The Moidart Timewarp
by Tim Roberton

1801 - 1825
In which Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar and Wellington won Waterloo, the course of the Moidart River was changed, Clanranald Macdonald's (XIX) income reached new heights, large numbers from Moidart emigrated to America, Clanranald overspent and had to sell everything, the Caledonian Canal was opened.

1801 The Irish Parliament came to an end and the Governments of Great Britain and Ireland were united A New History of Great Britain, Mowat, page 615

1801 Population of Scotland estimated by Official Census at 1,265,000. Cargoes of Despair and Hope, Scottish Emigration to North America, Ian Adams and Meredyth Somerville, Page 2.

1801 The Dove of Aberdeen Sarah of Liverpool, Golden Text, Nora and Alexander all sailed this year to Pictou, Nova Scotia with well in excess of 500 on board from the Western Highlands. The manifests indicate that Dove had 219 and Sarah 350 souls on board from this area. There are no specific figures for Golden Text, Nora or Alexander in this record. John Dye

1802 Tweed of Ullapool, Aurora of Greenock, Northern Friends of Clyde, Scotch Mist, Schooner, Friends of Saltcoats, Jean of Irvine, Helen of Saltcoats, Jane, Albion, Neptune of Greenock, Eagle and an unnamed ship took a collection of folk, numbering perhaps 3,000 or more from "Western Highlands, Knoydart, Fort William and Loch Nevis". Their passengers included "papists" (but not exclusively) and their destinations were in all cases but one, Canada, ranging from Pictou Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island through to upper and lower Canada. The "odd man out" was the Northern Friends of Clyde which sailed to Sydney. - John Dye

1803 An unnamed ship, organized by Selkirk sailed with passengers from Skye and Mull to Prince Edward Island. - John Dye

1803 Eight hundred people from Skye, Uist and Wester Ross sailed with the Earl of Selkirk to Prince Edward Island . "A very Fine Class of Emigrants", Prince Edward Island's Scottish Pioneers 1770-1850, Lucille H Campey, page 139.

1803 Proposal to improve ground and make new road up to the top bridge £814.08 and keeping the new bed of the river in repair £5.50.0. Clanranald & Robertson MacDonald papers ref E 482 MFS Nat Lib Scot

1803 "At Inverness this twenty fifth day of June one thousand eight hundred and four, in presence of Donald McPherson Esq one of the Bailies of Inverness Compeared (sic) Wm Cuming Surveyor of land etc who being solemnly Sworn depones that in the month of April last he surveyed a line of road from Corran Ferry to Loch Moydart head (?) in the Counties of Argyle (sic) & Inverness and he further depones that the annexed is a true plan & measurement of the same to the best of his knowledge as he shall answer to God" Signed, Don MacPherson JP and Wm Cuming. Deposition on plan in National Archives of Scotland ref RHP 11627

1803 Distances measured:-

From the landing place near Loch Moydart head to the water of Moydart 1m 744y To the Farm of Langell 2m 816y
To the water of Sheil 2m 1176y
To the top of the hill NW of Sallen 3m
To the junction with the present road to Reispool 1m 744y
To Cammisachork 5m 744y
To the East end of the wood at Rannachan 1200y
To the Inn of Strontian 3m

...and so on, Total 34m 860y. Schedule on plan in National Archives of Scotland ref RHP 11627 - Jean Lawson

1803 Plan showing Water of Moydart with "canal" (named such on the plan and, looking like such in the drawing) running from what is now the modern fish farm to Nursery Pool as a straight cut in addition to the then existing course, which meandered slightly north, as shown on earlier plans. The name "Glackmore" appears on the plan and is applied to what is now known as "Glac Mhor" on 1972 OS plan ( near to Ardmollich wood). Owner shown to be Col Macdon...(plan torn at this place). There is an Inn shown on the Langal side of the bridge across the mouth of River Moydart and also a second building shown between the bridge and Glackmore, name illegible. Plan in National Archives of Scotland ref RHP 11627 - Jean Lawson

1803 Following a report from Thomas Telford, the House of Commons passed an Act granting a sum of up to £20,000 for making roads and bridges in the Highlands. Consequent to this act, a petition was submitted by The Duke of Argyll, the Trustees of Sir James Riddell, the Guardians of Ronald George MacDonald of Clanranald, Lieutenant-Colonel Donald MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart, Alexander MacDonald of Glenalladale and others for money to build a road from Kinlochmloidart to Ardgour. "The proprietors of these districts are therefore most desirous to open up communications……from Kinlochmoidart (a large and spacious harbour….) to the Corran of Ardgour from whence there is a safe and commodious ferry to the Military Road from Fort William….and it is proposed that the line of the Road should be Lochmoidart to the Bay of Saline upon Loch Sunart, to the village of Strontian, and from thence to Ardgour. The extent may be thirty to thirty five miles and the expense of making it, and of building the necessary Bridges over the rivers, it is believed, would not exceed £3,500. Signed Henry Jardine, Writer to the Signet." New Ways through the Glens, ARB Haldane, Appendix lll.

