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


When the necessities of the Macleod family compelled sales, Harris, their first possession, was purchased by a clansman. Since, it has more than once changed hands, and as the Southern portion, including Rodil, the ancient place of sepulture, is now in the market, it would be agreeable to Highlanders of the present Macleod, who has lately succeeded under favourable conditions, should re-acquire the duchus of his most ancient house.

In 1805 the then proprietor of Harris had become pinched, and sold St. Kilda to a clansman who had worthily maintained the reputation of the clan in India. This was Colonel Donald Macleod, who had either bought or succeeded to the small estate of Auchagoyle, in the county of Argyll, and was intimately associated with and appointed one of his trustees by Colonel John Baillie, father of the last Baillie of Dunain.

St. Kilda in 1805 was tenanted in chief, by William Macneill in Pabbay of Harris, with numerous sub-tenants. He lived at Pabbay, and was summoned to remove by Colonel Donald Macleod as at Whitsunday 1805. For some reason Macneill was unwilling to go and fought the case pertinaciously. When there was no dispensation, or the fixing of a messuage whereat to take sasine, formerly it was necessary for the Notary to go to the grounds. Unless a proprietor were infeft, he could not remove tenants if they were there prior to his becoming owner. It was quite recently Colonel Macleod had become owner, and at that early period of the year it was unlikely a Notary could visit St. Kilda. Even to this day the Islanders see no stranger for months yearly. The summons of removal was dated on the 2nd of March 1805 and called in Court forty days before the term. After decree was extracted the whole proceedings were opened up anew, when it appeared that Colonel Macleod had been able to get a Notary to visit the island and take infeftnient as early as the 19th of March, which infeftment was registered on the 3rd of April, and then Colonel Macleod's title was complete. New objections were however proponed, one being that the Notary, an elderly retired writer, was not certificated, having ceased practising or not taken out the licence without which, involving an annual payment, it was argued the Notary was exauctorate and disqualified to act. But all the defences were repelled and decree granted.

Colonel Macleod's son, John, was the distinguished East Indian official, afterwards Sir John Macpherson Macleod, who did a great deal for the comfort and better housing of the Islanders. By request of the late Norman Macleod of Macleod, Sir John agreed to re-convey the island, and it now and for some years past, is the property of Macleod.

Sir John also purchased the one half of Glendale in Skye, which has turned out an unpleasant investment for his representatives.

The description of St Kilda from the older titles ran— "the 2 lands of Hargiebost, and island of St. Kilda," afterwards—"the Island of St. Kilda, being part of the estate of Harris and the small islands, contiguous thereto, viz., Borera, Soa and Duvin, with the insulated rocks adjacent, all lying within the Parish of Kilbride, now Harris, and shire of Inverness." The name of St. Kilda in Gaelic is Hirst," or " Hirsta."

While all must wish the interesting Islanders well, the future outlook, particularly as regards fuel, must shortly be regarded as serious to all concerned.

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