The Moidart Timewarp
by Tim Roberton

1776 - 1800
In which the ban on the kilt was lifted, the American War of Independence took place, an estimate for building Brunery bridge was received, the fortfeited estate of Kinlochmoidart was handed back to the Macdonalds, the Young Pretender died in Rome, the Lucy sailed to Prince Edward Island with twenty three people from Eilean Shona, the price of cattle and kelp rose and landlords became considerably richer. Macdonald the banker built Dalilea House.

1776 American Declaration of Independence. A New History of Great Britain, RB Mowat, page 521

1776 Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations A New History of Great Britain, RB Mowat, page 618 …"Furthermore, as the social and economic transformation of Scotland in the eighteenth century gathered pace, the traditional heartland of Jacobite support was subject to increasing marginalisation as the central belt became more dominant. As Jacobitism had ceased to be an effective military and political force after 1746, the real conflict over Scotland's religious and national identity was between the Covenanting and Moderate vision of Presbyterianism". Eighteenth Century Scotland , New Perspectives, Edited TM Devine and JR Young, Essay" Keeping the Covenant: Scottish National Identity", Richard J Findlay, page 124

1779 Paid John Stevenson 50 as last moiety of the expense of a bridge at Kinlochmoidart. Clanranald & Robertson MacDonald papers ref E 482 MFS Nat Lib Scot

1779 Estimate for Brunery Bridge, 1 mile above Old Mansion House. 92.0.0 Stevenson. Clanranald & Robertson MacDonald papers E 482 MFS Nat Lib Scot

1779 Susanna MacDonald, daughter-in-law of Donald MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart wrote that whatever the Commissioners might have done to other estates, not a shilling had hitherto been laid out on Kinlochmoidart, despite its being so remote. The public road from Strontian had boats at all the ferries except across the River Moidart, and she considered a boat there absolutely necessary. A similar petition from her husband had been read in 1775, and in 1779 a contract was signed for 100 to an Oban mason, John Stevenson, allowing the tenants' services for carriage of rubble, stone flags, limestone and coal and for filling up the ends of the bridge, and timber from the Lochiel firwoods to make cooms and centres. Also necessary was a specially made landing stage. Jacobite Estates of the Forty Five Annette M Smith Donald 1982 Ref E764/31,3,4;E764/33

1780 "Vessels used to call at Loch Moidart with cargoes of barley from Uist and Tiree to be converted into malt, and depart with cargoes of wood". Distilling was a domestic industry in the Highlands in the eighteenth century, with many farm towns owning a small still or pot and the tenants sharing the costs and the profits. But legislation passed in the 1780s imposed a heavy licence on whisky manufacture and defined a minimum size for stills, so effectively putting small-scale Highland distilling beyond the law. As a result the "sma stills" went underground, and liquor smuggling became both necessary and profitable. It was the successive relaxation of the Laws after 1815, as well as the more effective deployment of excise officers, that took away the profit and the need. Moidart Among the Clanranalds p223Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts

1780 yet another MacDonald (see 1761), Alexander MacDonald, succeeded Bishop John MacDonald in 1780 Eighteenth Century Scotland, New Perspectives, TM Devine and JR Young, page 96, Essay by James F McMillan

1782 House finished July. 242.13.0 Change House by Glen Forslan, Duilad. Clanranald & Robertson MacDonald Papers ref 482 MFS Nat Lib Scot. "The house, built in or after 1782, was standing until the 1980's, when it was demolished". Kinlochmoidart House, Stephen Jefferson, 1995

1782 Proclamation lifting the ban on Highland dress was announced "This is declaringto every man, young and old, Commons and Gentles, that they may after this put on and wear the Trews, the little kilt, the doublet and Hose, along with the Tartan Kilt, without fear of the Law of the Land or the jealousy of enemies….". This had no immediate impact as the old attachment to Highland dress had died in a generation. The clans were no longer, their true identity had gone with the broadsword and their chiefs and the wearing of a kilt was an affectation for gentlemen or for those who had joined a Highland Regiment. It was not until forty years later, when Walter Scott stage managed the visit of George the Fourth to Edinburgh, that the Gothic picture of the Highlands emerged as being representative of Scotland as a whole. Culloden, John Prebble p311; also see The King's Jaunt, John Prebble

