The Moidart Timewarp
by Tim Roberton

1826 - 1850
In which Victoria came to the throne, Ranald MacDonald sold his remaining estates including Eigg, Canna, Lochshiel, Glenuig, Roshven, Inverailort, Arisaig, Benbecula and South Uist. The census returns showed a continuing increase in the Highland population and, emigration to Canada and Australia in particular continued. The potato crop failed and great hardship ensued, followed by further major waves of emigration.


1826 Survey of Highland and Island schools by the Gaelic Society of Inverness established that 500 schools were in existence, of which one third were parochial schools, one quarter SSPCK and the balance of forty percent were Gaelic. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 464

1828 Some clearances in Ardnamurchan occurrred at the base of Ben Hiant….it supported about twenty six families, which were distributed over the component townships of Coire-Mhuilinn, Skinid, Buarblaig and Tornamona. At one sweep, the whole place was cleared and the grounds added to the adjacent sheep farm of Mingary. The evictions were carried out in 1828…..by Sir James Milles Riddell. Stories of the Highland Clearances, Alexander Mackenzie (1883), Lang Syne Books P106

1828 Dorlin chapel beside the ruined Castle Tioram (where there had been an earlier chapel), was built in 1828 by the Rev. Norman MacDonald, who was buried inside it nine years later. It included living accommodation on the upper floor which was shared between the priest (who had his own garret room) and the owner, Miss Isabella MacDonald. Catholic Chapels of Moidart and Glenfinnan, by Alasdair Roberts

1830 George IV dies and is followed by William IV, who is to reign for seven years.

1830 By 1830, the Highlanders had become a society of small-holders living in great poverty on congested holdings either on crowded islands or next to extensive sheep farms: their existence hung above all else upon the condition of the potato crop, and if this failed (as it did so tragically in the 1840s) nothing could prevent the collapse of their economy and a subsequent exodus on a scale that would eclipse by far the Sutherland clearances. TC Smout, A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p 358

1834 Forebears of current inhabitants of Prince Edward Island were the MacVarishes and Stewarts from Mingarrypark on Loch Shiel. In an interview, they recollected how their family had left there in about 1834. Their life before leaving had been very hard. They had one or two cows, but no meat to butcher, so they used to bleed the cows to make black pudding (marag). They left by way of Fort William and had no idea where they were when they landed. They had some oats and potatoes (for planting) and went to some woods and cut down a lean-to. Next Spring they crossed the mountains and settled where they have stayed ever since. On the Crofters’ Trail, David Craig, page 104

1837 Queen Victoria came to the throne, which she was to occupy until 1901.

1837 Brilliant sailed to Sidney from Tobermory with a passenger complement of 322, of which 105 came from Ardnamurchan and Strontian. – John Dye

1837 “Donald Macdonald of Kylesmore was imprisoned for six weeks, charged with theft”. Inverness Courts disk at HC Archives reference 35/60 – Gordon Barr

1838 The Clanranald estates ran from Moidart to Arisaig on the mainland and on to South
Uist in the Isles. Ranald George MacDonald, eighteenth captain of the clan, sold up all by 1838, retaining only Castle Tirrim, which supported his threadbare claim to be a landed chief for another 35 years. The Highland Clearances, John Prebble p250. One by one, Reginald George Clanranald disposed of his estates. In this manner not only Eigg, Canna, Eilean-Shona, Glenuig, Roshven, Lochshiel or Dorlin and Glenmoidart, but Inverailort, Arisaig proper, Benbecula and South Uist, were steadily got rid of, until at length nothing remained of what was once something like a principality save the little, barren, uninhabited island of Risca, in Loch Moidart, and the roofless walls of Castle Tirrim. - Moidart Among the Clanranalds p202 Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts
Kinlochmoidart was owned by the Cadet branch of the Macdonald family and was not part of this disposal. Some of the purchasers 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

1838 Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths in Moidart 1838-1855

Year

B

M

D

1838

26

3

7

1839

33

8

6

1840

26

7

6

1841

30

4

8

1842

26

6

7

1843

14

6

8

1844

32

2

-

1845

26

6

12

1846

25

5

4

1847

25

2

10

1848

12

3

12

1849

18

4

-

1850

14

3

-

1851

14

0

-

1852

14

5

-

1853

15

1

-

1854

14

7

8

1855

13

2

7

Figures marked “-“ have no returns in the records The Great Highland Famine which come from church recordsby TM Devine and John Donald
p58 table 3.1 Annual deaths, Moidart
1838-55 source SRO, RH21/48/2 and
p65 table 3.7 Baptisms and Marriages
Moidart 1830-60 – Jean Lawson


