The Moidart Timewarp
by Tim Roberton

In which the bottom dropped out of the sheep market, Kinlochmoidart Estate was sold out of the MacDonald family which had owned it for more than 300 years; the new owner built a new house and bought Glenmoidart too. The Crofters Act passed through Parliament. Father Charles MacDonald published his book, Moidart Among the Clanranalds.

1876 Ordnance Survey map for 1876 (but also see 1873, ante and 1895 post) shows the following:-
Travelling west to east, Kinlochmoidart Pier, Corn Mill, Millhouse, Boathouse.
After this is Schoolhouse which comes immediately before the farm steading. Following the steading is Parsonage and St Finnan’s Church (Episcopalian).
The Prince’s Walk to the house is shown, which has kennels near Orchard Burn.
Immediately south is Mount Margaret.
On either side of River Moidart Bridge is Post Office (north) and Smithy (south).
The road link between the Post Office and Orchard Burn has not yet been built.
Bonnalie/Impey Papers, Ref 33.

1881The school on Eilean Shona shown for the first time in the valuation rolls and rated. Miss Isabella Middleton is named as the teacher. Logs and registers for the school are available at HC Archives 1878-1980 Gordon Barr

1881 Census available at Fort William Library on microfilm - Gordon Barr

1881 Six out of ten people in Argyll were still native Gaelic speakers. The Education Act of 1872 had the aim that all school-children should be able to read and write in English, but they were taught in English, whilst at home the common language between the children and the parents was Gaelic and the parents, being able neither to read nor write in many cases, were unable to be much help to the children. Go Listen to the Crofters, AD Cameron, page 116

During a crisis in sheep farming, one of the larger farms on the Kinloch estate was thrown back into the owner’s hands. At the same time a large delivery of stock occurred necessitating the payment of £10,000. To raise this, the property had to be disentailed upon payment of another £10,000. The very high interest rates upon these borrowed sums prevailing at the time were more than the property could meet, especially as the bottom had dropped out of the sheep and wool market at the same time. The property had to be sold, thus ending an association of over 300 years with the MacDonalds. Moidart Among the Clanranalds p 197 Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts

1882 The Kinlochmoidart MacDonalds received the property by feu charter in 1593 and it passed continually down the male line until the death of Donald in 1804. It passed to his sister Margarita who was married to Lt Col David Robertson and the family changed their name to Robertson-MacDonald. Their son, William Frederick Robertson-MacDonald sold the estate to Robert Stewart in 1882 and died a year later in 1883. Moidart Among the Clanranalds p245 Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts.

1882 “Annual Valuation rolls exist from 1869 and are in Inverness archives. They track on an annual basis various occupations. E.g. Baker at Dorlin in 1882, pilot on Eilean Shona 1889, Smirisary Crofters described as Fishermen, several weavers, wool spinners and shoemakers. The rise and fall of sheep farming can be traced too”. - Gordon Barr

1883 The Napier Commission heard evidence at Arisaig and later at Salen in Mull. The reference is available at Inverness Public Library and is published in Volume III, p2070-2127. It includes evidence from Ardnish, Mingary, Dalnabreac, Eilean Shona and Polnish. NAS also have records of returns by Estates on AF50/7/1 to 7/19 (for crofters) and AF50/8/1 to 8/7 (for cottars). Gordon Barr. When in Salen on Mull the Commission heard evidence which was out of the ordinary for them. It concerned “club farming” which was a concept they had not encountered before when attending hearings at which crofters described their tenure and conditions, prior to the land reform acts which followed (The Crofting Acts).

Charles Cameron, who was 65 and one of five crofters of Acharacle in Ardnamurchan explained to the Commission that each of them could keep four cows and a horse on his own lot and that they had 100 sheep which they held in common on the hill. It had been a club farm ever since he could remember: ‘There is one mark for all the sheep which belong to all the tenants in common. One of us is chosen to go and sell the stock, and whatever he gets we are all agreeable to it. We get as much for the wool as pays for the smearing of the sheep, and sometimes a little over, and we sell perhaps thirty or forty lambs and a few aged sheep at the end of the season’. The Acharacle crofters found the club system worked well for them but it did not make them rich. Because their rents were high, £18 a year, they had to take any work they could, such as ploughing for smaller crofters. Charles Cameron also relied on his grown up daughter’s earnings in England – ‘What she is able to give me helps to pay my rent and,’ he added ‘support me.’” Go Listen to the Crofters, The Napier Commission, AD Cameron

