a very easy rate, 350

The isles are healthful. A tradition of gold and silver mines. A lead mine in the Isle of Islay, 351

The situation of the Isles advantageous for trade. Two attempts made by King Charles I. and King Charles II. to advance the fishery of the Western Isles, 352

The Dutch fishery called a golden mine. The herrings come to the coast of the isles in May and June; they continue in some parts till January; all other fish follow the herring, 359

Orkney Isles, their situation, origin, longitude, air, 360

More rain than snow in winter; sea air dissolves snow; the tides alter their course; number of the isles. The main land, Kirkwall town, the King and Bishop’s palace, 360

St. Magnus’s Church; the town erected by the Danes, 361

Scripture stories painted; a lofty inscription; harbours. The lesser isles described. The dangerous whirlpools in time of a calm, 363

Orkney Isles fruitful, several mines; no trees here. A south-east moon causeth high tide. Finland men and their boat. A medicinal snail. Plenty of shell-fish. No venomous creature in these isles, 364

Herring fishing neglected; whales, amphibia, various products; fowl, sleek geese, 365

Picts the ancient inhabitants; they are dispossessed by K. Kenneth the Second. Magnus King of Norway, by means of Donald Bane, possesses the isles, 366

Orkney a title of honour, the queen proprietor,

Orkney a stewartry, Udal right, different measures, ancient state of the church, 367

Ancient monuments and curiosities, 370

Superstition of the inhabitants, their longevity, 372



(page 84)



THE Island of Lewis is so called from Leog, which in the Irish language signifies water, lying on the surface of the ground; which is very proper to this island, because of the great number of fresh-water lakes that abound in it. The Isle of Lewis is by all strangers and seafaring men accounted the outmost tract of islands lying to the north-west of Scotland. It is divided by several narrow channels, and distinguished by several proprietors as well as by several names: by the islanders it is commonly called, the Long Island; being from south to north 100 miles in length, and from east to west from 3 to 14 in breadth. It lies in the shire of Ross, and made part of the diocese of the Isles.

The Isle of Lewis, properly and strictly so called, is 36 miles in length; viz., from the north-point of Bowling-head to the south-point of Hussiness in Harris: and in some places it is 10, and in others 12 miles in breadth. The air is temperately cold and moist, and for a corrective the natives use a dose of trestarig or usquebaugh. This island is for the most part healthy, especially in the middle from south to north. It is arable on the west side, for about 16 miles on the coast; it is likewise plain and arable in several places on the east. The soil is generally sandy, excepting the heaths, which in some places are black, and in others a fine red clay; as appears by the many vessels made of it by their women; some for boiling meat, and others for preserving their ale, for which they are much better than barrels of wood.

This island was reputed very fruitful in corn, until the late years of scarcity and bad seasons. The corn sown here is barley, oats, and rye; and they have also flax and hemp. The best increase is commonly from the ground manured with sea-ware: they fatten it also with soot; but it is observed that the bread made of corn growing in the ground so fattened, occasions the jaundice to those that eat it. They observe likewise that corn produced in ground which was never tilled before, occasions several disorders in those who eat the bread, or drink the ale made of that corn; such as the headache and vomiting.

The natives are very industrious, and undergo a great fatigue by digging the ground with spades, and in most places they turn the ground so digged upside down, and cover it with sea-ware; and in this manner there are about 500 people employed daily for some months. This way of labouring is by them called Timiy; and certainly produces a greater increase than digging or ploughing otherwise. They have little harrows with wooden teeth in the first and second rows, which break the ground; and in the third row they have rough heath, which smooths it. This light harrow is drawn by a man having a strong rope of horse-hair across his breast.

Their plenty of corn was such, as disposed the natives to brew several sorts of liquors, as common usquebaugh, another called trestarig, id est, aquavitæ, three times distilled, which is strong and hot; a third sort is four times distilled, and this by the natives is called usquebaugh-baul, id est, usquebaugh, which at first taste affects all the members of the body: two spoonfuls of this last liquor is a sufficient dose; and if any man exceed this, it would presently stop his breath, and endanger his life. The trestarig and usquebaugh-baul, are both made of oats.

There are several convenient bays and harbours in this island. Loch-Grace and Loch-Tua lying north-west, are not to be reckoned such; though vessels are forced in there sometimes by storm. Loch-Stornvay lies on the east side in the middle of the island, and is 18 miles directly south from the northernmost point of the same. It is a harbour well known by seamen. There are several places for anchoring about half a league on the south of this coast. About 7 miles southward there is a good harbour, called the Birkin Isles; within the bay called Loch-Colmkill, 3 miles further south, lies Loch-Erisort, which hath an anchoring-place on the south and north: about 5 miles south lies Loch-Seafort, having two visible rocks in the entry; the best harbour is on the south side.

About 24 miles south-west lies Loch-Carlvay, a very capacious, though unknown harbour, being never frequented by any vessels: though the natives assure me that it is in all respects a convenient harbour for ships of the first rate. The best entrance looks north and north-west, but there is another from the west. On the south side of the island Bernera, there are small islands without the entrance, which contribute much to the security of the harbour, by breaking the winds and seas that come from the great ocean. Four miles to the south on this coast is Loch-Rogue, which runs in among the mountains. All the coasts and bays above-mentioned, do in fair weather abound with cod, ling, herring, and all other sorts of fishes taken in the Western Islands.

Cod and ling are of a very large size, and very plentiful near Loch-Carlvay; but the whales very much interrupt the fishing in this place. There is one sort of whale remarkable for its greatness, which the fishermen distinguish from all others by the name of the Gallan-whale; because they never see it but at the promontory of that name. I was told by the natives, that about 15 years ago, this great whale overturned a fisher’s boat, and devoured three of the crew; the fourth man was saved by another boat which happened to be near, and saw this accident. There are many whales of different sizes, that frequent the herring-bays on the east side: the natives employ many boats together in pursuit of the whales, chasing them up into the bays, till they wound one of them mortally, and then it runs ashore; and they say that all the rest commonly follow the track of its blood, and run themselves also on shore in like manner, by which means many of them are killed. About five years ago there were fifty young whales killed in this manner, and most of them eaten by the common people, who by experience find them to be very nourishing food. This I have been assured of by several persons, but particularly by some poor meagre people, who became plump and lusty by this food in the space of a week: they call it Seapork, for so it signifies in their language. The bigger whales are more purgative than these lesser ones, but the latter are better for nourishment.

The bays afford plenty of shell-fish, as clams, oysters, cockles, mussels, limpets, whelks, spout-fish; of which last there is such a prodigious quantity cast up out of the sand of Loch-Tua, that their noisome smell infects the air, and makes it very unhealthful to the inhabitants, who are not able to consume them, by eating or fattening their ground with them: and this they say happens most commonly once in seven years.

The bays and coasts of this island afford great quantity of small coral, not exceeding six inches in length, and about the bigness of a goose’s quill. This abounds most in Loch-Seafort, and there is coraline likewise on this coast.

There are a great many fresh-water lakes in this island, which abound with trouts and eels. The common bait used for catching them is earthworms, but a handful of parboiled mussels thrown into the water attracts the trouts and eels to the place; the fittest time for catching them is when the wind blows from the south-west. There are several rivers on each side this island which afford salmons, as also black mussels, in which many times pearl is found.

The natives in the village Barvas retain an ancient custom of sending a man very early to cross Barvas River, every first day of May, to prevent any female crossing it first; for that they say would hinder the salmon from coming into the river all the year round; they pretend to have learned this from a foreign sailor, who was shipwrecked upon that coast a long time ago. This observation they maintain to be true from experience.

There are several springs and fountains of curious effects; such as that at Loch-Carlvay, that never whitens linen, which hath often been tried by the inhabitants. The well at St. Cowsten’s Church never boils any kind of meat, though it be kept on fire a whole day. St Andrew’s Well, in the village Shader, is by the vulgar natives made a test to know if a sick person will die of the distemper he labours under. They send one with a wooden dish to bring some of the water to the patient, and if the dish, which is then laid softly upon the surface of the water, turn round sun-ways, they conclude that the patient will recover of that distemper; but if otherwise, that he will die.

There are many caves on the coast of this island, in which great numbers of otters and seals do lie; there be also many land and sea fowls, that build and hatch in them. The cave in Loch-Grace hath several pieces of a hard substance in the bottom, which distil from the top of it. There are several natural and artificial forts on the coast of this island, which are called Dun, from the Iris word Dain, which signifies a fort. The natural forts here are Dun-owle, Dun-coradil, Dun-eisten.

The castle at Stornvay village was destroyed by the English garrison, kept there by Oliver Cromwell. Some few miles to the north of Brago there is a fort composed of large stones; it is of a round form, made taperwise towards the top, and is three stories high: the wall is double, and hath several doors and stairs, so that one may go round within the wall. There are some cairns, or heaps of stones, gathered together on heaths, and some of them at a great distance from any ground that affords stones, such as Cairnwarp, near Mournagh Hill, &c. These artificial forts are likewise built upon heaths, at a considerable distance also from stony ground. The Thrushel Stone, in the Parish of Barvas, is above 20 feet high, and almost as much in breadth. There are three erected stones upon the north side of Loch-Carlvay, about 12 feet high each. Several other stones are to be seen here in remote places, and some of them standing on one end. Some of the ignorant vulgar say, they were men by enchantment turned into stones; and others say, they are monuments of persons of note killed in battle.

The most remarkable stones for number, bigness, and order, that fell under my observation, were at the village of Classerniss, where there are 39 stones set up 6 or 7 feet high, and 2 feet in breadth each. They are placed in form of an avenue, the breadth of which is 8 feet, and the distance between each stone 6; and there is a stone set up in the entrance of this avenue. At the south end there is joined to this range of stone a circle of 12 stones of equal distance and height with the other 39. There is one set up in the centre of this circle, which is 13 feet high, and shaped like the rudder of a ship: without this circle there are 4 stones standing to the west, at the same distance with the stones in the circle; and there are 4 stones set up in the same manner at the south and east sides. I enquired of the inhabitants what tradition they had from their ancestors concerning these stones; and they told me, it was a place appointed for worship in the time of heathenism, and that the chief druid or priest stood near the big stone in the centre, from whence he addressed himself to the people that surrounded him.

Upon the same coast also there is a circle of high stones standing on one end, about a quarter of a mile’s distance from those above-mentioned.

The shore in Egginess abounds with many little smooth stones prettily variegated with all sorts of colours; they are of a round form, which is probably occasioned by the tossing of the sea, which in those parts is very violent.

The cattle produced here are cows, horses, sheep, goats, hogs. These cows are little, but very fruitful, and their beef very sweet and tender. The horses are considerably less here, than in the opposite Continent, yet they plough and harrow as well as bigger horses, though in the spring-time they have nothing to feed upon but sea-ware. There are abundance of deer in the Chase of Oservaul, which is 15 miles in compass, consisting in mountains, and valleys between them: this affords good pasturage for the deer, black cattle, and sheep. This forest, for so they call it, is surrounded with the sea, except about one mile upon the west side: the deer are forced to feed on sea-ware, when the snow and frost continue long, having no wood to shelter in, and so are exposed to the rigour of the season.

I saw big roots of trees at the head of Loch-Erisport, and there is about a hundred young birch and hazle trees on the south-west side of Loch-Stornvay, but there is no more wood in the island. There is great variety of land and sea-fowls to be seen in this and the lesser adjacent islands.

The amphibia here are seals and otters; the former are eaten by the vulgar, who find them to be as nourishing as beef and mutton.

The inhabitants of this island are well proportioned, free from any bodily imperfections, and of a good stature: the colour of their hair is commonly a light-brown, or red, but few of them are black. They are a healthful and strong-bodied people, several arrive to a great age. Mr. Daniel Morison, late minister of Barvas, one of my acquaintance, died lately in his 86th year.

They are generally of a sanguine constitution: this place hath not been troubled with epidemical diseases, except the small-pox, which comes but seldom, and then it sweeps away many young people. The chin-cough afflicts children too: the fever, diarrhœa, dysentery, and the falling down of the uvula, fevers, jaundice and stitches, and the ordinary coughs proceeding from cold are the diseases most prevalent here. The common cure used for removing fevers and pleurisies, is to let blood plentifully. For curing the diarrhœa and dysentery, they take small quantities of the kernel of the black molocca beans, called by them Crospunk; and this being ground into powder, and drunk in boiled milk, is by daily experience found to be very effectual. They likewise use a little dose of trestarig water with good success. When the cough affects them, they drink brochan plentifully, which is oat-meal and water boiled together; to which they sometimes add butter. This drink used at going to bed, disposeth one to sleep and sweat, and is very diuretic if it bath no salt in it. They use also the roots of nettles, and the roots of reeds boiled in water and add yeast to it, which provokes it to ferment; and this they find also beneficial for the cough. When the uvula falls down, they ordinarily cut it, in this manner ----- They take a long quill, and putting a horsehair double into it, make a noose at the end of the quill, and putting it about the lower end of the uvula, they cut off from the uvula all that is below the hair with a pair of scissors; and then the patient swallows a little bread and cheese, which cured him. This operation is not attended with the least inconvenience, and cures the distemper so that it never returns. They cure green wounds with ointment made of golden-rod, all-heal, and fresh butter. The jaundice they cure two ways ----- the first is by laying the patient on his face, and pretending to look upon his backbones, they presently pour a pail-full of cold water on his bare back; and this proves successful. The second cure they perform by taking the tongs, and making them red-hot in the fire; then pulling off the clothes from the patient’s back, he who holds the tongs gently touches the patient on the vertebrae upwards of the back, which makes him furiously run out of doors, still supposing the hot iron is on his back, till the pain be abated, which happens very speedily, and the patient recovers soon after. Donald Chuan, in a village near Bragir, in the parish of Barvas, had by accident cut his toe at the change of the moon, and it bleeds a fresh drop at every change of the moon ever since.

Anna, daughter to George, in the village of Melbost, in the parish of Ey, having been with child, and the ordinary time of her delivery being expired, the child made its passage by the fundament for some years, coming away bone after bone. She lived several years after this, but never had any more children. Some of the natives, both of the island of Lewis and Harris, who conversed with her at the time when this extraordinary thing happened, gave me this account.

The natives are generally ingenious and quick of apprehension; they have a mechanical genius, and several of both sexes have a gift of poesy, and are able to form a satire or panegyric ex tempore, without the assistance of any stronger liquor than water to raise their fancy. They are great lovers of music; and when I was there they gave an account of eighteen men who could play on the violin pretty well without being taught: they are still very hospitable, but the late years of scarcity brought them very low, and many of the poor people have died by famine. The inhabitants are very dexterous in the exercises of swimming, archery, vaulting, or leaping, and are very stout and able seamen; they will tug at the oar all day long upon bread and water, and a snush of tobacco.


WITHOUT the mouth of Loch-Carlvay lies the small island Garve; it is a high rock, about half-a-mile in compass, and fit only for pasturage. Not far from this lies the island Berinsay, which is a quarter of a mile in compass, naturally a strong fort, and formerly used as such, being almost inaccessible.

The island Fladda, which is of small compass, lies between Berinsay and the main land. Within these lies the island called Bernera Minor, two miles in length, and fruitful in corn and grass. Within this island, in the middle of Loch-Carlvay, lies the island Bernera Major, being four miles in length, and as much in breadth. It is fruitful also in corn and grass, and hath four villages. Alexander MackLenan, who lives in Bernera Major, told me that some years ago a very extraordinary ebb happened there, exceeding any that had been seen before or since; it happened about the vernal equinox, the sea retired so far as to discover a stone-wall, the length of it being about 40 yards, and in some parts about 5, 6 or 7 feet high they suppose much more of it to be under water: it lies opposite to the west side of Lewis, to which it adjoins. He says that it is regularly built, and without all doubt the effect of human industry. The natives had no tradition about this piece of work, so that I can form no other conjecture about it, but that it has probably been erected for a defense against the sea, or for the use of fishermen, but came in time to be overflowed. Near to both Berneras lie the small islands of Kialisay, Cavay, Carvay, and Grenim.

Near to the north-west promontory of Carlvay Bay, called Galen-head, are the little islands of Pabbay, Shirem, Vacksay, Wuya, the Great and Lesser. To the north-west of Galen-head, and within six leagues of it, lie the Flannan-Islands, which the seamen call North-hunters; they are but small islands, and six in number, and maintain about seventy sheep yearly. The inhabitants of the adjacent lands of the Lewis, having a right to these islands, visit them once every summer, and there make a great purchase of fowls, eggs, down, feathers, and quills. When they go to sea, they have their boat well manned, and make towards the islands with an east wind; but if before or at landing the wind turn westerly, they hoist up sail, and steer directly home again. If any of their crew is a novice, and not versed in the customs of the place, he must be instructed perfectly in all the punctilioes observed here before landing; and to prevent inconveniences that they think may ensue upon the transgression of the least nicety observed here, every novice is always joined with another, that can instruct him all the time of their fowling: so all the boat’s crew are matched in this manner. After their landing, they fasten the boat to the sides of a rock, and then fix a wooden ladder, by laying a stone at the foot of it, to prevent its falling into the sea; and when they are got up into the island, all of them uncover their heads, and make a turn sun-ways round, thanking God for their safety. The first injunction given after landing, is not to ease nature in that place where the boat lies, for that they reckon a crime of the highest nature, and of dangerous consequence to all their crew; for they have a great regard to that very piece of rock upon which they first set their feet, after escaping the danger of the ocean.

The biggest of these islands is called Island-More; it has the ruins of a chapel dedicated to St. Flannan, from whom the island derives its name. When they are come within about 20 paces of the altar, they all strip themselves of their upper garments at once; and their upper clothes being laid upon a stone, which stands there on purpose for that use, all the crew pray three times before they begin fowling: the first day they say the first prayer, advancing towards the chapel upon their knees; the second prayer is said as they go round the chapel; the third is said hard by or at the chapel; and this is their morning-service. Their vespers are performed with the like number of prayers. Another rule is that it is absolutely unlawful to kill a fowl with a stone, for that they reckon a great barbarity, and directly contrary to ancient custom.

It is also unlawful to kill a fowl before they ascend by the ladder. It is absolutely unlawful to call the island of St. Kilda (which lies thirty leagues southward) by its proper Irish name Hirt, but only the high country. They must not so much as once name the islands in which they are following by the ordinary name Flannan, but only the country. There are several other things that must not be called by their common names, e.g., Visk, which in the language of the natives signifies Water, they call Burn; a Rock, which in their language is Creg, must here be called Cruey, i.e., hard; Shore in their language, expressed by Claddach, must here be called Vah, i.e., a Cave; Sour in their language as expressed Gort, but must be here called Gaire, i.e., Sharp; Slippery, which is expressed Bog, must be called Soft; and several other things to this purpose. They account it also unlawful to kill a fowl after evening-prayers. There is an ancient custom by which the crew is obliged not to carry home any sheep-suet, let them kill ever so many sheep in these islands. One of their principal customs is not to steal or eat anything unknown to their partner, else the transgressor (they say) will certainly vomit it up; which they reckon as a just judgment. When they have loaded their boat sufficiently with sheep, fowls, eggs, down, fish, &c., they make the best of their way homeward. It is observed of the sheep of these islands that they are exceeding fat, and have long horns.

I had this superstitious account not only from several of the natives of the Lewis, but likewise from two who had been in the Flannan islands the preceding year. I asked one of them if he prayed at home as often, and as fervently as he did when in the Flannan Islands, and he plainly confessed to me that he did not: adding further, that these remote islands were places of inherent sanctity; and that there was none ever yet landed in them but found himself more disposed to devotion there, than anywhere else. The Island of Pigmies, or, as the natives call it, the Island of Little Men, is but of small extent. There has been many small bones dug out of the ground here, resembling those of human kind more than any other. This gave ground to a tradition which the natives have of a very low-statured people living once here, called Lusbirdan, i.e., pygmies.

The island of Rona is reckoned about 20 leagues from the north-east point of Ness in Lewis, and counted but a mile in length, and about half a mile in breadth: it hath a hill in the west part, and is only visible from the Lewis in a fair summer’s day. I had an account of this little island, and the custom of it, from several natives of Lewis, who had been upon the place; but more particularly from Mr. Daniel Morison, minister of Barvas, after his return from Rona island, which then belonged to him, as part of his glebe. Upon my landing (says he) the natives received me very affectionately, and addressed me with their usual salutation to a stranger: "God save you, pilgrim, you are heartily welcome here; for we have had repeated apparitions of your person among us (after the manner of the second sight), and we heartily congratulate your arrival in this our remote country." One of the natives would needs express his high esteem for my person, by making a turn round about me sun-ways, and at the same time blessing me, and wishing me all happiness; but I bid him let alone that piece of homage, telling him I was sensible of his good meaning towards me: but this poor man was not a little disappointed, as were also his neighbours; for they doubted not but this ancient ceremony would have been very acceptable to me; and one of them told me, that this was a thing due to my character from them, as to their chief and patron, and they could not, nor would not fail to perform it. They conducted me to the little village where they dwell, and in the way thither there were three enclosures; and as I entered each of these, the inhabitants severally saluted me, taking me by the hand, and saying, "Traveller, you are welcome here." They went along with me to the house that they had assigned for my lodging; where there was a bundle of straw laid on the floor, for a seat for me to sit upon. After a little time was spent in general discourse, the inhabitants retired to their respective dwelling-houses; and in this interval, they killed each man a sheep, being in all five, answerable to the number of their families. The skins of the sheep were entire, and flayed off so from the neck to the tail, that they were in form like a sack. These skins being flayed off after this manner, were by the inhabitants instantly filled with barley-meal; and this they gave me by way of a present; one of their number acted as speaker for the rest saying, "Traveller, we are very sensible of the favour you have done us in coming so far with a design to instruct us in our way to happiness, and at the same time to venture yourself on the great ocean; pray be pleased to accept of this small present, which we humbly offer as an expression of our sincere love to you." This I accepted, though in a very coarse dress; but it was given with such an air of hospitality and good-will as deserved thanks. They presented my man also with some pecks of meal, as being likewise a traveller; the boat’s crew having been in Rona before, were not reckoned strangers, and therefore there was no present given them, but their daily maintenance.

There is a chapel here dedicated to St. Ronan, fenced with a stone-wall round it; and they take care to keep it neat and clean, and sweep it every day. There is an altar in it, on which there lies a big plank of wood about ten feet in length; every foot has a hole in it, and in every hole a stone, to which the natives ascribe several virtues: one of them is singular, as they say, for promoting speedy delivery to a woman in travail.

They repeat the Lord’s Prayer, Creed, and Ten Commandments in the chapel every Sunday morning. They have cows, sheep, barley and oats, and live a harmless life, being perfectly ignorant of most of those vices that abound in the world. They know nothing of money or gold, having no occasion for either; they neither sell nor buy, but only barter for such little things as they want: they covet no wealth, being fully content and satisfied with food and raiment; though at the same time they are very precise in the matter of property among themselves; for none of them will by any means allow his neighbour to fish within his property; and every one must exactly observe not to make any encroachment on his neighbour. They have an agreeable and hospitable temper for all strangers; they concern not themselves about the rest of mankind, except the inhabitants in the north part of Lewis. They take their surname from the colour of the sky, rain-bow, and clouds. There are only five families in this small island, and every tenant hath his dwelling-house, a barn, a house where their best effects are preserved, a house for their cattle, and a porch on each side of the door to keep off the rain or snow. Their houses are built with stone, and thatched with straw, which is kept down with ropes of the same, poised with stones. They wear the same habit with those in Lewis, and speak only Irish. When any of them comes to the Lewis, which is seldom, they are astonished to see so many people. They much admire grey-hounds, and are mightily pleased at the sight of horses; and one of them observing a horse to neigh, asked if that horse laughed at him. A boy from Rona perceiving a colt run towards him, was so much frighted at it, that he jumped into a bush of nettles, where his whole skin became full of blisters.

Another of the natives of Rona having had the opportunity of travelling as far as Coul, in the shire of Ross, which is the seat of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, everything he saw there was surprising to him; and when he heard the noise of those who walked in the rooms above him he presently fell to the ground, thinking thereby to save his life, for he supposed that the house was coming down over his head. When Mr. Morison, the minister, was in Rona, two of the natives courted a maid with intention to marry her; and being married to one of them afterwards, the other was not a little disappointed, because there was no other match for him in this island. The wind blowing fair, Mr. Morison sailed directly to Lewis; but after three hours’ sailing was forced back to Rona by a contrary wind: and at his landing, the poor man that had lost his sweetheart was overjoyed, and expressed himself in these words: "I bless God and Ronan that you are returned again, for I hope you will now make me happy, and give me a right to enjoy the woman every other year by turns, that so we both may have issue by her." Mr. Morison could not refrain from smiling at this unexpected request, chid the poor man for his unreasonable demand, and desired him to have patience for a year longer, and he would send him a wife from Lewis, but this did not ease the poor man, who was tormented with the thoughts of dying with out issue.

Another who wanted a wife, and having got a shilling from a seaman that happened to land there, went and gave this shilling to Mr. Morison, to purchase him a wife in the Lewis, and send her to him, for he was told that this piece of money was a thing of extraordinary value; and his desire was gratified the ensuing year.

About 14 years ago a swarm of rats, but none knows how, came into Rona, and in a short time ate up all the corn in the island. In a few months after, some seamen landed there, who robbed the poor people of their bull. These misfortunes, and the want of supply from Lewis for the space of a year, occasioned the death of all that ancient race of people. The steward of St. Kilda being by a storm driven in there, told me that he found a woman with her child on her breast, both lying dead at the side of a rock. Some years after, the minister (to whom the island belongeth) sent a new colony to this island, with suitable supplies. The following year a boat was sent by him with some more supplies, and orders to receive the rents; but the boat being lost, as it is supposed, I can give no further account of this late plantation.

The inhabitants of this little island say, that the cuckoo is never seen or heard here, but after the death of the Earl of Seaforth, or the minister.

The rock Soulisker lieth four leagues to the east of Rona; it is a quarter of a mile in circumference, and abounds with great numbers of sea fowl, such as solan geese, guillamote, coulter-neb, puffin, and several other sorts. The fowl called the colk is found here: it is less than a goose, all covered with down, and when it hatches it casts its feathers, which are of divers colours; it has a tuft on its head resembling that of a peacock, and a train longer than that of a house-cock, but the hen has not so much ornament and beauty.

The island Siant, or, as the natives call it, Island-more, lies to the east of Ushiness in Lewis, about a league. There are three small islands here; the two southern islands are separated only by spring-tides, and are two miles in circumference. Island-More hath a chapel in it dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and is fruitful in corn and grass; the island joining to it on the west is only for pasturage. I saw a couple of eagles here: the natives told me that these eagles would never suffer any of their kind to live there but themselves, and that they drove away their young ones as soon as they were able to fly. And they told me likewise, that those eagles are so careful of the place of their abode, that they never yet killed any sheep or lamb in the island, though the bones of lambs, of fawns, and wild-fowls, are frequently found in and about their nests; so that they make their purchase in the opposite islands, the nearest of which is a league distant. This island is very strong and inaccessible, save on one side where the ascent is narrow, and somewhat resembling a stair, but a great deal more high and steep; notwithstanding which the cows pass and repass by it safely, though one would think it uneasy for a man to climb. About a musket-shot farther north lies the biggest of the islands called More, being two miles in circumference; it is fruitful in corn and pasturage, the cows here are much fatter than any I saw in the Island of Lewis. There is a blue stone in the surface of the ground here, moist while it lies there, but when dry, it becomes very hard; it is capable of any impression, and I have seen a set of table-men made of this stone, prettily carved with different figures. There is a promontory in the north end of the Island of Lewis, called Eoropy Point, which is supposed to be the farthest to northwest of any part in Europe.

These islands are divided into two parishes, one called Barvas, and the other Ey or Y; both which are parsonages, and each of them having a minister. The names of the Churches in Lewis Isles, and the saints to whom they were dedicated, are St. Columkil, in the island of that name; St. Pharaer in Kaerness, St. Lennan in Sternvay, St. Collum in Ey, St. Cutchon in Garbost, St. Aula in Grease, St. Michael in Tollosta, St. Collum in Garien, St. Ronan in Eurobie, St. Thomas in Habost, St. Peter in Shanabost, St. Clemen in Dell, Holy-Cross Church in Galan, St. Brigit in Barove, St. Peter in Shiadir, St. Mary in Barvas, St. John Baptist in Bragar, St. Kiaran in Liani-Shadir, St. Michael in Kirvig, St. Macrel in Kirkibost, St. Dondan in Little Berneray, St. Michael in the same island, St. Peter in Pabbay Island, St. Christopher’s Chapel in Uge, and Stornvay Church; all these Churches and Chapels were, before the Reformation, sanctuaries; and if a man had committed murder, he was then secure and safe when once within their precincts.

They were in greater veneration in those days than now: it was the constant practice of the natives to kneel at first sight of the Church, though at a great distance from them, and then they said their Paternoster. John Morison of Bragir told me that when he was a boy, and going to the Church of St. Malvay, he observed the natives to kneel and repeat the Paternoster at four miles distance from the church. The inhabitants of this island had an ancient custom to sacrifice to a sea-god called Shony, at Hallow-tide, in the manner following: The inhabitants round the island came to the Church of St. Malvay, having each man his provision along with him; every family furnished a peck of malt, and this was brewed into ale; one of their number was picked out to wade into the sea up to the middle, and carrying a cup of ale in his hand, standing still in that posture, cried out with a loud voice saying, "Shony, I give you this cup of ale, hoping that you’ll be so kind as to send us plenty of sea-ware for enriching our ground for the ensuing year"; and so threw the cup of ale into the sea. This was performed in the night time. At his return to land they all went to church, where there was a candle burning upon the altar; and then standing silent for a little time, one of them gave a signal, at which the candle was put out, and immediately all of them went to the fields, where they fell a-drinking their ale, and spent the remainder of the night in dancing and singing, &c.

The next morning they all returned home, being well satisfied that they had punctually observed this solemn anniversary, which they believed to be a powerful means to procure a plentiful crop. Mr. Daniel and Mr. Kenneth Morison, ministers in Lewis, told me they spent several years before they could persuade the vulgar natives to abandon this ridiculous piece of superstition; which is quite abolished for these 32 years past.

The inhabitants are all Protestants except one family, who are Roman Catholics. I was told that about 14 years ago, three or four fishermen who then forsook the Protestant communion, and embraced the Romish faith, having the opportunity of a Popish priest on the place, they applied themselves to him for some of the holy water; it being usual for the priests to sprinkle it into the bays, as an infallible means to procure plenty of herring, as also to bring them into those nets that are besprinkled with it. These fishers accordingly having got the water, poured it upon their nets before they dropped them into the sea; they likewise turned the inside of their coats outwards, after which they set their nets in the evening at the usual hour. The Protestant fishers, who used no other means than throwing their nets into the sea, at the same time were unconcerned; but the Papists being impatient and full of expectation, got next morning betides to draw their nets, and being come to the place, they soon perceived that all their nets were lost; but the Protestants found their nets safe, and full of herring: which was no small mortification to the priest and his proselytes, and exposed them to the derision of their neighbours.

The Protestant natives observe the festivals of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Michaelmas: upon this last they have an anniversary cavalcade, and then both sexes ride on horseback.

There is a village called Stornvay, at the head of the bay of that name; it consists of about sixty families; there are some houses of entertainment in it, as also a church and a school, in which Latin and English are taught. The steward of the Lewis hath his residence in this village. The Lewis, which was possessed by Macleod of Lewis for several centuries is, since the reign of King James the Sixth, become the property of the Earl of Seaforth, who still enjoys it.


THE Harris being separated from Lewis is 18 miles, from the Hushiness on the West Ocean to Loch-Seafort in the east; from this bounding to the Point of Strond in the South of Harris, it is 24 miles; and in some places 4, 5, and 6 miles in breadth. The soil is almost the same with that of Lewis, and it produces the same sorts of corn, but a greater increase.

The air is temperately cold, and the natives endeavour to qualify it by taking a dose of aquavitae, or brandy; for they brew no such liquors as trestarig, or usquebaugh-baul. The eastern coast of Harris is generally rocky and mountainous, covered with grass and heath. The west side is for the most part arable on the sea-coast; some parts of the hills on the east side are naked without earth. The soil being dry and sandy, is fruitful when manured with sea-ware. The grass on the west side is most clover and daisy which in the summer yields a most fragrant smell. Next to Loch-Seafort, which for some miles divides the Lewis from Harris, is the notable harbour within the island, by seafaring men called Glass, and by the natives Scalpa; it is a mile and a half long from south to north, and a mile in breadth. There is an entrance on the south and north ends of the isle, and several good harbours in each, well known to the generality of seamen. Within the isle is Loch-Tarbat, running 4 miles west; it hath several small isles, and is sometimes frequented by herring. Without the loch there is plenty of cod, ling, and large eels.

About half a league farther on the same coast, lies Loch-Stokness, which is about a mile in length: there is a fresh-water lake at the entrance of the island, which affords oysters, and several sorts of fish, the sea having access to it at spring-tides.

About a league and a half farther south, is Loch-Finisbay, an excellent, though unknown harbour: the land lies low, and hides it from the sight of seafaring men, till they come very near the coast. There are, besides this harbour, many creeks on this side, for barks and lesser boats.

Fresh-water lakes abound in this island, and are well-stored with trout, eels, and salmon. Each lake has a river running from it to the sea, from whence the salmon comes about the beginning of May, and sooner if the season be warm. The best time for angling for salmon and trout, is when a warm southwest wind blows. They use earth-worms commonly for bait, but cockles attract the salmon better than any other.

There is a variety of excellent springs issuing from all the mountains of this island, but the wells on the plains near the sea are not good. There is one remarkable fountain lately discovered near Marvaghouses, on the eastern coast, and has a large stone by it, which is sufficient to direct a stranger to it. The natives find by experience that it is very effectual for restoring lost appetite; all that drink of it become very soon hungry, though they have ate plentifully but an hour before: the truth of this was confirmed to me by those that were perfectly well, and also by those that were infirm; for it had the same effect on both.

There is a well in the heath, a mile to the east from the village Borve; the natives say that they find it efficacious against colics, stitches, and gravel.

There are several caves in the mountains, and on each side the coast: the largest and best fortified, by nature, is that in the hill Ulweal, in the middle of a high rock; the passage leading to it is so narrow, that one only can enter at a time. This advantage renders it secure from any attempt; for one single man is able to keep off a thousand, if he have but a staff in his hand, since with the least touch of it he may throw the strongest man down the rock. The cave is capacious enough for 50 men to lodge in: it hath two wells in it, one of which is excluded from dogs; for they say if a dog do but taste of the water, the well presently drieth up: and for this reason, all such as have occasion to lodge there, take care to tie their dogs, that they may not have access to the water. The other well is called the dogs-well, and is only drunk by them.

There are several ancient forts erected here, which the natives say were built by the Danes: they are of a round form, and have very thick walls and a passage in them by which one can go round the fort. Some of the stones that compose them are very large: these forts are named after the villages in which they are built, as that in Borve is called Down-Borve, &c. They are built at convenient distances on each side of the coast, and there is a fort built in every one of the lesser isles.

There are several stones here erected on one end, one of which is in the village of Borve, about 7 feet high. There is another stone of the same height to be seen in the opposite Isle of Taransay. There are several heaps of stones, commonly called cairns, on the tops of hills and rising grounds on the coast, upon which they used to burn heath, as a signal of an approaching enemy. There was always a sentinel at each cairn to observe the sea-coast; the steward of the isle made frequent rounds, to take notice of the sentinels, and if he found any of them asleep, he strips them of their clothes, and deferred their personal punishments to the proprietor of the place. This isle produced the same kind of cattle, sheep, and goats, that are on the Lewis. The natives gave me an account, that a couple of goats did grow wild on the hills, and after they had increased, they were observed to bring forth their young twice a year.

There are abundance of deer in the hills and mountains here, commonly called the forest; which is 18 miles in length from east to west: the number of deer computed to be in this place is at least 2000; and there is none permitted to hunt there without a license from the steward to the forester. There is a particular mountain, and above a mile of ground surrounding it, to which no man hath access to hunt, this place being reserved for Macleod himself, who when he is disposed to hunt, is sure to find game enough there.

Both hills and valleys in the forest are well provided with plenty of good grass mixed with heath, which is all the shelter these deer have during the winter and spring: there is not a shrub of wood to be seen in all the forest; and when a storm comes, the deer betake themselves to the sea-coast, where they feed upon the Alga Marina, or sea-ware.

The mertrick, a four-footed creature, about the size of a big cat, is pretty numerous in this isle: they have a fine skin, which is smooth as any fur, and of a brown colour. They say that the dung of this animal yields a scent like musk.

The amphibia here are otters and seals; the latter are ate by the meaner sort of people, who say they are very nourishing. The natives take them with nets, whose ends are tied by a rope to the strong alga, or sea-ware, growing on the rocks.

This island abounds with variety of land and sea-fowl, and particularly with very good hawks.

There are eagles here of two sorts; the one is of a large size and gray colour, and these are very destructive to the fawns, sheep, and lambs.

The other is considerably less, and black, and shaped like a hawk, and more destructive to the deer, etc., than the bigger sort.

There are no venomous creatures of any kind here, except a little viper, which was not thought venomous till of late, that a woman died of a wound she received from one of them.

I have seen a great many rats in the village Rowdil, which became very troublesome to the natives, and destroyed all their corn, milk, butter, cheese, etc. They could not extirpate these vermin for some time by all their endeavours. A considerable number of cats was employed for this end, but were still worsted, and became perfectly faint, because overpowered by the rats, who were twenty to one. At length one of the natives, of more sagacity than his neighbours, found an expedient to renew his cat’s strength and courage, which was by giving it warm milk after every encounter with the rats; and the like being given to all the other cats after every battle, succeeded so well, that they left not one rat alive, notwithstanding the great number of them in the place.

On the east-side of the village Rowdil, there is a circle of stone, within 8 yards of the shore: it is about 3 fathoms under water, and about two stories high: it is in form broader above than below, like to the lower story of a kiln: I saw it perfectly on one side, but the season being then windy, hindered me from a full view of it. The natives say that there is such another circle of less compass in the Pool Borodil, on the other side the bay.

The shore on the west coast of this island affords variety of curious shells and walks; as tellinae and turbines of various kinds, thin patellæœ, streaked blue, various coloured pectenes, some blue, and some of orange colours.

The os-sepie is found on the sand in great quantities. The natives pulverize it, and take a dose of it in boiled milk which is found by experience to be an effectual remedy against the diarrhœa and dysentery. They rub this powder likewise, to take off the film on the eyes of sheep.

There is variety of nuts, called molluka beans, some of which are used as amulets against witchcraft, or an evil eye, particularly the white one; and upon this account they are wore about children’s necks, and if any evil is intended to them, they say the nut changes into a black colour. That they did change colour, I found true by my own observation, but cannot be positive as to the cause of it.

Malcolm Campbell, steward of Harris, told me, that some weeks before my arrival there, all his cows gave blood instead of milk, for several days together: one of the neighbours told his wife that this must be witchcraft, and it would be easy to remove it, if she would but take the white nut, called the Virgin Mary’s Nut, and lay it in the pail into which she was to milk the cows. This advice she presently followed, and having milked one cow into the pail with the nut in it, the milk was all blood, and the nut changed its colour into dark brown: she used the nut again, and all the cows gave pure good milk, which they ascribe to the virtue of the nut. This very nut Mr. Campbell presented me with, and I keep it still by me.

Some small quantity of ambergris hath been found on the coast of the island Bernera. I was told that a weaver in this island had burnt a lump of it, to show him a light for the most part of the night, but the strong scent of it made his head ache exceedingly, by which it was discovered.

An ancient woman about sixty years of age, here lost her hearing; and having no physician to give her advice, she would needs try an experiment herself, which was thus: She took a quill with which she ordinarily snushed her tobacco, and filling it with the powder of tobacco, poured it into her ear; which had the desired effect, for she could hear perfectly well next day. Another neighbour about the same age, having lost her hearing some time after, recovered it by the same experiment, as I was told by the natives.

The sheep which feed here on sandy ground, become blind sometimes, and are cured by rubbing chalk in their eyes.

A servant of Sir Norman Macleod’s living in the island of Bernera, had a mare that brought forth a foal with both the hinder feet cloven, which died about a year after: the natives concluded that it was a bad omen to the owner, and his death, which followed in a few years after, confirmed them in their opinion.

The natives make use of the seeds of a white wild carrot, instead of hops, for brewing their beer; and they say that it answers the end sufficiently well, and gives the drink a good relish besides.

John Campbell, forester of Harris, makes use of this singular remedy for a could: He walks into the sea up to the middle with his clothes on, and immediately after goes to bed in his wet clothes, and then laying the bedclothes over him procures a sweat, which removes the distemper; and this he told me is his only remedy for all manner of colds. One of the said John Campbell’s servants having his cheek swelled, and there being no physician near, he asked his master’s advice: he knew nothing proper for him, but however bid him apply a plaister of warm barley-dough to the place affected. This assuaged the swelling, and drew out of the flesh a little worm, about half an inch in length, and about the bigness of a goose-quill, having a pointed head, and many little feet on each side: this worm they call fillan, and it hath been found in the head and neck of several persons that I have seen in the Isle of Skye.

Allium latisolium, a kind of wild garlic, is much used by some of the natives, as a remedy against the stone: they boil it in water, and drink the infusion, and it expels sand powerfully with great ease.

The natives told me, that the rock on the east side of Harris, in the Sound of island Glass, hath a vacuity near the front, on the northwest side of the sound; in which they say there is a stone that they call the lunar-stone, which advances and retires according to the increase and decrease of the moon.

A poor man born in the village of Rowdil, commonly called St. Clements-blind, lost his sight at every change of the moon, which obliged him to keep his bed for a day or two, and then he recovered his sight.

The inferior islands belonging to Harris are as follow: The island Bernera is five miles in circumference, and lies about two leagues to the south of Harris. The soil is sandy for the most part, and yields a great product of barley and rye in a plentiful year, especially if the ground be enriched by sea-ware, and that there be rain enough to satisfy the dry soil. I had the opportunity to travel this island several times, and upon a strict enquiry I found the product of barley to be sometimes twenty fold and upwards, and at that time all the east side of the island produce thirty fold. This hath been confirmed to me by the natives, particularly by Sir Norman Macleod, who possesses the island: he likewise confirmed to me the account given by all the natives of Harris and South-Uist, viz., that one barley-grain produceth in some places 7, 10, 12, and 14 ears of barley; of which he himself being diffident for some time, was at the pains to search nicely the room of one grain after some weeks growth, and found that from this one grain many ears had been grown up. But this happens not, except when the season is very favourable, or in grounds that have not been cultivated some years before; which, if manured with sea-ware, seldom fail to produce an extraordinary crop. It is observed in this island as elsewhere, that when the ground is dug up with spades and the turfs turned upside down, and covered with sea-ware, it yields a better product than when it is ploughed.

There is a fresh-water lake in this island, called Loch-Bruist, in which there are small islands, abounding with land and sea fowl, which build there in the summer. There is likewise plenty of eels in this lake, which are easiest caught in September; and then the natives carry lights with them in the night-time to the rivulet running from the lake, in which the eels fall down to the sea in heaps together.

This island in the summer is covered all over with clover and daisy, except in the corn fields. There is to be seen about the houses of Bernera, for the space of a mile, a soft substance, in show and colour exactly resembling the sea plant called slake, and grows very thick among the grass. The natives say, that it is the product of a dry hot soil; it grows likewise in the tops of several hills in the Island of Harris.

It is proper to add here an account of several strange irregularities in the tides, on Bernera coast, by Sir Robert Murray, mentioned in the "Phil. Transactions."

The tides increase and decrease gradually, according to the moon’s age, so as about the third day after the new and full moon, in the Western Isles and Continent, they are commonly at the highest, and about the quarter moons at the lowest (the former called spring tides, the other neap tides). The tides from the quarter to the highest spring tide increase in a certain proportion, and from the spring tide to the quarter tide in like proportion; and the ebbs rise and fall always after the same manner.

It is supposed that the increase of tides is made in the proportion of sines; the first increase exceeds the lowest in a small proportion, the next in a greater, the third greater than that, and so on to the middle-most, whereof the excess is the greatest; diminishing again from that to the highest spring tide, so as the proportions before and after the middle do answer one another. And likewise from the highest spring tide to the lowest neap tide, the decreases seem to keep the like proportions. And this commonly falls out when no wind or other accident causes an alteration. At the beginning of each flood on the coast, the tide moves faster, but in a small degree, increasing its swiftness till towards the middle of the flood, and then decreasing in swiftness again from the middle to the top of the high water. It is supposed that the unequal spaces of time, the increase and decrease of swiftness, and consequently the degrees of the risings and fallings of the same inequal spaces of time, are performed according to the proportion of sines. The proportion cannot hold precisely and exactly in regard of the inequalities that fall out in the periods of the tides, which are believed to follow certain positions of the moon in regard to the equinox, which are known not to keep a precise constant course; so that there not being equal portions of time between one new moon and another, the moon’s return to the same meridian cannot be always performed in the same time. And the tides from new moon being not always the same in number, or sometimes but 57, sometimes 58, sometimes 59 (without any certain order or succession) is another evidence of the difficulty of reducing this to any great exactness.

At the east end of this isle there is a strange reciprocation of the flux and reflux of the sea. There is another no less remarkable upon the west side of the Long Island. The tides which come from the southwest run along the coast northward; so that during the ordinary course of the tides the flood runs east in the Frith, where Bernera lies, and the ebb west; and thus the sea ebbs and flows orderly, some four days before the full and change, and as long after (the ordinary spring tides rising some 14 or 15 feet upright, and all the rest proportionably, as in other places); but afterwards, for four days before the quarter moons, and as long after, there is constantly a great and singular variation. For then (a southerly moon making there a full sea) the course of the tide being eastward, when it begins to flow, which is about 9½ of the clock, it not only continues so about 3½ in the afternoon, that it be high water; but after it begins to ebb, the current runs on still eastwards during the whole ebb; so that it runs eastwards 12 hours together, that is, all day long, from about 9½ in the morning till about 9½ at night. But then when the night tide begins to flow, the current turns and runs westward all night, during both flood and ebb, for some 12 hours more, as it did eastward the day before. And thus the reciprocations continue, one flood and ebb running 12 hours eastward, and another 12 hours westward till four days before the full and new moon; and then they resume their ordinary regular course as before, running east during the six hours of flood, and west during the six of ebb.

There is another extraordinary irregularity in the tides, which never fail: That whereas between the vernal and autumnal equinox, that is, for six months together, the course of irregular tides about the quarter moons, is to run all day, 12 hours, as from about 9½ to 9½ or 10, exact eastward; all night, that is, 12 hours more westward: during the other six months, from the autumnal to the vernal equinox, the current runs all day westward, and all night eastward. I have observed the tides as above, for the space of some days both in April, May, July, and August. The natives have frequent opportunities to see this both day and night, and they all agree that the tides run as mentioned above.

There is a couple of ravens in this island, which beat away all ravenous fowls, and when their young are able to fly abroad, they beat them also out of the island, but not without many blows, and a great noise.

There are two chapels in this isle, to wit, St. Asaph’s and St. Columbus’s chapel. There is a stone erected near the former, which is eight feet high, and two feet thick.

About half a league from Bernera, to the westward lies the Island Pabbay, 3 miles in circumference, and having a mountain in the middle. The soil is sandy, and fruitful in corn and grass, and the natives have lately discovered here a white marble. The west end of this island, which looks to St. Kilda, is called the wooden harbour, because the sands at low water discover several trees that have formerly grown there. Sir Norman Macleod told me that he had seen a tree cut there, which was afterwards made into a harrow.

There are two chapels in this island, one of which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the other to St. Muluag.

The steward of Kilda, who lives in Pabbay, is accustomed in time of storm to tie a bundle of puddings made of the fat of sea fowl to the end of his cable, and lets it fall into the sea behind the rudder; this, he says, hinders the waves from breaking, and calms the sea; but the scent of the grease attracts the whales, which put the vessel in danger.

About half a league to the north of Pabbay lies the isle of Sellay, a mile in circumference, that yields extraordinary pasturage for sheep, so that they become fat very soon; they have the biggest horns that ever I saw on sheep.

About a league farther to the north lies the isle Taransay, very fruitful in corn and grass, and yields much yellow talk. It is 3 miles in circumference, and has two chapels, one dedicated to St. Tarran, the other to St. Keith.

There is an ancient tradition among the natives here, that a man must not be buried in St. Tarran’s, nor a woman in St. Keith’s, because otherwise the corpse would be found above ground the day after it is interred. I told them this was a most ridiculous fancy which they might soon perceive by experience if they would but put it to a trial. Roderick Campbell, who resides there, being of my opinion, resolved to embrace the first opportunity that offered, in order to undeceive the credulous vulgar; and accordingly a poor man in this island, who died a year after, was buried in St. Tarran’s chapel, contrary to the ancient custom and tradition of this place, but his corpse is still in the grave, from whence it is not like to rise until the general resurrection. This instance has delivered the credulous natives from this unreasonable fancy. This island is a mile distant from the main land of Harris, and when the inhabitants go from this island to Harris with a design to stay for any time, they agree with those that carry them over, on a particular motion of walking upon a certain piece of ground, unknown to every body but themselves, as a signal to bring them back.

Three leagues to the westward of this island, lies Gasker, about half a mile in circumference; it excels any other plot of its extent for fruitfulness in grass and product of milk; it maintains 8 or 10 cows. The natives kill seals here, which are very big.

About two leagues farther north lies the island Scarp, two miles in circumference, and is a high land covered with heath and grass.

Between Bernera and the main land of Harris lies the island Ensay, which is above two miles in circumference, and for the most part arable ground, which is fruitful in corn and grass: there is an old chapel here, for the use of the natives; and there was lately discovered a grave in the west end of the island, in which was found a pair of scales made of brass, and a little hammer, both which were finely polished.

Between Ensay and the main land of Harris lie several small islands, fitter for pasturage than cultivation.

The little island Quedam hath a vein of adamant stone in the front of the rock. The natives say that mice do not live in this island, and when they chance to be carried thither among corn they die quickly after. Without these small islands there is a tract of small isles in the same line with the east side of the Harris, and North-Uist. They are in all respects of the same nature with those two islands, so that the sight of them is apt to dispose one to think that they have been once united together.

The most southerly of these islands, and the nearest to North-Uist, is Hermetra, two miles in circumference. It is a moorish soil, covered all over almost with heath, except here and there a few piles of grass and the plant milkwort. Yet, notwithstanding this disadvantage, it is certainly the best spot of its extent for pasturage among these isles, and affords great plenty of milk in January and February beyond what can be seen in the other islands.

I saw here the foundation of a house built by the English, in King Charles the First’s time, for one of their magazines to lay up the cask, salt, etc., for carrying on the fishery, which was then begun in the West tern Islands; but this design miscarried because of the civil wars which then broke out.

The channel between Harris and North-Uist is above three leagues in breadth, and abounds with rocks as well under as above water: though, at the same time, vessels of 300 tons have gone through it from east to west, having the advantage of one of the natives for a pilot. Some 16 years ago one Captain Frost was safely conducted in this manner. The Harris belongs in property to the Laird of Macleod. He and all the inhabitants are Protestants, and observe the festivals of Christmas, Good Friday, and St. Michael’s Day. Upon the latter they rendezvous on horse-back, and make their cavalcade on the sands at low water.

The island of North-Uist lies about three leagues to the south of the island of Harris, being in form of a semicircle, the diameter of which looks to the east, and is mountainous and full of heath, and fitter for pasturage than cultivation. The west side is of a quite different soil ----- arable and plain. The whole is in length from south to north nine miles, and about thirty in circumference.

There are four mountains in the middle, two lie within less than a mile of each other and are called South and North Lee. All the hills and heath afford good pasturage, though it consists as much of heath as grass. The arable ground hath a mixture of clay in some places; and it is covered all over in summer time and harvest with clover, daisy, and variety of other plants, pleasant to the sight, and of a very fragrant smell; and abounds with black cattle and sheep. The soil is very grateful to the husbandman, yielding a produce of barley from ten to thirty fold in a plentiful year, provided the ground be manured with sea-ware and that it have rain proportionable to the soil. I have upon several occasions enquired concerning the produce of barley in this and the neighboring islands, the same being much doubted in the south of Scotland, as well as in England; and, upon the whole, I have been assured by the most ancient and industrious of the natives that the increase is the same as mentioned before in Harris.

They told me likewise that a plot of ground which hath lain unmanured for some years, would in a plentiful season produce fourteen ears of barley from one grain; and several ridges were then showed me of this extraordinary growth in different places. The grain sown here is barley, oats, rye; and it is not to be doubted but the soil would also produce wheat. The way of village here is commonly by ploughing, and some by digging. The ordinary plough is drawn by four horses, and they have a little plough also called ristle, i.e., a thing that cleaves, the culter of which is in form of a sickle; and it is drawn sometimes by one and sometimes by two horses, according as the ground is. The design of this little plough is to draw a deep line in the ground, to make it the more easy for the big plough to follow, which otherwise would be much retarded by the strong roots of bent lying deep in the ground, that are cut by the little plough. When they dig with spades it produce the more increase. The little plough is likewise used to facilitate digging as well as ploughing. They continue to manure the ground until the tenth of June, if they have plenty of braggir, i.e., the broad leaves growing on the top of the Alga-Marina.

About a league and a half to the south of the island Hermetra in Harris lies Loch Maddy, so-called from the three rocks without the entry on the south side. They are called Maddies from the great quantity of big mussels, called Maddies, that grows upon them. This harbour is capacious enough for some hundreds of vessels of any burden. It hath several isles within it, and they contribute to the security of the harbour, for a vessel may safely come close to the quay. The seamen divide the harbour in two parts, calling the south side Loch Maddy, and the north side Loch Partan. There is one island in the south loch which for its commodiousness is by the English called Nonsuch. This loch hath been famous for the great quantity of herrings yearly taken in it within these fifty years last past. The natives told me, that in the memory of some yet alive, there had been 400 sail loaded in it with herrings at one season; but it is not now frequented for fishing, though the herrings do still abound in it; and on this coast every summer and harvest, the natives sit angling on the rocks, and as they pull up their hooks do many times bring up herrings. That they are always on the coast appears from the birds, whales, and other fishes that are their forerunners everywhere; and yet it is strange that in all this island there is not one herring net to be had; but if the natives saw any encouragement, they could soon provide them. Cod, ling, and all sorts of fish taken in these islands, abound in and about this lake.

In this harbour there is a small island called Vacksay, in which there is still to be seen the foundation of a house, built by the English, for a magazine to keep their casks, salt, etc., for carrying on a great fishery which was then begun there. The natives told me that King Charles the First had a share in it. This lake, with the convenience of its fishings and islands, is certainly capable of great improvement; much of the ground about the bay is capable of cultivation, and affords a great deal of fuel, as turf, peats, and plenty of fresh water. It also affords a good quantity of oysters and clam shell-fish, the former grow on rocks, and are so big that they are cut in four pieces before they are ate.

About half a mile further south is Loch Eport having a rock without the mouth of the entry, which is narrow. The lake penetrates some miles towards the west, and is a good harbour, having several small isles within it. The seals are very numerous here. In the month of July the spring tides carry in a great quantity of mackerel, and at the return of the water they are found many times lying on the rocks. The vulgar natives make use of the ashes of burnt sea-ware, which preserves them for some time instead of salt.

About two miles to the south of Loch Eport lies the bay called the Kyle of Rona, having the island of that name (which is a little hill) within the bay; there is a harbour on each side of it. This place hath been found of great convenience for the fishing of cod and ling, which abound on this coast. There is a little chapel in the island Rona, called the Lowlanders’ Chapel, because seamen who die in time of fishing are buried in that place.

There is a harbour on the south side of the island Borera. The entry seems to be narrower than really it is. The island and the opposite point of land appear like two little promontories off at sea. Some vessels have been forced in there by storm, as was Captain Peters, a Dutchman, and after him an English ship, who both approved of this harbour. The former built a cock-boat there on a Sunday, at which the natives were much offended. The latter having landed in the island happened to come into a house where he found only ten women, and they were employed (as he supposed) in a strange manner,viz.,their arms and legs were bare, being five on a side; and between them lay a board, upon which they had laid a piece of cloth, and were thickening of it with their hands and feet, and singing all the while. The Englishman, presently concluded it to be a little bedlam, which he did not expect in so remote a corner; and this he told to Mr. John Maclean, who possesses the island. Mr. Maclean answered he never saw any mad people in those islands; but this would not satisfy him, till they both went to the place where the women were at work, and then Mr. Maclean having told him that it was their common way of thickening cloth, he was convinced, though surprised at the manner of it.

There is such a number of fresh-water lakes here as can hardly be believed. I myself and several others endeavoured to number them, but in vain, for they are so disposed into turnings that it is impracticable. They are generally well stocked with trouts and eels, and some of them with salmon; and which is yet more strange, cod, ling, mackerel, etc., are taken in these lakes, into which they are brought by the spring tides.

These lakes have many small islands, which in summer abound with variety of land and sea-fowls that build and hatch there. There be also several rivers here, which afford salmon; one sort of them is very singular, that is called marled salmon, or, as the natives call it, Ieskdruimin, being lesser than the ordinary salmon, and full of strong large scales; no bait can allure it, and a shadow frights it away, being the wildest of fishes; it leaps high above water, and delights to be in the surface of it.

There is great plenty of shell-fish round this island, more particularly cockles; the islands do also afford many small fish called eels, of a whitish colour; they are picked out of the sand with a small crooked iron made on purpose. There is plenty of lobsters on the west side of this island, and one sort bigger than the rest, having the toe shorter and broader.

There are several ancient forts in this island, built upon eminences, or in the middle of fresh-water lakes.

Here are likewise several cairns or heaps of stones; the biggest I observed was on a hill near to Loch Eport. There are three stones erected about five feet high, at a distance of a quarter of a mile from one another, on eminences about a mile from Loch-Maddy, to amuse invaders; for which reason they are still called false sentinels.

There is a stone of 24 feet long and 4 in breadth in the hill Criniveal: the natives say a giant of a month old was buried under it. There is a very conspicuous stone in the face of the hill above St. Peter’s village, above eight feet high.

There is another about eight feet high at Dunrossel, which the natives call a cross. There are two broad stones about eight feet high, on the hill two miles to the south of Valay.

There is another at the quay, opposite to Kirkibost, 12 feet high: the natives say that delinquents were tied to this stone in time of divine service.

There is a stone in form of a cross in the Row, opposite to St. Mary’s Church, about 5 feet high: the natives call it the Water-Cross, for the ancient inhabitants had a custom of erecting this sort of cross to procure rain, and when they had got enough they laid it flat on the ground, but this custom is now disused. The inferior island is the island of Heiskir, which lies near three leagues westward of North Uist, is three miles in circumference, of a sandy soil, and very fruitful in corn and grass, and black cattle. The inhabitants labour under want of fuel of all sorts, which obliges them to burn cow’s dung, barley-straw, and dried sea-ware; the natives told me that bread baked by the fuel of sea-ware relishes better than that done otherwise. They are accustomed to salt their cheese with the ashes of barley-straw, which they suffer not to lie on it above 12 hours time, because otherwise it would spoil it. There was a stone chest lately discovered here, having an earthen pitcher in it which was full of bones, and as soon as touched they turned to dust.

There are two small islands separated by narrow channels from the north-west of this island, and are of the same mould with the big island. The natives say that there is a couple of ravens there, which suffer no other of their kind to approach this island, and if any such chance to come this couple immediately drive them away with such a noise as is heard by all the inhabitants; they are observed likewise to beat away their young as soon as they be able to purchase for themselves. The natives told me that when one of this couple happened to be wounded by gun-shot, it lay still in the corner of a rock for a week or two, during which time its mate brought provision to it daily until it recovered perfectly. The natives add further that one of these two ravens having died some time after, the surviving one abandoned the island for a few days, and then was seen to return with about ten or twelve more of its kind, and having chosen a mate out of this number, all the rest went quite off, leaving these two in possession of their little kingdom. They do by a certain sagacity discover to the inhabitants any carcass, on the shore or in the fields, whereof I have seen several instances: the inhabitants pretend to know by their noise whether it be flesh or fish. I told them this was such a nicety that I could scarcely give it credit; but they answered me that they came to the knowledge of it by observation, and that they make the loudest noise for flesh. There is a narrow channel between the island of Heiskir and one of the lesser islands, in which the natives formerly killed many seals in this manner: They twisted together several small ropes of horse-hair in form of a net, contracted at one end like a purse; and so by opening and shutting this hair net, these seals were caught in the narrow channel. On the south side of North Uist are the islands of Illeray, which are accessible at low water; each of them being three miles in compass, and very fertile in corn and cattle.

On the western coast of this island lies the rock Eousmil, about a quarter of a mile in circumference, and it is still famous for the yearly fishing of seals there, in the end of October. This rock belongs to the farmers of the next adjacent lands: there is one who furnisheth a boat, to whom there is a particular share due on that account, besides his proportion as tenant. The parish minister hath his choice of all the young seals, and that which he takes is called by the natives Cullen-Mory, that is, the Virgin Mary’s seal. The steward of the island hath one paid to him, his officer hath another, and this by virtue of their offices. These farmers man their boat with a competent number fit for the business, and they always embark with a contrary wind, for their security against being driven away by the ocean, and likewise to prevent them from being discovered by the seals, who are apt to smell the scent of them, and presently run to sea.

When this crew is quietly landed, they surround the passes, and then the signal for the general attack is given from the boat, and so they beat them down with big staves. The seals at this onset make towards the sea with all speed, and often force their passage over the necks of the stoutest assailants, who aim always at the forehead of the seals, giving many blows before they be killed; and if they be not hit exactly on the front, they contract a lump on their forehead, which makes them look very fierce; and if they get hold of the staff with their teeth, they carry it along to sea with them. Those that are in the boat shoot at them as they run to sea, but few are caught that way. The natives told me that several of the biggest seals lose their lives by endeavoring to save their young ones, whom they tumble before them towards the sea. I was told also that 320 seals, young and old, have been killed at one time in this place. The reason of attacking them in October is because in the beginning of this month the seals bring forth their young on the ocean side; but those on the east side, who are of the lesser stature, bring forth their young in the middle of June.

The seals eat no fish till they first take off the skin: they hold the head of the fish between their teeth, and pluck the skin off each side with their sharp-pointed nails; this I observed several times. The natives told me that the seals are regularly coupled, and resent an encroachment on their mates at an extraordinary rate: the natives have observed that when a male had invaded a female already coupled to another, the injured male, upon its return to its mate, would by a strange sagacity find it out, and resent it against the aggressor by a bloody conflict, which gives a red tincture to the sea in that part where they fight. This piece of revenge has been often observed by seal-hunters, and many others of unquestionable integrity, whose occasions obliged them to be much on this coast. I was assured by good hands, that the seals make their addresses to each other by kisses: this hath been observed often by men and women as fishing on the coast in a clear day. The female puts away its young from sucking as soon as it is able to provide for itself; and this is not done without many severe blows.

There is a hole in the skin of the female, within which the teats are secured from being hurt as it creeps along the rocks and stones; for which cause nature hath formed the point of the tongue of the young one cloven, without which it could not suck.

The natives salt the seals with the ashes of burnt sea-ware, and say they are good food: the vulgar eat them commonly in the springtime with a long pointed stick instead of a fork, to prevent the strong smell which their hands would otherwise have for several hours after. The flesh and broth of fresh young seals is by experience known to be pectoral; the meat is astringent, and used as an effectual remedy against the diarrhoea and dysentery; the liver of a seal being dried and pulverized, and afterwards a little of it drunk with milk, aquavitæ, or red wine, is also good against fluxes.

Some of the natives wear a girdle of the seal-skin about the middle, for removing the sciatica, as those of the shire of Aberdeen wear it to remove the chin-cough. This four-footed creature is reckoned one of the swiftest in the sea; they say likewise, that it leaps in cold weather the height of a pike above water, and that the skin of it is white in summer, and darker in winter; and that their hair stands on end with the flood, and falls again at the ebb. The skin is by the natives cut in long pieces, and then made use of instead of ropes to fix the plough to their horses, when they till the ground.

The seal, though esteemed fit only for the vulgar, is also eaten by persons of distinction, though under a different name, to wit, ham: this I have been assured of by good hands, and thus we see that the generality of men are as much led by fancy as judgment in their palates, as well as in other things. The Popish vulgar, in the islands southward from this, eat these seals in Lent instead of fish. This occasioned a debate between a Protestant gentleman and a Papist of my acquaintance: the former alleged that the other had transgressed the rules of his church, by eating flesh in Lent: the latter answered that he did not; for, says he, I have eat a sea-creature, which only lives and feeds upon fish. The Protestant replied, that this creature is amphibious, lies, creeps, eats, sleeps, and so spends much of its time on land, which no fish can do and live. It hath also another faculty that no fish has, that is, it breaks wind backward so loudly, that one may hear it at a great distance. But the Papist still maintained that he must believe it to be fish, till such time as the Pope and his priests decide the question.

About three leagues and a half to the west, lie the small islands called Hawsker-Rocks, and Hawsker-Eggath, and Hawsker-Nimannich, id est. Monks-Rock, which hath an altar in it. The first called so from the ocean, as being near to it; for haw or thau in the ancient language signifies the ocean: the more southerly rocks are six or seven big ones nicked or indented, for eggath signifies so much. The largest island, which is northward, is near half a mile in circumference, and it is covered with long grass. Only small vessels can pass between this and the southern rocks, being nearest to St. Kilda of all the west islands: both of them abound with fowls as much as any isles of their extent in St. Kilda. The coulterneb, guillemot, and scarts, are most numerous here; the seals likewise abound very much in and about these rocks.

The island of Valay lies on the West, near the main land of North-Uist; it is about four miles in circumference, arable and a dry, sandy soil, very fruitful in corn and grass, clover and daisy. It hath three chapels, one dedicated to St. Ulton, and another to the Virgin Mary. There are two crosses of stone, each of them about seven feet high, and a foot and a half broad.

