Click for Bookshop


A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Hebrides or Western Islands, a large group or series of groups of islands and islets extending along the greater portion of the western coast of Scotland. Anciently, the Hebrides comprehended also the islands in the Firth of Clyde, the peninsula of Kintyre S of the narrow neck of land between East and West Loch Tarbert, the island of Rathlin off the NE coast of Ireland, and even the Isle of Man, but the modern Hebrides embrace only the islands flanking the W coast from Cape Wrath on the N to Kintyre on the S, and extending from 580 32' of N latitude to 550 33', or a distance, measuring in a straight line from the Butt of Lewis on the N to the Mull of Islay on the S, of 205 miles. The islands are divided into two main groups, the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides. The former extend along the coast for 150 miles, measuring in a straight line from the Point of Aird at the N end of Skye to the Mull of Islay at the S end of the island of that name; and the distance of the various islands from the mainland varies from less than half a mile at the narrow strait of Kyle Rhea, at the SE corner of Skye, to 18½ miles at the N end of Skye, 51½ at Tyree, and 21 at the S end of Islay. The Inner Hebrides are divided into two portions by the Point of Ardnamurchan. The division to the N may be called the Skye group, and consists of Skye with the adjacent islands of South Rona, Fladda, Raasay, Scalpa, Longa, Pabbay, Soay, Canna, Rum, Eigg, and Muck, and a number of smaller islets. These are separated from the mainland by part of the Minch, the Inner Sound, Kyle Akin, the mouth of Loch Alsh, Kyle Rhea, Glenelg Bay, and the Sound of Sleat. All the islands belong to the county of Inverness, except Rum, Canna, Muck, Sandy, which are in Argyll, and some small islets close inshore along the coast to the N of Loch Alsh, which are in Ross-shire. Rum, Eigg, Canna, Muck, and Sandy are known as the Small Isles. The division S of Ardnamurchan falls into two sub-divisions-the Mull group extending from Ardnamurchan S to the Firth of Lorne, and the Islay group extending from the Firth of Lorne southward along the coast of Kintyre. The first group contains Mull, with the cluster of islands round it, viz., Lismore, Kerrera, Iona, Staffa, Eorsa, Gometra, and Ulva, while westward are the small group of the Treshinish Islands, and still farther W the islands of Coll and Tyree. Besides these there are a number of smaller islets, including, to the SSW of Tyree, the rock on which the Skerryvore Lighthouse is built. The group is separated from the mainland by the Sound of Mull, the sound between Lismore and the mainland, and the Sound of Kerrera. The second group has the largest island, Islay, at the extreme S end, and gradually tapers to the NNE by Jura, Scarba, Luiug, Shuna, and Seil. To the E of Islay, and within a mile and a half of the Kintyre coast, is the island of Gigha, while to the W of Jura are Colonsay and Oronsay. The group is separated from the mainland by the narrow passages to the E of Seil and Shuna, and farther S by the Sound of Jura. The whole of the islands S of Ardnamurchan are in the county of Argyll.

The Outer Hebrides or Long Island group lies to the W of the Inner Hebrides, and has the long triangular portion known as Lewis to the N, and an extended irregular chain tapering away in a S by W direction. The northern extremity is W by S of Cape Wrath, and distant from it 46 miles, while the southern extremity at Barra Head is W by N of Ardnamurchan, and distant from it 54 miles. The islands extend from N latitude 580 31' at the Butt of Lewis, to 560 48' at Barra Head, and over a distance, measuring in a straight line between these two points, of about 130 miles; and they are so closely connected that the whole chain is often spoken of as the Long Island. To the N is the largest island of the Hebrides, the northern part of which is known as Lewis, while the southern part is called Harris. Off the NE of Lewis are the Shiant Isles, while on the W side, in Loch Roag, is the island of Great Bernera. Off the E coast of Harris, at the entrance to East Loch Tarbert, is the island of Scalpa, while on the W and S are Scarpa, Taransay, Ensay, Killigray, Groay, and a very large number of smaller islands and islets. Separated from this island by the Sound of Harris- is the island of North Uist; and across a narrow channel about ½ mile wide, still farther S, is Benbecula. To the S of Benbecula, and separated from it by the Sound of Benbecula, is South Uist, with the Sound of Barra at its southern extremity; and to the S of this lies the last sub-group of the Outer Hebrides known as the Barra Isles. North and South Uist and Benbecula in reality form only one island, as the straits separating them are fordable between half tide and low water. At the N end of North Uist are the smaller islands of Shillay, Pabbay, Berneray, Boveray, Valay, Tahay, Hermetray; on the SE are Flodda, Rona, and Grimisay; while to the SW is Baleshare Island, with 8 miles to the W the group of small islands known as the Monach Islands. There are a number of islets about Benbecula, but the only one of any size is Wiay at the NE corner. Connected with South Uist the only islands of importance are Eriskay and Lingay at the S end. Of the Barra Isles the principal is Barra, with the isles of Fioray, Fuda, Gighay, and Hellisay, at the N end; and Vatersay, Muldoanich, Flodday, Sanderay, Lingay, and Pabbay; while farther S still are Mingalay and Bernera, the latter being the most southerly of all the Outer Hebrides. About 20 miles off the centre of the W coast of Lewis is the small group of the Flannan Isles or the Seven Hunters. Sixty miles W of Harris in N latitude 570 49' 20", ' set far amid the melancholy main, ' is the small group consisting of St Kilda and the adjacent islets of Levenish, Soa, and Boreray. Lewis is separated from the W coast of Ross and Sutherland by the arm of the Atlantic called the Minch, which is from 24 to 40 miles wide; while Harris, North Uist, and Benbecula are separated from Skye by the Little Minch, which is from 15 to 18 miles wide. A line following the course of the stream flowing into the head of Loch Resort, and then turning round the S end of the high ground between Loch Langabhat and Loch Seaforth, and reaching the latter about the centre of the W side, opposite the centre of Eilean Seaforth, is the boundary between Lewis and Harris. The former, with the Shiant Isles, belongs to the county of Ross; Harris and all the other islands to the S are in Inverness-shire. ' The disposition, ' says Hugh Miller in his Cruise of the Betsey, ' of land and water on this coast suggests the idea that the Western Highlands, from the line in the interior whence the rivers descend to the Atlantic with the islands beyond to the Outer Hebrides, are all parts of one great mountainous plain, inclined slantways into the sea. First the long withdrawing valleys of the mainland, with their brown mossy streams, change their character as they dip beneath the sea-level and become salt-water lochs. The lines of hills that rise over them jut out as promontories, till cut off by some transverse valley, lowered still more deeply into the brine, and that exists as a kyle, minch, or sound, swept twice every tide by powerful currents. The sea deepens as the plain slopes downward; mountain-chains stand up out of the water as larger islands, single mountains as smaller ones, lower eminences as mere groups of pointed rocks; till at length, as we pass outwards, all trace of the submerged land disappears, and the wide ocean stretches out and away its unfathomable depths. . . . But an examination of the geology of the coast, with its promontories and islands, communicates a different idea. These islands and promontories prove to be of very various ages and origin. The Outer Hebrides may have existed as the inner skeleton of some ancient country contemporary with the mainland, and that bore on its upper soils the productions of perished creations at a time when by much the larger portion of the lnner Hebrides-Skye and Mull and the Small Isles-existed as part of the bottom of a wide sound inhabited by the Cephalopoda and Enaliosaurians of the Lias and the Oolite. ' The rock of the Outer Hebrides is gneiss, as is also that of Iona, Tyree, and Coll, and it is to the hard tough nature of this that their continued existence is still due, for, acting as a screen to protect the western coast of the mainland from the wild waves of the Atlantic, they have to withstand the fury of a surge that would probably have long since destroyed anything less durable. Even as it is, the broken character of the groups, the winding character of the coast-lines, and the number and the twisting shores of the bays and lochs attest the severity of the struggle. The currents and waves in the narrow straits and passages are everywhere powerful and dangerous, and require the greatest skill and care in their navigation, while in stormy weather they are often for days, and sometimes even for weeks, quite impassable. ' The steamship ploughs her way through the passage, though sometimes with difficulty, and those who stand on her deck look down on the boiling gulf in safety, but it is different with those who sit in a tiny craft with the water lapping around and over them, and the bubbling roar painfully audible. These tideways are ugly indeed to the seaman's eye. ' One of the most dreaded passages is the Gulf of Corrievrechan between Scarba and Jura. It ' is the Hebridean Mahlström, ever regarded with fearful eyes by the most daring sailors of the inland deep. Poets may be allowed to sing like Campbell of " the distant isles that hear the loud Corbrechtan roar; " or, like Scott, of

