Moidart Local Council Notes
by Tim Roberton

Council Minutes - an overview 1895-1906

The Minute Book from which the extracts have been drawn, is kept at Inverness Public Library in the Public Records Office. A fuller extract appears on this site and is called

The combined Parish Council was formed in 1895, merging Arisaig with Moidart and dropping a part of Ardnamurchan

It seems that at the very end of the nineteenth century, probably as a requirement of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1894, (to which indirect references are made) that Arisaig and Moidart (A&M) formed a combined Parish Council and withdrew some existing overlap from parts of Ardnamurchan. They had to re-organise the Medical services in the area and appoint a new Inspector to report upon the Poor in the Parish.

As the council evolved over the next ten years, it became slightly more sophisticated financially. But it always retained its basic purpose which was to be a group of local people looking after local peoples' needs. These embraced assisting the poor with help in finance or kind, looking after public health issues like vaccination and, organising rate collection and finance for local schools in Arisaig, Moidart and Acharacle.

For the whole of the period covered by the Minute Book, Col Macdonald of Glenaladale was in the Chair

The Parish Council were a mixture of "Gentlemen and Players" and they were either "Esq" or "Mr" in the earlier minutes. The chair was inevitably taken by Col Macdonald CB of Glenaladale, who for the ten years covered by the Minute Book, was every year re-elected "unanimously".

Other landowners also served on the Council at various times, such as Arthur Nicholson from Arisaig House, James Head of Inverailort, William Blackburn of Roshven and John Charles Stewart of Kinlochmoidart.

There were also local Reverends and Priests such as A MacDonald and D MacIntosh and a number of local farmers and crofters, including Angus MacIntosh from Cliff (Dorlin), Simon MacDougald of Langall and Donald MacDonald of Bunicault.

The Council met about four times a year and a lot of its time was devoted to looking after the needs of the poor in the Parish

The Council met about four times a year and, during its later years, had a separate Finance & Clothing Committee, which reviewed the poor and their needs in particular.

The poor in the Parish totaled a running average of about forty, divided approximately equally between Arisaig and Moidart. In addition, about fifteen poor people who had been born in the district and who thus qualified for assistance, but no longer lived in the Parish, had their financial upkeep underwritten by money being sent by the Council to other Parish Councils. Finally, there were about a dozen lunatics who received poor relief; half of them were in an asylum in Inverness and the other half were looked after "in a private dwelling" by a paid attender.

There were poor Houses in Langal, Kinlochmoidart and Tobermory

Poor Houses were located at Langal, Kinlochmoidart and in Tobermory in Mull, the last of which was "Combined" into the Parish under Poor Law Regulations.

There were a number of issues of local interest then, which are still relevant today, such as the building of the Railway and the renaming of Kinlochailort

In addition to their statutory duties, the Council every now and then during this ten year period had a few little excitements. Like the time that:

  • The Mallaig Railway was being built and the road became bad so the matter was taken up with the contractors
  • Widow Kennedy on Eilean Shona applied for a grant to give one of her boys some training and the Parish Council underwrote his apprenticeship as a tailor with MacIntyre at Shiel bridge
  • The Paupers' House at Kinlochmoidart was in such bad repair that Robert Stewart offered to rent a house to the Council at £2 per annum
  • The Poor House at Langall, rented from the Dorlin Estate, had a leaky roof which the Parish Council repaired, although they did not go so far as to replace some rotten flooring or wood-line a room, as requested by the priest who wrote the original letter of request
  • Two proprietors, namely Mrs. Head who agreed to let the name Kinlochailort lapse on the Post Office and be renamed the Post Office Loch Ailort and, Mr Nicholson from Arisaig House who agreed that the hotel could be similarly renamed Loch Ailort Hotel, upset the Parish Council, who preferred Kinlochailort, as did old Professor Blackburn
  • The railway caused the demise of the MacBraynes boat service (four times a week in winter, daily in summer) to Rhu and the Council, who felt that both passengers and freight had been discommoded wrote petitioning for a new siding to be built at the viaduct at Loch nam Uam
    Mrs. Head caused "difficulties" over a public right of way across her land to the sea shore and the Parish Council were "outraged" and wrote to the District and later the County Council when they did not receive a satisfactory reply
  • Some of the paupers' roofs were rethatched at the cost of about £5 each
    Cloth and suits and clothes were supplied sometimes to paupers. There is an example of a pauper who applied for a suit, to leave the Tobermory Poor House, because he felt capable of working again. Suppliers of suits were confined to two approved merchants in Kinlochmoidart and in Arisaig
  • JC Stewart suggested that half the Council meetings should be held at Glenfinnan instead of Lochailort, because it would be easier for the members of Moidart to get there. The others did not agree

All this shows a microcosm of a council dealing with poverty and small local issues, made up of about ten locals (half "worthies" and half real locals), and supported by Medical Officers attending the poor and providing statutory vaccinations and a Clerk/Inspector/Collector, all of which posts were filled simultaneously by Mr Alexander Gibson, apparently rather successfully.

See also Public Record Office Inverness, Highland Regional Archive ref 253, Ardnamurchan, correspondence and minutes of meetings of Ardnamurchan Parish Council re: division of the parish, re-adjustment of rates, 1892-1894 (g)