The Anatomie of the Parish & Barony of Ardnamoruchan and Swinard
(Ardnamurchan & Sunart)
by John Dye

I recently had the opportunity to examine a copy of a page headed 'The Anatomie of the Parish & Barony of Ardnamurchan and Swinard'. Although the date is not printed, R. A. Dodgshon, in 'From Chiefs to Landlords', notes its publication date as 1740 and its author as Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope.

A wealth of information is given in tabular form. The main table is in two parts, the top covering the 32 districts of Ardnamurchan, starting at 'Terbart' (I will use the original spelling) and finishing at 'Acharakle'. The first section gives details of population: 957 in all, of which children were the largest group at 351. The highest population per district was Achateny with 55, followed by 'Skinad' with 46.

The next section covers the areas rented, in 'Penny-land' and 'No. of acres on each Tenement'. I assume penny-land refers to the number of rented portions in each area, it varies from 9 at 'Achahosnich' to 1 each at 'Gortonfern' and 'Lethick'. The number of acres per tenement may indicate the productivity of the land and this varies from 500 at 'Braynanault' to 4050 at Laga.

There is a section on stock, but it is not clear if these are the actual numbers or the theoretical numbers on which rent is calculated. There seems to be no direct relationship with the number of tenants or the size of the holdings. The numbers of 'cowes' and sheep are the same for each area with the number of horses being about a quarter of these. Most of the numbers are multiples of 12, e.g. 'Ormsaigmoir' has 48 'cowes', 12 horses and 48 sheep. The Ardnamurchan area is noted as carrying 2016 cowes, 489 horses and 2016 sheep, which seemed to be rather more sheep than I expected a full century before the Clearances.

The next seven sections cover various charges and rents placed on each area, both in cash and in kind. Interestingly, the cash amounts are detailed to one third of a penny. Generally it seemed that each tenant paid between one and two pounds per annum, although for some reason those at 'Terbart' and Laga paid more. There followed details of 'Meat Duty' - cheese, butter and sheep; 'Presents' - cheese, butter, sheep, kids and 'veals', Land-Tax or Cess. - in cash; 'Tyths or Trind' - in Bolls and Firlets (measures of corn, a firlot being a quarter of a boll); the value of the forgoing; and finally 'Vicarage' - in cash. At the end was the cash equivalent of all these payments, which showed that the heaviest charge fell upon 'Achahosnich' at over £21 with Mingary second at over £20.

The last two columns are, for me the most interesting. The first covers 'Naturall and Uncommon Product' and covers all of the non-agricultural production in each area. A lot of the descriptions are unclear: 'Sea Ware' presumably means fish and shellfish and possibly seaweed, but what does 'Cattel' mean, when cows, sheep and horses are already counted? Sixteen of the districts were noted as having 'Shell Sand', I remember the late Alec MacKay telling me that the township of Kentra was recovered from the moss using shell sand from around Ardtoe Pier - presumably the process went on all over the coastal Highlands. Laga was noted as having 'excellent miln stones', 'Bourblaige' had 'Vains of talck', 'Skinad' had 'Limestone, Marle & Slate'. 'Girgadale', Achnaha and 'Glendrien' had 'Pearl', Mingary and Kilchoan produced iron ore and Mingary also had copper ore. Ormsaigbeg and 'Swordilchorach' had 'Marble', a great many places had 'Woods' but only 'Ardtoe and Watterfoot' had 'Salmon & Fishing' although 'Fish' were noted for 'Terbart' and Laga.

The last column gives counted tree numbers for the districts surveyed in 1725, only six counts for all Ardnamurchan. The most tree-covered was 'Terbart' and Laga, with 28,000, closely followed by 'Acharakle' with just over 20,000.

In notes added to the figures, it appears that Glenbeg and Achateny were the only places with a 'miln'.

The 'Swenard' (it is spelt both ways on the page) section covers 20 communities from Achnalea to Derrydaff. No details are given of the populations of Ardnastaing and Derrydaff . The total population of people (1352) and cattle (3176) was considerably higher than for Ardnamurchan, and the rental/taxation was also higher. In trees also, Sunart was richer than Ardnamurchan, or at least in counted trees. Between them, 'Achanellan', Derrydaff and 'Glashorran' had more than all Ardnamurchan.

Among the 'Naturall and Uncommon Product' section, Achnalea and 'Carnach' had 'Salmon, fish and herring'. Nine districts had 'Lead' or 'Lead veins', the latter including 'Razebale' ', Camusine and 'Anahylt'. The entry for 'Arriundill' is: 'The famous lead vein, new working'.

My thanks to the late John Cameron, Hollybank, Acharacle, for this information.