' " Scarba's isle, whose tortured shore
Still rings to Corryvreckan's roar," '

but the dread in the heart of the seaman is far from poetical, for, much as the accounts have been exaggerated, the danger is very real here as elsewhere, ' consisting, not in the whirlpools, but in the terrific sea, raised by the wind when contending with the tidal wave and the long Atlantic swell in the narrow passage of the sound. . . . Caught in the numberless currents, a ship becomes at once unmanageable, and must drive whither Fate directs, either to strike on some corner of the coast, or to spring her planks and sink to the bottom; or perhaps, as happened on one traditional occasion, to be swept in safety out of the tide along the Jura shore. In the most dangerous part of the gulf, where it is a hundred fathoms deep, there is a submerged pyramidal rock, rising precipitously to within fifteen feet of the surface, and the result is a subaqueous overfall, causing in its turn infinite gyrations, eddies, and counter-currents. There is most danger at the flood tide, which sets from the eastward through the gulf at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour, and encounters the whole swell of the Western Atlantic rolling into the narrow sound. At the turn of the tide there is a brief lull, during which in calm weather boats have passed through; but the attempt is at all times to be avoided, as the slightest miscalculation as to the tides, or the sudden rising of the wind, would render escape impossible. ' The roar of Corrievrechan is heard at all times at a considerable distance. In all the narrower passages the tidal currents run so strong, that it is quite impossible for a sailing vessel to attempt to oppose them. The water whirls and seethes and boils, tossing boat or vessel about, now in one direction, now in another, and carrying either helplessly forward, for unless the wind be very fresh, it is left behind, and the helm is useless. The squalls, too, are very dangerous and fickle, and the Minch is particularly noted for its stormy seas. ' Go in December, ' says Robert Buchanan, in speaking of the wildness of the Hebridean straits, ' to the Sound of Harris, and on some stormy day gaze on the wild scene around you; the whirling waters, sown everywhere with isles and rocks-here the tide foaming round and round in an eddy powerful enough to drag along the largest ship-there a huge patch of sea-weed staining the waves, and betraying the lurking reef below. . . . Watch the terrors of the great Sound, the countless reefs and rocks, the eddies, the furious wind-swept waters, and pray for the strange seamen whose fate it may be to drive helplessly thither. Better the great ocean in all its terror and might.'

The scenery of the Inner Hebrides does not differ very much from that of the barer and wilder parts of the Highlands. There are the same rugged mountains, with stretches of moorland or peat moss alternating with rough pasture or stony waste, the same hill crofts, and the same cultivated districts in the low grounds and along the courses of the streams or the shores of some of the bays. In the Outer Hebrides, however, the difference is considerable. There the islands are destitute of wood; and though they are all more or less hilly, the hills are low, except in Harris, where they reach an extreme height of 2662 feet, and they are, besides, everywhere so smooth and heavy in their outlines as to possess but little grandeur. To the S of the Sound of Harris, between that island and North Uist, the hilly ground is chiefly confined to the E coast, while the western shore is flat, and still further S there are wide tracts of peatmoss. The cliffs are generally too low to show any striking rock scenery; but the shores of Lewis in many places form an exception, as do also the cliffs of the islands of Bernera and Mingalay at the extreme S, which rise to a height of over 1000 feet, and are the dwellingplaces of enormous numbers of sea-birds. Tame as the scenery in general may seem, however, to be, there are times and seasons when it presents aspects of beauty and grandeur. ' What, ' says Macgillivray, ' can be more delightful than a midnight walk by moonlight along the lone sea-beach of some secluded isle, the glassy sea sending from its surface a long stream of dancing and dazzling light; no sound to be heard save the small ripple of the idle wavelet, or the scream of a sea-bird watching the fry that swarms along the shores! In the short nights of summer the melancholy song of the throstle has scarcely ceased on the hill-side, when the merry carol of the lark commences, and the plover and snipe sound their shrill pipe. Again, how glorious is the scene which presents itself from the summit of one of the loftier hills, when the great ocean is seen glowing with the last splendour of the setting sun, and the lofty isles of St Kilda rear their giant heads amid the purple blaze on the extreme verge of the horizon.' In another passage he thus draws the picture of the winter storms: ' After a continued gale of westerly winds, the Atlantic rolls in its enormous billows upon the western coasts, dashing them with inconceivable fury upon the headlands, and scouring the sounds and creeks, which, from the number of shoals and sunk rocks in them, often exhibit the magnificent spectacle of terrific ranges of breakers extending for miles. Let any one who wishes to have some conception of the sublime, station himself upon a headland of the W coast of Harris during the violence of a winter tempest, and he will obtain it. The blast howls among the grim and desolate rocks around him. Black clouds are seen advancing from the W in fearful masses, pouring forth torrents of rain and hail. A sudden flash illuminates the gloom, and is followed by the deafening roar of the thunder, which gradually becomes fainter, until the roar of the waves upon the shore prevails over it. Meantime, far as the eye can reach, the ocean boils and heaves, presenting one wide-extended field of foam, the spray from the summits of the billows sweeping along its surface like drifted snow. No sign of life is to be seen, save when a gull, labouring hard to bear itself up against the blast, hovers overhead, or shoots athwart the gloom like a meteor. Long ranges of giant waves rush in succession towards the shores. The thunder of the shock echoes among the crevices and caves; the spray mounts along the face of the cliffs to an astonishing height; the rocks shake to their summit; and the baffled wave rolls back to meet its advancing successor.'

The Hebrides are, however, seen to most advantage in distant sea views, and these, whether from the mainland or from amid the islands themselves, are always strikingly picturesque, and in many cases cause a pleasant surprise by their wild and lonely beauty. Coleridge says that the distant view of the Hebrides from some point he had forgotten was one of the five finest things in Scotland. The point was probably that which afforded him his first view from the SE about Kintyre, and though his idea is a somewhat exaggerated one, yet, under good conditions of light, the appearance thus presented is very fine. Hugh Miller has thus described an evening view from the W coast of Ross-shire at the Gairloch:-' How exquisitely the sun sets in a clear calm summer evening over the blue Hebrides! Within less than a mile of our barrack there rose a tall hill, whose bold summit commanded all the Western Isles from Sleat in Skye to the Butt of Lewis. To the south lay the trap islands; to the north and west the gneiss ones. They formed, however, seen from this hill, one great group which, just as the sun had sunk, and sea and sky were so equally bathed in gold, as to exhibit on the horizon no dividing line, seemed in their transparent purple-darker or lighter according to the distance-a group of lovely clouds, that, though moveless in the calm, the first light breeze might sweep away. Even the flat promontories of sandstone, which, like outstretched arms, enclosed the outer reaches of the foreground-promontories edged with low red cliffs, and covered with brown heath-used to borrow at these times from the soft yellow beam a beauty not their own. Amid the inequalities of the gneiss regions within-a region more broken and precipitous, but of humbler altitude than the great gneiss tract of the midland Highlands-the chequered light and shade lay, as the sun declined in strongly contrasted patches, that betrayed the abrupt inequalities of the ground, and bore when all around was warm-tinted and bright, a hue of cold neutral grey. ' Cuthbert Bede, in referring to a sunset view from the Kintyre end, speaks in similar terms of ' the long stretch of Islay and Jura with their purple peaks standing out so sharply against the broad bars of molten gold, and the nearer islets floating in a sea whose hue changed from bright emerald to deepest violet, with countless sparkles at every throb. ' Viewed from the Sound of Jura the conical and far-seeing Paps of Jura close up the view immediately on the N, and rise to a height of 2569 feet; the north -eastern point of Islay is screened by the dark and broken precipices of M 'Carter's Head; the eastern entrance of the sound seems dotted over with islets, or walled across with the spray of the vexed waters; Colonsay lies away to the W, and on the E the rugged summits of Arran tower aloft in the distance, and over the intervening seas and the peninsula of Kintyre. From Dunolly Castle, near Oban, there is an excellent view of the S group of the inner Hebrides, while from Ardnamurchan there is one still more extensive and impressive. ' To the south lies Mull in mist, piling her dull vast hills out above the line of breaking foam; while away to the south-west, cairn after cairn looming through the water show where barren Coll is weltering in the gloomy waste. To the far west, only cloud resting on cloud, above the dim unbroken waterline of the Atlantic. But northward all brightens, for the storm has passed thence with the wind, and the sunlight has crept out cold and clear on craggy Rum, whose heights stretch grey and ghostly against a cloudless sky. Hard by, in shadow, looms the gigantic Scaur of Eig, looking down on the low and grassy line of Muck,

' "Set as an emerald in the casing sea."