1783 Peace after American War of Independence saw a renewed influx of Scottish emigrants. BBC Documentary on Clearances

1784 Kinlochmoidart estate papers mention eight tenants who made kelp, five from Kyles, Ian Og and three from Mor. The process involved gathering weed, drying and burning it, after which it was shipped to the Clyde for use in bleaching and the manufacture of glass and soap. Prices peaked during the Napoleonic Wars, but the peace, and a series of Acts favouring alternative methods of manufacture, brought a massive decline in the industry in the 1820s. Moidart Among the Clanranalds p222Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts

1784 By 1784 it was even considered safe and politic to hand the forfeited estates back on generous terms to the families of their original owners; the Government never had reason to regret this stroke of magnanimity. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 271

1784 Kinlochmoidart dis-annexed to son of the previous owner, namely John MacDonald, son and heir of Colonel Alexander MacDonald, who forfeited the estate. Jacobite Estates of the Forty Five Annette M Smith Donald 1982 P244

1785 New legislation allowed John MacDonald to recover his estates upon payment of 1,111.15.Kinlochmoidart House Stephen Jefferson 1995. Abstract of the Act for restoring the Forfeited Estates…"To John MacDonald, eldest son and heir of the deceased Lt Col Alexander MacDonald of the 71st Regiment, who was the eldest son of Donald MacDonald, late of Kinlochmoidart and his heirs and assigns, the lands etc. forfeited by the said Donald MacDonald upon paying 1,111.15.5" St Finan's Isle, Its Story by Alastair Cameron (North Argyll), page 6 - Jean Cameron and Bonnalie/Impey Papers, Ref 38

1785 "Kinlochmoidart Estate" was described in the deed of entail as being the mains of Kinlochmore, Kinlochuachdrach, Brunery and Badnacraggan; plus the merklands of (a) Caolas-Ian-Oig, Caolas more and Shonaveg, (b) Ulgary, (c) Assary, (d) Glenforslan and (e) half merkland of Duilad. Kinlochmoidart Estate as set out in the deed of entail dated 7th October 1795 in an extract prepared by M R-D. Bonnalie/Impey Papers. Ref 50.

1786 "Assary had three crofting tenants - John MacPherson, Ewen MacDonald and John Smith, all paying 3 a year. In the same year there were 8 crofters at Ulgary - MacDonald and MacPhersons who had farthing land all paying 3.10.00." Glenmoidart Notes, Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 16

1787 "At the coming of age of John MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart, old John MacDonald of Morar gave a big party with a bonfire to which all the natives came and all became very happy, many of them throwing their bonnets and even some of their clothes in the fire to express their joy. Old John of Morar was then renting the farm at Kinlochmor and Glenforslan." Glenmoidart Notes, Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 16

1787 (The Duke of Argyll, writing Estate Instructions to the Chamberlain of Mull acting as his Agent) "Oct. By the charters from my family to MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart I have the right to woods and fishings upon that estate and for sometime past have been desirous of procuring information about them, but have got none. You will when convenient enquire into this matter and report what you learn upon it"

1788 "Young Pretender" dies in Rome

1788 The Chamberlain replied to the Duke of Argyll, "In answer to this article, the Chamberlain begs leave to refer to the correspondence which he has had with Campbell of Inverscaddle who resides near to Kinlochmoydart, a copy of which he now submits to his Grace"

1788 Instruction: "Send some person of skill to view and value the woods and write to Mr Campbell of Inverscaddle to set the fishery at whatever you can get for it"