There is a little font on an altar, being a big stone, round like a cannon-ball, and having in the upper end a little vacuity capable of two spoonfuls of water. Below the chapels there is a flat thin stone called Brownie’s Stone, upon which the ancient inhabitants offered a cow’s milk every Sunday; but this custom is now quite abolished. Some thirty paces on this side is to be seen a little stone house under ground; it is very low and long, and having an entry on the sea-side. I saw an entry in the middle of it, which was discovered by the falling of the stones and earth.

About a league to the north-east of Valay is the island of Borera, about four miles in circumference. The mould in some places is sandy, and in others black earth. It is very fruitful in cattle and grass. I saw a mare here, which I was told brought forth a foal in her second year.

There is a cow here that brought forth two female calves at once, in all things so very like one another, that they could not be distinguished by any outward mark, and had such a sympathy that they were never separate, except in time of sucking, and then they kept still their own side of their dam, which was not observed until a distinguishing mark was put upon one of their necks by the milkmaid. In the middle of this island there is a fresh-water lake, well stocked with very big eels, some of them as long as cod or ling fish. There is a passage under the stony ground, which is between the sea and the lake, through which it is supposed the eels come in with the springtides. One of the inhabitants called MacVanich, i.e., Monk’s-Son, had the curiosity to creep naked through this passage.

This island affords the largest and best dulse for eating; it requires less butter than any other of this sort, and has a mellowish taste.

The burial-place near the houses is called the Monks’ Field, for all the monks that died in the islands that lie northward from Egg were buried in this little plot. Each grave hath a stone at both ends, some of which are 3 and others 4 feet high. There are big stones without the burial-place even with the ground. Several of them have little vacuities in them as if made by art; the tradition is that these vacuities were dug for receiving the monks’ knees when they prayed upon them.

The island Lingay lies half a league south on the side of Borera. It is singular in respect of all the lands of Uist and the other islands that surround it, for they are all composed of sand, but this on the contrary is altogether moss, covered with heath, affording five peats in depth, and is very serviceable and useful, furnishing the island Borera, &c., with plenty of good fuel. This island was held as consecrated for several ages, insomuch that the natives would not then presume to cut any fuel in it.

The cattle produced here are horses, cows, sheep and hogs, generally of a low stature. The horses are very strong, and fit for pads, though exposed to the rigour of the weather all the winter and spring in the open fields. Their cows are also in the fields all the spring, and their beef is sweet and tender as any can be. They live upon sea-ware in the winter and spring, and are fattened by it, nor are they slaughtered before they eat plentifully of it in December. The natives are accustomed to salt their beef in a cow’s hide, which keeps it close from air, and preserves it as well, if not better, than barrels, and tastes, they say, best when this way used. This beef is transported to Glasgow, a city in the west of Scotland, and from thence (being put into barrels there) exported to the Indies in good condition. The hills afford some hundreds of deer, who eat sea-ware also in winter and spring time.

The amphibia produced here are seals and otters. There is no fox or venomous creature in this island. The great eagles here fasten their talons in the back of fish, and commonly of salmon, which is often above water and in the surface. The natives, who in the summer time live on the coast, do sometimes rob the eagle of its prey after its landing.

Here are hawks, eagles, pheasants, moor-fowls, ptarmigan, plover, pigeons, crows, swans, and all the ordinary sea-fowls in the West Islands. The eagles are very destructive to the fawns and lambs, especially the black eagle, which is of a lesser size than the other. The natives observe that it fixes its talons between the deer’s horns, and beats its wings constantly about its eyes; which puts the deer to run continually till it fall into a ditch, or over a precipice, where it dies, and so becomes a prey to this cunning hunter. There are at the same time several other eagles of this kind, which fly on both sides of the deer, which fright it extremely, and contribute much to its more sudden destruction.

The forester and several of the natives assured me that they had seen both sorts of eagles kill deer in this manner. The swans come hither in great numbers in the month of October, with north-east winds, and live in the fresh lakes, where they feed upon trout and water plants till March, at which time they fly away again with a south-east wind. When the natives kill a swan it is common for the eaters of it to make a negative vow (i.e., they swear never to do something that is in itself impracticable) before they taste of the fowl.

The bird corn-craker is about the bigness of a pigeon, having a longer neck, and being of a brown colour, but blacker in harvest than in summer. The natives say it lives by the water, and under the ice in winter and spring.

The colk is a fowl somewhat less than a goose, hath feathers of divers colours, as white, gray, green, and black, and is beautiful to the eye. It hath a tuft on the crown of its head like that of a peacock, and a train longer than that of a house cock. This fowl loseth its feathers in time of hatching, and lives mostly in the remotest islands, as Heiskir and Rona.

The gawlin is a fowl less than a duck. It is reckoned a true prognosticator of fair weather; for for when it sings, fair and good weather always follows, as the natives commonly observe. The piper of St. Kilda plays the notes which it sings, and hath composed a tune of them, which the natives judge to be very fine music.

The rain goose, bigger than a duck, makes a doleful noise before a great rain. It builds its nest always upon the brink of fresh-water lakes, so as it may reach the water.

The bonnivochill, so called by the natives, and by the seamen bishop and carara, as big as a goose, having a white spot on the breast, and the rest partly coloured. It seldom flies, but is exceedingly quick in diving. The minister of North-Uist told me that he killed one of them, which weighed sixteen pounds and an ounce. There is about an inch deep of fat upon the skin of it, which the natives apply to the hip bone, and by experience find it a successful remedy for removing the sciatica.

The bird goylir, about the bigness of a swallow, is observed never to land but in the month of January, at which time it is supposed to hatch. It dives with a violent swiftness. When any number of these fowls are seen together it is concluded to be an undoubted sign of an approaching storm; and when the storm ceases they disappear under the water. The seamen call them malifigies, from mali-effigies, which they often find to be true.

The bird sereachan-aittin is about the bigness of a large mall, but having a longer body, and a bluish colour. The bill is of a carnation colour. This bird shrieks most hideously, and is observed to have a greater affection for its mate than any fowl whatsoever: for when the cock or hen is killed the surviving one both for eight or ten days afterwards make a lamentable noise about the place.

The bird faskidar, about the bigness of a sea maw of the middle size, is observed to fly with greater swiftness than any other fowl in those parts, and pursues lesser fowls, and forces them in their flight to let fall the food which they have got, and by its nimbleness catches it before it touch the ground.

The natives observe that an extraordinary heat without rain, at the usual time the sea fowls lay their eggs, hinders them from laying any eggs for about eight or ten days; whereas warm weather accompanied with rain disposes them to lay much sooner.

The wild geese are plentiful here, and very destructive to the barley, notwithstanding the many methods used for driving them away both by traps and gun shot. There are some flocks of barren fowls of all kinds, which are distinguished by their not joining with the rest of their kind, and they are seen commonly upon the bare rocks, without any nest.

The air is here moist and moderately cold, the natives qualify it sometimes by drinking a glass of usquebaugh. The moisture of this place is such that a loaf of sugar is in danger to be dissolved, if it be not preserved by being near the fire, or laying it among oatmeal, in some close place. Iron here becomes quickly rusty; and iron which is on the sea side of a house grows sooner rusty than that which is on the land side.

The greatest snow falls here with the south-west winds, and seldom continues above three or four days. The ordinary snow falls with the north and north-west winds, and does not lie so deep on the ground near the sea as on the tops of mountains.

The frost continues till the spring is pretty far advanced, the severity of which occasions great numbers of trouts and eels to die; but the winter frosts have not this effect, for which the inhabitants give this reason, viz., that the rains being more frequent in October do in their opinion carry the juice and quintessence of the plants into the lakes, whereby they think the fish are nourished during the winter; and there being no such nourishment in the spring, in regard of the uninterrupted running of the water, which carries the juice with it to the sea, it deprives the fish of this nourishment, and consequently of life. And they add further, that the fish have no access to the superficies of the water, or to the brink of it, where the juice might be had. The natives are the more confirmed in their opinion that the fishes in lakes and marshes are observed to outlive both winter and spring frosts. The east-north-east winds always procure fair weather here, as they do in all the north-west islands; and the rains are more frequent in this place in October and February than at any other time of the year.

Fountain-water drunk in winter is reckoned by the natives to be much more wholesome than in the spring; for in the latter it causeth the diarrhœa and dysentery.

The diseases that prevail here are fevers, diarrhœa, dysentery, stitch, cough, sciatica, megrim, the smallpox which commonly comes once in 17 years time. The ordinary cure for fevers is letting blood plentifully; the diarrhœa is cured by drinking aquavitæ, and the stronger the better. The flesh and liver of seals are used as abovementioned, both for the diarrhœa and dysentery. Milk, wherein hecticstone has been quenched, being frequently drunk, is likewise a good remedy for the two diseases last mentioned.

The kernel of the black nut found on the shore, being beat to powder and drunk in milk or aquavitæ: is reckoned a good remedy for the said two diseases; stitches are cured sometimes by letting blood.

Their common cure for coughs is brochan, formerly mentioned. The case of the carrara-fowl, with the fat, being powdered a little and applied to the hipbone is an approved remedy for the sciatica. Since the great change of the seasons, which of late years is become more piercing and cold, by which the growth of the corn, both in the spring and summer seasons are retarded; there are some diseases discovered which were not known here before, viz., a spotted fever which is commonly cured by drinking a glass of brandy or aquavitæ liberally when the disease seizes them, and using it till the spots appear outwardly. This fever was brought hither by a stranger from the Island of Mull, who infected these other islands. When the fever is violent the spots appear the second day, but commonly on the fourth day, and then the disease comes to a crisis the seventh day, but if the spots do not appear the fourth day, the disease is reckoned mortal; yet it has not proved so here, though it has carried off several in the other adjacent southern islands. The vulgar are accustomed to apply Flamula Jovis for evacuating noxious humours, such as cause the head-ache, and pains in the arms or legs; and they find great advantage by it. The way of using it is thus: They take a quantity of it, bruised small and put into a patella, and apply it so to the skin, a little below the place affected: in a small time it raises a blister about the bigness of an egg, which, when broke, voids all the matter that is in it; then the skin fills and swells twice again, and as often voids this matter. They use the sea-plant linarich to cure the wound, and it proves effectual for this purpose, and also for the megrim and burning.

The broth of a lamb, in which the plants Shunnish and Alexander have been boiled, is found by experience to be good against consumption. The green sea-plant linarich is by them applied to the temples and forehead to dry up defluxions, and also for drawing up the tonsils. Neil Macdonald in the island Heiskir is subject to the falling of the tonsils at every change of the moon, and they continue only for the first quarter. This infirmity hath continued with him all his days, yet he is now 72 years of age.

John Fake who lives in Pabble, in the parish of Kilmoor, alias St. Mary’s, is constantly troubled with a great sneezing a day or two before rain; and if the sneezing be more than usual, the rain is said to be the greater: therefore he is called the Rain-Almanac. He has had this faculty these nine years past.

There is a house in the village called Ard-Nimboothin in the parish of St. Mary’s; and the housecock there never crows from the tenth of September till the middle of March. This was told me two years ago, and since confirmed to me by the natives and the present minister of the parish.

The inhabitants of this island are generally well-proportioned, of an ordinary stature, and a good complexion; healthful, and some of them come to a great age: several of my acquaintance arrived at the age of 90, and upwards; John Macdonald of Griminis was of this number, and died lately in the 93rd year of his age. Donald Roy, who lived in the Isle of Sand, and died lately in the hundredth year of his age, was able to travel and manage his affairs till about two years before his death. They are a very charitable and hospitable people, as is anywhere to be found. There was never an inn here till of late, and now there is but one which is not at all frequented for eating, but only for drinking; for the natives by their hospitality render this new-invented house in a manner useless. The great produce of barley draws many strangers to this island, with a design to procure as much of this grain as they can; which they get of the inhabitants gratis, only for asking, as they do horses, cows, sheep, wool, &c. I was told some months before my last arrival there, that there had been ten men in that place at one time to ask corn gratis, and every one of these had some one, some two, and others three attendants; and during their abode there, were all entertained gratis, no one returning empty.

This is a great, yet voluntary tax, which has continued for many ages; but the late general scarcity has given them an occasion to alter this custom, by making acts against liberality, except to poor natives and objects of charity.

The natives are much addicted to riding, the plainness of the country disposing both men and horses to it. They observe an anniversary cavalcade on Michaelmas Day, and then all ranks of both sexes appear on horseback. The place for this rendezvous is a large piece of firm sandy ground on the sea-shore, and there they have horse-racing for small prizes, for which they contend eagerly. There is an ancient custom, by which it is lawful for any of the inhabitants to steal his neighbour’s horse the night before the race, and ride him all next day, provided he deliver him safe and sound to the owner after the race. The manner of running is by a few young men, who use neither saddles nor bridles, except two small ropes made of bent instead of a bridle, nor any sort of spurs, but their bare heels: and when they begin the race, they throw these ropes on their horses’ necks, and drive them on vigorously with a piece of long seaware in each hand instead of a whip; and this is dried in the sun several months before for that purpose. This is a happy opportunity for the vulgar, who have few occasions for meeting, except on Sundays: the men have their sweethearts behind them on horseback, and give and receive mutual presents; the men present the women with knives and purses, the women present the men with a pair of fine garters of divers colours, they give them likewise a quantity of wild carrots. This isle belongs in property to Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat: he and all the inhabitants are Protestants, one only excepted; they observe Christmas, Good Friday, and St. Michael’s Day.



THE island of Benbecula lies directly to the south of North-Uist, from which it is two miles distant; the ground being all plain and sandy between them, having two little rivers or channels no higher than one’s knee at a tide of ebb: this passage is overflowed by the sea at every tide of flood, nor is it navigable except by boats. There are several small islands on the east side of this channel. This island is three miles in length from south to north, and three from east to west, and ten miles in compass. The east side is covered with heath; it hath a bay called Uiskway, in which small vessels do sometimes harbour, and now and then herrings are taken in it.

The mountain Benbecula, from which the isle hath its name, lies in the middle of it; the eastern part of this island is all arable, but the soil sandy, the mould is the same with that of North-Uist, and affords the same corn, fish, cattle, amphibia &c. There is no venomous creature here. It hath several freshwater lakes well stocked with fish and fowl. There are some ruins of old forts to be seen in the small islands, in the lakes, and on the plain.

There are also some small chapels here, one of them at Bael-nin-Killach, id est. Nun’s-town, for there were nunneries here in time of popery. The natives have lately discovered a stone vault on the east side of the town, in which there are abundance of small bones, which have occasioned many uncertain conjectures; some said they were the bones of birds, others judged them rather to be the bones of pigmies. The proprietor of the town, enquiring Sir Norman Macleod’s opinion concerning them, he told him that the matter was plain, as he supposed, and that they must be the bones of infants born by the nuns there. This was very disagreeable to the Roman Catholic inhabitants, who laughed it over. But in the meantime the natives out of zeal took care to shut up the vault that no access can be had to it since; so that it would seem they believe what Sir Norman said, or else feared that it might gain credit by such as afterwards had occasion to see them. This island belongs properly to Ranald Macdonald of Benbecula, who, with all the inhabitants, are Roman Catholics; and I remember I have seen an old lay Capuchin here, called in the language Brahir-brocht, that is, poor brother, which is literally true, for he answers this character, having nothing but what is given him. He holds himself fully satisfied with food and raiment, and lives in as great simplicity as any of his order; his diet is very mean, and he drinks only fair water; his habit is no less mortifying than that of his brethren elsewhere; he wears a short coat, which comes no further than his middle, with narrow sleeves like a waistcoat; he wears a plaid above it girt about the middle, which reaches to his knee; the plaid is fastened on his breast with a wooden pin, his neck bare, and his feet often so too; he wears a hat for ornament, and the string about it is a bit of fisher’s line made of horse hair. This plaid he wears instead of a gown worn by those of his order in other countries. I told him he wanted the flaxen girdle that men of his order usually wear. He answered me that he wore a leather one, which was the same thing. Upon the matter if he is spoken to when at meat, he answers again: which is contrary to the custom of his order. This poor man frequently diverts himself with angling of trouts. He lies upon straw; and had no bell (as others have) to call him to his devotion, but only his conscience, as he told me.

The speckled salmons, described in North-Uist, are very plentiful on the west side of this island.

The island of South-Uist lies directly two miles to the south of Benbecula, being in length one and twenty miles, and three in breadth, and in some places four. The east side is mountainous on the coast, and heathy for the most part. The west side is plain arable ground, the soil is generally sandy, yielding a good produce of barley, oats, and rye, in proportion to that of North-Uist, and has the same sort of cattle. Both east and west sides of this island abound in fresh-water lakes, which afford trouts and eels, besides variety of land and sea fowls. The arable land is much damnified by the overflowing of these lakes in divers places, which they have not hitherto been able to drain, though the thing be practicable. Several lakes have old forts built upon the small islands in the middle of them. About four miles on the south-east end of this island is Loch Eynord. It reaches several miles westward, having a narrow entry, which makes a violent current, and within this entry there is a rock upon which there was staved to pieces a frigate of Cromwell’s, which he sent there to subdue the natives. Ambergris hath been found by several of the inhabitants on the west coast of this island, and they sold it at Glasgow at a very low rate not knowing the value of it at first; but when they knew it they raised the price to the other extreme. Upon a thaw after a long frost the south-east winds cast many dead fishes on the shore. The inhabitants are generally of the same nature and complexion with those of the next adjacent northern islands. They wear the same habit, and use the same diet. One of the natives is very famous for his great age, being, so it is said, a hundred and thirty years old, and retains his appetite and understanding. He can walk abroad, and did labour with his hands as usually till within these three years, and for anything I know is yet living.

There are several big cairns of stone on the east side this island, and the vulgar retain the ancient custom of making a religious tour round them on Sundays and holidays.

There is a valley between two mountains on the east side called Glenslyte, which affords good pasturage. The natives who farm it come thither with their cattle in the summer time, and are possessed with a firm belief that this valley is haunted by spirits, who by the inhabitants are called the great men; and that whatsoever man or woman enters the valley without making first an entire resignation of themselves to the conduct of the great men will infallibly grow mad. The words by which he or she gives up himself to these men’s conduct are comprehended in three sentences, wherein the glen is twice named, to which they add that it is inhabited by these great men, and that such as enter depend on their protection. I told the natives that this was a piece of silly credulity as ever was imposed upon the most ignorant ages, and that their imaginary protectors deserved no such invocation. They answered that there had happened a late instance of a woman who went into that glen without resigning herself to the conduct of these men, and immediately after she became mad, which confirmed them in their unreasonable fancy.

The people residing here in summer say they sometimes hear a loud noise in the air like men speaking. I inquired if their priest had preached or argued against this superstitious custom. They told me he knew better things, and would not be guilty of dissuading men from doing their duty, which they doubted not he judged this to be; and that they resolved to persist in the belief of it until they found better motives to the contrary than have been shown them hitherto. The Protestant minister hath often endeavoured to undeceive them, but in vain, because of an implicit faith they have in their priest; and when the topics of persuasion, though never so urgent, come from one they believe to be a heretic there is little hope of success.

The island Erisca, about a mile in length, and three in circumference, is partly heathy and partly arable, and yields a good produce. The inner side hath a wide anchorage, there is excellent cod and ling in it; the natives begin to manage it better, but not to that advantage it is capable of. The small island near it was overgrown with heath, and about three years ago the ground threw up all that heath from the very root, so that there is not now one shrub of it in all this island. Such as have occasion to travel by land between South-Uist and Benbecula, or Benbecula and North-Uist, had need of a guide to direct them, and to observe the tide when low, and also for crossing the channel at the right fords, else they cannot pass without danger.

There are some houses under-ground in this island, and they are in all points like those described in North-Uist; one of them is in the South Ferry-Town, opposite to Barray. The cattle produced here are like those of North-Uist, and there are above three hundred deer in this island: it was believed generally that no venomous creature was here, yet of late some little vipers have been seen in the south end of the island.

The natives speak the Irish tongue more perfectly here than in most of the other islands; partly because of the remoteness and the small number of those that speak English, and partly because some of them are scholars, and versed in the Irish language. They wear the same habit with the neighbouring islanders.

The more ancient people continue to wear the old dress, especially women. They are a hospitable, well-meaning people, but the misfortune of their education disposes them to uncharitableness, and rigid thoughts of their Protestant neighbours; though at the same time they find it convenient to make alliances with them. The churches here are St. Columba and St. Mary’s in Hogh-more, the most centrical place in the island; St. Jeremy’s chapels, St. Peter’s, St. Bannan, St. Michael, St. Donnan.

There is a stone set up near a mile to the south of Columba’s Church, about 8 feet high, and 2 feet broad: it is called by the natives the Bowing stone; for when the inhabitants had the first sight of the Church, they set up this stone, and there bowed and said the Lord’s prayer. There was a buckle of gold found in Einort ground some twenty years ago, which was about the value of seven guineas.

As I came from South-Uist, I perceived about sixty horsemen riding along the sands, directing their course for the east sea; and being between me and the sun, they made a great figure on the plain sands. We discovered them to be natives of South-Uist, for they alighted from their horses and went to gather cockles in the sands, which are exceeding plentiful there. This island is the property of Allan Macdonald of Moydart, head of the tribe of Macdonald, called Clanronald’s; one of the chief families descended of Macdonald, who was lord and king of the islands. He and all the inhabitants are Papists, except sixty, who are Protestants. The Papists observe all the festivals of their Church, they have a general cavalcade on All-Saints Day, and then they bake St. Michael’s cake at night, and the family and strangers eat it at supper.

Fergus Beaton hath the following ancient Irish manuscripts in the Irish character; to wit, Avicenna, Averroes, Joannes de Vigo, Bernardus Gordonus, and several volumes of Hippocrates.

The island of Barray lies about two leagues and a half to the south-west of the island South-Uist; it is five miles in length and three in breadth, being in all respects like the islands lying directly north from it. The east side is rocky, and the west arable ground, and yields a good produce of the same grain that both Uists do; they use likewise the same way for enriching their land with sea-ware. There is plenty of cod and ling got on the east and south sides of this island. Several small ships from Orkney come hither in summer, and afterward return laden with cod and ling.

There is a safe harbour on the north-east side of Barra, where there is great plenty of fish.

The rivers on the east side afford salmon, some of which are speckled like these mentioned in North-Uist, but they are more successful here in catching them. The natives go with three several herring nets, and lay them cross-ways in the river where the salmon are most numerous, and betwixt them and the sea. These salmon at the sight or shadow of the people make towards the sea, and feeling the net from the surface to the ground, jump over the first, then the second, but being weakened, cannot get over the third net, and so are caught. They delight to leap above water and swim on the surface. One of the natives told me that he killed a salmon with a gun, as jumping above water.

They informed me also that many barrels of them might be taken in the river above mentioned, if there was any encouragement for curing and transporting them. There are several old forts to be seen here, in form like those in the other islands. In the south end of this island there is an orchard which produces trees, but few of them bear fruit, in regard of their nearness to the sea. All sorts of roots and plants grow plentifully in it. Some years ago tobacco did grow here, being of all plants the most grateful to the natives, for the islanders love it mightily.

The little island Kismul lies about a quarter of a mile from the south of this isle. It is the seat of Macneil of Barra; there is a stone wall round it two stories high, reaching the sea, and within the wall there is an old tower and a hall, with other houses about it. There is a little magazine in the tower, to which no stranger has access. I saw the officer called the Cockman, and an old cock he is; when I bid him ferry me over the water to the island, he told me that he was but an inferior officer, his business being to attend in the tower; but if (says he) the constable, who then stood on the wall, will give you access, I’ll ferry you over. I desired him to procure me the constable’s permission, and I would reward him; but having waited some hours for the constable’s answer, and not receiving any, I was obliged to return without seeing this famous fort. Macneil and his lady being absent was the cause of this difficulty, and of my not seeing the place. I was told some weeks after that the constable was very apprehensive of some design I might have in viewing the fort, and thereby to expose it to the conquest of a foreign power, of which I supposed there was no great cause of fear. The natives told me there is a well in the village Tangstill, the water of which being boiled grows thick like puddle. There is another well not far from Tangstill, which the inhabitants say in a fertile year throws up many grains of barley in July and August. And they say that the Well of Kilbarr throws up embryoes of cockles, but I could not discern any in the rivulet, the air being at that time foggy. The church in this island is called Kilbarr, i.e., St. Barr’s Church. There is a little chapel by it, in which Macneil and those descended of his family are usually interred. The natives have St. Barr’s wooden image standing on the altar, covered with linen in form of a shirt; all their greatest asseverations are by this saint. I came very early in the morning with an intention to see this image, but was disappointed; for the natives prevented me by carrying it away, lest I might take occasion to ridicule their superstition, as some Protestants have done formerly; and when I was gone it was again exposed on the altar. They have several traditions concerning this great saint. There is a chapel (about half a mile on the south side of the hill near St. Barr’s Church) where I had occasion to get an account of a tradition concerning this saint, which was thus: "The inhabitants having begun to build the church, which they dedicated to him, they laid this wooden image within it, but it was invisibly transported (as they say) to the place where the church now stands, and found there every morning." This miraculous conveyance is the reason they give for desisting to work where they first began. I told my informer that this extraordinary motive was sufficient to determine the case, if true, but asked his pardon to dissent from him, for I had not faith enough to believe this miracle, at which he was surprised, telling me in the meantime that this tradition hath been faithfully conveyed by the priests and natives successively to this day. The southern islands are, (1) Muldonish, about a mile in circumference; it is high in the middle, covered over with heath and grass, and is the only forest here for maintaining the deer, being commonly about seventy or eighty in number. (2) The island Sandreray lies southerly of Barray, from which it is separated by a narrow channel, and is three miles in circumference, having a mountain in the middle. It is designed for pasturage and cultivation. On the south side there is a harbour convenient for small vessels, that come yealy here to fish for cod and ling, which abound on the coast of this island. (3) The island Sandreray, two miles in circumference, is fruitful in corn and grass, and separated by a narrow channel from Vattersay. (4) To the south of these lies the island Bernera, about two miles in circumference. It excels other islands of the same extent for cultivation and fishing. The natives never go a fishing while Macneil or his steward is in the island, lest seeing their plenty of fish, perhaps they might take occasion to raise their rents. There is an old fort in this island, having a vacuity round the walls, divided in little apartments. The natives endure a great fatigue in manuring their ground with sea-ware, which they carry in ropes upon their backs over high rocks. They likewise fasten a cow to a stake, and spread a quantity of sand on the ground, upon which the cow’s dung falls, and this they mingle together, and lay it on the arable land. They take great numbers of seafowls from the adjacent rocks, and salt them with the ashes of burnt sea-ware in cows’ hides, which preserves them from putrefaction.

There is a sort of stone in this island, with which the natives frequently rub their breasts by way of prevention, and say it is a good preservative for health. This is all the medicine they use. Providence is very favourable to them, in granting them a good state of health, since they have no physician among them.

The inhabitants are very hospitable, and have a custom, that when any strangers from the Northern Islands resort thither, the natives, immediately after their landing, oblige them to eat, even though they should have liberally eaten and drank but an hour before their landing there. And this meal they call Bieyta’v; i.e., ocean meat; for they presume that the sharp air of the ocean, which indeed surrounds them, must needs give them a good appetite. And whatever number of strangers come there, or of whatsoever quality or sex, they are regularly lodged according to ancient custom, that is, one only in a family; by which custom a man cannot lodge with his own wife, while in this island. Mr. John Campbell, the present minister of Harris, told me, that his father being then parson of Harris, and minister of Barray (for the natives at that time were Protestants) carried his wife along with him, and resided in this island for some time, and they disposed of him, his wife and servants in manner above-mentioned; and suppose Macneil of Barray and his lady should go thither, he would be obliged to comply with this ancient custom.

There is a large root grows among the rocks of this island lately discovered, the natives call it Curran-Petris, of a whitish colour, and upwards of two feet in length, where the ground is deep, and in shape and size like a large carrot; where the ground is not so deep it grows much thicker, but shorter: the top of it is like that of a carrot.

The rock, Linmull, about half a mile in circumference, is indifferently high, and almost inaccessible, except in one place, and that is by climbing, which is very difficult. This rock abounds with sea-fowls that build and hatch here in summer; such as the guillemot, coulterneb, puffin, etc. The chief climber is commonly called Gingich, and this name imports a big man having strength and courage proportionable. When they approach the rock with the boat, Mr. Gingich jumps out first upon a stone on the rock-side, and then, by the assistance of a rope of horse-hair, he draws his fellows out of the boat upon this high rock, and draws the rest up after him with the rope, till they all arrive at the top, where they purchase a considerable quantity of fowls and eggs. Upon their return to the boat, this Gingich runs a great hazard by jumping first into the boat again, where the violent sea continually rages; having but a few fowls more than his fellows, besides a greater esteem to compensate his courage. When a tenant’s wife in this or the adjacent islands dies, he then addresses himself to Macneil of Barra representing his loss, and at the same time desires that he would be pleased to recommend a wife to him, without which he cannot manage his affairs, nor beget followers to Macneil, which would prove a public loss to him. Upon this representation, Macneil finds out a suitable match for him; and the woman’s name being told him, immediately he goes to her, carrying with him a bottle of strong waters for their entertainment at marriage, which is then consummated.

When a tenant dies, the widow addresseth herself to Macneil in the same manner, who likewise provides her with a husband, and they are married without any further courtship. There is in this island an altar dedicated to St. Christopher, at which the natives perform their devotion. There is a stone set up here, about seven feet high, and when the inhabitants come near it they take a religious turn round it.

If a tenant chance to lose his milk-cows by the severity of the season, or any other misfortune; in this case Macneil of Barra supplies him with the like number that he lost.

When any case of these tenants are so far advanced in years that they are incapable to till the ground, Macneil takes such old men into his own family, and maintains them all their life after. The natives observe, that if six sheep are put a grazing in the little island Pabbay, five of them still appear fat, but the sixth a poor skeleton; but any number in this island not exceeding five are always fat. There is a little island not far from this called Micklay, of the same extent as Pabbay, and hath the same way of feeding sheep. These little islands afford excellent hawks.

The isles above-mentioned, lying near to the south of Barray, are commonly called the Bishop’s Isles, because they are held of the Bishop. Some isles lie on the east and north of Barray, as Fiaray, Mellisay, Buya Major and Minor, Lingay, Fuda; they afford pasturage, and are commodious for fishing; and the latter being about two miles in circumference is fertile in corn and grass. There is a good anchoring place next to the isle on the north-east side.

The steward of the Lesser and Southern Islands is reckoned a great man here, in regard of the perquisites due to him; such as a particular share of all the lands, corn, butter, cheese, fish, etc., which these islands produce; the measure of barley paid him by each family yearly is an omen, as they call it, containing about two pecks.

There is an inferior officer, who also hath a right to a share of all the same products. Next to these come in course those of the lowest posts, such as the cockman and porter, each of whom hath his respective due, which is punctually paid.

Macneil of Barra and all his followers are Roman Catholics, one only excepted, viz., Murdock Macneil; and it may perhaps be thought no small virtue in him to adhere to the Protestant communion, considering the disadvantages he labours under by the want of his Chief’s favour, which is much lessened, for being a heretic, as they call him. All the inhabitants observe the anniversary of St. Barr, being the 27th of September; it is performed riding on horseback, and the solemnity is concluded by three turns round St. Barr’s church. This brings into my mind a story which was told me concerning a foreign priest and the entertainment he met with after his arrival there some years ago, as follows: ----- This priest happened to land here upon the very day, and at the particular hour of this solemnity, which was the more acceptable to the inhabitants, who then desired him to preach a commemoration sermon to the honour of their patron St. Barr, according to the ancient custom of the place. At this the priest was surprised, he never having heard of St. Barr before that day; and therefore knowing nothing of his virtues, could say nothing concerning him: but told them, that if a sermon to the honour of St. Paul or St. Peter could please them, they might have it instantly. This answer of his was so disagreeable to them, that they plainly told him he could be no true priest, if he had not heard of St. Barr, for the Pope himself had heard of him; but this would not persuade the priest, so that they parted much dissatisfied with one another. They have likewise a general cavalcade on St. Michael’s Day, in Kilbar village, and do then also take a turn round their church. Every family, as soon as the solemnity is ended, is accustomed to bake St. Michael’s cake, as above described; and all strangers, together with those of the family, must eat the bread that night.

This island, and the adjacent lesser islands, belong in property to Macneil, being the thirty-fourth of that name by lineal descent that has possessed this island, if the present genealogers may be credited. He holds his lands in vassalage of Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat, to whom he pays £40 per annum and a hawk, if required, and is obliged to furnish him a certain number of men upon extraordinary occasions.


EVERY heir or young chieftain of a tribe was obliged in honour to give a public specimen of his valour before he was owned and declared governor or leader of his people, who obeyed and followed him upon all occasions.

This chieftain was usually attended with a retinue of young men of quality, who had not beforehand given any proof of their valour, and were ambitious of such an opportunity to signalize themselves.

It was usual for the captain to lead them, to make a desperate incursion upon some neighbour or other that they were in feud with; and they were obliged to bring by open force the cattle they found in the lands they attacked, or to die in the attempt.

After the performance of this achievement, the young chieftain was ever after reputed valiant and worthy of government, and such as were of his retinue acquired the like reputation. This custom being reciprocally used among them, was not reputed robbery; for the damage which one tribe sustained by this essay of the chieftain of another, was repaired when their chieftain came in his turn to make his specimen: but I have not heard an instance of this practice for these sixty years past.

The formalities observed at the entrance of these chieftains upon the government of their dens, were as follow: -----

A heap of stones was erected in form of a pyramid, on the top of which the young chieftain was placed, his friends and followers standing in a circle round about him, his elevation signifying his authority over them, and their standing below their subjection to him. One of his principal friends delivered into his hands the sword worn by his father, and there was a white rod delivered to him likewise at the same time.

Immediately after, the chief Druid (or orator) stood close to the pyramid, and pronounced a rhetorical panegyric, setting forth the ancient pedigree, valour, and liberality of the family as incentives to the young chieftain, and fit for his imitation.

It was their custom when any chieftain marched upon a military expedition, to draw some blood from the first animal that chanced to meet them upon the enemy’s ground, and thereafter to sprinkle some of it upon their colours. This they reckoned as a good omen of future success.

They had their fixed officers who were ready to attend them upon all occasions, whether military or civil. Some families continue them from father to son, particularly Sir Donald Macdonald has his principal standard-bearer and quartermaster. The latter has a right to all the hides of cows killed upon any of the occasions mentioned above; and this I have seen exacted punctually, though the officer had no charter for the same, but only custom.

They had a constant sentinel on the top of their houses called gockmin, or in the English tongue cockman, who was obliged to watch day and night, and at the approach of any body to ask, "Who comes there?" This officer is continued in Barray still, and has the perquisites due to his place paid him duly at two terms in the year.

There was a competent number of young gentlemen called lucht-taeh or guard de corps, who always attended the chieftain at home and abroad. They were well trained in managing the sword and target, in wrestling, swimming, jumping, dancing, shooting with bows and arrows, and were stout seamen.

Every chieftain had a bold armour-bearer, whose business was always to attend the person of his master night and day, to prevent any surprise, and this man was called galloglach; he had likewise a double portion of meat assigned him at every meal. The measure of meat usually given him is called to this day bieyfir, that is, a man’s portion, meaning thereby an extraordinary man, whose strength and courage distinguished him from the common sort.

Before they engaged the enemy in battle, the chief Druid harangued the army to excite their courage. He was placed on an eminence, from whence he addressed himself to all of them standing about him, putting them in mind of what great things were performed by the valour of their ancestors, raised their hopes with the noble rewards of honour and victory, and dispelled their fears by all the topics that natural courage could suggest. After this harangue, the army gave a general shout, and then charged the enemy stoutly. This in the ancient language was called "brosnichiy kah," i.e., an incentive to war. This custom of shouting aloud is believed to have taken its rise from an instinct of nature, it being attributed to most nations that have been of a martial genius ----- as by Homer to the Trojans, by Tacitus to the Germans, by Livy to the Gauls. Every great family in the isles had a chief Druid, who foretold future events, and decided all causes, civil and ecclesiastical. It is reported of them that they wrought in the night time, and rested all day. Cæsar says they worshipped a deity under the name of Taramis, or Taran, which in Welsh signifies Thunder; and in the ancient language of the Highlanders, Torin signifies Thunder also.

Another God of the Britons was Belus or Belinus, which seems to have been the Assyrian God Bel or Belus; and probably from this pagan deity comes the Scots term of Beltin, the first day of May, having its first rise from the custom practiced by the Druids in the isles, of extinguishing all the fires in the parish until the tithes were paid; and upon payment of them the fires were kindled in each family, and never till then. In those days malefactors were burnt between two fires; hence when they would express a man to be in a great strait, they say, "He is between two fires of Bel," which in their language they express thus, "Edir da din Veaul or Bel." Some object that the Druids could not be in the isles because no oaks grow there. To which I answer, that in those days oaks did grow there, and to this day there be oaks growing in some of them, particularly in Sleat, the most southern part of the isle of Skye. The houses named after those Druids shall be described elsewhere.

The manner of drinking used by the chief men of the isles is called in their language Streah, i.e., a round; for the company sat in a circle, the cup-bearer filled the drink round to them, and all was drunk out whatever the liquor was, whether strong or weak; they continued drinking sometimes twenty-four, sometimes forty-eight hours. It was reckoned a piece of manhood to drink until they became drunk, and there were two men with a barrow attending punctually on such occasions. They stood at the door until some became drunk, and they carried them upon the barrow to bed, and returned again to their post as long as any continued fresh, and so carried off the whole company one by one as they became drunk. Several of my acquaintance have been witnesses to this custom of drinking, but it is now abolished.

Among persons of distinction it was reckoned an affront put upon any company to broach a piece of wine, ale, or aquavitæ and not to see it all drunk out at one meeting. If any man chance to go out from the company, though but for a few minutes, he is obliged upon his return, and before he take his seat, to make an apology for his absence in rhyme; which, if he cannot perform, he is liable to such a share of the reckoning as the company think fit to impose; which custom obtains in many places still, and is called beanchiy bard, which in their language signifies the poet’s congratulating the company.

It hath been an ancient custom in these isles, and still continues, when any number of men retire into a house, either to discourse of serious business, or to pass some time in drinking; upon these occasions the door of the house stands open, and a rod is put across the same, which is understood to be a sign to all persons without distinction not to approach: and if any should be so rude as to take up this rod, and come in uncalled, he is sure to be no welcome guest; for this is accounted such an affront to the company, that they are bound in honour to resent it; and the person offending may come to have his head broken, if he do not meet with a harsher reception.

The chieftain is usually attended with a numerous retinue when he goes a hunting the deer, this being his first specimen of manly exercise. All his clothes, arms, and hunting equipage are, upon his return from the hills, given to the forester, according to custom.

Every family had commonly two stewards, which in their language were called marischal taeh: the first of these served always at home, and was obliged to be well versed in the pedigree of all the tribes in the isles, and in the Highlands of Scotland; for it was his province to assign every man at table his seat according to his quality; and this was done without one word speaking, only by drawing a score with a white rod which this marshal had in his hand, before the person who was bid by him to sit down; and this was necessary to prevent disorder and contention; and though the marshal might sometimes be mistaken, the master of the family incurred no censure by such an escape; but this custom has been laid aside of late. They had also cup-bearers, who always filled and carried the cup round the company, and he himself drank off the first draught. They had likewise purse-masters, who kept their money. Both these officers had an hereditary right to their office in writing, and each of them had a town and land for his service: some of those rights I have seen fairly written on good parchment.

Besides the ordinary rent paid by the tenant to his master, if a cow brought forth two calves at a time, which indeed is extraordinary, or an ewe two lambs, which is frequent, the tenant paid to the master one of the calves or lambs; and the master on his part was obliged, if any of his tenants’ wives bore twins, to take one of them, and breed him in his own family. I have known a gentleman who had sixteen of these twins in his family at a time.

Their ancient leagues of friendship were ratified by drinking a drop of each other’s blood, which was commonly drawn out of the little finger. This was religiously observed as a sacred bond; and if any person after such an alliance happened to violate the same, he was from that time reputed unworthy of all honest men’s conversation. Before money became current, the chieftains in the isles bestowed the cow’s head, feet, and all the entrails upon their dependents; such as the physician, orator, poet, bard, musicians, &c., and the same was divided thus: the smith had the head, the piper had the, &c.

It was an ancient custom among the islanders to hang a he-goat to the boat’s mast, hoping thereby to procure a favourable wind; but this is not practiced at present; though I am told it hath been done once by some of the vulgar within these 13 years last past.

They had an universal custom, of pouring a cow’s milk upon a little hill, or big stone, where the spirit called Browny was believed to lodge: this spirit always appeared in the shape of a tall man, having very long brown hair. There was scarce any the least village in which this superstitious custom did not prevail. I inquired the reason of it from several well-meaning women, who, until of late, had practiced it; and they told me, that it had been transmitted to them by their ancestors successfully, who believed it was attended with good fortune, but the most credulous of the vulgar had now laid it aside. It was an ordinary thing among the over-curious to consult an invisible oracle, concerning the fate of families, and battles, &c. This was performed three different ways; the first was by a company of men, one of whom being detached by lot, was afterwards carried to a river, which was the boundary between two villages; four of the company laid hold on him, and having shut his eyes, they took him by the legs and arms, and then tossing him to and again, struck his hips with force against the bank. One of them cried out, "What is it you have got here?" Another answers, "A log of birchwood." The other cries again, "Let his invisible friends appear from all quarters, and let them relieve him by giving an answer to our present demands": and in a few minutes after a number of little creatures came from the sea, who answered the question and disappeared suddenly. The man was then set at liberty, and they all returned home to take their measures according to the prediction of their false prophets, but the poor deluded fools were abused, for the answer was still ambiguous. This was always practiced in the night, and may literally be called the works of darkness.

I had an account from the most intelligent and judicious men in the isle of Skye that about sixty-two years ago the oracle was thus consulted only once, and that was in the parish of Kilmartin, on the east side, by a wicked and mischievous race of people, who are now extinguished, both root and branch.

The second way of consulting the oracle was by a party of men who first retired to solitary places, remote from any house, and there they singled out one of their number, and wrapt him in a big cow’s hide, which they folded about him; his whole body was covered with it except his head, and so left in this posture all night until his invisible friends relieved him by giving a proper answer to the question in hand, which he received, as he fancied, from several persons that he found about him all that time. His consorts returned to him at break of day, and then he communicated his news to them, which often proved fatal to those concerned in such unwarrantable enquiries.

There was a third way of consulting, which was a confirmation of the second above-mentioned. The same company who put the man into the hide took a live cat and put him on a spit; one of the number was employed to turn the spit, anyone of his consorts inquired of him, What are you doing? He answered, I roast this cat until his friends answer the question, which must be the same that was proposed by the man shut up in the hide. And afterwards a very big cat comes, attended by a number of lesser cats, desiring to relieve the cat turned upon the spit, and then answers the question. If this answer proved the same that was given to the man in the hide, then it was taken as a confirmation of the other, which in this case was believed infallible.

Mr. Alexander Cooper, present minister of North Uist, told me that one John Erach, in the isle of Lewis assured him it was his fate to have been led by his curiosity with some who consulted this oracle, and that he was a night within the hide, as above mentioned; during which time he felt and heard such terrible things that he could express them: the impression it made on him was such as could never go off, and he said that for a thousand worlds he would never again be concerned in the like performance, for this had disordered him to a high degree. He confessed it ingenuously, and with an air of great remorse, and seemed to be very penitent under a just sense of so great a crime. He declared this about five years since, and is still living in the Lewis, for anything I know. The inhabitants here did also make use of a fire called tin-egin, i.e., a forced fire, or fire of necessity, which they used as an antidote against the plague or murrain in cattle; and it was performed thus: all the fires in the parish were extinguished, and then eighty-one married men, being thought the necessary number for effecting this design, took two great planks of wood, and nine of them were employed by turns, who by their repeated efforts rubbed one of the planks against the other until the heat thereof produced fire; and from this forced fire each family is supplied with new fire, which is no sooner kindled than a pot full of water is quickly set on it, and afterwards sprinkled upon the people infected with the plague, or upon the cattle that have the murrain. And this they all say they find successful by experience. It was practiced in the mainland, opposite to the south of Skye, within these thirty years.

They preserve their boundaries from being liable to any debates by their successors, thus: they lay a quantity of the ashes of burnt wood in the ground, and put big stones above the same; and for conveying the knowledge of this to posterity, they carry some boys from both villages next the boundary, and there whip them soundly, which they will be sure to remember, and tell it to their children. A debate having arisen betwixt the villages of Ose and Groban in Skye, they found ashes as above mentioned under a stone, which decided the controversy. It was an ancient custom in the islands that a man should take a maid to his wife, and keep her the space of a year without marrying her; and if she pleased him all the while, he married her at the end of the year, and legitimated these children; but if he did not love her, he returned her to her parents, and her portion also; and if there happened to be any children, they were kept by the father: but this unreasonable custom was long ago brought into disuse.

It is common in these islands, when a tenant dies, for the master to have his choice of all the horses which belonged to the deceased; and this was called the eachfuin horizeilda, i.e., a Lord’s gift: for the first use of it was from a gift of a horse granted by all the subjects in Scotland for relieving the King from his imprisonment in England. There was another duty payable by all the tenants to their chief, though they did not live upon his lands; and this is called calpich: there was a standing law for it also, called calpich law; and I am informed that this is exacted by some in the mainland to this day.

Women were anciently denied the use of writing in the islands to prevent love-intrigues: their parents believed that nature was too skilful in that matter, and needed not the help of education; and therefore that writing would be of dangerous consequence to the weaker sex.

The orators, in their language called Is-dane, were in high esteem both in these islands and the Continent unto within these forty years they sat always among the nobles and chiefs of families in the streah or circle. Their houses and little villages were sanctuaries, as well as churches, and they took place before doctors of physic. The orators, after the Druids were extinct, were brought in to preserve the genealogy of families, and to repeat the same at every succession of a chief; and upon the occasion of marriages and births, they made epithalamiums and panegyrics which the poet or bard pronounced. The orators by the force of their eloquence had a powerful ascendant over the greatest men in their time; for if any orator did but ask the habit, arms, horse, or any other thing belonging to the greatest man in these islands, it was readily granted them, sometimes out of respect and sometimes for fear of being exclaimed against by a satire, which in those days was reckoned a great dishonour: but these gentlemen becoming insolent lost ever since both the profit and esteem which was formerly due to their character; for neither their panegyrics nor satires are regarded to what they have been, and they are now allowed but a small salary. I must not omit to relate their way of study, which is very singular: they shut their doors and windows for a day’s time, and lie on their backs, with a stone upon their belly, and plaids about their heads, and their eyes being covered, they pump their brains for rhetorical encomium or panegyric; and indeed they furnish such a style from this dark cell, as is understood by very few; and if they purchase a couple of horses as the reward of their meditation, they think they have done a great matter. The poet or bard had a title to the bridegroom’s upper garb, that is, the plaid and bonnet; but now he is satisfied with what the bridegroom pleases to give him on such occasions. There was an ancient custom in the island of Lewis to make a fiery circle about the houses, corn, cattle, &c., belonging to each particular family: a man carried fire in his right hand, and went round, and it was called dessil, from the right hand, which in the ancient language is called dess. An instance of this round was performed in the village Shader, in Lewis, about sixteen years ago (as I was told), but it proved fatal to the practiser, called MacCallum; for after he had carefully performed this round, that very night following he and his family were sadly surprised, and all his houses, corn, cattle, &c., were consumed with fire. This superstitious custom is quite abolished now, for there has not been above this one instance of it in forty years past.

There is another way of the dessil, or carrying fire round about women before they are churched after child-bearing; and it is used likewise about children until they be christened: both which are performed in the morning and at night. This is only practised now by some of the ancient midwives: I inquired their reason for this custom, which I told them was altogether unlawful; this disobliged them mightily, insomuch that they would give me no satisfaction. But others, that were of a more agreeable temper, told me the fire-round was an effectual means to preserve both the mother and the infant from the power of evil spirits, who are ready at such times to do mischief, and sometimes carry away the infant; and when they get them once in their possession, return them poor meagre skeletons: and these infants are said to have voracious appetites, constantly craving for meat. In this case it was usual with those who believed that their children were thus taken away, to dig a grave in the fields upon quarter day, and there to lay the fairy skeleton till next morning; at which time the parents went to the place, where they doubted not to find their own child instead of this skeleton. Some of the poorer sort of people in these islands retain the custom of performing these rounds sun-ways about the persons of their benefactors three times, when they bless them, and wish good success to all their enterprises. Some are very careful when they set out to sea that the boat be first rowed about sun-ways; and, if this be neglected, they are afraid their voyage may prove unfortunate. I had this ceremony paid me (when in the island of Islay) by a poor woman after I had given her an alms: I desired her to let alone that compliment, for I did not care for it; but she insisted to make these three ordinary turns, and then prayed that God and MacCharmig, the patron saint of that island, might bless and prosper me in all my designs and affairs.

I attempted twice to go from Islay to Colonsay, and at both times they rowed about the boat sun-ways, though I forbade them to do it; and by a contrary wind the boat and those in it were forced back. I took boat again a third time from Jura to Colonsay, and at the same time forbade them to row about their boat, which they obeyed, and then we landed safely at Colonsay, without any ill adventure, which some of the crew did not believe possible, for want of the round; but this one instance hath convinced them of the vanity of this superstitious ceremony. Another ancient custom observed on the second of February, which the Papists there yet retain, is this: The mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats and dress it up in women’s apparel, put it in a large basket, and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Briid’s-bed; and then the mistress and servants cry three times, Briid is come, Briid is welcome. This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Briid’s club there; which if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen.

It has been an ancient custom amongst the natives, and now only used by some old people, to swear by their chief or laird’s hand.

When a debate arises between two persons, if one of them assert the matter by your father’s hand they reckon it a great indignity; but if they go a degree higher, and out of spite say, by your father and grandfather’s hand, the next word is commonly accompanied with a blow.

It is a received opinion in these islands, as well as in the neighbouring part of the mainland, that women by a charm, or some other secret way, are able to convey the increase of their neighbour’s cow’s milk to their own use; and that the milk so charmed doth not produce the ordinary quantity of butter; and the curds made of that milk are so tough that it cannot be made so firm as other cheese, and is also much lighter in weight. The butter so taken away and joined to the charmer’s butter is evidently discernible by a mark of separation, viz., the diversity of colours; that which is charmed being still paler than that part of the butter which hath not been charmed; and if butter having these marks be found with a suspected woman, she is presently said to be guilty. Their usual way of recovering this loss, is to take a little of the rennet from all the suspected persons, and to put it in an egg-shell full of milk; and when that from the charmer is mingled with it, it presently curdles, and not before.

Thus was asserted to me by the generality of the most judicious people in these islands; some of them having, as they told me, come to the knowledge of it to their cost. Some women make use of the root of groundsel as an amulet against such charms, by putting it among their cream.

Both men and women in those islands, and in the neighbouring mainland, affirm that the increase of milk is likewise taken away by trouts; if it happen that the dishes or pails wherein the milk is kept be washed in the rivulets where trouts are. And the way to recover this damage is by taking a live trout, and pouring milk into its mouth; which they say doth presently curdle, if it was taken away by trouts, but otherwise they say it is not.

They affirm, likewise, that some women have an art to take away the milk of nurses.

I saw four women, whose milk were tried that one might be chosen for a nurse; and the woman pitched upon was, after three days’ suckling, deprived of her milk; whereupon she was sent away, and another put in her place; and on the third day after, she that was first chosen recovered her milk again. This was concluded to be the effect of witch-craft by some of her neighbours.

They also say that some have an art of taking away the increase of malt, and that the drink made of this malt hath neither life nor good taste in it; and, on the contrary, the charmer hath very good ale all this time. A gentleman of my acquaintance, for the space of a year, could not have a drop of good ale in his house; and having complained of it to all that conversed with him, he was at last advised to get some yeast from every ale-house in the parish; and having got a little from one particular man, he put it among his wort, which became as good ale as could be drunk, and so defeated the charm. After which the gentleman in whose land this man lived, banished him thirty-six miles from thence.

They say there be women who have an art of taking a moat out of one’s eye, though at some miles’ distance from the party grieved; and this is the only charm these women will avouch themselves to understand, as some of them told me, and several of these men, out of whose eyes moats were then taken, confirmed the truth of it to me.

All these islanders, and several thousands on the neighbouring continent, are of opinion, that some particular persons have an evil eye, which affects children and cattle; this they say, which occasions frequent mischances, and sometimes death. I could name some who are believed to have this unhappy faculty, though at the same time void of any ill design. This hath been an ancient opinion, as appears from that of the poet: -----

"Nescio quis teneros oculus mihi fassinat Agnos."


AT the first plantation of these isles, all matters were managed by the sole authority of the heads of tribes, called in the Irish, Thiarna, which was the same with Tyrannus, and now it signifies lord or chief; there being no standard of equity or justice, but what flowed from them. And when their numbers increased, they erected courts called Mode, and in the English, Baron-Courts.

The proprietor has the nomination of the members of this court; he himself is president of it, and in his absence his bailiff: the minister of the parish is always a member of it. There are no attorneys to plead the cause of either party, for both men and women represent their respective causes; and there is always a speedy decision, if the parties have their witnesses present, etc.

There is a peremptory sentence passed in court for ready payment, and if the party against whom judgment is given prove refractory, the other may send the common officer, who has power to distrain, and at the same time to exact a fine of £20 Scots, for the use of the proprietor, and about two marks for himself.

The heads of tribes had their offensive and defensive leagues, called bonds of mandrate, and manrent in the Lowlands; by which each party was obliged to assist one another upon all extraordinary emergencies. And though the differences between those chieftains involved several confederates in a civil war, yet they obliged themselves by the bond mentioned above to continue steadfast in their duty to their sovereign.

When the proprietor gives a farm to his tenant whether for one or more years, it is customary to give the tenant a stick of wood, and some straw in his hand: this is immediately returned by the tenant again to this master, and then both parties are as much obliged to perform their respective conditions as if they had signed a lease or any other deed.


EVERY parish in the Western Isles has a church-judicature, called the consistory, or kirk-session, where the minister presides, and a competent number of laymen, called elders, meet with him. They take cognisance of scandals, censure faulty persons, and with that strictness, as to give an oath to those who are suspected of adultery or fornication; for which they are to be proceeded against according to the custom of the country. They meet after divine service; the chief heritor of the parish is present, to concur with them and enforce their Acts by his authority, which is irresistible within the bounds of his jurisdiction.


[This form is contained in the Irish liturgy composed by Mr. John Kerswell, afterwards Bishop of Argyll; printed in the year 1566, and dedicated to the Earl of Argyll. I have set down the original for the satisfaction of such readers as understand it.]

MODH Bendaighthe luinge ag dul diondsaidhe na fairrge
Abradh aón do chách marso.
An Stiuradóir.
Beandaighidh ar long.
Fregra Cháich.
Go mbeandaighe Dia Athair i.
An Stiuradóir.
Beandaidhidh ar long.
Go mbeandaighe Iosa Criosd i.
An Stiuradóir.
Beandaidhidh ar long.
Go mbeandaighe an Sbiorad Naomh i.
An Stiuradóir.
Créd is eagail libh is Dia Athair libh.
Ní heagal én ní.
An Stiuradóir.
Créd is eagil libh is Dia am Mac libh.
Ní heagal én ní.
An Stiuradóir.
Créd is eagail libh is Dia an Sbiorod Naomh libh.
Ní heagal én ní.
An Stiuradóir.
Dia Athair uile chumhachtach ar grádh a Mhic Iosa Criosd, le comhshurtacht an Sbioraid Naomh, An taon Dia tug Cland Israhél trid an Muir ruaigh go mírbhuileach, agas tug Iónás ad tir ambroind an mhil mhoir, & tug Pol Easpol, agas a long gona, foirind ó onfadh iomarcach, agas o dheartan doininde dar sa oradhne, agas dar sénadh, agas dar mbeandughadh, agas dar mbreith lé sén, agas le soinind, agas lé sólas do chum chuain, agas chaluidh do réir a thoile diadha féin.
Ar ni iarrmoid air ag rádha.
Ar Nathairne atá ar Neamh, &c.
Abradh cách uile.

Biodh Amhluidh


The steersman says:
    LET us bless our ship.

The answer by all the crew:
God the Father bless her.

    Let us bless our ship.

Jesus Christ bless her.

    Let us bless our ship.

  The Holy Ghost bless her.

    What do you fear since God the Father is with you?

    We do not fear anything.

What do you fear since God the Son is with you?

    We do not fear anything.

    What are you afraid of since God the Holy Ghost is with you?

    We do not fear anything.

    God the Father Almighty, for the love of Jesus Christ his Son, by the comfort of the Holy Ghost, the one God, who miraculously brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea, and brought Jonas to land out of the belly of the whale, and the Apostle St. Paul and his ship to safety from the troubled raging sea and from the violence of a tempestuous storm, deliver, sanctify, bless, and conduct us peaceably, calmly, and comfortably through the sea to our harbour, according to his divine will, which we beg, saying, Our Father, &c.


SKYE (in the ancient language Skianach, i.e., winged) is so called because the two opposite northern promontories (Vaterness lying north-west, and Trotterness north-east) resemble two wings. This isle lies for the most part half-way in the Western Sea, between the mainland on the east, the shire of Ross, and the western isle of Lewis, &c.

This isle is very high land, as well on the coast as higher up in the country; and there are seven high mountains near one another, almost in the centre of the isle.

This island is forty miles in length from south to north, and in some places twenty, and in others thirty in breadth; the whole may amount to a hundred miles in circumference.

The channel between the south of Skye and opposite mainland (which is part of the shire of Inverness) is not above three leagues in breadth; and where the ferry-boat crosseth to Glenelg it is so narrow that one may call for the ferry-boat and be easily heard on the other side. This isle is a part of the sheriffdom of Inverness, and formerly of the diocese of the isles, which was united to that of Argyll: a south-east moon causeth a spring-tide here.

The mould is generally black, especially in the mountains; but there is some of a red colour, in which iron is found.

The arable land is for the most part black, yet affords clay of different colours, as white, red, and blue; the rivulet at Dunvegan church, and that of Nisbost, have fuller’s-earth.

The villages Borve and Glenmore afford two very fine sorts of earth, the one red, the other white; and they both feel and cut like melted tallow. There are other places that afford plenty of very fine white marle, which cuts like butter; it abounds most in Corchattachan, where an experiment has been made of its virtue: a quantity of it being spread on a sloping hill, covered with heath, soon after all the heath fell to the ground, as if it had been cut with a knife. They afterwards sowed barley on the ground, which, though it grew but unequally, some places producing no grain, because perhaps it was unequally laid on; yet the produce was thirty-five fold, and many stalks carried five ears of barley. This account was given me by the present possessor of the ground, Lauchlin Mackinnon.

There are marcasites black and white, resembling silver ore, near the village Sartle: there are likewise in the same place several stones, which in bigness, shape, &c., resemble nutmegs, and many rivulets here afford variegated stones of all colours. The Applesglen near Loch-Fallart has agate growing in it of different sizes and colours; some are green on the outside, some are of a pale sky colour, and they all strike fire as well as flint: I have one of them by me, which for shape and bigness is proper for a sword handle. Stones of a purple colour flow down the rivulets here after great rains.

There is crystal in several places of this island, as at Portree, Quillin, and Mingis; it is of different sizes and colours, some are sexangular, as that of Quillin, and Mingis; and there is some in Mingis of a purple colour. The village Torrin in Strath affords a great deal of good white and black marble; I have seen cups made of the white, which is very fine. There are large quarries of freestone in several parts of this isle, as at Suisness in Strath, in the south of Borrie and isle of Raasay. There is abundance of limestone in Strath and Trotterness: some banks of clay on the east coast are overflowed by the tide, and in these grow the lapis ceranius, or cerna amomis, of different shapes; some of the breadth of a crown-piece, bearing an impression resembling the sun; some are big as a man’s finger, in form of a semi-circle, and furrowed on the inner side; others are less, and have furrows of a yellow colour on both sides. These stones are by the natives called cramp-stones; because (as they say) they cure the cramp in cows, by washing the part affected with water in which this stone has been steeped for some hours. The velumnites grow likewise in these banks of clay; some of them are twelve inches long, and tapering towards one end: the natives call them bot-stones, because they believe them to cure the horses of the worms which occasion that distemper, by giving them water to drink in which this stone has been steeped for some hours.

This stone grows likewise in the middle of a very hard grey stone on the shore. There is a black stone in the surface of the rock on Rigshore, which resembles goats’ horns.

The lapis hecticus, or white hectic stone, abounds here both in the land and water: the natives use stone as a remedy against dysentery and diarrhœa; they make them redhot in the fire, and then quench them in milk, and some in water, which they drink with good success. They use this stone after the same manner for consumptions, and they likewise quench these stones in water with which they bathe their feet and hands.

The stones on which the scurf called corkir grows are to be had in many places on the coast, and in the hills. This scurf dyes a pretty crimson colour; first well dried, and then ground to powder, after which it is steeped in urine, the vessel being well secured from air; and in three weeks it is ready to boil with the yarn that is to be dyed. The natives observe the decrease of the moon for scraping this scurf from the stone, and say it is ripest in August.

There are many white scurfs on stone, somewhat like these on which the corkir grows, but the corkir is white and thinner than any other that resembles it.

There is another coarser scurf called crostil. It is of a dark colour, and only dyes a philamot.

The rocks in the village Ord have much talk growing on them like the Venice-talk.

This isle is naturally well provided with variety of excellent bays and harbours. In the south of it lies the peninsula called Oronsa, alias island Dierman. It has an excellent place for anchorage on the east side, and is generally known by most Scotch seamen. About a league more easterly in the same coast there is a small rock, visible only at half low water, but may be avoided by steering through the middle of the channel. About a league more easterly in the same coast there is an anchorage pretty near the shore. Within less than a mile further is the narrow sound called the Kyle, in order to pass which it is absolutely necessary to have the tide of flood for such as are northward bound, else they will be obliged to retire in disorder, because of the violence of the current; for no wind is able to carry a vessel against it. The quite contrary course is to be observed by vessels coming from the north. A mile due east from the Kyle there is a big rock on the south side the point of land on Skye side, called Kaillach, which is overflowed by the tide of flood; a vessel may go near its outside. Above a mile further due north there are two rocks in the passage through the Kyle; they are on the castle side, and may be avoided by keeping the middle of the channel. About eight miles more to the northward, or the east of Skye, there is secure anchorage between the isle Scalpa and Skye, in the middle of the channel; but one must not come to it by the south entry of Scalpa; and in coming between Raasay and this isle there are rocks without the entry, which may be avoided best by having a pilot of the country. More to the north is Loch-Sligachan, on the coast of Skye, where is good anchorage. The entry is not deep enough for vessels of any burden, except at high water; but three miles further north lies Loch-Portree, a capacious and convenient harbour of above a mile in length.

The island Tulm, which is within half a mile of the northernmost point of Skye, has a harbour on the inside. The entrance between the isle and Duntulm Castle is the best.

On the west of the same wing of Skye, and about five miles more southerly, lies Loch-Uig, about a mile in length, and a very good harbour for vessels of the greatest burden. About two miles on this coast further south is Loch-Snizort. It is three miles in length and half a mile in breadth; it is free from rocks, and has convenient anchorage.

On the west side the promontory, at the mouth of Loch-Snizort, lies Loch-Arnizort, being about two miles in length, and half a mile in breadth. There are two small isles in the mouth of the entry, and a rock near the west side, a little within the entry.

Some five miles to the west of Arnizort lies Loch-Fallart; the entry is between Vaterness Head on the east side, and Dunvegan Head on the west side. The loch is six miles in length, and about a league in breadth for some miles; it hath the island Isa about the middle, on the east side. There is a rock between the north end and the land, and there vessels may anchor between the N.E. side of the isle and the land; there is also good anchorage near Dunvegan Castle, two miles further to the southward.

Loch-Brakadil lies two miles south of Loch-Fallart; it is seven miles in length, and has several good anchoring places. On the north side the entry lie two rocks called Macleod’s Maidens. About three miles south-west is Loch-Einard, a mile in length; it has a rock in the entry, and is not visible but at an ebb.

About two miles to the eastward there is an anchoring place for barks, between Skye and the isle Soa.

About a league further east lie Loch-Slapan and Loch-Essort. The first reaches about four miles to the north, and the second about six miles to the east.

There are several mountains in the isle of a considerable height and extent ----- as Quillin, Scornifiey, Bein-store, Bein-vore-scowe, Bein-chro, Bein-nin-Kaillach. Some of them are covered with snow on the top in summer, others are almost quite covered with sand on the top, which is much washed down with the great rains. All these mountains abound with heath and grass, which serve as good pasturage for lack cattle and sheep.

The Quillin, which exceeds any of those hills in height, is said to be the cause of much rain, by breaking the clouds that hover about it, which quickly after pour down in rain upon the quarter on which the wind then blows. There is a high ridge of one continued mountain of considerable height, and fifteen miles in length, running along the middle of the east wing of Skye called Trotterness, and that part above the sea is faced with a steep rock.

The arable ground is generally along the coast and in the valleys between the mountains, having always a river running in the middle. The soil is very grateful to the husbandman. I have been shown several places that had not been tilled for seven years before, which yielded a good product of oats by digging, though the ground was not dunged, particularly near the village Kilmartin, which the natives told me had not been dunged these forty years last. Several pieces of ground yield twenty, and some thirty, fold when dunged with sea-ware. I had an account that a small tract of ground in the village Skorybreck yielded an hundred fold of barley.

The isle of Altig, which is generally covered with heath, being manured with sea ware, the owner sowed barley in the ground, and it yielded a very good product ----- many stalks had five ears growing upon them. In plentiful years Skye furnishes the opposite continent with oats and barley. The way of tillage here is after the same manner that is already described in the isles of Lewis, &c; and digging doth always produce a better increase here than ploughing.