Beyond all these, peeping between Rum and Eig, pencilled in faint and ghostly peaks hued like the heron's breast, are the wondrous Cuchullin Hills of Skye-born of the volcano on some strange morning in the age of mighty births. The eye seeks to go no farther. It rests on those still heights, and in a moment the perfect sense of solitude glides into the soul; thought seems stationary, brooding over life subdued. ' Lord Teignmouth, indeed, speaking of Skye, is bold enough to claim that ' the grandest scenery perhaps of Scotland occurs in the south-eastern division of the island. Crossing Loch Slapin, I proceeded along the rugged coast of Strath to its point called the Aird, a promontory which - penetrated by caverns, or severed into buttresses, in some places projecting far in tabulated ledges over the sea, tinted richly with yellow, green, and other colours-presents a strikingly beautiful and majestic front to the storm y ocean, to the ravages of which its shattered and perforated precipices bear ample testimony. Reflecting the rays of an unclouded sun, it offered a brilliant contrast to the dark forms of Rum and the neighbouring islands which rose to the southward. We rowed slowly under the Aird, as every cove or buttress deserves attention, till the opposite headland beyond Loch Scavaig discovered itself, and as we entered the bay the precipitous and serrated ridges of the Coolin Mountains towered in all their grandeur above the shores, terminating a perspective formed by the steep side of the two prominent buttresses of the range, and enclosing the gloomy valley and deep dark waters of Loch Coruisk, from which the principal peaks rise abruptly. '

One very peculiar feature of the Hebrides is the immense number of lochs scattered everywhere about, and, indeed, taking them all in all, there is no part of the known world more watered from above and from below than the Hebrides, for during more than two-thirds of the year they are drenched with almost incessant rain, while, wherever the islands are not intersected by winding arms of the sea, they abound in rivulets or freshwater lakes. Immense numbers of tiny waterfalls streak their cliffs where little burns rush down, and gradually gather into larger streams. Of these last, upwards of forty are large enough to contain salmon, and they also abound in trout and eels. Lakes and lichens are so numerous, particularly in the Outer Hebrides, as to almost defy numeration. They are everywhere ' as thickly sown amid the land as islands amid the Pacific waters. ' The lakes in North Uist alone, which measures about 13 by 16½ miles, were counted by one careful observer up to the number of 170, and these were supplemented by such a number of lochans that it was too tedious to reckon them. The entire number of lochs in the Hebrides may indeed be safely computed at 1500, and their area as extending over 50,000 acres, of which those of Lewis and Uist alone cover more than half. These lakes, though they frequently interrupt communication and occasion other inconveniences, offer but little compensation in return except by providing breeding and dwelling places for various species of water birds and of fish. They are mostly shallow, none exceeding 3 or 4 fathoms in depth, and are indeed, both in themselves and in their surroundings, of a character such as the genius of improvement would seek to banish altogether. The islands are also extensively intersected by inlets and arms of the sea, many of which have winding shores, with narrow fiords branching off in all directions, and spreading about in a regular network of waters. Loch Maddy, for instance, in North Uist, has only a surface area of 10 miles, but yet its shore-line measures fully 300 miles. So numerous and branching are these sea-lochs that their windings give the islands a coastline of about 4000 miles, and their deep and long-reaching bays are eminently valuable in connection with the fishings for the sheltered harbours they afford for boats and ships.

The area of the Hebrides, exclusive of foreshores and the larger lochs, is in round numbers 1,800,000 acres or 2812 square miles. As regards size, the islands may be distributed into four classes. The first class, containing the largest islands, includes Islay, Jura, Mull, Skye, both Uists, and Harris and Lewis, and these taken together comprehend about eight-ninths of the entire area. The second class includes Gigha, Colonsay, Luing, Seil, Kerrera, Lismore, Ulva, Gometra, Tyree, Coll, Eigg, Rum, Raasay, Rona, Barra, Benbecula, and Bernera. The third class includes Scarba, Lunga, Easdale, Inniskenneth, Iona, Muck, Canna, Scalpa, Fladda, Flodda, Eriskay, Pabbay, Boveray, and Taransay. The fourth class includes about 120 tiny islets with some little productive value, and a large number of rocky islets and skerries. Inclusive of these last the entire number of islands and islets has been set down in round numbers as 500, but understanding islands and islets to be objects which on a large map have a distinct figure and characteristic outline, the number is reduced to about 160, and of these 100 are at present1883-inhabited all the year round, while a number of others are inhabited temporarily during the summer months only. The inhabited islands, with their populations in 1871 and 1881 respectively, are as follows:In Argyllshire, Balnahua (146; 108), Calve (7; 10), Canna (48; 57), Cara (4; 4), Carna (9; 7), Coll (723; 643), Colonsay (408; 387), Danna (54; 40), Devaar (5; 5), Duirinish (4; 24), Easdale (504; 460), Earrait (122; 51), Eriska (5; 7), Frielhouse (3; 1), Garvelloch (10; 0), Gigha (386; 378), Gometra (26; 30), Inniskenneth (8; 8), Iona (236; 243), Islay (8143; 7559), Jura (761; 773), Kerrera (101; 103), Lismore (720; 621), Luing (582; 527), Lunga (5; 17), MacCaskin (8; 6), Muck (53; 51), Mull (5947; 5229), Musdale (10; 9), Oronsay in Morvern (17; 0), Oronsay beside Colonsay (48; 10), Oversay (13; 15), Pladda at Jura (9; 10), Rum (81; 89), Sanda (57; 14), Sanday (58; 62), Scarba (7; 19), Seil (731; 661), Sheep in Kilbrandon (4; 2), Sheep off Lismore (6; 4), Shuua in Kilbrandon (15; 14), Shuna off Lismore (14; 8), Skerryvore (3; 3), Skerryvuille (14; 19), Torsay (20; 10), Tyree (2834; 2730), Ulva off Kintyre (19; 19), Ulva in Kilninian (71; 53). In Inverness-shire are Ballcshare (246; 266), Barra (1753; 1869), Bcnbecula (1563; 1661), Bernera (373; 452), Berneray (38; 72), Bovcray (146; 137), Calvay (0; 6), Eigg (282; 291), Ensay (6; 6), Eriskay (429; 466), Fladda (76; 87), Flodda (54; 54), Fuda (6; 6), Grimisay in North Uist (283; 292), Grimisay in South Uist (6; 28), Harris (3008; 3463), Heisker (114; 111), Hcllisay (5; 9), Hut (6; 10), Killigray (9; 6), Kirkibost (9; 12), Levera (8; 11), Mhorgay (8; 6), Mingalay (141; 150), Monach (11; 13), Ornsay (42; 47), Pabbay off Barra (24; 26), Pabbay off Harris (8; 2), Pabbay off Strath (6; 10), Raasay (389; 478), Rona (157; 176), Ronay (6; 6), St Kilda (71; 77), Sandcray (7; 10), Scalpa (421; 540), Scalpay (48; 37), Scarp (156; 213), Shona (102; 118), Skye (17, 330; 16, 889), Soay (120; 102), Taransay (68; 55), North Uist (3222; 3371), South Uist (3669; 3825), Vallay (48; 29), Vatersay (23; 19), Wiay off Skye (5; 4), Wiay off South Uist (6; 5). In Ross are Bernera (539; 596), Croulin (26; 9), Lewis (22,939; 24, 876), Pabay (0; 9), Shiant (5; 6). The uninhabited islands of any note are Ree in Argyll and Ascrib in Inverness.

Westerly winds prevail on an average from August till the beginning of March, and are generally accompanied by very heavy rains; but during most of March, and often also during October and November, a NE or NNE wind prevails, and this, though intensely cold, is generally dry and bracing. Northerly and southerly winds are not very frequent, and seldom last more than two or three days. The mountains of Jura, Mull, and Skye, attaining to an elevation of from 2000 to 3000 feet, intercept the damp winds blowing off the Atlantic, and so draw down on the land in their vicinity large quantities of moisture; but they at the same time modify the climate around them, and screen the lower land in their neighbourhood from the violent winds that sweep everywhere off the sea. Though the comparatively low islands of Tyree, Coll, Benbecula, North Uist, and the low seaboards of Harris and Lewis have abundance of rain, they are probably little, if at all, damper than the western sea-board districts of the mainland. Frost and snow seldom cause much inconvenience on the large or high islands, and are almost unknown on the small and low ones. Rain falls on an average on 264 day s in the year, and the amount of rainfall is about 48 inches. The mean temperature for November, December, January, and February is 390, for the rest of the year 490. Owing to the comparative warmth of the islands and the lowness and closeness to the sea of the arable ground, and notwithstanding the damp and their unsheltered position, grasses and corn attain maturity at a very early period after their first start from the ground. In the southern isles sown hay is cut down between the latter end of June and the middle of July, and in the northern isles ten to fourteen days later; in all the islands barley is often reaped in August, and crops of all sorts secured in September; and in Uist, Lewis, and Tyree, bere has ripened and been cut down within ten weeks of the time of sowing. In spite too, of the same unfavourable conditions, longevity is of as frequent occurrence as among an equal amount of population in any other part of Europe, and many of the old prevalent diseases are here, just as on the mainland, losing their epidemic and malignant character.