1789 Report upon preceding instruction: "Oct. Two men who are often employed in such services were sent to view the woods upon the estate of Kinlochmoidart. They have reported that woods upon that estate being in general only proper for coaling would yield 802 dozen of coals and 109 tons of bark, that the expense of manufacturing the coals might be about sixteen shillings per dozen and the bark thirty shillings per ton and that there besides standing on the estate 180 ash trees computed to contain 840 solid feet of measurable timber. As to the fishing the Chamberlain has written repeatedly to Mr Campbell of Inverscaddle to set it but he has never heard from him whether that was done"

1789 To the Chamberlain "The sixth instruction of last year is not fully answered in respect of that the information you have provided relates to the whole woods of Kinlochmoydart whereas His Grace's right is only to a part, and you have not been able to get any offer for the salmon fishing. You must therefore exert yourself to procure further information as to both these particulars. The best way is for you to go there yourself and take one or two persons of skill and trust with you. It will be right to examine and report whether the woods are now ripe for cutting, what parts are worthy of being inclosed, and what will be the expense of inclosing them".

1789 Report: "The Chamberlain has been in Moydart accompanied by a person of skill in the valuation of woods and inspected the farms of Duillad, Assary, Kenlochuachkerach, Badnagrogan, Kilismore and the Island of Shunabeg being the only parts of the estate of Kinlochmoydart upon which oak woods and salmon fishings are reserved, and had the woods upon them valued. There is not a single stick of wood of any kind upon Duillard or Assary and only a little blackwood without any oaks upon Kenlochuachkerach. Upon Badnagrogan there are some straggling oak trees amongst a considerable extent of birch and other blackwood, that runs along the hill on the south side of the Strath of Moydart which upon the whole it is computed will yield no more bark than 2 tons. On Kilismore there are no oaks except a few scattered over the face of a hill opposite to the Island of Shunabeg that are computed to give bark of 10 cwt. On the Island of Shunabeg there is an inconsiderable number of oak trees mixed with a straggling birchwood, that could not be estimated to give a greater quantity of bark than 1cwt 2qr. In all 2tons 11cwt 2qr. The manufacturing of the bark is reckoned at thirty shillings and the carriage of it to the shore at a shilling per ton. The timber it is computed would yield three dozen of coal, but it is so much scattered over the face of a great extent of ground that it is not reckoned worth the expense of collecting it to the coalkilns, nor are the woods for the same reason thought to be worth the cost of inclosing them. On some of the other farms of the estate of Kenlochmoydart, particularly Kanloch, Kilisbeg or Kiliscilta, and part of Bronarie there is a close thriving stool of oakwood of considerable value. As to the salmon fishing the only one upon the estate is at Kelisbeg, which the Chamberlain did not offer to interfere with, as it did not appear to have been reserved to the family of Argyll." Argyle Estate Instructions 1771-1805, Vol I Mull, Morven and Tiree. Edited Eric R Creegan 1964

1789 French Revolution took place, to be followed in 1792 with a Republican Government. The French King and Marie Antoinette were executed in 1793. A New History of Great Britain, RB Mowat, page 546

1789 Mary Macheachan of Ardnish came before the Inverness Sheriff's Court accused of child murder. She was referred to the High Court and subsequently banished for 14 years. Public Record Office Inverness ref 42/4/29 and ref 11/4/29

1790 Demand for kelp, the ashes of sea weed used for glass making and soap; of oak bark for tanning and charcoal for smelting, wherever sea transport made the timber accessible; of fishery exploitation coupled with the hoped for abolition of runrig and cooperative methods of farming, meant major changes were on the way in the Highlands. However, instead of the emergence of a class of indigenous and wealthy farmers side by side with landless labourers, as happened in many other parts of rural Scotland, in the Highlands, the peasant society regrouped and based themselves on the small-holding rather than the joint farm. In this case, neither the peasants, nor ultimately the landowners, were better off than they had been previously, a situation somewhat mirrored in Ireland. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 347