All the mountains in this isle are plentifully furnished with variety of excellent springs and fountains, some of them have rivulets with water mills upon them. The most celebrated well in Skye is Loch-Siant Well. It is much frequented by strangers, as well as by the inhabitants of the isle, who generally believe it to be a specific for several diseases ----- such as stitches, headaches, stone, consumptions, megrim. Several of the common people oblige themselves by a vow to come to this well and make the ordinary tour about it, called dessil, which is performed thus: They move thrice round the well, proceeding sunways from east to west, and so on. This is done after drinking of the water; and when one goes away from the well it is a never-failing custom to leave some small offering on the stone which covers the well. There are nine springs issuing out of the hill above the well, and all of them pay the tribute of their water to a rivulet that falls from the well. There is a little fresh-water lake within ten yards of the said well. It abounds with trouts, but neither the natives nor strangers will ever presume to destroy any of them, such is the esteem they have for the water.

There is a small coppice near to the well, and there is none of the natives dare venture to cut the least branch of it, for fear of some signal judgment to follow upon it.

There are many wells here esteemed effectual to remove several distempers. The lightest and wholesomest water in all the isle is that of Toubir Tellibreck in Uig. The natives say that the water of this well and the sea plant called dulse would serve instead of food for a considerable time, and own that they have experienced it in time of war. I saw a little well in Kilbride, in the south of Skye, with one trout only in it. The natives are very tender of it and although they often chance to catch it in their wooden pails they are very careful to preserve it from being destroyed. It has been seen there for many years. There is a rivulet not far distant from the well, to which it hath probably had access through some narrow passage.

There are many rivers on all quarters of the isle. About 30 of them afford salmon, and some of them black mussels, in which pearl do breed, particularly the river of Kilmartin and the river Ord. The proprietor told me that some years ago a pearl had been taken out of the former valued at £20 sterling. There are several cataracts, as that in Sker-horen, Holm, Rig, and Tout. When a river makes a great noise in time of fair weather it is a sure prognostic here of rain to ensue.

There are many fresh-water lakes in Skye, and generally well stocked with trout and eels. The common fly and the earth worms are ordinarily used for angling trout. The best season for it is a calm, or a south-west wind.

The largest of the fresh-water lake is that named after St. Columba, on the account of the chapel dedicated to that saint. It stands in the isle, about the middle of the lake.

There is a little fresh-water lake near the south side of Loch-Einordstard, in which mussels grow that breed pearl.

This isle hath anciently been covered all over with woods, as appears from the great trunks of fir trees, &c., dug out of the bogs frequently, &c. There are several coppices of wood scattered up and down the isle. The largest, called Lettir-hurr, exceeds not three miles in length.

Herrings are often taken in most or all the bays mentioned above; Loch-Essort, Slapan, Loch-Fallart, Loch-Scowsar, and the Kyle of Scalpa, are generally known to strangers, for the great quantities of herring taken in them. This sort of fish is commonly seen without the bays, and on the coast all the summer. All other fish follow the herring and their fry, from the whale to the least fish that swims; the biggest still destroying the lesser.

The fishers and others told me that there is a big herring almost double the size of any of its kind, which leads all that are in a bay, and the shoal follows it wherever it goes. This leader is by the fishers called the king of herring, and when they chance to catch it alive, they drop it carefully into the sea; for they judge it petty treason to destroy a fish of that name.

The fishers say that all sorts of fish, from the greatest to the least, have a leader, who is followed by all of its kind.

It is a general observation all Scotland over, that if a quarrel happen on the coast where herring is caught, and that blood be drawn violently, then the herring go away from the coast, without returning during that season. This, they say, has been observed in all past ages, as well as at present; but this I relate only as a common tradition, and submit it to the judgment of the learned.

The natives preserve and dry their herring without salt, for the space of eight months, provided they be taken after the tenth of September, they use no other art in it but take out their guts, and then tying a rush about their necks, hang them by pairs upon a rope made of heath cross a house; and they eat well, and free from putrefaction, after eight months keeping in this manner. Cod, ling, herring, mackerel, haddock, whiting, turbot, together with all other fish that are in the Scots seas, abound on the coasts of this island.

The best time of taking fish within angle is in warm weather, which disposes them to come near the surface of the water; whereas in cold weather, or rain, they go to the bottom. The best bait for cod and ling is a piece of herring, whiting, thornback, haddock, or eel. The grey-lord, alias black-mouth, a fish of the size and shape of a salmon, takes the limpet for bait. There is another way of angling for this fish, by fastening a short white down of a goose behind the hook; and the boat being continually rowed, the fish run greedily after the down, and are easily caught. The grey-lord swims in the surface of the water, and then is caught with a spear; a rope being tied to the further end of it, and secured in the fisherman’s hand.

All the bays and places of anchorage here abound with most kinds of shell-fish. The Kyle of Scalpa affords oysters in such plenty that commonly a spring tide of ebb leaves fifteen, sometimes twenty, horse load of them on the sands.

The sands on the coast of Bernstill village at the spring tides afford daily such plenty of mussels, as is sufficient to maintain sixty persons per day: and thus was a great support to many poor families of the neighbourhood, in the late years of scarcity. The natives observe that all shell-fish are plumper at the increase than decrease of the moon; they observe likewise that all shell-fish are plumper during a south-west wind, than when it blows from the north or north-east quarters.

The limpet being parboiled with a very little quantity of water, the broth is drank to increase milk in nurses, and likewise when the milk proves astringent to the infants. The broth of the black periwinkle is used in the same cases. It is observed that limpets being frequently eaten in June are apt to occasion the jaundice; the outside of the fish is coloured like the skin of a person that has the jaundice: the tender yellow part of the limpet, which is next to the shell, is reckoned good nourishment, and very easy of digestion.

I had an account of a poor woman who was a native of the isle of Jura, and by the troubles in King Charles the First’s reign was almost reduced to a starving condition; so that she lost her milk quite, by which her infant had nothing proper for its sustenance: upon this she boiled some of the tender fat of the limpets, and gave it to her infant, to whom it became so agreeable that it had no other food for several months together; and yet there was not a child in Jura, or any of the adjacent isles, wholesomer than this poor infant, which was exposed to so great a strait.

The limpet creeps on the stone and rock in the night-time, and in a warm day; but if anything touch the shell it instantly clings to the stone, and then no hand is able to pluck it off without some instrument; and therefore such as take them have little hammers, called limpet-hammers, with which they beat it from the rock; but if they watch its motion and surprise it the least touch of the hand pulls it away: and this that is taken creeping, they say, is larger and better than that which is pulled off by force. The motion, fixation, taste and feeding, etc., of this little animal is very curious.

The pale whelk, which in length and smallness exceeds the black periwinkle, and by the natives called gil-fiunt, is by them beat in pieces, and both shell and fish boiled. The broth being strained, and drank for some days together, is accounted a good remedy against the stone. It is called a dead man’s eye at Dover. It is observed of cockles and spout fish that they go deeper in the sands with north winds than any other; and, on the contrary, they are easier reached with south winds, which are still warmest.

It is a general observation of all such as live on the sea coast that they are more prolific than any other people whatsoever.

The Sea Plants Here are as Follows.

LINARICH, a very thin small green plant, about eight, ten, or twelve inches in length. It grows on stone, on shells, and on the bare sand. This plant is applied plaister-wise to the fore-head and temples to procure sleep for such as have a fever, and they say it is effectual for this purpose.

The linarich is likewise applied to the crown of the head and temples for removing the megrim, and also to heal the skin after a blister plaister of flammula Jovis.

Slake, a very thin plant, almost round, about ten or twelve inches in circumference, grows on the rocks and sands. The natives eat it boiled, and it dissolves into oil. They say that if a little butter be added to it, one might live many years on this alone, without bread or any other food, and at the same time undergo any laborious exercise. This plant, boiled with some butter, is given to cows in the spring, to remove costiveness.

Dulse is of a reddish brown colour, about ten or twelve inches long, and above half an inch in breadth. It is eaten raw, and then reckoned to be loosening and very good for the sight; but if boiled, it proves more loosening if the juice be drank with it. This plant applied plaister-wise to the temples is reckoned effectual against the megrim. The plant boiled and eaten with its infusion is used against the colic and stone; and dried without washing it in water, pulverized and given in any convenient vehicle fasting, it kills worms. The natives eat it boiled with butter, and reckon it very wholesome. The dulse recommended here is that which grows on stone, and not that which grows on the alga marina, or sea tangle: for though that be likewise eaten, it will not serve in any of the cases above-mentioned.

The alga marina or sea tangle, or, as some call it, sea ware, is a rod about four, six, eight or ten feet long having at the end a blade commonly slit into seven or eight pieces, and about a foot and half in length. It grows on stone. The blade is eaten by the vulgar natives. I had an account of a young man who had lost his appetite and taken pills to no purpose; and being advised to boil the blade of the alga and drink the infusion boiled with a little butter, was restored to his former state of health.

There is abundance of white and red coral growing on the south and west coast of this isle. It grows on the rocks, and is frequently interwoven with the roots of the alga. The red seems to be a good fresh colour when first taken out of the sea, but in a few hours after it becomes pale. Some of the natives take a quantity of the red coral, adding the yolk of an egg roasted to it, for the diarrhœa. Both the red and white coral here is not above five inches long, and about the bigness of a goose quill.

There are many caves to be seen on each quarter of this isle, some of them are believed to be several miles in length. There is a big cave in the village Bornskittag, which is supposed to exceed a mile in length. The natives told me that a piper, who was over-curious, went into the cave with a design to find out the length of it; and after he entered began to play on his pipe, but never returned to give an account of his progress.

There is a cave in the village Rigg, wherein drops of water that issue from the roof petrify into a white limy substance, and hang down from the roof and sides of the cave.

There is a cave in the village Holm, having many petrified twigs hanging from the top; they are hollow from one end to the other, and from five to ten inches in length.

There is a big cave in the rock on the east side of Portree, large enough for eighty persons; there is a well within it, which, together with its situation and narrow entry, renders it an inaccessible fort. One man only can enter it at a time, by the side of a rock, so that with a staff in his hand he is able by the least touch to cast over the rock as many as shall attempt to come into the cave.

On the south side Loch Portree, there is a large cave, in which many sea cormorants do build. The natives carry a bundle of straw to the door of the cave in the night-time, and there setting it on fire, the fowls fly with all speed to the light, and so are caught in baskets laid for that purpose. The Golden Cave in Sleat is said to be seven miles in length, from the west to east.

There are many cairns or heaps of stones in this island. Some of the natives say they were erected in the times of heathenism, and that the ancient inhabitants worshipped about them. In Popish countries the people still retain the ancient custom of making a tour round them.

Others say these cairns were erected where persons of distinction, killed in battle, had been buried, and that their urns were laid in the ground under the cairns. I had an account of a cairn in Knapdale, in the shire of Argyll, underneath which an urn was found. There are little cairns to be seen in some places on the common road, which were made only where corps happened to rest for some minutes; but they have laid aside the making such cairns now.

There is an erected stone in Kilbride, in Strath, which is ten feet high, and one and a half broad.

There is another of five feet high, placed in the middle of the cairn, on the south side Loch Uig and is called the High Stone of Uig.

There are three such stones on the sea-coast opposite to Skeriness, each of them three feet high. The natives have a tradition that upon these stones a big caldron was set, for boiling Fin-Mac-Coul’s meat. This gigantic man is reported to have been general of a militia that came from Spain to Ireland, and from thence to those isles. All his soldiers are called Fienty from Fiun. He is believed to have arrived in the isles in the reign of King Evan. The natives have many stories of this general and his army, with which I will not trouble the reader. He is mentioned in Bishop Leslie’s History.

There are many forts erected on the coast of this isle, and supposed to have been built by the Danes. They are called by the name of Dun, from Dain, which in the ancient language signified a fort; they are round in form, and they have a passage all round within the wall; the door of them is low, and many of the stones are of such bulk that no number of the present inhabitants could raise them without an engine.

All these forts stand upon eminences, and are so disposed that there is not one of them which is not in view of some other; and by this means, when a fire is made upon a beacon in any one fort, it is in a few moments after communicated to all the rest; and this hath been always observed upon sight of any number of foreign vessels, or boats approaching the coast.

The forts are commonly named after the place where they are, or the person that built them; as Dun-Skudborg, Dun-Derig, Dun-Skeriness, Dun-David, &c.

There are several little stone houses, built underground, called earth-houses, which served to hide a few people and their goods in time of war. The entry to them was on the sea or river side. There is one of them in the village Lachsay, and another in Camstinvag.

There are several little stone houses built above ground, capable only of one person, and round in form. One of them is to be seen in Portree, another at Lincro, and at Culuknock. They are called Tey-nin-druinich, i.e., Druid’s House. Druinich signifies a retired person, much devoted to contemplation.

The fuel used here is peats dug out of the heaths. There are cakes of iron found in the ashes of some of them, and at Flodgery village there are peats from which saltpetre sparkles. There is a coal lately discovered at Holm, in Portree, some of which I have seen; there are pieces of coal dug out likewise of the sea-sand in Heldersta of Vaternish, and some found in the village Mogstat.

The cattle produced here are horses, cows, sheep, goats, and hogs. The common work-horses are exposed to the rigour of the season during the winter and spring; and though they have neither corn, hay, or but seldom straw, yet they undergo all the labour that other horses better treated are liable to.

The cows are likewise exposed to the rigour of the coldest seasons, and become mere skeletons in the spring, many of them not being able to rise from the ground without help; but they recover as the season becomes more favourable and the grass grows up: then they acquire new beef, which is both sweet and tender. The fat and lean is not so much separated in them as in other cows, but as it were larded, which renders it very agreeable to the taste. A cow in this isle may be twelve years old, when at the same time its beef is not above four, five, or six months old. When a calf is slain it is an usual custom to cover another calf with its skin, to suck the cow whose calf hath been slain, or else she gives no milk, nor suffers herself to be approached by anybody; and if she discover the cheat, then she grows enraged for some days, and the last remedy used to pacify her is to use the sweetest voice and sing all the time of milking her. When any man is troubled with his neighbour’s cows by breaking into his inclosures he brings all to the utmost boundary of his ground, and there drawing a quantity of blood from each cow he leaves them upon the spot, from whence they go away, without ever returning again to trouble him during all that season. The cows often feed upon the alga marina, or sea ware; and they can exactly distinguish the tide of ebb from the tide of flood, though at the same time they are not within view of the sea; and if one meet them running to the shore at the tide of ebb and offer to turn them again to the hills to graze they will not return. When the tide has ebbed about two hours, so as to uncover the sea ware, then they steer their course directly to the nearest coast in their usual order ----- one after another ----- whatever their number be. There are as many instances of this as there are tides of ebb on the shore. I had occasion to make this observation thirteen times in one week; for though the natives gave me repeated assurances of the truth of it, I did not fully believe it till I saw many instances of it in my travels along the coast. The natives have a remark, that when the cows belonging to one person do of a sudden become very irregular, and run up and down the fields, and make a loud noise without any visible cause, that it is a presage of the master’s or mistress’s death, of which there were several late instances given me. James Macdonald of Capstil having been killed at the battle of Killicrankie, it was observed that night that his cows gave blood instead of milk. His family and other neighbours concluded this a bad omen. The minister of the place and the mistress of the cows, together with several neighbours, assured me of the truth of this.

There was a calf brought forth in Vaterness without legs. It leaped very far, bellowed louder than any other calf, and drank much more milk. At last the owner killed it. Kenneth, the carpenter, who lives there, told me that he had seen the calf. I was also informed that a cow in Vaternish brought forth five calves at a time, of which three died.

There was a calf at Skeriness, having all its legs double, but the bones had but one skin to cover both. The owner, fancying it to be ominous, killed it, after having lived nine months. Several of the natives thereabouts told me that they had seen it.

There are several calves that have a slit in the top of their ears; and these the natives fancy to be the issue of a wild bull that comes from the sea or fresh lakes; and this calf is by them called corky-fyre.

There is plenty of land and water fowl in this isle ----- as hawks, eagles of two kinds (the one grey and of a larger size, the other much less and black, but more destructive to young cattle), black cock, heath-hen, plovers, pigeons, wild geese, ptarmigan, and cranes. Of this latter sort I have seen sixty on the shore in a flock together. The sea fowls are malls of all kinds ----- coulterneb, guillemot, sea cormorant, &c. The natives observe that the latter, if perfectly black, makes no good broth, nor is its flesh worth eating; but that a cormorant, which hath any white feathers or down, makes good broth, and the flesh of it is good food; and the broth is usually drunk by nurses to increase their milk.

The natives observe that this fowl flutters with its wings towards the quarter from which the wind is soon after to blow.

The sea fowl bunivochil, or, as some seamen call it, carara, and others bishop, is as big as a goose, of a brown colour, and the inside of the wings white; the bill is long and broad, and it is footed like a goose; it dives quicker than any other fowl whatever; it is very fat. The case of this fowl being flayed off with the fat, and a little salt laid on to preserve it, and then applied to the thigh bone, where it must lie for some weeks together, is an effectual remedy against the sciatica, of which I saw two instances. It is observed of fire arms that are rubbed over (as the custom is here) with the oil or fat of sea fowls, that they contract rust much sooner than when done with the fat of land fowl; the fulmar oil from St. Kilda only excepted, which preserves iron from contracting rust much longer than any other oil or grease whatsoever. The natives observe that when the sea pye warbles its notes incessantly, it is a sure presage of fair weather to follow in a few hours after.

The amphibia to be seen in this isle are seals, otters, vipers, frogs, toads, and asps. The otter shuts its eyes when it eats; and this is a considerable disadvantage to it, for then several ravenous fowls lay hold on this opportunity, and rob it of its fish.

The hunters say there is a big otter above the ordinary size, with a white spot on its breast, and this they call the king of otters; it is rarely seen, and very hard to be killed. Seamen ascribe great virtues to the skin; for they say that it is fortunate in battle, and that victory is always on its side. Serpents abound in several parts of this isle; there are three kinds of them, the first black and white spotted, which is the most poisonous, and if a speedy remedy be not made use of after the wound given, the party is in danger. I had an account that a man at Glenmore, a boy at Portree, and a woman at Loch-Scahvag, did all die of wounds given by this sort of serpents. Some believe that the serpents wound with the sting only, and not with their teeth; but this opinion is founded upon a bare conjecture, because the sting is exposed to view, but the teeth very rarely seen; they are secured within a hose of flesh, which prevents their being broke; the end of them being hooked and exceeding small, would soon be destroyed, if it had not been for this fence that nature has given them. The longest of the black serpents mentioned above is from two to three, or at most four feet long.

The yellow serpent with brown spots, is not so poisonous, nor so long as the black and white one.

The brown serpent is of all three the least poisonous and smallest and shortest in size.

The remedies used here to extract the poison of serpents are various. The rump of a house-cock stript of its feathers and applied to the wound, both powerfully extract the poison, if timely applied. The cock is observed after this to swell to a great bulk, far above its former size, and being thrown out into the fields, no ravenous bird or beast will ever offer to taste of it.

The forked sting taken out of an adder’s tongue, is by the natives steeped in water, with which they wash and cure the wound.

The serpent’s head that gives the wound, being applied, is found to be a good remedy.

New cheese applied timely extracts the poison well.

There are two sorts of weasels in the isle, one of which exceeds that of the common size in bigness; the natives say that the breath of it kills calves, and lambs, and that the lesser sort is apt to occasion a decay in such as frequently have them tame about them; especially such as suffer them to suck and lick about their mouths.

The Inferior Isles About Skye.

SOA-BRETTIL lies within a quarter of a mile to the south of the mountain Quillin; it is five miles in circumference, and full of bogs, and fitter for pasturage than cultivation. About a mile on the west side it is covered with wood, and the rest consists of heath and grass, having a mixture of the mertillo all over. The red garden-currants grow in this isle, and are supposed to have been carried thither by birds. There has been no venomous creature ever seen in this little isle, until within these two years last that a black and white big serpent was seen by one of the inhabitants, who killed it; they believe it came from the opposite coast of Skye, where there are many big serpents. There is abundance of cod and ling round this isle.

On the south of Sleat lies island Oronsa, which is a peninsula at low water; it is a mile in circumference, and very fruitful in corn and grass. As for the latter, it is said to excel any piece of ground of its extent in those parts.

In the north entry to Kyle-Akin, lie several small isles; the biggest and next to Skye is Ilan Nan Gillin, about half a mile in circumference, covered all over with long heath, and the erica baccifera; there is abundance of seals, and sea-fowls about it.

A league further north lies the isle Pabbay, about two miles in circumference; it excels in pasturage, the cows in it afford near double the milk that they yield in Skye. In the dog-days there is a big fly in this isle which infests the cows, makes them run up and down, discomposes them exceedingly, and hinders their feeding insomuch that they must be brought out of the isle to the isle of Skye. This isle affords abundance of lobsters, limpets, whelks, crabs, and ordinary sea-plants.

About half a league further north lies the small isle Gilliman, being a quarter of a mile in circumference; the whole is covered with long heath and the erica baccifera. Within a call further north lies the isle Scalpa, very near to Skye, five miles in circumference; it is mountainous from the south end, almost to the north end, it has wood in several parts of it; the south end is most arable, and is fruitful in corn and grass.

About a mile further north is the isle Raasay, being seven miles in length, and three in breadth, sloping on the west and east sides; it has some wood on all the quarters of it, the whole is fitter for pasturage than cultivation, the ground being generally very unequal, but very well watered with rivulets and springs. There is a spring running down the face of a high rock on the east side of the isle; it petrifies into a white substance, of which very fine lime is made, and there is a great quantity of it. There is a quarry of good stone on the same side of the isle; there is abundance of caves on the west side, which serve to lodge several families, who for their convenience in grazing, fishing, &c., resort thither in the summer. On the west side, particularly near to the village Clachan, the shore abounds with smooth stones of different sizes, variegated all over. The same cattle, fowl, and fish are produced here that are found in the isle of Skye. There is a law observed by the natives that all their fishing lines must be of equal length, for the longest is always supposed to have best access to the fish, which would prove a disadvantage to such as might have shorter ones.

There are some forts in this isle, the highest is in the south end; it is a natural strength, and in form like the crown of a hat; it is called Dun-Cann, which the natives will needs have to be from one Canne, cousin to the king of Denmark. The other lies on the side, is an artificial fort, three stories high, and is called Castle Vreokle.

The proprietor of the isle is Mr. MacLeod, a cadet of the family of that name; his seat is in the village Clachan. The inhabitants have as great veneration for him as any subjects can have for their king. They preserve the memory of the deceased ladies of the place by erecting a little pyramid of stone for each of them, with the lady’s name. These pyramids are by them called crosses; several of them are built of stone and lime, and have three steps of gradual ascent to them. There are eight such crosses about the village, which is adorned with a little tower, and lesser houses, and an orchard with several sorts of berries, pot herbs, &c. The inhabitants are all Protestants, and use the same language, habit, and diet, with the natives of Skye.

About a quarter of a mile further north lies the isle Rona, which is three miles in length; vessels pass through the narrow channel between Raasay and Rona. This little isle is the most unequal rocky piece of ground to be seen anywhere: there is but very few acres fit for digging, the whole is covered with long heath, erica-baccifera, mertillus, and some mixture of grass; it is reckoned very fruitful in pasturage: most of the rocks consist of the hectic stone, and a considerable part of them is of a red colour.

There is a bay on the south-west end of the isle, with two entries, the one is on the west side, the other on the south, but the latter is only accessible; it has a rock within the entry, and a good fishing.

About three leagues to the north-west of Rona is the isle Fladda, being almost joined to Skye; it is all plain arable ground, and about a mile in circumference.

About a mile to the north lies the isle Altvig; it has a high rock facing the east, is near two miles in circumference, and is reputed fruitful in corn and grass; there is a little old chapel in it, dedicated to St Turos. There is a rock of about forty yards in length at the north end of the isle, distinguished for its commodiousness in fishing. Herrings are seen about this rock in great numbers all summer, insomuch that the fisher-boats are sometimes as it were entangled among the shoals of them.

The isle of Troda lies within half a league to the northernmost point of Skye, called Hunish; it is two miles in circumference, fruitful in corn and grass, and had a chapel dedicated to St. Columba. The natives told me that there is a couple of ravens in the isle which suffer none other of their kind to come thither; and when their own young are able to fly they beat them also away from the isle.

Fladda-Chuan, i.e., Fladda of the Ocean, lies about two leagues distant from the west-side of Hunish-point; it is two miles in compass, the ground is boggy, and but indifferent for corn and grass; the isle is much frequented for the plenty of fish of all kinds, on each quarter of it. There are very big whales which pursue the fish on the coast; the natives distinguish one whale for its bigness above all others, and told me that it had many big limpets growing upon its back, and that the eyes of it were of such a prodigious bigness as struck no small terror into the beholders. There is a chapel in the isle dedicated to St. Columba, it has an altar in the east-end, and there is a blue stone of a round form on it, which is always moist. It is an ordinary custom, when any of the fishermen are detained in the isle by contrary winds, to wash the blue stone with water all round, expecting thereby to procure a favourable wind, which the credulous tenant living in the isle says never fails, especially if a stranger wash the stone: the stone is likewise applied to the sides of people troubled with stitches, and they say it is effectual for that purpose. And so great is the regard they have for this stone that they swear decisive oaths on it.

The monk O Gorgon is buried near to this chapel, and there is a stone five feet high at each end of his grave. There is abundance of sea-fowl that come to hatch their young in the isle; the coulternebs are very numerous here, it comes in the middle of March, and goes away in the middle of August; it makes a tour round the isle sunways, before it settles on the ground, and another at going away in August; which ceremony is much approved by the tenant of the isle, and is one of the chief arguments he made use of for making the like round, as he sets out to sea with his boat.

There is a great flock of plovers that come to thus isle from Skye, in the beginning of September; they return again in April, and are said to be near two thousand in all; I told the tenant he might have a couple of these at every meal during the winter and spring, but my motion seemed very disagreeable to him; for he declared that he had never once attempted to take any of them, though he might if he would; and at the same time he told me he wondered how I could imagine that he would be so barbarous as to take the lives of such innocent creatures as came to him only for self-preservation.

There are six or seven rocks within distance of a musket shot, on the south-east side the isle, the sea running between each of them: that lying more easterly is the fort called Bord Cruin, i.e., a round table, from its round form; it is about three hundred paces in circumference, flat in the top, has a deep well within it, the whole is surrounded with a steep rock and has only one place that is accessible by climbing, and that only by one man at a time: there is a violent current of a tide on each side of it, which contributes to render it an impregnable fort, it belongs to Sir Donald MacDonald. One single man above the entry, without being exposed to shot, is able with a staff in his hand, to keep off five hundred attackers; for one only can climb the rock at a time, and that not without difficulty.

There is a high rock on the west side of the fort which may be secured also by a few hands.

About half a league on the south side the round table lies the rock called Jeskar, i.e., Fisher, because many fishing boats resort to it; it is not higher than a small vessel under sail. This rock affords a great quantity of scurvy-grass, of an extraordinary size, and very thick; the natives eat it frequently, as well boiled as raw: two of them told me that they happened to be confined there for the space of thirty hours, by a contrary wind; and being without victuals, fell to eating this scurvy-grass, and finding it of a sweet taste, far different from the land scurvy-grass, they ate a large basketful of it, which did abundantly satisfy their appetites until their return home. They told me also that it was not in the least windy or any other way troublesome to them.

Island Tulm on the west of the wing of Skye, called Trotterness, lies within a musket shot of the castle of the name; it is a hard rock, and clothed with grass; there are two caves on the west side, in which abundance of sea-cormorants build and hatch.

About 5 leagues to the south-west from Tulm lies the island Ascrib, which is divided into several parts by the sea; it is about two miles in compass, and affords very good pasturage; all kinds of fish abound in the neighbouring sea. On the south-west side of the isle Ascrib, at the distance of two leagues, lie the two small isles of Timan, directly in the mouth of Loch Arnizort; they are only fit for pasturage.

On the west side of Vaterness promontory, within the mouth of Loch-Fallart, lies Isa, two miles in compass, being fruitful in corn and grass, and is commodious for fishing of cod and ling.

There are two small isles, called Mingoy, on the north-east side of this isle, which afford good pasturage.

There is a red short kind of dulse growing on the south end of the isle, which occasions a pain in the head when eaten, a property not known in any other dulse whatever.

The two isles Buia and Harlas lie in the mouth of Loch-Brackadil; they are both pretty high rocks, each of them about a mile in circumference, they afford good pasturage, and there are red currants in these small isles, supposed to have been carried there at first by birds.

The southern parts of Skye, as Sleat and Strath, are a month earlier with their grass than the northern parts; and this is the reason that the cattle and sheep, etc., bring forth their young sooner than in the north side.

The days in summer are much longer here than in the south of England, or Scotland, and the nights shorter, which about the summer solstice is not above an hour and a half in length; and the further we come south the contrary is to be observed in proportion.

The air here is commonly moist and cold. This disposes the inhabitants to take a larger dose of brandy or other strong liquors than in the south of Scotland by which they fancy that they qualify the moisture of the air. This is the opinion of all strangers, as well as of the natives, since the one as well as the other drinks at least treble the quantity of brandy in Skye and the adjacent isles that they do in the more southern climate.

The height of the mountains contributes much to the moisture of the place, but more especially the mountain Quillin, which is the husbandman’s almanac; for it is commonly observed that if the heavens above that mountain be clear and without clouds in the morning then it is not doubted but the weather will prove fair; and e contra, the height of that hill reaching to the clouds breaks them, and then they presently after fall down in great rains according as the wind blows. Thus when the wind blows from the south then all the ground lying to the north of Quillin hills is wet with rains, whereas all the other three quarters are dry.

The south-west winds are observed to carry more rain with them than any other, and blow much higher in the most northern point of Skye than they do two miles further south; for which I could perceive no visible cause, unless it be the height of the hill about two miles south from that point; for after we come to the south side of it the wind is not perceived to be so high as on the north side by half.

It is observed of the east wind that though it blow but very gentle in the isle of Skye and on the west side of it for the space of about three or four leagues towards the west, wet, as we advance more westerly, it is sensibly higher; and when we come near to the coast of the more western isles of Uist, Harris, &c., it is observed to blow very fresh, though at the same time it is almost calm on the west side the isle Skye. The wind is attended with fair weather, both in this and other western isles.

The sea in time of a calm is observed to have a rising motion before the north wind blows, which it has not before the approaching of any other wind.

The north wind is still colder, and more destructive to corn, cattle, &c., than any other.

Women observe that their breasts contract to a lesser bulk when the wind blows from the north, and that then they yield less milk than when it blows from any other quarter; and they make the like observation in other creatures that give milk.

They observe that when the sea yields a kind of pleasant and sweet scent it is a sure presage of fair weather to ensue.

The wind in summer blows stronger by land than by sea, and the contrary in winter.

In the summer the wind is sometimes observed to blow from different quarters at the same time. I have seen two boats sail quite contrary ways, until they came within less than a league of each other, and then one of them was becalmed, and the other continued to sail forward.

The tide of ebb here runs southerly, and the tide of flood northerly, where no head lands or promontories are in the way to interpose; for in such cases the tides are observed to hold a course quite contrary to the ordinary motion in these isles and the opposite mainland. This is observed between the east side of Skye and the opposite continent, where the tide of ebb runs northerly, and the tide of flood southerly, as far as Killach-stone, on the south-east of Skye, both tides running directly contrary to what is to be seen in all the western isles and opposite continent. The natives at Kylakin told me that they had seen three different ebbings successively on that part of Skye.

The tide of ebb is always greater with north winds than when it blows from any other quarter; and the tide of flood is always higher with south winds than any other.

The two chief spring tides are on the tenth of September and on the tenth or twentieth of March.

The natives are very much disposed to observe the influence of the moon on human bodies, and for that cause they never dig their peats but in the decrease: for they observe that if they are cut in the increase they continue still moist and never burn clear, nor are they without smoke, but the contrary is daily observed of peats cut in the decrease.

They make up their earthen dykes in the decrease only, for such as are made at the increase are still observed to fall.

They fell their timber, and cut their rushes in time of the decrease.

The Diseases Known and not Known in Skye and the
Adjacent Isles.

THE gout, corns in the feet, convulsions, madness, fits of the mother, vapours, palsy, lethargy, rheumatism, wens, ganglions, king’s-evil, ague, surfeits, and consumptions are not frequent, and barrenness and abortion very rare.

The diseases that prevail here are fevers, stitches, colic, head-ache, megrim, jaundice, sciatica, stone, small-pox, measles, rickets, scurvy, worms, fluxes, tooth-ache, cough, and squinance.

The ordinary remedies used by the natives, are taken from plants, roots, stones, animals, &c.

To cure a pleurisy the letting of blood plentifully is an ordinary remedy.

Whey, in which violets have been boiled, is used as a cooling and refreshing drink for such as are ill of fevers. When the patient has not a sweat duly, their shirt is boiled in water, and afterwards put on them; which causes a speedy sweat. When the patient is very costive, and without passage by stool or urine, or passes the ordinary time of sweating in fevers, two or three handfuls of the sea-plant called dulse, boiled in a little water, and some fresh butter with it, and the infusion drunk procures passage both ways, and sweat shortly after: the dulse growing on stone, not that on the seaward is only proper in this case.

To procure sleep after a fever, the feet, knees, and ankles of the patient are washed in warm water, into which a good quantity of chick-weed is put, and afterwards some of the plant is applied warm to the neck, and between the shoulders, as the patient goes to bed.

The tops of nettles, chopped small, and mixed with a few whites of raw eggs, applied to the forehead and temples, by way of a frontel, is used to procure sleep.

Foxglove, applied warm plaisterwise to the part affected, removes pains that follow after fevers.

The sea-plant linarich, is used to procure sleep, as is mentioned among its virtues.

Erica-baccifera, boiled a little in water, and applied warm to the crown of the head and temples, is used likewise as a remedy to procure sleep.

To remove stitches, when letting blood does not prevail, the part affected is rubbed with an ointment made of camomile and fresh butter, or of brandy with fresh butter; and others apply a quantity of raw scurvy-grass chopped small.

The scarlet-fever, which appeared in this isle only within these two years last, is ordinarily cured by drinking now and then a glass of brandy. If an infant happen to be taken with it, the nurse drinks some brandy, which qualifies the milk, and proves a successful remedy.

The common alga, or sea-ware, is yearly used with success to manure the fruit-trees in Sir Donald Macdonald’s orchard at Armidill: several affirm, that if a quantity of sea-ware be used about the roots of fruit-trees whose growth is hindered by the sea-air, this will make them grow and produce fruit.

Head-ache is removed by taking raw dulse and linarich applied cold by way of a plaister to the temples. This likewise is used as a remedy to remove the megrim. The jaundice is cured by the vulgar, as follows: the patient being stripped naked behind to the middle of the back, he who acts the surgeon’s part marks the 11th bone from the rump on the back with a black stroke in order to touch it with his tongs, as mentioned already.

Sciatica is cured by applying the case with the fat of the carara-fowl to the thigh-bone; and it must not be removed from thence till the cure is performed.

Flamula-Jovis, or spire-wort, being cut small, and a limpet shell filled with it, and applied to the thighbone, causes a blister to rise about the bigness of an egg ----- which being cut, a quantity of watery matter issues from it: the blister rises three times, and being emptied as often, the cure is performed. The seaplant linarich is applied to the place, to cure and dry

Crow-foot of the moor is more effectual for raising a blister, and curing the sciatica, than flamula-Jovis: for that sometimes fails of breaking, or raising the skin, but the crow-foot seldom fails.

Several of the common people have the boldness to venture upon the flamula-Jovis, instead of a purge. They take a little of the infusion, and drink it in melted fresh butter, as the properest vehicle: and this preserves the throat from being excoriated.

For the stone they drink water-gruel without salt. They likewise eat allium or wild garlic, and drink the infusion of it boiled in water, which they find effectual both ways. The infusion of the sea plant dulse boiled is also good against the stone; as is likewise the broth of whelks and limpets. And against the colic, costiveness, and stitches a quantity of scurvy-grass, boiled in water, with some fresh butter added, and eaten for some days, is an effectual remedy.

To kill worms, the infusion of tansy in whey or aquavitæ, taken fasting, is an ordinary medicine with the islanders.

Caryophylata Alpina Chamedress fol. It grows on marble in divers parts, about Christ Church in Strath; never observed before in Britain, and but once in Ireland, by Mr. Hiaton. Morison’s Hist Ray Synopsis, 137.

Carmel, alias knaphard, by Mr. James Sutherland called argatilis sylvaticus. It has a blue flower in July. The plant itself is not used, but the root is eaten to expel wind; and they say it prevents drunkenness by frequent chewing of it; and being so used gives a good relish to all liquors, milk only excepted. It is aromatic, and the natives prefer it to spice for brewing aquavitæ. The root will keep for many years; some say that it is cordial, and allays hunger. Shunnis is a plant highly valued by the natives; who eat it raw, and also boiled with fish, flesh, and milk. It is used as a sovereign remedy to cure the sheep of the cough. The root taken fasting expels wind. It was not known in Britain except in the north-west isles, and some parts of the opposite continent. Mr. James Sutherland sent it to France some years ago.

A quantity of wild sage, chewed between one’s teeth, and put into the ears of cows or sheep that become blind, cures them, and perfectly restores their sight, of which there are many fresh instances both in Skye and Harris, by persons of great integrity.

A quantity of wild sage chopped small, and eaten by horses mixed with their corn, kills worms. The horse must not drink for 10 hours after eating it.

The infusion of wild sage after the same manner produces the like effect.

Wild sage cut small, and mixed among oats given to a horse fasting, and kept without drink for seven or eight hours after, kills worms.

Fluxes are cured by taking now and then a spoonful of the syrup of blue berries that grow on the mertillus.

Plantain boiled in water, and the hectic-stone heated red hot quenched in the same, is successfully used for fluxes.

Some cure the toothache by applying a little of the flamula-Jovis in a limpet shell to the temples.

A green turf heated among embers, as hot as can be endured, and by the patient applied to the side of the head affected, is likewise used for the toothache.

For coughs and colds, water-gruel with a little butter is the ordinary cure.

For coughs and hoarseness they use to bathe the feet in warm water, for the space of a quarter of an hour at least; and then rub a little quantity of deer’s grease (the older the better) to the soles of their feet by the fire. The deer’s grease alone is sufficient in the morning; and this method must be continued until the cure is performed. And it may be used by young or old, except women with child, for the first four months, and such as are troubled with vapours.

Hartstongue and maidenhair boiled in wore and the ale drunk is used for coughs and consumptions.

Milk or water, wherein the hectic stone hash been boiled or quenched red hot, and being taken for ordinary drink, is also efficacious against a consumption.

The hands and feet often washed in water, in which the hectic stone has been boiled, is esteemed restorative.

Yarrow, with the hectic-stone boiled in milk, and frequently drunk, is used for consumptions.

Water-gruel is also found by experience to be good for consumptions. It purifies the blood, and procures appetite, when drunk without salt.

There is a smith in the parish of Kilmartin, who is reckoned a doctor for curing faintness of the spirits. This he performs in the following manner:

The patient being laid on the anvil with his face uppermost, the smith takes a big hammer in both his hands, and making his face all grimace, he approaches his patient; and then drawing his hammer from the ground, as if he designed to hit him with his full strength on the forehead, he ends in a feint, else he would be sure to cure the patient of all diseases; but the smith being accustomed to the performance, has a dexterity of managing his hammer with discretion; though at the same time he must do it so as to strike terror in the patient; and this, they say, has always the designed effect.

The smith is famous for his pedigree; for it has been observed of a long time that there has been but one only child born in the family, and that always a a son, and when he arrived to man’s estate, the father died presently after: the present smith makes up the thirteenth generation of that race of people who are bred to be smiths, and all of them pretend to this cure.

Ilica passio or twisting of the guts, has been several times cured by drinking a draught of cold water, with a little oatmeal in it, and then hanging the patient by the heels for some time. The last instance in Skye was by John Morison, in the village of Talisker, who by this remedy alone cured a boy of fourteen years of age. Dr. Pitcairn told me that the like cure had been performed in the shire of Fife for the same disease. A cataplasm of hot dulse, with its juice, applied several times to the lower part of the belly, cured the iliac passion.

The sea-plant dulse is used, as is said above, to remove colics; and to remove that distemper and costiveness, a little quantity of fresh butter, and some scurvy-grass boiled and eaten with its infusion, is a usual and effectual remedy.

A large handful of the sea-plant dulse, growing upon stone, being applied outwardly, as is mentioned above, against the iliaca passio takes away the after-birth with great ease and safety; this remedy is to be repeated until it produce the desired effect, though some hours may be intermitted: the fresher the dulse is, the operation is the stronger: for if it is above two or three days old, little is to be expected from it in this case. This plant seldom or never fails of success, though the patient had been delivered several days before; and of this I have lately seen an extraordinary instance at Edinburgh in Scotland, when the patient was given over as dead.

Dulse, being eaten raw or boiled, is by daily experience found to be an excellent antiscorbutic; it is better raw in this case, and must be first washed in cold water.

For a fracture, the first thing they apply to a broken bone is the white of an egg, and some barley meal; and then they tie splinters round it, and keep it so tied for some days. When the splinters are untied, they make use of the following ointment, viz., a like quantity of betonica Pauli, St. John’s wort, golden rod, all cut and bruised in sheep’s grease, or fresh butter, to a consistence; some of this they spread on a cloth, and lay on the wound, which continues untied for a few days.

Giben of St. Kilda, i.e., the fat of sea-fowls made into a pudding in the stomach of the fowl, is also an approved vulnerary for man or beast.

The vulgar make purges of the infusion of scurvy-grass, and some fresh butter; and this they continue to take for the space of a week or two, because it is mild in its operation.

They use the infusion of the sea-plant dulse after the same manner, instead of a purge.

Eyes that are blood-shot or become blind for some days are cured here by applying some blades of the plant fern, and the yellow is by them reckoned best; this they mix with the white of an egg, and lay it on some coarse flax ----- and the egg next to the face and brows, and the patient is ordered to lie on his back.

To ripen a tumour or boil they cut female jacobea small, mix it with some fresh butter on a hot stone, and apply it warm; and this ripens and draws the tumour quickly, and without pain; the same remedy is used for women’s breasts that are hard or swelled.

For taking the syroms out of the hands they use ashes of burnt sea-ware, mixed with salt water; and washing their hands in it, without drying them, it kills the worms.

Burnt ashes of sea-ware preserve cheese, instead of salt; which is frequently practiced in this isle. Ashes of burnt sea-ware scour flaxen thread better, and make it whiter than anything else.

When their feet are swelled and benumbed with cold, they scarify their heels with a lancet.

They make glisters of the plant mercury, and some of the vulgar use it as a purge, for which it serves both ways.

They make glisters also of the roots of flags, water, and salt butter.

They have found out a strange remedy for such as could never ease nature at sea by stool or urine. There were three such men in the parishof St. Mary’s, in Trotterness. Two of them I knew, to wit, John Macphade and Finlay Macphade; they lived on the coast, and went often a fishing, and after they had spent some nine or ten hours at sea, their bellies would swell; for after all their endeavours to get passage either ways, it was impracticable until they came to land, and then they found no difficulty in the thing. This was a great inconvenience to any boat’s crew in which either of these three men had been fishing, for it obliged them often to forbear when the fishing was most plentiful, and to row to the shore with any of these men that happened to become sick; for landing was the only remedy. At length one of their companions thought of an experiment to remove this inconvenience; he considered that when any of these men had got their feet on dry ground they could then ease nature with as much freedom as easy as any other person; and therefore he carried a large green turf of earth to the boat, and placed the green side uppermost, without telling the reason. One of these men who was subject to the infirmity above-mentioned, perceiving an earthen turf in the boat, was surprised at the sight of it, and enquired for what purpose it was brought thither? He that laid it there answered that he had done it to serve him, and that when he was disposed to ease nature he might find himself on land though he was at sea. The other took this as an affront, so that from words they came to blows; their fellows with much ado did separate them, and blamed him that brought the turf into the boat, since such a fancy could produce no other effect than a quarrel. All of them employed their time eagerly in fishing, until some hours after that the angry man, who before was so much affronted at the turf, was so ill of the swelling of his belly as usual, that he begged of the crew to row to the shore, but this was very disobliging to them all. He that intended to try the experiment with the turf, bid the sick man stand on it, and he might expect to have success by it; but he refused,and still resented the affront which he thought was intended upon him; but at last all the boat’s crew urged him to try what the turf might produce, since it could not make him worse than he was. The man being in great pain was by their repeated importunities prevailed upon to stand with his feet on the turf; and it had the wished effect, for nature became obedient both ways; and then the angry man changed his note, for he thanked his doctor whom he had some hours before beat. And from that time none of these three men ever went to sea without a green turf in their boat, which proved effectual. This is matter of fact, sufficiently known and attested by the better part of the parishioners still living upon the place.

The ancient way the islanders used to procure sweat was thus: A part of an earthen floor was covered with fire, and when it was suiciently heated the fire was taken away, and the ground covered with a heap of straw; upon this straw a quantity of water was poured, and the patient lying on the straw, the heat of it put his whole body into a sweat.

To cause any particular part of the body to sweat, they dig a hole in an earthen floor, and fill it with hazel sticks and dry rushes; above these they put a hectic-stone, red hot, and pouring some water into the hole, the patient holds the part affected over it, and this procures a speedy sweat.

Their common way of procuring sweat is by drinking a large draught of water gruel with some butter as they go to bed.

Of the Various Effects of Fishes on Several Constitutions
in these Islands.

DONGAL MACEWAN became feverish always after eating of fish of any kind, except thorn-back and dog-fish.

A ling fish, having brown spots on the skin, causes such as eat of its liver to cast their skin from head to foot. This happened to three children in the hamlet of Talisker, after eating the liver of a brown spotted ling.

Finley Ross and his family, in the parish of Uig having eaten a fresh ling fish, with brown spots on its skin, he and they became indisposed and feverish for some few days, and in a little time after they were blistered all over. They say that when the fresh ling is salted a few days, it has no such effect.

There was a horse in the village Bretill which had the erection backward, contrary to all other of its kind.

A weaver in Portree has a faculty of erecting and letting fall his ears at pleasure, and opens and shuts his mouth on such occasions.

A boy in the castle of Duntulm, called Mister to a by-name, hath a pain and swelling in his great toe at every change of the moon, and it continues only for the space of one day, or two at most.

Allan Macleod being about ten years of age, was taken ill of a pain which moved from one part of his body to another, and where it was felt the skin appeared blue; it came to his toe, thigh, testicles, arms, and head; when the boy was bathed in warm water he found most ease. The hinder part of his head, which was last affected, had a little swelling and a woman endeavoring to squeeze the humour out of it, by bruising it on each side with her nails she forced out at the same time a little animal near an inch in length, having a white head sharp pointed, the rest of its body of a red colour, and full of small feet on each side. Animals of this sort have been seen in the head and legs of several persons in the isles, and are distinguished by the name of Fillan.

Yeast, How Preserved by the Natives.

A rod of oak, of four, five, six, or eight inches about, twisted round like a with, boiled in wort, well dried, and kept in a little bundle of barley straw, and being steeped again in wort, causeth it to ferment, and procures yeast: the rod is cut before the middle of May, and is frequently used to furnish yeast; and being preserved and used in this manner, it serves for many years together. I have seen the experiment tried, and was shown a piece of a thick with, which hath been preserved for making ale with, for about twenty or thirty years.

The Effects of Eating Hemlock-Root.

FERGUS CAIRD, an empiric, living in the village Talisker, having by a mistake eaten hemlock- root, instead of the white wild carrot, his eyes did presently roll about, his countenance became very pale, his sight had almost failed him, the frame of his body was all in a strange convulsion,and his pudenda retired so inwardly, that there was no discerning whether he had then been male or female. All the remedy given him in this state was a draught of hot milk, and a little aquavitæ: added to it; which he no sooner drank, but he vomited presendy after, yet the root still remained in his stomach. They continued to administer the same remedy for the space of four or five hours together, but in vain; and about an hour after they ceased to give him anything, he voided the root by stool, and then was restored to his former state of health: he is still living, for anything I know, and is of a strong healthful constitution.

Some few years ago, all the flax in the barony of Trotterness was over-run with a great quantity of green worms, which in a few days would have destroyed it, had not a flock of ravens made a tour round the ground where the flax grew, for the space of fourteen miles, and eat up the worms in a very short time.

The inhabitants of this isle are generally well proportioned, and their complexion is for the most part black. They are not obliged to art in forming their bodies, for nature never fails to act her part bountifully to them; and perhaps there is no part of the habitable globe where so few bodily imperfections are to be seen, nor any children that go more early. I have observed several of them walk alone before they were ten months old; they are bathed all over every morning and evening, some in cold, some in warm water; but the latter is most commonly used and they wear nothing strait about them. The mother generally suckles the child, failing of which a nurse is provided, for they seldom bring up any by hand; they give new-born infants fresh butter to take away the miconium, and this they do for several days; they taste neither sugar, nor cinnamon, nor have they any daily allowance of sack bestowed on them, as the custom is elsewhere, nor is the nurse allowed to taste ale.

The generality wear neither shoes nor stockings before they are seven, eight, or ten years old; and many among them wear no night-caps before they are sixteen years old, and upwards; some use none all their lifetime, and these are not so liable to headaches, as others who keep their heads warm.

They use nothing by way of prevention of sickness, observing it as a rule to do little or nothing of that nature. The abstemiousness of the mothers is no small advantage to the children: they are a very prolific people, so that many of their numerous issue must seek their fortune on the continent, and not a few in foreign countries, for want of employment at home. When they are any way fatigued by travel, or otherwise, they fail not to bathe their feet in warm water, wherein red moss has been boiled, and rub them with it going to bed.

The ancient custom of rubbing the body by a warm hand opposite to the fire, is now laid aside, except from the lower part of the thigh downwards to the ankle; this they rub before and behind, in cold weather, and at going to bed. Their simple diet contributes much to their state of health, and long life; several among them of my acquaintance arrived at the age of eighty, ninety, and upwards; but the Lady Macleod lived to the age of one hundred and three years: she had then a comely head of hair, and a case of good teeth, and always enjoyed the free use of her understanding until the week in which she died.

The inhabitants of this and all the Western Isles do wear their shoes after Mr. Locke’s mode, in his book of education; and among other great advantages by it, they reckon these two ----- that they are never troubled with the gout, or corns in their feet.

They lie for the most part on beds of straw, and some on beds of heath; which latter being made after their way, with the tops uppermost, are almost as soft as a feather-bed, and yield a pleasant scent after lying on them once. The natives by experience have found it to be effectual for drying superfluous humours, and strengthening the nerves. It is very refreshing after a fatigue of any kind. The Picts are said to have had an art of brewing curious ale with the tops of heath, but they refused to communicate it to the Scots, and so it is quite lost.

A native of this isle requires treble the dose of physic that will serve one living in the south of Scotland for a purge; yet an islander is easier purged in the south than at home. Those of the best rank are easier wrought on by purging medicines, than the vulgar.

The inhabitants are of all people easiest cured of green wounds; they are not so liable to fevers as others on such occasions; and therefore they never cut off arm or leg, though never so ill broke, and take the freedom to venture on all kinds of meat and drink, contrary to all rule in such cases, and yet commonly recover of their wounds.

Many of the natives, upon occasion of sickness, are disposed to try experiments, in which they succeed so well that I could not hear of the least inconvenience attending their practice. I shall only bring one instance more of this, and that is of the illiterate empiric Neil Beaton in Skye; who of late is so well known in the isles and continent, for his great success in curing several dangerous distempers, though he never appeared in the quality of a physician until he arrived at the age of forty years, and then also without the advantage of education. He pretends to judge of the various qualities of plants and roots by their different tastes; he has likewise a nice observation of the colours of their flowers, from which he learns their astringent and loosening qualities; he extracts the juice of plants and roots after a chemical way, peculiar to himself, and with little or no charge.

He considers his patient’s constitution before any medicine is administered to them: and he has formed such a system for curing diseases as serves for a rule to him upon all occasions of this nature.

He treats Riverius’s Lilium Medicinæ, and some other practical pieces that he has heard of, with contempt; since in several instances it appears that their method of curing has failed, where his had good success.

Some of the diseases cured by him are as follows: running sores in legs and arms, grievous headaches; he had the boldness to cut a piece out of a woman s skull broader than half-a-crown, and by this restored her to perfect health. A gentlewoman of my acquaintance having contracted a dangerous pain in her belly some days after her delivery of a child, and several medicines being used, she was thought past recovery, if she continued in that condition a few hours longer; at last this doctor happened to come there, and being employed, applied a simple plant to the part affected, and restored the patient in a quarter of an hour after the application. One of his patients told me that he sent him a cap interlined with some seeds, etc., to wear for the cough, which it removed in little time; and it had the like effect upon his brother.

The success attending this man’s cures was so extraordinary that several people thought his performances to have proceeded rather from a compact with the devil, than from the virtue of simples. To obviate this, Mr. Beaton pretends to have had some education from his father, though he died when he hurnself was but a boy. I have discoursed him seriously at different times, and am fully satisfied that he uses no unlawful means for obtaining his end.

His discourse of the several constitutions, the qualities of plants, etc., was more solid than could be expected from one of his education. Several sick people from remote isles came to him, and some from the shore of Ross, at 70 miles distant, sent for his advice. I left him very successful, but can give no further account of him since that time.

They are generally a very sagacious people, quick of apprehension,and even the vulgar exceed all those of their rank and education I ever yet saw in any other country. They have a great genius for music and mechanics. I have observed several of their children that before they could speak were capable to distinguish and make choice of one tune before another upon the violin; for they appeared always uneasy until the tune which they fancied best was played, and then they expressed their satisfaction by the motions of their head and hands.

There are several of them who invent tunes very taking in the south of Scotland and elsewhere. Some musicians have endeavoured to pass for first inventors of them by changing their name, but this has been impracticable; for whatever language gives the modern name, the tune still continues to speak its true original; and of this I have been showed several instances.

Some of the natives are very dexterous in engraving trees, birds, deer, dogs, etc., upon bone and horn, or wood, without any other tool than a sharp-pointed knife.

Several of both sexes have a quick vein of poesy, and in their language (which is very emphatic) they compose rhyme and verse, both which powerfully affect the fancy. And in my judgment (which is not singular in this matter) with as great force as that of any ancient or modern poet I ever yet read. They have generally very retentive memories; they see things at a great distance. The unhappiness of their education, and their want of converse with foreign nations, deprives them of the opportunity to cultivate and beautify their genius, which seems to have been formed by nature for great attainments. And on the other hand, their retiredness may be rather thought an advantage, at least to their better part; according to that of the historian: "Plus valuit apud hos ignorantia vitiorum, quam apud Græcos omnia præcepta philosophorum": The ignorance of vices is more powerful among those than all the precepts of philosophy are among the Greeks.

For they are to this day happily ignorant of many vices that are practiced in the learned and polite world. I could mention several, for which they have not as yet got a name, or so much as a notion of them.

The diet generally used by the natives consists of fresh food, for they seldom taste any that is salted, except butter. The generality eat but little flesh, and only persons of distinction eat it every day and make three meals, for all the rest eat only two, and they eat more boiled than roasted. Their ordinary diet is butter, cheese, milk, potatoes, colworts, brochan, i.e., oatmeal and water boiled. The latter taken with some bread is the constant food of several thousands of both sexes in this and other isles, during the winter and spring; yet they undergo many fatigues both by sea and land, and are very healthful. This verifies what the poet saith, "Populis sat est lymphaque ceresque": Nature is satisfied with bread and water.

There is no place so well stored with such great quantity of good beef and mutton, where so little of both is consumed by eating. They generally use no fine sauces to entice a false appetite, nor brandy or tea for digestion; the purest water serves them in such cases. This, together with their ordinary exercise, and the free air, preserves their bodies and minds in a regular frame, free from the various convulsions that ordinarily attend luxury. There is not one of them too corpulent, nor too meagre.

The men servants have always double the quantity of bread, etc., that is given to women servants, at which the latter are no ways offended, in regard of the many fatigues by sea and land which the former undergo.

Oon, which in English signifies froth, is a dish used by several of the islanders, and some on the opposite mainland, in time of scarcity, when they want bread. It is made in the following manner: A quantity of milk or whey is boiled in a pot, and then it is wrought up to the mouth of the pot with a long stick of wood, having a cross at the lower end. It is turned about like the stick for making chocolate; and being thus made, it is supped with spoons. It is made up five or six times in the same manner, and the last is always reckoned best and the first two or three frothings the worst. The milk or whey that is in the bottom of the pot is reckoned much better in all respects than simple milk. It may be thought that such as feed after this rate are not fit for action of any kind; but I have seen several that lived upon this sort of food, made of whey only, for some months together, and yet they were able to undergo the ordinary fatigue of their employments, whether by sea or land; and I have seen them travel to the tops of high mountains as briskly as any I ever saw.

Some who live plentifully make these dishes above-said of goats’ milk, which is said to be nourishing. The milk is thickened, and tastes much better after so much working. Some add a little butter and nutmeg to it. I was treated with this dish in several places; and being asked whether this said dish or chocolate was best, I told them that if we judged by the effects this dish was preferable to chocolate; for such as drink often of the former enjoy a better state of health than those who use the latter.


THE ancient way of dressing corn, which is yet used in several isles, is called graddan, from the Irish word grad, which signified quick. A woman sitting down takes a handful of corn, holding it by the stalks in her left hand, and then sets fire to the ears, which are presently in a flame. She has a stick in her right hand, which she manages very dexterously, beating off the grain at the very instant when the husk is quite burnt; for if she miss of that she must use the kiln, but experience has taught them this art to perfection. The corn may be so dressed, winnowed, ground, and baked within an hour after reaping from the ground. The oat bread dressed as above is loosening, and that dressed in the kiln astringent, and of greater strength for labourers: but they love the graddan, as being more agreeable to their taste. This barbarous custom is much laid aside since the number of their mills increased. Captain Fairweather, master of an English vessel; having dropped anchor at Bernera of Glenelk over against Skye, saw two women at this employment and wondering to see so much game and smoke he came near, and finding that it was corn they burnt, he ran away in great haste telling the natives that he had seen two mad women very busy burning corn. The people came to see what the matter was, and laughed at the captain’s mistake, though he was not a little surprised at the strangeness of a custom that he had never seen or heard of before.

There are two fairs of late held yearly at Portree on the east side of Skye. The convenience of the harbour, which is in the middle of the isle, made them chuse this for the fittest place. The first holds about the middle of June, the second about the beginning of September. The various products of this and the adjacent isles and continent are sold here ---- viz., horses, cows, sheep, goats, hides, skins, butter, cheese, fish, wool, &c.

All the horses and cows sold at the fair swim to the mainland over one of the ferries or sounds called kyles ----- one of which is on the east, the other on the south side of Skye. That on the east is about a mile broad, and the other on the south is half a mile. They begin when it is near low water and fasten a twisted with about the lower jaw of each cow. The other end of the with is fastened to another cow’s tail; and the number so tied together is commonly five. A boat with four oars rows off, and a man sitting in the stern holds the with in his hand to keep up the foremost cow’s head; and thus all the five cows swim as fast as the boat rows; and in this manner above a hundred may be ferried over in one day. These cows are sometimes drove about 400 miles further south. They soon grow fat, and prove sweet and tender beef.

Their Habit.

THE first habit wore by persons of distinction in the islands was the leni-croich, from the Irish word leni, which signifies a shirt, and croach saffron, because their shirt was dyed with that herb. The ordinary number of ells used to make this robe was twenty-four. It was the upper garb, reaching below the knees, and was tied with a belt round the middle; but the islanders have laid it aside about a hundred years ago.

They now generally use coat, waistcoat, and breeches, as elsewhere; and on their heads wear bonnets made of thick cloth ----- some blue, some black, and some grey.

Many of the people wear trews. Some have them very fine woven like stockings of those made of cloth. Some are coloured, and others striped. The latter are as well shaped as the former, lying close to the body from the middle downwards, and tied round with a belt above the haunches. There is a square piece of cloth which hangs down before. The measure for shaping the trews is a stick of wood, whose length is a cubit, and that divided into the length of a finger and a half a finger, so that it requires more skill to make it than the ordinary habit.

The shoes anciently wore were a piece of the hide of a deer, cow, or horse, with the hair on, being tied behind and before with a point of leather. The generality now wear shoes, having one thin sole only, and shaped after the right and left foot so that what is for one foot will not serve the other.

But persons of distinction wear the garb in fashion in the south of Scotland.

The plaid wore only by the men is made of fine wool, the thread as fine as can be made of that kind. It consists of divers colours; and there is a great deal of ingenuity required in sorting the colours so as to be agreeable to the nicest fancy. For this reason the women are at great pains, first to give an exact pattern of the plaid upon a piece of wood, having the number of every thread of the stripe on it. The length of it is commonly seven double ells. The one end hangs by the middle over the left arm, the other going round the body, hangs by the end over the left arm also ----- the right hand above it is to be at liberty to do anything upon occasion. Every isle differs from each other in their fancy of making plaids as to the stripes in breadth and colours. This humour is as different through the mainland of the Highlands, in so far that they who have seen those places are able at first view of a man’s plaid to guess the place of his residence.

When they travel on foot the plaid is tied on the breast with a bodkin of bone or wood (just as the spine wore by the Germans, according to the description of C. Tacitus). The plaid is tied round the middle with a leather belt. It is plaited from the belt to the knee very nicely. This dress for footmen is found much easier and lighter than breeches or trews.

The ancient dress wore by the women, and which is yet wore by some of the vulgar, called arisad, is a white plaid, having a few small stripes of black, blue, and red. It reached from the neck to the heels, and was tied before on the breast with a buckle of silver or brass, according to the quality of the person. I have seen some of the former of a hundred marks value. It was broad as any ordinary pewter plate, the whole curiously engraved with various animals, &c. There was a lesser buckle which was wore in the middle of the larger, and above two ounces weight. It had in the centre a large piece of crystal, or some finer stone, and this was set all round with several finer stones of a lesser size. The plaid being plaited all round, was tied with a belt below the breast. The belt was of leather, and several pieces of silver intermixed with the leather like a chain. The lower end of the belt has a piece of plate about eight inches long and three in breadth curiously engraved, the end of which was adorned with fine stones or pieces of red coral. They wore sleeves of scarlet cloth, closed at the end as men’s vests, with gold lace round them, having plate buttons set with fine stones. The head dress was a fine kerchief of linen strait about the head, hanging down the back taper-wise. A large lock of hair hangs down their cheeks above their breast, the lower end tied with a knot of ribbands.

The islanders have a great respect for their chiefs and heads of tribes, and they conclude grace after every meal with a petition to God for their welfare and prosperity. Neither will they, as far as in them lies, suffer them to sink under any misfortune; but in case of a decay of estate, make a voluntary contribution on their behalf, as a common duty to support the credit of their families.

Way of Fighting.

THE ancient way of fighting was by set battles; and for arms some had broad two-handed swords and head pieces, and others bows and arrows. When all their arrows were spent they attacked one another with sword in hand. Since the invention of guns they are very early accustomed to use them, and carry their pieces with them wherever they go. They likewise learn to handle the broad sword and target. The chief of each tribe advances with his followers within shot of the enemy, having first laid aside their upper garments; and after one general discharge they attack them with sword in hand, having their target on their left hand (as they did at Killiecrankie), which soon brings the matter to an issue, and verifies the observation made of them by our historians:

Aut mors cito, aut victoria læta.

This isle is divided into three parts, which are possessed by different proprietors. The southern part called Sleat is the property and title of Sir Donald Macdonald, knight and baronet. His family is always distinguished from all the tribes of his name by the Irish as well as English, and called Macdonald absolutely, and by way of excellence; he being reckoned by genealogists and all others the first for antiquity among all the ancient tribes, both in the isles and continent. He is lineally descended from Sommerled, who, according to Buchanan, was Thane of Argyll. He got the Isles into his possession by virtue of his wife’s right. His son was called Donald, and from him all the families of the name Macdonald are descended. He was the first of that name who had the title of King of the Isles. One of that name subscribing a charter granted by the King of Scots to the family of Roxburgh, writes as follows: ----- "Donald, King of the Isles, witness." He would not pay homage to the King for the isles, but only for the lands which he held of him on the continent.

One of Donald’s successors married a daughter of King Robert the Second, the first of the name of Stuart, by whom he acquired several lands in the Highlands. The Earldom of Ross came to this family by marrying the heiress of the house of Lesly. One of the Earls of Ross, called John, being of an easy temper, and too liberal to the Church, and to his vassals and friends, his son Æneas (by Buchanan called Donald) was so opposite to his father’s conduct that he gathered together an army to oblige him from giving away any more of his estate. The father raised an army against his son, and fought him at sea on the coast of Mull. The place is since called the Bloody Bay. The son, however, had the victory. This disposed the father to go straight to the King, and make over the right of all his estate to him. The son kept possession some time after. However, this occasioned the fall of that great family, though there are yet extant several ancient tribes of the name, both in the isles and continent. Thus far the genealogists Macvurich and Hugh Macdonald, in their manuscripts.

The next adjacent part to Slait, and joining it on the north side, is Strath. It is the property of the Laird of Mackinnon, head of an ancient tribe.

On the north-west side of Strath lies that part of Skye called Macleod’s Country, possessed by Macleod. Genealogists say he is lineally descended from Leod, son to the Black Prince of Man. He is head of an ancient tribe.

The barony of Trotterness, on the north side Skye, belongs to Sir Donald Macdonald. The proprietors and all the inhabitants are Protestants, except twelve, who are Roman Catholics. The former observe the festivals of Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, and that of St. Michael’s. Upon the latter they have a cavalcade in each parish, and several families bake the cake called St. Michael’s Bannock.