Soils and Agriculture.—In a region so extensive there is, as might be expected, a great diversity of soils. It has been said of the Outer Hebrides that ' nature has wasted her capabilities in a climate to which she has refused vegetation, nay even denied a soil; that which is not rock is sand, that which is not sand is bog, that which is not bog is lake, that which is not lake is sea,' but this is very much exaggerated; and although the islands as a whole are by no means very fertile, there are yet many districts where the land is fairly productive, and they are indeed more populous and aggregately more productive than the same extent of many parts of the mainland Highlands, or even of the mountainous parts of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland. Islay, for example, has 36 square miles of a thin stratum of decomposed limestone, occasionally intermixed with clay and gravel, several miles of rich clay land, and some thousands of acres of good loam. Gigha, with red clay and gravel, and inferior to many of the islands in natural capabilities, affords an excellent example of what might, by vigorous and judicious management, be accomplished in many seemingly inhospitable parts of the Highlands. Jura, though seeming to a cursory glance to be mostly mere barren mountain, yet contains some fertile patches of clayey gravel and patches of stony loam, as well as many hundred acres of improvable moss. Mull, though predominantly upland moor, has a considerable tract of soil formed from disintegrated basalt, and producing good grassy sheep pasture. Lismore has abundance of grass, and where well managed the calcareous soil yields good results under tillage. Skye possesses all the varieties of soil found in the Scottish Lowlands, except pure sand, and, notwithstanding the prevalence of barren mountains and marshy moor, there are patches of considerable fertility. In one parish alone there are 4000 acres of as fine loam and loamy clay on a gravelly bottom as are to be found anywhere in Scotland. The Outer Hebrides, over most of the seaboard and in portions of the interior, have a soil of disintegrated gneiss or granite, which, when mixed with clay or shell sand, or when manured with the sea-weed that lies plentifully at hand, yields abundant crops of oats and bere. All along the western side of this chain there is a good deal of sand-drift, but the action of this may here be regarded as beneficial. The tenant of the land is for the time being injured, and the land rendered barren in places where the sand rests too deep, yet the sand is shell-sand, and where it does not lie too deep is of immense benefit to the soil. In North and South Uist, in Barra, in Coll, in Harris, in Colonsay, and in many of the other islands as well, the sand is drifted into the interior, where, at the marshy ground along the base of the hills, it meets with the moisture it needs, and peat, on which it acts as a manure. ' It brings on a coat of verdure, where nothing grew before but heath; whence that which on the flat and arid shores is the cause of small spots of barrenness, is, in its progress, the source of extensive fertility. The springing of white clover is one among the results which prove this good effect, as that is an invariable result of the application of calcareous matter to Highland pastures. The proprietors have not hitherto been aware of the nature of this process, of so much importance in the agriculture of these islands. They have forgotten to note the difference between their own lands and those which sand injures; judging by habit, and forgetting to observe or reason.' About two-thirds of the entire Hebrides may be reckoned as moor or moss, and there is a considerable portion bare rock or pure sand; but the moss is of great value and importance, both as capable of improvement into pasture or arable land and as providing the only fuel used throughout the islands. It has been estimated that of the whole area about 200,000 acres are arable and meadow land; about 23,000 are occupied by villages, farmhouses, gardens, and gentlemen's parks; about 11,000 are occupied as glebes, churchyards, and schoolmasters' crofts; about 800,000 as hill pasture, paying rent, and partially enclosed; about 26,000 dug for peat or occupied by roads, etc.; about 30,000 is barren sand and bare rock; and about 700,000 is occupied by moor, marsh, and undrained lochs.

The Hebrides were in the beginning of the present century distributed into 49 estates, 10 of which yielded from £50 to £500 of yearly rental, 22 from £500 to £3000, and 8 from £3000 to £18,000. Six of the largest were in possession of noblemen. About one-fifth of all the land is under strict entail, and about three-fifths belong to absentees. The great estates are managed by factors, who usually reside on them. In the actual working of the soil four different classes are concerned: first, proprietors, who keep their lands under their own management; second, tacksmen, who hold land under ' tacks ' or leases, and with rents of over £50, and sometimes amounting to several hundred pounds a year; third, tenants who hold lands of the proprietor without leases, and whose rents are from £20 to £50 a year; fourth, crofters holding land without lease either of the proprietor or of the tacksman, and whose rents never exceed £20 a year, and are generally very consideably below that sum. This class may be taken to include the cottars of some districts, who are sub-tenants holding from year to year. Some of the proprietors who work their own lands have extensive estates, and are keen and successful agriculturists. The tacksmen used formerly to be connected with the proprietors by clanship or blood, and formed a body of resident gentry; but after the rebellion of 1745, most of the chiefs and other proprietors suddenly raised the rents, and deprived the tacksmen of the power of sub-letting their lands. The sudden rise of rents took the tenants by surprise, and large numbers of them emigrated in disgust and despair. The present tacksmen are simply the larger tenants, with security of holding, and it is much to be regretted that similar security is not given to the smaller tenants, as to the lack of it is due the utter absence of any attempt at improvement. The crofters and cottars, who form the great bulk of the population, are very similar to the cottars of the mainland, and a considerable portion of their small rents is often paid in labour. Generally with large families-whom they in many cases prefer to have with them in a state of abject misery rather than send them out to service, which they esteem a great hardship-they would in most cases be very much happier in the actual position of ordinary day-labourers.

When the old tacksman system was broken up, about the middle of last century, many of the farms held by tacksmen seem to have been taken directly from the proprietor by joint-tenants, who grazed their stock upon the pasture in common, and tilled the arable land in ' run-rig, ' that is, in alternate ' rigs ' or ridges, distributed annually. Since the commencement of this century, the arable land has in most cases been divided among the joint-tenants or crofters in separate portions, the pasture remaining as formerly in common. The first effect of this division into separate crofts was a great increase of produce, so that districts which had formerly imported food now became self-supporting. But evils followed which had not been foreseen. So long as the farms were held in joint-tenancy there was a barrier to their further sub-division which could rarely be overcome. But when each joint-tenant received his own separate croft, this restraint for the most part ceased. The crofters who had lived in hamlets or clusters of cottages now generally established themselves separately on their crofts. ' Their houses, erected by themselves, ' says Sir John M 'Neill, who was appointed by Government to report on the district in 1850, in consequence of the great distress in 1846, ' are of stone and earth, or clay. The only materials they purchase are the doors, and, in most cases, the rafters of the roof on which are laid thin turf, covered with thatch. The crofter's furniture consists of some rude bedsteads, a table, some stools, chests, and a few cooking utensils. At one end of the house, often entering by the same door, is the byre for his cattle; at the other, the barn for his crop. His fuel is the peat he cuts in the neighbouring moss, of which an allotted portion is often attached to each croft. His capital consists of his cattle, his sheep, and perhaps one or more horses or ponies; of his crop that is to feed him till next harvest, provide seed and winter provender for his animals; of his furniture, his implements, the rafters of his house, and, generally, a boat, or share of a boat, nets or other fishing gear, with some barrels of salt-herrings, or bundles of dried cod or ling for winter use.' As originally portioned out the crofts appear to have been quite sufficient to maintain the crofter's family, and yield the landlord his yearly rent. But when kelp was largely and profitably manufactured, when potatoes were extensively and successfully cultivated, when the fishings were good, and the price of cattle was high, the crofter found that his croft was more than sufficient for his wants; and when a son or a daughter married, he divided it with the young couple, who built themselves another house upon the ground, sharing the produce, and contributing to the rent. Thus many crofts which are entered on the landlord's rent-roll as in the hands of one man, are, in fact, occupied by two, three, or even in some cases, four families. On some estates efforts were made to prevent this sub-division, but without much success. If the erection of a second house on the croft were forbidden, the married son or daughter was taken into the existing house; and though the land might not be formally divided, it was still required to support one or more additional families. It appears that attempts were made in some cases to put an end to this practice, ' but it was found to involve so much apparent cruelty and injustice, and it was so revolting to the feelings of all concerned, that children should be expelled from the houses of their parents, that the evil was submitted to and still continues to exist. ' The population thus progressively increasing received a still farther stimulus from the kelp manufacture. This pursuit required the labour of a great number of people for about six weeks or two months in each year; and as it was necessary to provide them with the means of living during the whole year, small crofts were assigned to many persons in situations favourable for the manufacture, which, though not alone able to maintain a family, might, with the wages of the manufacture, suffice for that end. When a change in the fiscal regulations destroyed this manufacture, the people engaged in it were thrown out of employment, and had they not been separated by habits and language from the majority of the population of the kingdom, they would no doubt have gradually dispersed and sought other occupations. But having little intercourse with other districts, which were to them a foreign country, they clung to their native soil after the manufacture in which they had been engaged was abandoned. Their crofts were then insufficient to afford them subsistence. Emigration somewhat retarded the increase of numbers, but the emigrants were the more prosperous of the tenants and crofters, not the persons who had difficulty in supporting themselves at home. The proprietors, anxious to check the redundant population, and to increase their rents so materially reduced by the decay of the kelp manufacture, let the lands vacated by the emigrants to tacksmen, who were able, by their large capital and the new system of sheep-farming, to pay higher rents than the crofters could offer. These increased rents were at the same time collected at less cost, with less trouble, and with more certainty. The proprietors were thus led to take every opportunity of converting lands held by crofters into large farms for tacksmen, planting the displaced crofters on fishing crofts and crofts on waste land, and thus the crofters who had supplanted the first race of tacksmen were in turn supplanted by a new race.