1839 Father Rankin came to Moidart and soon after arriving, wrote 'In this [Moidart] Mission there are two Chapels - one of them is tolerably good and the other is miserable.' Ranald Rankin lived at Dorlin from his arrival (he was there recorded in the 1841 and 1851 census), and his widowed sister Jean Kelly or Rankin (ten years his junior and born in Strathglass) was housekeeper. In both years a female house servant and a male farm servant were maintained. Catholic Chapels of Moidart and Glenfinnan, by Alasdair Roberts

1840 “Fr Charles MacDonald says there were excisemen at Egnaig and Briaig and that smuggling had been suppressed by about 1840”. (Gordon Barr)

1841 Statistics show (see bold figures below) that despite major waves of emigration over the previous century, Moidart population achieved a net peak in 1841. The bold figures also show that the population in the West Highlands was 8.5% of Scotland in 1831, but by 1951, this had dropped to 2.3% . This was caused not only by the decline in the West Highlands, but by the increase in Scottish population overall.

West Highland Survey

Year

Arisaig & Moidart

W Highland

Scotland 

1755

2250

114884

1265380

1801

2165

153643

1608420

1811

2324

165074

1805864

1821

2333

190907

2091521

1831

2358

200955

2364386

1841

2556

200253

2620184

1851

2333

190728

2888742

1861

2013

174983

3062294

1871

1812

168359

3360018

1881

1825

167928

3735573

1891

1602

164281

4025647

1901

1678

158738

4472103

1911

1571

151085

4760904

1921

1375

140946

4882497

1931

1173

127081

4842980

1951

1002

119071

5095969

Fraser Darling, West Highland Survey.Oxford University Press 1955.

1841  Moidart Census Returns (available Fort William Library on Microfilm):

Angus McDonald 51
Alexander 15
Catherine 1

John McDonald 51
Isabella 50
John 11

Brunery:-
Donal McDonald 40
Janet, wife 35
Alexander 13
Mary 13
Margaret 8
Archibald 6
Anne 4
(boy) 1

Lochans:-
Lachlan Chisholm 30
Mrs Chisholm 30
4 children Susan Young, Governess

23 inhabited houses, 2 empty
76 men, 95 women


Moidart Census Returns 1841, Reel 16, Inverness Central Library – Jean Lawson

1841 Macdonalds in 1841 census in Parish of Acharacle, extracted by Iain Thornber:

Resipole

Hugh

Allan

Crofter

Ag Lab

60

28

Shielfoot

John

Crofter

45

Ault Beatha

Ronald

John

Farmer

Farmer

63

45

Glen Uig

Ronald

John

Charles

Norman

Charles

Allan

Donald

John

Donald

Donald

John

Ranald

Donald

Shopman

Ag Lab

 

Farmer

Farmer

Farmer

Farmer

Farmer

Merchant Seaman

Farmer

Farmer

Farmer

Farmer

35

30

25

50

40

55

70

50

30

40

30

50

25

Samalaman

Angus

Angus

Farm Grieve

Ag Lab

25

25

Smirasary

Angus

Roderick

Farmer

Farmer

45

70

Kylesbeg

Donald

Farmer

30

Kylesmore

Duncan

Angus

Donald

Donald

Roger

Angus

John

Farmer

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Farmer

Ag Lab

35

40

40

50

25

65

30

Eignaig

Alexander

Farmer

55

Shonaveg

Roger

Donald

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

50

35

Portavata

Alexander

Donald

John

Alexander

Ag Lab

Farmer

Merchant

Ag Lab

35

87

45

35

Kinlochmoidart

Alexander

Hugh

Alexander

John

Donald

John

Alexander

Lachlan

Angus

Post

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Tailor

Ag Lab

35

55

60

35

40

35

30

60

35

Kinlochuachderach

Angus

Ag Lab

 50

Brunary

Duncan

Ag Lab

40

Glenforslan House

John

Tutor

35

Assary

Donald

Ag Lab

45

Eilean Shona - Dorinean

                      - Arrian

James

Angus

Ewen

John

Crofter

 

 