THE Isle of Bute, being ten miles in length, lies on the west side of Cowal, from which it is separated by a narrow channel, in several parts not a mile broad. The north end of this isle is mountainous and heathy, being more designed for pasturage than cultivation. The mould is brown or black, and in some parts clayey. The ground yields a good produce of oats, barley, and pease. There is but little wood growing there, yet there is a coppice at the side of Loch-Fad. The ground is arable from the middle to the southward; the hectic-stone is to be had in many parts of this isle, and there is a quarry of red stone near the town of Rosa, by which the fort there, and the chapel on its north side, have been built. Rothesay, the head town of the shire of Bute and Arran, lies on the east coast of Bute, and is one of the titles of the Prince of Scotland. King Robert the Third created his son Duke of Rothesay and Steward of Scotland; and afterwards Queen Mary created the Lord Darnley Duke of Rothesay before her marriage with him. This town is a very ancient royal borough, but thinly peopled, there not being above a hundred families in it, and they have no foreign trade. On the north side of Rothesay there is a very ancient ruinous fort, round in form, having a thick wall, and about three stories high, and passages round within the wall. It is surrounded with a wet ditch; it has a gate on the south and a double gate on the east, and a bastion on each side the gate, and without these there is a draw-bridge, and the sea flows within 40 yards of it. The fort is large enough for exercising a battalion of men; it has a chapel and several little houses within, and a large house of four stories high fronting the eastern gate. The people here have a tradition that this fort was built by King Rosa, who is said to have come to this isle before King Fergus the First. The other forts are Dun-Owle and Dun-Allin, both on the west side.

The churches here are as follow: ----- Kilmichael, Kilblain, and Kil-Chattan, in the South Parish; and Lady Kirk in Rothesay is the most northerly parish. All the inhabitants are Protestants.

The natives here are not troubled with any epidemical disease. The small-pox visits them commonly once every sixth or seventh year. The oldest man now living in this isle is one Fleming, a weaver in Rothesay. His neighbours told me that he could never ease nature at sea, who is 90 years of age. The inhabitants generally speaking the English and Irish tongue, and wear the same habit with those of the other islands. They are very industrious fishers, especially for herring, for which use they are furnished with about 80 large boats. The tenants pay their rent with the profit of herrings, if they are to be had anywhere on the western coast.

The principal heritors here are Stuart of Bute, who is the hereditary Sheriff of this shire, and hath his seat in Rosa; Ballantine of Kames, whose seat is at the head of the bay of that name, and has an orchard by it; Stuart of Estick, whose seat has a park and orchard. And about a mile to the South of Rothesay, next lies two isles called Cumbrae the greater, and the lesser; the former is within a league of Bute. This island has a chapel and a well, which the natives esteem a catholicon for all diseases. This isle is a mile in length, but the other isle is much less in compass. Both isles are the property of Montgomery of Skelmorlie.


THE name of this isle is by some derived from Arran, which in the Irish language signifies bread. Others think it comes more probably from Ann or Arfyn, which in their language is as much as the place of the giant Fin-Ma-Coul’s slaughter or execution; for Aar signifies slaughter, and so they will have Arin only the contraction of Arrin or Fin. The received tradition of the great giant Fin-Ma-Coul’s military valour, which he exercised upon the ancient natives here, seems to favour this conjecture; this, they say, is evident from the many stones set up in divers places of the isle, as monuments upon the graves of persons of note that were killed in battle. This isle is twenty-four miles from south to north and seven miles from east to west. It lies between the isle of Bute and Kintyre, in the opposite mainland the isle is high and mountainous, but slopes on each side round the coast, and the Glen is only made use of for village. The mountains near Brodick Bay are of a considerable height; all the hills generally afford a good pasturage, though a great part of them be covered only with heath.

The mould here is of divers colours, being black and brown near the hills and clayey and sandy upon the coast.

The natives told me that some places of the isle afford fuller’s earth. The coast on the east side is rocky near the shore. The stones on the coast, for some miles beneath Brodick, are all of a red colour, and of these the Castle of Brodick is built. The natives say that the mountains near the Castle of Brodick afford crystal, and that the Duchess of Hamilton put so great a value on it as to be at the charge of cutting a necklace of it, which the inhabitants take as a great honour done them, because they have a great veneration for her Grace. There is no considerable woods here, but a few coppices, yet that in the Glen towards the west is above a mile in length. There are capacious fields of arable ground on each side Brodick Bay, as also on the opposite western coast. The largest and best field for pasturage is that on the south-west side.

Several rivers on each side this isle afford salmon, particularly the two rivers on the west called Machir side, and the two in Kirkmichael and Brodick Bay.

The air here is temperately cold and moist, which is in some measure qualified by the fresh breezes that blow from the hills, but the natives think a dram of strong waters is a good corrective.

There are several caves on the coast of this isle. Those on the west are pretty large, particularly that in Druim-cruey. A hundred men may sit or lie in it; it is contracted gradually from the floor upwards to the roof. In the upper end there is a large piece of rock formed like a pillar. There is engraven on it a deer, and underneath it a two-handed sword. There is a void space on each side this pillar.

The south side of the cave has a horse-shoe engraven on it. On each side the door there is a hole cut out, and that, they say, was for holding big trees on which the caldrons hang for boiling their beef and venison. The natives say that this was the cave in which Fin-Ma-Coul lodged during the time of his residence in this isle, and that his guards lay in the lesser caves which are near this big one. There is a little cave joining to the largest, and this they call the cellar

There is a cave some miles more southerly on the same coast, and they told me that the minister preached in it sometimes, in regard of it being more centrical than the Parish Church.

Several erected stones are to be seen on each side this isle. Four of these are near Brodick Bay, about the distance of 70 yards from the river, and are seven feet high each. The highest of these stones that fell under my observation was on the south side of Kirkmichael River, and is above fifteen feet high. There is a stone coffin near it, which has been filled with human bones, until of late that the river washed away the earth and the bones that were in the coffin. MacLouis, who had seen them, says they were of no larger size than those of our own time. On the west side there are three stones erected in Baelliminich and a fourth at some distance from these, about six feet high each. In the moor on the east side Druim-cruey, there is a circle of stones; the area is about thirty paces. There is a stone of the same shape and about forty paces to the west of the circle the natives say that this circle was made by the giant Fin-Ma-Coul, and that to the single stone, Bran, Fin-Ma-Coul’s hunting-dog, was usually tied. About half a mile to the north side of Baelliminich there are two stones erected, each of them eight feet high.

There is a circle of big stones a little to the south of Druim-cruey, the area of which is about twelve paces. There is a broad thin stone in the middle of this circle, supported by three lesser stones. The ancient inhabitants are reported to have burnt their sacrifices on the broad stone in time of heathenism.

There is a thin broad stone tapering towards the top erected within a quarter of a mile of the sea, near Machir River, and is nine feet high; and at some little distance from the river there is a large cavern of stones.

There is an eminence of about a thousand paces in compass on the sea coast in Druim-cruey village, and it is fenced about with a stone-wall. Of old it was a sanctuary, and whatever number of men or cattle could get within it were secured from the assaults of their enemies, the place being privileged by universal consent.

The only good harbour in this isle is Lamlash, which is in the south-east end of the isle of that name.

There is a great fishing of cod and whiting in and about this bay.

The whole isle is designed by nature more for pasturage than cultivation. The hills are generally covered all over with heath, and produce a mixture of the erica-baccifera, catstail, and juniper, all which are very agreeable to the eye in summer. The highest hills of this island are seen at a considerable distance from several parts of the Continent and North-west Isles, and they serve instead of a forest to maintain the deer, which are about four hundred in number, and they are carefully kept by a forester to give sport to the Duke of Hamilton, or any of his family that go a hunting there. For if any of the natives happen to kill a deer without license, which is not often granted, he is liable to a fine of £20 Scots for each deer. And when they grow too numerous, the forester grants licenses for killing a certain number of them, on condition they bring the skins to himself.

The cattle here are horses and cows of a middle size, and they have also sheep and goats. This isle affords the common sea and land fowls that are to be had in the Western Isles. The black cock is not allowed to be killed here without a license; the transgressors are liable to a fine.

The Castle of Brodick, on the north side of the bay of that name, stands on a plain, from which there is about 400 paces of a gradual descent towards the sea.

This castle is built in a long form. From south to north there is a wall of two stories high that encompasses the castle and tower. The space within the wall on the south side the castle is capable of mustering a battalion of men.

The castle is four stories high, and has a tower of great height joined to the north side, and that has a bastion close to it, to which a lower bastion is added. The south and west sides are surrounded with a broad wet ditch, but the east and north sides have a descent which will not admit of a wet ditch. The gate looks to the east. This castle is the Duke of Hamilton’s seat when his Grace or any of the family make their summer visit to this island. The bailiff or steward has his residence in this castle, and he has a deputation to act with full power to levy the rents, give leases of the lands, and hold courts of justice.

There is another castle belonging to the Duke in the north side of the isle, at the head of Loch-Kenistil, in which there is a harbour for barks and boats. The isle of Arran is the Duke of Hamilton’s property (a very small part excepted). It lies in the sheriffdom of Bute, and made part of the diocese of Argyll.

The inhabitants of this island are composed of several tribes. The most ancient family among them is by the natives reckoned to be MacLouis, which in the ancient language signifies the son of Lewis. They own themselves to be descended of French parentage. Their surname in English is Fullerton, and their title Kirk-Mitchell, the place of their residence. If tradition be true, this little family is said to be of 700 years standing. The present possessor obliged me with the sight of his old and new charters, by which he is one of the king’s coroners within this island, and as such he hath a halbert peculiar to his office. He has his right of late from the family of Hamilton, wherein his title and perquisites of coroner are confirmed to him and his heirs. He is obliged to have three men to attend him upon all public emergencies, and he is bound by his office to pursue all malefactors and to deliver them to the steward, or in his absence to the next judge. And if any of the inhabitants refuse to pay their rents at the usual term, the coroner is bound to take him personally or to seize his goods. And if it should happen that the coroner with his retinue of three men is not sufficient to put his office in execution, then he summons all the inhabitants to concur with him; and immediately they rendezvous to the place, where he fixes his coroner’s staff. The perquisites due to the coroner are a firelet or bushel of oats and a lamb from every village in the isle, both which are punctually paid him at the ordinary terms.

The inhabitants of this isle are well proportioned, generally brown, and some of a black complexion. They enjoy a good state of health, and have a genius for all callings or employments, though they have but few mechanics. They wear the same habit with those of the nearest isles, and are very civil. They all speak the Irish language, yet the English tongue prevails on the east side, and ordinarily the ministers preach in it, and in Irish on the west side. Their ordinary asseveration is by Nale, for I did not hear any oath in the island.

The Churches in this Isle are:

KILBRIDE in the south-east, Kilmore in the south, Cabel-Vual a chapel, Kilmichael in the village of that name, St. James’s Church at the north end.

The natives are all Protestants. They observe the festivals of Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter. I had like to have forgot a valuable curiosity in this isle which they call Baul Muluy, i.e., Molingus his stone globe. This saint was chaplain to Macdonald of the Isles. His name is celebrated here on the account of this globe, so much esteemed by the inhabitants. This stone for its intrinsic value has been carefully transmitted to posterity for several ages. It is a green stone, much like a globe in figure, about the bigness of a goose egg.

The virtue of it is to remove stitches from the sides of sick persons, by laying it close to the place affected; and if the patient does not outlive the distemper, they say the stone removes out of the bed of its own accord, and e contra. The natives use this stone for swearing decisive oaths upon it.

They ascribe another extraordinary virtue to it, and it is this: The credulous vulgar firmly believe that if this stone is cast among the front of an enemy they will all run away; and that as often as the enemy rallies, if this stone is cast among them, they still lose courage, and retire. They say that Macdonald of the Isles carried this stone about him, and that victory was always on his side when he threw it among the enemy. The custody of this globe is the peculiar privilege of a little family called Clan-Chattons, alias Macintosh. They were ancient followers of Macdonald of the Isles. This stone is now in the custody of Margaret Miller, alias Macintosh. She lives in Baelliminich, and preserves the globe with abundance of care. It is wrapped up in fair linen cloth, and about that there is a piece of woollen cloth; and she keeps it still locked up in her chest, when it is not given out to exert its qualities.


IS a big rock, about six leagues to the south-west of Arran; it rises in form of a sugar-loaf, but the top is plain, and large enough for drawing up a thousand men in ranks; there is a fresh-water lake in the middle of the plain, the whole isle is covered with long grass, and is inaccessible, except on the south-west side, by a stair cut out in the rock; in the middle of it there is a small tower of three stories high with the top. There is a fresh water spring issuing out of the side of this great rock; below the entry there is a place where the fishers take up their residence during their stay about this rock in quest of cod and ling; and there is a good anchorage for their vessels very near their tents.

This rock in the summer-time abounds with variety of sea-fowl, that build and hatch in it. The solan geese and coulterneb are most numerous here; the latter are by the fishers called albanich, which in the ancient Irish language signifies Scotsmen.

The isle has a chapel on the top called Fiunnay, and an ancient pavement or causeway.

Ailsa is the Earl of Cassillis’ property, the tenant who farms it pays him one hundred marks Scots yearly; the product of the isle is hogs, fowl, down, and fish. The isle Avon, above a mile in circumference, lies to the south of Kintyre Mull; it hath a harbour for barques on the north.


THE isle Gigha lies about a league from Lergy on the west side of Kintyre; it is four miles in length, and one in breadth, was formerly in the diocese, and is still part of the sheriffdom of Argyll. This isle is for the most part arable, but rocky in other parts; the mould is brown and clayey, inclining to red; it is good for pasturage and cultivation. The corn growing here is oats and barley. The cattle bred here are cows, horses, and sheep. There is a church in this island called Kilchattan, it has an altar in the east end, and upon it a font of stone which is very large, and hath a small hole in the middle which goes quite through it. There are several tombstones in and about this church; the family of the Macneils, the principal possessors of this isle, are buried under the tombstones on the east side the church, where there is a plot of ground set apart for them. Most of all the tombs have a two-handed sword engraven on them, and there is one that has the representation of a man upon it.

Near the west side the Church there is a stone of about 16 feet high, and 4 broad, erected upon the eminence. About 60 yards distance from the chapel there is a square stone erected about ten feet high; at this the ancient inhabitants bowed, because it was there where they had the first view of the church.

There is a cross 4 feet high at a little distance, and a cavern of stone on each side of it.

This isle affords no wood of any kind, but a few bushes of juniper on the little hills. The stones upon which the scur corkir grows, which dyes a crimson colour, are found here; as also those that produce the crottil, which dyes a philamot colour. Some of the natives told me that they used to chew nettles, and hold them to their nostrils to staunch bleeding at the nose; and that nettles being applied to the place would also stop bleeding at a vein, or otherwise.

There is a well in the north end of this isle called Tobermore, i.e., a great well, because of its effects, for which it is famous among the islanders; who, together with the inhabitants, use it as a catholicon for diseases. It is covered with stone and clay, because the natives fancy that the stream that flows from it might overflow the isle; and it is always opened by a diroch, i.e., an inmate, else they think it would not exert its virtues. They ascribe one very extraordinary effect to it, and it is this: that when any foreign boats are wind-bound here (which often happens) the master of the boat ordinarily gives the native that lets the water run a piece of money; and they say that immediately afterwards the wind changes in favour of those that are thus detained by contrary winds. Every stranger that goes to drink of the water of this well, is accustomed to leave on its stone-cover a piece of money, a needle, pin, or one of the prettiest variegated stones they can find.

The inhabitants are all Protestants, and speak the Irish tongue generally, there being but few that speak English; they are grave and reserved in their conversation; they are accustomed not to bury on Friday; they are fair or brown in complexion, and use the same habit, diet, etc., that is made use of in the adjacent continent and isles. There is only one inn in this isle.

The isle Caray lies a quarter of a mile south from Gigha; it is about a mile in compass, affords good pasturage, and abounds with coneys. There is a harbour for barks on the north-east end of it. This island is the property of MacAlister of Lergy, a family of the Macdonalds.


THE isle of Jura is by a narrow channel of about half a mile broad separated from Islay. The natives say that Jura is so called from Dih and Rah, two brethren, who are believed to have been Danes, the names Dih and Rah signifying as much as without grace or prosperity. Tradition says that these two brethren fought and killed one another in the village Knock-Cronm, where there are two stones erected of 7 feet high each, and under them, they say, there are urns, with the ashes of the two brothers; the distance between them is about 60 yards. The isle is mountainous along the middle, where there are four hills of a considerable height. The two highest are well known to sea-faring men by the name of the Paps of Jura. They are very conspicuous from all quarters of sea and land in those parts.

This isle is twenty-four miles long, and in some places six or seven miles in breadth. It is the Duke of Argyll’s property, and part of the Sheriffdom of Argyll.

The mould is brown and greyish on the coast, and black in the hills, which are covered with heath and some grass that proves good pasturage for their cattle, which are horses, cows, sheep, and goats. There is variety of land and water-fowl here. The hills ordinarily have about three hundred deer grazing on them, which are not to be hunted by any without the steward’s license. This isle is perhaps the wholesomest plot of ground either in the isles or continent of Scotland, as appears by the long life of the natives and their state of health, to which the height of the hills is believed to contribute in a large measure, by the fresh breezes of wind that come from them to purify the air; whereas Islay and Gigha, on each side this isle, are much lower, and are not so wholesome by far, being liable to several diseases that are not here. The inhabitants observe that the air of this place is perfectly pure, from the middle of March till the end or middle of September. There is no epidemical disease that prevails here. Fevers are but seldom observed by the natives, and any kind of flux is rare. The gout and agues are not so much as known by them, neither are they liable to sciatica. Convulsions, vapours, palsies, surfeits, lethargies, megrims, consumptions, rickets, pains of the stomach, or coughs, are not frequent here, and none of them are at any time observed to become mad. I was told by several of the natives that there was not one woman died of childbearing there these 34 years past. Bloodletting and purging are not used here.

If any contract a cough, they use brochan only to remove it. If after a fever one chance to be taken ill of a stitch, they take a quantity of ladywrack, and half as much of red-fog, and boil them in water. The patients sit upon the vessel, and receive the fume, which by experience they find effectual against this distemper. Fevers and the diarrhœas are found here only when the air is foggy and warm, in winter or summer.

The inhabitants for their diet make use of beef and mutton in the winter and spring, as also of fish, butter, cheese, and milk. The vulgar take brochan frequently for their diet during the winter and spring; and brochan and bread used for the space of two days restores lost appetite.

The women of all ranks eat a lesser quantity of food than the men. This and their not wearing anything strait about them is believed to contribute much to the health of both the mothers and children.

There are several fountains of excellent water in this isle. The most celebrated of them is that of the mountain Beinbrek in the Tarbat, called Toubir ni Lechkin, that is, the well in a stony descent. It runs easterly, and they commonly reckon it to be lighter by one half than any other water in this isle; for though one drink a great quantity of it at a time, the belly is not swelled, or any ways burdened by it. Natives and strangers find it efficacious against nauseousness of the stomach and the stone. The river Nissa receives all the water that issues from this well, and this is the reason they give why salmon here are in goodness and taste far above those of any other river whatever. The river of Crockbreck affords salmon also, but they are not esteemed so good as those of the river Nissa.

Several of the natives have lived to a great age. I was told that one of them, called Gillouir MacCrain, lived to have kept one hundred and eighty Christmasses in his own house. He died about fifty years ago, and there are several of his acquaintances living to this day, from whom I had this account.

Bailiff Campbell lived to the age of one hundred and six years; he died three years ago; he passed the thirty-three last years before his death in this isle. Donald MacNamill, who lives in the village of Killearn at present, is arrived at the age of ninety years.

A woman of the Isle of Scarba, near the north end of this isle, lived seven score years, and enjoyed the free use of her senses and understanding all her days; it is now two years since she died.

There is a large cave, called King’s Cave on the west side of the Tarbat, near the sea; there is a well at the entry which renders it the more convenient for such as may have occasion to lodge in it.

About two miles further from the Tarbat, there is a cave at Corpich which hath an altar in it; there are many small pieces of petrified substance hanging from the roof of this cave.

There is a place where vessels used to anchor on the west side of this island, called Whitfarlan, about 100 yards north from the porter’s house.

About four leagues south from the north end of this isle, lies the bay Da’l Yaul, which is about half a mile in length; there is a rock on the north side of the entry, which they say is five fathom deep, and but three fathom within.

About a league further to the south, on the same coast, lies the small isles of Jura, within which there is a good anchoring-place; the south entry is the best: island Nin Gowir must be kept on the left hand; it is easily distinguished by its bigness from the rest of the isles. Conney Isle lies to the north of this island. There are black and white spotted serpents in this isle; their head being applied to the wound, is by the natives used as the best remedy for their poison. Within a mile of the Tarbat there is a stone erected about eight feet high. Loch-Tarbat on the west side runs easterly for about five miles, but is not a harbour for vessels, or lesser boats, for it is altogether rocky.

The shore on the west side affords coral and coralline. There is a sort of dulse growing on this coast, of a white colour.

Between the north end of Jura, and the isle Scarba, lies the famous and dangerous gulf, called Cory Vrekan, about a mile in breadth; it yields an impetuous current, not to be matched anywhere about the isle of Britain. The sea begins to boil and ferment with the tide of flood, and resembles the boiling of a pot; and then increases gradually, until it appears in many whirlpools, which form themselves in sort of pyramids, and immediately after spout up as high as the mast of a little vessel, and at the same time make a loud report. These white waves run two leagues with the wind before they break; the sea continues to repeat these various motions from the beginning of the tide of flood, until it is more than half-flood, and then it decreases gradually until it hath ebbed about half an hour, and continues to boil till it is within an hour of low water. This boiling of the sea is not above a pistol-shot distant from the coast of Scarba Isle, where the white waves meet and spout up: they call it the Kaillach, i.e., an old hag; and they say that when she puts on her kerchief, i.e., the whitest waves, it is then reckoned fatal to approach her. Notwithstanding this great ferment of the sea, which brings up the least shell from the ground, the smallest fisher-boat may venture to cross this gulf at the last hour of the tide of flood, and at the last hour of the tide of ebb.

This gulf hath its name from Brekan, said to be son to the King of Denmark, who was drowned here, cast ashore in the north of Jura, and buried in a cave, as appears from the stone, tomb, and altar there.

The natives told me that about three years ago an English vessel happened inadvertently to pass through this gulf at the time when the sea began to boil; the whiteness of the waves, and their spouting up, was like the breaking of the sea upon a rock; they found themselves attracted irresistibly to the white rock, as they then supposed it to be: this quickly obliged them to consult their safety, and so they betook themselves to the small boat with all speed, and thought it no small happiness to land safe in Jura, committing the vessel under all her sails to the uncertain conduct of tide and wind. She was driven to the opposite continent of Knapdale, where she was no sooner arrived than the tide and wind became contrary to one another, and so the vessel was cast into a creek, where she was safe; and then the master and crew were, by the natives of this isle, conducted to her, where they found her as safe as they left her, though all her sails were still hoisted.

The natives gave me an account, that some years ago a vessel had brought some rats hither, which increased so much that they became very uneasy to the people, but on a sudden they all vanished; and now there is not one of them in the isle.

There is a church here called Ilillearn, the inhabitants are all Protestants, and observe the festivals of Christmas, Easter, and Michaelmas; they do not open a grave on Friday, and bury none on that day, except the grave has been opened before.

The natives here are very well proportioned, being generally black of complexion and free from bodily imperfections. They speak the Irish language, and wear the plaid, bonnet, etc., as other islanders.

The isle of Islay lies to the west of Jura, from which it is separated by a narrow channel; it is twenty four miles in length from south to north, and eighteen from east to west; there are some little mountains about the middle on the east side. The coast is for the most part heathy and uneven, and by consequence not proper for village; the north end is also full of heaths and hills. The south-west and west is pretty well cultivated, and there is six miles between Kilrow on the west, and Port Escock in the east, which is arable and well inhabited. There is about one thousand little hills on this road, and all abound with limestone; among which there is lately discovered a lead mine in three different places, but it has not turned to any account as yet. The corn growing here is barley and oats.

There is only one harbour in this isle, called Loch-Dale; it lies near the north end, and is of a great length and breadth; but the depth being in the middle, few vessels come within half a league of the land side.

There are several rivers in this isle affording salmon. The fresh-water lakes are well stocked with trouts; eels, and some with salmons: as Loch-Guirm, which is four miles in circumference, and hath several forts built on an island that lies in it.

Loch-Finlagan, about three miles in circumference, affords salmon, trouts, and eels: this lake lies in the centre of the isle. The isle Finlagan, from which this lake hath its name, is in it. It is famous for being once the court in which the great Macdonald, King of the Isles, had his residence; his houses, chapel, etc., are now ruinous. His guards de corps, called Lucht-taeh, kept guard on the lake side nearest to the isle; the walls of their houses are still to be seen there.

The High Court of Judicature, consisting of fourteen, sat always here; and there was an appeal to them from all the Courts in the isles: the eleventh share of the sum in debate was due to the principal judge. There was a big stone of seven feet square, in which there was a deep impression made to receive the feet of Macdonald; for he was crowned King of the Isles standing in this stone, and swore that he would continue his vassals in the possession of their lands, and do exact justice to all his subjects: and then his father’s sword was put into his hand. The Bishop of Argyll and seven priests anointed him king, in presence of all the heads of the tribes in the isles and continent, and were his vassals; at which time the orator rehearsed a catalogue of his ancestors, etc.

There are several forts built in the isles that are in fresh-water lakes, as in Ilan-Loch-Guirn, and Ilan-Viceain; there is a fort called Dunnivag in the south-west side of the isle, and there are several caves in different places of it. The largest that I saw was in the north end, and is called Vah-Vearnag; it will contain 200 men to stand or sit in it. There is a kill for drying corn made on the east side of it; and on the other side there is a wall built close to the side of the cave, which was used for a bed-chamber; it had a fire on the floor, and some chairs about it, and the bed stood close to the wall. There is a stone without the cave door, about which the common people make a tour sunways.

A mile on the south-west side of the cave is the celebrated well called Toubir in Knahar, which in the ancient language is as much as to say, the well that sallied from one place to another: for it is a received tradition among the vulgar inhabitants of this isle, and the opposite isle of Colonsay, that this well was first in Colonsay, until an imprudent woman happened to wash her hands in it, and that immediately after, the well being thus abused, came in an instant to Islay, where it is like to continue, and is ever since esteemed a catholicon for diseases by the natives and adjacent islanders; and the great resort to it is commonly every quarter-day.

It is common with sick people to make a vow to come to the well, and after drinking, they make a tour sunways round it, and then leave an offering of some small token, such as a pin, needle, farthing, or the like, on the stone cover which is above the well. But if the patient is not like to recover, they send a proxy to the well, who acts as above-mentioned, and carries home some of the water to be drank by the sick person.

There is a little chapel beside this well, to which such as had found the benefit of the water, came back and returned thanks to God for their recovery.

There are several rivers on each side this isle that afford salmon. I was told by the natives that the Brion of Islay, a famous judge, is according to his own desire, buried standing on the brink of the river Laggan, having in his right hand a spear, such as they use to dart at the salmon.

There are some isles on the coast of this island, as island Texa on the south-west, about a mile in circumference; and island Ouirsa, a mile likewise in circumference, with the small isle called Nave.

The Names of the Churches in this Isle are as follows:

KIL-CHOLLIM Kill, St. Columbus his church near Port Escock, Kil-Chovan in the Rins, on the west side the isle; Kil-Chiaran in Rins, on the west side Nerbols in the Rins, St. Columbus his church in Laggan, a chapel in island Nave, and Kilhan Alen, north-west of Kilrow. There is a cross standing near St. Columbus’s or Port Escock side, which is ten feet high. There are two stones set up at the east side of Loch-Finlagan, and they are six feet high. All the inhabitants are Protestants; some among them observe the festivals of Christmas and Good Friday. They are well proportioned and indifferently healthful. The air here is not near so good as that of Jura, from which it is but a short mile distant; but Islay is lower and more marshy, which makes it liable to several diseases that do not trouble those of Jura. They generally speak the Irish tongue; all those of the best rank speak English; they use the same habit and diet with those of Jura. This isle is annexed to the Crown of Scotland. Sir Hugh Campbell of Caddell is the King’s steward there, and has one half of the island. This isle is reckoned the furthest west of all the isles in Britain. There is a village on the west coast of it called Cul, i.e., the back part; and the natives say it was so called because the ancients thought it the back of the world, as being the remotest part on that side of it. The natives of Islay, Colonsay, and Jura say that there is an island lying to the southwest of these isles, about the distance of a day’s sailing, for which they have only a bare tradition. Mr. MacSwen, present minister in the isle Jura, gave me the following account of it, which he had from the master of an English vessel that happened to anchor at that little isle, and came afterwards to Jura, which is thus:

As I was sailing some thirty leagues to the southwest of Islay, I was becalmed near a little isle, where I dropped anchor and went ashore. I found it covered all over with long grass. There was abundance of seals lying on the rocks and on the shore; there is likewise a multitude of sea-fowls in it; there is a river in the middle, and on each side of it I found great heaps of fish bones of many sorts; there are many planks and boards cast up upon the coast of the isle, and it being all plain, and almost level with the sea, I caused my men (being then idle) to erect a heap of the wood about two stories high; and that with a design to make the island more conspicuous to seafaring men. This isle is four English miles in length, and one in breadth. I was about thirteen hours sailing between this isle and Jura. Mr. John MacSwen, above mentioned, having gone to the isle of Colonsay some few days after, was told by the inhabitants that from an eminence near the monastery in a fair day they saw as it were the top of a little mountain in the south-west sea, and that they doubted not but it was land, though they never observed it before. Mr. MacSwen was confirmed in this opinion by the account above-mentioned; but when summer was over, they never saw this little hill, as they called it, any more; the reason which is supposed to be this, that the high winds in all probability has cast down the pile of wood that forty seamen had erected the preceding year in that island, which, by reason of the description above recited, we may aptly enough call the Green Island.


ABOUT two leagues to the north of Islay lies the isle Oronsay. It is separated from Colonsay only at the tide of flood. This peninsula is four miles in circumference, being for the most part a plain arable, dry, sandy soil, and is fruitful in corn and grass; it is likewise adorned with a church, chapel, and monastery. They were built by the famous St. Columbus, to whom the church is dedicated. There is an altar in this church, and there has been a modern crucifix on it, in which several precious stones were fixed; the most valuable of these is now in the custody of MacDuffie, in black Raimused village, and it is used as a catholicon for diseases. There are several burying-places here, and the tombstones for the most part have a two-handed sword engraven on them. On the south side of the church within lie the tombs of MacDuffie and of the cadets of his family; there is a ship under sail and a two-handed sword engraven on the principal tombstone and this inscription, Hic jacit Malcolumbus MacDuffie de Collonsay; his coat of arms and colour-staff is of red in a stone, through which a hole is made to hold it. There is a cross at the east and west sides of this church, which are now broken; their height was about 12 feet each; there is a large cross on the west side of the church, of an entire stone very hard; there is a pedestal of three steps, by which they ascend to it, it is 16 feet high, and a foot and a half broad; there is a large crucifix on the west side of this cross, it has an inscription underneath, but not legible, being almost worn off by the injury of time; the other side has a tree engraven on it.

About a quarter of a mile on the south side of the church there is a cairn, in which there is a stone cross fixed, called MacDuffie’s Cross; for when any of the heads of this family were to be interred, their corpse was laid on this cross for some moments, in their way toward the church.

On the north side of the church there is a square stone wall, about two stories high; the area of it is about fourscore paces, and it is joined to the church wall: within this square there is a lesser square of one stored high, and about 60 paces wide, three sides of it are built of small pillars, consisting of two thin stones each, and each pillar vaulted above with two thin stones tapering upwards. There are inscriptions on two of the pillars, but few of the letters are perfect. There are several houses without the square which the monks lived in. There is a garden at twenty yards distance on the north side the houses.

The natives of Colonsay are accustomed, after their arrival in Oronsay Isle, to make a tour sunways about the church, before they enter upon any kind of business. My landlord having one of his family sick of a fever asked my book, as a singular favour, for a few moments. I was not a little surprised at the honest man’s request, he being illiterate; and when he told me the reason of it I was no less amazed, for it was to fan the patent’s face with the leaves of the book, and this he did at night. He sought the book next morning, and again in the evening, and then thanked me for so great a favour; and told me the sick person was much better by it, and thus I understood that they had an ancient custom of fanning the face of the sick with the leaves of the Bible.

The Isle Colonsay is four miles in length from east to west, and above a mile in breadth. The mould is brown and sandy on the coast, and affords but a very small product, though they plough their ground three times; the middle is rocky and heathy, which in most places is prettily mingled with thick evergreens of erica-baccifera, juniper, and cat’s tail.

The cattle bred here are cows, horses, and sheep, all of a low size. The inhabitants are generally well proportioned, and of a black complexion; they speak only the Irish tongue, and use the habit, diet etc., that is used in the Western Isles: they are all Protestants, and observe the festivals of Christmas, Easter, and Good Friday; but the women only observe the festival of the nativity of the blessed Virgin. Kilouran is the principal church in this isle, and the village in which this church is, hath its name from it. There are two ruinous chapels in the south side of this isle. There were two stone chests found lately in Kilouran sands, which were composed of five stones each, and had human bones in them. There are some fresh-water lakes abounding with trouts in thus isle. There are likewise several forts here, one of which is called Duncoll; it is near the middle of the isle, it hath large stones in it, and the wall is seven feet broad.

The other fort is called Dun-Evan: the natives have a tradition among them, of a very little generation of people, that lived once here, called Lusbirdan, the same with pygmies. This isle is the Duke of Argyll’s property.


THE Isle of Mull lies on the west coast opposite to Lochaber, Swoonard, and Moydart. It is divided from these by a narrow channel, not exceeding half a league in breadth; the isle is twenty-four miles long, from south to north, and as many in breadth from east to west. A south-east moon causes high tide here. This isle is in the sheriffdom of Argyll; the air here is temperately cold and moist; the fresh breezes that blow from the mountains do in some measure qualify it: the natives are accustomed to take a large dose of aqua-vitæ as a corrective, when the season is very moist, and then they are very careful to chew a piece of charmel root, finding it to be aromatic; especially when they intend to have a drinking bout, for they say this in some measure prevents drunkenness.

The mould is generally black, and brown, both in the hills and valleys, and in some parts a clay of different colours. The heaths afford abundance of turf and peats, which serve the natives for good fuel. There is a great ridge of mountains about the middle of the isle, one of them very high, and therefore called Bein Vore, i.e., a great mountain. It is to be seen from all the Western Isles, and a considerable part of the continent. Both mountains and valleys afford good pasturage for all sorts of cattle, as sheep, goats, and deer, which herd among the hills and bushes. The horses are but of a low size, yet very sprightly; their black cattle are likewise low in size, but their flesh is very delicious and fine. There is abundance of wild fowl in the hills and valleys; and among them the black cock, heath hen, ptarmigan, and very fine hawks; the sea-coast affords all such fowl as are to be had in the Western Isles. The corn growing here is only barley and oats. There is great variety of plants in the hills and valleys, but there is no wood here, except a few coppices on the coast. There are some bays, and places for anchorage about the isle. The Bay of Duart on the east side, and to the north of the castle of that name, is reckoned a safe anchoring place, and frequented by strangers. Lochbuy on the opposite west side, is but an indifferent harbour, yet vessels go into it for herring.

The coast on the west abounds with rocks for two leagues west and south-west. The Bloody Bay is over against the north end of island Columkil, and only fit for vessels of about an hundred ton.

Some few miles further to the north-east is Loch Leven, the entry lies to the westward, and goes twelve miles easterly; there are herrings to be had in it sometimes, and it abounds with oysters, cockles, mussels, clams, &c.

Loch Lay lies on the south side of Loch Leven; it is proper only for small vessels; herring are to be had in it sometimes, and it abounds with variety of shell-fish: the small isles, called the White Isle, and Isle of Kids, are within this bay. To the north of Loch-Leven lies Loch-Scafford; it enters south west, and runs north-east: within it lie the isles Eorsæ and Inchkenneth, both of which are reputed very fruitful in cattle and corn.

There is a little chapel in this isle, in which many of the inhabitants of all ranks are buried. Upon the north side of Loch-Scafford lies the isle of Ulva; it is three miles in circumference, and encompassed with rocks and shelves, but fruitful in corn, grass, &c.

To the west of Ulva, lies the isle Gometra, a mile in circumference, and fruitful in proportion to the other isles.

About four miles further lie the small isles called Kernburg-More and Kernburg-Beg; they are naturally very strong, faced all round with a rock, having a narrow entry, and a violent current of a tide on each side, so that they are almost impregnable. A very few men are able to defend these two forts against a thousand. There is a small garrison of the standing forces in them at present.

To the south of these forts lie the small isles of Fladday, Lungay, Back, and the Call of the Back; cod and ling are to be had plentifully about all these islands.

Near to the north-east end of Mull lies the isle Calve; it is above two miles in compass, has a coppice, and affords good pasturage for all kind of cattle. Between this isle and the isle of Mull, there is a capacious and excellent bay, called Toubir Mory, i.e., the Virgin Mary’s well; because the water of a well of that name, which is said to be medicinal, runs into the bay.

One of the ships of the Spanish Armada, called the Florida, perished in this bay, having been blown up by one Smallet, of Dunbarton, in the year 1588. There was a great sum of gold and money on board the ship, which disposed the Earl of Argyll, and some Englishmen, to attempt the recovery of it; but how far the latter succeeded in this enterprise is not generally well known; only that some pieces of gold and money, and a golden chain was taken out of her. I have seen some fine brass canon, some pieces of eight, teeth, beads, and pins that had been taken out of that ship. Several of the inhabitants of Mull told me that they had conversed with their relations that were living at the harbour when this ship was blown up; and they gave an account of an admirable providence that appeared in the preservation of one Doctor Beaton (the famous physician of Mull), who was on board the ship when she blew up, and was then sitting on the upper deck, which was blown up entire, and thrown a good way off; yet the doctor was saved; and lived several years after.

The black and white Indian nuts are found on the west side of this isle; the natives pulverise the black kernel or the black nut, and drink it in boiled milk for curing the diarrhœa.

There are several rivers in the isle that afford salmon, and some rivers abound with the black mussel that breeds pearl. There are also some fresh-water lakes that have trouts and eels. The whole isle is very well watered with many springs and fountains. They told me of a spring in the south side of the mountain Bein Vore, that has a yellow coloured stone at the bottom, which doth not burn, or become hot, though it should be kept in the fire for a whole day together.

The amphibia in this isle are seals, otters, vipers, of the same kind as those described in the Isle of Skye, and the natives use the same cures for the biting of vipers. Foxes abound in this isle, and do much hurt among the lambs and kids.

There are three castles in the isle, to wit, the Castle of Duart, situated on the east, built upon a rock; the east side is surrounded by the sea. This was the seat of Sir John MacLean, head of the ancient family of the Macleans; and is now, together with the estate, which was the major part of the island, the forbecome the Duke of Argyll’s property, by the forfeiture of Sir John.

Some miles further on the west coast stands the Castle of Moy, at the head of Lochbuy, and is the seat of Maclean of Lochbuy.

There is an old castle at Aros in the middle of the island, now in ruins. There are some old forts here called Dunns, supposed to have been built by the Danes. There are two parish churches in the isle, viz., Killinchen-Benorth, Loch Leven, and a little chapel called Kilwichk-Ewin, at the lake above Loch Lay; each parish hath a minister. The inhabitants are all Protestants, except two or three, who are Roman Catholics; they observe the festivals of Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, and St. Michael’s. They speak the Irish language generally, but those of the best rank speak English; they wear the same habit as the rest of the islanders.


THIS isle in the Irish language is called I. Colmkil, i.e., the Isthmus of Columbus the clergyman.

Colum was his proper name, and the addition of Kil, which signifies a church, was added by the islanders by way of excellence; for there were few churches then in the remote and lesser isles.

The natives have a tradition among them that one of the clergymen who accompanied Columbus in his voyage thither, having at a good distance espied the isle, and cried joyfully to Columbus in the Irish language, "Chi mi i," i.e., "I see her" ----- meaning thereby the country of which they had been in quest ----- that Columbus then answered, "It shall be from henceforth called Y."

The isle is two miles long from south to north, and one in breadth, from east to west. The east side is all arable and plain, fruitful in corn and grass; the west side is high and rocky.

This isle was anciently a seminary of learning, famous for the severe discipline and sanctity of Columbus. He built two churches and two monasteries in it, one for men, the other for women, which were endowed by the Kings of Scotland and of the Isles; so that the revenues of the church then amounted to 4000 merks per annum. Iona was the Bishop of the Isles Cathedral, after the Scots lost the Isle of Man, in which King Gratilinth erected a church to the honour of our Saviour, called "Fanum Sodorense." Hence it was that the Bishop of the Isles was styled "Episcopus Sodorensis." The vicar of Iona was parson of Soroby in Tiree and Dean of the Isles. St. Mary’s Church here is built in form of a cross, the choir 20 yards long, the cupola 21 feet square, the body of the church of equal length with the choir, and the two cross aisles half that length. There are two chapels on each side of the choir, and entry to them opens with large pillars neatly carved in basso relievo. The steeple is pretty large; the doors, windows, etc., are curiously carved; the altar is large and of as fine marble as any I ever saw. There are several abbots buried within the church. MacIlikenich’s statue is done in black marble, as big as the life, in an episcopal habit, with a mitre, crosier, ring, and stones along the breast, etc. The rest of the abbots are done after the same manner. The inscription on one tomb is as follows: -----

"Hic jacet Joannes MacFingone, Abbas de Oui, qui obiit anno Domini milesimo quingentesimo."

Bishop Knox and several persons of distinction, as MacLeod of Harris, have also been buried here.

There are the ruins of a cloister behind the church, as also of a library, and under it a large room; the natives say it was a place for public disputations.

There is a heap of stones without the church, under which Mackean of Ardminurchin lies buried. There is an empty piece of ground between the church and the gardens, in which murderers and children that died before baptism were buried. Near to the west end of the church in a little cell lies Columbus’s tomb, but without inscription. This gave me occasion to cite the distich, asserting that Columbus was buried in Ireland, at which the natives of Iona seemed very much displeased, and affirmed that the Irish who said so were impudent liars; that Columbus was once buried in this place, and that none ever came from Ireland since to carry away his corpse, which, had they attempted, would have proved equally vain and presumptuous.

Near St. Columba’s tomb is St. Martin’s cross, an entire stone of eight feet high; it is a very hard and red stone, with a mixture of grey in it. On the west side of the cross is engraved a large crucifix, and on the east a tree; it stands on a pedestal of the same kind of stone. At a little further distance is Dun Ni Manich, i.e., Monk’s Fort, built of stone and lime, in form of a bastion, pretty high. From this eminence the monks had a view of all the families in the isle, and at the same time enjoyed the free air. A little further to the west lie the black stones, which are so called, not from their colour, for that is grey, but from the effects that tradition say ensued upon perjury, if any one became guilty of it after swearing on these stones in the usual manner; for an oath made on them was decisive in all controversies.

MacDonald, King of the Isles, delivered the rights of their lands to his vassals in the isles and continent, with uplifted hands and bended knees, on the black stones; and in this posture, before many witnesses, he solemnly swore that he would never recall those rights which he then granted: and this was instead of his Great Seal. Hence it is that when one was certain of what he affirmed, he said positively, I have freedom to swear this matter upon the black stones.

On the south side the gate, without the church, is the Tailors’ House, for they only wrought in it. The natives say that in the time of a plague the outer gate was quite shut up, and that all provisions were thrown in through a hole in the gate for that purpose.

At some distance south from St. Mary’s is St. Ouran’s Church, commonly called Reliqui Ouran; the saint of that name is buried within it.

The laird of Mackinnon has a tomb within this church, which is the stateliest tomb in the isle. On the wall above the tomb there is a crucifix engraven, having the arms of the family underneath ----- viz., a boar’s head, with a couple of sheep’s bones in its jaws. The tombstone has a statue as big as life, all in armour, and upon it a ship under sail, a lion at the head, and another at the feet. The inscription on the tomb is thus: ----- "Hic est Abbas Lachlani, Macfingone, and ejus Filius Abbatis de I. Ætatis in Dno M° cccc Ann."

There are other persons of distinction in the church, all done in armour.

On the south side of the church, mentioned above, is the burial-place in which the kings and chiefs of tribes are buried, and over them a shrine: there was an inscription, giving an account of each particular tomb, but time has worn them off. The middlemost had written on it, "The Tombs of the Kings of Scotland:" of which forty-eight lie there.

Upon that on the right hand was written, "The tombs of the Kings of Ireland;" of which four were buried here.

And upon that on the left hand was written, "The Kings of Norway;" of which eight were buried here.

On the right hand, within the entry to the churchyard, there is a tombstone now overgrown with earth, and upon it there is written, "Hic jacet Joannes Turnbull, quondam Episcopus Canterburiensis." This I deliver upon the authority of Mr. Jo. MacSwen, minister of Jura, who says he read it.

Next to the King’s is the tombstone of Macdonald of Ila; the arms, a ship with hoisted sails, a standard, four lions, and a tree; the inscription, "Hic jacet Corpus Angusii Macdonuill de Ile."

In the west end is the tombs of Gilbrid and Paul Sporran, ancient tribes of the Macdonalds.

The families of Maclean, of Duart, Lochbuy, and Coll, lie next, all in armour, as big as the life.

Macallister, a tribe of the Macdonalds, Macouery of Ulvay, are both done as above.

There is a heap of stones on which they used to lay the corpse while they dug the grave. There is a stone likewise erected here, concerning which the credulous natives say that whosoever reaches out his arm along the stone three times, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, will never err in steering the helm of a vessel.

One tomb hath a clergyman, with this inscription upon it, "Sancta, &c."

About a quarter of a mile further south is the Church Ronad, in which several prioresses are buried. One of the inscriptions is, "Hic jacet Dna. Anna Terleti, filiam quandam priorissæ de Iona, quæ: obiit Anno M° Christi, Animam Abrahamo commendamus."

Another inscription is: "Behag nijn Sorle vic Il vrid priorissa," i.e., "Bathia, daughter to Somerled, son of Gilbert, prioress."

Without the nunnery there is such another square as that beside the monastery for men. The two pavements, which are of a hard red stone, are yet entire. In the middle of the longest pavement there is a large cross like to that mentioned above, and is called MacLean’s cross. There are nine places on the east side the isle, called ports for landing.

The dock which was dug out of Port Churich is on the shore, to preserve Columbus’s boat called Curich, which was made of ribs of wood, and the outside covered with hides; the boat was long and sharp-pointed at both ends. Columbus is said to have transported eighteen clergymen in this boat to Iona.

There are many pretty variegated stones on the shore below the dock; they ripen to a green colour, and are then proper for carving. The natives say these stones are fortunate, but only for some particular thing, which the person thinks fit to name, in exclusion of everything else.

There was a tribe here called "Clan vic n’oster," from Ostiarii; for they are said to have been porters. The tradition of these is that before Columbus died thirty of his family lived then in Iona, and that upon some provocation Columbus entailed a curse upon them, which was that they might all perish to the number of five, and that they might never exceed that number, to which they were accordingly reduced; and ever since, when any woman of the family was in labour, both she and the other four were afraid of death; for if the child that was to be then born did not die, they say one of the five was sure to die; and this they affirm to have been verified on every such occasion successively to this day. I found one only of this tribe living in the isle, and both he and the natives of this and of all the Western Isles unanimously declare that this observation never failed; and all this little family is now extinct, except this one poor man.

The life of Columbus, written in the Irish character, is in the custody of John MacNeil, in the isle of Barry; another copy of it is kept by MacDonald of Benbecula.

The inhabitants have a tradition that Columbus suffered no women to stay in the isle except the nuns; and that all the tradesmen who wrought in it were obliged to keep their wives and daughters in the opposite little isle, called on that account Women’s Isle. They say likewise that it was to keep women out of the isle that he would not suffer cows, sheep, or goats to be brought to it.

Beda, in his Ecclesiastical History, Lib. 3, Cap. 4, gives this account of him: "In the year of our Lord 565 (at the time that Justin the Younger succeeded Justinian in the government of the Roman empire) the famous Columba, a presbyter and abbot, but in habit and life a monk, came from Ireland to Britain to preach the Word of God, to the northern provinces of the Picts, that is to those who by high and rugged mountains are separated from the southern provinces. For the southern Picts, who have their habitation on this side the same hills, had, as they affirm themselves, renounced idolatry, and received the faith a long time before, by the preaching of Ninian the Bishop, a most reverend and holy man, of the country of the Britons, who was regularly educated at Rome in the mysteries of truth."

In the ninth year of Meilochen, son to Pridius, King of Picts, a most powerful king, Columbus, by his preaching and example, converted that nation to the faith of Christ. Upon this account, they gave him the isle above mentioned (which he calls Hii, Book 3, Cap. 3) to erect a monastery in, which his successors possess to this day, and where he himself was buried in the 77th year of his age, and the 32nd after his going to Britain to preach the gospel. He built a noble monastery in Ireland before his coming to Britain, from both which monasteries he and his disciples founded several other monasteries in Britain and Ireland, among all which the monastery of the island in which his body is interred has the pre-eminence. The isle has a rector, who is always a presbyter-abbot, to whose jurisdiction the whole province and the bishops themselves ought to be subject, though the thing be unusual, according to the example of that first doctor, who was not a bishop, but a presbyter and monk, and of whose life and doctrine some things are said to be wrote by his disciples. But whatever he was, this is certain, that he left successors eminent for their great chastity, divine love, and regular institution.

This monastery furnished bishops to several dioceses of England and Scotland, and amongst others Aidanus, who was sent from thence, and was Bishop of Lindisfarne now Holy Island.



THIS isle lies about eight leagues to the west of Iona, or I Colm-Kil. The land is low and Moorish, but there are two little hills on the south-west side; the mould is generally brown, and for the most part sandy. The western side is rocky for about three leagues; the isle affords no convenient harbour for ships, but has been always valued for its extraordinary fruitfulness in corn, yet being tilled every year, it is become less fruitful than formerly. There is a plain piece of ground about six miles in compass on the east coast called the Rive; the grass is seldom suffered to grow the length of half an inch, being only kept as a common, yet is believed to excel any parcel of land of its extent in the isles, or opposite continent; there are small channels in it, through which the tide of flood comes in, and it sometimes overflows the whole.

The isle is four miles in length from the south-east to the north-west; the natives for the most part live on barley-bread, butter, milk, cheese, fish, and some eat the roots of silverweed; there are but few that eat any flesh, and the servants use water-gruel often with their bread. In plentiful years the natives drink ale generally. There are three ale-houses in the isle; the brewers preserve their ale in large earthen vessels, and say they are much better for this purpose than those of wood; some of them contain twelve English gallons. Their measure for drink is a third part larger than any I could observe in any other part of Scotland. The ale that I had in the inn being too weak, I told my host of it, who promised to make it better; for this end he took a hectic-stone, and having made it red hot in the fire, he quenched it in the ale. The company and I were satisfied that the drink was a little more brisk, and I told him that if he could add some more life to our ale he would extremely oblige the company. This he frankly undertook, and to effect it toasted a barley-cake, and having broken it in pieces he put it into the dish with the ale, and this experiment we found as effectual as the first. I enquired of him if he had any more art to revive our ale and then he would make it pretty good; he answered that he knew of nothing else but a malt-cake, which he had not then ready, and so we were obliged to content ourselves with what pains had been already used to revive our drink. The natives preserve their yeast by an oaken with which, they twist and put into it; and for future use, keep it in barley-straw. The cows and horses are of a very low size in this isle, being in the winter and spring-time often reduced to eat sea-ware. The cows give plenty of milk; when they have enough of fresh sea-ware to feed on it fattens them; the horses pace naturally, and are very sprightly though little. The ground abounds with flint stone; the natives tell me they find pieces of sulphur in several places. The west winds drive the ordinary Indian nuts to the shore of this isle, and the natives use them, as above, for removing the diarrhœa; and the water of the well called Toubir in Donich is by the natives drunk as a catholicon for diseases.

Some years ago, about one hundred and sixty little whales, the biggest not exceeding twenty feet long, run themselves ashore in this isle, very seasonably, in time of scarcity, for the natives did eat them all, and told me that the sea-pork, i.e., the whale, is both wholesome and very nourishing meat. There is a fresh-water lake in the middle of the isle, on the east side of which there is an old castle now in ruins. The isle being low and moorish is unwholesome, and makes the natives subject to the ague. The inhabitants living in the south-east parts are for the most part bald, and have but very thin hair on their heads. There is a cave in the south-west which the natives are accustomed to watch in the night, and then take many cormorants on it. There are several forts in the isle; one in the middle of it, and Dun-Taelk in Baelly Petris: they are in form the same with those in the northern isles. There are several great and small circles of stones in this isle. The inhabitants are all Protestants; they observe the festivals of Christmas, Good-Friday, Easter, and St. Michael’s Day. Upon the latter there is a general cavalcade at which all the inhabitants rendezvous. They speak the Irish tongue, and wear the Highland dress. This isle is the Duke of Argyll’s property, it being one of the isles lately possessed by the Laird of Maclean; the Parish Church in the isle is called Soroby, and is a parsonage.


THIS lies about half a league to the east and north-east of Tiree, from which it hath been severed by the sea. It is ten miles in length, and three in breadth; it is generally composed of little rocky hills covered with heath. The north side is much plainer, and arable ground, affording barley and oats; the inhabitants always feed on the latter, and those of Tiree on the former. The isle of Coll produces more boys than girls; as if nature intended both these isles for mutual alliances, without being at the trouble of going to the adjacent isles or continent to be matched. The Parish-Book, in which the number of the baptised is to be seen, confirms this observation.

There are several rivers in this isle that afford salmon. There is a fresh-water lake in the south-east side, which hath trouts and eels. Within a quarter of a mile lies a little castle, the seat of MacLean of Coll, the proprietor of the isle; he and all the inhabitants are Protestants; they observe the festivals of Christmas, Good-Friday, Easter, and St. Michael: at the latter they have a general cavalcade. All the inhabitants speak the Irish tongue (a few excepted), and wear the habit used by the rest of the islanders. This isle is much wholesomer than that of Tiree. I saw a gentleman of Maclean of Coll’s family here, aged eighty-five, who walked up and down the fields daily.

Cod and ling abound on the coast of this isle, and are of a larger size here than in the adjacent isles or continent.

On the south-east coast of this isle lie the train of rocks called the Carn of Coll; they reach about half a league from the shore, and are remarkable for their fatality to sea-faring men, of which there are several late instances. There is no venomous creature in this island or that of Tiree.


THIS isle lies about four leagues south from Skye; it is mountainous and heathy, but the coast is arable and fruitful. The isle is five miles long from south to north, and three from east to west; the north end produces some wood. The rivers on each side afford salmon. There is plenty of land and sea-fowl; some of the latter, especially the puffin, build in the hills as much as in the rocks on the coast, in which there are abundance of caves: the rock facing the west side is red, and that on the east side grey. The mountains have some hundred of deer grazing in them. The natives gave me an account of a strange observation, which they say proves fatal to the posterity of Lachlin, a cadet of MacLean of Coll’s family; that if any of them shoot at a deer on the mountain Finchra, he dies suddenly, or contracts some violent distemper, which soon puts a period to his life. They told me some instances to this purpose: whatever may be in it, there is none of the tribe above-named will ever offer to shoot the deer in that mountain.

The bay Loch-Scresord on the east side is not fit for anchoring, except without the entry.

There is a chapel in this isle; the natives are Protestants; MacLean of Coll is proprietor, and the language and habit the same with the northern isles.


IT lies a little to the south-west of Rum, being four miles in circumference, all surrounded with a rock; it is fruitful in corn and grass; the hawks in the rocks here are reputed to be very good. The cattle, fowls, and amphibia of this island are the same as in other isles; the natives speak the Irish tongue only, and use the habit worn by their neighbours.


THIS isle lies about half a mile off Rum; it is two miles from south to north, and one from east to west. It is for the most part surrounded with a high rock, and the whole fruitful in corn and grass: the south end hath plenty of cod and ling.

There is a high hill in the north end, which disorders the needle in the compass: I laid the compass on the stony ground near it, and the needle went often round with great swiftness, and instead of settling towards the north, as usual, it settled here due east. The stones in the surface of the earth are black, and the rock below facing the sea is red; some affirm that the needle of a ship’s compass, failing by the hill, is disordered by the force of the magnet in this rock: but of this I have no certainty.

The natives call this isle by the name Tarsin at sea; the rock Heisker on the south end abounds with wild geese in August, and then they cast their quills. The church in this isle is dedicated to St. Columbus. All the natives are Roman Catholics; they use the language and habit of the other isles. Allan Macdonald is proprietor. There is good anchorage on the north-east of this isle.


THIS isle lies to the south of Skye about four leagues; it is three miles in length, a mile and a half in breadth, and about nine in circumference; it is all rocky and mountainous from the middle towards the west; the east side is plainer, and more arable: the whole is indifferent good for pasturage and cultivation. There is a mountain in the south end, and on the top of it there is a high rock called Skur Egg, about an hundred and fifty paces in circumference, and has a fresh-water lake in the middle of it; there is no access to this rock but by one passage, which makes it a natural fort. There is a harbour on the south-east side of this isle which may be entered into by either side the small isle without it. There is a very big cave on the south-west side of this isle, capable of containing several hundreds of people. The coast guarding the north-west is a soft quarry of white stone, having some caves in it. There is a well in the village called Fivepennies, reputed efficacious against several distempers: the natives told me that it never fails to cure any person of their first disease, only by drinking a quantity of it for the space of two or three days; and that if a stranger lie at this well in the night-time, it will procure a deformity in some part of his body, but has no such effect on a native; and this they say hath been frequently experimented.

There is a heap of stones here, called Martin Dessil, i.e., a place consecrated to the saint of that name, about which the natives oblige themselves to make a tour round sunways.

There is another heap of stones, which they say was consecrated to the Virgin Mary.

In the village oil the south coast of this isle there is a well, called St. Katherine’s Well; the natives have it in great esteem, and believe it to be a catholicon for diseases. They told me that it had been such ever since it was consecrated by one Father Hugh, a Popish priest, in the following manner: he obliged all the inhabitants to come to this well, and then employed them to bring together a great heap of stones at the head of the spring, by way of penance. This being done, he said mass at the well, and then consecrated it; he gave each of the inhabitants a piece of wax candle, which they lighted, and all of them made the dessil, of going round the well sunways, the priest leading them: and from that time it was accounted unlawful to boil any meat with the water of this well.

The natives observe St. Katherine’s Anniversary; all of them come to the well, and having drank a draught of it, they make the dessil round it sunways; this is always performed on the 15th day of April. The inhabitants of this isle are well proportioned; they speak the Irish tongue only, and wear the habit of the islanders; they are all Roman Catholics, except one woman, that is a Protestant.

There is a church here on the east side the isle, dedicated to St. Donnan, whose anniversary they observe.

About thirty yards from the church there is a sepulchral urn under ground; it is a big stone hewn to the bottom, about four feet deep, and the diameter of it is about the same breadth; I caused them to dig the ground above it, and we found a flat thin stone covering the urn: it was almost full of human bones, but no head among them, and they were fair and dry. I inquired of the natives what was become of the heads, and they could not tell; but one of them said, perhaps their heads had been cut off with a twohanded sword, and taken away by the enemy. Some few paces to the north of the urn there is a narrow stone passage under ground, but how far it reaches they could give me no account.

The natives dare not call this isle by its ordinary name of Egg when they are at sea, but island Nim-Ban-More, i.e., the isle of big women. St. Donnan’s Well, which is in the south-west end, is in great esteem by the natives, for St. Donnan is the celebrated tutelar of this isle. The natives do not allow Protestants to come to their burial.

The proprietors of the isle are Allan MacDonald of Moydart, and Allan MacDonald of Moron.


THE first of these names is taken from one Kilder, who lived here; and from him the large well Toubir-Kilda has also its name. Hirta is taken from the Irish Ier, which in that language signifies west: this isle lies directly opposite to the isles of North Uist, Harris, &c. It is reckoned 18 leagues from the former, and 20 from Harries. This isle is by Peter Goas, in a map he made of it at Rotterdam, called St. Kilder; it is the remotest of all the Scots north-west isles. It is about two miles in length, and one in breadth; it is faced all round with a steep rock, except the bay on the south-east, which is not a harbour fit for any vessel, though in the time of a calm one may land upon the rock, and get up into the island with a little climbing. The land rises pretty high in the middle, and there is one mountain higher than any other part of the island. There are several fountains of good water on each side this isle. The corn produced here is oats and barley, the latter is the largest in the Western Isles.

The horses and cows here are of a lower size than in the adjacent isles, but the sheep differ only in the bigness of their horns, which are very long.

There is an ancient fort on the south end of the bay called Dun-fir-Volg, i.e., the fort of the Volscii. This is the sense put upon the word by the antiquaries of the opposite isles of Uist.

The isle Soa is nearly half a mile distant from the west side of St. Kilda; it is a mile in circumference, very high and steep all round. Borers lies above two leagues north of St. Kilda; it is near a mile in circumference, the most of it surrounded with a high rock. The largest and the two lesser isles are good for pasturage, and abound with a prodigious number of sea-fowl from March till September; the solan geese are very numerous here, insomuch that the inhabitants commonly keep yearly above twenty thousand young and old in their little stone houses, of which there are some hundreds for preserving their fowls, eggs, etc. They use no salt for preserving their fowl; the eggs of the sea wild-fowl are preserved some months in the ashes of peats, and are astringent to such as be not accustomed to eat them.

The solan goose is in size somewhat less than a land goose, and of a white colour, except the tips of the wings which are black, and the top of their head which is yellow; their bill is long, small pointed, and very hard, and pierces an inch deep into wood, in their descent after a fish laid on a board, as some use to catch them. When they sleep they put their head under their wings, but one of them keeps watch, and if that be surprised by the fowler (which often happens) all the rest are then easily caught by the neck, one after another; but if the sentinel gives warning, by crying loud, then all the flock make their escape. When this fowl fishes for herring it flies about sixty yards high, and then descends perpendicularly into the sea, but after all other fish it descends a-squint; the reason for this manner of pursuing the herrings is, because they are in greater shoals than any other fish whatsoever.

There is a barren tribe of solan geese that keep always together, and never mix among the rest that build and hatch. The solan geese come to those islands in March, taking the advantage of a south-west wind; before their coming they send a few of their number as harbingers before them, and when they have made a tour round the isles they return immediately to their company, and in a few days after the whole flock comes together, and stays till September. The natives make a pudding of the fat of this fowl in the stomach of it, and boil it in their water-gruel, which they call brochan; they drink it likewise for removing the cough. It is by daily experience found to be an excellent vulnerary.

The inhabitants eat the solan goose egg raw, and by experience find it to be a good pectoral. The solan geese are daily making up their nests from March till September; they make them in the shelves of high rocks; they fish, hatch, and make their nests by turns, and they amass for this end a great heap of grass, and such other things as they catch floating on the water. The steward of St. Kilda told me that they had found a red coat in a nest, a brass sun-dial, and an arrow, and some molucca beans in another nest. This solan goose is believed to be the sharpest sighted of all sea-fowls; it preserves five or six herrings in its gorget entire, and carries them to the nest, where it spews them out to serve as food to the young ones. They are observed to go a-fishing to several isles that lie about thirty leagues distant, and carry the fish in their gorget all that way; and this is confirmed by the English hooks, which are found sticking to the fish bones in their nests, for the natives have no such hooks among them.

They have another bird here called fulmar. It is a grey fowl, about the size of a moorhen; it has a strong bill, with wide nostrils; as often as it goes to sea, it is certain a sign of a western wind, for it sits always on the rock when the wind is to blow from any other quarter. This fowl, the natives say, picks its food out of live whales, and that it eats sorrel, for both sorts of food are found in its nest. When any one approaches the fulmar it spouts out at its bill about a quart of pure oil. The natives surprise the fowl, and preserve the oil, and burn it in their lamps. It is good against rheumatic pains and aches in the bones; the inhabitants of the adjacent isles value it as a catholicon for diseases; some take it for a vomit, others for a purge. It has been successfully used against rheumatic pains in Edinburgh and London; in the latter it has been lately used to assuage the swelling of a sprained foot, a cheek swelled with the toothache, and for discussing a hard boil; and proved successful in all the three cases.

There is plenty of cod and ling of a great size round this isle, the improvement of which might be of great advantage.

The inhabitants are about two hundred in number, and are well-proportioned; they speak the Irish language only; their habit is much like that used in the adjacent isles, but coarser. They are not subject to many diseases; they contract a cough as often as any strangers land and stay for any time among them, and it continues for some eight or ten days; they say the very infants on the breast are infected by it. The men are stronger than the inhabitants of the opposite Western Isles; they feed much on fowl, especially the solan geese, puffin, and fulmar, eating no salt with them. This is believed to be the cause of a leprosy that is broken out among them of late. One of them that was become corpulent, and had his throat almost shut up, being advised by me to take salt with his meat, to exercise himself more in the fields than he had done of late, to forbear eating of fat fowl, and the fat pudding called giben, and to eat sorrel, was very much concerned because all this was very disagreeable; and my advising him to eat sorrel was perfectly a surprise to him; but when I bid him consider how the fat fulmar eat this plant he was at last disposed to take my advice; and by this means alone in few days after, his voice was much clearer, his appetite recovered, and he was in a fair way of recovery. Twelve of these lepers died the year after of this distemper, and were in the same condition with this man.

Both sexes have a genius for poesy, and compose entertaining verses and songs in their own language, which is very emphatical. Some years ago about twenty of their number happened to be confined on the rock "Stack N’armin" for several days together, without any kind of food. The season then not favouring their endeavours to return home, one of their number plucked all their knives out of the hafts, wrought a hook out of each, and then beat them out to their former length; he had a stone for an anvil, and a dagger for a hammer and file; and with these rude hooks and a few sorry fishing lines they purchased fish for their maintenance during their confinement for several days in the rock. All the men in the isle having gone to the isle Boreray for purchase, the rope that fastened their boat happened to break, and by this unlucky accident the boat was quite lost, and the poor people confined in the isle from the middle of March till the latter end of May, without so much as a crust of bread; but they had sheep, fowl, and fish in abundance. They were at a loss how to acquaint their wives and friends that all of them were alive; but to effect this, they kindled as many fires on the top of an eminence as there were men in number; this was no sooner seen, and the fires counted, than the women understood the signal, and were so overjoyed at this unexpected news that they fell to labour the ground with the foot-spade, a fatigue they had never been accustomed to; and that year’s product of corn was the most plentiful that they had for many years before. After the steward’s arrival in the isle, about the end of May, he sent his galley to bring home all the men confined in the isle to their so much longed for St. Kilda, where the mutual joy between them and their wives and other relations was extraordinary.