In the beginning of the present century many of the landlords in the Hebrides devoted themselves vigorously to the improvement of both land and people, and, in general, with great success. The chief improver at an early date, both as to extent and energy, was Campbell of Islay, who so revolutionised the agricultural character of that island between 1820 and 1840, that, from a condition of being obliged to import grain to the value of £1200 annually, it passed into a condition of being able to supply a sufficiency of grain for all the Hebrides and the Western Highlands. Mr Clark, of Ulva, went to Belgium in 1846, in order to study the system of petite culture, so that he might introduce it on his estate in the Hebrides, but he says-' The result of my investigation was to convince me that the Belgian system was altogether unsuited for Ulva or any other part of the Hebrides;' and, indeed, though the croft system is in most cases precisely a system of spade husbandry, the results will always differ widely from those obtained on the Continent with better soil and a finer climate. The peasant proprietary which generally accompanies spade husbandry seems, for the same reason, equally unsuitable, for Mr Walker, who, as one of the assistant-commissioners on the Royal Commission on Agriculture, instituted extensive inquiries into the state of the Hebrides, and had ample opportunity of studying the subject, gives, in a minute and painstaking report, published in a blue-book in 1881, the following very decided opinion:-' Peasant proprietors on such islands would be a failure; a large and rich proprietary willing to spend for the benefit of property and people is what is most required, and will do most good.' Pre-eminently such a proprietor as Mr Walker seems to desiderate was the late Sir James Matheson, the greatest benefactor of the Hebrides in the present age, who, in 1844, purchased the vast estate of Lewis from the representatives of the last Earl of Seaforth. For 417, 416 acres the sum of £190, 000 was paid, and since then a sum of over £400, 000 has been expended in rebuilding a number of houses, of which there are altogether about 3500 on the estate, in making 170 miles of good road, in constructing roads and draining, etc. The heaviness of some items of outlay may be imagined when it is mentioned that all the wood, lime, and slate had to be imported specially, while £4000 was spent in relieving cases of distress during the famine in 1846 and 1847; and £10,069 in aiding families to emigrate in 1851, '52, '55, '62, '63, during which years 2231 persons left, mostly for Canada. The present proprietrix of the estate is Lady Matheson. When Sir James purchased Lewis in 1844, it was in a very primitive condition, and, notwithstanding all his efforts for its improvement, it is still far from occupying the position it might. Were the crofters only energetic much might be done by the proper trenching of the gravelly or clay-gravel soils exposed by the cutting and removal of peat for fuel. The clay-gravel is difficult to drain, and heavy, but the lighter parts would yield good crops, while the mixture of decomposed rock soils with moss makes land that yields excellent natural grass. The ordinary crops of the Hebrides are oats (mostly the black variety), bere, rye (in a few of the sandy districts), turnips, and potatoes. The latter hold indeed a similar place in the Hebrides to what they do in Ireland, and constitute four-fifths of the food of the inhabitants, and so any failure in the potato crop is always followed by severe distress, sometimes almost universal, and, if accompanied by any other failures, leads to necessity for direct aid from without. This was strikingly shown in 1846 and 1847, after the first out break of the potato disease; and again in the present winter (1882-83) distress has been exceptionally severe, as not only was the potato crop a failure in 1882, but also the East Coast fishing, on which so many of the crofters largely depend, while at the same time a violent gale, in the autumn, utterly destroyed the crop just as it was ready for being cut.

The agricultural condition of the two groups of the Inner Hebrides may be gathered from the condition of Islay, Rum, and Skye, for which reference may be made to these articles. In the Outer Hebrides there is hardly any such thing as regular scientific cultivation, as no rotation is observed except upon a few of the larger farms, and, indeed, on some crofts where the whole produce is necessary for the subsistence of man and beast, no part of the arable land has been under grass or allowed to rest for more than 100 years, while in many cases the seaweed, which is almost the only manure employed, is very exhausting to the soil. Where rotation is observed, the shift is either five, six, or seven, as best suits the particular case. In Lewis there are 36 farms with a rental of £4878, 11s. 10d., and of these 10 are altogether pasture, while in 14 a few acres are cultivated for winter keep of stock, and in 12 there is fairly good cultivation. There are 2790 crofts, with a total rental of £8104, 5s. 7d., or nearly £2, 18s. of rental for each, occupiers having also the right of pasture in the moorland in the centre of the island, which enables them on an average to keep 4 cattle and 10 sheep, while there is on an average 1 horse or pony for every 4 crofts. The yearly produce of 2000 of the best crofts is 8 bolls of meal and 4 tons of potatoes. In the case of the others, the produce is less; and a good deal of meal has to be imported. The best arable land rents at 15s. per acre, medium at 10s., and poor at 5s. All these remarks apply also to Harris except that it is rougher, and the patches of arable land are smaller and more difficult to cultivate. In North Uist the state of things is the same, but the soil is drier and yields best returns in moderately wet seasons. On the sandy soil rye is cultivated. The yield of grain is 2½ to 2¾ quarters per acre, potatoes 5 tons, and turnips 10 to 12 tons. The rent of the best arable land is 10s. per acre medium 5s., poor 2s. 6d. In Benbecula and South Uist the state of matters is almost exactly the same, as it is also in the islands still farther to the S. The bere is not reaped in the ordinary way, but is plucked up by the root and used for thatching the houses. The thatch consists of two layers, and every spring the upper layer is taken off and laid carefully aside, while the under layer, which has become considerably decayed, and has got very much impregnated with soot from the peat smoke of the winter, is taken off, and spread over the fields as potato manure. The upper layer is then replaced on the roof, and in autumn receives a covering of fresh straw, and the process is repeated every year. The newer houses are fairly good, but the older are very primitive structures, mostly without chimneys or windows, though some of them have a solitary pane of glass inserted in the thatch. They are low, rounded at the corners, and with round roofs, which, in general appearance, bear a strong resemblance to a potato pit. The walls, which are seldom more than 5 feet high, are constructed of two fences of rough boulders packed in the centre with earth, and in some cases 5 to 6 feet thick. People and cattle are all stowed away together under one roof, and only in some cases is there a partition between the part set aside for the human beings and that which shelters animals. There is only one entrance, and the floor of the end belonging to the cattle is made lower, so that the compost may collect during the whole of the winter, and be all taken out at once in spring to be used as manure. The thatch roof is held down by ropes of heather, crossing one another, and secured against wind by large stones tied to their ends. The floor is of hard clay, and the fire is in the centre.

As might be expected from the estimated amount of arable and grazing land already given, the pasture lands of the Hebrides are much more important than the arable grounds, and comprehend by far the greater portion of the islands. The high pastures yield herbage all the year round, while the low, though luxuriant and rich during summer and autumn, are totally useless in winter and spring. A large amount of very rich pasture occurs in Skye, Islay, Lismore, Tyree, the Uists, and Lewis, and much of it with better management ought to yield far better results than it does. That in North Uist is better adapted for cattle than sheep, while the grazing of Barra is the best in the Hebrides. The breed of cattle-the same as in the Highlands-was originally the same in all the islands, but now various kinds have been introduced. The Islay and Colonsay cattle are much superior to those in the other islands, and command a price from 50 to 100 per cent. higher. Attention is given to breeding, and not to fattening. Very good cheese and butter are produced, the excellent quality being due to the goodness of the milk. On farms in the Stornoway district the cattle are mostly Ayrshire crosses, but elsewhere they are of the Highland breed, and inferior in quality. .About 1500 head of cattle annually leave the Lewis district alone and in addition 200 are slaughtered in Stornoway, or, in other words, about one in every eight of the Lewis cattle is converted into money every year. The animals in the possession of the farmers are much superior to those of the crofters, and bring a higher price in the market, the former selling at from £6 to £10, and the latter at from £2, 10s. to £6, 10s. In North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, and the islands to the S, the state of matters is the same, but the Highland cattle of North Uist are the best in the Hebrides. The cattle fairs at Stornoway and Loch Maddy are events of the Hebridean year. The sheep are of a number of different breeds. Down almost to the beginning of the present century the only breed known was the native or Norwegian sheep, the smallest in Europe, thin and lank, with straight horns, white face and legs, and a very short tail. it was probably introduced at the time of the Scandinavian invasion. Early in the century the black-faced breed was introduced, and soon made its way, as it was three times heavier and more valuable than the former, and was at the same time equally hardy. About the middle of the century the Cheviot breed was introduced, and now the principal breeds are these and the black-faced, though crosses, half-bred and grey-faced, are also being introduced. In the Outer Hebrides the cost to the tacksmen for grazing Cheviot or cross is about 3s. 6d. a head, and to the crofters for black-faced about 1s. 6d. In summer both cattle and sheep are herded in common, the crofters paying the expense of watching in proportion to the number of their sheep. Ponies are very common, and those of Barra were at one time very celebrated, but they have of late years fallen off. Such horses as there are very undersized even in Lewis, where Sir James Matheson made great efforts for their improvement by the introduction at his own expense of excellent stallions. Improvement, indeed, is needed, not only in breeding, but in feeding and tending. One-year-old ponies sell at from £3 to £5; older and larger animals at from £10 to £15; and animals of the best class at from £20 to £30. Pigs were formerly held in great aversion, but are now reared in some districts in considerable numbers.