Crofter

55

80

30

25

Dorlin Scardnish

Allan

Lachlan

Independent

Farmer

50

50

Mingary

Lachlan

Alexander

John

Alexander

Angus

John

Angus

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Farmer

Mason

Mason

Farmer

Farmer

50

30

30

25

30

40

40

Cliff

John

Ag Lab

50

Blain

John

Angus

Meachel

Archibald

Donald

Hugh

John

Angus

Alexander

Hugh

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Male Servant

Ag Lab

Ag Lab

Shoemaker

Shoemaker

30

40

50

50

60

25

25

30

35

45

Gascan

James

Farmer

50

Dalilea

Alexander

Coll

Alexander

Ranald

Allan

Alexander

John

Roderick

Duncan

John

Ranald

Independent

Surgeon

Servant

Servant

Servant

Woollen handloom weaver

Woollen handloom weaver

Shepherd

Shepherd

Army pensioner

Army pensioner

50

30

30

25

25

30

35

30

60

40

45

  Dyke

Roderick

Crofter

50

Langal

Allan

Donald

Donald

John

Alexander

Angus

Unspecified

60

30

70

25

30

30

Dalnabreac

Angus

Duncan

Donald

Ranald

Archibald

Ronald

Unspecified

 

 

 

 

Crofter

30

30

35

45

35

40

Extract of Parish of Acharacle in Ardnamurchan Census 1841 by Iain Thornber in relation to MACDONALD MEN only and given to Rosemary Bonnalie. Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 25.

1841 Census returns for Highlands shows population of 396,000, up from 257,000 in 1755. Highland Folk Ways, IF Grant, page 53

1844 Margarita Robertson-Macdonald died, passing the Kinlochmoidart Estate to her son William Frederick StephenJefferson, Kinlochmoidart House

1845 The Poor Law Amendment Act made landlords liable for poor tenants on their estates. This caused many landlords to look at emigration as a solution to their problems. "A very Fine Class of Emigrants", Prince Edward Island's Scottish Pioneers 1770-1850, Lucille H Campey, page14.

1845 “About five years ago, thirteen families, amounting to about 70 individuals, emigrated to Canada. In 1837 and 1838, families, amounting to about 100 individuals, sailed for Australia. The whole population is rural, there is not even an approach to a village, except at Ardnafuaran, in Arasaig.” New Statistical Account Renfrewshire & Argyllshire VII, 1845.Written 1838 by Rev Angus Mclean, Minister – Jean Lawson

1845 “Census describes many sons (but not daughters) as being “scholars” or “scholars at home”. More information is available at HC Archives in the SSPCK box. A brief look in the box showed there were SSPCK schools in Glenuig, Blain and possibly somewhere about Kinlochmoidart (the map was very small scale and the dots large)”. Gordon Barr

1846 Failure of Irish potato crop. British Parliament repeal the Corn Laws. A New History of Great Britain, Mowat, page 603.

1846 “During the winter months consumption of seed corn occurred in Lewis, Barra, South Uist, Harris, Skye, Arisaig and Moidart. Great Highland Famine
TM Devine and John Donald 1988


1846 The emigration 1846-1855 was far the greatest ever known from Great Britain and Ireland. According to British Government figures, which are generally inaccurate and generally under-estimate, 2,740,000 people emigrated in those ten years. Only 430,000 altogether went to Australia, New Zealand and the Cape, and more than 2,300,000 to America…..To colonise Australia the government selected only the young and fit, and carried them out free in state-chartered ships. The North American emigration on the other hand was spontaneous, disorganised, and private. Passage to America, Terry Coleman, page 21.

1846 “William Robertson, who had a sheep farm at Kinlochmoidart, discovered that there was more to his lease than wool and mutton…’I believe that one fourth of the population of my estate would have died of famine ere now, had I not supplied them with food. This I have hitherto done at vast expense, inconvenience and sacrifice. Were it not for an imperative sense of duty, I would not remain in the Highlands and see so much that pains me.’” The Highland Clearances, John Prebble page 178

1846 “Alexander ‘Lochshiel’ MacDonald of Arisaig, following the 1846 potato blight, placed sheep on Dorlin, Scardoish, Portabhata, Briaig and Mingarry sweeping the people off, most going to Australia. Some tenants at Eilean Shona were sent away at the same time as the island had not yet been sold to Captain Swinburne. Most tenants from Glenuig went too (although not under pressure) as did those from Caolas. Father Rankin was in favour of emigration as against perpetual and incurable poverty at home and in 1852 persuaded most of his flock to go to Port Philip, he joined them in 1855. Five hundred people left the district. The catholic congregation at Moidart dropped from 1,100 to 600 Moidart Among the Clanranalds, Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts p218

1846 The Free Church referred to the tenants sharing their own little stores most liberally with the destitute in Glenorchy and, similar reports came from Tiree, Mull and Moidart. Great Highland Famine, p51TM Devine and John Donald 1988 quoting from Destitution Papers of The Free Church – Jean Lawson