1883 Lord Howard of Glossop died and was succeeded by his only son. He had run the estate on the axiom “that on small estates like Dorlin…the real way to improve the condition of people was to enlarge their holdings…This would ultimately convert crofters into a well-to-do class of small farmers, thus doing away with the two great drawbacks of crofter estates, viz. A population looking to the proprietor for employment, and brought to the verge of starvation when this is not got, and the perpetuation of a class who are chronic feeders of the pauper rolls…” Moidart Among the Clanranalds p220 Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts

1883 Lord Howard of Glossop’s return to the Napier Commission was described by the author AD Cameron as, “signs of a kindlier landlord”. The entry illustrated was as follows:-

Ann McDonald, 2 persons in cottage, No Rent, Has cottage cowhouse and some potato ground and grazing for her cattle, 2 cows kept.

Roderick McDonald, 6 persons in cottage, No Rent, Cottage and land for potatoes and oats and grazing for two cattle, 2 cows kept.

Allan McDonald, 6 persons in cottage, No Rent, cottage and some potato ground and grazing for one cow, 1 cow kept.

Peggy MacKenzie, 1 person in cottage, No Rent, cottage and piece of land.

Duncan MacMillan on John McGregor’s croft No4 sheet 1 and pays him £1.1.8 for grazing one of his cows entered as McGregor’s

Peggy McVarish, 1 person in cottage, No Rent, cottage, pauper.

Ann McDonald and Mary McDonald, 2 persons in cottage, No Rent, cottage, paupers.

James McGillivray, £5, Blacksmith and house and smithy.

Go listen to the Crofters, The Napier Commission, AD Cameron

1884 Kinlochmoidart House was completed in 1884 at a cost of £9,048.00 and was described in an article at the time as”…mansion house with electric light laid on…five public roomes…ten family bedrooms…ample accommodation for servants…outbuildings…shooting over 15,000 acres of which about 1,000 are of wood, 3,000 acres arable, 6,000 acres grouse ground, clear of sheep and the rest hill pasture without heather…” Kinlochmoidart House, Stephen Jefferson, 1995

“It was in January 1884 that Mr Stewart obtained 30,000 (two boxes) of eyed Loch Leven trout eggs from Howietoun…..He placed them in artificial redds in the burn between Loch Nam Paitean and Loch Mhadiadh. The following year no trout were observed, but in August 1886 a shepherd informed Mr Stewart he had seen a few fish rising, so a fly-rod was taken up and twelve well-conditioned trout, averaging about half a pound, were caught in Nam Paitean….In September 1886, larger fish began to rise and four were killed in Loch nam Paitean, the largest weighing one and three quarters pounds. In the same year it was found that a number of trout had ascended the burn to Loch Mhadiadh.” Successful Fish Culture in the Highlands, by John Bickerdyke, Page 835 Journal December 1893,Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 20

1885 “Kinlochmoidart Estate” (as 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)”comprised 9349 acres valued at £1,008 per annum (Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, Vol 2, p408. Edinburgh 1885). It is situated at the head of Loch Moidart extending for some 4 miles along its northern shore and up both sides of the little River Moidart, being about 9 miles in length from East to West and about 4 miles from North to South. In addition to the Home Farm it comprised the large farm of Glenforslan and a smaller farm, Kinacarra or Low Farm, at the western end of the estate. The small estate known as Lochans or Glenmoidart, situated on the north side of the River Moidart was reserved as a residence for the bailiff of Clanranald, and although it was in the middle of the Kinlochmoidart Estates it did not form part of it, or belong to the Kinlochmoidart family.” Commentary upon the description of the property comprising the Kinlochmoidart Estate as set out in the deed of entail dated 7th October 1795 and referred to subsequently. Bonnalie/Impey Papers. Ref 50.