Fisheries, etc.—The shores of the Hebrides and the W coast of the adjacent mainland form an excellent fishing ground, but the industry is not by any means so largely developed as it might be, and this is due to many causes, but in particular to the want of good harbour accommodation. The crofters would, indeed, be badly off were it not for the harvest of the sea, and yet their lack of energy and their poverty prevent them from taking full advantage of it, and allow the energy and enterprise of the East Coast fishermen to carry off the greater part of the spoil. In consequence of the nature of the shores and the violence of the sea, fishing is scarcely possible along the western coast of the Outer Hebrides. The favourite stations are along the coasts of Knock and Lochs in Lewis, and at Loch Boisdale and Barra farther S. In the beginning of the present century the herring fishing, though subject, as it always is, to considerable fluctuations, was good; but between 1830 and 1840, it fell off to a large and alarming extent, and caused during that time, and particularly in 1836 and 1837, a very great amount of misery and destitution. In 1840 the herring returned in large shoals, but so sudden and unexpected was their reappearance that the people, utterly unprepared, had not salt enough to cure the herrings they caught, and could in that year realise little other advantage than a temporary increase in their own immediate supplies of food. From that time the fishing has been regular and good. There are two seasons-in spring and in autumn. The former is carried on by boats from all quarters, but the latter is left to the home boats. ' A busy sight indeed is Loch Boisdale or Stornoway in the herring season. Smacks, open boats, skiffs, wherries make the narrow waters shady; not a creek, however small, but holds some boat in shelter. A fleet indeed!-the Lochleven boat from the East Coast with its three masts and three huge lugsails; the Newhaven boat with its two lugsails; the Isle of Man " jigger; " the beautiful Guernsey runner, handsome as a racing yacht, and powerful as a revenue-cutter, besides all the numberless fry of less noticeable vessels from the fat west country smack, with its comfortable fittings, down to the miserable Arran wherry. Swarms of sea-gulls float everywhere, and the loch is so oily with the fish deposit that it requires a strong wind to ruffle its surface. Everywhere on the shore and hill-sides, and on the numberless islands rises the smoke of camps. BI two lugsails; the Isle of Man " jigger; " the beautiful Guernsey runner, handsome as a racing yacht, and powerful as a revenue-cutter, besides all the numberless fry of less noticeable vessels from the fat west country smack, with its comfortable fittings, down to the miserable Arran wherry. Swarms of sea-gulls float everywhere, and the loch is so oily with the fish deposit that it requires a strong wind to ruffle its surface. Everywhere on the shore and hill-sides, and on the numberless islands rises the smoke of camps. Busy swarms surround the curing-houses and the inn, while the beach is strewn with fishermen lying at length, and dreaming till work-time. In the afternoon the fleet slowly begins to disappear, melting away out into the ocean, not to re-emerge till long after the grey of the next dawn. . . Besides the regular fishermen and people employed at the curing-stations, there are the herring gutters-women of all ages, many of whom follow singly the fortunes of the fishers from place to place.' The East Coast boats bring over their own women, and on their arrival invariably encamp on shore, where the women keep house for the crew. The Hebrides are included in five of the twenty-five fishing districts into which Scotland is divided. Some of these include also portions of the western coasts of the mainland. The headquarters of the districts are Stornoway, Loch Broom, Loch Carron and Skye, Campbeltown, and Inveraray. The number of boats employed at these at different dates, with the number of men, the value of the whole property in boats, nets, and lines, and the number of barrels of herrings salted, and the number of cod, ling, or hake taken, is shown in the following table:—

Year. Boats. Men an boys. Value of
Barrels of
No. of cod,
etc., taken
1870 3811 11,751 £181,711 188,200 434,809
1874 3949 11,934 £176,722 122,321 450,252
1881 3819 11,760 £181,066 170,284 441,805

So plentiful among the Hebrides are the materials for the manufacture of kelp, that for a long series of years this was much more valuable than either agriculture or fisheries. From the beginning of the manufacture down to 1790, the price of kelp per ton was from £2 to £6; but the subsequent great war with France having checked the importation of barilla, the price rose to £15, and ultimately to £20, per ton, and from 5000 to 6000 tons were produced annually. Till 1822 considerable duties were levied on the articles-barilla, pot and pearl ash, and black ash-that could compete with it in the market; but in that year the duty on salt (which was, along with sulphur, used in the manufacture of black ash) was reduced from 15s. to 2s. a bushel. Shortly after the duty on barilla was also reduced, and the remaining duty on salt, as well as on alkali made from salt, was entirely removed. This was in turn followed by a large reduction of the duty on foreign sulphur and on pot and pearl ash, and an entire removal of that on ashes from Canada; and the consequence was, that the kelp manufacture was almost destroyed, and a period of great misery and destitution followed. Many of the landowners were almost ruined, as they lost at once about five-sixths of their rental; and the large population engaged in the manufacture suffered very severely. The price is now about £6 per ton, but the industry is almost abandoned, except in North Uist. Down to 1865, in Benbecula, on an average, about 500 tons were made, and in South Uist about 650, yielding a profit to the proprietor of about £1200; but the manufacture there has now almost entirely ceased. The time for making kelp is during the months of June, July, August, and September; and that of the Hebrides is inferior to the kelp of the Orkneys, and is only used in the manufacture of soap. Since the failure of the kelp manufacture, the Hebrides may be said to have no industries, except at one or two places. Mr Campbell of Islay tried to introduce the weaving of book muslin on his property, by bringing some families of weavers from Glasgow, and providing them with cottages and weaving appliances, in a locality where weaving was cheap; but though the attempt was well made and duly prolonged, it did not succeed. The spinning of yarn formed at one time a staple in Islay, and while it flourished, employed all the women on the island, £10, 000 worth of yarn being exported in a year; but it was unable to withstand the competition of the Glasgow manufactories. In Islay, now, a good deal of whisky is made, and in Skye there is a distillery at Talisker, and a small woollen manufactory near Portree, while at Easdale and Balnahua there are slate quarries of large extent, turning out about ten millions of slates annually. There is a small chemical work near Stornoway; and in all the islands a good deal of wool is carded, spun, and woven into plaiding, blankets, and coarse fabrics.

The people are a hardy, industrious, patient, and, in the main, a contented race, except when external influence works on their ignorance or their feeling of hardships. Reforms in many ways are much needed, but have to be carried out with great caution, as the island nature is very tenacious of old habits, however wrong. The main sources of livelihood of the crofters are their small patches of land, and the fishing in winter, spring, and autumn at home, and in summer on the East Coast, where they supply the boats engaged in the herring fishing with ' hired hands. ' The struggle for existence is hard even when all these succeed; when one or more fails, much misery is the result. The people have all a sad, serious look about them, as if life were too serious for laughter. ' There is no smile, ' says Robert Buchanan, ' on their faces. Young and old drag their limbs, not as a Lowlander drags his limbs, but lissomly, with a swift serpentine motion. The men are strong and powerful, with deep-set eyes and languid lips, and they never excite themselves over their labour. The women are meek and plain, full of a calm domestic trouble, and they work harder than their lords. ' The last clause might indeed in many, many cases be read, that they work hard while their lords do nothing at all, and come much nearer the truth; and even Mr Buchanan himself, with all his deep appreciation of what is best and noblest in their character, and much as he dwells on their love of home and family, their purity and their kindliness, is forced to admit the charge of indolence. ' The people, ' he says, ' are half-hearted say an indolent people. They do no justice to their scraps of land, which, poor as they be, are still capable of great improvement; but their excuse is, that they derive little substantial benefit from improvements made where there is only yearly tenure. They hunger often, even when the fjörds opposite their own doors are swarming with cod and ling; but it is to be taken into consideration that only a few of them live on the sea-shore or possess boats. They let the ardent east country fisherman carry off the finest hauls of herring. Their work stops when their mouths are filled, and yet they are ill content to be poor. All this, and more than this, is truth, and sad truth.' The inhabitants of the outer islands are very much isolated; for though steamers sail regularly from the Clyde and from Oban to all the larger islands, the internal communication, except in Lewis and Harris, is poor, and the arms of the lochs difficult to cross. People, when they meet, talk, not of the weather, but of the state of the fords. In outlying corners the people would fare but badly sometimes, were it not for the visits of small trading vessels, bartering goods of all kinds for fish, or any other marketable commodities the people have to dispose of. The inner islands are well provided with roads, and have much more frequent communication. Skye has communication also by steamer with Strome, the western terminus of the Dingwall and Skye section of the Highland railway.