The inhabitants are of the reformed religion; they assemble in the churchyard on the Lord’s day, and in the morning they say the Lord’s prayer, creed and ten commandments. They work at no employment till Monday, neither will they allow a stranger to work sooner. The officer, or steward’s deputy commonly, and sometimes any of their neighbours, baptise their children soon after they are born, and in the following form: ----- A.I. I baptise you to your father and mother, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They marry early and publicly, all the natives of both sexes being present. The officer who performs the marriage tenders a crucifix to the married couple, who lay their right hands on it, and then the marriage is ratified.

They observe the festivals of Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, and that of All Saints. Upon the latter they bake a large cake, in form of a triangle, furrowed round, and it must be all eaten that night. They are hospitable, and charitable to strangers, as well as the poor belonging to themselves, for whom all the families contribute a proportion monthly, and at every festival each family sends them a piece of mutton or beef.

They swear decisive oaths by the crucifix, and this puts an end to any controversy; for there is not one instance, or the least suspicion of perjury among them. The crucifix is of brass, and about nine inches in length; it lies upon the altar, but they pay no religious worship to it. One of the inhabitants was so sincere, that (rather than forswear himself on the crucifix) he confessed a capital crime before the minister and myself. They never swear or steal, neither do they take God’s name in vain at any time; they are free from whoredom and adultery, and of those other immoralities that abound so much everywhere else.

One of the inhabitants called Roderick, a fellow that could not read, obtruded a false religion upon the credulous people, which he pretended to have received from St. John the Baptist. It is remarkable that in his rhapsodies, which he called prayers, he had the word Eli; and to this purpose, Eli is our Preserver. There is a little hill, upon which he says John the Baptist delivered sermons and prayers him; this is called John’s Bush, and made the people believe it was so sacred, that if either cow or sheep did taste of its grass, they were to be killed immediately after, and the owners were to eat them, but never without the company of the impostor. He made them likewise believe that each of them had a tutelar saint in heaven to intercede for them, and the anniversary of every one of those was to be necessarily observed, by having a splendid treat, at which the impostor was always the principal person. He taught the women a devout hymn, which he said he had from the Virgin Mary; he made them believe that it secured any woman from miscarriage that could repeat it by heart, and each of them paid the impostor a sheep for it.

Upon Mr. Campbell’s arrival and mine in St. Kilda, Roderick made a public recantation of his imposture; and being then by us brought to the isle of Harris, and afterwards to the isle of Skye, he has made public confession in several churches of his converse with the devil, and not John the Baptist as he pretended, and seems to be very penitent. He is now in Skye isle, from whence he is never to return to his native country. His neighbours are heartily glad to be rid of such a villain, and are now happily delivered from the errors he imposed upon them. The isle is the Laird of MacLeod’s property; he is head of one of the most ancient tribes in the isles; he bestows the isle upon a cadet of his name, whose fortune is low, to maintain his family, and he is called steward of it; he visits the isle once every summer, to demand the rents, viz., down, wool, butter, cheese, cows, horses, fowl, oil, and barley. The steward’s deputy is one of the natives, and stays always upon the place; he has free lands, and an omer of barley from each family; and has the honour of being the first and last in their boat, as they go and come to the lesser isles or rocks. The ancient measure of omer and cubit continues to be used in this isle. They have neither gold nor silver, but barter among themselves and the steward’s men for what they want. Some years ago the steward determined to exact a sheep from every family in the isle, the number amounting to twenty-seven; and for this he put them in mind of a late precedent, of their having given the like number to his predecessor. But they answered that what they gave then was voluntary, and upon an extraordinary occasion of his being wind-bound in the isle, and that this was not to be a custom afterwards. However, the steward sent his brother, and with him a competent number of men, to take the sheep from them by force; but the natives, arming themselves with their daggers and fishing rods, attacked the steward’s brother, giving him some blows on the head, and forced him and his party to retire, and told him that they would pay no new taxes; and by this stout resistance they preserved their freedom from such imposition.

The inhabitants live contentedly together in a little village on the east side St. Kilda, which they commonly call the country; and the Isle Borreray, which is little more than two leagues distant from them, they call the northern country. The distance between their houses is by them called the High Street; their houses are low built, of stone, and a cement of dry earth; they have couples and ribs of wood covered with thin earthen turf, thatched over these with straw, and the roof secured on each side with double ropes of straw or heath, poised at the end with many stones. Their beds are commonly made in the wall of their houses, and they lie on straw, but never on feathers or down, though they have them in greater plenty than all the Western Isles besides. The reason for making their bedroom in the walls of their houses is to make room for their cows, which they take in during the winter and spring.

They are very exact in their properties, and divide both the fishing, as well as fowling rocks with as great niceness as they do their corn and grass. One will not allow his neighbour to sit and fish on his seat, for this being a part of his possession, he will take care that no encroachment be made upon the least part of it; and this with a particular regard to their successors, that they may lose no privilege depending upon any parcel of their farm. They have but one boat in the isle, and every man hath a share in it, proportionally to the acres of ground for which they pay rent. They are stout rowers, and will tug at the oar for a long time without any intermission. When they fail they use no compass, but take their measures from the sun, moon, or stars; and they rely much on the course of the various flocks of sea fowl; and this last is their surest directory. When they go to the lesser isles and rocks to bring home sheep, or any other purchase, they carry an iron pot with them, and each family furnishes one by turns; and the owner on such occasions has a small tax paid him by all the families in the isle, which is by them called the pot-penny.

There was another tax paid by each family to one of the natives, as often as they kindled a fire in any of the lesser isles or rocks, and that for the use of his steel and flint; this was by them called the fire-penny.

This tax was very advantageous to the proprietor, but very uneasy to the commonwealth, who could not be furnished with fire on these occasions any other way. But I told them that the crystal growing in the rock on the shore would yield fire if struck with the back of a knife, and of this I showed them an experiment; which, when they saw, was a very surprising, and to them a very profitable discovery in their esteem, being such as could be had by every man in the isle; and at the same time delivered them from an endless charge; but it was very disobliging to the poor man who lost his tax by it.

The inhabitants of St. Kilda excel all those I ever saw in climbing rocks; they told me that some years ago their boat was split to pieces upon the west side of Borera Isle, and they were forced to lay hold on a bare rock, which was steep, and above twenty fathoms high. Notwithstanding this difficulty, some of them climbed up to the top, and from thence let down a rope and plaids, and so drew up all the boat’s crew, though the climbing this rock would seem impossible to any other except themselves.

This little commonwealth hath two ropes of about twenty-four fathoms length each, for climbing the rocks, which they do by turns; the ropes are secured all round with cows’ hides, salted for the use, and which preserves them from being cut by the edge of the rocks. By the assistance of these ropes they purchase a great number of eggs and fowl. I have seen them bring home in a morning twenty-nine large baskets all full of eggs. The least of the baskets contained four hundred big eggs, and the rest eight hundred and above of lesser eggs. They had with them at the same time about two thousand sea fowl, and some fish, together with some limpets, called patella, the biggest I ever saw. They catch many fowls likewise, by laying their gins, which are made of horse hair, having a noose at the distance of two feet each; the ends of the rope at which the noose hangs are secured by stone.

The natives gave me an account of a very extraordinary risk which one of them ran as laying his gins, which was thus: ----- As he was walking barefoot along the rock where he had fixed his gin, he happened to put his toe in a noose, and immediately fell down the rock, but hung by the toe, the gin being strong enough to hold him, and the stones that secured it on each end being heavy. The poor man continued hanging thus for the space of a night, on a rock twenty fathoms height above the sea, until one of his neighbours, hearing him cry, came to his rescue, drew him up by the feet, and so saved him.

These poor people do sometimes fall down as they climb the rocks, and perish. Their wives on such occasions make doleful songs, which they call lamentations. The chief topics are their courage, their dexterity in climbing, and their great affection which they showed to their wives and children.

It is ordinary with a fowler, after he has got his purchase of fowls, to pluck the fattest, and carry it home to his wife as a mark of his affection; and this is called the rock-fowl.

The bachelors do in like manner carry this rock fowl to their sweethearts, and it is the greatest present they can make, considering the danger they run in acquiring it.

The richest man in the isle has not above eight cows, eighty sheep, and two or three horses. If a native here have but a few cattle he will marry a woman, though she have no other portion from her friends but a pound of horse hair to make a gin to catch fowls.

The horses here are very low of stature, and employed only to carry home their peats and turf, which is their fuel. The inhabitants ride their horses (which were but eighteen in all) at the anniversary cavalcade of All-Saints; this they never fail to observe. They begin at the shore, and ride as far as the houses; they use no saddles of any kind, nor bridle, except a rope of straw which manages the horse’s head; and when they have all taken the horses by turns, the show is over for that time.

This isle produces the finest hawks in the Western Isles, for they go many leagues for their prey, there being no land fowl in St. Kilda proper for them to eat, except pigeons and plovers.

One of the inhabitants of St. Kilda, being some time ago wind-bound in the isle of Harris, was prevailed on by some of them that traded to Glasgow to go thither with them. He was astonished at the length of the voyage, and of the great kingdoms, as he thought them, that is isles, by which they sailed; the largest in his way did not exceed twenty-four miles in length, but he considered how much they exceeded his own little native country.

Upon his arrival at Glasgow, he was like one that had dropped from the clouds into a new world, whose language, habit, &c., were in all respects new to him; he never imagined that such big houses of stone were made with hands; and for the pavements of the streets, he thought it must needs be altogether natural, for he could not believe that men would be at the pains to beat stones into the ground to walk upon. He stood dumb at the door of his lodging with the greatest admiration; and when he saw a coach and two horses, he thought it to be a little house they were drawing at their tail, with men in it; but he condemned the coachman for a fool to sit so uneasy, for he thought it safer to sit on the horse’s back. The mechanism of the coach wheel, and its running about, was the greatest of all his wonders.

When he went through the streets, he desired to have one to lead him by the hand. Thomas Ross, a merchant, and others, that took the diversion to carry him through the town, asked his opinion of the High Church? He answered that it was a large rock, yet there were some in St. Kilda much higher, but that these were the best caves he ever saw; for that was the idea which he conceived of the pillars and arches upon which the church stands. When they carried him into the church, he was yet more surprised, and held up his hands with admiration, wondering how it was possible for men to build such a prodigious fabric, which he supposed to be the largest in the universe. He could not imagine what the pews were designed for, and he fancied the people that wore masks (not knowing whether they were men or women) had been guilty of some ill thing, for which they dared not show their faces. He was amazed at women wearing patches, and fancied them to have been blisters. Pendants seemed to him the most ridiculous of all things; he condemned periwigs mightily, and much more the powder used in them; in fine, he condemned all things as superfluous he saw not in his own country. He looked with amazement on every thing that was new to him. When he heard the church bells ring he was under a mighty consternation, as if the fabric of the world had been in great disorder. He did not think there had been so many people in the world as in the city of Glasgow; and it was a great mystery to him to think what they could all design by living so many in one place. He wondered how they could all be furnished with provision; and when he saw big loaves, he could not tell whether they were, bread stone, or wood. He was amazed to think how they could be provided with ale, for he never saw any there that drank water. He wondered how they made them fine clothes, and to see stockings made without being first cut, and afterwards sewn, was no small wonder to him. He thought it foolish in women to wear thin silks, as being a very impropr habit for such as pretended to any sort of employment. When he saw the women’s feet, he judged them to be of another shape than those of the men, because of the different shape of their shoes. He did not approve of the heels of shoes worn by men or women; and when he observed horses with shoes on their feet, and fastened with iron nails, he could not forbear laughing, and thought it the most ridiculous thing that ever fell under his observation. He longed to see his native country again, and passionately wished it were blessed with ale, brandy, tobacco and iron, as Glasgow was.

There is a couple of large eagles who have their nest on the north end of the isle: the inhabitants told me that they commonly make their purchases in the adjacent isles and continent, and never take so much as a lamb or hen from the place of their abode, where they propagate their kind. I forgot to give an account of a singular providence that happened to a native in the isle of Skye, called Neil, who when an infant was left by his mother in the field, not far from the houses on the north side of Loch Portree, an eagle came in the meantime, and carried him away in its talons as far as the south side of the loch, and there laying him on the ground, some people that were herding sheep there perceived it, and hearing the infant cry, ran immediately to its rescue, and by good providence found him untouched by the eagle, and carried him home to his mother. He is still living in that parish, and by reason of this accident, is distinguished among his neighbours by the surname of Eagle.


THE second-sight is a singular faculty of seeing an otherwise invisible object, without any previous means used by the person that sees it for that end; the vision makes such a lively impression upon the seers, that they neither see nor think of anything else, except the vision, as long as it continues: and then they appear pensive or jovial, according to the object which was represented to them.

At the sight of a vision, the eye-lids of the person are erected, and the eyes continue staring until the object vanishes. This is obvious to others who are by, when the persons happen to see a vision, and occurred more than once to my own observation, and to others that were with me.

There is one in Skye, of whom his acquaintance observed, that when he sees a vision, the inner part of his eye-lids turn so far upwards, that after the object disappears, he must draw them down with his fingers, and sometimes employs others to draw them down, which he finds to be much the easier way.

This faculty of the second-sight does not lineally descend in a family, as some imagine, for I know several parents who are endowed with it, but their children not, and vice versa. Neither is it acquired by any previous compact. And after a strict enquiry, I could never learn from any among them, that this faculty was communicable any way whatsoever.

The seer knows neither the object, time, nor place of a vision, before it appears; and the same object is often seen by different persons, living at a considerable distance from one another. The true way of judging as to the time and circumstance of an object, is by observation; for several persons of judgment, without this faculty, are more capable to judge of the design of a vision, than a novice that is a seer. If an object appear in the day or night, it will come to pass sooner or later accordingly.

If an object is seen early in the morning (which is not frequent) it will be accomplished in a few hours afterwards. If at noon, it will commonly be accomplished that very day. If in the evening, perhaps that night; if after candles be lighted, it will be accomplished that night: the latter always in accomplishment by weeks, months, and sometimes years, according to the time of night the vision is seen.

When a shroud is perceived about one, it is a sure prognostic of death. The time is judged according to the height of it about the person; for if it is not seen above the middle, death is not to be expected for the space of a year, and perhaps some months longer; and as it is frequently seen to ascend higher towards the head, death is concluded to be at hand within a few days, if not hours, as daily experience confirms. Examples of this kind were shown me, when the persons of whom the observations then made enjoyed perfect health.

One instance was lately foretold by a seer that was a novice, concerning the death of one of my acquaintance; this was communicated to a few only, and with great confidence; I being one of the number, did not in the least regard it, until the death of the person about the time foretold, did confirm me of the certainty of the prediction. The novice mentioned above, is now a skilful seer, as appears from many late instances; he lives in the parish of St. Mary’s, the most northern in Skye.

If a woman is seen standing at a man’s left hand, it is a presage that she will be his wife, whether they be married to others, or unmarried at the time of the apparition.

If two or three women are seen at once standing near a man’s left hand, she that is next him will undoubtedly be his wife first, and so on, whether all three, or the man be single or married at the time of the vision or not; of which there are several late instances among those of my acquaintance. It is an ordinary thing for them to see a man that is to come to the house shortly after; and if he is not of the seer’s acquaintance, yet he gives such a lively description of his stature, complexion, habit, &c., that upon his arrival he answers the character given him in all respects.

If the person so appearing be one of the seer’s acquaintance, he will tell his name, as well as other particulars; and he can tell by his countenance whether he comes in a good or bad humour.

I have been seen thus myself by seers of both sexes at some hundred miles distance; some that saw me in this manner had never seen me personally, and it happened according to their visions, without any previous design of mine to go to those places, my coming there being purely accidental.

It is ordinary with them to see houses, gardens, and trees, in places void of all three; and this in process of time used to be accomplished: as at Mogstot, in the Isle of Skye, where there were but a few sorry cow-houses thatched with straw, yet in a few years after, the vision which appeared often was accomplished, by the building of several good houses on the very spot represented to the seers, and by the planting of orchards there.

To see a spark of fire fall upon one’s arm or breast is a forerunner of a dead child to be seen in the arms of those persons; of which there are several fresh instances.

To see a seat empty at the time of one’s sitting in it, is a presage of that person’s death quickly after.

When a novice, or one that has lately obtained the second-sight, sees a vision in the night-time without doors, and comes near a fire, he presently falls into a swoon.

Some find themselves as it were in a crowd of people, having a corpse which they carry along with them; and after such visions the seers come in sweating, and describe the people that appeared: if there be any of their acquaintance among them, they give an account of their names, as also of the bearers, but they know nothing concerning the corpse.

All those who have the second-sight do not always see these visions at once, though they be together at the time. But if one who has this faculty designedly touch his fellow-seer at the instant of a vision’s appearing, then the second sees it as well as the first; and this is sometimes discerned by those that are near them on such occasions.

There is a way of foretelling death by a cry that they call taisk, which some call a wraith in the Lowlands.

They hear a loud cry without doors, exactly resembling the voice of some particular person, whose death is foretold by it. The last instance given me of this kind was in the village Rigg, in the isle of Skye.

Five women were sitting together in the some room, and all of them heard a loud cry passing by the window; they thought it plainly to be the voice of a maid who was one of the number; she blushed at the time, though not sensible of her so doing, contracted a fever next day, and died that week.

Things also are foretold by smelling, sometimes as follows. Fish or flesh is frequently smelled in a fire, when at the same time neither of the two are in the house, or in any probability like to be had in it for some weeks or months; for they seldom eat flesh, and though the sea be near them, yet they catch fish but seldom in the winter and spring. This smell several persons have, who are not endued with the second-sight, and it is always accomplished soon after.

Children, horses, and cows see the second-sight, as well as men and women advanced in years.

That children see it is plain from their crying aloud at the very instant that a corpse or any other vision appears to an ordinary seer. I was present in a house where a child cried out of a sudden, and being asked the reason of it, he answered that he had seen a great white thing lying on the board which was in the corner: but he was not believed, until a seer who was present told them that the child was in right; for, said he, I saw a corpse and the shroud about it, and the board be used as part of a coffin, or some way employed about a corpse; and accordingly it was made into a coffin, for one who was in perfect health at the time of vision.

That horses see it is likewise plain from their violent and sudden starting, when the rider or seer, in company with him sees a vision of any kind, night or day. It is observable of the horse, that he will not forward that way, until he be led about at some distance from the common road, and then he is in a sweat.

A horse fastened by the common road on the side Loch Skeriness in Skye, did break his rope at noon-day, and run up and down without the least visible cause. But two of the neighbourhood that happened to be at a little distance and in view of the horse, did the at same time see a considerable number of men about a corpse directing their course to the church of Snizort; and this was accomplished within a few days after by the death of a gentlewoman who lived thirteen miles from that church and came from another parish from whence very few came to Snizort to be buried.

That cows see the second-sight appears from this; that when a woman is milking a cow and then happens to see the second-sight the cow runs away in a great fright at the same time, and will not be pacified for time after.

Before I mention more particulars discovered by the second-sight, it may not be amiss to answer the objections that have lately been made against the reality of it.

Object. 1. These seers are visionary and melancholy people, and fancy they see things that do not appear to them or anybody else.

Answer. The people of these isles, and particularly the seers, are very temperate, and their diet is simple and moderate in quantity and quality, so that their brains are not in all probability disordered by undigested fumes of meat or drink. Both sexes are free from hysteric fits, convulsions, and several other distempers of that sort; there’s no madmen among them, nor any instance of self-murder. It is observed among them that a man drunk never sees the second-sight; and that he is a visionary, would discover himself in other things as well as in that; and such as see it are not judged to be visionaries by any of their friends or acquaintance.

Object. 2. There is none among the learned able to oblige the world with a satisfying account of those visions, therefore it is not to be believed.

Answer. If everything for which the learned are not able to give a satisfying account be condemned as impossible we may find many other things generally believed that must be rejected as false by this rule. For instance, yawning and its influence, and that the loadstone attracts iron; and yet these are true as well as harmless, though we can give no satisfying account of their causes, how much less can we pretend to things that are supernatural?

Object. 3. The seers are impostors, and the people who believe them are credulous, and easily imposed upon.

Answer. The seers are generally illiterate and well meaning people, and altogether void of design, nor could I ever learn that any of them made the least gain by it, neither is it reputable among them to have that faculty; besides the people of the isles are not so credulous as to believe implicitly before the thing foretold is accomplished; but when it actually comes to pass afterwards it is not in their power to deny it without offering violence to their senses and reason. Besides, if the seers were deceivers, can it be reasonable to imagine that all the islanders who have not the second-sight should combine together and offer violence to their understandings and senses, to force themselves to believe a lie from age to age. There are several persons among them whose birth and education raise them above the suspicion of concurring with an imposture merely to gratify an illiterate and contemptible sort of persons; nor can a reasonable man believe that children, horses, and cows could be pre-engaged in a combination to persuade the world of the reality of the second-sight.

Such as deny those visions give their assent to several strange passages in history upon the authority aforesaid of historians that lived several centuries before our time, and yet they deny the people of this generation the liberty to believe their intimate friends and acquaintance, men of probity and unquestionable reputation, and of those whose veracity they have greater certainty than we can have of any ancient historian.

Every vision that is seen comes exactly to pass according to the true rules of observation, though novices and heedless persons do not always judge by those rules. I remember the seers returned me this answer to my objection and gave several instances to that purpose, whereof the following is one.

A boy of my acquaintance was often surprised at the sight of a coffin close by his shoulder, which put him into a fright and made him to believe it was a forerunner of his own death, and this his neighbours also judged to be the meaning of that vision; but a seer that lived in the village Knockow, where the boy was then a servant, told them that they were under a great mistake, and desired the boy to lay hold of the first opportunity that offered; and when he went to a burial to remember to act as a bearer for some moments: and this he did accordingly, within a few days after, when one of his acquaintance died; and from that time forward he was never troubled with seeing a coffin at his shoulder, though he has seen many at a distance, that concerned others. He is now reckoned one of the exactest seers in the parish of St. Mary’s in Skye, where he lives.

There is another instance of a woman in Skye, who frequently saw a vision representing a woman having a shroud about her up to the middle, but always appeared with her back towards her, and the habit in which it seemed to be dressed resembled her own: this was a mystery for some time, until the woman tried an experiment to satisfy her curiosity, which was, to dress herself contrary to the usual way; that is, she put that part of her clothes behind, which was always before, fancying that the vision at the next appearing would be easier distinguished: and it fell out accordingly, for decision soon after presented itself with its face and dress looking towards the woman, and it proved to resemble herself in all points, and she died in a little time after.

There are visions seen by several persons, in whose days they are not accomplished; and this is one of the reasons why some things have been seen that are said to never come to pass, and there are also several visions seen which are not understood until they be accomplished.

The second-sight is not a late discovery seen by one or two in a corner, or a remote isle, but it is seen by many persons of both sexes, in several isles, separated above forty or fifty leagues from one another: the inhabitants of many of these isles never had the least converse by word or writing; and this faculty of seeing visions, having continued, as we are informed by tradition, ever since the plantation of these isles, without being disproved by the nicest skeptic, after the strictest inquiry, seems to be a clear proof of its reality.

It is observable that it was much more common twenty years ago than at present; for one in ten do not see it now, that saw it then.

The second-sight is not confined to the Western Isles alone, for I have an account that it is likewise seen in several parts of Holland, but particularly in Bommel, by a woman, for which she is courted by some, and dreaded by others. She sees a smoke about one’s face, which is a forerunner of the death of a person so seen, and she did actually foretell the death of several that lived there: she was living in that town this last winter.

The corpse-candles, or dead-men’s lights in Wales, which are certain prognostics of death, are well-known and attested.

The second-sight is likewise seen in the Isle of Man, as appears by this instance: Captain Leaths, the chief magistrate of Belfast, in his voyage 1690, lost thirteen men by a violent storm, and upon his landing upon the Isle of Man, an ancient man, clerk to a parish there, told him immediately that he had lost thirteen men: the captain inquiring how he came to the knowledge of that, he answered, that it was by thirteen lights which he had seen come into the churchyard; as Mr. Sacheverel tells us, in his late description of the Isle of Man.

It were ridiculous to suppose a combination between the people of the Western Isles of Scotland, Holland, Wales, and the Isle of Man, since they are separated by long seas, and are people of different languages, governments, and interests: they have no correspondence between them, and it is probable that those inhabiting the north-west isles have never yet heard that any such visions are seen in Holland, Wales, or the Isle of Man.

Four men of the village Flodgery in Skye being at supper, one of them did suddenly let fall his knife on the table, and looked with an angry countenance; the company observing it inquired his reason, but he returned them no answer until they had supped, and then he told them that when he let fall his knife, he saw a corpse, with the shroud about it, laid on the table which surprised him, and that a little time would accomplish the vision. It fell out accordingly, for in a few days after one of the family died, and happened to be laid out on that very table. This was told me by the master of the family.

Daniel Stewart, an inhabitant of Hole in the north parish of St. Mary’s in the isle of Skye, saw at noon-day five men on horseback riding northward; he ran to meet them, and when he came to the road he could see none of them, which was very surprising to him, and he told it to his neighbours: the very next day he saw the same number of men and horse coming along the road, but was not so ready to meet them as before, until he heard them speak, and then he found them to be those that he had seen the day before in a vision; this was the only vision of the kind he had ever seen in his life. The company he saw was Sir Donald MacDonald and his retinue, who at the time of the vision was at Armadale, near forty miles south from the place where the man lived.

A woman of Stornvay, in Lewis, had a maid who saw visions, and often fell into a swoon; her mistress was very much concerned about her, but could not find out any means to prevent her seeing those things; at last she resolved to pour some of the water used in baptism on her maid’s face, believing this would prevent her seeing any more sights of this kind. And accordingly she carried her maid with her next Lord’s day, and both of them sat near the basin in which the water stood, and after baptism, before the minister had concluded the last prayer, she put her hand in the basin, took up as much water as she could, and threw it on the maid’s face; at which strange action the minister and the congregation were equally surprised. After prayer the minister enquired of the woman the meaning of such an unbecoming and distracted action; she told him it was to prevent her maid’s seeing visions; and it fell out accordingly, for from that time she never once more saw a vision of any kind. This account was given me by Mr. Morison, minister of the place, before several of his parishioners who knew the truth of it. I submit the matter of fact to the censure of the learned; but for my own part I think it to have been one of Satan’s devices to make credulous people have an esteem for holy water.

John Morison, of Bragir, in Lewis, a person of unquestionable sincerity and reputation, told me that within a mile of his house a girl of twelve years old was troubled at the frequent sight of a vision, resembling herself in stature, complexion, dress, &c., and seemed to stand or sit, and to be always employed as the girl was; this proved a great trouble to her: her parents, being much concerned about it, consulted the said John Morison, who enquired if the girl was instructed in the principles of her religion, and finding she was not he bid them teach her the Creed, Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer, and that she should say the latter daily after her prayers. Mr. Morison and his family joined in prayer in the girl’s behalf, begging that God of his goodness would be pleased to deliver her from the trouble of such a vision: after which, and the girl’s complying with the advice as above, she never saw it any more.

A man living three miles to the north of the said John Morison is much haunted by a spirit, appearing in all points like to himself; and he asks many impertinent questions of the man when in the fields, but speaks not a word to him at home, though he seldom misses to appear to him every night in the house, but to no other person. He told this to one of his neighbours, who advised him to cast a live coal at the face of the vision the next time he appeared; the man did so next night, and all the family saw the action; but the following day the same spirit appeared to him in the fields, and beat him severely, so as to oblige him to keep his bed for the space of fourteen days after. Mr. Morison, minister of the parish, and several of his friends came to see the man, and joined in prayer that he might be freed from this trouble, but he was still haunted by that spirit a year after I left Lewis.

A man in Knockow, in the parish of St. Mary’s, the northernmost in Skye, being in perfect health, and sitting with his fellow-servants at night, was on a sudden taken ill, and dropped from his seat backward, and then fell a-vomiting; at which all the family were much concerned, he having never been subject to the like before: but he came to himself soon after, and had no sort of pain about him. One of the family, who was accustomed to see the second-sight, told them that the man’s illness proceeded from a very strange cause, which was thus: An ill-natured woman (naming her by her name), who lives in the next adjacent village of Bornskittag, came before him in a very furious and angry manner, her countenance full of passion, and her mouth full of reproaches, and threatened him with her head and hands, until he fell over as you have seen him. This woman had a fancy for the man, but was like to meet with a disappointment as to his marrying her. This instance was told me by the master of the family, and others who were present when it happened.

One that lived in St. Mary’s, on the west side of the isle of Skye, told Mr. MacPherson, the minister, and others, that he saw a vision of a corpse coming towards the church, not by the common road, but by a more rugged way, which rendered the thing incredible, and occasioned his neighbours to call him a fool; but he bid them have patience and they would see the truth of what he asserted in a short time: and it fell out accordingly, for one of the neighbourhood died, and his corpse was carried along the same unaccustomed way, the common road being at that time filled with a deep snow. This account was given me by the minister and others living there.

Mr. Macpherson’s servant foretold that a kiln should take fire, and being some time after reproved by his master for talking so foolishly of the second-sight, he answered that he could not help his seeing such things as presented themselves to his views in very lively manner; adding further, I have just now seen that boy sitting by the fire with his face red, as if the blood had been running down his forehead, and I could not avoid seeing this: and as for the accomplishment of it within forty-eight hours, there is no doubt, says he, it having appeared in the day-time. The minister became very angry at his man, and charged him never to speak one word more of the second-sight, or if he could not hold his tongue, to provide himself another master; telling him he was an unhappy fellow, who studied to abuse credulous people with false predictions. There was no more said on this subject until the next day, that the boy of whom the seer spoke, came in, having his face all covered with blood; which happened by his falling on a heap of stones. This account was given me by the minister and others of his family.

Daniel Dow, alias Black, an inhabitant of Bornskittag, was frequently troubled at the sight of a man, threatening to give him a blow; he knew no man resembling this vision; but the stature, complexion and habit were so impressed on his mind, that he said he could distinguish him from any other, if he should happen to see him. About a year after the vision appeared first to him, his master sent him to Kyle-Raes, about thirty miles further south-east, where he was no sooner arrived, than he distinguished the man who had so often appeared to him at home; and within a few hours after, they happened to quarrel, and came to blows, so as one of them (I forgot which) was wounded in the head. This was told me by the seer’s master, and others who live in the place. The man himself has his residence there, and is one of the precisest seers in the isles.

Sir Norman MacLeod, and some others playing at tables, at a game called in Irish Falmermore, wherein there are three of a side, and each of them threw the dice by turns; there happened to be one difficult point in the disposing of one of the table-men: this obliged the gamester to deliberate before he was to change his man, since upon the disposing of it the winning or losing of the game depended. At last the butler, who stood behind, advised the player where to place his man; with which he complied, and won the game. This being thought extraordinary, and Sir Norman hearing one whisper him in the ear, asked who advised him so skillfully? He answered, it was the butler; but this seemed more strange for he could not play at tables. Upon this, Sir Norman asked him how long it was since had learnt to play? and the fellow owned that he never played in his life, but that he saw the spirit Browny reaching his arm over the player’s head, and touched the part with his finger, on the point where the table-man was to be placed. This was told me by Sir Norman arid others, who happened to be present at the time.

Daniel Dow, above named, foretold the death of a young woman in Minginis, within less than twenty-four hours before the time; and accordingly she died suddenly in the fields, though at the time of the prediction she was in perfect health; but the shroud appearing close about her head, was the ground of his confidence, that her death was at hand.

The same Daniel Dow foretold the death of a child in his master’s arms, by seeing a spark of fire fall on his left arm; and this was likewise accomplished soon after the prediction.

Some of the inhabitants of Harris sailing round the isle of Skye, with a design to go to the opposite main land, were strangely surprised with an apparition of two men hanging down by the ropes that secured the mast, but could not conjecture what it meant. They pursued the voyage, but the wind turned contrary, and so forced them into Broadford in the isle of Skye, where they found Sir Donald MacDonald keeping a sheriff’s court, and two criminals receiving sentence of death there: the ropes and mast of that very boat were made use of to hang those criminals. This was told me by several who had this instance from the boat’s crew.

Several persons living in a certain family, told me that they had frequently seen two men standing at a young gentlewoman’s left hand, who was their master’s daughter: they told the men’s names; and being her equals, it was not doubted but she would be married to one of them: and perhaps to the other, after the death of the first. Some time after a third man appeared, and he seemed always to stand nearest to her of the three, but the seers did not know him, though they could describe him exactly. And within some months after, this man, who was seen last, did actually come to the house, and fulfilled the description given of him by those who never saw him but in a vision; and he married the woman shortly after. They live in the isle of Skye; both they and others confirmed the truth of this instance when I saw them.

Macleod’s porter passing by a galley that lay in the dock, saw her filled with men, having a corpse, and near to it he saw several of Macleod’s relations: this did in a manner persuade him that his master was to die soon after, and that he was to be the corpse which was to be transported in the galley. Some months after the vision was seen, Macleod, with several of his relations and others, went to the isle of Mull; where, some days after, Maclean of Torlosk happened to die, and his corpse was transported in the galley to his burial-place, and Macleod’s relations were on board to attend the funeral, while Macleod stayed ashore, and went along with the corpse after their landing.

Mr. Dougal Macpherson, minister of St. Mary’s, on the west side of Skye, having his servants in the kiln drying of corn, the kiln happened to take fire, but was soon extinguished. And within a few months after one of the minister’s servants told him that the kiln would be on fire again shortly, at which he grew very angry with his man, threatening to beat him if he should presume to prophesy mischief by that lying way of the second-sight. Notwithstanding this, the man asserted positively and with great assurance that the kiln would certainly take fire, let them use all the precautions they could. Upon this, Mr. Macpherson, had the curiosity to enquire of his man if he could guess within what space of time the kiln would take fire. He told him before Hallowtide. Upon which, Mr. Macpherson called for the key of the kiln, and told his man that he would take care of the kiln until the limited day was expired, for none shall enter it sooner, and by this means I shall make the devil, if he is the author of such lies, and you both liars. For this end he kept the key of the kiln in his press until the time was over, and then delivered the key to the servants, concluding his man to be a fool and a cheat. Then the servants went to dry corn in the kiln, and were charged to have a special care of the fire; yet in a little time after the kiln took fire; and it was all in a flame, according to the prediction, though the man mistook the time. He told his master that within a few moments after the fire of the kiln had been first extinguished, he saw it all in a flame again! and this appearing to him in the day time, it would come to pass the sooner.

John Macnormand and Daniel MacEwin, travelling along the road, two miles to the north of Snizort church, saw a body of men coming from the north, as if they had a corpse with them to be buried in Snizort; this determined them to advance towards the river, which was then a little before them, and having waited at the ford, thinking to meet those that they expected with the funeral, were altogether disappointed, for after taking a view of the ground all round them, they discovered that it was only a vision. This was very surprising to them both, for they never saw anything by way of the second-sight before or after that time. This they told their neighbours when they came home, and it happened that about two or three weeks after a corpse came along that road from another parish, from which few or none are brought to Snizort, except persons of distinction, so that this vision was exactly accomplished.

A gentleman, who is a native of Skye did, when a boy, dislodge a seer in the isle of Raasay, and upbraid him for his ugliness, as being black by name and nature. At last the seer told him very angrily, my child, if I am black, you’ll be red ere long. The master of the family chid him for this, and bid him give over his foolish predictions, since nobody believed them; but next morning the boy being at play near the houses, fell on a stone, and wounded himself in the forehead, so deep, that to this day there is a hollow scar in that part of it.

James Beaton, surgeon in the isle of North-Uist, told me that, being in the isle of Mull, a seer told him confidently that he was shortly to have a bloody forehead; but he disregarded it, and called the seer a fool. However, this James being called by some of the Macleans to go along with them to attack a vessel belonging to the Earl of Argyll, who was then coming to possess Mull by force; they attacked the vessel, and one of the Macleans being wounded, the said James, while dressing the wound, happened to rub his forehead, and then some of his patient’s blood stuck to his face, which accomplished the vision.

My Lord Viscount Tarbat, one of her Majesty’s Secretaries of State in Scotland, travelling in the shire of Ross, in the north of Scotland, came into a house, and sat down in an armed chair. One of his retinue, who had the faculty of seeing the second-sight, spoke to some of my Lord’s company, desiring them to persuade him to leave the house, for, said he, there is a great misfortune will attend somebody in it, and that within a few hours. This was told my Lord, but he did not regard it. The seer did soon after renew his entreaty with much eagerness, begging that my Lord might remove out of that unhappy chair, but had no other answer than to be exposed for a fool. Some hours after my Lord removed, and pursued his journey; but was not gone many hours when a trooper riding upon the ice, near the house whence my Lord removed, fell and broke his thigh, and being afterwards brought into that house, was laid in the armed chair, where his wound was dressed, which accomplished the vision. I heard this instance from several hands, and had it since confirmed by my Lord himself.

A man in the parish of St. Mary’s, in the barony of Trotterness, in Skye, called Lachlin, lay sick for the space of some months, decaying daily, insomuch that all his relations and acquaintances despaired of his recovery. One of the parishioners, called Archibald Macdonald, being reputed famous for his skill in foretelling things to come by the second-sight, asserted positively that the sick man would never die in the house where he then lay. This being thought very improbable all the neighbours condemned Archibald as a foolish prophet; upon which he passionately affirmed that if ever that sick man dies in the house where he now lies, I shall from henceforth renounce my part of heaven; adding withal, the sick man was to be carried alive out of the house in which he then lay, but that he would never return to it alive; and then he named the persons that should carry out the sick man alive. The man having lived some weeks longer than his friends imagined, and proving uneasy and troublesome to all the family, they considered that Archibald had reason for his peremptory assertion, and therefore they resolved to carry him to a house joining to that in which he then lay; but the poor man would by no means give his consent to be moved from a place where he believed he should never die, so much did he rely on the words of Archibald, of whose skill he had seen many demonstrations. But at last his friends being fatigued day and night with the sick man’s uneasiness they carried him against his inclination to another little house which was only separated by an entry from that in which he lay, and their feet were scarce within the threshold when the sick man gave up the ghost; and it was remarkable that the two neighbours which Archibald named would carry him out were actually the persons that did so. At the time of the prediction, Archibald saw him carried out as above, and when he was within the door of the other house he saw him all white, and the shroud being about him occasioned his confidence as above mentioned. This is matter of fact which Mr. Daniel Nicholson, minister of the parish, and a considerable number of the parishioners are able to vouch for, and ready to attest, if occasion requires.

The same Archibald Macdonald happened to be in the village Knockow one night, and before supper told the family that he had just then seen the strangest thing he ever saw in his life, to wit, a man with an ugly long cap, always shaking his head; but that the strangest of all was a little kind of a harp which he had, with four strings only, and that it had two hart’s horns fixed in the front of it. All that heard this odd vision fell a-laughing at Archibald, telling him that he was dreaming or had not his wits about him, since he pretended to see a thing that had no being, and was not so much as heard of in any part of the world. All this could not alter Archibald’s opinion, who told them that they must excuse him if he laughed at them after the accomplishment of the vision. Archibald returned to his own house, and within three or four days after a man with the cap, harp, &c., came to the house, and the harp, strings, horns, and cap answered the description of them at first view; he shook his head when he played, for he had two bells fixed to his cap. This harper was a poor man and made himself a buffoon for his bread, and was never before seen in those parts; for at the time of the prediction he was in the isle of Barray, which is above twenty leagues distant from that part of Skye. This story is vouched by Mr. Daniel Martin, and all his family and such as were then present, and live in the village where this happened.

Mr. Daniel Nicholson, minister of St. Mary’s in Skye, the parish in which Archibald Macdonald lived, told me that one Sunday after sermon at the chapel Uig, he took occasion to inquire of Archibald if he still retained that unhappy faculty of seeing the second-sight, and he wished him to lay it aside if possible; for, said he, it is no true character of a good man. Archibald was highly displeased, and answered that he hoped he was no more unhappy than his neighbours, for seeing what they could not perceive; adding, I had, says he, as serious thoughts as my neighbours in time of hearing a sermon to-day, and even then I saw a corpse laid on the ground close to the pulpit, and I assure you it will be accomplished shortly for it was in the day-time. Mr. Nicholson and several parishioners then present endeavoured to dissuade Archibald from this discourse, but he still asserted that it would quickly come to pass, and that all his other predictions of this kind had ever been accomplished. There was none in the parish then sick, and few are buried at that little chapel, nay sometimes not one in a year is buried there; yet when Mr. Nicholson returned to preach in the said chapel two or three weeks after, he found one buried in the very spot named by Archibald. This story is vouched by Mr. Nicholson, and several of the parishioners still living.

Mr. Daniel Nicholson, above mentioned, being a widower at the age of 44, this Archibald saw in a vision a young gentlewoman in a good dress frequently standing at Mr. Nicholson’s right hand, and this he often told the parishioners positively, and gave an account of her complexion, stature, habit, and that she would in time be Mr. Nicholson’s wife; this being told the minister by several of them, he desired them to have no regard to what that foolish dreamer had said; for, said he, it is twenty to one if ever I marry again. Archibald happened to see Mr. Nicholson soon after this slighting expression, however he persisted still in his opinion, and said confidently that Mr. Nicholson would certainly marry, and that the woman would in all points make up the character he gave of her, for he saw her as often as he saw Mr. Nicholson. This story was told me above a year before the accomplishment of it; and Mr. Nicholson, some two or three years after Archibald’s prediction, went to a synod in Bute, where he had the first opportunity of seeing one Mrs. Morison, and from that moment fancied her and afterwards married her. She was no sooner seen in the isle of Skye than the natives, who had never seen her before, were satisfied that she did completely answer the character given of her, etc., by Archibald.

One who had been accustomed to see the second-sight, in the isle of Egg, which lies about three or four leagues to the south-west part of the isle of Skye, told his neighbours that he had frequently seen an apparition of a man in a red coat lined with blue, and having on his head a strange sort of blue cap, with a very high cock on the fore part of it, and that the man who there appeared was kissing a comely maid in the village where the seer dwelt; and therefore declared that a man in such a dress would certainly debauch or marry such a young woman. This unusual vision did much expose the seer, for all the inhabitants treated him as a fool, though he had on several other occasions foretold things that afterwards were accomplished; this they thought one of the most unlikely things to be accomplished, that could have entered into any man’s head. This story was then discoursed of in the isle of Skye, and all that heard it, laughed at it; it being a rarity to see any foreigner in Egg, and the young woman had no thoughts of going anywhere else. This story was told me at Edinburgh, by Norman Macleod of Grabam, in September, 1688, he being just then come from the isle of Skye; and there were present, the Laird of Macleod, and Mr. Alexander Macleod, advocate, and others.

About a year and a half after the late revolution, Major Ferguson, now Colonel of one of Her Majesty’s regiments of foot, was then sent by the Government with 600 men, and some frigates to reduce the islanders that had appeared for King James, and perhaps the small isle of Egg had never been regarded, though some of the inhabitants had been at the battle of Killiecrankie, but by a mere accident which determined Major Ferguson to go to the isle of Egg, which was this: a boat’s crew of the isle of Egg happened to be in the isle of Skye, and killed one of Major Ferguson’s soldiers there; upon notice of which, the Major directed his course to the isle of Egg, where he was sufficiently revenged of the natives: and at the same time, the maid above-mentioned being very handsome, was then forcibly carried on board one of the vessels by some of the soldiers, where she was kept above twenty-four hours, and ravished, and brutishly robbed at the same time of her fine head of hair. She is since married in the isle, and in good reputation: her misfortune being pitied, and not reckoned her crime.

Sir Norman Macleod, who has his residence in the isle of Bernera, which lies between the isles of North Uist and Harris, went to the isle of Skye about business, without appointing any time for his return; his servants, in his absence, being all together in the large hall at night, one of them who had been accustomed to see the second-sight told the rest they must remove, for they would have abundance of other company in the hall that night. One of his fellow-servants answered that there was very little appearance of that, and if he had seen any vision of company, it was not like to be accomplished this night. But the seer insisted upon it, that it was. They continued to argue the improbability of it, because of the darkness of the night, and the danger of coming through the rocks that lie round the isle; but within an hour after, one of Sir Norman’s men came to the house, bidding them provide lights, etc., for his master had newly landed; and thus the prediction was immediately accomplished.

Sir Norman hearing of it called for the seer, and examined him about it; he answered that he had seen the spirit called Browny in human shape come several times, and make a show of carrying an old woman that sat by the fire to the door; and at last seemed to carry her out by neck and heels, which made him laugh heartily, and gave occasion to the rest to conclude he was mad to laugh so without reason. This instance was told me by Sir Norman himself.

Four men from the isles of Skye and Harris having gone to Barbadoes, stayed there for fourteen years; and though they were wont to see the second-sight in their native country, they never saw it in Barbadoes; but upon their return to England, the first night after their landing they saw the second-sight, as was told me by several of their acquaintance.

John Morison, who lives in Bernera of Harris, wears the plant called fuga dæmonum sewed in the neck of his coat, to prevent his seeing of visions, and says he never saw any since he first carried that plant about him. He suffered me to feel the plant in the neck of his coat, but would by no means let me open the seam, though I offered him a reward to let me do it.

A spirit, by the country people called Browny, was frequently seen in all the most considerable families in the isles and north of Scotland, in the shape of a tall man; but within these twenty or thirty years past he is seen but rarely.

There were spirits also that appeared in the shape of women, horses, swine, cats, and some like fiery balls, which would follow men in the fields; but there has been but few instances of these for forty years past.

These spirits used also to form sounds in the air, resembling those of a harp, pipe, crowing of a cock, and of the grinding of querns: and sometimes they have heard voices in the air by night, singing Irish songs; the words of which songs some of my acquaintance still retain. One of them resembled the voice of a woman who had died some time before, and the song related to her state in the other world. These accounts I had from persons of as great integrity as any are in the world.


THE north-west isles are of all others most capable of improvement by sea and land; yet by reason of their distance from trading towns, and because of their language, which is Irish, the inhabitants have never had any opportunity to trade at home or abroad, or to acquire mechanical arts and other sciences: so that they are still left to act by the force of their natural genius, and what they could learn by observation. They have not yet arrived to a competent knowledge in agriculture, for which cause many tracts of rich ground lie neglected, or at least but meanly improved in proportion to what they might be. This is the more to be regretted, because the people are as capable to acquire arts or sciences as any other in Europe. If two or more persons skilled in agriculture were sent from the lowlands, to each parish in the isles, they would soon enable the natives to furnish themselves with such plenty of corn as would maintain all their poor and idle people; many of which, for want of subsistence at home, are forced to seek their livelihood in foreign countries, to the great loss, as well as dishonour of the nation. This would enable them also to furnish the opposite barren parts of the continent with bread; and so much the more that in plentiful years they afford them good quantities of corn in this infant state of their agriculture. They have many large parcels of ground never yet manured, which if cultivated would maintain double the number of the present inhabitants, and increase and preserve their cattle; many of which, for want of hay or straw, die in the winter and spring: so that I have known particular persons lose above one hundred cows at a time, merely by want of fodder.

This is so much the more inexcusable because the ground in the Western Isles is naturally richer in many respects than in many other parts of the continent, as appears from several instances, particularly in Skye, and the opposite Western Isles, in which there are many valleys, &c., capable of good improvement, and of which divers experiments have been already made; and besides most of those places have the convenience of fresh-water lakes and rivers, as well as of the sea, near at hand, to furnish the inhabitants with fish of many sorts, and alga marina for manuring the ground.

In many places the soil is proper for wheat; and that their grass is good is evident from the great product of their cattle: so that if the natives were taught and encouraged to take pains to improve their corn and hay, to plant, enclose, and manure their ground, drain lakes, sow wheat and peas, and plant orchards and kitchen-gardens, &c., they might have as great plenty of all things for the sustenance of mankind as any other people in Europe.

I have known a hundred families, of four or five persons a-piece at least, maintained there upon little farms, for which they paid not above five shillings sterling, one sheep, and some pecks of corn per annum each; which is enough to show that, by a better improvement, that country would maintain many more inhabitants than live now in the isles.

If any man be disposed to live a solitary, retired life, and to withdraw from the noise of the world, he may have a place of retreat there in a small island, or in the corner of a large one, where he may enjoy himself, and live at a very cheap rate.

If any family, reduced to low circumstances, had a mind to retire to any of these isles, there is no part of the known world where they may have the products of sea and land cheaper, live more securely, or among a more tractable and mild people. And that the country in general is healthful, appears from the good state of health enjoyed by the inhabitants.

I shall not offer to assert that there are mines of gold or silver in the Western Isles, from any resemblance they may bear to other parts that afford mines, but the natives affirm that gold dust has been found, at Griminis on the western coast of the isle of North-Uist, and at Copveaul in Harris; in which, as well as in other parts of the isles, the teeth of the sheep which feed there are dyed yellow.

There is a good lead mine, having a mixture of silver in it, on the west end of the isle of Islay, near Port Escock; and Buchanan and others say, that the isle Lismore affords lead: and Sleat and Strath, on the south-west of Skye, are in stone, ground, grass, etc., exactly the same with that part of Islay, where there is a lead mine. And if search were made in the isles and hills of the opposite main, it is not improbable that some good mines might be discovered in some of them.

I was told by a gentleman of Lochaber, that an Englishman had found some gold-dust in a mountain near the river Lochy, but could never find out the place again after his return from England. That there have been gold mines in Scotland, is clear, from the manuscripts mentioned by Dr. Nicholson, now Bishop of Carlisle, in his late Scots Hist. Library.

The situation of these isles for promoting trade in general, appears advantageous enough; but more particularly for a trade with Denmark, Sweden, Hamburg, Holland, Britain, and Ireland. France and Spain seem remote, yet they do not exceed a week’s sailing, with a favourable wind.

The general opinion of the advantage that might be reaped from the improvement of the fish trade in these isles, prevailed among considering people in former times to attempt it.

The first that I know of, was by King Charles the First, in conjunction with a company of merchants; but it miscarried because of the civil wars, which unhappily broke out at that time.

The next attempt was by King Charles the Second, who also joined with some merchants; and this succeeded well for a time. I am assured by such as saw the fish catched by that company, that they were reputed the best in Europe of their kind, and accordingly, were sold for a greater price; but this design was ruined thus: the king having occasion for money, was advised to withdraw that which was employed in the fishery; at which the merchants being displeased, and disagreeing likewise among themselves, they also withdrew their money; and the attempt has never been renewed since that time.

The settling a fishery in those parts would prove of great advantage to the Government, and be an effectual means to advance the revenue, by the customs in exports and imports, etc.

It would also be a nursery of stout and able seamen in a very short time, to serve the Government on all occasions. The inhabitants of the isles and opposite mainland being very prolific already, the country would beyond all peradventure become very populous in a little time, if a fishery were once settled among them. The inhabitants are not contemptible for their number at present, nor are they to learn the use of the oar, for all of them are generally very dexterous at it: so that those places need not to be planted with a new colony, but only furnished with proper materials, and a few expert hands, to join with the natives to set on foot and advance a fishery.

The people inhabiting the Western Isles of Scotland may be about forty thousand, and many of them want employment; this is great encouragement, both for setting up other manufactories, and the fishing trade among them: besides a great number of people may be expected from the opposite continent of the Highlands, and north; which from a late computation, by one who had an estimate of their numbers, from several ministers in the country, are reckoned to exceed the number of islanders above ten to one: and it is too well-known that many of them also want employment. The objection, that they speak only Irish, is nothing: many of them understand English in all the considerable islands, which are sufficient to direct the rest in catching and curing fish; and in a little time the youth would learn English.

The commodiousness and safety of the numerous bays and harbours in those isles, seem as if Nature had designed them for promoting trade; they are likewise furnished with plenty of good water, and stones for building. The opposite mainland affords wood of divers sorts for that use. They have abundance of turf and peat for fuel: and of this latter there is such plenty in many parts, as might furnish salt-pans with fire all the year round. The sea forces its passage in several small channels through the land; so as it renders the design more easy and practicable.

The coast of each isle affords many thousand load of sea ware, which, if preserved, might be successfully used for making glass, and likewise kelp for soap.

The generality of the bays afford all sorts of shellfish in great plenty; as oysters, clams, mussels, lobsters, cockles, etc., which might be pickled and exported in great quantities. There are great and small whales of divers kinds to be had round the isles, and on the shore of the opposite continent; and are frequently seen in narrow bays, where they may be easily caught. The great number of rivers, both in the isles and opposite mainland, afford abundance of salmon, which, if rightly managed, might turn to a good account.

The isles afford likewise great quantities of black cattle, which might serve the traders both for consumption and export.

Strath in Skye abounds with good marble, which may be had at an easy rate, and near the sea.

There is good wool in most of the isles, and very cheap; some are at the charge of carrying it on horseback, about seventy or eighty miles, to the shires of Moray and Aberdeen.

There are several of the isles that afford a great deal of very fine clay; which, if improved, might turn to a good account for making earthenware of all sorts.

The most centrical and convenient places for keeping magazines of casks, salt, etc., are those mentioned in the respective isles; as one at Loch-Maddy isles, in the isle of North Uist; a second in the isle Hermetra, on the coast of the isle Harris; a third in island Glass, on the coast of Harris; and a fourth in Stornvay, in the isle of Lewis.

But for settling a magazine or colony for trade in general, and fishing in particular, the isle of Skye is absolutely the most centrical, both with regard to the isles and opposite mainland; and the most proper places in this isle are island Isa in Loch-Fallart, and Loch-Uig, both on the west side of Skye; Loch-Portree and Scowsar on the east side; and island Dierman on the south side; these places abound with all sorts of fish that are caught in those seas; and they are proper places for a considerable number of men to dwell in, and convenient for settling magazines in them.

There are many bays and harbours that are convenient for building towns in several of the other isles if trade were settled among them; and cod and ling as well as fish of lesser size, are to be had generally on the coast of the lesser, as well as of the larger isles. I am not ignorant that foreigners, sailing through the Western Isles, have been tempted from the sight of so many wild hills that seem to be covered all over with heath, and faced with high rocks, to imagine that the inhabitants, as well as the places of their residence, are barbarous; and to this opinion, their habit, as well as their language, have contributed. The like is supposed by many that live in the south of Scotland, who know no more of the Western Isles than the natives of Italy, but the lion is not so fierce as he is painted, neither are the people described here so barbarous as the world imagines. It is not the habit that makes the monk, nor both the garb in fashion qualify him that wears it to be virtuous. The inhabitants have humanity, and use strangers hospitably and charitably. I could bring several instances of barbarity and theft committed by stranger seamen in the isles, but there is not one instance of any injury offered by the islanders to any seamen or strangers. I had a particular account of seamen, who not many years ago stole cattle and sheep in several of the isles; and when they were found on board their vessels, the inhabitants were satisfied to take their value in money or goods, without any further resentment; though many seamen whose lives were preserved by the natives have made them very ungrateful returns. For the humanity and hospitable temper of the slanders to sailors, I shall only give two instances: Captain Jackson of Whitehaven, about sixteen years ago, was obliged to leave his ship, being leaky, in the bay within island Glass, alias Scalpa, in the isle of Harris, with two men to take care of her, though loaded with goods: the ship was not within three miles of a house, and separated from the dwelling-places by mountains; yet when the captain returned, about ten or twelve months after, he found his men and the vessel safe.

Captain Lotch left the "Dromedary" of London, of six hundred tons burden, with all her rich cargo from the Indies; of which he might have saved a great deal, had he embraced the assistance which the natives offered him to unload her; but the captain’s shyness, and fear of being thought rude, hindered a gentleman on the place to employ about seventy hands, which he had ready to unload her; and so the cargo was lost. The captain and his men were kindly entertained there by Sir Norman Macleod, and though, among other valuable goods, they had six boxes of gold dust, there was not the least thing taken from them by the inhabitants. There are some pedlars from the shire of Moray, and other parts, who of late have fixed their residence in the isle of Skye, and travel through the remotest isles without any molestation; though some of these pedlars speak no Irish. Several barques come yearly from Orkney to the Western Isles, to fish for cod and ling: and many from Anstruther in the shire of Fife, came formerly to Barray and other isles to fish, before the battle of Kilsyth, where most of them being cut off, that trade was afterwards neglected.

The magazines and fishing boats left by foreigners in the isles above mentioned, were reckoned secure enough, when one of the natives only was left in charge with them till the next season,and so they might be still. So that if a company of strangers from any part should settle to fish or trade in these isles, there is no place of greater security in any part of Europe; for the proprietors are always ready to assist and support all strangers within their respective jurisdictions. A few Dutch families settled in Stornvay, in the isle of Lewis, after King Charles the Second’s restoration, but some cunning merchants found means by the secretaries to prevail with the king to send them away, though they brought the islanders a great deal of money for the products of their sea and land fowl, and taught them something of the art of fishing. Had they stayed the islanders must certainly have made considerable progress in trade by this time, for the small idea of fishing they had from the Dutch has had so much effect as to make the people of the little village of Stornvay to excel all those of the neighbouring isles and continent in the fishing trade ever since that time.

For the better government of those isles, in case of setting up a fishing trade there, it may perhaps be found necessary to erect the isles of Skye, Lewis, Harris, South and North-Uist, &c., into a Sheriffalty, and to build a royal burgh in Skye as the centre; because of the people’s great distance in remote isles, from the head burgh of the shire of Inverness. This would seem much more necessary here than those of Bute and Arran, that lie much nearer to Dumbarton, though they be necessary enough in themselves.

It may likewise deserve the consideration of the Government whether they should not make the isle of Skye a free port, because of the great encouragement such immunities give to trade; which always issues in the welfare of the public, and adds strength and reputation to the Government. Since these isles are capable of the improvements above mentioned, it is a great loss to the nation they should be thus neglected.

This is the general opinion of foreigners, as well as of our own countrymen, who know them; but I leave the further inquiry to such as shall be disposed to attempt a trade there, with the concurrence of the Government. Scotland has men and money enough to set up a fishery, so that there seems to be nothing wanting towards it, but the encouragement of those in power, to excite the inclination and industry of the people.

If the Dutch in their public edicts call their fishery a golden mine, and at the same time affirm that it yields them more profit than the Indies do to Spain, we have very great reason to begin to work upon those rich mines, not only in the isles, but on all our coast in general. We have multitudes of hands to be employed at a very easy rate; we have a healthful climate, and our fish, especially the herring, come to our coast in April or May, and into the bays in prodigious shoals in July or August. I have seen complaints from Loch-Essort, in Skye, that all the ships there were loaded, and that the barrel of herring might be had there for fourpence, but there were no buyers.

I have known the herring fishing to continue in some bays from September till the end of January, and wherever they are, all other fish follow them, and whales and seals in particular, for the larger fish of all kinds feed upon herring.


THE isles of Orkney lie to the north of Scotland, having the main Caledonian Ocean, which contains the Hebrides, on the west, and the German Ocean on the east; and the sea towards the north separates them from the isles of Shetland. Pictland Firth on the south, which is twelve miles broad, reaches to Dungisbie Head, the most northern point of the mainland of Scotland.

Authors differ as to the origin of the name; the English call it Orkney, from Eric, one of the first Pictish princes that possessed them; and it is observed that pict or pight in the Teutonic language signifies a fighter. The Irish call them Arkive, from the first planter; and Latin authors call them Orcades. They lie in the northern temperate zone, and 13th climate; the longitude is between 22 degrees and 11 minutes, and latitude 59 degrees 2 minutes. The compass varies here 8 degrees. The longest day is about 18 hours. The air is temperately cold, and the night so clear that in the middle of June one may see to read all night long; and the days in winter are by consequence very short. Their winters here are commonly more subject to rain than snow, for the sea air dissolves the latter. The winds are often very boisterous in this country.

The sea ebbs and flows here as in other parts, except in a few sounds, and about some promontories; which alter the course of the tides, and make them very impetuous.

The isles of Orkney are reckoned twenty-six in number; the lesser isles, called Holms, are not inhabited, but fit for pasturage: most of their names end in a or ey that in the Teutonic language signifies water, with which they are all surrounded.

The main land, called by the ancients Pomona, is about twenty-four miles long, and in the middle of it, on the south side, lies the only town in Orkney, called Kirkwall, which is about three quarters of a mile in length; the Danes called it Cracoviaca. There has been two fine edifices in it, one of them called the King’s Palace, which is supposed to have been built by one of the Bishops of Orkney, because in the wall there is a bishop’s mitre and arms engraven, and the bishops anciently had their residence in it.

The palace now called the Bishop’s, was built by Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney, anno 1606.

There is a stately church in this town, having a steeple erected on four large pillars in the middle of it; there are fourteen pillars on each side the church: it is called by the name of St. Magnus’s Church, being founded, as the inhabitants say, by Magnus King of Norway, whom they believe to be interred there. The seat of justice for these isles is kept here; the steward, sheriff, and commissary do each of them keep their respective courts in this place. It has a public school for teaching of grammar learning, endowed with a competent salary.

This town was erected into a royal burgh when the Danes possessed it, and their charter was afterwards confirmed to them by King James the Third, anno 1486. They have from that charter a power to hold burgh courts, to imprison, to arrest, to make by-laws, to choose their own magistrates yearly, to have two weekly markets; and they have also power of life and death, and of sending commissioners to Parliament, and all other privileges granted to royal burghs. This charter was dated at Edinburgh the last day of March 1486, and it was since ratified by King James the Fifth, and King Charles the Second. The town is governed by a provost, four bailiffs, and a common council.

On the west end of the main is the king’s palace formerly mentioned, built by Robert Stewart, Earl of Orkney, about the year 1574. Several rooms in it have been curiously painted with scripture stories, as the flood of Noah, Christ’s riding into Jerusalem, &c., and each figure has the scripture by it, that it refers to. Above the arms within there is this lofty inscription, sic fuit, est, et erit. This island is fruitful in corn and grass, and has several good harbours; one of them at Kirkwall, a second at the bay of Kerston village, near the west end of the isle, well secured against wind and weather; the third is at Deer Sound, and reckoned a very good harbour; the fourth is at Grahamshall, towards the east side of the isle, but in sailing to it from the east side, seamen would do well to sail betwixt Lambholm and the main land, and not between Lambholm and Burray, which is shallow.

On the east of the main land lies the small isle Copinsha, fruitful in corn and grass; it is distinguished by sea-faring men for its conspicuousness at a great distance. To the north end of it lies the Holm, called the Horse of Copinsha. Over against Kerston Bay lie the isles of Hoy and Waes, which make but one isle, about twelve miles in length, and mountainous. In this island is the hill of Hoy, which is reckoned the highest in Orkney.

The isle of South Ronaldsha lies to the east of Waes, it is five miles in length, and fruitful in corn; Burray in the south end is the ferry to Duncansby in Caithness. A little further to the south lies Swinna isle, remarkable only for a part of Pentland Firth lying to the west of it, called the Wells of Swinna. They are two whirlpools in the sea, which run about with such violence, that any vessel or boat coming within their reach, go always round until they sink. These wells are dangerous only when there is a dead calm; for if a boat be under sail with any wind, it is easy to go over them. If any boat be forced into these wells by the violence of the tide, the boat-men cast a barrel or an oar into the wells; and while it is swallowing it up, the sea continues calm, and given the boat an opportunity to pass over.

To the north of the main lies the isle of Shapinsha, five miles in length, and has an harbour at Elwick on the south. Further to the north lie the isles of Stronsa, five miles in length, and Eda which is four miles; Ronsa lies to the north-west, and is six miles long. The isle Sanda lies north, twelve miles in length, and is reckoned the most fruitful and beautiful of all the Orcades.

The isles of Orkney in general are fruitful in corn and cattle, and abound with store of rabbits.

The sheep are very fruitful here, many of them have two, some three and others four lambs at a time; they often die with a disease called the sheep-dead, which is occasioned by little animals about half an inch long, that are engendered in their liver.

The horses are of a very small size, but hardy, and exposed to the rigour of the season during the winter and spring: the grass being then scarce they are fed with sea-ware.

The fields everywhere abound with variety of plants and roots, and the latter are generally very large; the common people dress their leather with the roots of tormentil, instead of bark.

The mainland is furnished with abundance of good marle, which is used successfully by the husbandman for manuring the ground.

The inhabitants say there are mines of silver, tin, and lead in the mainland, South Ronaldsha, Stronsa, Sanda, and Hoy. Some veins of marble are to be seen at Buckquoy and Swinna. There are no trees in these isles, except in gardens, and those bear no fruit. Their common fuel is peat and turf, of which there is such plenty as to furnish a salt-pan with fuel. A south-east and north-west moon cause high water here.

The Finland fishermen have been frequently seen on the coast of this isle, particularly in the year 1682. The people on the coast saw one of them in his little boat, and endeavoured to take him, but could not come at him, he retired so speedily. They say the fish retire from the coast when they see these men come to it.

One of the boats, sent from Orkney to Edinburgh, is to be seen in the Physicians’ Hall, with the oar he makes use of, and the dart with which he kills his fish.

There is no venomous creature in this country. The inhabitants say there is a snail there which has a bright stone growing in it. There is abundance of shell-fish here, as oysters, mussels, crans, cockles, &c.; of this latter, they make much fine lime. The rocks on the shore afford plenty of sea-ware, as alga marina, &c.

The sea abounds with variety of fish, but especially herring, which are much neglected since the battle of Kilsyth, at which time the fishermen from Fife were almost all killed there.

There are many small whales round the coast of this isle; and the amphibian here are otters and seals.

The chief products of Orkney that are yearly exported from thence are corn, fish, hides, tallow, butter, skins of seals, otter skins, lamb skins, rabbit skins, stuffs, white salt, wool, pens, down, feathers, hams, &c.

Some spermacetti and ambergris, as also the os cæpier, are found on the shore of several of those isles.

This country affords plenty of sea and land fowl, as geese, ducks, solan geese, swans, lyres, and eagles, which are so strong as to carry away children. There is also the cleck-goose; the shells in which this fowl is said to be produced are found in several isles sticking to trees by the bill; of this kind I have seen many: the fowl was covered by a shell, and the head stuck to the tree by the bill, but I never saw any of them with life in them upon the tree; but the natives told me that they had observed them to move with the heat of the sun.