1847 The Free Church made first impact between November 1846 and February 1847 when it became absorbed by the Central Committee. Provisions were shipped in on Breadalbane, the ship it used to carry ministers and “Grateful thanks for help came from such Catholic areas as Arisaig and Moidart” Great Highland Famine p126 TM Devine and John Donald 1988 quoting from J Bruce, Letters on the Present conditions in the
Highlands and Islands of Scotland Edinburgh 1847 pages 30-31– Jean Lawson


1847 In the Spring, almost all the able-bodied men in Arisaig and Moidart had gone to seek work in the lowlands. Great Highland Famine p321 TM Devine and John Donald 1988 temporary Migration and the Crofting Region, parish Patterns in the 1840s – Jean Lawson

1847 Of the 106,812 emigrants who came to British North America this year, 17,465 died, (one in six) mainly from typhus or dysentery. Passage to America, Terry Coleman, page 150.

1848 "Up on deck by four in the morning. Arrived opposite Staten island. What a number of windows the houses have! No tax, as in England". Passage to America, Terry Coleman, page 169.

1848 Robert Somers wrote a series of newspaper articles in the North British Daily Mail chronicling the poverty following the great potato famine. In one he reported that he sailed from Portree on one of the Glasgow steamers and landed at Arisaig. He went to a weaver's cottage. There were a few twigs burning as a weak fire on the floor and virtually no furniture. The family faced eviction because they had not paid the rent on their potato ground. They in turn had not been paid for cloth they had woven because of the poverty in the area. There were 68 families in Arisaig. Formerly (before the famine) potatoes were grown but lately corn was planted which had a far lower yield. Everyone faced destitution unless there was intervention. Lord Cranstoun and his factor were both absentees. Letters from the Highlands, Robert Somers

1848 Robert Somers also went to Strontian and Salen on his travels. At Strontian he found the crofting tenants of Sir James Riddell "extremely poor". Opposite the land occupied by the crofters was a farm at Drumintorran with 5000 sheep. He noted that there were also about 50 miners working the Strontian lead mine and the manager told him that shortly the number would rise to 200. At Salen Robert Somers remarked upon the pirn mill, the price of wood to the proprietor being 7/6 (37.5p) per ton delivered to the Mill door. In addition to the few men workers, there were twenty six destitute boys from Glasgow also employed (see also "Court Reports" for description of the fire which destroyed the Mill later). He also saw women fulling cloth as a team and singing Gaelic working songs in Salen. Letters from the Highlands, Robert Somers


NOTES RELATING TO AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES
ABOUT 1825-1850

In the days of the runrig system there was no incentive to improve your patch, for what you had one year one of your neighbours probably had next….In spite of all this, and although the only implements of husbandry were the caschrom (plough) and croman (hoe)….more crop was raised out of the soil then than there is now…The modern crofter has given up these implements and hires ponies and an inefficient plough….They scratch over the ground in an inefficient way to a depth of a few inches, all the head rigs and difficult stony bits being left untouched…In the old caschrom days every inch of ground was cultivated, even among boulders, where the best soil is often found and which no plough can go near…and how beautifully the women used to weed the potatoes by hand..and how beautifully they earthed up with the cromanan.

Before the potato blight in the early forties, it was fairly easy to raise food anywhere near the coast, where sea-ware was procurable. Though most of the ground consisted of poor peaty soil amongst stones and rocks, sea-ware with its potash would generally force a crop - -often a bumper crop – of potatoes out of almost any soil, even though wet and boggy, if it was made into what were known as “lazy beds”.

Inland, crofters would choose a piece of level land, then surround them with a low dyke of stones and turf, just sufficiently high to stop the cows from getting over. Into these the cattle would be driven after being milked in the evening to pass the night…for perhaps three weeks, until the wise men in the community considered they had sufficiently manured that particular plot…In the following spring these manured achaidhnan (fields) were turned over by caschrom …good crop of aboriginal black barley.

One way of growing potatoes in the wilds was by substituting bracken for sea-ware and making “lazy beds” of it where the soil was fairly deep and moist. The bracken was cut in July when at its richest….ditches were opened about six feet apart and the soil from the ditches put on the bracken so that it had a covering of six to eight inches of earth on it….left for nine months to decay till spring came round again….holes bored in with a “dibble” and seed potatoes dropped in.

In those days there were but few sheep kept, and they were all of the Seana chaoirich bheaga (little old sheep) breed, with pink noses and very fine wool, quite different from the modern black faced sheep, much less hardy, and accustomed to be more or less housed at night. - – A Hundred Years in the Highlands, Osgood Mackenzie, page 154


1801-1825

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1851-1875