The only towns of any great importance in the Hebrides are Stornoway in Lewis, Tobermory in Mull, Bowmore in Islay, and Portico in Skye, while there are about twenty villages with populations of over 300. Most of these are in Lewis. Almost all the crofter townships are along the coast. Some of them are at important points of communication, such as Bunessan in Mull, Kyle-Akin and Broadford in Skye, Tarbert in Harris, and Loch Maddy in North Uist. Fairs for live stock are held regularly in Islay, Jura, Mull, Tyree, Skye, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, and Lewis, while dealers travel through all the districts. The quoad civilia parishes of the Hebrides are: in Ross-shire -Barvas, Lochs, Stornoway, and Uig; in Inverness-shire-Barra, Bracadale, Duirinish, Harris, Kilmuir, North Uist, Portree, Sleat, Small Isles (Eigg), Snizort, South Uist, and Strath; in Argyll-the whole parishes of Coll, Colonsay, Gigha, Jura, Kilchoman, Kildalton, Kilfinichen, Killarrow, Kilninian, Small Isles (Canna, Muck, Rum, and Sandy), Torosay, and Tyree, and portions of the parishes of Ardchattan, Campbeltown, Kilbrandon, Kilmartin, Kilmore, Lismore, Morvern, North Knapdale, and Southend. There are also included the quoad sacra parishes of Cross (in Barvas), Knock (in Stornoway), Bernera (in Harris), Halin-in-Waternish (in Duirinish), Stenscholl (in Kilmuir and Snizort), Trumsigarry (in North Uist), Aharacle (in Ardnamurchan and Morvern), Duror (in Lismore), Iona (in Kilfinichen), Kinlochspelvie (in Torosay), Oa (in Kildalton), Portnahaven (in Kilchoman), Tobermory (in Kilninian), Ulva (in Kilninian). There are also 34 Free churches, 2 U.P. churches, a Congregational church, 4 Baptist churches, 3 Episcopal churches, and 5 Roman Catholic churches. The Argyllshire section has a sheriff-substitute with his headquarters at Tobermory; the Inverness-shire section has a sheriff-substitute at Portree for Skye, and another at Loch Maddy for Harris and the islands to the S; in the Ross-shire section there is a sheriff-substitute for Lewis, with his headquarters at Stornoway. Of the larger islands, Lewis belongs to Lady Matheson; Harris to the Countess Dowager of Dunmore and to Sir E. Scott; North Uist to Sir John W. C. Orde of Kilmory; Benbecula, South Uist, and Barra to Lady Gordon-Cathcart of Cluny. Benbecula and South Uist were purchased in 1839 by the late Colonel Gordon of Cluny for £124, 229, and Barra in 1840 for £49, 500, and since then about £6000 has been expended on it. The area of Lewis is 417, 416 acres, and the rental £17, 343, 13s. 7d., exclusive of Stornoway; Harris, 122, 500 acres, rental £5979, 9s. 1d.; North Uist, 68, 000 acres, rental £5000; Benbecula, 22, 874 acres, rental £1800; South Uist, 82,154 acres, rental £4800; Barra, 24, 916 acres, rental £1900. Pop. of the whole of the islands, (1871) 81,100, (1881) 82,119.

History.—The Hebrides make their first appearance in historical times as the Ebudæ of Ptolemy. He only knew five islands under that name, and all these lay to the S of Ardnamurchan, and were probably Islay, Jura, Mull, Scarba, and Lismore, while Skye is mentioned separately as Scetis. The inhabitants at first were probably picts, but by the beginniug of the 7th century, while the districts N of a line drawn through the centre of Mull belonged to the Northern Picts, those to the S had fallen into the hands of the Dalriadic Scots. It is from one of the chief Dalriadic tribes, the Cinel Loarn, that the Lorne district takes its name. The islands became known to the Scandinavian sea-rovers about the end of the 8th century (a. d. 794), and suffered severely from their attacks during the whole of the 9th century. In 880 some petty Norwegian kings, who resisted the celebrated Harald Harfager's power in the north, made permanent settlements in the islands of the west, and thence piratically infested the coasts of Norway. In 888 Harald retaliated, and according to the Islands Landnamabok, subdued all the Sudreys-a name given to the Western Islands in distinction to the Orkneys, which were the Nordreys or Northern islands -so far west that no Norwegian king afterwards conquered more, except King Magnus Barefoot. He had hardly returned home, however, when the petty kings or vikings, both Scottish and Irish, ' cast themselves into the islands, and made war and plundered far and wide, but in the following year they fell under a fresh ruler. This was one of their own number, Ketill Flatnose, who had settled in the Sudreys, and who now probably, however, with Harald's aid, made himself their king. By the 10th century the islands had been extensively colonised by the Norwegians, and very completely subdued to Norwegian rule, and to the Scandinavians they were a valuable possession, and ' eminently fitted to serve as a stronghold for the Northern Vikings, whose strength consisted almost entirely in their large and well-constructed ships. ' In 990 the Hebrides passed by conquest from the Danes of Dublin into the possesi sion of Sigurd, Earl of Orkney, and were governed by a deputy appointed by him. Ragnal Macgophra, who had seized the supreme power, was driven out by Sigurd in 1004, and we find a native chief, Gilli (evidently, however, tributary to Sigurd), ruling shortly after. Sigurd was killed in 1014 at the battle of Clontarf, and for a while the Isles were free; but they again, about 1034, passed under the rule of his (Sigurd's) son, Thorfinn, in whose hands they remained till his death. From 1064 to 1072 they were annexed to the lrish dominions of Diarmid Macmaelnambo, and they next passed into the possession of Setric and his son Fingal, kings of the Isle of Man. Godred Crovan, a Norwegian, having landed on the Isles as a fugitive in 1066, gradually drew around him influence and power, so that between 1075 and 1080 he was able to dethrone Fingal and take possession of the throne of Man. His son Lagman was placed over the Hebrides. In 1093, while Malcolm Ceannmor was busy making preparations for his fatal expedition into England, Magnus Barefoot, who had recently become King of Norway, revived the Norwegian claims, and enforced them by a descent on the islands with a large and powerful fleet. He does not seem to have disturbed the rulers he found in power, but merely to have caused them to become his vassals, and so Godred Crovan remained ruler till his death in Islay in 1095. Lagman his son went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he died, and Mag-. nus appointed a new Norwegian ruler named Ingemund, whose government proved, however, so oppressive, that he was murdered in Lewis. To avenge his death Magnus again passed to the islands with large forces, and after he had deprived the Earls of Orkney of power, and sent them prisoners to Norway, ' He went with his whole army to the Sudreys, but when he came there he commenced plundering immediately, burned the inhabited places, killed the people, and pillaged wherever he went. But the people of the country fled to various places, some up to Scotland, or into the fjords or sea-lochs, some southward to Satiri or Kintyre, some submitted to King Magnus and received pardon. ' The animus against the original inhabitants of the islands thus shown by Magnus would seem to point to the murder of Ingemund as being merely part of a general scheme to throw off the Norwegian yoke. When Magnus returned to the Isles after a visit to the Isle of Man, he entered into an agreement with the King of Scats, ' by which all the islands to the west of Scotland, between which and the mainland a helm-carrying ship could pass, were ceded to him; ' and as he wished to include Kintyre in the number, he is reported to have had his galley drawn across the narrow neck of land between East and West Loch Tarbert. The islands were thus severed from all connection with Scotland-a condition that lasted for more than 150 years. On the death of King Magnus in Ulster in 1104, the native islanders, with the assistance of some Irish under Donald MacTadg, appear again to have attempted to throw off the Norwegian yoke, but in 1113 Olave, the son of Godred Crovan, who had taken refuge in England, recovered possession of the now independent kingdom of the Isles, and reigned till 1153 or 1154, when he was murdered by his nephews. Godred the Black, Olave's son, succeeded him, but so alienated his subjects by his arrogance, that Somerled, the powerful and ambitious thane of Argyll, who had married Ragahildis, the daughter of Olave, was encouraged to try to gain the throne for his infant son Dougall. He carried the child all through the islands, and compelled the inhabitants to give hostages to him as their true king. When Godred heard of this proceeding he sailed against the rebels with a fleet of eighty galleys, but was so gallantly opposed, that by way of compromise he ceded to the sons of Somerled the Hebrides S of Ardnamurchan, and thus in 1156 the kingdom of the Isles was divided into two portions, and rapidly approached its ruin. In 1158 Somerled, acting nominally for his sons, invaded and devastated the Isle of Man, drove Godred to seek a refuge in Norway, and apparently took possession of all the Isles; while in 1164, becoming still more ambitious, he menaced all Scotland, lauded a powerful force on the Clyde near Renfrew, and there perished either in battle with Malcolm IV., or by assassination in his tent. The northern isles now returned, with the Isle of Man, to Godred; Islay was allotted to Ronald, a son of Somerled; and all the other isles were inherited by Dougall, in whose name they and the whole Hebrides had been seized by Somerled. All these chieftains, and some of their successors, were contemporaneously known as Kings of the Isles, and were subordinate to the King of Norway. Ronald was the ancestor of the Lords of the Isles or Macronalds, and Dougall of the Lords of Lorne or Macdougalls, with their seat at Dunstaffnage The Scots were jealous of a foreign power so near their coasts, and Alexander II. sent ambassadors to King Haco, ' begging him to give up those lands in the Hebrides which King Magnus Barefoot had unjustly taken from King Malcolm.' To this Haco answered that the matter had been settled, and that besides the King of Scotland had not formerly had power in the Hebrides. Alexander next offered to buy the islands, and when this too was refused he collected an army and invaded them. While Alexander was in Kerrera he had a dream in which St. Olaf, St. Magnus, and St. Columba appeared, and bade him return, ' but the King would not, and a little after he fell sick and died., His successor, Alexander III., ' a meike prince, ' did not give the matter up, for in 1262 messengers came to Haco to tell him that the King of Scots would surely win the Hebrides; and complaining also of very barbarous cruelties practised by the Earl of Ross and other Scots. Haco ' made ready swiftly for war, ' and got a large army together, and himself set sail at the head of his fleet in a ' great vessel that was built all of oak, and had twenty banks of oars, and was decked with heads and necks of dragons beautifully overlaid with gold.' After visiting Orkney he sailed to Lewis, and then to Skye, where Magnus, King of Man, met him, and then on to Kerrera, where he was met by King Dougall and the other Hebrideans. The other King of the Isles, John, would not follow Haco, as he held more land of the King of Scotland than of the King of Norway. The expedition ended in the battle of Largs and the defeat of the Norwegians, and Alexander followed this up with such vigour, that in 1265 he obtained from the successor of Haco a cession of all the Isles. Islay, and the islands adjacent to it, continued in the possession of the descendants of Ronald, and Skye and Lewis were conferred on the Earl of Ross, all in vassalage to the Scottish monarch. In the wars of the succession, the houses of Islay and the North Isles gave hearty support to Robert Bruce till 1325, when Roderick Macalan of the North Isles intrigued against the king, and was stripped of his possessions; while about the same date Angus Oig of Islay received accessions to his territories, and became the most powerful vassal of the Crown in the Hebrides. John, the successor of Angus, taking a different course, joined the standard of Edward Baliol, and when that prince was in possession of power, received from him the islands of Skye and Lewis. After Baliol's fall, David II. allowed John to retain possession of Islay, Gigha, Jura, Scarba, Colonsay, Mull, Coll, Tyree, and Lewis; and granted to Ronald, son of Roderick Macalan, Uist, Barra, Eigg, and Rum. Ronald died in 1346 without heirs, and Amie his sister, wife of John, became his heir, and John, consolidating his possessions with his own, assumed the title of Lord of the Isles. In revenge for some fancied slight of the government he rebelled, but was subdued, and in 1369 reconciled to King David. Having divorced his first wife, he married Margaret, daughter of Robert, high steward of Scotland; and in 1370, when Robert succeeded to the throne, altered the destination of the lordship of the Isles so as to make it descend to his offspring by his second wife, the grandchildren of the king. John died in 1380, and was succeeded as Lord of the Isles by Donald, his eldest son by the second marriage. He married Mary Leslie, who afterwards became Countess of Ross, and was thus involved in the well-known contest with the Regent Albany, which resulted in the battle of Harlaw. He had a great reputation in the Hebrides for many good qualities. He died in 1420 in Islay, and was pompously buried beside his father at Iona.