The Picts are believed to have been the first inhabitants of these isles, and there are houses of a round form in several parts of the country, called by the name of Picts’ houses; and for the same reason the firth is called Pictland or Pentland Firth. Our historians call these isles the ancient kingdom of the Picts. Buchanan gives an account of one Belus, king of Orkney, who, being defeated by King Ewen the Second of Scotland, became desperate and killed himself. The effigy of this Belus is engraved on a stone in the church of Birsa, on the mainland. Boethius makes mention of another of their kings, called Bannus, and by others Gethus, who being vanquished by Claudius Cæsar, was by him afterwards, together with his wife and family, carried captive to Rome, and there led in triumph, anno Christii 43.

The Picts possessed Orkney until the reign of Kenneth the Second of Scotland, who subdued the country, and annexed it to his crown. From that time Orkney was peaceably possessed by the Scots, until about the year 1099, that Donald Bane, intending to secure the kingdom to himself, promised both those and the Western Isles to Magnus, king of Norway, upon condition that he should support him with a competent force: which he performed; and by this means became master of these isles, until the reign of Alexander the Third, who by his valour expelled the Danes. The Kings of Denmark did afterwards resign their title for a sum of money, and this resignation was ratified under the Great Seal of Denmark, at the marriage of King James the Sixth of Scotland, with Anne, Princess of Denmark.

Orkney has been from time to time a title of honour to several persons of great quality: Henry and William Sinclairs were called princes of Orkney; and Rothuel Hepburn was made Duke of Orkney; Lord George Hamilton (brother to the present Duke of Hamilton) was by the late King William created Earl of Orkney. The Earl of Morton had a mortgage of Orkney and Zetland from King Charles the First, which was since reduced by a decree of the Lords of Session, obtained at the instance of the King’s advocate against the Earl; and this decree was afterwards ratified by Act of Parliament, and the earldom of Orkney, and lordship of Zetland, have since that time been erected into a stewartry. The reason on which the decree was founded, is said to have been, that the Earl’s deputy seized upon some chests of gold found in the rich Amsterdam ship, called the Carlmelan, that was lost in Zetland, 1664.

There are several gentlemen of estates in Orkney, but the Queen is the principal proprietor; and one-half of the whole belongs to the Crown, besides the late accession of the bishop’s rents, which is about 9000 merks Scots per annum. There is a yearly roup of Orkney rents, and he that offers highest is preferred to be the King’s steward for the time; and as such, he is principal judge of the country. But this precarious lease is a public loss to the inhabitants, especially the poorer sort, who complain that they would be allowed to pay money for their corn and meal in time of scarcity; but that the stewards carried it off to other parts, and neglected the interest of the country. The interest of the Crown suffers likewise by this means, for much of the Crown lands lie waste: whereas if there were a constant steward, it might be much better managed, both for the crown and the inhabitants.

There is a tenure of land in Orkney, differing from any other in the kingdom, and this they call Udal Right, from Ulas King of Norway, who after taking possession of those islands, gave a right to the inhabitants, on condition of paying the third to himself; and this right the inhabitants had successively, without any Charter. All the lands of Orkney are Udal lands, King’s lands, or Feued lands.

They differ in their measures from other parts of Scotland, for they do not use the peck or firlet, but weigh their corn in pismores, or pundlers; the least quantity they call a merg, which is eighteen ounces, and twenty-four makes a leispound, or settee, which is the same with the Danes that a stone weight is with us.

The Ancient State of the Church of Orkney.

THE churches of Orkney and Zetland isles were formerly under the government of a bishop; the cathedral church was St. Magnus in Kirkwall. There are thirty-one churches, and about one hundred chapels in the country, and the whole make up about eighteen parishes.

This diocese had several great dignities and privileges for a long time, but by the succession and change of many masters, they were lessened. Dr. Robert Reid their bishop, made an erection of seven dignities, viz.: ----- 1. A provost, to whom, under the bishop, the government of the canons, etc., did belong; he had allotted to him the prebendary of Holy Trinity, and the vicarage of South Ronaldsha. 2. An archdeacon. 3. A precentor, who had the prebendary of Ophir, and vicarage of Stennis. 4. A chancellor, who was to be learned in both laws; to him was given the prebendary of St. Mary in Sanda, and the vicarage of Sanda. 5. A treasurer, who was to keep the treasure of the church, and sacred vestments, etc., he was rector of St. Nicholas in Stronsa. 6. A subdean, who was parson of Hoy, etc. 7. A subchanter, who was bound to play on the organs each Lord’s day, and festivals; he was prebendary of St. Colme. He erected seven other canonries and prebends; to which dignities he assigned, besides their churches, the rents of the parsonages of St. Colme in Waes, and Holy Cross in Westra, as also the vicarages of the parish churches of Sanda, Wick, and Stromness. He erected, besides these, thirteen chaplains; every one of which was to have 24 meils of corn, and ten merks of money for their yearly salary; besides their daily distributions, which were to be raised from the rents of the vicarage of the cathedral church, and from the foundation of Thomas Bishop of Orkney, and the twelve pounds ratified by King James the Third, and James the Fourth of Scotland. To these he added a sacrist, and six boys to bear tapers. The charter of this erection is dated at Kirkwall, October 28th, anno 1544.

This was the state of the Church under Popery. Some time after the Reformation, Bishop Law being made bishop of Orkney, and the earldom united to the Crown (by the forfeiture and death of Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney), he, with the consent of his chapter, made a contract with King James the Sixth, in which they resign all their ecclesiastical lands to the Crown; and the King gives back to the bishop several lands in Orkney, as Hom, Orphir, &c., and his Majesty gave also the commissariat of Orkney to the bishop and his successors; and then a competent number of persons for a chapter were agreed on. This contract was made anno 1614.

The Ancient Monuments and Curiosities in these Islands are as follows: ----

IN the isle of Hoy there’s the Dwarfie-stone between two hills; it is about thirty-four feet long and above 16 feet broad; it is made hollow by human industry: it has a small square entry looking to the east, about two feet high, and has a stone proportionable at two feet distance before the entry. At one of the ends within this stone there is cut out a bed and pillow capable of two persons to lie in, at the other opposite end there is a void space cut out resembling a bed, and above both these there is a large hole which is supposed was a vent for smoke. The common tradition is that a giant and his wife made this their place of retreat.

About a mile to the west of the mainland at Skealhouse, there is in the top of high rocks many stones disposed like a street, about a quarter of a mile in length, and between twenty and thirty feet broad. They differ in figure and magnitude, are of a red colour; some resemble a heart, some a crown, leg, shoe, last, weaver’s shuttle, &c.

On the west and east side of Loch Stennis, on the mainland, there are two circles of large stones erected in a ditch; the larger, which is round on the north-west side is a hundred paces diameter, and some of the stones are twenty feet high, and above four in breadth; they are not all of a height, nor placed at an equal distance, and many of them are fallen down on the ground.

About a little distance further there is a semi-circle of larger stones than those mentioned above. There are two green mounts at the east and west side of the circle, which are supposed to be artificial, and fibulas of silver were found in them some time ago which on one side resembled a horse-shoe more than anything else.

The hills and circles are believed to have been places designed to offer sacrifice in time of pagan idolatry; and for this reason the people called them the ancient temples of the gods, as we may find by Boethius in the Life of Manius. Several of the inhabitants have a tradition that the sun was worshipped in the larger, and the moon in the lesser circle.

In the chapel of Clet, in the isle of Sanda, there is a grave of nineteen feet in length; some who had the curiosity to open it, found only a piece of a man’s backbone in it, bigger than that of a horse. The minister of the place had the curiosity to keep the bone by him for some time. The inhabitants have a tradition of a giant there whose stature was such that he could reach his hand as high as the top of the chapel. There have been large bones found lately in Westra, and one of the natives who died not long ago was for his stature distinguished by the title of the Micle, or great man of Waes.

There are erected stones in divers parts both of the main and lesser isles, which are believed to have been erected as monuments of such as distinguished themselves in battle.

There have been several strange instances of the affects of thunder here; as that of burning Kirkwall steeple by lightning in the year 1670. At Stromness a gentleman had twelve kine, six of which in a stall here suddenly killed by thunder, and the other six left alive; and it was remarkable that the thunder did not kill them all as they stood, but killed one and missed another. This happened in 1680, and is attested by the minister and others of the parish.

There is a ruinous chapel in Papa Westra called St. Tredwels, at the door of which there is a heap of stones, which was the superstition of the common people, who have such a veneration for this chapel above any other, that they never fail, at their coming to it, to throw a stone as an offering before the door: and this they reckon an indispensable duty enjoined by their ancestors.

Ladykirk, in South Ronaldshaw, though ruinous, and without a roof, is so much reverenced by the natives, that they choose rather to repair this old one, than to build a new church in a more convenient place, and at a cheaper rate: such is the power of education, that these men cannot be cured of these superfluous fancies, transmitted to them by their ignorant ancestors.

Within the ancient fabric of Ladykirk, there is a stone of four feet in length, and two in breadth, tapering at both ends: this stone has engraved on it the print of two feet, concerning which the inhabitants have the following tradition; that St. Magnus wanting a boat to carry him over Pentland Firth to the opposite main land of Caithness, made use of this stone instead of a boat, and afterwards carried it to this church, where it continues ever since. But others have this more reasonable opinion, that it has been used in time of Popery for delinquents, who were obliged to stand bare-feet upon it by way of penance. Several of the vulgar inhabiting the lesser isles, observe the anniversary of their respective saints. There is one day in harvest on which the vulgar abstain from work, because of an ancient and foolish tradition, that if they do their work, the ridges will bleed.

They have a charm for stopping excessive bleeding, either in man or beast, whether the cause be internal or external; which is performed by sending the name of the patient to the charmer, who adds some more words to it, and after repeating those words the cure is performed, though the charmer be several miles distant from the patient. They have likewise other charms which they use frequently at a distance, and that also with success.

The inhabitants are well proportioned, and seem to be more sanguine than they are; the poorer sort live much upon fish of various kinds and sometimes without any bread. The inhabitants in general are subject to the scurvy, imputed to the fish and salt meat, which is their daily food; yet several of the inhabitants arrive at a great age: a woman in Evie brought forth a child in the sixty-third year of her age.

One living in Kerston lately, was one hundred and twelve years old, and went to sea at one hundred and ten. A gentleman at Stronsa, about four years ago, had a son at one hundred and ten years old. One William Muir in Westra, lived one hundred and forty years, and died about eighteen years ago. The inhabitants speak the English tongue; several of the vulgar speak the Danish or Norse language; and many among them retain the ancient Danish names.

Those of distinction are hospitable and obliging, the vulgar are generally civil and affable. Both of them wear the habit in fashion in the Lowlands, and some wear a seal skin for shoes; which they do not sew, but only tie them about their feet with strings, and sometimes thongs of leather: they are generally able and stout seamen.

The common people are very laborious and undergo great fatigues, and no small hazard in fishing. The isles of Orkney were formerly liable to frequent incursions by the Norwegians, and those inhabiting the western isles of Scotland. To prevent which, each village was obliged to furnish a large boat well manned to oppose the enemy, and upon their landing all the inhabitants were to appear armed; and beacons were set on the top of the highest hills and rocks, to give a general warning on the sight of an approaching enemy.

About the year 1634 Dr. Graham being then bishop of Orkney, a young boy called William Garioch, had some acres of land, and some cattle, &c., left him by his father, deceased: he, being young, was kept by his uncle, who had a great desire to obtain the lands, &c., belonging to his nephew; who being kept short, stole a setten of barley, which is about twenty-eight pound weight, from his uncle; for which he pursued the youth, who was then eighteen years of age, before the sheriff. The theft being proved, the young man received sentence of death; but going up the ladder to be hanged, he prayed earnestly that God would inflict some visible judgment on his uncle, who out of covetousness had procured his death. The uncle happened after this to be walking in the church-yard of Kirkwall, and as he stood upon the young man’s grave, the bishop’s dog ran at him all of a sudden, and tore out his throat; and so he became a monument of God’s wrath against such covetous wretches. This account was given to Mr. Wallace, minister there, by several that were witnesses of the fact.


SHETLAND lies north-east from Orkney, between the 60th and 61st degree of latitude.

The distance between the head of Sanda, which is the most northerly part of Orkney, and Swinburghead, the most southerly point of Shetland, is commonly reckoned to be twenty or twenty-one leagues; the tides running betwixt are always impetuous and swelling, as well in a calm as when a fresh gale blows; and the greatest danger is near the Fair Isle, which lies nearer to Shetland than Orkney by four leagues.

The largest isle of Shetland, by the natives called the Mainland, is sixty miles in length from south-west to north-east, and from sixteen to one mile in breadth. Some call these isles Hethland, others Hoghland, which in the Norse tongue signifies highland; Shetland in the same language signifies sealand.

This isle is for the most part mossy, and more cultivated on the shore than in any other part; it is mountainous, and covered with heath, which renders it fitter for pasturage than village. The inhabitants depend upon the Orkney isles for their corn. The ground is generally so boggy that it makes riding impracticable, and travelling on foot not very pleasant, there being several parts into which people sink, to the endangering the lives, of which there have been several late instances. About the summer solstice, they have so much light all night that they can see to read by it. The sun sets between ten and eleven, and rises between one and two in the morning, but then the day is so much the shorter, and the night longer in the winter. This, together with the violence of the tides and tempestuous seas, deprives the inhabitants of all foreign correspondence from October till April, and often till May, during which space they are altogether strangers to the rest of mankind, of whom they hear not the least news. A remarkable instance of this happened after the late revolution: they had no account of the Prince of Orange’s late landing in England, coronation, &c., until a fisherman happened to land in these isles in May following, and he was not believed, but indicted for high treason for spreading such news.

The air of this isle is cold and piercing, notwithstanding which many of the inhabitants arrive at a great age, of which there are several remarkable instances. Buchanan, in his history, lib. I, gives an account of one Laurence, who lived in his time, some of whose offspring do still live in the parish of Waes; this man, after he arrived at one hundred years of age, married a wife, went out a-fishing when he was one hundred and forty years old, and upon his return, died rather of old age than of any distemper.

The inhabitants give an account of one Tairville, who arrived at the age of one hundred and eighty, and never drank any malt drink, distilled waters, nor wine. They say that his son lived longer than him, and that his grandchildren lived to a good age, and seldom or never drank any stronger liquors than milk, water, or bland.

The disease that afflicts the inhabitants here most is the scurvy, which they suppose is occasioned by their eating too much salt fish. There is a distemper here called bastard scurvy, which discovers itself by the falling of the hair from the people’s eyebrows, and the falling of their noses, &c., and as soon as the symptoms appear the persons are removed to the fields, where little houses are built for them on purpose, to prevent infection. The principal cause of this distemper is believed to be want of bread, and feeding on fish alone, particularly the liver. Many poor families are sometimes without bread for three, four, or five months together. They say likewise that their drinking of bland, which is their universal liquor, and preserved for the winter as part of their provisions, is another cause of this distemper. This drink is made of buttermilk mixed with water. There be many of them who never taste ale or beer, for their scarcity of bread is such that they can spare no corn for drink, so that they have no other than bland, but what they get from foreign vessels that resort thither every summer to fish.

The isles in general afford a great quantity of scurvy grass, which, used discreetly, is found to be a good remedy against this disease. The jaundice is commonly cured by drinking the powder of shell-snails among their drink, in the space of three or four days. They first dry then pulverize the snails; and it is observable that though this dust should be kept all the year round, and grow into vermin, it may be dried again, and pulverised for that use.

The isles afford abundance of sea-fowl, which serve the inhabitants for part of their food during summer and harvest, and the down and feathers bring them great gain.

The several tribes of fowl here build and hatch apart, and every tribe keeps close together, as if it were by consent. Some of the lesser isles are so crowded with variety of sea-fowl that they darken the air when they fly in great numbers. After their coming, which is commonly in February, they sit very close together for some time, till they recover the fatigue of their long flight from their remote quarters; and after they have hatched their young, and find they are able to fly, they go away together to some other unknown place.

The people inhabiting the lesser isles have abundance of eggs and fowl, which contribute to maintain their families during the summer.

The common people are generally very dexterous in climbing the rocks in quest of those eggs and fowl; but this exercise is attended with very great danger, and sometimes proves fatal to those that venture too far.

The most remarkable experiment of this sort is at the isle called the Noss of Brassa, and is as follows: ----- The Noss being about sixteen fathoms distant from the side of the opposite main; the higher and lower rocks have two stakes fastened in each of them, and to these there are ropes tied: upon the ropes there is an engine hung, which they call a cradle; and in this a man makes his way over from the greater to the lesser rocks, where he makes a considerable purchase of eggs and fowl; but his return being by an ascent makes it the more dangerous, though those on the great rock have a rope tied to the cradle, by which they draw it and the man safe over for the most part.

There are some rocks here computed to be about three hundred fathoms high, and the way of climbing them is to tie a rope about a man’s middle, and let him down with a basket, in which he brings up his eggs and fowl. The Isle of Foula is the most dangerous and fatal to the climbers, for many of them perish in the attempt.

The crows are very numerous in Shetland, and differ in their colour from those on the mainland; for the head, wings, and tail of those in Shetland are only black, and their back, breast, and tail of a grey colour. When black crows are seen there at any time the inhabitants say it is a presage of approaching famine.

There are fine hawks in these isles, and particularly those of Fair Isle are reputed among the best that are to be had anywhere; they are observed to go far for their prey, and particularly for moor-fowl as far as the isles of Orkney, which are about sixteen leagues from them.

There are likewise many eagles in and about these isles, which are very destructive to the sheep and lambs.

This country produces little horse, commonly called shelties, and they are very sprightly, though the least of their kind to be seen anywhere; they are lower in stature than those of Orkney, and it is common for a man of ordinary strength to lift a sheltie from the ground: yet this little creature is able to carry double. The black are esteemed to be the most hardy, but the pied ones seldom prove so good: they live many times till thirty years of age, and are fit for service all the while. These horses are never brought into a house, but exposed to the rigour of the season all the year round; and when they have no grass feed upon sea-ware, which is only to be had at the tide of ebb.

The isles of Shetland produce many sheep, which have two and three lambs at a time; they would be much more numerous did not the eagles destroy them: they are likewise reduced to feed on sea-ware during the frost and snow.

The Lesser Isles of Shetland are as follows: -----

THE isle Trondra, which lies opposite to Scalloway town, on the west; three miles long and two broad.

Further to the north-east lies the isle of Whalsey, about three miles in length, and as many in breadth; the rase are very numerous here, and do abundance of mischief by destroying the corn.

At some further distance lie the small isles called Skerries; there is a church in one of them. Those isles and rocks prove often fatal to seamen, but advantageous to the inhabitants, by the wrecks and goods that the wind and tides drive ashore; which often supplies them with fuel, of which they are altogether destitute. It was here that the "Carmelan," of Amsterdam, was cast away, as bound for the East Indies anno 1664. Among the rich cargo she had several chests of coined gold; the whole was valued at 3,000,000 guilders; of all the crew four only were saved. The inhabitants of the small isles, among other advantages they had by this wreck, had the pleasure of drinking liberally of the strong drink, which was driven ashore in large casks for the space of three weeks.

Between the Brassa Sound and the opposite main, lies the Unicorn, a dangerous rock, visible only at low water; it is so called ever since a vessel of that name perished upon it, commanded by William Kirkcaldy, of Grange, who was in eager pursuit of the Earl of Bothwell, and was very near him when his ship struck.

On the east lies the island called Fisholm: to the north-east lies Little Rue, and on the west Mickle Rue; the latter is eight miles in length, and two in breadth, and has a good harbour.

Near to Esting lie the isles of Vemantry, which have several harbours ----- Orney, little Papa, Helisha, etc.

To the north-west of the Ness lies St. Ninian’s isle; it has a chapel and an altar in it, upon which some of the inhabitants retain the ancient superstitious custom of burning candles.

Papa-Stour is two miles in length; it excels any isle of its extent for all the conveniences of human life: it has four good harbours, one of which looks to the south, another to the west, and two to the north.

The Lyra Skerries, so-called from the fowl of that name that abound in them, lie near this isle.

About six leagues west of the main, lies the isle Foula, about three miles in length; it has a rock remarkable for its height, which is seen from Orkney when the weather is fair; it has a harbour on the one side.

The isle of Brassa lies to the east of Tingwal; it is five miles in length, and two in breadth; some parts of the coast are stable ground; and there are two churches in it.

Further to the east lies the small isle called the Noss of Brassa.

The isle of Burray is three miles long, has good pasturage, and abundance of fish on its coast; it has a large church and steeple in it. The inhabitants say that mice do not live in this isle, when brought to it; and that the earth of it being brought to any other part where the mice are, they will quickly abandon it.

Haverot Isle, which is a mile and a half in length, lies to the south-east of Burray.

The isle of Yell is sixteen miles long, and from eight to one in breadth; it lies north-east from the main; there are three churches, and several small chapels in it.

The isle of Hakashie is two miles long, Samphrey isle one mile long, Biggai isle is a mile and a half in length; all three lie round Yell, and are reputed among the best of the lesser isles.

The isle of Fetlor lies to the north-east of Yell, and is five miles in length, and four in breadth; it has a church, and some of the Picts houses in it.

The isle of Unst is eight miles long, and is the pleasantest of the Shetland isles; it has three churches and as many harbours; it is reckoned the most northern of all the British Dominions. The inhabitants of the isle Vaila say that no cat will live in it, and if any cat be brought to it, they will rather venture to sea, than stay in the isle. They say that a cat was seen upon the isle about fifty years ago; but how it came there was unknown. They observed about the same time, how the proprietor was in great torment, and as they supposed by witchcraft, of which they say he then died. There is no account that any cat has been seen in the isle ever since that gentleman’s death except when they were carried to it, for making the above-mentioned experiment.

The inhabitants say that if a compass be placed at the house of Udsta, on the west-side of the isle Fetlor, the needle will be in perpetual disorder, without fixing to any one pole; and that being tried afterwards on the top of that house, it had the same effect. They add further that when a vessel sails near that house, the needle of the compass is disordered in the same manner.

There is a yellow sort of metal, lately discovered in the isle of Uzia, but the inhabitants had not found a way to melt it; so that it is not yet turned to any account.

The Ancient Court of Justice.

IN these islands was held in Holm, in the parish of Tingwall, in the middle of the mainland. This Holm is an island in the middle of a freshwater lake; it is to this day called the Law-Ting, and the parish, in all probability, hath its name from it. The entrance to this Holm is by some stones laid in the water; and in the Holm there are four great stones, upon which sat the judge, clerk, and other officers of the Court. The inhabitants who had law-suits attended at some distance from the Holm, on the other side the lake; and when any of them was called by the officer, he entered by the stepping stones; and being dismissed, he returned the same way. This was the practice of the Danes. The inhabitants have a tradition among them that after one had received sentence of death upon the Holm, he obtained a remission, provided he made his escape through the crowd of people on the lake side, and touched Tingwall steeple before any could lay hold on him. This steeple in those days was an asylum for malefactors and debtors to flee into. The inhabitants of this isle are all Protestants; they generally speak the English tongue, and many among them retain the ancient Danish language, especially in the more northern isles. There are several who speak English, Norse, and Dutch; the last of which is acquired by their converse with the Hollanders, that fish yearly in those isles.

The people are generally reputed discreet, and charitable to strangers; and those of the best rank are fashionable in their apparel.

Shetland is much more populous now, than it was thirty years ago; which is owing to the trade, and particularly that of their fishery, so much followed every year by the Hollanders, Hamburgers, and others. The increase of people at Lerwick is considerable; for it had but three or four families about thirty years ago, and is since increased to about three hundred families: and it is observable that few of their families were natives of Shetland, but came from several parts of Scotland, and especially from the northern and eastern coasts.

The fishery in Shetland is the foundation both of their trade and wealth; and though it be of late become less than before, yet the inhabitants by their industry and application, make a greater profit of it than formerly, when they had them nearer the coast, both of the larger and lesser isles; but now the grey fish of the largest size are not to be had in any quantity without going further into the ocean. The fish commonly bought by strangers here are cod and ling; the inhabitants themselves make only use of the smaller fish and herrings, which abound on the coast of this isle in vast shoals.

The fish called tusk abounds on the coast of Brassa; the time for fishing is at the end of May. This fish is as big as a ling, of a brown and yellow colour, has a broad tail; it is better fresh than salted. They are commonly sold at fifteen or sixteen shillings the hundred.

The inhabitants observe that the further they go to the northward, the fish are of a larger size, and in greater quantities. They make great store of oil, particularly of the large grey fish, by them called seths, and the younger sort sillucks; they say that the liver of one seth affords a pint of Scots measure, being about four of English measure. The way of making the oil is first by boiling the liver in a pot half full of water, and when it boils the oil goes to the top and is skimmed off and put in vessels for use. The fishers observe of late that the livers of fish are less in size than they have been formerly.

The Hamburgers, Brewers, and others come to this country about the middle of May, set up shops in several parts, and sell divers commodities; as linen, muslin, and such things as are most proper for the inhabitants, but more especially beer, brandy, and bread: all which they barter for fish, stockings, mutton, hens, etc. And when the inhabitants ask money for their goods, they receive it immediately.

In the month of June, the Hollanders come with their fishing-busses in great numbers upon the coast for herring; and when they come into the Sound of Brassa, where the herring are commonly most plentiful, and very near the shore, they dispose their nets, etc., in order, but never begin till the twenty-fourth of June, for this is the time limited among themselves, which is observed as a law, that none will venture to transgress. This fishing-trade is very beneficial to the inhabitants, who have provisions and necessaries imported to their doors; and employment for all their people, who by their fishing, and selling the various products of the country, bring in a considerable sum of money yearly. The proprietors of the ground are considerable gainers also, by letting their houses, which serve as shops to the seamen, during their residence here.

There have been two thousand busses, and upwards, fishing in this Sound in one summer; but they are not always so numerous: they generally go away in August or September.

There are two little towns in the largest of the Shetland Isles; the most ancient of these is Scalloway; it lies on the west side of the isle, which is the most beautiful and pleasant part of it. It hath no trade, and but few inhabitants, the whole being about ninety in number. On the south-east end of the town stands the Castle of Scalloway, which is four stories high; it hath several conveniences and useful houses about it, and it is well furnished with water. Several rooms have been curiously painted, though the better part be now worn off. This ancient house is almost ruinous, there being no care taken to repair it. It served as a garrison for the English soldiers that were sent hither by Cromwell. This house was built by Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney, anno 1600. The gate hath the following inscription on it -----"Patricius Orchadiæ et Zelandiæ Comes." And underneath the inscription, "Cujus fundamen saxum est, Domus ills manebit: Labilis è contra si sit arena, perit." That house, whose foundation is on a rock, shall stand; but if on the sand, it shall fall.

The inhabitants say that this house was built upon the sandy foundation of oppression, in which they say the Earl exceeded; and for that and other crimes was executed.

There is a high stone erected between Dingwall and Scalloway; the inhabitants have a tradition that it was set up as a monument of a Danish general who was killed there by the ancient inhabitants, in a battle against the Danes and Norwegians.

The second and latest built town is Lerwick; it stands on that side of the Sound where the fishing is; the ground on which it is built is a hard rock, one side lies towards the sea and the other is surrounded with a moss, without any arable ground.

On the north is the citadel of Lerwick, which was built in the year 1665, in time of the war with Holland, but never completed; there is little more of it now left than the walls. The inhabitants, about thirty years ago, fished up three iron cannons out of a ship that had been cast away near eighty years before; and being all over rust, they made a great fire of peats round them to get off the rust; and the fire having heated the cannon, all the three went off, to the great surprise of the inhabitants, who say they saw the ball fall in the middle of Brassa Sound, but none of them had any damage by them.

There are many Picts’ houses in this country, and several of them entire to this day; the highest exceeds not twenty or thirty feet in height, and are about twelve feet broad in the middle; they taper towards both ends, the entry is lower than the doors of houses commonly are now, the windows are long and very narrow, and the stairs go up between the walls. These houses were built for watch-towers, to give notice of an approaching enemy; there is not one of them but what is in view of some other; so that a fire being made on the top of any one house the signal was communicated to all the rest in a few moments.

The inhabitants say that these houses were called burghs, which in the Saxon language signifies a town or castle fenced all round. The names of fortified places in the Western Isles are in several parts called borg; and the villages in which the forts stand are always named borg.

The inhabitants of Orkney say that several burying places among them are called burghs, from the Saxon word burying.

It is generally acknowledged that the Picts were originally Germans, and particularly from that part of it bordering upon the Baltic Sea. They were called Phightian, that is, Fighters: The Romans called them Picti. Some writers call them Pictavi, either from that name of Phightian, which they took to themselves, or from their beauty; and accordingly Boethius, in his character of them, joins both these together; "Quod erant corporibus robustissimis candidisque;" and Verstegan says the same of them.

The Romans called them Picti, because they had their shields painted of divers colours. Some think the name came from Pichk, which in the ancient Scots language signifies pitch, that they coloured their faces with, to make them terrible to their enemies in battle; and others think the name was taken from their painted habit.

This isle makes part of the shire of Orkney; there are twelve parishes in it, and a greater number of churches and chapels. Shetland pays not above one-third to the Crown of what Orkney does.

The ground being for the most part boggy and moorish, is not so productive of grain as the other isles and mainland of Scotland; and if it were not for the sea-ware, by which the ground is enriched, it would yield but a very small product.

There is lately discovered in divers parts, abundance of limestone, but the inhabitants are not suffficiently instructed in the use of it, for their corn-land.

There is plenty of good peats, which serve as fuel for the inhabitants, especially on the main.

The amphibia in these isles, are seals and otters in abundance; some of the latter are trained to go a-fishing, and fetch several sorts of fish home to their masters.

There are no trees in any of these isles, neither is their any venomous creature to be found there.

There have been several strange fish seen by the inhabitants at sea, some of the shape of men as fat as the middle; they are both troublesome and very terrible to the fishers, who call them sea-devils.

It is not long since every family of any considerable substance in those islands, was haunted by a spirit they called Browny, which did several sorts of work; and this was the reason why they gave him offerings of the various products of the place: thus some when they churned their milk, or brewed, poured some milk and wort through the hole of a stone, called Browny’s stone.

A minister in this country had an account from one of the ancient inhabitants who formerly brewed ale, and sometimes read his Bible, that an old woman in the family told him that Browny was much displeased at his reading in that book; and if he did not cease to read in it any more, Browny would not serve him as formerly. But the man continued his reading notwithstanding, and when he brewed refused to give any sacrifice to Browny; and so his first and second brewing miscarried, without any visible cause in the malt; but the third brewing proved good, and Browny got no more sacrifice from him after that.

There was another instance of a lady in Unst, who refused to give sacrifice to Browny, and lost two brewings; but the third proved good, and so Browny vanished quite, and troubled them no more.

I shall add no more, but that the great number of foreign ships which repair hither yearly upon the account of fishing, ought to excite the people of Scotland to a speedy improvement of that profitable trade; which they may carry on with more ease and profit in their own seas, than any foreigners whatever.




To the Right Honourable
Chancellor of His Majesty's Exchequer, President
to the Royal Society, &c.



THE Royal Society (in which you so worthily at this time preside) having formerly done me the honour to publish some of my observations in their celebrated Transactions, it has now encouraged me to presume on your patronage, and made me prefix your great name to this little essay.

The world is in general so well acquainted with those noble endowments and great abilities, for which our most wise and discerning monarch so early raised you to the highest places of trust and dignity, that only these poor islanders of whom I write, seem to be unhappily excluded from the knowledge of those many rare and excellent virtues, which under your administration do so signally bless mankind; of all which no one seems so necessary for me to implore, as that of your extraordinary goodness; which, I hope, will incline you to accept of this plain and humble address, as also to pardon the presumption of,


Your most humble and obedient servant,







MEN are generally delighted with novelty, and what is represented under that plausible invitation seldom fails of meeting with acceptance. If we hear at any time a description of some remote corner in the Indies cried in our streets, we presently conclude we may have some divertisement in reading of it; when in the meantime, there are a thousand things nearer us that may engage our thoughts to better purposes, and the knowledge of which may serve more to promote our true interest, and the history of Nature. It is a piece of weakness and folly merely to value things because of their distance from the place where we are born: thus men have travelled far enough in the search of foreign plants and animals, and yet continue strangers to those produced in their own natural climate. Therefore I presume that this following relation will not prove unprofitable or displeasing, unless the great advantages of truth and unaffected plainness may do it a prejudice, in the opinion of such as are more nice and childish than solid and judicious.

The ingenious author of this treatise is a person whose candor and integrity guard him against all affectation and vanity; and his great desire to propagate the natural history of the Isles of Scotland, makes him relate, without any disguise, the several particulars that fell under his accurate observation. He was prompted by a generous curiosity to undertake a voyage through several isles to St. Kilda (the particular account whereof you have in the following treatise) and that in an open boat, to the almost manifest hazard of his life, since the seas and tides in those rocky islands are more inconstant and raging than in most other places. There is nothing related in the following account, but what he vouches to be true, either from his own particular observation, or else from the constant and harmonious testimony that was given him by the inhabitants; and they are a sort of people so plain, and so little inclined to impose upon mankind, that perhaps no place in the world at this day, knows such instances of true primitive honour and simplicity, a people who abhor lying tricks and artifices, as they do the most poisonous plants, or devouring animals.

The Author, perhaps, might have put these papers into the hands of some who were capable of giving them the politest turns of phrase, and of making some pretty excursions upon several passages in them; but he thought the intelligent and philosophick part of mankind would value the truth more in such accounts, than anything that can be borrowed from art, or the advantages of more refined language; and such do contemplate the books of Nature with so much diligence and application that they may admire the original spring of power and wisdom, that first set Nature itself in motion, and preserves its regular course in all its wonderful and various phenomena; and therefore it may reasonably be hoped, that the meanness of its dress will not be made use of as any considerable objection against this preliminary essay.

He himself was born in one of the most spacious and fertile isles in the West of Scotland; and besides his liberal education at the University, had the advantage of seeing foreign places, and the honour of conversing with some of the Royal Society, who raised his natural curiosity to survey the isles of Scotland more exactly than any other; in prosecution of which design he has already brought along with him several curious productions of Nature, both rare and beautiful in their kind, which were never seen nor known here before; and, perhaps, there be few that have the same advantages of doing it to purpose, he being generally acquainted with most of the better sort, and nearly concerned in such as would very willingly encourage endeavours of this and the like nature.

(Insert birds on pg. 400 here)


CHAPTER I. ----- The Motives for the Voyage: Signs of a Storm: The Changes of the Wind: The Consequence of their Change: The Flight of the Fowls: How serving the Natives as well as a Compass: A Fight betwixt Two Solan Geese: The way the Inhabitants walk among the Rocks: The Manner of Landing: The Number of Eggs consumed in Three Weeks: Various Names of the Isle: Latitude, Climate, Seasons, Length and Breadth of it: The Bay: Force of the Sea: Four Arches, or Vaults: Chrystal, how it grows: A Female Warrior’s House: Fountains: Marks on the Cattel, &c., Fishes, Baits: Amphibia. p. 403.

CHAPTER II. ----- Of the inferior Isles and Rocks, their Product: Solan Geese, how Killed: A branch of the Officer’s Salary, Staller-house, Pyramids: Policy of the Inhabitants: An Earthquake: A Fountain: The taking away, or leaving the Eggs in the Nests by the Inhabitants, advances or retards the hatching of the Fowls by the space of Eighteen Days, sooner or later: Our progress to Borera: Every Solan Goose catch’d, is presently mark’d on the Foot by the Owner: Of Eddies: Tides: Land and Sea-Fowls, their description, various Properties, Seasons for their coming, and going away: Their Prognosticks of Winds, Storms, Calms, &c.: Barren Tribe of Solan Geese: The Solan Geese’s Centinels: Fulmar Oyl, its properties: Eggs, their various Properties and Effects. p. 418.

CHAPTER III. ----- Of the Inhabitants. Their Pedigree: Complection: Strength: Diseases: Cures: Plants: Religion: Notion of Spirits. Festivals: Anniversary Cavalcade: Chappels: Crucifix; Lots: Marriage: Baptism. Proprietor: Omer: Cubit: Envoy, his salary, Entry. Steward’s Retinue: His Residence: How far Limited. Tributary Cake. Mutton furnished by the Officer to the Steward every Sunday. Number of the Inhabitants: Their Kiln by turns. The Officer: His Precedence: Notion of Honour: The Danger attending this Notion. Dexterity in Climbing. Language. Habit. Burials. Ale, how Brewed. Fowls preserved. A Calculation of the Solan Geese consumed by the Inhabitants last Year. Five hundred Stone-Pyramids for several uses. The Inhabitants’ Food. Great lovers of Tobacco. Their Boat, how nicely divided. Fire-Penny: Pot-Penny. No Money used here. The Rock-Fowl: How presented by a Lover to his Mistress. The Mistress-Stone. Notions of all Foreign Objects. Divertisements. p. 436.

An Account of one Roderick, supposed to have had Conversation with a Familiar Spirit, and pretending to be sent by St. John the Baptist with New Revelations and Discoveries. p. 466.

A Voyage to St. Kilda, etc.

CHAPTER I. ----- The Motives for the Voyage: Signs of a Storm: the Changes of the Wind: The Consequence of their Change: The Flight of the Fowls: How serving the Natives as well as a Compass: A Fight betwixt two Solan Geese: The way the Inhabitants walk among the Rocks: The manner of landing: The Number of Eggs consumed in Three Weeks: Various names of the Isle: Latitude, Climate, Seasons, Length and Breadth of it: the Bay: Force of the Sea: Four Arches or Vaults: Chrystal, how it grows: a Female Warrior’s House: Fountains: Marks on the Cattel, &c., Fishes, Baits: Amphibia.

THE various relations concerning St. Kilda, given by those of the Western Isles, and continent, induc’d me to a narrow enquiry about it: for this end I applied myself to the present steward, who by his description, and the products of the island which were brought to me, together with a natural impulse of curiosity, form’d such an idea of it in my mind, that I determin’d to satisfy my self with the first occasion I had of going thither; it being never hitherto describ’d to any purpose, the accounts which are given by Buchanan and Sir Robert Murray, being but relations from second and third hands neither of them ever having the opportunity of being upon the place; which I attempted several times to visit, but in vain; until last summer, the Laird of Mack-Leod heartily recommending the care of the inhabitants of St. Kilda to Mr John Campbel, minister of Harries, who accordingly went to St. Kilda. This occasion I cheerfully embrac’d; and accordingly we embark’d at the Isle Esay in Harries the 29th. of May, at six in the afternoon, 1697, the wind at S.E.

We set sail with a gentle breeze of wind, bearing to the westward, and were not well got out of the harbour, when Mr Campbel observing the whiteness of the waves attended with an extraordinary noise beating upon the rocks, express’d his dislike of it, as in those parts a never-failing prognostick of an ensuing storm; but the same appearing sometimes in summer, before excessive heat, this was slighted by the crew. But as we advanced about two leagues further, upon the coast of the Isle Pabbay, the former signs appearing more conspicuously, we were forc’d unanimously to conclude a storm was approaching, which occasion’d a motion for our return; but the wind and ebb-tide concurring, determin’d us to pursue our voyage, in hopes to arrive at our desired harbour, before the wind or storm should rise, which we judged would not be suddenly; but our fond imagination was not seconded with a good event, as appears by the sequel; for we had scarce sailed a league further, when the wind inclin’d more southerly, and alter’d our measures; we endeavoured by the help of our oars to reach the Hawsker Rocks, some four leagues to the south-coast, which we were not able to effect, tho we consum’d the night in this vain expectation. By this time we are so far advanc’d in the ocean, that after a second motion for our return, it was not found practicable, especially since we could not promise to fetch any point of Scotland; this obliged us to make the best of our way for St. Kilda, though labouring under the disadvantages of wind and tide almost contrary to us. Our crew became extremely fatigu’d and discouraged without sight of land for sixteen hours; at length one of our number discovered several tribes of the fowls of St. Kilda flying, holding their course southerly of us, which (to some of our crew) was a demonstration we had lost our course, by the violence of the flood and wind both concurring to carry us northerly, though we steer’d by our compass right west.

The inhabitants of St. Kilda take their measures from the flight of those fowls, when the Heavens are not clear, as from a sure compass, experience shewing that every tribe of fowls bends their course to their respective quarters, though out of sight of the Isle; this appeared clearly in our gradual advances, and their motion being compar’d, did exactly quadrate with our compass. The inhabitants rely so much upon this observation, that they prefer it to the surest compass; but we begg’d their pardon to differ from them, though at the same time we could not deny but their rule was as certain as our compass. While we were in this state, one of our number espi’d the Isle Borera, near three leagues north of St. Kilda, which was then about four leagues to the south of us; this was a joyful sight, and begot new vigor in our men, who being refresh’d with victuals, low’ring mast and sail, rowed to a miracle: while they were tugging at the oars, we plied them with plenty of aqua vitæ to support them, whose borrow’d spirits did so far waste their own, that upon our arrival at Borera, there was scarce one of our crew able to manage cable or anchor: we arriv’d there, and put in under the hollow of an extraordinary high rock, to the north of this isle, which was all covered with a prodigious number of solan geese hatching in their nests; the Heavens were darkened by those flying above our heads; their excrements were in such quantity, that they gave a tincture to the sea, and at the same time sullied our boat and cloaths: two of them confirmed the truth of what has been frequently reported of their stealing from one another grass wherewith to make their nests, by affording us the following and very agreeable diversion, and ‘twas thus; one of them finding his neighbour’s nest without the fowl, lays hold upon the opportunity, and steals of it as much grass as he could conveniently carry, taking his flight towards the ocean; from thence he returns after a short turn, as if he had made a foreign purchase, but it does not pass for such, as Fate would have it; for the owner discovered the fact, before this thief got out of sight, and being too nimble for his cunning, waits his return, all arm’d with fury, engages him desperately; this bloody battel was fought above our heads, and proved fatal to the thief, who fell dead so near our boat, that our men took him up, and presently dress’d and eat him; which they reckoned as an omen and prognostick of good success in this voyage.

We proposed to be at St. Kilda next day, but our expectation was frustrated by a violent storm, which did almost drive us to the ocean; where we had incurred no small risque, being no ways fitted for it; our men laid aside all hopes of life, being possessed with the belief that all this misfortune proceeded from the impostor (of whom hereafter) who they believed had employed the devil to raise this extraordinary storm against Mr. Campbel, minister, who was to counteract him. All our arguments, whether from natural reason, or the providence of God, were not of force enough to persuade them to the contrary, until it pleased God to command a calm the day following, which was the first of June, and then we rowed to St. Kilda; as we came close upon the rocks, some of the inhabitants, who were then employed in setting their gins, welcomed us with a God save you, their usual salutation, admiring to see us get thither contrary to wind and tide; they were walking unconcernedly on the side of this prodigious high rock, at the same time keeping pace with our boat, to my great admiration, insomuch that I was quickly obliged to turn away mine eyes, lest I should have the unpleasant spectacle of some of them tumbling down into the sea; but they themselves had no such fears, for they outrun our boat to the town, from thence they brought the steward and all the inhabitants of both sexes to receive us; we approached the outmost part of the low rock, called the Saddle; a parcel of the inhabitants were mounted upon it, having on their feet the usual dress on such occasions, i.e., socks of old rags sowed with feathers instead of thread; our boat being come pretty near, it was kept off this rock with long poles, some of their number coming by pairs into the sea received Mr. Campbel and me upon their shoulders and carried us to land, where we were received with all the demonstrations of joy and kindness they were able to express; the impostor endeavoring to outdo his neighbours, and placing himself always in front of our attendants, discovered his hypocrisy, of which an account shall be given in the conclusion. All of us walking together to the little village where there was a lodging prepared for us, furnished with beds of straw, and according to the ancient custom of the place, the officer, who presides over them (in the steward’s absence) summoned the inhabitants, who by concert agreed upon a daily maintenance for us, as bread, butter, cheese, mutton, fowls, eggs, also fire, &c. all which was to be given in at our lodging twice every day; this was done in the most regular manner, each family by turns paying their quota proportionally to their lands. I remember the allowance for each man per diem, beside a barley cake, was eighteen of the eggs laid by the fowl called by them lavy, and a greater number of the lesser eggs, as they differed in proportion; the largest of these eggs is near in bigness to that of a goose, the rest of the eggs gradually of a lesser size.

We had the curiosity after three weeks residence, to make a calcule of the number of eggs bestowed upon those of our boat, and the Stewart’s birlin, or galley, the whole amounted to sixteen thousand eggs; and without all doubt the inhabitants, who were treble our number, consumed many more eggs and fowls than we could. From this it is easy to imagine, that a vast number of fowls must resort here all summer, which is yet the more probable if it be considered; that every fowl lays but one egg at a time, if allowed to hatch.

The inhabitants live together in a little village, which carries all the signs of an extream poverty; the houses are of a low form, having all the doors to the north-east, both on purpose to secure them from the shocks of the tempest of the south-west winds. The walls of their houses are rudely built of stone, the short couples joining at the ends of the roof, upon whose sides small ribs of wood are laid, these being covered with straw; the whole secured by ropes made of twisted heath, the extremity of which on each side is poised with stone to preserve the thatch from being blown away by the winds. This little village is seated in a valley surrounded with four mountains, which serve as so many ramparts of defence, and are amphitheatres, from whence a fair prospect of the ocean and isles is to be seen in a fair day.

This isle is by the inhabitants called Hirt, and likewise by all the Western Islanders; Buchanan calls it Hirta; Sir John Narbrough, and all seamen call it St. Kilda; and in sea maps St. Kilder, particularly in a Dutch sea map from Ireland to Zeland, published at Amsterdam by Peter Goas in the year, 1663, wherein the isle of St. Kilda is placed due west betwixt fifty and sixty miles from the middle of the Lewis, and the isle answers directly to the fifty-eighth degree of northern latitude, as marked upon the ends of the map, and from it lies Rokol, a small rock sixty leagues to the westward of St. Kilda; the inhabitants of this place call it Rokabarra; this map contains the soundings of some places near St. Kilda; these not exceeding twenty or thirty fathom, it contains only the larger isle and a part of the lesser isles; this island is also called St. Kilda, by a company of French and Spaniards, who lost their ship at Rokol in the year 1686, which they nam’d to the inhabitants of St. Kilda, whose latitude is fifty-seven degrees and three minutes.

The air here is sharp and wholesome; the hills are often covered with ambient white mists, which in winter are forerunners of snow, if they continue on the tops of the hills; and in summer, if only on the tops of the hills, they prognosticate rain; and when they descend to the valleys it is a prognostick of excessive heat. The night here about the time of the summer solstice exceeds not an hour in length, especially if the season is fair, then the sun disappears but for a short space, the reflex from the sea being all the time visible; the harvest and winter are liable to great winds and rain, the south-west wind annoying them more than any other; it is commonly observed to blow from the west for the most part of, if not all July.

St. Kilda is two miles long from east to west ; from south to north one mile in breadth; five miles in circumference, and is naturally fenc’d with one continued face of a rock of great height, except a part of the bay, which lies to the south-east, and is generally well fenced with a raging sea. This bay is one half mile in length, and another in breadth; it is not ordinary for any vessels to anchor within this bay, in case of a storm, for this might endanger them, therefore they drop anchor without at the entry, judging it the securest place: the only place for landing here, is on the north side of this bay, upon a rock with a little declination, which is slippery, being cloathed with several sorts of sea-weeds; these, together with a raging sea, render the place more inaccessible, it being seldom without a raging sea, except under favour of a neap-tide, a north-east or west wind, or with a perfect calm; when these circumstances concur, the birlin or boat is brougt to the side of the rock, upon which all the inhabitants of both sexes are ready to join their united force to hale her through this rock, having for this end a rope assent to the fore-part; a competent number of them are also employed on each side; both these are determined by a cryer, who is employed on purpose to warn them all at the same minute, and he ceases when he finds it convenient to give them a breathing.

At the head of the bay there’s a plain sand, which is only to be seen in summer, the winter-sea washing it off the stones; there is no landing upon this place with safety, which the steward has learn’d to his cost. There is a little bay on the west side of this isle, all fac’d with an iron-colour’d rock; some vessels take shelter here, when the wind is at south or north-east; there is a place of the rock here on the south-side the rivulet, where you may land, if a neap-tide or calm offer. The sea is very impetuous everywhere about this isle; they shewed me big stones which were lately removed out of their place and cast into the Gallies Dock; I measured some of them which were in length seven, others eight foot and three or four broad.

There is a little old ruinous fort on the south part of the south-east bay, called the Down. It is evident from what hath been already said, that this place may be reckoned among the strongest forts (whether natural or artificial) in the world; Nature has provided the place with store of ammunition for acting on the defensive; that is, a heap of loose stones in the top of the hill Oterveaul, directly above the landing-place; it is very easy to discharge vollies of this ammunition directly upon the place of landing, and that from a great height almost perpendicular; this I myself had occasion to demonstrate, having for my diversion put it in practice, to the great satisfaction of the inhabitants, to whom this defence never occurred hitherto. They are resolved to make use of this for the future, to keep off the Lowlanders, against whom of late they have conceived prejudices. A few hands may be capable of resisting some hundreds, if the above-mentioned weapons be but made use of. Those four mountains are fac’d on that side which regards the sea, with rocks of extraordinary height; the hill Conager on the north side, is about two hundred fathom height, perpendicularly above the sea.

There are round this isle four arches or vaults, through which the sea passes, as doth the day-light from either side, which is visible to any, though at a good distance; some of them representing a large gate: two of these look to the south, and two north-west; that on the point of the west bay is six fathom high above water, four in breadth, fifty paces in length, the top two fathom thick, and very strong, the cattle feeding upon it.

There are several veins of different stone to be seen in the rocks of the south-east bay; upon the north side of this rock is one as it were cut out by Nature, resembling a tarras-walk. The chrystal grows under the rock at the landing-place; this rock must be pierc’d a foot or two deep, before the chrystal can be had from the bed of sand where it lies; the water at the bottom is of a black colour; the largest piece is not above four inches long, and about two in diameter, each piece sexangular.

Upon the west side of this isle there is a valley with a declination towards the sea, having a rivulet running through the middle of it, on each side of which is an ascent of half a mile; all which piece of ground is call’d by the inhabitants, The Female Warrior’s Glen: This Amazon is famous in their traditions: her house or dairy of stone is yet extant; some of the inhabitants dwell in it all summer, though it be some hundred years old; the whole is built of stone, without any wood, lime, earth, or mortar to cement it, and is built in form of a circle pyramid-wise towards the top, having a vent in it, the fire being always in the centre of the floor; the stones are long and thin, which supplies the defect of wood; the body of this house contains not above nine persons sitting; there are three beds or low vaults that go off the side of the wall, a pillar betwixt each bed, which contains five men apiece; at the entry to one of these low vaults is a stone standing upon one end fix’d; upon this they say she ordinarily laid her helmet; there are two stones on the other side, upon which she is reported to have laid her sword: she is said to have been much addicted to hunting, and that in her time all the space betwixt this isle and that of Harries, was one continued tract of dry land. There was some years ago a pair of large deers-horns found in the top of Oterveaul Hill, almost a foot under ground; and there was likewise a wooden dish full of deer’s grease found in the same hill under ground. ‘Tis also said of this warrior, that she let loose her greyhounds after the deer in St. Kilda, making their course towards the opposite isles. There are several traditions of this famous Amazon, with which I will not further trouble the reader.

In this isle there are plenty of excellent fountains or springs; that near the female warrior’s house is reputed to be the best, the name of it, Toubir-nim-buey, importing no less than the well of qualities or virtues; it runneth from east to west, being sixty paces ascent above the sea: I drank of it twice, an English quart at each time; it is very clear, exceeding cold, light, and diuretick; I was not able to hold my hands in it above a few minutes, in regard of its coldness; the inhabitants of Harries find it effectual against windy-chollicks, gravel, head-aches; this well hath a cover of stone.

There is a large well near the town, called St. Kilder’s Well; from which the island is suppos’d to derive its name; this water is not inferior to that above-mentioned; it runneth to the south-east from the north-west.

There is another well within half a mile of this, nam’d after one Conirdan, an hundred paces above the sea, and runneth from north-west towards the southeast, having a stone cover.

Within twelve paces of this is a little and excellent fountain, which those of Harries and St. Kilda, will needs call by the Author’s name, and were then resolved to give it a cover of stone, such as is above describ’d.

There is a celebrated well issuing out of the face of a rock on the north-side of the east bay, called by the inhabitants and others, The Well of Youth, but is only accessible by the inhabitants, no stranger daring to climb the steep rock; the water of it is received, as it falls, into the sea; it runs towards the south-east. The taste of the water of those wells was so pleasant, that for several weeks after, the best fountains in the adjacent isles did not relish with me. There is a rivulet runneth close by the town, and another larger beyond Kilder’s Well; this last serves for washing linnen, which it doth as well without soap, as other water does with it; of this we had experience, which was a confirmation of what had been reported to us concerning this water: we searched if in the brinks we could discover any fuller’s-earth, but found none; we discovered some pieces of iron-ore in several places of it; this rivulet drops from the mossy ground in the top of the hills.

The whole island is one hard rock, form’d into four high mountains, three of which are in the middle; all thinly covered with black or brown earth, not above a foot, some places half a foot deep, except the top of the hills, where it is above three foot deep, and affords them good turf; the grass is very short but kindly, producing plenty of milk; the number of sheep commonly maintained in St. Kilda, and the two adjacent isles, does not exceed two thousand and generally they are speckled, some white, some philamort, and are of an ordinary size; they do not resemble goats in anything, as Buchanan was informed, except in their horns, which are extraordinary large, particularly those in the lesser isles.

The number of horses exceeds not eighteen, all of a red colour, very low, and smooth skinn’d, being only employ’d in carrying their turf and corn, and at the anniversary cavalcade, of which hereafter. The cows that are about ninety head, small and great, all of them having their foreheads white and black, which is discernible at a great distance, are of a low stature, but fat and sweet beef; the dogs, cats, and all the sea-fowls of this isle are speckled.

The soil is very grateful to the labourer, producing ordinarily sixteen, eighteen, or twenty fold sometimes; their grain is only bear, and some oats; the barley is the largest produced in all the Western Isles; they use no plough but a kind of crooked spade; their harrows are of wood, as are the teeth in the front also, and all the rest supplied only with long tangles of seaware tied to the harrow by the small ends; the roots hanging loose behind, scatter the clods broken by the wooden teeth; this they are forced to use for want of wood. Their arable land is very nicely parted into ten divisions, and these into subdivisions, each division distinguished by the name of some deceased man or woman, who were natives of the place; there is one spot called multa terra, another multus agris. The chief ingredient in their composts is ashes of turf mixed with straw; with these they mix their urine, which by experience they find to have much of the vegetable nitre; they do not preserve it in quantities as elsewhere, but convey it immediately from the fountain to the ashes, which by daily practice they find most advantageous; they join also the bones, wings, and entrails of their sea-fowls to their straw; they sow very thick, and have a proportionable growth; they pluck all their bear by the roots in handfuls, both for the sake of their houses, which they thatch with it, and their cows which they take in during the winter; the corn produced by this compost is perfectly free of any kind of weeds; it produces much sorrel where the compost reaches.

The coast of St. Kilda, and the lesser isles, are plentifully furnished with variety of fishes, as cod, ling, mackarell, congars, braziers, turbat, graylords, sythes; these last two are the same kind, only differing in bigness, some call them black mouths; they are large as any salmon, and somewhat longer; there are also laiths, podloes, herring, and many more; most of these are fished by the inhabitants upon the rock, for they have neither nets nor long lines. Their common bait is the limpets or patellæ, being parboil’d; they use likewise the fowl called by them bowger, its flesh raw, which the fish near the lesser isles catch greedily; sometimes they use the bowger’s flesh, and the limpets patellæ at the same time upon one hook, and this proves successful also. In the month of July a considerable quantity of mackarell run themselves ashore, but always with a spring-tide. The amphibia seen here, are the otters and seals; this latter the inhabitants reckon very good meat; there is no sort of trees, no, not the least shrub grows here, nor ever a bee seen at any time.

CHAPTER II. ---- Of the Inferior Isles and Rocks, their Product. Solan Geese, how Killed. A branch of the Oficer’s Salary, Staller-house, Pyramids. Policy of the Inhabitants. An Earthquake. A Fountain. The taking away, or leaving the Eggs in the Nests by the Inhabitants, advances or retards the hatching of the Fowls by the space of Eighteen Days, sooner or later. Our progress to Borera. Every Solan Goose catch’d, is presently mark’d on the Foot by the Owner. Of Eddies. Tides. Land and Sea-Fowls, their description, various Properties, Seasons for their coming, and going away; Their Prognosticks of Winds, Storms, Calms, &c. Barren Tribe of Solan Geese. The Solan Geese’s Sentinels. Fulmar Oyl, its properties. Eggs, their various Properties and Effects.

LEVINIS, a rock about fourteen paces high, and thirty in circumference, narrower at the top; it stands about half a league to the south-east bay, and is not covered with any kind of earth or grass; it hath a spring of fresh water issuing out at the side; this rock, by an ancient custom, belongs to the galley’s crew, but the above-mentioned allowance disposes them to undervalue it. Betwixt the west point of St. Kilda, and the Isle Soa, is the famous rock Stack-donn, i.e. as much, in their language, as a mischievous rock, for it hath prov’d so to some of their number, who perished in attempting to climb it; it is much of the form and height of a steeple; there is a very great dexterity, and it is reckoned no small gallantry to climb this rock, especially that part of it called the Thumb, which is so little, that of all the parts of a man’s body, the thumb only can lay hold on it, and that must be only for the space of one minute; during which time his feet have no support, nor any part of his body touch the stone, except the thumb, at which minute he must jump by the help of his thumb, and the agility of his body concurring to raise him higher at the same time, to a sharp point of the rock, which when he has got hold of, puts him above danger, and having a rope about his middle, that he casts down to the boat, by the help of which he carries up as many persons as are designed for fowling at this time; the foreman, or principal climber, has the reward of four fowls bestowed upon him above his proportion; and, perhaps, one might think four thousand too little to compensate so great a danger as this man incurs; he has this advantage by it, that he is recorded among their greatest heroes; as are all the foremen who lead the van in getting up this mischievous rock.

Within pistol-shot from this place is the Isle Soa; a mile and an half in circumference, but contracted narrower toward the top, being a full half mile in difficult ascent all round, most of it bare rock, some parts of it covered with grass, but dangerous to ascend; the landing is also very hazardous, both in regard of the raging sea, and the rock that must be climb’d; yet the inhabitants are accustomed to carry burthens both up it and down, and of this I was once a witness. There is scarce any landing here, except in one place, and that under favour of a west wind and neap-tide; the waves upon the rock discover when it is accessible; if they appear white from St. Kilda, the inhabitants do not so much as offer to launch out their boat, in order to land in Soa, or any other isle or rock, though their lives were at the stake: this little isle is furnished with an excellent spring; the grass, being very sweet, feeds five hundred sheep, each of them having generally two or three lambs at a birth, and every lamb being so fruitful, that it brings forth a lamb before itself is a year old. The same is also observed of lambs in the little isles adjacent to the isles of Harries and North-Uist. The sheep in this isle Soa are never milk’d, which disposes them to be the more prolifick: there are none to catch them but the inhabitants, whom I have seen pursue the sheep nimbly down the steep descent, with as great freedom as if it had been a plain field.

This isle abounds with infinite numbers of fowls, as fulmar, lavy, falk, bowger, &c.

There was a cock-boat some two years ago came from a ship for water, being favoured by a perfect calm; the men discerned an infinite number of eggs upon the rocks, which charm’d them to venture near the place, and at last purchased a competent number of them; so careful was one of the seamen as to put them into his breeches, which he put off on purpose for this use; some of the inhabitants of St. Kilda happened to be in the isle that day; a parcel of them were spectators of this diversion, and were offended at it, being done without their consent, therefore they

devised an expedient, which at once robb’d the sea-men of their eggs and breeches; and ‘twas thus; they found a few loose stones in the superficies of the rock, some of which they let fall down perpendicularly above the seamen, the terror of which obliged them quickly to remove, abandoning both breeches and eggs for their safety; and those tarpawlin breeches were no small ornament there, where all wore girded plaids.

About two leagues and a half to the north of St. Kilda, is the rock Stack-Ly, two hundred paces in circumference, and of a great height, being a perfect triangle turning to a point at the top; it is visible above twenty leagues distant in a fair day, and appears blew; there is no grass nor earth to cover it, and it is perfectly white with solan geese sitting on and about it. One would think it next to impossible to climb this rock, which I express’d, being very close by it; but the inhabitants assured me it was practicable, and to convince me of the truth of it, they bid me look up near the top, where I perceived a stone pyramid-house, which the inhabitants built for lodging themselves in it in August, at which time the season proves inconstant there; this obliges the inhabitants in point of prudence to send a competent number of them to whose share the lots fall; these are to land in this rock some days before the time at which the solan geese use to take wing, and if they neglected th’s piece of foresight, one windy day might disappoint them of five, six, or seven thousand solan geese, this rock affording no less yearly; and they are so very numerous here, that they cannot be divided with respect to their lands, as elsewhere; therefore this is the reason why they send here by lots, and those who are sent act for the publick interest, and when they have knock’d on the head all that may be reached, they then carry them to a sharp point, called the casting-point, from whence they throw them into the sea; (the height being such that they dare not throw them in, but near the boat) until the boatmen cry, enough; lest the sea, which has a strong current there should carry them off, as it does sometimes, if too many are thrown down at once; and so by degrees getting all in, they return home; and after their arrival every man has his share proportionable to his lands, and what remains below the number ten, is due to the officer as a branch of his yearly salary. In this rock the solan geese are allowed to hatch their first eggs, but it is not so in the rocks next to be described; and that for this reason, that if all were allowed to hatch at the same time, the loss of the product in one rock would at the same time prove the loss of all the rest, since all would take wing almost at once.

The isle Borera lies near half a league from Stack-Ly, to the north-east of it, being in circumference one mile and an half; it feeds about four hundred sheep per annum, and would feed more, did not the solan geese pluck a large share of the grass for their nests.

This isle is very high and all rock, being inaccessible except in a calm, and there is only one place for landing, looking to the south: in the west end of this isle is Stallir-House, which is much larger than that of the female warrior in St. Kilda, but of the same model in all respects; it is all green without like a little hill; the inhabitants there have a tradition that it was built by one Stallir, who was a devout hermit of St. Kilda; and had he travelled the universe he could scarcely have found a more solitary place for a monastick life.

There are about forty stone pyramids in this isle, for drying and preserving their fowls, &c. These little houses are all of loose stones, and seen at some distance; there is also here a very surprizing number of fowls, the grass as well as the rocks filled with them. The solan geese possess it for the most part; they are always masters where-ever they come, and have already banished several species of fowls from this isle.

There was an earthquake here in the year 1686, which lasted but a few minutes; it was very amazing to the poor people, who never felt any such commotion before, or since.

To the west of Borera lies the rock Stack-Narmin, within pistol-shot; this rock is half a mile in circumference, and is as inaccessible as any the above-mentioned; there is a possibility of landing only in two places, and that but in a perfect calm neither, and after landing the danger in climbing it is very great. The rock has not any earth or grass to cover it, and hath a fountain of good water issuing out above the middle of it, which runneth easterly: this rock abounds with solan geese and other fowls; here are several stone pyramids, as well for lodging the inhabitants that attend the seasons of the solan geese, as for those that preserve and dry them and other fowls, &c. The sea rises and rages extraordinarily upon this rock: we had the curiosity, being invited by a fair day, to visit it for pleasure, but it was very hazardous to us; the waves from under our boat rebounding from off the rock, and mounting over our heads wet us all, so that we durst not venture to land, though men with ropes were sent before us; and we thought it hazard great enough to be near this rock; the wind blew fresh, so that we had much difficulty to fetch St. Kilda again; I remember they brought 800 of the preceding year’s solan geese dried in their pyramids; after our landing, the geese being cast together in one heap upon the ground, the owners fell to share out each man his own, at which I was a little surprised, they being all of a tribe; but having found upon enquiry that every goose carried a distinguishing mark on the foot, peculiar to the owner, I was then satisfied in this piece of singularity.

There is a violent current, whether ebb or flood, upon all the coasts of St. Kilda, lesser isles and rocks. It is observed to be more impetuous with spring than neap-tides; there are eddies on all the coasts, except at a sharp point where the tides keep their due course; the ebb southerly, and flood northerly.

A s.e. moon causeth high tide; the spring-tides are always at the full and new moon, the two days following they are higher, and from that time decrease until the increase of the moon again, with which it rises gradually till the second after the full moon. This observation the seamen find to hold true betwixt the Mule of Kantyre, and the Farrow Head in Strathnaver.

The land-fowls produced here are hawks extraordinary good, eagles, plovers, crows, wrens, stonechaker, craker, cuckoo; this last being very rarely seen here, and that upon extraordinary occasions, such as the death, of the proprietor Mack-Leod, the steward’s death, or the arrival of some notable stranger. I was not able to forbear laughing at this relation, as founded upon no reason but fancy; which I no sooner express’d, than the inhabitants wondred at my incredulity, saying, that all their ancestors for a series of several ages had remarked this observation to prove true, and for a further confirmation, appealed to the present steward,whether he had not known this observation to have been true, both in his own and his father’s time, who was also steward before him; and after a particular enquiry upon the whole, he told me, that both in his own and father’s life-time the truth of this observation has been constantly believed, and that several of the inhabitants now living have observed the cuckoo to have appeared after the death of the two last proprietors, and the two last stewards, and also before the arrival of strangers several times; it was taken notice of this year before our arrival, which they ascribe to my coming here, as the only stranger; the minister having been there before.

The sea-fowls are, first, Gairfowl, being the stateliest, as well as the largest of all the fowls here, and above the size of a solan goose, of a black colour, red about the eyes, a large white spot under each eye, a long broad bill; stands stately, its whole body erected, its wings short, it flyeth not at all, lays its egg upon the bare rock, which, if taken away, it lays no more for that year; it is palmypes, or whole-footed, and has the hatching spot upon its breast, i.e., a bare spot from which the feathers have fallen off with the heat in hatching; its egg is twice as big as that of a solan goose, and is variously spotted, black, green, and dark; it comes without regard to any wind, appears the first of May, and goes away about the middle of June.