1790 Tacksmen, the intermediate rentiers between laird and tenant, found themselves dispossessed in the new system and, many left taking local peasants with them and founded new clan societies in America. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 348

1790 In the parish of Moidart, 250 people emigrated to America in 1790 and 1791. First Statistical Account 1791-1799 Volume 20 1798 Rev Alexander Campbell, Minister

1790 Scotchfort on Prince Edward Island had by now become a Roman Catholic enclave. In 1790 the Jane and the Lucy sailed from Drimindarach in convoy (together with the British Queen which sailed on to Quebec) and brought a total of 238 further emigrants from Moidart, Morar, Eigg and South Uist. An unexpected by-product was that by the end of the century, Gaelic, not English was the predominant language. "A very Fine Class of Emigrants", Prince Edward Island's Scottish Pioneers 1770-1850, Lucille H Campey, page 25.

1790 The Lucy sailed in company with Jane to Prince Edward Island carrying 88 adults and 54 children. They included 23 people from "Isle Shona" and some from Glenuig too as well as "Samlaman" and Kyles. They consisted of MacDonalds, McIsaacs, McEachuns and Adamsons. Source Scottish Catholic Archives, Edinburgh, "Blair's Letters" placed on website by PEI at The British Queen also sailed at this time.- John Dye

1790 Statistical Account reports on no school in Moidart, although 8 people were being instructed in Latin (presumably at Samalaman). Gordon Barr

1790 The coming of the potato as a common field crop in the decades after 1760 provided the means to support a large population in a small area. It was possible for peasants to divide and divide again small-holdings, giving the occupiers the delusion that they had some sort of prescriptive right to hold land in clan territory. Furthermore, landowners were ambivalent, they had the need of a large work force to gather kelp and they enjoyed lots of people on their land as a sentimental reference to the recent past. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 348

1790 Under the old order of farming the sheep had been an all purpose subsistence animal supplying wool, milk, dung and mutton, but increasingly in the latter part of the eighteenth century it became a commercial animal prized for its wool and meat. Even in the late 1770s it was reckoned that the long coarse wool of the Blackface was worth double the value of the native (Whiteface) sheep's wool…The commercial sheep farm consisted mainly of wintering grounds and summer pasture, but usually there was also some arable, enough meadowland for a few cows and grass enclosure for rams. The availability of wintering grounds in particular determined the type of sheep farming practised….One feature was that farmers provided no supplementary fodder except the grazing of the winter stubble and pastures that had been hained in the summer months. The entire hay and straw produced on the farm was earmarked for the cows and horses on the farm. Even in times of acute food shortage the sheep were not fed….The shepherd was an indispensable person on a sheep farm…..Many had journeyed northwards from Southern Scotland in the 1760s and possibly again in the 1780s…Smearing was also a practice associated with the new ideas of sheep husbandry. Sheep, because they were kept increasingly out of doors, were dressed with tar and grease to protect them from the cold and also to improve the quality of the wool. The Shieling 1600-1840, The Case of the Central Scottish Highlands, Albert Bil, page 314

1791 Statistical Account lists for Moidart 66 farmers, 1 merchant, 1 whisky house keeper, 1 smith, 2 carpenters, 5 weavers, 8 weaveresses, 5 tailors, 1 miller (mill little used), 6 seamen, 20 soldiers in the army, 1 private teacher (250 emigrated to America in 1790 and 1791).- Gordon Barr notes.

1791 Dunkeld sailed to Nova Scotia containing some residents of Moidart. -John Dye

1792 Shonabeag let for 9 years at 24.19.0 to Donald and Archibald MacEachen. Clanranald & Robertson MacDonald papers ref 482 MFS Nat Lib Scot

1792 Gross rents in Moidart 1,500, plus 45 sales of wood annually. Value of exports 587.10.0, value of imports 550.0.0. Total value of all produce, 4,552.0.0 of which major contributors were lambs 979, calves 383, potatoes 400 and oats 150. The value of the pasture overall was computed at 2,477. First Statistical Account 1791-1799 Volume 20 1798 Rev Alexander Campbell, Minister