Alexander, the third Lord of the Isles, was formally declared by James I. to be undoubted Earl of Ross, and in 1425 he was one of the jury which sat in judgment on Albany and his sons, as well as the old Earl of Lennox. Having become embroiled with his kinsmen, the descendants of the first Lord of the Isles by his first marriage, and having shared in those conflicts which disturbed the Hebrides so much during the early part of the 15th century, he w as, in 1427, summoned to Inverness with other Highland and Island chieftains, and was arrested and imprisoned. So much did this irritate him, that after regaining his freedom he, in 1429, made a levy throughout the Isles and Ross, and at the head of 10, 000 men devastated the Crown lands in the vicinity of Inverness, and burned the town itself. In his retreat he was overtaken by the King and the royal forces in Lochaber, and was so hard pressed that he resolved to cast himself on the royal clemency; and on the eve of a solemn festival, clothed in the garb of poverty and wretchedness, l e rushed into the King's presence amid his assembled Court at Holyrood, and, surrendering his sword, abjectly sued for pardon. He was imprisoned for two years at Tantallon, and after his release he conducted himself peaceably, and even rose into favour. During the minority of James II. he held the responsible and honourable office of Justiciary of Scotland N of the Forth. In 1445 he returned to his evil ways, and joined in a treasonable league with the Earls of Douglas and Crawford against the infant King, but before the plot had fairly developed he died at Dingwall in 1449.

John, the fourth Lord of the Isles and the third Earl of Ross, having joined the Douglas cause, made a foray on the mainland, and did a considerable amount of mischief, but he very shortly after made his submission, and was received into favour, for in 1457 he filled the very important and responsible office of one of the Wardens of the Marches and in 1460, previous to the siege of Roxburgh Castle, he offered, at the head of 3000 armed vassals, to march in the van of the royal army, so as to bear the first brunt of an expected English invasion; and his loyalty was so trusted that he was ordered to remain as a sort of bodyguard near the King's person. On the accession of James III., however, he became again troublesome, and after sending deputies to England to offer his assistance in case of an invasion, he poured an army into the northern counties of Scotland, and assumed a regal style. It was not till 1475 that he was denounced as a rebel, and summoned to appear before parliament at Edinburgh. He did not appear, and incurred sentence of forfeiture; but when a large force was gathered to enforce the sentence, he came to Edinburgh and threw himself on the King's mercy. With great moderation on the part of the King, he was restored to his forfeited possessions, and, making a voluntary surrender to the Crown of the Earldom of Ross and some other possessions, he was created a baron and a peer of parliament, with the title of Lord of the Isles. He could not, however, keep his rebellious family in order, and in 1493 he was deprived of his title and estate, and, after being for some time a pensioner on the King's household, he sought a retreat in Paisley Abbey, which he and his ancestors had liberally endowed, and there died the last of the Lords of the lsles.

The Lordship of the Isles being thus legally extinct, James IV. seems to have resolved on attempting to prevent the ascendancy of any one family by distributing the power and the territories among a number of the minor chiefs, and in 1496 an effort was made to extend the dominion of the law by making every chieftain in the Isles responsible for the due execution of legal writs upon any of his clan, on pain of becoming personally subject to the penalty exigible from the offender. The King, in 1499, finding all his efforts to produce order unavailing, suddenly changed his policy, revoked all the charters given to the chiefs, and commissioned Archibald, Earl of Argyll, and others, to let on short leases all the lands of the lordship as they stood at the date of forfeiture. Donald Dubh, who was generally regarded as the representative of the last Lord of the Isles, and who had been kept in prison to prevent him from agitating his claims, escaped in 1503, and, finding the district in a disturbed condition, in consequence of the royal measures, had but little difficulty in raising an armed force, which he led to the mainland. There he laid the whole of Badenoch waste, and the insurrection assumed such a formidable character that two years were required for the vindication of the King's authority. In 1504 the islanders were expelled from the mainland, and in the following year the King personally led his forces against the islands in the S, while Huntly attacked them on the N, and the rebellion was quelled. Torquil Macleod of Lewis and some other chiefs still holding out in despair, a third expedition was undertaken in 1506, and led to the capture of the castle of Stornoway, and Donald Dubh was again made prisoner, and shut up in Edinburgh Castle. Justiciaries were appointed for the North Isles and South Isles respectively-the courts of the former being held at Inverness or Dingwall, and those of the latter at Tarbert or Lochkilkerran; attempts were made to disseminate a knowledge of the laws, and the royal authority became so established that the King, up to his death in 1513, was popular throughout the islands. In the confusion that followed the battle of Flodden, Sir Donald of Lochalsh seized the royal strengths in the islands, made a devastating irruption upon Inverness-shire, and proclaimed himself Lord of the Isles. In 1515 he made his submission to the Regent, and though he attempted in 1517 to bring about another rising, this proved a failure. There was another outbreak in 1528, caused by the withdrawal of many of the grants of Crown lands, and in 1539 Donald Gorme of Sleat made a determined effort to place the Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross on their old independent footing. His death was at once followed by the failure of the insurrection, and the matter led to the voyage of James V. round the Isles in 1540. The King's measures were vigorous and effective; but after his death in 1542 Donald Dubh escaped, and, receiving support from all the Islesmen except the Macdonalds of Islay, again dangerously disturbed the peace of the realm. He was encouraged by the fickle dealing of Albany, and in 1545 swore allegiance to England. Donald, however, died that year, and the chiefs of the southern islands then elected James Macdonald of Islay to succeed him. The Macleods of Lewis and Harris, the Macneils of Barra, the Mackinnons, and the Macquarries, however, held aloof, and obtained a reconciliation with the Regent; while in the following year the island chiefs generally were amnestied, and returned to their allegiance. James Macdonald then dropped the assumed title of Lord of the Isles, and he seems to have been the last person who even usurpingly bore it, or on whose behalf a revival of. it was attempted. The subsequent history of the Hebrides is that of the mainland.

The Hebrides belonged to various clans. In the Outer Hebrides, Lewis was in the possession of the Macleods of Lewis; while Harris belonged to the Macleods of Harris; North uist, Benbecula, and South Uist to the Macdonalds of Clan Donald; and Barra to the Macneils. In the Inner Hebrides, Skye and the adjacent islands were divided among the Macleods, Macdonalds, and Mackinnons; the Small Isles were held by the Macdonalds; Tyree, Coll, and Mull by the Macleans; Ulva by the Macquarries; Colonsay by Clan Duffie or the Macfies; Islay and the S end of Jura as far as Loch Tarbert by the southern branch of the Macdonalds; the N end of Jura and the adjacent islands as far as Luing by the Macleans; Lismore by the Stewarts of Appin; and Kerrera by the Macdougals.

See Martin's Description of the Western Islands; Pennant's Tour; Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland; Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides; Gregory's History of the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland; Macculloch's Description of the Western Islands of Scotland (1819); Buchanan's Land of Lorne (1871), and 2d edition under the title of The Hebrid Isles (1883); Chambers's journal for 1876; Mr Walker's report in the Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture (1881); Alex. Mackenzie's History of the Macdonalds and Lords of the Isles (Inverness, 1881); and All the Year Round for April 1883.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better