The solan goose, as some imagine from the Irish word sou’l-er, corrupted and adapted to the Scottish language, qui oculis irretortis e longinquo respicit prædam: it equals a tame goose in bigness; it is by measure from the tip of the bill to the extremity of the foot, thirty-four inches long, and to the end of the tail, thirty-nine; the wings extended very long, there being seventy-two inches of distance betwixt the extream tips; its bill is long, strait, of a dark colour, a little crooked at the point; behind the eyes the skin of the side of the head is bare of feathers; the ears of a mean size; the eyes hazel-coloured; it hath four toes; the feet and legs black as far as they are bare; the plumage is like that of a goose. The colour of the old ones is white all over, excepting the extream tips of the wings, which are black, and the top of the head, which is yellow, as some think the effect of age. The young ones are of a dark brown colour, turning white after they are a year old; its egg, somewhat less than that of a land-goose, small at each end, and casts a thick scurf, and has little or no yolk. The inhabitants are accustomed to drink it raw, having from experience found it to be very pectoral, and cephalick. The solan geese hatch by turns; when it returns from its fishing, carries along with it five or six herrings in its gorget, all entire and undigested, upon whose arrival at the nest, the hatching fowl puts its head in the fisher’s throat, and pulls out the fish with its bill as with a pincer, and that with very great noise; which I had occasion frequently to observe. They continue to pluck grass for their nests from their coming in March till the young fowl is ready to fly in August or September, according as the inhabitants take or leave the first or second eggs. It’s remarkable of them, that they never pluck grass but on a windy day; the reason of which I enquired of the inhabitants, who said, that a windy day is the solan goose’s vacation from fishing, and they bestow it upon this employment, which proves fatal to many of them for after their fatigue they often fall asleep, and the inhabitants laying hold on this opportunity, are ready at hand to knock them on the head; their food is herring, mackerels, and syes; English hooks are often found in the stomachs both of young and old solan geese, though there be none of this kind used nearer than the isles twenty leagues distant; the fish pulling away the hooks in those isles go to St. Kilda, or are carried by the old geese thither; whether of the two the reader is at liberty to judge.

The solan geese are always the surest sign of herrings, for where-ever the one is seen, the other is always not far off. There is a tribe of barren solan geese which have no nests, and sit upon the bare rock; these are not the young fowls of an year old, whose dark colour would soon distinguish them, but old ones, in all things like the rest; these have a province, as it were, allotted to them, and are in a separated state from the others, having a rock two hundred paces distant from all other; neither do they meddle with, or approach to those hatching, or any other fowls; they sympathise and fish together; this being told me by the inhabitants, was afterwards confirmed to me several times by my own observation.

The solan geese have always some of their number that keep centinel in the night-time, and if they are surprized, (as it often happens) all that flock are taken one after another; but if the centinel be awake at the approach of the creeping fowlers, and hear a noise, it cries softly, grog, grog, at which the flock move not; but if this centinel see or hear the fowler approaching, it cries quickly, bir, bir, which would seem to import danger, since immediately after, all the tribe take wing, leaving the fowler empty on the rock, to return home re infecta, all its labour for that night being spent in vain. Here is a large field of diversion for Apollonius Tyanæus, who is said to have travelled many kingdoms over, to learn the language of beasts and birds.

Besides this way of stealing upon them in the night-time, they are also catched in common gins of horse-hair, from which they do struggle less to extricate themselves than any other fowl, notwithstanding their bigness and strength; they are also caught in the herring loches with a board set on purpose to float above water, upon it a herring is fixed, which the goose perceiving, flies up to a competent height, until it finds itself making a strait line above the fish, and then bending its course perpendicularly piercing the air, as an arrow from a bow, hits the board, into which it runs its bill with all its force irrecoverably, where it is unfortunately taken. The solan goose comes about the middle of March with a south-west wind, warm snow, or rain, and goes away, according as the inhabitants determined the time, i.e., the taking away, or leaving its egg, whether at the first, second, or third time it lays.

The fulmar, in bigness equals the malls of the second rate; its wings very long, the outside of which are of a greyish white colour, the inside breast all white, a thick bill two inches long, crooked and prominent at the end, with wide nostrils in the middle of the bill, all of a pale colour; the upper mandible, or jaw, hangs over the lower on both sides and point, its feet pale, not very broad, with sharp toes, and a back toe; it picks its food out of the back of live whales, they say it uses sorrel with it, for both are found in its nest; it lays its egg ordinarily the first, second, or third day of May; which is larger than that of a solan goose egg, of a white colour, and very thin, the shell so very tender that it breaks in pieces if the season proves rainy; when its egg is once taken away, it lays no more for that year, as other fowls do, both a second and third time; the young fowl is brought forth in the middle of June, and is ready to take wing before the twentieth of July; it comes in November, the sure messenger of evil-tidings, being always accompanied with boisterous west winds, great snow, rain, or hail, and is the only sea-fowl that stays here all the year round, except the month of September, and part of October. The inhabitants prefer this, whether young or old, to all other; the old is of a delicate taste, being a mixture of fat and lean; the flesh white, no blood is to be found but only in its head and neck; the young is all fat, excepting the bones, having no blood but what is in its head; and when the young fulmar is ready to take wing, it being approached, ejects a quantity of pure oyl out at its bill, and will make sure to hit any that attacks it, in the face, though seven paces distant; this, they say, it uses for its defence; but the inhabitants take care to prevent this, by surprizing the fowl behind, having for this purpose a wooden dish fixed to the end of their rods, which they hold before its bill as it spouts out the oyl; they surprize it also from behind, by taking hold of its bill, which they tie with a thread, and upon their return home they untie it with a dish under to receive the oyl; this oyl is sometimes of a reddish, sometimes of a yellow colour, and the inhabitants and other islanders put a great value upon it, and use it as a catholicon for diseases, especially for any aking in the bones, stitches, etc. Some in the adjacent isles use it as a purge, others as a vomiter; it is hot in quality, and forces its passage through any wooden vessel.

The fulmar is a sure prognosticator of the west wind; if it comes to land, there is no west wind to be expected for some time, but if it keeps at sea, or goes to sea from the land, whether the wind blow from the south, north, or east, or whether it is a perfect calm, its keeping the sea is always a certain presage of an approaching west wind; from this quarter it is observed to return with its prey; its egg is large as that of a solan goose, white in colour, sharp at one end, somewhat blunt at the other.

The scraber, so called in St. Kilda; in the Farn Islands, puffinet; in Holland, the Greenland dove; its bill small, sharp pointed, a little crooked at the end, and prominent; it is as large as a pigeon, its whole body being black, except a white spot on each wing; its egg grey, sharp at one end, blunt at the other.

It comes in the month of March, and in the nighttime, without regard to any winds; it’s always invisible, except in the night, being all day either abroad at fishing, or all the day under ground upon its nest, which it digs very far under ground, from whence it never comes in day-light; it picks its food out of the live whale, with which, they say, it uses sorrel, and both are found in its nest. The young puffin is fat as the young fulmar, and goes away in August if its first egg be spar’d.

The lavy, so called by the inhabitants of St. Kilda; by the Welch, a guillem; it comes near to the bigness of a duck; its head, upper-side of the neck all downwards of a dark brown, and white breast, the bill strait and sharp pointed; the upper chop hangs over the lower; its feet and claws are black

Its egg in bigness is near to that of a goose egg, sharp at one end, and blunt at the other; the colour of it is prettily mix’d with green and black; others of them are of a pale colour, with red and brown streaks; but this last is very rare; this egg for ordinary food is by the inhabitants, and others, preferred above all the eggs had here: This fowl comes with a south-west wind, if fair, the twentieth of February; the time of its going away depends upon the inhabitants taking or leaving its first, second, or third egg: if it stays upon land for the space of three days without intermission, it is a sign of southerly wind and fair weather; but if it goes to sea before the third expire, it is then a sign of a storm.

The bird, by the inhabitants called the falk, the rasor-bill in the West of England, the awk in the North, the murre in Cornwall; alca hoeri. It is a size less than the lavy; its head, neck, back, and tail, are black; the inside to the middle of the throat, white; the throat under the chin of a dusky black; beyond the nostrils in the upper mandible, or jaw there is a furrow deeper than that in the coulter-neb, the upper chop crooked at the end, and hangs over the lower, both having transverse furrows. It lays its egg in May, its young take wing the middle of July, if the inhabitants do not determine its stay longer, by taking the egg; which in bigness is next to the lavy, or guillem egg, and is variously spotted, sharp at one end, and blunt at the other.

The bouger, by those in St. Kilda so called; coulter-neb by those in the Farn Islands; and in Cornwall, pope; it is of the size of a pidgeon, its bill is short, broad, and compressed sidewise, contrary to the bills of ducks, of a triangular figure, and ending in a sharp point, the upper mandible, or jaw, arcuate and crooked at the point; the nostrils are long holes produced by the aperture of the mouth; the bill is of two colours; near the head, of an ash colour, and red towards the point; the feet are yellow, the claws of a dark blue; all the back black, breast and belly white. They breed in holes under ground, and come with a south-west wind about the twenty-second of March, lay their egg the twenty-second of April, and produce the fowl the twenty-second of May, if their first egg be not taken away; it is sharp at one end, and blunt on the other.

The assilag is as large as a lint-white; black bill, wide nostrils at the upper part, crooked at the point like the fulmar’s bill: it comes about the twenty-second of March, without any regard to winds, lays its egg about the twentieth of May, and produces the fowl towards the middle of October, then goes away about the end of November.

There are three sorts of sea-malls here, the first of a grey colour, in proportion near to a goose: the second sort of malls are considerably less, and of a grey colour; and the third sort is a white mall, less than a tame duck; the inhabitants call it reddag; it comes the fifteenth of April with a south-west wind, lays its egg about the middle of May, and goes away in the month of August.

The tirma, or sea-pie, by the inhabitants call’d trilichan, comes in May, goes away in August; if it comes the beginning of May, it is a sign of a good summer; if later, the contrary is observed. This fowl is cloven-footed, and consequently swims not.

It is observed of all the sea-fowls here, that they are fatter in time of hatching than at other times, the solan geese excepted.

Every fowl lays an egg three different times (except the gair-fowl and fulmar, which lay but once); if the first or second egg be taken away, every fowl lays but one other egg that year, except the sea-malls, and they ordinarily lay the third egg, whether the first and second eggs be taken away, or no.

The inhabitants observe, that when the April moon goes far in May, the fowls are ten or twelve days later in laying their eggs, than ordinarily they use to be.

The inhabitants likewise say, that of these fowls, there first come over some spies, or harbingers, especially of the solan geese, tow’ring about the islands where their nests are, and that when they have made a review thereof they fly away, and in two or three days after, the whole tribe are seen coming. Whither the fowls fly, and where they spend their winter, the inhabitants are utterly ignorant of.

The eggs are found to be of an astringent and windy quality to strangers, but, it seems, are not so to the inhabitants, who are used to eat them from the nest. Our men upon their arrival eating greedily of them became costive and feverish, some had the hemorrhoid veins swell’d; Mr Campbel and I were at no small trouble before we could reduce them to their ordinary temper; we ordered a glister for them made of the roots of sedges, fresh butter, and salt, which, being administered, had its wished-for effect; the inhabitants reckoned this an extraordinary performance, being, it seems, the first of this kind they ever had occasion to hear of.

They preserve their eggs commonly in their stone pyramids, scattering the burnt ashes of turf under and about them, to defend them from the air, dryness being their only preservative, and moisture their corruption; they preserve them six, seven, or eight months, as abovesaid; and then they become appetizing and loosening, especially those that begin to turn.

That such a great number of wild fowls are so tame, as to be easily taken by the rods and gins, is not to be much admired by any who will be at the pains to consider the reason, which is the great inclination of propagating their species; so powerful is that _org_ or natural affection for their off-spring, that they chuse rather to die upon the egg, or fowl, than escape with their own lives, (which they could do in a minute) and leave either of these to be destroyed.

It deserves our consideration to reflect seriously upon the natural propensity and sagacity of these animals in their kind; which if compared with many rational creatures, do far outstrip them, and justly obey the prescript of their natures, by living up unto that instinct that Providence has given them.

CHAPTER III. ----- Of the Inhabitants. Their Pedigree: Completion: Strength: Diseases: Cures: Plants: Religion: Notion of Spirits. Festivals: Anniversary Cavalcade: Chappels: Crucifix: Lots: Marriage: Baptism. Proprietor: Omer: Cubit: Envoy, his Salary, Entry. Steward’s Retinue: His Residence: How far Limited. Tributary Cake. Mutton furnished by the Officer to the Steward every Sunday. Number of the Inhabitants: Their Kiln by turns. The Officer: His Precedence: Notion of Honour: The danger attending his Notion. Dexterity in Climbing. Language. Habit. Burials. Ale, how Brewed. Fowls preserved. A Calculation of the Solan Geese consumed by the Inhabitants last year. Five hundred Stone-Pyramids for several uses. The Inhabitants’ Food. Great lovers of Tobacco. Their Boat, how nicely divided. Fire-Penny: Pot-Penny. No Money used here. The Rock-Fowl: How presented by a Lover to his Mistress. The Mistress-Stone. Notions of all Foreign Objects. Divertisements.

THE inhabitants of this isle are originally descended of those of the adjacent isles, Lewis, Harries, South and North Uist, Skiy: both sexes are naturally very grave, of a fair completion; such as are not fair are natives only for an age or two; but their off-spring proves fairer than themselves.

There are several of them would be reckoned among beauties of the first rank, were they upon a level with others in their dress.

Both men and women are well proportioned, nothing differing from those of the isles and continent. The present generation comes short of the last in strength and longevity. They shew’d us huge big stones carried by the fathers of some of the inhabtants now living; any of which is a burthen too heavy for any two of the present inhabitants to raise from the ground; and this change is all within the compass of forty years. But notwithstanding this, any one inhabiting St. Kilda, is always reputed stronger than two of the inhabitants belonging to the Isle of Harries, or the adjacent isles. Those of St. Kilda have generally but very thin beards, and those too do not appear till they arrive at the age of thirty, and in some not till after thirty-five; they have all but a few hairs upon the upper lip, and point of the chin.

Both sexes have a lisp, but more especially the women, neither of the two pronouncing the letters, d, g, or r. I remember a story of a craker that lisped (two years ago), the boys of the place took notice of, and were pleased to hear him, and to ape his cry; one of the steward’s men beholding them, enquired the meaning of their noise, which he told them was ridiculous; they return’d answer, that it was worth his while to behold the sport of a lisping craker, whom they aped; but the man replied, that they played the fool, for the craker diverted himself in lisping after them, and charged them with that imperfection; the boys no sooner heard this, but away they ran, and left the craker to cry and lisp as he pleased.

There are some of both sexes who have a genius for poetry, and are great admirers of musick; the trump or Jewish harp is all the musical instrument they have, which disposes them to dance mightily. Their sight is extraordinary good, and they can discern things at a great distance; they have very good memories, and are resolute in their undertakings, chaste and honest, and the men reputed jealous of their wives. They argue closely, and with less passion than other islanders, or those inhabiting the highlands on the continent.

They are reputed very cunning, and there is scarce any circumventing of them in trafffick and bartering; the voice of one is the voice of all the rest, they being all of a piece, their common interest uniting them firmly together. They marry very young, the women at about thirteen or fourteen years of age; and are nice in examining the degrees of consanguinity before they marry. They give suck to their children for the space of two years. The most ancient person among them at present, is not above eighty years of age.

Providence is very favourable to them in this, that they are not infested with several diseases which are so predominant in the other parts of the world; the distemper that most prevails here, is a spotted fever, and that too confin’d to one tribe, to whom this disease is, as it were, become hereditary; others are liable to fluxes, fevers, stitches, the spleen; for all which they have but very few remedies; to get away their stitches, they commonly lie upon a warm hearth, with the side affected downwards; this they look upon to be almost infallible for dispelling the humor, or wind, that torments them. The smallpox hath not been heard of in this place for several ages, except in one instance, of two of the steward’s retinue, who not having been well recovered of it, upon their arrival here, infected one man only.

The plants produced here, are lapathum vulgare, the common dock, scurvy-grass round, being large as the palm of the hand, mille-foil, bursa pastoris, silver-weed, or argentine, plantine, sage, chicken-weed; sorrel, long, or the common sorrel; all-hail, or siderites, the sea-pinck, tormentil, the scurf upon the stones, which has a drying and healing quality, and is likewise used for dying. The inhabitants are ignorant of the virtues of these herbs; they never had a potion of physick given them in their lives, nor know any thing of phlebotomy; a physician could not expect his bread in this commonwealth.

They have generally good voices, and sound lungs; to this the solan goose egg supp’d raw doth not a little contribute; they are seldom troubled with a cough, except at the steward’s landing; which is no less rare, than firmly believed by the inhabitants of the adjacent isles.

Those of St. Kilda, upon the whole, gave me this following account, that they always contract a cough upon the steward’s landing, and it proves a great deal more troublesome to them in the night-time, they then distilling a great deal of flegm; this indisposition; continues for some ten, twelve or fourteen days; the most sovereign remedy against this disease, is their great and beloved catholicon, the giben, i.e., the fat of their fowls, with which they stuff the stomach of the solan goose, in fashion of a pudding; this they put in the infusion of oatmeal, which in their language they call brochan; but it is not so effectual now as at the beginning, because of the frequent use of it. I told them plainly, that I thought all this notion of infection was but a mere fancy, and that, at least, it could not always hold; at which they seemed offended, saying, that never any, before the minister and my self, was heard doubt of the truth of it; which is plainly demonstrated upon the landing of every boat; adding further, that every design was always for some end, but here there was no room for any, where nothing could be proposed; but for confirmation of the whole, they appealed to the case of infants at the breast, who were likewise very subject to this cough, but could not be capable of affecting it, and therefore, in their opinion, they were infected by such as lodged in their houses. There were scarce young or old in the isle whom I did not examine particularly upon this head, and all agreed in the confirmation of it. They add farther, that when any foreign goods are brought thither, then the cough is of longer duration than otherwise. They remark, that if the fever has been among those of the steward’s retinue, though before their arrival there, some of the inhabitants are infected with it. If any of the inhabitants of St. Kilda chance to live, though but a short space, in the isles of Harries, Skey, or any of the adjacent isles, they become meagre, and contract such a cough, that the giben must be had, or else they must return to their native soil. This giben is more sovereign for removing of coughs, being used by any other islanders, than those of St. Kilda, because they love to have it frequently in their meat as well as drink, by which too frequent use of it, it loses its virtue; it was remarkable, that after this infected cough was over, we strangers, and the inhabitants of St. Kilda, making up the number of about two hundred and fifty, though we had frequently assembled upon the occasion of divine service, yet neither young nor old amongst us all did so much as once cough more.

Some thirteen years ago the leprosy broke out among them, and some of their number died by it; there are two families at present labouring under this disease. The symptoms of it are, their feet begin to fail, their appetite declines, their faces become too red, and break out in pimples, they get a hoarseness, and their hair falls off from their heads, the crown of it exculcerates and blisters, and lastly, their beards grow thinner than ordinary.

This disease may in a large measure be ascribed to their gross feeding, and that on those fat fowls, as the fulmar and the solan geese; the latter of which they keep for the space of a whole year, without salt or pepper to preserve them; these they eat roasted or boiled.

One of these lepers, being with me one day at the fulmar-rock, importuned me to give him a remedy for his disease; I began to chide him for his ill diet in feeding so grosly; but finding the poor fellow ready and implicitly disposed to do whatever I should enjoin, I bid him take example from the fulmar, who, they say, feeds sometimes on sorrel; this was a very surprizing advice to him, but when he considered that the fulmar required sorrel to qualify the whale, he was the sooner persuaded that his giben and goose might require the same; I advised him further, to abstain from the giben and fat fowls, which was no small trouble to him, for he loved them exceedingly; I obliged him likewise to mount the hill Conager, a mile in height, once every morning and evening, and he was very careful to comply with those injunctions for the space of three days; in which short time he made some advances towards recovering his almost lost speech and appetite; for his throat was well nigh quite stopp’d up; he continued this practice a week longer, by which means he mended very considerably; and I left him fully resolved to proceed in this practice, until he was perfectly restored to his former state of health. I had the occasion to observe another of these lepers rave for some minutes, and when he was recovered to his right mind, he wrought at his ordinary employment.

The inhabitants are Christians, much of the primitive temper, neither inclined to enthusiasm nor to popery. They swear not the common oaths that prevail in the world; when they refuse or deny to give what is asked of them, they do it with a strong asseveration,which they express emphatically enough in their language to this purpose, You are no more to have it, than that if God had forbid it; and thus they express the highest degree of passion. They do not so much as name the devil once in their lifetimes.

They leave off working after twelve of the clock on Saturday, as being an ancient custom delivered down to them from their ancestors, and go no more to it till Monday morning. They believe in God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost; and a state of future happiness and misery, and that all events, whether good or bad, are determined by God. They use a set form of prayer at the poising of their sails: they lie down, rise, and begin their labours in the name of God. They have a notion, that spirits are embodied; these they fancy to be locally in rocks, hills, and where-ever they list in an instant.

There are three chappels in this isle, each of them with one end towards the east, the other towards the west; the altar always placed at the east end; the first of these is called Christ Chappel, near the village; it is covered and thatched after the same manner with their houses; there is a brazen crucifix lies upon the altar, not exceeding a foot in length, the body is compleatly done, distended, and having a crown on, all in the crucified posture; they have it in great reverence, though they pay no kind of adoration or worship to it, nor do they either handle or see it, except upon the occasions of marriage, and swearing decisive oaths, which puts an end to all strife, and both these ceremonies are publickly performed. The church-yard is about an hundred paces in circumference, and is fenced in with a little stone wall, within which they bury their dead; they take care to keep the church-yard perfectly clean, void of any kind of nastiness, and their cattel have no access to it. The inhabitants, young and old, come to the church-yard every Sunday morning, the Chappel not being capacious enough to receive them; here they devoutly say the Lord’s prayer, Creed, and Ten Commandments.

They observe the festivals of Christmas, Easter, Good-Friday, St. Columba’s Day, and that of All Saints; upon this they have an anniversary cavalcade, the number of their horses not exceeding eighteen; these they mount by turns, having neither saddle nor bridle of any kind, except a rope, which manages the horse only on one side; they ride from the shoar to the house, and then after each man has performed his tour, the show is at an end. They are very charitable to their poor, of whom there are not at present above three, and these carefully provided for, by this little commonwealth, each particular family contributing according to their ability for their necessities; their condition is enquired into weekly, or monthly, as their occasions serve; but more especially at the time of their festivals, they slay some sheep on purpose to be distributed among the poor, with bread proportionable; they are charitable to strangers in distress, this they had opportunity to express to a company of French and Spaniards who lost their ship at Rokol in the year 1686, and came in, in a pinnace to St. Kilda, where they were plentifully supplied with barly-bread, butter, cheese, solan geese, eggs, etc. Both seamen and inhabitants were barbarians one to another, the inhabitants speaking only the Irish tongue, to which the French and the Spaniards were altogether strangers; upon their landing they pointed to the west, naming Rokol to the inhabitants, and after that, they pointed downward with their finger, signifying the sinking and perishing of their vessel; they skewed them Rokol in the sea map, far west off St. Kilda. This, and much more, the masters of these ships told to a priest in the next island who understood French. The inhabitants acquainted me that the pinnace which carried the seamen from Rokol was so very low, that the crew added a foot height of canvas round it all, and began to work at it upon Sunday, at which the inhabitants were astonished, and being highly dissatisfied, plucked the hatchets and other instruments out of their hands, and did not restore them till Monday morning.

The inhabitants had occasion to skew great kindness to a boat’s crew that was driven from the opposite isle South Uist, whither they themselves were driven afterwards, and where they were treated with no less civility and kindness than the above-mentioned had been by them: so that it may be said of them with great justice, that their charity is as extensive as the occasions of it.

The second of these chappels bears the name of St. Columba, the third of St. Brianan; both built after the manner of Christ’s Chappel; having churchyards belonging to them, and they are a quarter of a mile distance betwixt each chappel.

They told me of a ship that dropp’d anchor in the mouth of the bay the preceeding year, and that the Lowlanders aboard her were not Christians; I enquired if their interpreter, who they said spoke bad Irish, had owned this to be a truth, they answered, not; but that they knew this by their practices, and that in these three particulars; the first was the working upon Sunday, carrying several boats full of stones aboard for ballast; the second was the taking away some of their cows without any return for them, except a few Irish copper pieces; and the third was, the attempt made by them to ravish their women, a practice altogether unknown in St. Kilda, where there has not been one instance of fornication or adultery for many ages before this time; I remember they told me, that the bribe offered for debauching the poor women, was a piece of broad money, than which there could be nothing less charming in a place where inhabitants cannot distinguish a guinea from a sixpence.

Their marriages are celebrated after the following manner; when any two of them have agreed to take one another for man and wife, the officer who presides over them, summons all the inhabitants of both sexes to Christ’s Chappel, where being assembled, he enquires publickly if there be any lawful impediment why these parties should not be joined in the bond of matrimony? And if there be no objection to the contrary, he then enquires of the parties if they are resolved to live together in weal and woe, etc. After their assent, he declares them married persons, and then desires them to ratify this their solemn promise in the presence of God and the people, in order to which the crucifix is tender’d to them, and both put their right hands upon it, as the ceremony by which they swear fidelity one to another during their lifetime.

Mr. Campbel, the minister, married in this manner fifteen pair of the inhabitants on the seventeenth of June, who immediately after marriage, join’d in a country dance, having only a bagpipe for their musics, which pleased them exceedingly.

They baptize in the following manner; the parent calls in the officer, or any of his neighbours to baptize his child, and another to be sponsor; he that performs the minister’s part being told what the child’s name is to be, says, A .B. I baptize thee to your father and your mother, in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; then the sponsor takes the child in his arms, as both his wife as godmother, and ever after this there is a friendship between the parent and the sponsor, which is esteemed so sacred and inviolable, that no accident, how cross so-ever, is able to set them at variance; and it reconciles such as have been at enmity formerly.

This isle belongs in property to the Laird of Mack-Leod, head of one of the ancientest families of Scotland; it is never farmed, but mostly commonly bestowed upon some favourite, one of his friends or followers, who is called steward of the isle. The present steward’s name is Alexander Mack-Leod, who pays yearly to his master an acknowledgment of the various products of this isle. This steward visits St. Kilda every summer, and upon his arrival he and his retinue have all the milk in the isle bestowed on them in a treat; there is another bestowed on them upon St. Columba’s Day, the fifteenth of June; we had a share of this second treat. The steward’s retinue consist of forty, fifty, or sixty persons, and among them, perhaps the most meagre in the parish are carried thither to be recruited with good chear; but this retinue is now retrenched, as also some of their ancient and unreasonable exactions.

The steward lives upon the charge of the inhabitants until the time that the solan geese are ready to fly, which the inhabitants think long enough; the daily allowance paid by them is very regularly exacted, with regard to their respective proportions of lands and rocks; there is not a parcel of men in the world more scrupulously nice and punctilious in maintaining their liberties and properties than these are, being most religiously fond of their ancient laws and statutes; nor will they by any means consent to alter their first (though unreasonable) constitutions; and we had a pregnant instance of this their genius for preserving their ancient customs; they have unchangeably continued their first and ancient measures, as the maile, amir, and cubit; this maile contains ten pecks; the amir which they at present make use of, is probably the Hebrew omer, which contains near two pecks; the cubit, or in their language, lave keile, i.e., an hand of wood, is the distance from the elbow to the finger’s ends; this they only use in measuring their boats: the amir, or rather half-amir as they call it, is composed of thin boards, and as they confess has been used these four-score years; in which tract of time it is considerably fallen short of the measure of which it was at first, which they themselves do not altogether deny; the steward to compensate this loss, pretends to a received custom of adding the hand of him that measures the corn to the amir side, holding some of the burly above the due measure, which the inhabitants complain of as unreasonable; the steward to satisfy them, offered to refer the debate to Mr. Campbel’s decision and mine, they themselves being to propose their objections, and two of his retinue, who were well seen in the customs of this place, in time of some of the former stewards, being appointed to answer them, and he promised that he would acquiesce in the decision, though it should prove to his prejudice; but they would not alter that measure if Mac-Leod did not expressly command the same to be done, being persuaded that he would not in the least alter that measure which his and their ancestors had had in such esteem for so many ages. So great was their concern for this amir, that they unanimously determined to send the officer as envoy (according to the ancient custom) to represent their case to Mack-Leod; this was the result of a general council, in which the master of every family has a vote, since every family pays this officer an amir of barly per annum, to maintain his character.

This officer as such, is obliged to adjust the repective proportions of lands, grass, and rocks, and what else could be claimed by virtue of the last tack, or lease, which is never longer than for three years, condescended to by the steward; nay, he is obliged always to dispute with the steward for what is due to any of them, and never to give over until he has obtained his demand, or put the steward into such a passion, that he gives the officer at least three strokes with his cudgel over the crown of his head; after these three strokes he has done the utmost that is required of him by their ancient customs. I enquired of the officer (who told me this passage) what if the steward give him but one blow over the crown, he answered, that the inhabitants would not be satisfied if he did not so far plead as to irritate the steward to give both a second and a third blow; I had the farther curiosity to enquire of the steward himself if he was wont to treat the officer in this manner; who answered, that it was an ancient custom, which in his short time he had not had occasion to practice, but if he should, he would not confine himself to the number of three blows, if the officer should prove indiscreet.

The steward bestows some acres of land upon the officer for serving him and the inhabitants; he gives him likewise the bonnet worn by himself upon his going out of the island; the steward’s wife leaves with the officer’s wife the kerch, or head-dress worn by herself, and she bestows likewise upon her an ounce of indigo. The steward has a large cake of barly presented to him by an officer at every meal, and it must be made so large as shall be sufficient to satisfy three men at a time, and by way of eminence it is baked in the form of a triangle, and furrowed twice round; the officer is likewise obliged to furnish the steward with mutton, or beef, to his dinner every Sunday during his residence in the island.

Notwithstanding these reciprocal acts of kindness, this officer must be allowed to go in quality of an envoy to Mack-Leod against the steward, upon extraordinary occasions, if the commonwealth have any grievances to redress, as that of the amir now depending; but the commission given him is limited, the whole boat’s crew being joined in commission with him, and are a check upon him, lest his dependance upon the steward might be apt to bias him; he makes his entry very submissively, taking off his bonnet at a great distance when he appears in Mack-Leod’s presence, bowing his head and hand low near to the ground, his retinue doing the like behind him one after another, making, as it were, a chain; this being their manner of walking both at home and abroad, for they walk not a-breast as others do; and in making their purchase among the rocks, one leads the van, and the rest follow.

The number of people inhabiting this isle at present, is about one hundred and eighty, who in the steward’s absence are governed by one Donald Mack-Gill-Colm, as their Meijre, which imports an officer; this officer was anciently chosen, or at least approved of by the people, before the steward settled him in his office, but now the stewards have the nomination of him absolutely; he is president over them in all their debates, takes care that the lots be managed impartially, that none to whose share they fall may have cause to repine, whether it be for the steward’s service, or that of the commonwealths; the use of the lots, together with the crucifix, do mightily contribute to their peace and quiet, keeping every one within his proper bounds. It must needs be a very odd case indeed that falls not within the compass of either of these two to determine; when any case happens which does not fall under the decision of lots, and it is capable of being decided only by the oath of the parties, then the crucifix must determine the matter; and if it should prove to be a case of the highest importance, any of them is at liberty to refer it to his neighbour’s oath, without any suspicion of perjury, provided the ceremony of touching the crucifix with their right hand be observed; and this is always publickly performed.

If any man is guilty of beating his neighbour, he is liable to a fine not exceeding the value of two shillings sterling; if any has beat his neighbour so as to draw blood from him; he is liable to a fine, but it must not exceed four shillings and sixpence; these crimes are complained of by the officer to the steward upon his arrival, who either exacts the whole, or dispences with the fines, as he judges convenient for their future quiet and peace.

They have only one common kiln, which serves them all by turns, as the lots fall to their share; he whose lot happens to be last does not resent it at all.

The officer by virtue of his place, is obliged through a point of honour to be the first that lands in the lesser isles and rocks, from whence they carry their fowls and eggs, and not within some trouble too. This notion of honour exposes him to frequent dangers; and, perhaps, it may not be unpleasant to describe it as I have seen it practised; and ‘tis thus; when they have come as near to the rock as they think may consist with the safety of the boat, which is not a little tossed by the raging of the sea, those whose turn then it is, are employed with poles to keep off the boat, that is in great danger, in regard of the violence of the waves beating upon the rock, and they are to watch the opportunity of the calmest wave; upon the first appearance of which, the officer jumps out upon the rock; if there be any apparent danger, he ties a rope about his middle, with one end of it fastened to the boat; if he has landed safe, he then fixes his feet in a secure place, and by the assistance of this rope draws up all the crew to him, except those whose turn it is to look after the boat; but if in jumping out he falls into the sea, (as his fortune is so to do sometimes) then he is drawn into the boat again by that part of the rope that is so fastened to it, and the next then whose turn it is must try his fortune, the officer after his fall being supposed to be sufficiently fatigu’d, so that he is not obliged to adventure his person again to a second hazard upon this occasion, especially he being exposed to the greatest danger that offers upon their landing when they return back again to the isle, where the sea often rages, he being obliged then by virtue of his office to stay in the boat, after the whole crew are landed, where he must continue employing his pole, until the boat be either brought safe to land, or else split upon the rocks.

They furnish themselves with ropes to carry them through the more inaccessible rocks; of these ropes there are only three in the whole island, each of them twenty-four fathoms in length; and they are either knit together and lengthned by tying the one to the other, or used separately as occasion requires; the chief thing upon which the strength of these ropes depends, is cows hides salted,and cut out in one long piece, this they twist round the ordinary rope of hemp, which secures it from being cut by the rocks; they join sometimes at the lower end two ropes, one of which they tie about the middle of one climber, and another about the middle of another, that these may assist one another in case of a fall; but the misfortune is, that sometimes the one happens to pull down the other, and so both fall into the sea; but if they escape (as they do commonly of late) they get an incredible number of eggs and fowls.

The ropes belong to the commonwealth, and are not to be used without the general consent of all; the lots determine the time, place, and persons for using them, they get together in three days a much greater number of fowls and eggs than their boat is able to carry away, and therefore what is over and above they leave behind in their stone-pyramids: they catch their fowls with gins made of horse-hair, these are tied to the end of their fishing-rods, with which the fowlers creep through the rocks indiscernably, putting the noose over their heads about their necks, and so draw them instantly; they use likewise hair gins which they set upon plain rocks, both the ends fastened by a stone, and so catch forty or fifty a day with them.

The inhabitants, I must tell you, run no small danger in the quest of the fowls and eggs, insomuch that I fear it would be thought an hyperbole to relate the inaccessibleness, steepness, and height, of those formidable rocks which they venture to climb. I my self have seen some of them climb up the corner of a rock with their backs to it, making use only of their heels and elbows, without any other assistance; and they have this way acquired a dexterity in climbing beyond any I ever yet saw; necessity has made them apply themselves to this, and custom has perfected them in it; so that it is become familiar to them almost from their cradles, the young boys of three years old being to climb the walls of their houses: their frequent discourses of climbing, together with the fatal end of several in the exercise of it, is the same to them, as that of fighting and killing is with soldiers, and so is become as familiar and less formidable to them, than otherwise certainly it would be. I saw two young men, to whose share the lots fell in June last, for taking the nest of a hawk (which was in a high rock above the sea) bringing home the hawks in a few minutes, without any assistance at all.

Their dogs are likewise very dexterous in climbing and bringing out from their holes those fowls which build their nests far under-ground, such as the scraber, puffinet, &c., which they carry in their teeth to their masters, leting them fall upon the ground before them, though asleep.

The inhabitants speak the Irish tongue only; they express themselves slowly but pertinently; and have the same language with those of Harries and other isles, who retain the Irish in its purity.

Their habit anciently was of sheepskins, which has been wore by several of the inhabitants now living; the men at this day wear a short doublet reaching to their waste, about that a double plait of plad, both ends join’d together with the bone of a fulmar; this plad reaches no further than their knees, and is above the haunches girt about with a belt of leather; they wear short caps of the same colour and shape with the capuchins, but shorter; and on Sundays they wear bonnets; some of late have got breeches, and they are wide and open at the knees; they wear cloth stocking and go without shoes in the summer-time; their leather is dress’d with the roots of tormentil.

The women wear upon their heads a linnen dress, strait before, and drawing to a small point behind below the shoulders, a foot and an half in length, and a lock of about sixty hairs hanging down each cheek, reaching to their breasts, the lower end tied with a knot; their plad, which is the upper garment, is fastened upon their breasts with a large round buckle of brass in form of a circle; the buckle anciently worn by the steward’s wives were of silver, but the present steward’s wife makes no use of either this dress or buckle. The women inhabiting this isle wear no shoes nor stocking in the summer-time; the only and ordinary shoes they wear, are made of the necks of solan geese, which they cut above the eyes, the crown of the head serves for the heel, the whole skin being cut close at the breast, which end being sowed, the foot enter into it, as into a piece of narrow stockin this shoe doth not wear above five days, and if the down side be next the ground, then not above three or four days; but, however, there is plenty of them; some thousands being catch’d, or, as they term it, stolen every March.

Both sexes wear course flannel shirts, which they put off when they go to bed; they thicken their cloaths upon flakes, or mats of hay twisted and woven together in small ropes; they work hard at this employment, first making use of their hands, and at last of their feet; and when they are at this work, they commonly sing all the time, one of their number acting the part of a prime chantress, whom all the rest follow and obey.

They put the faces of their dead towards the east when they bury them, and bewail the death of their relations excessively, and upon those occasions make doleful songs, which they call laments. Upon the news of the late Mack-Leod’s death, they abandoned their houses, mourning two days in the field; they kill a cow, or sheep, before the interment, but if it be in the spring, this ceremony then is delayed, because the cattel are at that time poor and lean, but, however, they are to be kill’d as soon as ever they become fat.

Their ordinary food is barly and some oat-bread baked with water; they eat all the fowls, already described, being dried in their stone-houses, without any salt or spice to preserve them; and all their beef and mutton is eaten fresh, after the same manner they use the giben, or fat of their fowls; this giben is by daily experience found to be a sovereign remedy for the healing of green wounds; it cured a cancer in an inhabitant of the isle of Lewis, and a fistula in one Nicholson of Sky, in St. Maries Parish; this was performed by John Mack-Lean, chirurgeon there: they boil the sea-plants, dulse, and slake, melting the giben upon them instead of butter, and upon the roots of silver-weed and dock boiled, and also with their scurvy-grass stoved, which is very purgative, and here it is of an extraordinary breadth. They use this giben with their fish, and it is become the common vehicle that conveys all their food down their throats. They are undone for want of salt, of which as yet they are but little sensible; they use no set times for their meals, but are determined purely by their appetites.

They use only the ashes of sea-ware for salting their cheese, and the shortest (which grows in the rocks) is only used by them, that being reckoned the mildest.

Their drink is water, or whey, commonly: they brew ale but rarely, using the juice of nettle-roots, which they put in a dish with a little barley-meal dough; these sowens (i.e., flummery) being blended together, produce good yest, which puts their wort into a ferment, and makes good ale, so that when they drink plentifully of it, it disposes them to dance merrily.

They preserve the solan geese in their pyramids for the space of a year, flitting them in the back, for they have no salt to keep them with. They have built above five hundred stone pyramids for their fowls, eggs, &c.

We made particular enquiry after the number of solon geese consumed by each family the year before we came here, and it amounted to twenty-two thousand six hundred in the whole island, which they said was less than they ordinarily did, a great many being lost by the badness of the season, and the great current into which they must be thrown when they take them, the rock being of such an extraordinary height that they cannot reach the boat.

There is one boat sixteen cubits long, which serves the whole commonwealth; it is very curiously divided into apartments proportionable to their lands and rocks; every individual has his space distinguished to an hair’s breadth, which his neighbour cannot encroach so much as to lay an egg upon it.

Every partner in summer provides a large turf to cover his space of the boat, thereby defending it from the violence of the sun, which (in its meridian height) reflects most vehemently from the sea, and rock, upon which the boat lies; at the drawing of it up, both sexes are employed pulling a long rope at the fore-end; they are determined in uniting their strength, by the cryer, who is therefore excepted from being obliged to draw the boat.

There is but one steel and tinder-box in all this commonwealth; the owner whereof fails not upon every occasion of striking fire in the lesser isles, to go thither, and exact three eggs, or one of the lesser fowls from each man as a reward for his service; this by them is called the fire-penny, and this capitation is very uneasy to them; I bid them try their chrystal with their knives, which when they saw it did strike fire, they were not a little astonished, admiring at the strangeness of the thing, and at the same time accusing their own ignorance, considering the quantity of chrystal growing under the rock of their coast. This discovery has delivered them from the fire-penny tax, and so they are no longer liable to it.

They have likewise a pot-penny tax, which is exacted in the same manner as the fire-penny was, but is much more reasonable; for the pot is carried to the inferior isles for the publick use; and is in hazard of being broken; so that the owners may justly exact upon this score, since any may venture his pot when he pleases. When they have bestowed some hours in fowling about the rocks, and caught a competent number, they sit down near the face of it to refresh themselves, and in the mean time, they single out the fattest of their fowls, plucking them bare, which they carry home to their wives, or mistresses, as a great present, and it is always accepted very kindly from them, and could not otherwise be, without great ingratitude, seeing these men ordinarily expose themselves to very great danger, if not hazard their lives, to procure those presents for them.

In the face of the rock, south from the town, is the famous stone, known by the name of the mistress-stone; it resembles a door exactly; and is in the very front of this rock, which is twenty or thirty fathom perpendicular in height, the figure of it being discernable about the distance of a mile; upon the lintel of this door, every bachelor-wooer is by an ancient custom obliged in honour to give a specimen of his affection for the love of his mistress, and it is thus; he is to stand on his left foot, having the one half of of his sole over the rock, and then he draws the right foot further out to the left, and in this posture bowing, he puts both his fists further out to the right foot; and then after he has performed this, he has acquired no small reputation, being always after it accounted worthy of the finest mistress in the world: they firmly believe that this achievement is always attended with the desired success.

This being the custom of the place, one of the inhabitants very gravely desired me to let him know the time limited by me for trying of this piece of gallantry before I design’d to leave the place, that he might attend me; I told him this performance would have a quite contrary effect upon me, by robbing me both of my life and mistress at the same moment; but he was of a contrary opinion, and insisted on the good fortune attending it; but I must confess all his arguments were too weak to make me attempt the experiment.

They take their measures in going to the lesser islands from the appearance of the Heavens; for when it is clear or cloudy in such a quarter, it is a prognostick of wind or fair weather; and when the waves are high on the east point of the bay, it is an infallible sign of a storm, especially if they appear very white, even though the weather be at that time calm.

If the waves in the bay make a noise as they break before they beat upon the shoar,it is also an infallible forerunner of a west wind; if a black cloud appears above the south side of the bay, a south wind follows some hours afterwards. It is observed of the sea betwixt St. Kilda and the isles Lewis, Harries, &c., that it rages more with a north wind, than when it blows from any other quarter. And it is likewise observed to be less raging with the south wind than any other.

They know the time of the day by the motion of the sun from one hill or rock to another; upon either of these the sun is observed to appear at different times; and when the sun doth not appear, they measure the day by the ebbing and flowing of the sea, which they can tell exactly, though they should not see the shoar for some days together; their knowledge of the tides depends upon the changes of the moon, which they likewise observe, and are very nice in it.

They use for their diversion short clubs and balls of wood; the sand is a fair field for this sport and exercise, in which they take great pleasure and are very nimble at it; they play for some eggs, fowls, hooks, or tobacco; and so eager are they for victory, that they strip themselves to their shirts to obtain it; they use swimming and diving, and are very expert in both.

The women have their assemblies in the middle of the village, where they discourse of their affairs, but in the mean time employing their distaff, and spinning in order to make their blankets; they sing and jest for diversion, and in their way, understand poetry, and makes rhimes in their language. Both men and women are very courteous; as often as they passed by us every day, they saluted us with their ordinary compliment of " God save you "; each of them making their respective courtesies.

Both sexes have a great inclination to novelty; and, perhaps, anything may be thought new with them that is but different from their way of managing land, cattel, fowls, etc. A parcel of them were always attending the minister and me, admiring our habit, behaviour; and, in a word, all that we did or said was wonderful in their esteem; but above all, writing was the most astonishing to them; they cannot conceive how it is possible for any mortal to express the conceptions of his mind in such black characters upon white paper. After they had with admiration argued upon this subject, I told them, that within the compass of two years or less, if they pleased, they might easily be taught to read and write, but they were not of the opinion that either of them could be obtained, at least by them, in an age.

The officer in his embassy in July last, travelled so far as to land on the continent next to Sky, and it was a long journey for a native of St. Kilda so to do, for scarce any of the inhabitants ever had the opportunity of travelling so great a way into the world.

They observed many wonderful things in the course of their travels; but they have a notion that MackLeod’s family is equivalent to that of an Imperial Court, and believe the king to be only superior to him: they say his lady wore such a strange Lowland dress, that it was impossible for them to describe it; they admired glass windows hugely, and a looking-glass to them was a prodigy; they were amazed when they saw cloth hangings upon a thick wall of stone and lime, and condemn’d it as a thing very vain and superfluous.

They reckon the year, quarter, and month, as generally is done all Britain over. They compute the several periods of time by the lives of the proprietors and stewards, of whose greatest actions they have a tradition, of which they discourse with as great satisfaction, as any historian reflecting on the Cæsars, or greatest generals in the world.

They account riding one of the greatest pieces of grandeur here upon earth, and told me with a strange admiration, that Mack-Leod did not travel on foot, as they supposed all other men did, and that they had seen several horses kept on purpose by him for riding.

One of their number landing in the isle of Harries, enquired who was the proprietor of those lands? They told him, that it was Mack-Leod, which did not a little raise his opinion of him; this man afterwards, when he was in the isle of Sky, and had travelled some miles there, one day standing upon an eminence, and looking round about him, he fancied he saw a great part of the world, and then enquired to whom those lands did belong, and when one of the company had acquainted him, that Mack-Leod was master of those lands also, the St. Kilda man lifting up his eyes and hands to Heaven, cried out with admiration, "O Mighty Prince, who art Master of such vast territories!" This he express’d so emphatically in the Irish language, that the saying from that time became a proverb whenever any body would express a greatness and plenitude of power.

One of the things they wondered most at, was the growth of trees; they thought the beauty of the leaves and branches admirable, and how they grew to such a height above plants, was far above their conception: one of them marvelling at it, told me, that the trees pulled him back as he travelled through the woods: they resolved once to carry some few of them on their backs to their boats, and so to take them to St. Kilda, but upon second thoughts, the length of the journey, being through the greatest part of the isle of Sky, deterr’d them from this undertaking, for though they excell others in strength, yet they are very bad travellers on foot, they being but little used to it.

One of their number having travelled in the Isle of Sky, to the south part of it, thought this a prodigious journey; and seeing in the opposite continent the shire of Inverness, divided from Sky only by a narrow sea, enquired of the company, if that was the border of England.

One of the St. Kilda men, after he had taken a pretty large dose of aqua-vitæ, and was become very heavy with it, as he was falling into a sleep, and fancying it was to have been his last, express’d to his companions the great satisfaction he had in meeting with such an easy passage out of this world; "for," said he, "it is attended with no kind of pain." In short, their opinion of foreign objects is as remote from the ordinary sentiments of other mankind, as they are themselves from all foreign converse.

I must not omit acquainting the reader, that the account given of the seamens rudeness to the inhabitants, has created great prejudices in them against seamen in general; and though I endeavoured to bring them into some good opinion of them, it will not be, I hope, improper here to deliver the terms upon which the inhabitants are resolved to receive strangers, and no otherwise; they will not admit of any number exceeding ten, and those too must be unarmed, for else the inhabitants will oppose them with all their might; but if any number of them, not exceeding that abovesaid, come peaceably, and with good designs, they may expect water and fire gratis, and what else the place affords, at the easiest rates in the world.

"The inhabitants of St. Kilda, are much happier than the generality of mankind, as being almost the only people in the world who feel the sweetness of true liberty: what the condition of the people in the Golden Age is feign’d by the poets to be, that theirs really is, I mean, in innocency and simplicity, purity, mutual love and cordial friendship, free from solicitous cares, and anxious covetousness; from envy, deceit, and dissimulation; from ambition and pride, and the consequences that attend them. They are altogether ignorant of the vices of foreigners, and governed by the dictates of reason and Christianity, as it was first delivered to them by those heroick souls whose zeal moved them to undergo danger and trouble to plant religion here in one of the remotest corners of the world.

There is this only wanting to make them the happiest people in this habitable globe, viz., that they themselves do not know how happy they are, and how much they are above the avarice and slavery of the rest of mankind. Their way of living makes them condemn gold and silver, as below the dignity of human nature; they live by the munificence of Heaven; and have no designs upon one another, but such as are purely suggested by justice and benevolence."

There being about thirty of the inhabitants one day together in the Isle Soa, they espied a man with a grey coat and plad, in a shirt, floating on the sea upon his belly, and saw likewise a mall pecking at his neck; this vision continued above a quarter of an hour, and then disappeared; but shortly after, one of the spectators chanc’d to fall into the sea, and being drowned, resembled the forewarning vision in all things, and the mall was also seen upon his neck; this was told me by the steward some years before, and afterwards was confirmed to me by such as were themselves eyewitnesses of it.

None of the inhabitants pretended to the second sight, except Roderick the Impostor, and one woman, and she told her neighbours that she saw, some weeks before our coming, a boat (different from that of the steward) with some strangers in it, drawing near to their isle.

An Account of one Roderick, supposed to have had Conversation with a Familiar Spirit, and pretending to be sent by St. John the Baptist with New Revelations and Discoveries.

AFTER our landing, the minister and I (according to our first resolution) examined the inhabitants apart by themselves concerning the new pretended religion delivered to them by their false prophet.

All of them, young as well as old, both men and women, unanimously agreed in this following account; they did heartily congratulate the minister’s arrival, and at the same time declared their abhorrence of the impostor’s delusions, and with repeated instances begg’d for the Lord’s sake that he might be for ever removed out of the isle.

This impostor is a comely-well-proportioned fellow, red-hair’d, and exceeding all the inhabitants of St. Kilda in strength, climbing, &c. He is illiterate, and under the same circumstances with his companions, for he had not so much as the advantage of ever seeing any of the Western Isles; all his converse being only with the steward’s retinue, who were as ignorant of letters as himself.

In the eighteenth year of his age, he took the liberty of going to fish on a Sunday, (a practice altogether unknown in St. Kilda); and he asserts, that in his return homeward, a man in Lowland dress, i.e., a cloak and hat, appeared to him upon the road; at this unexpected meeting, Roderick falls flat on the ground in great disorder; upon which this man desired him not to be surprized at his presence, for he was John the Baptist immediately come from Heaven with good tidings to the inhabitants of that place, who had been for a long time kept in ignorance and error; that he had commission to instruct Roderick in the laws of Heaven for the edification of his neighbours: Roderick answered, that he was no way qualified for so great a charge; the pretended John Baptist desired him to be of good courage, for he would instantly make him capable for his mission, and then delivered to him the following scheme, in which he so mixed the laudable customs of the church with his own diabolical inventions, that it became impossible for so ignorant a people as they, to distinguish the one from the other.

The first and principal command which he imposed upon them, was that of the Friday’s fast, which he enjoined to be observed with such strictness, as not to allow one of them to taste any kind of food before night, no, not so much as a snuff of tobacco, which they love dearly; this bare fast, without any religious exercise attending it, was the first badge and cognizance of his followers. He persuaded the peoples that some of their deceased neighbours were nominated saints in heaven, and advocates for them here who surviv’d; he told, every one had his respective advocate; the anniversary of every saint was to be commemorated by every person under whose tutelage they were reputed to be. And this was observed by treating the neighbours with a liberal entertainment of beef or mutton, fowls, &c., the impostor himself being always the chief guest at the feast; where a share of the entertainment was punctually sent to his wife and children; the number of sheep ordinarily consumed on these occasions, was proportionable to the ability of him that bestowed them.

He imposed likewise several penances which they were obliged to submit to, under the pain of being expelled from the society of his fraternity in worship, which he pretended to be founded upon no less authority than that of St. John the Baptist’s, and threatened to inflict the saddest judgments upon those as should prove refractory, and not obey his injunctions.

The ordinary penances he laid upon them, were to make them stand in cold water (without regard to the season, whether frost or otherwise) during his pleasure; and if there were any more of them upon whom this severity was to be inflicted, they were to pour cold water upon one another’s heads until they had satisfied his tyrannical humour. This diabolical severity was evidence enough, that he was sent by him who is the father of lies, and was a murtherer from the beginning.

He commanded that every family should slay a sheep upon the threshold of their doors, but a knife must not so much as touch it, he would have them only make use of their crooked spades for their instruments to kill them with; for which, if duly considered, there is nothing more improper, the edge with which he commanded the sheep’s neck to be cut being almost half an inch thick. Now this was to be done in the evening, and if either young or old had tasted a bit of the meat of it that night, the equivalent number of sheep were to be slain the following day, after the former manner.

He forbid the use of the Lord’s Prayer, Creed, and Ten Commandments, and instead of them prescribed diabolical forms of his own. His prayers and rhapsodical forms were often blended with the names of God, our Blessed Saviour; and the Immaculate Virgin; he used the Irish word, phersichin, i.e. verses, which is not known in St. Kilda, nor in the north-west isles, except to such as can read the Irish tongue. But that which seems to bemost surprising in his obscure prayers was his mentioning of ELI, with the character of our preserver. He used several unintelligible words in his prayers, of which he could not tell the meaning himself; saying only, that he had received them implicitly from St. John Baptist and delivered them before his hearers without any explication.

He taught the women a devout hymn, which he called the Virgin Mary’s, as sent from her; this hymn was never delivered in publick, but always in a private house, or some remote place where no eye could see them but that of Heaven; he persuaded the innocent women that it was of such merit and efficacy that any one who was able to repeat it by heart, would not die in child-bearing: and every woman paid a sheep to the impostor for teaching her this hymn.

The place and manner of teaching this hymn afforded him a fair opportunity of debauching the simple women; and this some of their number acknowledged to the minister and me upon examination.

He prescribed to all his auditory, long rhimes, which he called psalms; these he ordinarily sung at his rhapsodical preachments.

He endeavoured to alter the common way of burying, which was by placing the faces of the dead to the east, and would have persuaded them to place them to the south, and that he might prevail the more with them so to do, he placed the bodies of those of his own family who happened to die, facing the south; yet the inhabitants would not follow his example in this, but continued in their former practice.

He persuaded the women, that if in all things they complied with his new revelation, they should be undoubtedly carried to Heaven; and that in their journey thither they were to pass through the firmament riding upon white horses. These and many more ridiculous things he imposed upon the people, of which this is but an abstract.

This unhappy fellow to consecrate his enterprize, pitched upon a little rising spot of ground, which he called John the Baptist’s Bush; upon which he said these oracles were delivered by John Baptist to him. And this bush was from that time forward believed to be holy ground, and must not be any further trod upon by any of their cattel, and if by chance one of them happen to touch it, it must be forthwith slain and eaten by Roderick and the owners; and if any proved refractory, and were resolved to spare their cattel a most dreadful combination was issued out against them, of being thence-forward excluded from any further fellowship with him, until they should acknowledge their faults, and comply with his luxurious desires, which to disobey he made them believe was damnable. It was reckoned meritorious if any body had revealed who had transgressed the orders given by him.

This impostor continued for the space of several years, without controul, to delude these poor innocent well-meaning people, until at last his villainous design upon the women was found out, I mean, that he intended to accomplish under the mask of the devout hymn that he taught them, and was first discovered by the officer’s wife, who by the impostor was first proselyted to his false doctrines, and after that he would have debauched her from her conjugal fidelity. This woman was so heroically virtuous, as to communicate his lewd design to her husband, who ordered the matter so as to be in another room hard by at the same time he supposed Roderick would be coming; there he stays until this letcher began to caress his wife, and then he thought himself obliged seasonably to appear for her rescue, and boldly reproved the impostor for his wicked practices, which were so widely contrary to his profession, and that upon the whole it appeared he had no true mission.

The impostor was very much surprized at this unexpected and fatal disappointment, which put him into an extream disorder, insomuch that he asked the officer’s pardon, acknowledging his crime, and promising never to attempt the like again. The officer continued to upbraid him; telling him to his face, that he was set on by the devil; that innocence and chastity were always the effects of true religion, and that the contrary practices were countenanced by false prophets; and that now they needed no other proof of his being a notorious deceiver: however the impostor being had in great reputation, prevailed with the officer to patch up a friendship with him, who for the continuance of it, condescended to be the impostor’s gossip, i.e., sponsor at the baptism of one of his children; of which ceremony there is an account already given: when there is no opportunity of being sponsor to one another, and it is necessary to enter into bonds of friendship at baptism; the inhabitants of the Western Isles, supplied this ceremony by tasting a drop of each other’s blood.

Notwithstanding this friendship thus patch’d up between these two, the impostor’s miscarriages got air, which administered occasion to the most thinking among them, to doubt very much of his mission; his father, who was reputed a very honest man, told him frequently, that he was a deceiver, and would come to a fatal end. This impostor prophesied that one of the inhabitants (whose name I have forgotten) was to be killed in a battel in the Isle of Harries, within a limited space of time; this poor unthinking man relying so much on one whom he thought an infallible oracle, ventured more desperately on the rock than ever before, fancying he could not fall, but it happened that he tumbled over and was drowned, at which the inhabitants were surprized; however the impostor continued in the exercise of his pretended mission.

One of the inhabitants called Muldonich, alias Lewis, Cousin-German to the impostor, had an ewe which brought forth three lambs at once, they were seen to feed upon the bush pretended to be sacred, but Lewis would not comply with the order for killing the sheep, and had the boldness to aver, that it was an unreasonable piece of worship to destroy so many cattel and deprive the owners of their use, adding withal, that he never heard any such thing practised in any of the Western Isles upon a religious account. The impostor insisted upon the heavenly command, which was to be observed by all his followers, adding the dreadful threatning against such as proved disobedient thereto; but Lewis would by no means be prevailed upon, chusing rather to be excluded from the pretended worship; than to kill his sheep.

The simple people looked for no less than a speedy judgment to befall this recusant, but when nothing ensued upon his disobedience, all of them began to have a less veneration for the impostor than before; nay, some said privately, that they might as well have ventured to run the same risque with Lewis, for the preservation of their cattel.

Notwithstanding all this villainy, the impostor continued to maintain his authority, until one night (for it was always at night that he kept his pretended religious meetings) by a special providence, a boy of the Isle of Harries, called John (who had staid with his father a year in St. Kilda, and was employed in mending of their boat) happened to go into the house where Roderick was preaching after his usual manner; the boy lurked in the dark, and gave his father an account of what he had heard, so far as he could remember; all which the boy’s father communicated to the steward upon his arrival, who being highly concerned at the relation given him, carried Roderick along with him to the Isle of Sky before the late MacLeod,who being informed of this fellow’s impostures, did forbid him from that time forward to preach any more on pain of death.

This was a great mortification, as well as disappointment to the impostor, who was possessed with a fancy, that Mack-Leod would hear him preach, and expected no less than to persuade him to become one of his proselytes, as he has since confessed.

The impostor asserts, that every night after he had assembled the people, he heard a voice without saying, "Come you out"; which when he heard he had no power to stay within; and that after his going forth, John Baptist did meet him, and instructed him what he should say to the people at that particular meeting. He says, that John the Baptist used only to repeat the discourse to him once, of all which the impostor owns he could scarcely remember one sentence, and therefore he enquired of John the Baptist how he should behave himself in this case; and that John the Baptist returned this answer, "Go, you have it," which the impostor believing, was upon his return able to deliver fluently all that he had heard, and would continue (after this his way of preaching) for several hours together, until he had lull’d most of his hearers asleep.

When the above-mentioned earthquake was over, one of the inhabitants enquired of the impostor with admiration, how the rock was made to tremble? He answered, that it was the effect of pleasant musick played by a devout saint in a church under ground; his neighbour owned his love for musick, but heartily wished never to hear any more of this kind, which carried so great terror along with it.

The impostor owned the truth of all this account, first to the minister and me, and then he did the same publickly after divine service, in the presence of all the inhabitants, and such as were come to that place from the Isle of Harries. The minister and congregation jointly prayed for repentance and pardon to this poor wretch, which when ended, we carried him and all the inhabitants to the bush pretended to be sacred; he himself leading the van, was commanded to raze to the ground a part of that wall which he had ordered to be built round the said bush (which otherwise would in a time have proved such a purgatory, as might have robb’d them of all their goods) which he and the inhabitants did in the space of an hour, we made them scatter the stones up and down in the field, lest their posterity might see such a monument of folly and ignorance. We reproved the credulous people for complying implicitly with such follies and delusions as were delivered to them by the impostor; and all of them with one voice answered, that what they did was unaccountable; but seeing one of their own number and stamp in all respects, endued, as they fancied, with a powerful faculty of preaching so fluently and frequently, and pretending to converse with John the Baptist, they were induc’d to believe his mission from heaven, and therefore complied with his commands without dispute, and the rather, because he did not change their laws of neighborhood.

They do now regret their wand’ring, and hope that God may pardon their error, since what they did was with a design (though a mistaken one) to serve Him.

They are now overjoyed to find themselves undeceived, and the light of the Gospel restored to them, as it was at first delivered to their ancestors by the first Christian monks, who had gone thither to instruct them.

This impostor is a poet, and also endued with that rare faculty of enjoying the second sight, which makes it the more probable that he was haunted by a familiar spirit. It hath been observed of him, before his imposture was discovered, that so often as he was employed by the steward to go to, or return from Harries, they were always exposed to the greatest dangers by violent storms, being at one time driven fifty leagues to the north-east, and by special providence were at last cast upon the little Isle Rona, twenty leagues north-east of Lewis; the steward’s wife, and all his crew making their reflections upon these dangers since the discovery of his imposture, could never be prevailed upon to receive him again into their boat. They often entreated Mr. Campbel and me not to admit him into our boat, but we did not yield to these fears, for we received and brought him along with us, and afterwards delivered him to the steward’s servants in the Isle of Pabby in Harries, where he remains still in custody in order to his trial.


of the
Western Isles of Scotland
Called Hybrides

With the Genealogies of the Chief Clans of the Isles

Sir Donald Monro
High Dean of the Isles
Who travelled through many of them in the year 1549.


First published from the manuscript
in the year 1774, and printed
by William Auld, Edinburgh.


Isle of Man 485 Inchian 491
Elsay 485 Uderga 491
Arran 485-6 King’s Iyle 491
Flada and Molass 486 Black Isle 491
Buitt 486-7 Kirke Isle 491
Inche Mernoche 487 Chrearache 492
Cumbra 487 Arde 492
Cumbray Dais 487 Laich Ile 492
Avoyn 487 Greine Ilye 492
Carrith Skeathe 487 Heddir Iyle 492
Rachlaiun 487-8 Hasil Iyle 492
Caray 488 Gatis Iyles 492
Gigay 488 Conings Ile 494
Duray 488-9 Idyle Iyle 492
Skarbay 489 Eisell 492
Veliche 489 Uridithe 492
Gilbrastol 489 Lismoir 492-3
Lungay 489 Ila 493
Fidlachaille 489 Earne Isle 494
Fidlavirow 489 Hessil Iyle 494
Garrowhellach Sheain 490 Mulmoryris Iyle 494
Garowhillach-Nanronow 490 Ofrum 494
Nanaose 490 Brydes Iyle 494
Culibrenyn 490 Cors Ker 494
Dunchonill 490 Eisilache 494
Madie 490 Imerska 494
Belnachna 490 Bethey 494
Vickeran 490 Tisgay 494
Nagawnwa 490 Scheipis Iyle 495
Lunge 490 Myresnypes Iyle 495
Seill 491 Ness Poynte Iyle 495
Seunay 491 Lyart Iyle 495
Sklaitt 491 Tairskeray 495
Nawissoge 491 Achnarra 495
Eisdcalfe 491
Inche Kenyth 491

Grait Iyle 495 Ronay 505-6
The Iyle of the Man’s Figure 495 Ellan Gearlochie 506
Jhone’s Iyle 495 Fladday 506
Stakbeades 495 Tuilin 506
Onersay 495-6 Cransay 506
Merchands Iyle 496 Buyamoire 506
Usabrast 496 Isay 507
Tanefte 496 Askerin 507
Nese 496 Lindill 507
Vebster 496 Lingay 507
Ornansay 496 Gigarun 507
Colnansay 496-7 Berneray 507
Mull 497-8 Megaly 507
The Dow Iyle 498 Pabay 507-8
Erray 498 Fladay 508
Colmkill 498-500 Scarpnamutt 508
Soa 500 Sanderay 508
Naban 500 Wattersay 508
Moroan 500 Barray 508-9
Reringe 500 Orvansay 509
Inche Kenzie 500-1 Nahacharrach 509
Eorsay 501 Nahakersait 509-10
Calfa 501 Garnlanga 510
The Glasse Iles 501 Flada 510
Ardin Rider 501 Bwyabeg 510
Ellan Madie 501 Bywa-moir 510
Ellan Moir 501 Hay 510
Ronin 501-2 Hettesay 510
The Horse Iyle 502 Gigay 510
Swynes Ile 502 Lingay 510
Kannay 502 Feray 510-11
Egga 502-3 Fuday 511
Soa Urettil 503 Eriskeray 511
Sky 503-4 Ywst 511-12
Oransay 504 Helsker Nagaillon 512
Nagoyneyne 504-5 Haysker 512-13
Pabay 505 Hirta 513-14
Scalpay 505 Valay 514
Crowling 505 Soa 514
Raarsay 505 The Pigmies Ile 514
Fabill 514 Senna-Beg 517
Adain 514 Senna-Moir 517
Na-naun 514-15 Tarandsay 517-18
Huiture 515 Sleyein 518
Vic-couill 515 Tivein 518
Haleuray 515 Scarpe 518
Laxay 515 Seven Haley Iles 518
Err 515 Garvellan 518-19
St. Colmes Ile 515 Lambay 519
Tooray 515 Fladay 519
Ellan Hurte 515-16 Kealnsay 519
Scalpay of Harray 516 Berneray-Beg 519
Fladay 516 Berneray-Moir 519
Senta 516 Kertay 519
Senchastlc 516 Buya-beg 519-20
Ellan Ew 516 Buya-Moir 520
Gruynorde 516-17 Vaxay 520
Na-clerache 517 Pabay 520
Afuil 517 Sigrain-moir-Nagoinein 520
Hawrarymoir 517 Sigrain-Beg 520
Hawrarybeg 517 Harrey 520-22
Naneache 517 Ronay 522-23
Mertarye 517 Suilskeray 523
Soya-Moir 517 Genealogies of the Clans 523-26
Ellan Iisa 517

A Description of the Western Isles
of Scotland.