1792 Moidart had no parochial school or preacher under a royal bounty (both of which appear in the returns for the adjoining parishes of Sunart, Kilchoan and Arasaig). First Statistical Account 1791-1799 Volume 20 1798 Rev Alexander Campbell, Minister

1792 With the death of Prince Charles in 1788, the exercise of the harsh non-juring laws was relaxed and the penal statutes against the Scotch Episcopalian ministers were repealed (see 1746 Jacobism and Episcopacy….ante). The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. H Grey Graham. Page 389.

1792 John Buchanan, Church of Scotland missionary to the isles, described the "scallags" of Harris, a very depressed class of agricultural labourer as " a poor being, who for mere subsistence becomes a predial slave to another, whether a sub-tenant, a tacksman or a laird. The scallag builds his own hut with sods and boughs of trees: and if he is sent to another part of the country he moves off his sticks, and by means of these forms a new hut in another place… Five days a week he works for his master, the sixth he is allowed for himself for the cultivation of some scrap of land on the edge of some moss or moor where he raises a little kail, or coleworts, barley and potatoes. These articles, boiled up together in one mash, and often without salt, are his only food, except for those seasons in the day when he can catch fish…The only bread he tastes is in a cake made of the flour of barley. He is allowed coarse shoes, with tartan hose, and a coarse coat, with a blanket or two for clothing." TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p352

1793 An unidentified boat sailed to Prince Edward Island with 150 passengers, some from Moidart. - John Dye

1793 Prince Edward Island was not the only beneficiary of Catholic emigrants from the west coast, large numbers of Catholic Scots were to be found at Arisaig, Nova Scotia, which was located more or less opposite the Catholic concentration at Prince Edward Island. "A very Fine Class of Emigrants", Prince Edward Island's Scottish Pioneers 1770-1850, Lucille H Campey, page 27.

1796 Irish Rebellion broke out, led by Wolfe Tone and Lord Edward Fitzgerald who conspired with the French. Over the next year it was suppressed. A New History of Great Britain, Mowat, page 613

1796 The Lorn Furnace wrote to "McDonald at Dalela, Sir, I have omitted answering your letter concerning ash trees till now - the particulars was given to me by John Satterthwaite who I am of oppinion told the truth - and I observe your remarks on the subject - In the first place, I do not think it would be worthwhile to oblige you to take them at the price, I would much rather give them to another person than sell them to you after your behaviour in the matter. You may say thay were charged at a most extravagant price - I am of oppinion you are not much accustomed in Moydart with purchasing usefull wood, otherwise you would not think about sixpence per foot a high price which that wood would not amount to - you seem to rejoice that the Compy, missed the proper season to make use of them which with your little favours (as you call them) shows your kind disposition - little favours indeed they were which I must acknowledge and so would the horses if they could speak to tell how they were used. I have been told that the use of horses has not, before lately, found its way into Moydart - I am of the oppinion now there is some truth in it, and that the use of that noble animal is not generally known - you seem to think receiving payments for the horse grass, from John McNiven & giving it to the Factor was another of your little favours. Whatever favour you may think it to the Factor, I can asure you it was none to me or this Compy. I always find it much easier to pay money than receive it and am never at a loss for a conveyance - you likewise is of oppinion that the trees, at the price I put on them would come to 1/6 per foot - if you would be at the trouble to measure them you'll find they will not come to half that sum. I am, Sir, Yours &c for LFJ Harrison" - Jean Lawson

1798 At this time Moidart was recorded as comprising 27 miles by 10 miles in size with a population of 712 of whom 181 were under 10. 250 had emigrated to the United States in 1791. The population in 1765 was 738. There were 60 farmers, 13 weavers, 5 tailors, and 20 in the army. There were 8 people who could understand Latin and 20 classified as "poor". Before 1780 there had been 2 slate roofed houses, but later these rose to 4. There were 37 small boats and 2 larger ones, 24 horses, 1151 cattle, 12,750 sheep and 800 goats. First Statistical Account 1791-1799 Volume 20 1798 Rev Alexander Campbell, Minister. See also

