A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland

The following is from A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland by Martin Martin:

The Island of Gigha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Island of Jura

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