FIRST in the Ireland seas, fornent the poynt of Galloway, neirest betwixt Scotland, England, and Ireland, lyes the first iyle of the saids isles, called in Latin tongue Mona and Sodora, in English Man, in Erishe Manain, whilks sometime, as auld historiographers sayes, was wont to be the seat first ordynit by Fynan king of Scottis to the priest and the philosophers called in Latine Druides, in English Culdeis and Kildeis, that is, worshippers of God, in Erish Leid Draiche, quhilks were the first teachers of religion in Albion, quherinto is the cathedrall of the bishop of Man and Isles dedicate, in the honour of St. Peter the apostle. This ile is twenty-four myles lang and eight myles braid, with twa castellis.

2. ELSAY. Northwart from this ile of Man, sixty myles off, layes Elsay, an iyl of ane myle lange, quherin is ane grate high hill, round and roughe, and ane heavin, and als aboundance of Soland geise, and ane small poynt of ane nesse, quherat the fishing bottis lyis: for in the same ile is verey good killing, ling, and uther whyte fishes. Fornent this ile layes Carrick on the southeast pairt, Ireland on the southwest pairt, and the lands of Kintyre on the west and northwest pairt; the said Elsay being neir hand midsa betwixt the said marches.

3. ARRAN. Be north or northeist fra this ile, twenty-four myles of sea, lies Arran, ane grate ile, full of grate mountains and forrests, good for hunting,with pairt of woods, extending in lenthe from the Kyle of Arran to Castle Dounan southwart to twenty-four myles, and from the Kyle of Drumdouin to the Ness of Kilbride, sixteen myles of breadthe, inhabit onlie at the sea coasts. Herein are thre castils; ane callit Braizay, pertening to the Earle of Arran; ane uther auld house callit the castle of the heid of Lochrenasay, pertyning likeways to the said Earle; and the third callit castle Dounan, pertaining to ane of the Stuarts of Bute’s blood, callit Mr. James: he and his bluid are the best men in that countrey. In Arran is a loche callit Lochrenasay, with three or four small waters: two paroch kirks, the ane callit Kilbride, the uther callit Kylmure. Fornent this ile layes the coste of Kyle in the east and southeist, be ten or twelve myles of sea in the north, Bute, be eight myles of sea in the west Skibness, pertening to the Erle of Argyle.

4. FLADA. 5. MOLASS. Upon the shore of this iyle lyes Flada, ane little iyle full of cunings, with ane uther little ile callit the yle of Molass, quherin there was foundit by Johne, Lord of the iles, ane monastry of friars, which is decayit.

6. BUITT. The yle of Buitt lyes, as we have said before, eight myles of sea to the northeist of Arran, ane mayne iyle, eight myle lange from the north to southe, and four myle braid fra the west to the eist, very fertyle ground, namelie for aitts, with twa strenthes; the ane is the round castle of Buitt, callit Rosay of the auld, and Borrowstone about it callit Buitt. Before the town and castle is ane bay of sea, quhilk is a gude heavin for ships to ly upon ankers. That uther castle is callit the castle of Kames, quhilk Kames in Erishe is alsmeikle as to say in English the bay Castle. In this ile ther is twa paroche kirks, that ane southe callit the kirk of Bride, the uther northe in the Borrowstone of Buitt, with twa chappells, ane of them above the towne of Buitt, the uther under the forsaid castle of Kames. On the north and northwest of this ile, be half myle of sea, lyes the coast of Ergyle; on the east syde of it the coast of Cuninghame, besix myle of sea.

7. INCHE MERNOCHE. On the west southwest of it lyes ane little iyle callit Inch Mernocke, twa myle frae sea, low mayne ground, weill inhabit and manurit, ane myle lange and half myle breadthe.

8. CUMBRA. On the eist and southeist lyes ane yle callit Cumbray, inhabit and manurit, three myle in lenth and ane myle in breadthe, with ane kirk callit Sanct Colmis kirke.

9. CUMBRAY DAIS. Besides this lyes ane iyle callit Cumbray of the Dais, because there is many Dayis intill it.

10. AVOYN. Before the south poynt of the promontory of Kintyre, lyes be ane myle of sea, ane iyle neire ane myle lange, callit the iyle Avoyn, quhilk iyle is obtained that name fra the armies of Denmark, quhilkis armies callit it in their leid Havin. It is inhabit and manurit, and guid for shipps to lay one ankers.

11. CARRITH SKEATHE. Fornent this iyle, one the shore of Kintyre, layes ane iyle with a castle, namet Carrick Skeath, with ane little water, quherin is ane guid havin for small bottis.

12. RACHLAIUN. On the southwest frae the promontory of Kyntyre, uppon the coast of Irland, be four myle to land, layes an iyle callit Rachlaine, pertaining to Irland, and possessit their money zeires by Clan Donald of Kyntyre, four myles longe and twa myle braid, guid land, inhabit and manurit.

13. CARAY. Upon the northwest coist of Kyntyre, be four myle of sea to the same, lyes ane little iyle, with a chapel in it, callit Caray, guid for quhite fishes, abundance of cunnings, inhabit and manurit; mair nor ane myle lange, and ane haffe myle braid.

14. GIGAY. At the heid of the iyle Caray, there fra northeist, lyes ane iyle callit Gigay, six myle lange, an myle and an half myle breidth, with ane paroche kirke, guid fertile mainland, it has therein abundance of eddirs. The auld thane of Gigay should be laird of the same, callit M’Neill of Gigay, and now it is possessit by the Clandonald. Streitest at the shore of Kintyre, from south west to northeist in length, four myle of sea from Kintyre.

15. DURAY. Nairest that iyle layes Duray, ane ather fyne forrest for deire, inhabit and manurit at the coist syde, part be Clandonald of Kyntyre, pairt be Mac Gullayne of Douard, pairt be M’Gellayne of Kinlochbuy, pairt be M’Duffithie of Colvansay, ane iyle of twenty-four myle of length, lyand from the southwest to the northeist twale myle of sea from Gigay above written, and ane myle from Ila, quhar is twa loches, meet and uthers throughe mide iyle, of salt water, to the lenthe of ane haff myle; and all the deire of the west pairt of that forrest, will be cahit be tainchess to that narrow entry, and the next day callit west againe, be tainchess through the said narrow entres, and infinit deire slaine there, pairt of small woods. This iyle, as the ancient iylanders alledges, should be callit Deiray, taking the name from the Deire innorne Leid, quhilk has given it that name in auld times. In this iyle there is twa guid and safe raids for shipps, the ane callit Lubnalierie, and the uther Loche Terbart, fornent others. The greatest hills in this iyle are chieflie Bencheelis, Bensenta, Corben, Benannoyre in Ardlaysay; ane chappel, sometime the paroch kirke Kiternadill. The watter of Lasay ther, the watter of Udergan, the watter of Glongargister, the waters of Knockbraik, Lindill, Caray, Ananbilley; all thir waters salmond slaine upon them. This iyle is full nobell coelts, with certaine fresche water Loches, with meikell of profit.

16. SKARBAY. Neiras this iyle, be twa myle, Iyes ane iyle called Scarbay. Betwixt thir twa iyles ther runnes ane streame, above the power of all sailing and rowing, with infinit dangers, callit Corybrekan. This stream is aught myle lang, quhilk may not be hantit bot be certain tyds. This Skarbay is four myles lange from the west to the eist, and an myle breadth, ane high rough yle, inhabit and manurit, with some woods in it.

17. VELICHE. Niarest the iyle of Skarbay layes ane iyle, called in Erish Ellan Veliche, unto the northeist.

18. GILBRASTOL. Narrest this lays the iyle Gilbrastoll, a very little iyle.

19. LUNGAY. Narrest to the iyle of Gilbrastol lays the iyle called Lungay.

20. FIDLACHAILLE. Narrest the iyle Lungay, thers ane iyle callit Fidlachaille.

21. FIDLAVIROW. Narrest the iyle of Fidlachaille ther layes ane iyle, callit in Erische Fidlavirow.

22. GAROWHELLACH SHEAIN. Narrest the iyle Fidlavirow ther layes an iyle, in Eriche namit Garowhellach Skean.

23. GAROWHILLACH-NANRONOW. Narrist to this forsaid iyle layes ther ane rockie knobe, namit in Erische Garowhillach-Nanronow.

24. NANAOSE. Narrist to this iyle of Garowhellach-Nanronow layes ther a verey little iyle, callit in Erische Eluche Nanaose.

25. CULIBRENYN. Narrist to the iyland Nanaose layes ther the small iylland, callit in the Erische Leid Culibrenyn.

26. DUNCHONILL. Dunchonil, ane iyle so namit from Conal Kernache, ane strenth, wich is alsmeike as to say in Englishe, ane round castle.

27. MADIE. Ellan Madie, in Erishe, layes betwixt Lungay, and being callit in Englishe the Wolfiis iyle.

28. BELNACHNA. Narrest the Wolfiis iyle layes ane iyllane, callit in Erische Leid-Ellan-Belnachna, quharin ther is fair skailzie aneuche.

29. VICRERAN. Narrest to the iyle of Belnachna layes the small iyle of Vickeran.

30. NAGAWNWA. Hard on the iyle Vyckeran layes ther a small iyland, namit in Erische Ellan Nagaruwa.

31. LUNGE. Lunge, three myle of lenthe, twa pairt myle of breadthe, with a paroch kirk, guid main land, inhabit and manurit, guid for store and corn. It possist be M’Gillayne of Doward, in feu fra the earl of Ergile. It is a havin sufficient for Highland galeyis in it, layand from the southwest to northeist in lenthe.

32. SEILL. Narrest this iyle layes Seill, thre myle of lenthe, ane half myle breidth, leyand from the southwest to the northest, inhabit and manurit, guid for store and corne, pertaining to the Erl of Ergyle.

33. SEUNAY. Narrest this iyle of Seill layes the iyle Seunay, two myle in lenthe, and half myle in breadthe from southwest to northeist, inhabit and manurit, guid for gersing store, and pcrtaining to the Erle of Ergyle.

34. SKLAITT. Narrest Seunay layes ther a litle iyle, callit in Erische Leid Ellan Sklaitt, quherein ther is abundance of skalzie to be win.

35. NAWISSOGE. Narrest this iyle layes the small ile of Nawissogu, in Erish callit Ellan Nawissogue.

36. EISDCALFE. Narrest this layes ther the iyle Eisdcalfe, namit in the Erische Leid Ellan Eisdcalfe.

37. INCHE KENYTH. Narrest this iyle layes ane iylland, namit Inche Kenyth.

38. INCHIAN. Narrest this iyle layes an iylland, namit in Erische Leid Ellan Inchian.

39. UDERGA. Narrest this forsaid iyl of Inchian layes ane uther verey small rock, callit in Erische Leid Ellan Uderga.

40. KING’S IYLE. Narrest to the iyle Uderga layes ane iyle, callit in Erische Leid Ellan Reigh, that is in English the King’s isle.

41. BLACK ISLE. Narrest to the King’s iyle layes ane isle, or rather a grate craig, callit in Erish Leid Ellan Duff, in English the Black isle.

42. KIRKE IYLE. Narrest the Black iyle layes there ane iyle, callit in Erisch Leid Nahagleis, and in English the Kirke iyle.

43. CHREARACHE. Narrest to this Kirk ile layes the iyle Chrearache.

44. ARDE. Narrest to Chrearache layes there ane iyle, callit in the Erische Leid Ellan Arde, in English the Highe iyle.

45. LAICH ILE. Narrest to the Arde layes ther ane iyle, callit in Erisch Leid Ellan Esill, in English the Laiche iyle.

46. GREINE IYLE. Narrest this Laiche ile layes ane iyle namit in Erish Leid Glassellan, that is in English the Green yland.

47. HEDDIR IYLE. Narrest the Green yle layes the yile which in the Erish is namit Freuch Ellan, or the Heddir yland.

48. HASIL IYLE. Narrest the Heddir iyle layes ther another, which in the Erish is callit Ellan-na-Crawiche.

49. GATIS IYLES. Narrest the Hasil iyle layes ane rockie scabrous iyle, callit in the Erishe Leid Ellan Nagonre, which in English is the Gaytis ile.

50. CONINGS ILE. Narrest to the Gaytis iyle layes ther a verey pretty little sandy ile, callit in the Erish Leid Ellan Nagenin, which in English is the Conings ile.

51. IDYLE IYLE. Narrest the Conings iyle layes the iyle callit be the Erish Ellan Dravin, that is the Idyle iyle.

52. EISELL. Narrest the Idyle iyle layes ther a laiche small iyle, namit by the Erisch Ellan Eisell, or the Laich iyle.

53. URIDITHE. Narrest to the aforesaid iyland layes the ile of the Erisch themselves, callit Uridithe.

54. LISMOIR. Lismoir, ane iyle quher leid ure is, fornent Douard. This iyle is four myle lang, with ane paroche kirke in it.

55. ILA. Nar this forsaid iyle, on the west side of it, layes Ila, an ile of twentie mile lenthe from the north to the south, and sixteen myle in breadth from the eist to the west, fertil, fruitful, and full of natural grassing, with maney grate diere, maney woods, faire games of hunting beside everey toune, with ane watter callit Laxay, whereupon maney salmon are slaine, with ane salt water loch callit Lochegunord, quherin runs the water of Gyinord, with high sandey bankes, upon the quhilk bankes upon the sea lyes infinit selccheis, whilkis are slain with doges lernt to the same effect. In Ila is meikle lead ure in Mochyills. In this iyle there is ane guid raid for schipps, callit in Erische Polmoir, and in English the Mechell puill; this layes at ane toune callit Lanlay Vanych. Ane uther raid layes within Ellan Grynard, callit in English the isle at the poynt of the ness; the raid is callit Leodannis. Within this iyle ther is sundrie freshe water lochis, sic as Lochmoyburge, wherein ther layes an iyle perteining to the Bishopes of the iyles; the loch of Ellan Charrin, quherin ther is ane iyle pertyning to M’Gillane of Doward; Loch Cherossa, with ane iyle perteining to the abbot of Colmkill. In this iyle there is strenths castells; the first is callit Dunowaik, biggit on ane craig at the sea side, on the southeist part of the countery pertaining to the Clandonald of Kintyre; second is callit the castle of Lochgurne, quhilk is biggit ill ane iyle within the said fresche water loche far fra land, pertaining of auld to the Clandonald of Kintyre, now usurped be M’Gillayne of Doward. Ellan Forlagan, in the middle of Ila, ane faire iyle in fresche water.

56. EARNE ISLE. At the mouth of Kyle Ila, betwixt it and Duray, lyes ane ile, callit in Erische Leid Ellan Charne, in English the iyle of Earne. Her begin to circkell Iyla, sune gaittis aboute with litle iyles.

57. HESSIL IYLE. Narrest this southwardes layes an iyle, callit in Erish the Leid Ellan Natravie, in English the Hessil iyle.

58. MULMOYRIS IYLE. Narrest that, at the said shore of Ila, layes there ane little iyle, callit Ellan M’luray, callit in English Mulmorysis iyle.

59. OFRUM. Narrest this, at the said shore, southwart, lyes that iyle, callit in the Erische Ellan Ofrum.

60. BRYDES IYLE. Narrest to this, at the said shore, southwart, layes that iyle, which the Erische name Ellan Birde, in English Brydes iyle.

61. CORS KER. Narrest this, at the said shore, layes ane litle iyle, by the Eriche callit Cors Ker, tha is, the Stay Skarey or craige.

62. EISILACHE. Narrest to this is ther a small iyle, at the said shore of Ila, which the Eriche call Ellan Eisillache, that is, the Liche iyle.

63. IMERSKA. Narrest this layes the litle island Imerska.

64. BETHEY. Narrest to the iyle Imerska layes that iyle, which the Erische name Elan Bethey.

65. TISGAY. Narrest this layes, at the south cost of Ila, thir is ane iyle, callit by the Erische Tisgay, ane myle of lenthe guid maineland, and ane kirk in it; very guid it is for sheep and for fishing.

66. SCHEIPIS IYLE. Narrest this layes Ellan Nakerath, by the Eirische so called, and in Englische the Scheipis iyle, quhilk is verey guid for the same, and for corn also.

67. MYRESNYPES IYLE. Narrest this, to the southwarte, layes ther ane iyle, by the Erishe namit Ellan na Naoske, in Englicshe the Myresnypes iyle.

68. NESS POYNTE IYLE. Narrest this layes ther ane ysle, by the Erishe nameit in their Leide Ellan, that is the yle at the west poynt.

69. LYART IYLE. Narrest this layes Leach Ellan, Ryndnahard, by the Erishe namit sa, in Englische namit the Lyart iyle.

70. TAIRSKERAY. Narrest to this layes ane iyle, by Erische themselves called Tairskeray.

71. ACHNARRA. Narrest to Tairskeray layes the iyle namit Achnarra.

72. GRAIT IYLE. Narrest this layes that iyle by the Erische namit Ellan Moire, that is the great iyle, guid for store and pasturage.

73. THE IYLE OF THE MAN’S FIGURE. Narrest to the grate iyle lyes that which the Erische namit Ellancalffe, callit in Englishe the iyle of Man’s figure.

74. JHONE’S IYLE. Narrest this layes Ellan Ean, callit in Englishe Jhone’s ile.

75. STARBEADES. Narrest to this layes that iyle that the Erische calls Stackbeades.

76. ONERSAY. Narrest this, at the west poynt of Ilay, lyes ane iyle, callit by the Erische Ellan Onersay, ane myle in lenthe. It hath ane paroch kirke, and is verey guid for fishing, inhabit and manurit, with ane right dangerous kyle and stream callit Corey Garrache; na man dare enter in it bot at ane certain tyme of the tyde, or ellis he will perish. This iyle layes in lenth from the southeist to the northwest.

77. MERCHANDS IYLE. Narrest this, on the northwest coist of Ila, layes an iyle, callit by the Erische Ellan Kenyth, that is the merchands iyle.

78. USABRAST. Narrest this, on the foresaid northwest coist of Ila, lyes an iyle, callit Usabrast, good for grass and fishing.

79. TANEFTE. Narrest this, on the north coist of Iyla, lyes ane iyle, nameit Ellan Tanefte.

80. NESE. Narrest the same, on the north coist of Ila, beside the entresse of Lochgrunord, layes ane iyle, called by the Erish Ellan-nese, with ane kirke in it. This iyle is half ane myle in lenthe, fair maynland, inhabit and manurit, guid for fishing.

81. VEBSTER. Narrest this iyles lyes ther ane, callit by the Erische themselves Ellan Nabaney, that is the Vebster’s iyle.

82. ORNANSAY. North from Ilay layes ane iyle callit Ornansay, it is twa myle lange, and neire alls meikell in breidth, quherin ther is ane monastery of chanons, mayne laiche land, full of hairs and foulmarts, with convenient havens for Heyland galleys, and shald at the shores. It lays eight miles of sea north from Ila.

83. Beside this iyle Ornansay layes ane uther ile lesse than it, callit by the Irische Ellan Namuche, half ane myle lang, which is guid for swyne and alse uther bestiall.

84. COLNANSAY. Northward from the isle of Ornansay, be ane half myle of sea, lyes ane ile, callit Colnansay, seven myle lange from the northeist to the southwest, with twa myle bredthe, ane fertile ile guid for quhit fishing. It hath ane paroch kirke. This ile is bruikit be ane gentle capitane, callit M’Duffyhe, and pertened of auld to Clandonald of Kyntyre.

85. MULL. Twelfe myle northward from the iyle of Colnansay lyes the iyle of Mull, ane grate rough ile, noch the les it is fertile and fruitful. This ile contains in lenth from the northeist to the southweste twenty-four myles, and in breid from the eist southeist to west northwest uther twenty-four myles, with certain woodes, maney deire, and verey fair hunting games, with many grate mertines and cunnings for hunting, with a guid raid fornent Colmkill, callit Pollaisse. There is sevin paroche kirks within this iyle, and thre castles, to wit the castle of Doward, a strenthey place, bigged on a craige at the sea syde; the castle of Lochbowy, pertaining to M’Gillayne of Lochbowy; the castle of Arose, quhilk in former time pertinet to the Lord of the iyles, and now is bruked be M’Gillayne of Doward. In this ile there is twa guid fresche waters, ane of them are callit Ananva, and the water of Glenforsay, full of salmond, with uther waters that has salmond in them, but not in sic aboundance as the twa forsaid waters. This ile hath alsa salt water loches, to wit, Loch Ear, ane little small loche, with guid take of herringes: this loche layes in the southwest of the countrey. Then is Loch Fyne, quherin ther is a guid take of herrings. Northwest fra this loche, lyes Loch Seaforte, guid for the herring fishing. Lykwayes on the east pairt of the countrey layes ane loche, callit Lchepetit. Narrest this loche, in the southe southeist, layes Lochbowy, a fair braid loche, quherin there is grate take of herring and uther fishings. As als within this ile ther is twa freshe water loches; the ane is callit Loche Strathsenaban, with an ile in it, callit by the Erische Ellan Strathsenaban; the uther fresche water loche is callit Lochebaa, with an iyle therein. Thir iyles are baith strenthe and inhabit. This iyle pertains pairtly to M’Gillayne of Doward, pairtly to M’Gillayne of Lochbowy, pairtly to M’Kynnoun, and pairtly to the Clandonald of awld. This iyland layes but four myle from the firme land of Moriwarne.

86. THE DOW ILE. At the southwest shore of the ile of Mull, lyes ane little ile, by the Erische namit Ellan-chane, that is the Dow illyand, inhabit, half a myle lange, fruitfull for corne and gressing, with ane havin for Heighland bottis.

87. ERRAY. Northwest from this ile layes ane ile, namit by the Erische Ellan Erray, ane iyle of halffe myle lange and halffe myle braid, guid main land, inhabit and manurit, fruitfull of corne and pastorage, with abundance of fisching.

88. COLMKILL. Narrest this, be twa myles of sea, layes the ile the Erische callit I-colm-kill, that is, Sanct Colm’s ile, an faire mayne ile of twa myle lange and maire, and ane myle braid, fertill, and fruitfull of corne and store, and guid for fishing. Within this ile there is a monastery of mounckes, and ane uther of nuns, with a paroche kirke, and sundrie uther chapells, dotat of auld by the kings of Scotland, and be Clandonald of the iyles. This abbay forsaid was the cathedrall kirk of the bishops of the iyles, sen the tyme they were expulsed out of the ile of Man by the Englishmen, for within the ile of Man was ther cathedrall kirk and living of auld, as I have already said in the description of that ile. Within this ile of Colmkill, there is ane sanctuary also, or kirkzaird, callit in Erische Religoran, quhilk is a very fair kirkzaird, and weill biggit about with staine and lyme. Into this sanctuary ther is three tombes of staine, formit like little chapels, with ane braid gray marble or quhin staine in the gavill of ilk ane of the tombes. In the staine of the ane tombe there is wretten in Latin letters, Tumulus Regum Scotiæ, that is, The tombe ore grave of the Scotts Kinges. Within this tombe, according to our Scotts and Erische cronikels, ther layes fortey-eight crouned Scotts kings, through the quhilk this ile has been richlie dotat be the Scotts kings, as we have said. The tombe on the south syde forsaid hes this inscription, Tumulus Regum Hyberniæ, that is, The tombe of the Irland kinges; for we have in our auld Erische cronickells, that ther wes foure Irland kinges eirdit in the said tombe. Upon the north syde of our Scotts tombe, the inscriptione beares Tumulus Regum Norwegiæ, that is, The tombe of the kings of Norroway; in the quhilk tombe, as we find in our ancient Erische cronickells, ther layes eight kings of Norroway, and als we find, in our Erishe cronickells, that Coelus king of Norroway commandit his nobils to take his bodey and burey it in Colmkill, if it chancit him to die in the iles; bot he was so discomfitit, that ther remained not so maney of his armey as wald burey him ther; therefor he wes eirded in Kyle, after hc stroke ane field against the Scotts, and was vanquisht be them. Within this sanctuary also lyes the maist pairt of the Lords of the iles, with their lineage. Twa Clan Lynes with their lynage, M’Kynnon and M’Guare with their lynages, with sundrie uthers inhabitants of the hail iles, because this sanctuarey wes wont to be the sepulture of the best men of all the iles, and als of our kings, as we have said; becaus it was the maist honorable and ancient place that was in Scotland in thair dayes, as we reid.

89. SOA. At the southwest end of this ile of Colmkill, layes ane ile callit Soa, quherin ther is infinit number of wyld fowels nests. It is half ane myle in lenthe, verey guid for sheepe. It pertains to Colmkill.

90. NABAN. On the southeist syde of the yland of Colmkill, ther layes ane ile, callit in Erishe Ellan Naban, that is the Woemens ile. It is full of heddir, guid for store and fishing. It pertains to Colmkill.

91. MOROAN. On the north northest end of Colmkill, lyes ane little ile, by the Erishe namit Ellan Moroan, ane little laiche maine sandie ile, full of bent and guid for sheepe. It pertains to Colmkill.

92. RERINGE. On the north syde of Colmkill layes ther ane litel iyle, by the Erishe namit Ellan Reringe, ane profitable ile, yielding verey grate plentey of wyld fowls eggs, and guid for fishing, perteining to Colmkill.

93. INCHE KENZIE. On the north and north-northeist of Colmkill, lyes ane iyle, be twalve myles of sea till within the entres of Lochseaford forsaid, callit Inch Kenzie, half ane myle in lenthe, and not fully half a myle in breadthe, a fair ile, fertill and fruitful, inhabit and manurit, full of cunings about the shores of it, with a paroch kirk, the maist part of the parochin being upon the mayne shoar of Mull, being onlie ane half myle distant from the said ile, and the haill parochin of it pertains to the prioress of Colmkill.

94. EORSAY. Within this iyle of Inch Kenzie, in the said Loche of Seaforte, be ane myle of sea, lyes ane ile callit Eorsay, ane fertile ile, full of corne and grassing, mair than a myle lang, pertaining to the prioress of Colmkill.

95. CALFA. Upon the narrest coste of Mull layes ane iyle callit Calfe, ane myle of lenthe, full of woods, with ane sufficient raid for shipes, perteyning to M’Gillayne of Doward.

96. THE GLASSE ILES. Befor the castel of Aross lyes ther twa iyles, the ane callit by the Erishe Glassmoire, the other Glassbeg, and in the southeist fra that, throughe the Kyle of Mull, lyes the said twa iles, perteyning to M’Gillayne of Doward.

97. ARDIN RIDER. From the twa Glass iles to the southeist lyes an ile, callit by the Erishe Ardin Rider, that is, the ile of Knightsness, perteining to M’Gillayne of Doward.

98. ELLAN MADIE. Southward from Doward layes ane ile, upon the shore side, namit Ellan Madie by the Erishe. It is very guid for store, being bentey. It pertains to M’Gillayne of Doward.

99. ELLAN MOIR. Southwest from Ellan-madie, upon the shore of Mull, lyes ane ile, callit by the Erishe Ellan-moir, guid for store and for fishing, pertening to M’Gillayne of Lochbuy.

100. RONIN. Sixteen myle northwast from the ile of Coll, lyes ane ile, callit Ronin ile, of sixteen myle lang, and six in bredthe in the narrowest, ane forest of heigh mountains, and abundance of litle deire in it, quhilk deir will never be slane dounewith, but the principal saitts man be in the height of the hill, because the deir will be callit upwart, ay be the Tainchell, or without tynchell they will pass upwart perforce. In this ile will be gotten about Britane als many wild nests upon the plane mure as men pleasis to gadder, and yet by resson the fowls hes few to start them except deir. This iyle lyes from the west to the eist in lenth, and pertains to M’Kenabrey of Colla. Maney solan geise are in this ile.

101. THE HORSE IYLE. Be foure of sea toward the southeist, layes ane little ile, half ane myle lang, callit be the Eriche Ellannaneache, that is in Englishe the Horse ile, guid for horse and uther store, perteining to the Bishope of the iles.

102. SWYNES ILE. Be ane haffe myle of sea to this ile, lyes ane ile of twa myle lang, callit in Erische Ellannaneche, that is the Swynes ile, and very fertill and fruitful of cornes and grassing for all store, and verey guid for fishing, inhabit and manurit, a good falcon nest in it. It perteynis to the Bishope of the iles, with ane guid heighland haven in it, the entrey quherof is at the west cheik.

103. KANNAY. Be twa myle of sea towards the northwest, towards the ile of Ronin, layes ane ile callit Kannay, faire maine land, foure myle lange, inhabit and manurit, with paroche kirke in it, guid for corne, fishing and grassing, with a falcon nest in it, pertines to the Abbot of Colmkill.

104. EGGA. North from Ellan-muche be four myles Iyes ane ile, callit the ile of Egga, four myle lange and twa myle braid, gude maine land, with a paroche kirke in it, and many solan geese, and verey guid for store, namelie for sheip, with a haven for heighland bottis.

105. SOA URETTIL. Northeist be twalve myles of sea from the ile Ronin, layes ane ile of half myle in lenth, callit Soa Urettill, ane roughe iyle, quherin deir uses to be, and hunting games. It pertaines to M’Cloid of Heray.

106. SKY. North fra the ile Soa Urettill, be twa myle of sea, lyes the grate ile of Sky, tending from the south to the north to fortey twa myles, roughe and hard land; that is to say, from the south poynt of Sleitt to the north poynt of Trouternesse, and eight myle braid in some places, and in uther places twalve myles braid. In this ile there is twalve paroche kirkes, manurit and inhabit, fertill land, namelie for aitis, excelling aney uther, ground for grassing and pastoures, abounding in store, and of studds in it, maney woods, maney forrests, maney deire, fair hunting games, maney grate hills, principally Euilvelimi and Glannock. Within this ile ther is gud take of salmant upon five watters principally, to wit, the water of Sneisport, Sligachan, Straitswardill, Ranlagallan, and Kilmtyne, with seven or aught uther smallar watters, quherupon salmont are also slayne. In this ile there is ane freshe water loche, callit the loche of Glenmoire, quheron ther is abundance of salmont and kipper slane. Within this ile of Sky there is five castills; to wit, the castill of Dunbeggan, pertaining to M’Cloyd of Herray, ane starke strengthe, biggit upon ane craig; the castill of Dunnakyne, perteining to Mackynnoun; the castill Dunringill, perteining to the said Mackynnoun; the castill of Camns in Sleit, perteining to Donald Gromsone; the castill of Dunskay, perteining to the said Donald Gromsone; and the castill of Donntwyline, perteining to Donald Gromesone lykeways. Within this ile ther is seven sundry countreys: to wit, Slaitt; perteining to Donald Gromsone; Straytsnardill, perteining to M’Kynnoun, quhilk lies next the Sleit; Menzenise, perteining to M’Cloyde of Herrays; Brachedill, perteining to the said M’Cloyde; Watterness, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis; and Trontieness, perteining to Donald Gromesone. Into this isle ther is three principal salt water loches; to wit, Loch Sleigachan, Loch Downort, and Loch Sleippan. In thir three principal loches there is a guid take of herrings, for by thir three principal loches, there is thirteen salt water loches also within this ile, to wit, 1. Loche Skahanask, 2. Loche Emorte, 3. Loche Vrakdill, 4. Loche Kensale serloss, 5. Loche Dunbegan, 6. Loche Gorsarmis, 7. Loche Arnoffort, 8. Loche Snasporte, 9. Loche Portri, 10. Loche Ken, 11. Loch Nadalae, in Sleit. The uther twa loches my memorey is fayled of them; but in mony of them ther is guid tack of herrings sometymes, but nought so guid by far as in the three first loches. This iyle is callit by the Erishe Ellan Skyane, that is to say in Englishe the Wingitt ile, be reason it has maney wyngs and points lyand furth frae it, through the devyding of thir loches.

107. ORANSAY. About this ile of Sky lyes in ane cirkill certain iles, to wit, at the west syde of Sleit lyes ane callit Oransay, ane myle lange, inhabit and manurit, guid land, pertaining to Donald Gormesone.

108. NAGOYNEYNE. Fornent Loche Alshe lyes ane iyle, callit in Erishe Ellan Nagoyneyne, that is to say, Cunings ile, full of woode and cunnings, hafe an myle in lenth. It perteynes to M’Kenzie.

109. PABAY. At the shore of Sky foresaid, lyes ane iyle callit Pabay, neyre ane myle in lenthe, full of woodes, guid for fishing, and a main shelter for thieves and cut-throats. It perteins to M’Kynnoun.

110. SCALPAY. Fra this ile of Pabay, northwest be aught myle of sea, lyes ane ile callit Scalpay, foure myle lange, and als meikle in breid, ane faire hunting forrest, full of deire, with certain little woodis and small tounes, weill inhabit and manurit, with maney strenthey coves, guid for fishing. In heritage it perteines to M’Gillayne of Dowarde.

111. CROWLING. Crowling, ane small ile, zea rather a guid raid, betwixt the mouth of Loche Carron and the ile of Raarsay.

112. RAARSAY. Twa myle off sea fra the ile of Scalpay forsaid, lyes ane ile callit Raarsay, seiven myles lange from the southe to the northe, bot ane myle of sea from Tronternesse, and twa myle of breid, with pairt of birkin woodis, maney deires, pairt of profitable landes, inhabit and manurit, with twa castles, to witt, the castle of Killmorocht and the castle of Brolokit, with twa fair orchards at the saids twa castells, with ane paroche kirk, callit Killmolowocke, ane roughe countrey, bot all full of freestanes and guid quarelles. It is excellent for fishing, perteining to M’Gyllychallan of Raarsay be the sword, and to the bishope of the iles by heritage. This same M’Gyllychallan shuld obey M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

113. RONAY. At the north end of Raarsay, be half myle of sea frae it, layes ane ile callit Ronay, mair then a myle in lengthe, full of wood and heddir, with ane havin for heiland galeys in the middis of it, and the same havein is guyed for fostering of theives, ruggairs, and reivairs, till a nail, upon the peilling and spulzeing of poure pepill. This ile perteins to M.’ Gillychallan of Raarsay by force, and to the bishope of the iles be heritage.

114. ELLAN GEARLOCHIE. Ellan Gearlochie, a guid raid for the shipes in the mouthe of Lochaber.

115. FLADDAY. To the north fra Ronay, be sex myle of sea, lyes ane ile namit Fladday, ane maine laiche ile, half ane myle lange, inhabit and manurit fruitfull in corne and gerssing, perteining to Donald Gormesone.

116. TUILIN. Narrest the Fladday, be twa myle of sea at the shore of Tronternesse, lyes an ile, callit Ellan Tuilin, haffe myle lange or thereby, manurit, guid for corne and store, perteining to Donal Gormesone.

117. Four myle of sea fra this ile Tuilin, northwart, lyes an ile callit -----.

118. CRANSAY. Upon the south coste of Sky, be ane half myle to the shore of Brakadill, is ane ile callit Cransay, haffe myle lange ane boney ile for corne and gerssing, perteining to M’Cloyd of Herray.

119. BUYAMOIRE. Be ane myle of sea to this ile of Cransay, layes ane callit Buyamoire, guid for corne and store, perteining to M’Cloyd of Herray.

Narrest the ile of Buyamoir lyes foure small iles, quhose names the author has left blanks for, with the numbers of 120, 121, 122, 123.

Before the castell of Dunbogan lyes three small iles, to wit, 124, 125, 126.

127. ISAY. At the shore of Watternesse lyes ane ile callit Isa, ane faire laiche maine ile, inhabit and manurit, verey fertill and fruitfull for corne and gerssing, ane myle langc and halfe myle braid, having beside it ane uther laiche ile full of sheepe. This ile is guid for fishing, quhilk iles pertines to M’Cloyd of Lewis.

128. ASKERIN. On the eist shore of Watternesse lyes ane ile callit Ellan Askerin, abounding in gressing and pasture, maire usit for sheilling and pasture than for corne land, guid for fishing and slaughter of selchies, perteining to M’Cloyd of Lewis.

129. LINDILL. Upon the shore of Askerin lyes ane ile, callit Ellan Lindill, very guid for bear and for pasture of sheepe. It perteines to M’Cloyd of Heray.

130. LINGAY. From the ile of Sky towards the southwest, be foure score myles of sea, lyes ane ile callit Lingay, guid for gressing and fishing, ane ile of haffe myle lange. It has a falcon nest in it, perteins to the bishope of the iles.

131. GIGARUN. Backwart to the north, besydes the ile of Lingay, lyes ane ile callit Gigarun, halfe myle lang, perteining to the bischop of the iles.

132. BERNERAY. Besydes the ile of Gigarun, towards the north, lyes ane ile, inhabit and manurit, ane myle lange, callit Berneray, verey fertill land, and guid for fishing, perteining to the bishop of the iles.

133. MEGALY. Besydes the ile of Berneray, towards the north, lyes ane ile callit Megaly, twa myle lange, inhabit and weill manurit, guid for fishing and corne, perteining to the bishop of the iles.

134. PABAY. Besydes the ile of Megaly, to the north northeist, lyes ane ile callit Pabay, ane myle lang, manurit. In it is a guid take of fische. It perteines to the bishope of the iles.

135. FLADAY. Besides the ile of Pabay lies ane pretty little ile to the northwart, callit Fladay, of ane myle lange, fruitfull in corne, and alsa in fishing, perteining to the bishope of the iles.

136. SCARPNAMUTT. Neire the ile of Fladay, towards the north, layes ane ile namit Scarpnamutt, twa myle in lenthe, with a hake nest in it, full of pastures, and verey guid for fishing, perteining to the bishop of the iles.

137. SANDERAY. Nixt to the forsaid ile lyes ther ane uther, callit Sanderay, inhabit and manurit, guid for corne and fishing, twa myle lange. It perteines to the bishope of the iles.

138. WATTERSAY. Besydes this ile, northwart, Iyes ane ile callit Wattersay, twa myle in lenthe and ane myle in breadthe, ane excellent raid for shippes that comes ther to fische, ane faire maine ile, inhabit and manurit, abounding in corne and gerssing, with guide pastorage for sheepe. All thir nine iles forsaid had a chappell in every ile. This ile perteyns to the bishope of the iles.

139. BARRAY. Not far from this ile of Wattersay, towards the north, be twa myle of sea, lyes the ile Barray, being seven myle in lenthe from the southwest to the northeist and be north, and four in breadthe from the southeist to the northwest, ane fertill and fruitfull ile in cornes, abounding in the fishing of keilling, ling, and all uther quhyte fish, with ane paroche kirke, namit Killbare. Within the southwest end of this isle, ther enters a salt water loche, verey narrow in the entrey, and round and braide within. Into the middis of the saide loche there is ane ile, upon ane strenthey craige, callit Kiselnin, perteining to M’Kneil of Barray. In the north end of this ile of Barray ther is ane round heigh know, mayne grasse and greine round about it to the heid, on the top of quhilk ther is ane spring and fresh water well. This well treuly springs up certaine little round quhyte things, less nor the quantity of confeit corne, lykest to the shape and figure of ane little cokill, as it appearit to me. Out of this well runs ther ane little strype downwith to the sea, and quher it enters into the sea ther is ane myle braid of sands, quhilk ebbs ane myle, callit the Trayrmore of Killbaray, that is, the Grate sandes of Barray. This sand is all full of grate cokills, and alledgit be the ancient countrymen, that the cokills comes doun out of the forsaid hill throughe the said strype in the first small forme that we have spoken off, and after ther coming to the sandis growis grate cokills alwayses. Ther is na fairer and more profitable sands for cokills in all the warld. This ile pertains to M’Neill of Baray.

140. ORVANSAY. Betwixt Barray and Ywist, their lyes, first, Orvansay, half myle lange with ane falcone nest, ane guid profitable ile, manurit, guid for sheepe, perteining to M’Neill of Barray.

141. NAHACHARRACH. Besides this ile lyes Ellan-Nahacharrach, by the Erishe so callit, and in Englishe the Sheipes ile, ane little ile full of gerssing and store, perteining to M’Neill of Barray.

142. NAHAKERSAIT. Nairest this forsaid ile lyes ane ile callit Nahakersait, half a myle lange, with ane heaven for heighland galleys. It pertains to M’Neill of Barray.

143. GARNLANGA. Besides this lyes ane ile callit Garnlanga, guid for fishing and verey fruitful, perteining to M’Neill of Barray.

144. FLADAY. Besides this lyes ane ile callit Fladay, halfe a myle lange, with ane falcone nest in it, verey fertill and fruitfull. It pertains to M’Niell of Barray.

145. BWYABEG. Besides Flada layes ane ile namit Bwyabeg, haffe a myle lang, guid for gerssing and fishing, perteining to M’Neill of Barray.

146. BWYA-MOIR. Narrest Bwyabeg lyes ane ile, namit Bwya-moir, twa myle lange, manurit, full of gersing and pasture, with ane falcon nest in it, pertaining to M’Neill of Barray.

147. HAY. Not far from Bwya-moir lyes ane ile callit Hay, haffe a myle lang, fertill and fruitfull, and guid for fishing, perteining to M’Neill of Barray.

148. HETTESAY. Besides Hay lyes ane ile callit Hettesay, ane myle lange, fertill and fruitful, weill manurit, and excellent for all sorte of quhyte fish taking. It perteins to M’Neill of Barray.

149. GIGAY. Besides this ile lyes ane ile callit Gigay, ane myle lange, fertill and fruitfull, guid for store and fishing, perteining to M’Neill of Barray.

150. LINGAY. Narrest to Gigay lyes ane ile callit Lingay, haffe a myle lange, ane verey guide ile for gressing, pastures, and for sheiling, perteining to M’Neill of Barray.

151. FERAY. Besides this ile lyes ane ile laiche, namit by the Erishe Feray, haffe a myle lange, guid in corne and gersing, and excellent for fishing, perteining to M’Neill of Barray.

152. FUDAY. Besides this ile lyes an maine sandey ile callit Fuday, fertill for beare and marenis, the quhilk ile pay murenis zeirly to M’Neill of Barray, for part of mailles and dewties.

153. ERISKERAY. To the eist of this ile of Fuday, be three myle of sea, lyes ane ile callit Eriskeray, twa myle lang, inhabit and manurit. In this ile ther is daylie gottin aboundance of verey grate pintill fishe, at ebb seas, and als verey guid for uther fishing, perteining to M’Neill of Barray.

154. YWST. Northwart fra thir iles forsaid, lyes the grate ile of Ywst, 34 myles lange from southwest to the northeist, sex myle braid, ane fertile countrey and maine laiche land, full of heigh hills and forests on the eist cost, ore southeist and all plenisht laiche land in the northwest, with five paroche kirkes. Within this south part of Ywst, on the east cost of the same, layes ane salt water loche callit Vayhastill. This countrey is bruiked by sundrey captains; to witt, the south southwest end of it, callit Bayhastill, be M’Neill of Barray, the rest of the ile, namit Peiter’s parochin, the parochin of Howes, and the mayne land of the mid countrey callit Mackermeanache, perteins to Clanronald, halding of the Clandonald. At the end heirof the sea enters, and cuts the countrey be ebbing and flowing through it: and in the north syde of this there is ane parochin callit Buchagla, perteining to the said Clandonald. At the north end thereof the sea cuts the countrey againe, and that cutting of the sea is called Careynesse, and benorth this countrey is called Kenehnache of Ywst, that is in Englishe, the north head of Ywst, whilk term is twa paroche kirks, and is mair of profit than the rest of haill of Ywst, perteining to Donald Gormesone. In this ile there are infinite number of fresh water loches; but ther is ane maine loche callit Lochebi, three myle lang, and a arme of the sea has worne the earth, that was at the ae end of this loche, quhilk the sea has gotten enteries to this fresche water loche, and in that narrow entries that the sea has gotten to the loche, the countreymen has bigit upe ane thicke dyke of rough staines, and penney stanes caste lange narrest, notwithstanding the flowing streams of the sea enters throughe the said dyke of stanes in the said fresche water loche, and so ther is continually getting stiking amange the rough stains of the dyke foresaid, fluikes, podloches, skatts, and herings. Upone this loche ther is gottin a kynd of fishe, the quhantitie and shape of ane salmont, but it has na skaills at all; the under haffe, narrest his vombe is quhite, and the upmaist haffe narrest his back, is als black as jett, with fines like to a salmont. Into this north heid of Ywst ther is sundrie covis and holes in the earth, coverit with heddir above, quhilk fosters maney rebellis in the countrey of the north heid of Ywst.

155. Betwixt the Kentnache and Benvalgha lyes ane very small ile, callit ----- 156. HELSRER NAGAILLON. Be aught myle of sea frae this ile, towards the west, lyes ane ile four myle and haff myle braid, laiche maine land, callit Hesker Nagaillon. It has abandance of corne, and elding for fire. It perteins to the Nuns of Columnkill.

157. HAYSKER. To the northwast fra this Kentnache of Ywst, be twalve myle of sea, lyes an ile, callit Haysker, quherin infinit slaughter of selchis is. This ile pertains to Donald Gormsone.

158. HIRTA. To the west northwest of this ile foresaid, out in the mayne ocean seas, be three-score of myle of sea, layes ane ile callit Hirta, ane maine laiche ile, sa far as is manurit of it, aboundant in corne and gressing, namelie for sheipe, for ther are fairer and greiter sheip ther, and larger tailled, then ther is in any uther ile about. The inhabitants thereof ar simple poor people, scarce learnit in aney religion, but M’Cloyd of Herray, his stewart, or he quhom he deputs in sic offfice, sailes anes in the zear ther at midsummer, with some chaplaine to baptize bairnes ther, and if they want a chaplaine, they baptize ther bairns themselfes. The said stewart, as he himself tauld me, uses to take ane maske of malt ther with a masking fatt, and makes his malt, and ere the fatt be ready, the comons of the town, baith men, weemin, and bairns, puts their hands in the fatt, and findis it sweeit, and eets the greyns after the sweeitness thereof, quhilk they leave nather wirt or draffe unsuppit out ther, quharwith baith men, women, and bairns, were deid drunken, sua that they could not stand upon their feet. The said stewart receives thir dewties in miell and reistit mutton, wyld foullis reistit, and selchis. This ile is maire nor ane mile lange, and narrest als meikle in braid, quhilk is not seine of aney shore, bot at the shoresyde of it lyes three grate hills, quhilk are ane pairt of Hirta, quhilk are seen affar off from the fore landis. In this fair ile is fair sheipe, falcon nests and wyld fouls biggand, but the streams of the sea are starke, and are verey eivil entring in aney of the saids iles. This ile of Hirta perteins of auld to M’Cloyd of Herray.

159. VALAY. At the northwest cost of the foresaid Kentnache lyes ane ile callit Valay, twa myle lang from the north to the south, ane myle braid, ane fayr mayne ile, inhabit and manurit, pertaining to Donald Gormesone.

160. SOA. Betwixt this Kentnache and the Herray lyes ane ile callit Soa, inhabit and manurit, ane myle lang, mayne land, pertaining to Donald Gormesone.

161. THE PIGMIES ILE. At the north poynt of Lewis there is a little ile, callit the Pigmies ile, with ane little kirk in it of ther awn handey wark. Within this kirk the ancients of that countrey of the Lewis says, that the saids pigmies has been eirded thair. Maney men of divers countreys had delvit up dieplie the flure of the little kirke, and I myself amanges the leave, and hes found in it, deepe under the erthe, certain baines and round heads of wonderful little quantity, allegit to be the baines of the said Pigmies, quhilk may be lykely, according to sundry historys that we reid of the Pigmies; but I leave this far of it to the ancients of Lewis. This ile pertains to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

162. FABILL. Besouth this, at the southeist shore of the Lewis, lyes ane ile, callit Ellan Fabill, verey guid for waike store and fisching, perteining to M’Cloyd of Lewis.

163. ADAIN. South fra this said cost lyes Ellan Adain, manurit, guid for waike bestiall, pertaining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

164. NA-NAUN. Upon the said shore, towards the west, lyes Ellan Na-naun, that is, the Lambes ile, wherein all the lambes of that end of the countrey uses to be fed and spained fra the zowes. This ile perteines to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

165. HUITURE. Betwixt this ile and Stornaway ther lyes Ellan Huiture, manurit, and guid for store an corne, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

166. VIC-COUILL. Southwart fra this ile lyes Ellan Vic-couill, ane guid ile for corne, store, and fishing, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

167. HALEURAY. Besides this layes Haleuray, ane guid ile for corne and gressing, verey excellent for fishing, of ane myle of lenthe, perteining to M’Cloyd of Lewis.

168. LAXAY. Bcsides this lyes the ile of Laxay, ane guid ile, full of corne and gressing, and all fishing, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

169. ERR. Besides this ile of Laxay lyes ane ile callit Err, which is in English Irland, laiche mayne and full of corne and grass, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

170. ST. COLMES ILE. Within the loches foresaid lyes Ellan Colmkill, that is in English St. Colmes ile. Within this ile M’Cloyd of the Lewis has ane faire orchard, and he that is gardener hes that ile free, guid in mayne land for corne, and gressing and fishing, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

171. TOORAY. Besides this ile lyes ane ile namit Ellan Tooray, ane ile weill manurit, guid for corn, grass, and fishing, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

172. ELLAN HURTE. Southwart frae this lyes ane ile callit Ellan Hurte, with manurit land, guid to pasture and schielling of store, with faire hunting of ottars out oftheir bouries. It perteines to M’Cloyd of Lewis.

173. SCALPAY OF HARRAY. Southwart far frae this lyes ane ile callit Scalpay of Harray, twa myle lange, ane profitable ile in corn, gressing, and fishing. It perteins to M’Cloyd of Herray.

174. FLADAY. Towards the northeist frae this ile be 20 myle of sea, lyes an ile in the sea callit Fladay, halfe myle lange, ane profitable ile in corne, and grassing, and fishing, perteining to Donald Gormesone.

175. SENTA. Northwart fra this ile lyes ther ane ile callit Ellan Senta, that is in English a Saw, ane ile mair than twa myle lang, verey profitable for corne, store, and fishing, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis. On the eist side of this ile ther is a bore, maid like a vylt, mair nore an arrow shot of any man under the eirde, through the quilk vylt we use to row ore saill with our bottis, for fear of the horrible breake of the seas that is on the outwar side thereof, bot na grate ships can saill ther. It perteins to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

176. SENCHASTLE. Be eist this ile lyes ane ile, callit Senchastle by the Eriche, that is the alde castle ile in the Englishe, an strenthe, full of corne and grassinge, full of wyld fowls nests, and verey guid for fishing. It perteins to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

177. ELLAN EW. Upon the shore of Lochebrune lyes Ellan Ew, haffe myle in length, full of woods, guid for thieves to wait upon uther mens gaire. It perteins to M’Enzie.

178. GRUYNORDE. Northwarte frae this ile lyes the ile of Gruynorde, maire nore ane myle lange, full of wood, guid for fostering of thieves and rebellis. It perteins to M’Enzie.

179. NA-CLERACHE. Northwart fra this ile lyes ane ile callit Ellan Naclerache, an haffe myle lange, guid for gerssing and wyld fowls eggs, perteining to M’Enzie.

180. AFUIL. Narrest this lyes the ile by the Erishe callit Ellan Afuil, guid for store and fishing.

181. HAWRARYMOIR. Narrest this lyes Hawrarymoir, by the Erish sa callit.

182. HAWRARYBEG. Besides this lyes ane ile namit Hawrarybeg.

183. NANEACHE. Besydes this lyes ane iland, by the Erishe callit Naneache.

184. MERTARYE. Besides this lyes ilandMertarye.

185. SOYA-MOIR. Besides this lyes aneile, callit by the Erishe themselfes Soya-moir. It is ane myle of lenthe, verey fertill and fruitfull, excellent for fisching.

186. ELLAN IISA. Besides this lyes an ile, namit by the Erishe Ellan Iisa, manurit, fertill and fruitfull.

187. SENNA-BEG. Besides this lyes ther an ile Senna-beg, manurit, fertill and fruitful, guid for corne, store and fishing, haff ane myle lange.

188. SENNA-MOIR. Besydes this Senna-moir, ane ile of a myle of lenthe and haffe myle breadthe, inhabit and manurit, guid for corne, store, and fishing.

189. TARANDSAY. Besides this lyes Tarandsay, ane ile of five myle lange, and haffe myle braid, ane rough ile, with certain tounis, weil inhabit and manurit; bot all this fertill is delved with spaides, excepting sa meikell as ane horse pleuch will teill, and zet they have maist abundance of beir, meikel of corn, store, and fishing. It pertains to M’Cloyd of Harrey.

190. SLEYEIN. Besides this lyes the ile of Sleyein, manurit, guid for corne, store, and fisching, perteining to M’Cloyd of Harrey.

191. TIVEIN. Besides this lyes Tivein, ane ile guid for store, corne, and fisching, perteining to M’Cloyd of Harrey.

192. SCARPE. Besides this, out in the sea about Vsenesse in Harrey, lyes ane ile callit the Scarpe, fertil and fruitful, guid for corne, store, and fishing, perteining to M’Cloyd of Harrey.

Aboute the northe west coste of the Lewis, towards the mayne Occident seas, lyes certaine iles, of quhome wee will make mention, befor that wee shall begin with Harrey and Lewis, to wit,

193. SEVEN HALEY ILES. First, furth, 50 myle in the Occident seas from the coste of the parochin Vye in Lewis, towarts the west northwest, lyes the seven iles of Flanayn, claid with girth, and Haley iles, verey natural gressing within thir saids iles; infinit wyld sheipe therein, quhilk na man knawes to quhom the said sheipe apperteines within them that lives this day of the countrymen; bot M’Cloyd of the Lewis, at certaine tymes in the zeir, sendis men in, and huntis and slayis maney of thir sheipe. The flesche of thir sheipe cannot be eaten be honest men for fatnesse, for there is na flesche on them, bot all quhyte lyke talloune, and it is verey wyld gusted lykways. The saids iles are nouder manurit nor inhabit, bot full of grein high hills, full of wyld sheipe in the seven iles forsaid, quhilk may not be outrune. They perteine to M. Cloyd of the Lewis.

194. GARVELLAN. Besydis this coste of Lewis towards the said northwest, lyes ane ile callit Garvellan, guid for store and fisching.

195. LAMBAY. Besydis this ile lyes ane uther ile namit Lambay, guid also for store and fishing, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

196. FLADAY. Besydis the ils of Lambay lyes one uther ile, by the Erische namit Fladay of the Lewis, ane pretty laiche ile, guid for store and fishing. It apperteins to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

197. KEALNSAY. Besydis this lyes Kealnsay, ane guid ile, narrest ane myle lange, fruitful for store and fishing, and also manurit, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

198. BERNERAY-BEG. Besydis this Kealnsay forsaid layes Berneray-beg, haffe ane myle lange, and ane myle of breadthe, ane laiche rough ile, full of little roughe craiges and how betwixt, of naturall fertile eirthe, with infinite sea ware on every stane of the same. This ile is weill inhabit and manurit, and will give maire nor twa hundred bows of beire, with delving only. It perteins to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

199. BERNERAY-MOIR. Besydis this lyes Berneray-moir, ane ile of five myle lang, inhabit and manurit, fertill and fruitfull, with maney pastures and meikell store, guid for fisching, and fewell also. It perteines to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

200. KERTAY. Besydis this ile lyes Kertay, ane ile of a myle in lenthe, inhabit and manurit, fertill and fruitful, guid for store and fisching, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

201. BUYA-BEG. Besydis this lyes Buya-beg, an ile inhabit and manurit, guid for corne, store, and fisching, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

202. BUYA-MOIR. Besydis this lyes the ile, callit by the Erishe Buya-moir, mair nore ane myle lange, inhabit and manurit, guid for corne, store and fisching, perteining to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

203. VAXAY. Besydis this lyes ane ile, by the Erishe namit Vaxay, ane guid mayne ile of ane myle lenthe, inhabit and manurit, full of natural pasture, for store, fisching, and excellent guid fewall. It pertains to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

204. PABAY. Besydis this ile lyes Pabay, an ile maire nor ane myle lange, ane fruitfull and fertile mayne ile, full of corne and scheipe, quherein ther was a kirke, quherein also M’Cloyd of the Lewis ussit to dwell, quhen he wald be quyeit, or yet fearit. This ile is guid for fisching, and perteins to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

205. SIGRAIN-MOIR-NAGOINEIN. Besides this Pabay layes the ile which the Erishemen calleth Sigrain-moir-Nagoinein, that is to say the Cuninges ile, quherein ther are manay cuninges. This ile is guid for gressing and fisching, and perteins to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

206. SIGRAIN-BEG. Besydis this ile layes Sigrain-beg, ane fertill and fruitfull ile, guid for corne, gressing and fisching, ane myle of lenthe. It perteins to M’Cloyd of the Lewis.

207. HARREY. Now we returne backwards to the Harrey, quhilk is bot ane ile and the Lewis togidder, extending in lenthe from the south west to the north eist to three scoir of myles, and from the north west to the south eist to 16 myle in breid. Within the south pairt of this ile lyes ane monastery with ane steipell, quhilk was foundit and biggit by M’Cloyd of Harrey, callit Roodill. This south pairt of the countrey, callit Harrey, is verey fertill and fruitfull for corne, store, and fisching, twisse mair of delving in it nor of teilling. Within this end of the countrey ther is ane water, with an guid take of salmont fisching in it, with ane heighe greine hill callit Copesaall, maist excellent for scheipe in the pairts quhereon there wes scheipe, quhen I wes ther, without auners, and very ald. In this countrey of Harrey, northwart betwixt it and the Lewis, are maney forrests, quherein are aboundance deir, bot not grate quantitie, verey faire hunting games without any woodes, with infinite slaughter of otters and macttickes. This ile has neather wolfes, taides, nor edders in it.

Lewis is the north pairt of this ile, and the maist also, faire and weill inhabit at the coste, ane fertile fruitfull countrey, for the most part all beire, with 4 paroche kirks, and with ane castell callit Steornaway; with 3 principal salt water loches, verey guid for take of herrings, to wit, Loche Selga, farrest to the southwest, Loche Fasirt, northwart fra that ane loche that is lange and has certaine small loches in it, quhilke is for the same cause callit the Loches. By these there is uther 3 loches, not eivill qulylomes for take of herrings, to wit, Loche Steornaway, with infinit fresche water loches in this Lewis. Ther are 8 waters with take of salmont. In this ile ther are maney schiep, for it is verey guid for the same, for they lay furth ever one mures and glenis, and entir nevir in a house, and ther wool is but anes in the ziere pluckit aff them in some fauldes. In this countrey is peitmoss-land at the cea cost, and the place quhar he winnes his peitts this zeir, ther he sawis his corne the next zeire, after that he guidds it weill with sea ware. A grait take of whailles is oftimes in this countrey, so that be the relatione of the maist ancient in this countrey, ther comes 26 or 27 quhailles young and ald to the teynd anes ther. Ther is ane cove in this countrey quherin the sea fallis, and is twa fadome deepe at the ebb sea, and four faddom and maire at the full sea. Within this cove ther uses whytteins to be slain with huikes, verey maney haddocks, and men with their wands sitting upon the craiges of that cove, and lades and women also.

208. RONAY. Towards the north northeist from Lewis, three score myles of sea, lyes ane little ile callit Ronay, laiche maine lande, inhabit and manurit be simple people, scant of ony religione. This ile is uther haffe myle lange, and haffe myle braide; aboundance of corne growes on it by delving onlie, aboundance of clover gerse for sheipe. Ther is an certain number of ky and sheipe ordainit for this ile be ther awin ald right, extending to sa maney as may be sustainit upon the said gerssing, and the countrey is so fertill of gerssing, that the super-excrescens of the said ky and schiepe baith feidis them in flesche, and als payes ther dewties with the samen for the maist pairt. Within this ile there is sic faire whyte beir meal made like flour, and quhen they slay their sheipe, they slay them belly flaught, and stuffes ther skins fresche of the bear meil, and send their dewties be a servant of M’Cloyd of Lewis, with certain reistit muttan, and mony reistit foulis. Within this ile there is ane chapell, callit St. Ronay’s chapell, unto quhilk chapell, as the ancients of the country alledges, they leave an spaid and ane shuil, quhen any man dies, and upon the morrow findes the place of the grave markit with an spaid, as they alledge. In this ile they use to take maney quhaills and uther grate fisches.

209. SUILSKERAY. Be sexteen myle of sea to this ile, towards the west, lyes ane ile callit Suilskeray, ane myle lang, without grasse or hedder, with highe blacke craigs, and black fouge thereupon part of them. This ile is full of wylde foulis, and quhen foulis hes ther birdes, men out of the parochin of Nesse in Lewis use to sail ther, and to stay ther seven or aught dayes, and to fetch hame with them their boitt full of dray wild foulis, with wyld foulis fedders. In this ile ther haunts ane kynd of foule callit the colk, little less nor a guise, quha comes in the ver to the land to lay hir eggis, and to clecke hir birds quhill she bring them to perfytness, and at that time her fleiche of fedderis falleth of her all hailly, and she sayles to the mayne sea againe, and comes never to land quhyll the zier end againe, and then she comes with her new fleiche of fedderis. This fleiche that she leaves zeirly upon her nest hes nae pens in the fedderis, nor nae kynd of hard thinge in them that may be felt or graipit, bot utter fyne downes.




Imprimis, Clan-Donald, and of them five Branches in the Iles, by Branches smaller.

First, Donald Gormersone his kin are called of surname Hutfcheon, that is to say, the succession of Hutfcheon M’Donald, quhom of they descendit and sprange. Therefore this man is called Donald M’Donald Gorme, Vic Donald Gurmacke, Vic Donald Gorvaicke, Vic Hutfcheon, quho was sone to Alexander of Ila, Earl of Rosse, and Lord of the Iles, or as the Heighlandmen calls him King of the Iles.

And this Alexander was sone to Donald Earle of Rosse by the marriage of Walter Lesley Earle of Rosse daughter and heir, and this Earle Donald wes the first Earle of memory that of the Clanronald justly brukit Rosse.

And this Donald wes the Stocke, quherfra Clanronald were named last in ther names, quha wes sone to Ihone of Ila, and of the best that came of that sorte, quho had the Stewarte to his wyffe, mother to this Donald forsaid.

This Johne of Ila wes sone to Angus M’Angus, Vic Donald, fra quhome they werr called first, and of the auld Clan Donald.

This Donald wes the sone of Raynald M’Somerle or Somerledi, fra quhome they were for a quhile named and called Clan Somerle.

This Somerle wes the sone of Gillebryde M’Gilleadam, name Vic Sella, Vic Mearshaighe, Vic Swyffine, Vic Malgheussa, Vic Eacime, Vic Gothefred, fra quhome they were called at that time Clan Gothofred, that is, Clan Gotheray in Hybers Leid, and they were very grate men in that tymes zeire, and ay on called Clan Gotherey, quhill Donald Gorme quhom I last made mentione.

This Gotheray wes the sone of Fergus M’Eriche, Vic Cartayne, Vic Ethay, Vic Thola Craisme, Vic Ethay de wiff Leist. Ethodius Vic Frathrequerwy fratherus, Vic Clarpæ Lisse Chuyr, Corbredus, Vic Chrorinweet Alada, Cormacus Vic Airt, Lermeche King of Irland, maist royall in all his actions. Vic Chuyin Chidekakey, Condus lenti bellus King of Irland, a royal prince and lyon like in all his actions of warre, of quhome I make thir the stoke in Irland, for that he is lineally descendit of Gatholus seed.



Sir James Macconeill of Kyntyre is the second House of the Iles, quho is sone of Alexander M’Johne, Vic Anald Agnaldi, Vic Ean Johannis, Vic Donald Ballay, Vic Ean, of quhom they are called to surname Sleight Ean Moire successio Johannis Mgni, quho wes sone to Johne the best Lord of the Iles, as I have said off befor, quho had the Stewarte’s dauchter to his Ladey. Here I impe this Branch to the Tree justly as is afforsaid.



Ihone Moydeor Fyeiche is the sone of Alexander Macallan filius Alani, Vic Rorey Roderici, Vic Ean Iohanis, Vic Roynald Reginaldi, quhom I impe to this good Iohne of Ila his father forsaid. Heir sprouted twa Branches out of the Tree at ance; that is, the Clan Ean-moire, and the Clan Raynald.



Alexander M’Donald Donaldi M’Ean Johannis M’Aloir Alexandri M’Angus M’Ean Achechterwache M’Angus Moire, who wes the Lord of the Iles; and him I impe to the Tree.


Neirest this descendit frae the House of Clan Donald is Alexander Carrath, that is, Shawit Alexander sua that be the countrie’s custome, because Highlandmen callit the fairest hared man Chewit man, and the Chewit the hared, and sua furthe, for this Alexander was the fairest hared man, as they say, of aney that ever was; and this said Alexander was brother to this Donald of the Iles forsaid, and to John Moir, fra quhome James of Kintyre descendit, and brother of the father syde to Raynald, of quhome came to Clanranald.

And this Carrath hes maney come of him, and good succession in Loch aber called Clan Ranald, M’Donald Glasse, Vic Alexander, quhilk bruikes a pairt of Lochaber sinsyne.

Ther wes by thir I have written offe. Iohne Gothofred,and Angus, the quhilke had nae succession.