1886 Robert Stewart also bought Glen Moidart from Hugh Robertson Ross Kinlochmoidart House Stephen Jefferson 1995 One of the properties in the district which oftener than any other has passed from one owner to another, since it was sold by Clanranald, is that of Lochans, or Glenmoidart. It has been in the hands of Banker Macdonald, Lachlan Chisholm, Captain Grimstone, General Ross, and has finally been acquired by Mr Stuart (sic) of Kinloch. Although small in size it has many attractions, the house for instance, being picturesquely situated in front of the River Moidart and of a small lake through which the water flows on its way to the lower end of the glen. This house was enlarged by General Ross, to whom also are due the fine plantations in its vicinity, and which help so much in diversifying the scenery of the place. It is now being pulled down to make way for a larger building. Moidart Among the Clanranalds, Charles MacDonald, Ed John Watts p215

1886 The Crofters Act passed through Parliament, a watered down version of the Napier Commission recommendations. It brought all crofters security of tenure, the right to pass the land on to another member of the family, the right to improvements should they ever give up the tenancy, and a new land court, The Crofters Commission, with the power to fix fair rents. Go listen to the Crofters, The Napier Commission, AD Cameron

1886 There were, at the time of the Crofters Act, 29,00 crofts in 26 mainly crofting parishes. They supported 200,000 people; there were 70,000 acres under tillage, 95,000 cattle and 1,000,000 sheep. By 1952, the crofts had risen to 30,000 (but many being part-time), and the tillage had halved to 38,000 acres; there were 58,000 cattle but still 1,000,000 sheep. Highland Folk Ways, IF Grant, page 58

1886 “…on Monday 28thSeptember we steamed from Tobermory to Salen….we got a very old-fashioned but comfortable brougham from the hotelkeeper to take us to Mingarry School-house where our next (electioneering)meeting was to be held….Shiel Bridge, marking the boundary between the counties of Inverness and Argyll is a solid stone structure…Crossing the bridge….at the School-house, we were cordially welcomed by the genial Priest of Moidart, the Rev. Father Charles Macdonald, a native of Inverness and one of the first scholars enrolled on the books of Dr Bell’s institution…Before the meeting, we drove back to Shiel Bridge following the river to opposite the fine Highland Residence of Lord Howard of Glossop….While Father Charles went to ask Lord Howard for the key of the ruined Castle (Eileantyrim) I walked over and had a look at the exterior…When Mr Hope Scott bought the adjoining property from the late Lochshiel, he took steps to have the inner court cleared of debris….a workman discovered a small heap of coagulated coins, which were Spanish and German silver dollars. ..Ultimately they passed into the hands of Admiral Reginald Macdonald of Clanranald, so that, after a lapse of one hundred and sixty years, they may be said to have returned to their legitimate owner…..A few years after this, that portion of Moidart known as Dorlin was bought from Mr Hope Scott by the late Lord Howard of Glossop….Amid the many schemes for improving the estate…was one for opening up of a path along the cliffs towards….Briac. When the cutting had reached one of the roughest spots….was discovered…a heap of loose stones….and revealed a pile of silver coins of the reign of Queen Elizabeth”. The Celtic Magazine VOLXI 1886, Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 7

1887 In 1887 Robert Stewart threw up a dam in Loch nam Paitean to channel the water to an electricity generator. Successful Fish Culture in the Highlands, by John Bickerdyke, Page 835 Journal December 1893,Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 20

1889 “The shooting extends to about 15,000 acres of which 1,000 acres are wood, 3,000 are arable, 6,000 acres grouse ground, clear of sheep the rest being hill pasture without heather”. Quote of description of amenities of Kinlochmoidart Estate by Stephen Jefferson, Kinlochmoidart House (originally cited in the Estates Exchange 1889).

1889 “Moidart – or, Among the Clanranalds” is in the hands of the publisher….I am anxious to see how they turn out . Indeed the whole work, small as it is, (265 pages) is giving me the same anxiety that a schoolboy feels when he has to stand up – and face his examiners….Mr Stuart (sic) has made wonderful changes undoubtedly – and the work has given employment to many in the country. But all that is over now – or nearly so - so that Kinloch estate will be a much more private and reserved property than ever it was before. The whole generation of new Southern Proprietors has a strong tendency to be exclusive”….Letter from Father Charles Macdonald to Admiral DR Macdonald, dated 30 August 1889. Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 6

1891 Census return available at Fort William Library on microfilm.- Gordon Barr

1894 Father Charles Macdonald died in Helensburgh.. St Finan’s Isle, Its Story by Alastair Cameron (North Argyll), page 15 - Jean Cameronand Bonnalie/Impey Papers, Ref 38

1894 Royal Commission on the Highlands and Islands took evidence in Arisaig (which at this time was the “end of the road” – Mallaig not yet being built) concerning Moidart. This is available in Inverness Public Library.- Gordon Barr

1894 The West Highland Railway (Mallaig Extension) Act was passed on 31 July and the Guarantee Bill two years later. This provided shareholders with a guaranteed return of 3% on £260,000 of the cost and made a grant of £30,000 towards the £45,000 cost of Mallaig Pier. Lady Margaret Cameron of Locheil cut the first sod at Corpach on 21 January 1897. The West Highland Railway By John Thomas, page 95.