1804 The Locheil and the Oughton, with passengers from the Western Highlands and Islands sailed for Prince Edward Island and Upper Canada respectively. The Nancy sailed as well and went to Prince Edward Island. Between them they had at least 150 passengers, ignoring the Locheil, which does not have a record listed - John Dye

1805 Trafalgar

1805 John MacDonald of Ardmolich paid 45 rents for the farm at Ulgary, his predecessors had been tacksmen there for 200 years. Glenmoidart Notes, Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 16

1805 Paid Neil MacInnes for his house built at Brunery, £2.0.0. Clanranald & Robertson MacDonald papers ref E 482 MFS ms 3984 Nat Lib Scot

1806 The Rambler, the Humphries, the Spencer and the Isle of Skye sailed to Prince Edward Island with 375 souls on board from the Western Highlands and Islands. John Dye

1807 The Locheil made another trip to Prince Edward Island with an unstated number on board of people from the Western Highlands and Islands. John Dye

1808 The Elizabeth and the Mars sailed with just under 200 passengers from the Western Highlands and Islands to Prince Edward Island. - John Dye

1809 "MacDonald of Clanranald, who owned North and South Uist, was drawing £17,000 in 1809 from kelp - early in the eighteenth century his lands had not yielded £1,000 per annum. The Highland owners were both greedy and short-sighted in these circumstances. They seem to have creamed off a larger proportion of gross profits into their own hands than did the Lowland lairds with the Lothian or Aryshire farmers. Clanranald never ploughed anything back into the Uists in the form, for instance of new harbours or roads or of encouragement for new industry or a more diversified farming. He was content to spend the kelp money on conspicuous consumption and in adding to and servicing the heavy debt charge on his estate". TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 349

1810 Reminiscences of a Highland Parish, Norman Macleod - Second Edition 1891
"…before sheep farming was introduced to the Highlands, about seventy or eighty years ago…."

see p12 for description of bird's eye view of parish…Reishiepol, Loch Shiel, Lochaber, Loch Sunart, the Small Isles, Mull….Ibid

The Presbyterian Church is established in Scotland and the landed proprietors in each parish are bound by law to build and keep in repair a church, suitable school and parsonage or manse and to secure a portion of glebe land for the minister. 13 Ibid

"Before the new Poor Law Act was passed twenty two years ago,….the Ministers and the Church of Scotland conducted the whole business in connection with support of the poor at not cost….." P31 Ibid

"The shepherd Donald, son of Black John, is playing the Jew's Harp….The performances of Donald begin the evening and form interludes to its songs, tales and recitations. He has two large "Lochaber trumps", for Lochaber trumps were to the highlands what Cremona violins were to musical Europe. He secures the end of each with his teeth and grasping them with his hands so that the tiny instruments are invisible, he applies the little finger of each hand to their vibrating steel tongues. He modulates their tones with his breath and brings out of them Highland reels, strathspeys and jigs…." P36 Ibid

Comments on charity from the community (especially Tacksmen) before they went away and formal relief of the poor took place, at greater cost….p44 Ibid

Description of the class immediately below tacksmen, who lived in a very civilized way….but subsequently replaced by sheep. A great loss to the Highlands. P45 Reminiscences of a Highland Parish, Norman Macleod - Second Edition 1891

1810 The Phoenix and the Active, with an unstated passenger manifesto, sailed for Prince Edward Island with folk from the Western Highlands and Islands. - John Dye

1811 Anne of North Shields sailed for Pictou with 76 souls from the Western Highlands and Islands. - John Dye

1811 As early as 1811, Protestant Highlanders from Mull, Tiree, Coll and Muck had colonised the eastern side of Lake Ainslee (near the Mabou Highlands in Prince Edward Island). They were also joined by Catholics from Moidart, Arisaig and South Uist. On the Crofters' Trail, David Craig, page 115.

