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Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical and Social
(Second Series) Inverness-Shire, Parish by Parish
Chapter XII. Small Isles


CANNA AND EIGG.

The modern parish of Small Isles comprehends the four islands of Canna, Rum, Eigg, and Muck, whereof, by the will of Lord Lorne of ever profane memory, all but Eigg are in the county of Argyle. Canna and Eigg belonged to the Clanranalds, and upon these islands I desire to make some observations. In 1798 the rental of Canna was as follows :-

Duncan Macarthur was ground officer, and Macneill factor, of Canna. It was reputed a fertile island and, now practically uninhabited, contained in 1772 a population of not less than 220 souls, who had neither church nor school, only a catechist. It will be recollected that while at Canna, Alastair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair composed most of his poetry, for the amusement, it is said, of the factor for the time.

The valuations on the Clanranald estates were all penny lands, sub-divided into halfpenny and farthing lands. To stock a penny land, according to Pennant's information, required a sum of 30 sterling, and it carried seven cows and two horses.

In 1745 the principal tenant of Canna was John Macdonald, who had the fifteen pennies of Tarbert and three pennies of Garistill, being no doubt the identical subject included in 1798 under the head of the eighteen penny lands of Tarbert. John Macdonald's rent was 360 merks or about 20, so that rents even in Canna were rising rapidly in the last half of the eighteenth century. This John Macdonald was in circumstances to lend in April 1745, no less than 4000 merks Scots to young Clanranald.

The island of Eigg, at one time belonging entirely to Clanranald, consisted of 30 merks land, whereof 9 merks were given off to Morar, but afterwards re-acquired by Clanranald, and thereafter possessed as one individual whole.

Eigg is rich in ecclesiastical remains. The Church stood at Kildonan, on the east side of the island, and there are wells dedicated to Saint Duncan and Saint Catharine, and cairns to Saint Martin and the Virgin Mary. Roderick of the Isles, ancestor cf the Clanranalds, was owner of Eigg in the time of Robert the Bruce. Unlike Canna and Rum, the people of Eigg were not dispossessed, and if the whole lands were thrown open the people would have enough to make them contented and prosperous.

The rental in 1798 was thus :-

I have been in the Island on more than one occasion, and in 1885 visited the cave, getting a very small bone, also ascending the Scuir. The day was fine, and the view, looking down upon Muck, and to the mountains of the west mainland and Mull, magnificent. I was not then in robust health; the exertion was almost beyond my strength, and I desire to tender my thanks again to the Priest and Free Church clergyman of Eigg, who not only favoured me with their company but gave me actual bodily assistance, which I much needed, for my saddle was fastened with a piece of rope.

I heard a curious circumstance connected with the people of Arisaig, to the effect that, from want of a mill, they had to send their grindable corn across the stormy seas to the mill of Eigg. On the other hand the people of Eigg have to send to Arisaig for a doctor.

Following out the plan of taking parish by parish, and having now exhausted western Inverness-shire, I shall ask the reader to accompany me next to the Isle of Skye, and afterwards to the Long Island.


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