1798 Alexander the "Banker" had the following in the Moidart Rental for 1798…."Daililea, Langal, Annat, Easter and Wester Drumloy, Islandfinnan, Ferry and Change house thereof - Alexander MacDonald, Rent 53.15.2 for the first eight years of the lease and for the remainder, 64.4s. Lease, 31 years from 1790. Makes one ton of Kelp. Contents of all the farms, four pennies or sixteen farthings of land". St Finan's Isle, Its Story by Alastair Cameron (North Argyll), page 10 - Jean Cameron and Bonnalie/Impey Papers, Ref 38

1800 The price of cattle and kelp rose in the lead up to the turn of the century and tenants found themselves little worse off than before. The landlords were considerably richer. MacDonald of Clanranald was drawing 17,000 in 1809 from rents and kelp; early in the eighteenth century his lands had not yielded 1,000 per annum. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 349

1800 MacDonald the banker built Dalilea House at about the beginning of the century. He was a person of great energy, and possessed undoubted talents for business, receiving a lucrative appointment in the bank at Callander. Moidart Among the Clanranalds, Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts p128


- The land nearest the house - the infield was manured and there was a constant succession of two crops, one year oats, next year barley. The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. H Grey Graham. Pages 152 - 186

Six times larger was the outfield, - wretched unkempt, untended ground, - each portion of which was put perpetually to oats, or more usually for three years in succession; and thereafter it lay for another three or four years fallow. Ground was cultivated till it produced only two seeds for every one sown; the third year being called the "wersh crop" as it was miserable alike in quality and quantity. The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. H Grey Graham. Pages 152 - 186

There were no enclosures, neither dyke nor hedge between fields, so that when the harvest began, or the cereals were young, the cattle were either tethered or tended by herds who took them out every morning over the same route where they picked up whatever whins or weeds they could find and, after being chased out of every unenclosed and tempting field of corn, were brought back at night half famished and wholly exhausted. When the harvest was over, the cattle wandered all over the place, till the land became a dirty dreary common; the whole being saturated by the water which stood in the holes made by their hooves. The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. H Grey Graham. Pages 152 - 186

The methods of tillage were supremely clumsy and primitive. The ploughs were enormous, unwieldy constructions, which being all made of wood, except the coulter and the share, could be made in the forenoon for a shilling. The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. H Grey Graham. Pages 152 - 186

Perhaps the most serious obstacle to progress in agriculture was the almost universal system of runrig…..the land was redivided by lot each year or put up for auction. The tenants had their cottages clustered together, forming what was called a farm "town". The quarrels and the misunderstandings between these men were violent and incessant. Each had his own obstinate opinion on ploughing, sowing and reaping, that the bickering might cause a lapse of weeks before all consented to work together. So jealous were they of their neighbours that each one made his rig as high as possible, so that none of the soil should be carried to his neighbour's ground. Each alternate ridge had a different tenant and were usually 20 feet wide, crooked like a prolonged S and very high. Only the crown of the rig was ploughed and half the width between them was taken up by huge "baulks" or open spaces filled with briars, nettles, stones and water. The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. H Grey Graham. Pages 152 - 186

If one man dared to cultivate a neglected bit of ground, the others denounced him for infringing on their right of grazing on the outfields. The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. H Grey Graham. Pages 152 - 186

With a system so atrocious, with land uncleaned, unlimed, unmanured, undrained, it frequently happened that the yield could not feed the inhabitants of the district. In consequence of the bulk of their crops consisting of only gray oats, when the meal failed them - which always happened when bad seasons came - the people were in destitution and despair. This helplessness fostered in them a sense of awe and a dependence on Providence, which gave a peculiar power to ministers. The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. H Grey Graham. Pages 152 - 186


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