1811 The Gaelic Society of Edinburgh formed to establish schools in remote areas supplemental to those already run by the Scottish SPCK. Many of these were "ambulatory", passing around the parish at intervals of six months or so. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 464

1811 Large population increases had been taking place in the Highlands. Skye had risen from 13,000 in 1755 to 24,500 in 1811; Mull and southern Inner Hebrides from 10,000 to 18,000. This meant that what had been small farms, now became tiny farms. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 349 Population of the Highlands shown on census returns to be 362,000. Highland Folk Ways, IF Grant, page 53

1811 Last major emigration from Highlands to Carolina. BBC Documentary on Clearances

1812 It was under Colonel Robertson that most of the tenants emigrated to America, viz about the year 1812. The natives of Ulgary, Kinlochuachair, Brunery, and the lower parts of the strath, may be said to have gone away in one body, leaving their lands to be incorporated in one or two large holdings. The ship which was to take them away was brought round to the Moidart coast, and anchored at Camus-a-linne. Their departure seems to have been the deliberate act of people themselves who were glad of the opportunity of leaving a poor country in exchange for one where they could live more would appear from stories current in the district that tenants from Ulgary for instance, while living comfortably enough for six months in the year, had to endure for the other six of something like downright starvation, and there is little doubt that this hamlet was typical of many others in the district...To dissuade people from emigrating to richer lands under circumstances like these is absolute folly. Cases of this kind, of course, are not to be confused with evictions, or driving the poor people away from their houses against their will...The relations between the Colonel and his people seem to have been of a friendly character...On one occasion the Ulgary tenants having to suffer more or less from the depredations committed by the deer among the crops.....sent a deputation to the Colonel....who, half in a joke told them to poind the trespassers...The tenants quietly took him at his word and returned a few days afterwards to report that the thieves were caught...The Colonel was very much surprised, but true to his bargain, duly appeared to administer justice....The deer when visiting the crops used to come down from the high grounds through a narrow gorge with very steep sides called erecting a rude but effective fence across the lower end... and then seizing the upper end...kept the prisoners as effectively as any sheep fank...the tenants were assisted by the proprietor in having their arable ground well fenced against future incursions of their troublesome neighbours. Moidart Among the Clanranalds, p195 Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts

1813 Clearance of Kindonan. BBC Documentary on Clearances

1813 "Although Reginald George MacDonald, 18th Chief of Clanranald, was said to have drawn almost £25,000 a year from his estates through rents and the sale of kelp, such sum was not enough to fund the extravagant social and political lifestyle to which he had become accustomed. In company with many other Highland landowners after the breakdown of the dependent clan system he 'rushed to the metropolis where he soon found himself beyond the depths of his moderate income' and in 1813 was forced to start disposing of his 700 year inheritance to pay for it. He married firstly, Lady Caroline Edgecombe, daughter of the second Earl of Mountedgecombe and, secondly Anne, widow of the second Baron Ashburton. Although both brought him enormous wealth it was not enough to meet his expenses and he eventually became bankrupt. His estates were first vested in trustees for his creditors and then sold off piecemeal." Inverailort , A short History by Iain Thornber

"When the Clanranald of the day was forced through extravagant living to part with his extensive estates, Moidart, or the estate of Loch Shiel as it is described, and Eilean Shona was purchased by Alexander MacDonald of Glenaladale. Archibald of Rhu inherited the estate from him but never came to reside on it as the only house on the property fit for residence, Dalilea, was let to Alexander MacDonald known as the "Banker" and descended from Angus of Dalilea, the eldest son of the noted Ardnamurchan Divine, Alexander MacDonald "Maighstear Alasdair". Archibald died at his home at Rhu and was buried at Arisaig. It was only after Alexander his son and other members of his family had come to reside on the property at Dalilea that his remains were brought for internment in the "Little Green Isle". St Finan's Isle (Eilean Fhianain) - Alasdair Cameron (North Argyll) - Jean Cameron

Some of the purchasers (of land from Ranald MacDonald) were: Lochshiel and Eilean-Shona, Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale, about 1811; Glenmoidart, Macdonald banker of Dalelea about 1814; Glenuig by Major Macdonald of Bail Finlay in Uist; Inverailort by General Cameron, previously living in Erroch, Lochaber. Moidart Among the Clanranalds p202 Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts

1814 Glenmoidart was sold by the Chief of Clanranald to MacDonald, the banker from Dalelea. A long time tenant there was his brother, known as MacDonald Lochans, because of his association. Moidart Among the Clanranalds p202, p128 etc Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts

1814 Eilean-Shona, bought from Clanranald for £3,000 by Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale, was bequeathed to Archibald Macdonald of Rhu after Alexander's death in 1814. However, the will reserved the house at Bailly for Alexander's mother during her lifetime and she lived there thenceforth until 1840. Her sister was Archibald's wife. Moidart Among the Clanranalds p214 Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts

1815 Waterloo

1815 By the end of the Napoleonic wars, kelp fell from £20 per ton to £10 and, when Leblanc alkali was introduced direct to Glasgow in 1825, it fell to £3. Cattle prices fell too and in addition, lowland producers had land for winter turnips for cattle feed, which the Highlanders did not. Finally, the herring moved off-shore. Of the four main Highland staples, only one remained as profitable as before, namely sheep. The economic situation in the Highlands started to look grim. Either the region reverted to subsistence husbandry and increasing numbers of people lived in a vast rural slum, existing off potatoes grown on tiny holdings, or the region switched over in a big way to sheep. This demanded a ruthlessness to replace men with sheep that not every landlord immediately found in his heart. Most of the sheep farmers were incomers who said that they needed in particular those hill shielings where the Highlanders took their beasts in June: in fact within a few decades after the introduction of sheep the overc ropping of these green summer pastures in the hills made them largely valueless. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 350

