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