Rum


(Rùm, Rhum)

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.

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Rum, an island of the Inner Hebrides in the county of Argyll, and in the parish of Small Isles. It is separated from Skye on the N and NE by Cuillin Sound, across which the coast of Rum is 67/8 miles N of Rudh'an Dunain or Dunain Point, at the entrance to Loch Brittle, 6 S by W of the southerly point of Soay, 9 SW of Strathaird Point between Loch Scavaig and Loch Eishart, and 8½ W of the Point of Sleat. The coast is also 4½ miles NW of the nearest part of the island of Eigg, 7 N by W of Muck, and 15 N by W of Ardnamurchan. On the NW it is separated from Canna by the Sound of Canna. 33/8 miles wide to the island of Canna, and 2 to the adjacent island of Sanday. The lonely Hyskeir or Oigh-sgeir Islands are 11 miles W of the mouth of Glen Harris. In shape Rum is somewhat like a dumpy pear, with the long diameter N and S. The extreme length in this direction is 8½ miles, and the extreme width from E to W is 8 miles. There are some small bays at the mouth of Kilmory Glen on the N, at the mouth of Glen Harris on the SW, and elsewhere; but the only indentation of any size is on the E side at the broadest part, where Loch Scresort opens inland with a length of 1¼ mile, and a breadth of 11/8 mile at the mouth; and forms a safe and convenient harbour. From this loch to Guirdil on the NW side the coast consists of low rocks or cliffs, with here and there small strips of beach, but round the greater part of the rest of the island there is a series of cliffs rising at many points to heights of over 300 feet above sea-level, and in many places sinking sheer into the sea, though occasionally there are strips of foreshore. The whole surface is very rough and hilly, and of the total area of 30, 000 acres little more than one-twentieth is under cultivation. A narrow valley runs westward from Loch Scresort along Kinloch river, and passes across the watershed into the low ground that opens to the sea at Seilisdeir and Guirdil, but the rest of the island may almost be described as a wild sea of hills. The lowest portion is that to the N of the transverse hollows, where a height of 635 feet is reached N of Loch Scresort at Meall a Ghoirtein, and 902 at Sagorishal at the W side of Kilmory Glen. To the S of the central hollows a line of high ground begins at Mam Tuach (988 feet), and extends westward along Monadh Mhiltich at a height of over 800 feet, farther W still of over 1100, and rising between this and the western part of the SW coast of the island into a lofty cliff-edged plateau, the highest points of which are 1869 and 1641 feet above sea-level. To the NW near the most westerly point of the island there is the lower plateau of Sgòr Mor, the highest point of which, to the N, is 1272 feet high. The wildest and roughest part of the island is, however, to the S and SE, where, to the N of Glen Harris, is An Dornabac (858 feet), and higher up Bhaire-mheall (1924). Across the top of the glen is a narrow sharp-pointed ridge running from N to S with the northern shoulder 1770 feet high, and the highest points at Ailbe-meall (2368) and Aisge-mheall (2659)*-the highest point in the island; and SW of this is the wider ridge of which the summits are Ais-mheall (2552), Beinn More (2505), and Sgòr nan Gillean (2503). From the last a cliff-edged plateau runs westward at a height of about 1500 feet, the highest art being 1607.' The geology of the island of Rum, 'says Hugh Miller,' is simple but curious. Let the reader take, if he can, from twelve to fifteen trap-hills, varying from 1000 to 2300 feet in height; let him pack them closely and squarely together, like rum-bottles in a case-basket; let him surround them with a frame of Old Red Sandstone, measuring rather more than seven miles on the side in the way the basket surrounds the bottles; then let him set them down in the sea a dozen miles off the land, and he shall have produced a second island of Rum, similar in structure to the existing one. In the actual island, however, there is a defect in the inclosing basket of sandstone; the basket, complete on three of its sides, wants the fourth; and the side opposite to the gap which the fourth would have occupied is thicker than the two other sides put together. ' The sandstones are not, however, of Old Red age, but are probably Cambrian, and these, with some masses of Lower Silurian rocks, occupy the NW, NE, and SE sides of the island, while the interior and W consist of great masses of eruptive crystalline rocks which have burst through the older strata, the latter being everywhere violently upheaved and contorted, and extensively metamorphosed, as they approach the great central mass. The volcanic rocks form wild and rugged peaks, and are the remains of a great volcanic mountain that at one time occupied the centre and S of the island. Sgòr Mor on the W is famous for its minerals, including pitchstone, heliotropes, and beautiful agates. The hills of Mull being the first land between Mull and Skye to meet the clouds coming in from the Atlantic, the climate is very wet, and there is a large number of streams, the largest being Kinloch river, flowing through Kinloch River Glen, W of Loch Scresort; Kilmory river, flowing through Kilmory Glen in the N; Abhuinn Duibhal and Abhuinn Fiadhinnish on either side of Glen Harris, and Abhuinn Rhangail in Glen Harris, all near the centre of the south -western side; Dibidil river, in Glen Dibidil, to the E of Ben More; and about 40 smaller streams. In the centre of the island is Loch Sgathaig; SSE of it Loch Gainmhich; in the NW, Loch Sgaorishal; on Abhuinn Fiadhinnish, Loch Fiadhinnis; NE of Aisge-mbeall, Loch Coire nan Grund -none of them covering more than 19 acres-and there are a number of smaller lochans. In the Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, by Donald Monro, Dean of the Isles, who visited the Hebrides in 1549, the name is given as Ronin, and the island is described as abounding with' little deire 'and wild fowl, but there seem to have been few inhabitants, for he says that' the fowls hes few to start them except deir.' Prior to 1826 the crofters and their families numbered at least 400, but in that year all, save one family, were cleared off to America, and the whole island was converted into a single sheep-farm, so that at the end of 1828 the sole inhabitants were the sheep farmer and his shepherds. A year or two after some families from Skye were allowed to settle at Loch Scresort. In 1845 Rum was sold to be converted into a deer-forest, and to deer and sheep it is still mostly given up. Pop. (1831) 134, (1861) 73, (1871) 81, (1881) 89, of whom 45 were males and 44 females. Houses (1881), 83 inhabited, 1 uninhabited, and 1 building.

* Perhaps more familiar under the forms of Halival and Haiskeval.

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

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