1895 Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council set up. Parish Councilors present at first meeting on 18 May were: Col MacDonald of Glenaladale (Chairman); Messrs Donald McVarish of Rhu, J Kerr, Arisaig, Angus McIntosh of Cliff (Dorlin), John McWilliam, Blain, Simon McDougal of Langall, Thomas McPherson of Arisaig, Ronald MacDonald, crofter of Bunicault and (Absent - Arthur Nicholson, Arisaig House). The council were responsible for local matters of health, poor relief and education. Notes made at Inverness Public Record Office from the Minute Book of the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council, 11 April 1896 to 30 March 1906.

1896 A meeting of Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council took place to revise and adjust the Roll of Paupers and to fix their allowance for next 6 months. There were about 40 paupers in the parish equally divided between Arisaig and Moidart and, besides financial assistance at the rate of about 1/8d per week, help in kind was also given. For example, the Moidart paupers were given:

Christina Kennedy, Eilean Shona one boll meal per quarter
Marion MacDonald, Dalnabreck offer ticket to Poorhouse
Angus MacDonald, Langall Poorhouse, admit at 1/5 per week
John MacDonald Langall Poorhouse, admit at 1/5 per week
Lexie MacDonald Langall Poorhouse, admit at 1/5 per week
Widow John Gillies, Creag Mor 1/3 admit to another Poor house
Donald MacEachan, Keppoch 1/8 per week plus 10d per week for attendance and have him certified as a pauper and a lunatic
Notes made at Inverness Public Record Office from the Minute Book of the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council, 11 April 1896 to 30 March 1906.

1896 The Inspector indicated to the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council that he was resigning as from 15th February 1898 and the Parish Council agreed to advertise for his successor at £35 per annum with free house and garden (or £10 in lieu of a house). Notes made at Inverness Public Record Office from the Minute Book of the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council, 11 April 1896 to 30 March 1906.

1896 The poor state of the road between Kinlochailort and Arisaig was noted and the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council called for the contractor of the Mallaig Railway to repair it immediately. Notes made at Inverness Public Record Office from the Minute Book of the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council, 11 April 1896 to 30 March 1906.

1897 Parish Council of Arisaig and Moidart outgoings in December included payments to Mull Combination Poor House of £20.17.5 and to Inverness Asylum of £25.0.0 with £4.9.3 being paid to R Stewart of Kinlochmoidart for fuel supplied to paupers. The list of some of the Moidart paupers at this time, together with their ages and weekly allowance for poor relief were:
· Margaret MacDonald, Eilean Shona 72 1/8 weekly allowance
· Mary MacDonald, Blainard 78 1/8
· John MacGregor, Moss 77 1/3
· Janet MacGregor, Moss 84 1/3
· Margt MacEachen, Dalnabreck 61 1/8
· Catherine Grant, Langall 86 1/8
· Mary MacNeill, Kinlochmoidart 81 1/8
· Sarah MacIsaac, Kinlochmoidart 87 1/8
· Misey MacDonald, Kinlochmoidart 70 1/8
· Catherine MacEnnis, Kinlochmoidart 48 1/3
· Jane MacDonald, Roshven 71 1/8 plus 9/- per quarter for fuel
· Christy MacDonald, Roshven 76 1/8
· Catherine MacDonald, Smirisary 63 1/8
· Widow Duncan Kennedy, Eilean Shona 43 1/8
Also Misey MacDonald or Gillies, Alexander Gillies, Angus MacDonald, John MacDonald, Lexie MacDonald of Langall and Janet MacDonald of Dalnabreck. Notes made at Inverness Public Record Office from the Minute Book of the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council, 11 April 1896 to 30 March 1906.

