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Books on Jura


Until now, the only book of substance written on the Isle of Jura was by Donald Budge. Published in 1960, his book has become a classic. It is now out of print, very difficult to find, quite pricey and, more than likely, it is out of the price range of many people. I’ve only known of two copies to come on the market in the last ten years and both sold for $100 or more. Budge’s book is one that book owners do not lend! Until now, other than the fairly recent and excellent work of Gordon Wright and Norman Tait, who published pictorial books or small pamphlets about Jura, there is not much on the market that would give one a concise portrait of what the Bard of Jura, Neil Shaw, referred to in his epic poem, Crossing To Jura, as the "Dearest Island under Heaven". Until now, a major work has never been written about Jura. Until now

Peter Youngson has changed all that with his 550-page book on Jura that is definitive, easily read, not nearly as expensive, and one that gives the reader a feeling of having "been there" when he or she has finished reading the book. Who is Mr. Youngson? He served the Jura Parish Church from 1975–1988. Any of you who have been fortunate to dip your toes into the waters of the Sound of Jura probably visited the Parish Church. In a back room of the church, there are walls lined with pictures of Jura residents through the years that will take you back in time as few events will. This is Peter Youngson’s work, a gift to all of us before he left Jura.

Why, you may ask, are you reviewing a book about a small isle that basically has not even been discovered by Scotland’s own people? Easy answer. Hundreds of people left Jura over the years to settle throughout various places on the eastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean, but mostly they found their way up the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. They settled around what is now Fayetteville, branching out into Cumberland County (yes, that one named "Butcher" of Culloden) and later into Bladen County, where my ancestors settled straight off the boat from Jura. The Governor of North Carolina was giving land away and, for people who did not even have the proverbial pot, this was a gift from heaven. It is stated in Scots Magazine that in 1768 "between forty and fifty families have gone from the island of Jura for Cape Fear in Carolina to settle thereabout and in Georgia." This happened over and over.

Youngson has done the Scottish community a great favor by writing this book. It is more than just a book about a small, neglected Hebridean Isle. It is about  a way of life on this Scottish island that was mirrored in both the Outer and Inner island communities of the Hebrides. It tells of the problems faced while scratching out a meager living under sad circumstances and how later the people of Jura had to endure the hard line of management they lived under when the Campbells of Jura took possession of the island from the MacDonalds. These hard working people would have qualified for food stamps in today’s world. They would be some of the same people some of us ridicule in the grocery store.

You will read about the man who killed Lachlan Mor, a Jura man, "a dwarf hatched by the devil," who offered his services to Maclean only to be insulted by Lachlan and told he would disgrace his followers with such a contemptible figure. Dubhsith, as he was called, went over to the MacDonald’s side, was warmly welcomed and later, during battle, let go an arrow that found its mark just beneath the armpit of Lachlan. His decision to insult the little man cost him his life.

Citing the Manuscript History of Craignish, the author tells the story of the fight between the Shaws and Campbells. John Dou Campbell was killed by the Shaws. The "why?" is not mentioned. Later Ronald Campbell and his men slew fifteen Shaws in revenge "not sparing the chief of them although at the time married to his own sister". Ronald, now being afraid of his neighbors, ran straight to the Earl of Argyll for protection. In 1604, a bond was signed by both parties forgiving each other of the slaughter with a penalty of 1,000 merks for breaking the bond. I do not know how much a "merk" was back then, but it must have been a sizable amount since, as far as I know, the peace between the Campbells and Shaws was never broken.

Following in the footsteps of the Bard of Jura, Neil Shaw, this book could easily have been entitled JURA: Dearest Isle Under Heaven. What a great book to have as fall approaches, when the days and nights put a chill in the air, and we don sweaters and coats, make hot soup, and settle down by the fireplace with this good book in hand for a nice read. You’ll spend a little time with Youngson’s book, but you will be glad you did so. My son, Scott, gave me a cup a few years ago that quotes Thomas Jefferson: "I cannot live without books," and JURA: Island of Deer fits into that category.

I paid £34.75 ($51.78 @ $1.49 per pound) to Fiona, a friend on Jura, for the book, including shipping. You will find this book at Ward Weems and Sons. Ward advertises in The Family Tree, and we like to support those who do. The book was published this year by Birlinn Ltd (www.birlinn.co.uk) in Edinburgh, Scotland, ISBN 1 84158 136 4.

I will be glad to receive a Scottish author’s new book for review consideration. However, whether the book is reviewed or not, it becomes the property of The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library. Note: For the record, it is worth mentioning that this writer buys his own books for review in this column. By the time I have finished with a book, it is marked for life and, while it may be "messed up for you," the markings provide me with a highway through the book when I pick it up again. More importantly, this way the library gets a new, unmarked copy for all to enjoy.


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