1815 Thus it can be said of the Hebrides that the peasant endured extreme poverty all the time, and the main change after 1815 was not so much in their condition as in that of the landowners, whose income, having risen all the time from about 1750 until after 1815 as they diverted the whole profits of an expanding economy into their own pockets, now began to slide away, and the debt charges on their estates began steadily to mount. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 353

1815 The Ellen, the Atlas, the Dorothy and the Baltic Merchant sailed for Pictou Nova Scotia and Upper Canada with 700 people on board, mainly from the Western Highlands. - John Dye

1815 Loch Shiel monument erected by Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale, marking the spot "where, on Monday 19th August 1745, a day of mist and rain, the royal standard of King James the Eighth was raised by his gallant son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart". The Highlands of Scotland, W Douglas Simpson, page 247

1817 At the Royal Commission for Emigration in 1826 and 1827, it was stated that MacDonald of Clanranald in the Uists, was left with a third of the population landless, helpless and dependent on his charity: he had had to spend £4,500 on buying meal for them in 1817 and £1,100 in 1818. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 352

1820 George III dies after ruling for sixty years, to be succeeded George IV who reigned for only ten.

1820 For some time emigrant boats had been calling at the islands, taking the crofters away to a new life in America. This had been going on since 1740, generally on the initiative of the tacksmen, but for the whole of the eighteenth century it had been opposed by most proprietors. After 1800 and especially after 1820 it was specifically encouraged and even to be arranged and paid for by them, as the only relief they could see for overcrowding. There is little hint (except for Rum and Jura in 1826 and Arran in 1828) of men at this date being turned out to make room for sheep. The misery of the Hebrides is primarily the misery of the congested, not of the dispossessed. (Sutherland was classically different) TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 353

1821 Efforts to spread education had made so little progress (in the Highlands) amongst a destitute, listless people, scattered along remote straths and separated by moor, morass, and mountain from the nearest school, it is said that half of the population of 400,000 people at this time were unable to read. The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century. H Grey Graham. Page 423.

Opening of Caledonian Canal. Highland Ways and Byways, Kenneth A Macrae, "Coinneach Mor", page 38

ABOUT 1800 - 1825

Head Dykes- Communally built around the in-by land to keep cattle out Poindlers - People empowered to impound straying cattle and levy a fine Cultivation - From mid seventeenth century, some shielings had crops sown The Shieling 1600-1840 The Case of the central Scottish Highlands, Albert Bil

Tathing - Confining cattle or sheep within an area of the outfield to manure it.

Infield/Outfield - A rotational system of cropping land, based upon an infield core, regularly manured and cropped and a wider area of ground that was temporarily taken in and cropped as required.

Runrig - The sub division of arable land amongst the various landholders of a fermtoun or township, such that an individual tenant held land, usually based on the plough rig, intermixed with his co-tenants throughout the lands of a toun. This required a communal system of management.

Head dykes - Many medieval or later field systems were characterised by a head dyke or a ring dyke that encloses the main area of arable of a farm within an earthen bank, or bank and ditch. It is difficult to say how early this form of enclosure was employed. Many of the recorded head dykes are demonstrably later features indicative perhaps of pressures on the common grazings in the post-medieval period.

Rig - There are many types of ridge and furrow and rig (cord-rig/broad or reverse S rig/narrow curving rig/narrow straight rig/). The last named is widely spread in Scotland where improved agriculture was practised prior to the introduction of underground drains.

Lazy-beds (feannagan) - Ridges raised mainly by the use of a spade or caschrom, 2 m to 5 m wide, sometimes the furrows being even wider than the ridge where the soil is shallow. Unlike plough-rig, they are often on slopes far too steep for the plough-team to negotiate....Lazy-bedding is more labour-intensive than ploughing, but more productive, an important consideration if arable is at a premium.

Prior to reorganisation as crofts - some, but by no means all townships were farmed by small groups of tenants, holding their lands in the form of runrig open fields. At the most, the open field system represented by these runrig townships rarely involved more than 100 acres. This runrig was either cultivated on an arable/grass or an infield/outfield basis.

The old Scotch plough - was unwieldy but served its purpose well. It needed a large team to pull it and because of this, turning in a headland caused some of the team to start turning before the plough had finished the row, leading to "reverse S" rig formations. An improved plough made by James Small was developed at the end of the eighteenth century; this produced straight narrow strips and was widely used until the introduction of underground drainage tiles in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The History of Soils and Field Systems, edited by S Foster and TC Smout


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