Robert McAlpine ("Concrete Bob") was appointed contractor to the Mallaig railway; his pioneering use of the material was much admired and, having proved successful (Glenfinnan Viaduct has twenty one standard spans) was also much copied. To assist construction, a pierhead was built at Locheilhead and camps were also established at Mallaig, Morar Beach, Arisaig and Lochailort. The workforce comprised Irishmen, Lowland Scots, Highlanders, Scandinavians and men from the islands who spoke only Gaelic. The largest camp was established at Lochailort, which housed 2,000 of the 3,500 navvies who worked on the line. The old schoolhouse was converted to an eight bed hospital, the first in the British Isles to be built at a construction site. The West Highland Railway By John Thomas, page 96.

1897 At the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council meeting, it was reported that there were 58 applications for Inspector and Alexander Gibson of Dunoon was appointed.
Widow Duncan Kennedy's son enrolled as an apprentice to a tailor, John MacIntyre, Shiel Bridge and the Parish undertook to pay £3 per quarter for his indentures. Notes made at Inverness Public Record Office from the Minute Book of the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council, 11 April 1896 to 30 March 1906.

1898 New Parish Council Committee was appointed for Arisaig and Moidart including William Blackburn, Farmer of Irine* and John Charles Stewart of Glenmoidart. Col MacDonald of Glenaladale was again elected Chairman unanimously. Notes made at Inverness Public Record Office from the Minute Book of the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council, 11 April 1896 to 30 March 1906.
* Irine was later renamed Roshven Farm- Ken Bowker

1895 Ordnance Survey of Scotland, Surveyed 1871-1875, but revised 1895 (see 1873 and 1876 ante), Tobermory Sheet 52, Scale 1 inch to the mile shows for Moidart:-
Egnaig, Aultgil, Kylesmore, Kylesbeg, all linked by footpath from Glenuig.
Footpath then runs east along Loch Moidart, with Port a’Bhata opposite.
Then footpath comes to pier and then to Millhouse just beyond where road starts.
St Finnan’s Church appears next and then the drive turns off to the big house.
Up the Glen past Glenmoidart House the road goes to Glenforslan.
Inchrory, Assary and Ulgary are shown, but there is no dam yet at Glenforslan.
General Ross’s cairn (1863) and Captain Robertson’s cairn (1868) are shown.
The route of the “new” road from the bridge at KLM to Orchard Burn is shown.
Bonnalie/Impey Papers, Ref 1

1899 The Clanranald launched and taken up to Loch Shiel to take over route experimentally opened the year before by the Lady of the Lake. Oban Times, 18th March 1899, Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 8 The first Clanranald arrived in the Spring of 1899, a very fast boat but drawing too much water for the River Callop at Glenfinnan. St Finan’s Isle, Its Story by Alastair Cameron (North Argyll), page 22 - Jean Cameronand Bonnalie/Impey Papers, Ref 38

1899 “About half a mile from the Post Office is Shiel Bridge, where Mr CD Rudd, of Ardnamurchan, is having a large mansion built by Messrs MacDougall, contractors, Oban. Oban Times, 18th March 1899, Bonnalie/Impey Papers Ref 8

1900 It was reported by Gibson, as Parish Clerk to the Arisaig and Moidart Council, that a name change was proposed from Kinlochailort to Loch Ailort. This had been supported by Mrs. Head, the proprietor who was in favour of changing the name of the Post Office to Loch Ailort and of Mr. Nicholson of Arisaig, owner of the Hotel. Furthermore, the Railway Company had the permission of Mr. Nicholson to call the railway station Loch Ailort Railway Station. It was also noted that Professor Blackburn strongly objected to the proposed name change. "Kinlochailort was called that when first I came 60 years ago. It is a piece of land. Loch Ailort is a loch". However, the Parish Council did not support him and endorsed the proposed change of the Post Office to Loch Ailort Post Office. Notes made at Inverness Public Record Office from the Minute Book of the Arisaig and Moidart Parish Council, 11 April 1896 to 30 March 1906.

1900 Clanranald II made her appearance on Loch Shiel in the fall of 1900….She was seventy feet long, fourteen feet in the beam and with a draft of three feet six inches….She was certified to carry 187 passengers and a crew of five. St Finan’s Isle, Its Story by Alastair Cameron (North Argyll), page 22 - Jean Cameronand Bonnalie/Impey Papers, Ref 38


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