Eigg

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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Eigg or Egg, an island in Small Isles parish, Inverness-shire. It lies 3 miles NE of Muck, 4 SE of Rum, 5 SW of Sleat Point, and 7½ W of Arisaig. It measures 6½ miles in length from NNE to SSW, 4 miles in extreme breadth, and 5590 acres in area. It is intersected in the middle, from sea to sea, by a glen; and it takes thence its name of Eigg, originally Ec, signifying a ' nick' or ' hollow.' It is partly low, flat, and arable; partly hilly, rocky, and waste. A promontory, upwards of 1½ mile in length, exhibits columnar cliffs almost equal in beauty to those of Staffa, and rises into a hill, called the Scuir of Eigg, 1339 feet in altitude, of peculiar romantic contour, skirted with precipices, and crowned with a lofty columnar peak. The rocks, both in that promontory and in other parts, possess high interest for geologists, and are graphically and minutely described by Hugh Miller in his Cruise of the Betsy. Numerous caves, some of them wide and spacious, others low and narrow, are around the coast. An islet, called Eilan-Chastel or Castle Island, lies to the S, separated from Eigg by a sound which serves as a tolerable harbour for vessels not exceeding 70 tons in burden. About 900 acres are cultivated for cereal crops, and are fairly productive. Scandinavian forts, or remains of them, are in various parts; a barrow, alleged to mark the grave of St Donnan, is on Kildonnain farm; and a narrow-mouthed cavern in the S, expanding inward, and measuring nearly 213 feet in length, has yielded many skulls and scattered bones of human beings. In 617 St Donnan, one of the 'Family of Iona,' went, with his muintir, or monastic family, 52 in number, to the Western Isles, and took up his abode in Eigg, ' where the sheep of the queen of the country were kept. This was told to the queen. Let them all be killed, said she. That would not be a religions act, said her people. But they were murderously assailed. At this time the cleric was at mass. Let us have respite till mass is ended, said Donnan. Thon shall have it, said they. And when it was over, they were slain every one of them' (Skene's Celtic Scotland, ii. 152, 1877). Yet grimmer is the cavern's history. Towards the close of the 16th century, a band of the Macleods, chancing to land on the island, were hospitably welcomed by the inhabitants, till, having offered rudeness to the maidens, they were bound hand and foot, and sent adrift in a boat. Rescued by a party of their own clansmen, they were brought to Dunvegan, the stronghold of their chief, to whom they told their story, and who straightaway manned his galleys and hastened to Eigg. On descrying his approach, the Macdonalds, with their wives and children, to the number of 200, took refuge in a cave. Here for two days they remained undiscovered, but, having sent out a scout to see if the foe was departed, their retreat was detected. A waterfall partly concealed the mouth of the cave. This Macleod caused to be turned from its course, and, heaping up wood around the entrance, set fire to the pile, and suffocated all who were within (Skene's Highlanders, ii. 277, 1837). Eigg has a post office under Oban, Small Isles parish church and manse, a Roman Catholic church (1844), and a public school. Pop. (1831) 452, (1851) 546, (1861) 309, (1871) 282, (1881) 291.

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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