Hebrides, The, Or Western Isles Of Scotland
islands king island islay alexander john
HEBRIDES, THE, or WESTERN ISLES OF SCOTLAND, iS a name sometimes applied collectively to all the islands on the west coast of Scotland, but seldom including Bute, Arran, and the other islands situated in the Firth of Clyde. The group is usually divided into the Outer Hebrides, or Long Island, and the Inner Hebrides. The former division embraces the Lewis, Harris, North and South Hist, Benbecula, Barra, and a number of small islands, the whole length of this group from Barra-Head to the Butt of Lewis being about 130 miles. The Inner Hebrides include Islay, Skye, Mull, Jura, Coll, Colonsay, Rum, Eigg, Tiree, Lismore, and Ulva. The number of inhabited islands is over 100, and the population is nearly 100,000. The principal islands are noticed under separate headings. The outer range consists almost exclusively of gneiss rocks, with poor soil and large proportions of peat and moor. The inner range is composed chiefly of trap and slate. The scenery of the islands may be generally described as partaking of the wild and sublime. Large masses of mountains of all forms tower up in the interior ; and the coasts, indented by arms of the sea, are rugged and varied in outline. Spots of great beauty - green pastoral glens, sheltered • bays and lakes - are interspersed with the wildest scenes. The climate, though mild, is humid and unsuitable for corn crops. Only a very small portion of the surface is arable, the greater part being mountains, and the valleys intersecting them narrow and frequently covered with peat moss. Much of the land has, however, been converted into sheep walks, and the moors and desolate tracts are often let at high rents to sportsmen. The development of the prosperity of the islands has been greatly aided by the construction of excellent roads, and by the establishment of various line's of steamers in connexion with Glasgow, thus rendering the fine and in some respects unique scenery fully and easily accessible to tourists. One of the principal sources of wealth is that of the fisheries, Stornoway in the island of Lewis being the headquarters of that industry on the western coast.
The Hebrides are mentioned by Ptolemy under the name of 'E)SouSat and by Pliny under that of Hebudes, -the modern spelling having, it is said, originated in an accidental misprint. By the Norwegians they were called Sudreyjar nr Southern Islands. The Latinized form was Sodorenses, preserved to modern times in the title of the bishop of Sodor and Man. The original inhabitants of the Hebrides seem to have been of the same Celtic race as those settled on the mainland - the Scoto-Irish whom Columba about the middle of the 6th century converted to Christianity. Scandinavian hordes then poured in with their northern idolatry and lust of plunder, but in time they adopted the languaae and faith of the islanders. Mention is made of incursions of the vikings on their shores as early as 793, but the principal emigration took place towards the end of the 9th century in the early part of the reign of Harold Haarfager, and consisted of persons driven thither, as well as to Orkney and Shetland, to escape from his tyrannous rule. Soon afterwards they began to make incursions against their mother-country, and on this account King Harold fitted out an expedition against them, and placed Orkney, Shetland, the Hebrides, and the Isle of .111-an under Norwegian government. The chief seat of the Norwegian sovereignty was Colonsay. About the year 1095 Godred Crovan, king of Dublin, of Man, and of the Hebrides, died in Islay. his third son, Olaus or Olave, succeeded to the government about 1103, and the daughter of Ohms was married to Somerled or Sorlet of Argyle, who became the fcemdcr of the dynasty known as Lords of the Isles. Many efforts were made by the Scottish monarchs to displace the Norwegians. Alexander II. led a fleet and army to the shores of Argyllshire in 1249, but he died. in the island of Kerrcra. On the other hand King Haco, at once to restrain the independence of his jarls and to keep in check the ambition of the Scottish kings, set sail in 1263 on a great expedition, which, however, ended disastrously. Magims, son of Haco, concluded in 1266 a peace with the Scots, renouncing all claim to the Hebrides and other islands except Orkney and Shetland, and King Alexander agreed to give him a sum of 4000 merks in four yearly payments. It was also stipulated that Margaret, daughter of Alexander, should be betrothed to Eric, the SOD of Magnus, a connexion long remembered and lamented in Scottish song and story.
The race of Somerled continued to rule the islands, and from a younger son of the same potentate sprang the lords of Lorn, who took the patronymic of Macdougall. John Macdonald of Isle of Islay, who died about 1386, was the first to adopt the title of "Lord of the Isles." He was one of the most potent of the island princes, and was married to a daughter of the Earl of Strathern, steward of Scotland. His son, Donald of the Isles, was memorable for his rebellion in support of his claim to the earldom of Ross, in which, however, he was unsuccessful. Alexander, son of Donald, resumed the hereditary warfare against the Scottish crown ; and in 1462 a treaty was concluded between Alexander's son and successor John and King Edward IV. of England, by which John, his son Donald Balloch, and his grandson John, became bound to assist Ring Edward and James, earl of Douglas, in subduing the kingdom of Scotland. The alliance seems to have led to no active operations, and the island king was adjudged to be a traitor to his liege sovereign of Scotland. In the reign of James V. another John of Islay resumed the title of " Lord of the isles," but was compelled to surrender the dignity. The glory of the lordship of the isles - the insular sovereignty - had departed. From the time of Bruce the Campbells had been gaining the ascendency- in Argyll. The Macleans, Macnaughtons, Maelaehlans, Lamonts, and other ancient races had sunk before this favourite family. The lordship of Lorn was wrested from the Macdougalls by Bruce, and their extensive possessions, with Dunstaffnage Castle, bestowed on the king's relative,. Stewart, and his descendants, afterwards lords of Lorn. The Macdonalds of Sleat, the direct representatives of Somerled, though driven from Islay and deprived of supreme power by James V., still kept a sort of insular state in Skye. There were also the Macdonalds of Clanranald and Glengarry (descendants of Somerled), with the powerful houses of Macleod of Dunvegan and Macleod of Harris, M`Neill of Barra and Maclean of Mull. Fierce sanguinary feuds continued throughout the 16th and 17th centuries among these rival clans and their dependent tribes, and the turbulent spirit was not subdued till a comparatively recent period. James VI. made an abortive endeavour to colonize Lewis. 11-Milani M. and Queen Anne attempted to subsidize the chiefs in order to preserve tranquillity, but the wars of Montrose and Dundee, and the Jacobite insurrections of 1715 and 1745, showed how futile were all such efforts. It was not till 1748, when a decisive blow was struck at the power of the chiefs by the abolition of heritable jurisdictions, and the appointment of sheriffs in the different districts, that the arts of peace and social improvement made way in these remote regions.
The change was great, and at first not unmixed with evil. A new system of management and high rents were imposed, in consequence of which numbers of the tacksmen, or large tenants, emigrated to America. The exodus continued for many years. Sheep-farming on a large scale was next introduced, and the crofters were thrust into villages or barren corners of the land. The consequence was that, despite the nimbus who entered the army or emigrated to Canada, the standard of civilization sank lower, and the population multiplied in the islands. The people came to subsist almost entirely on potatoes and herrings ; and in 1846, when the potato blight commenced its ravages, a scene of nearly universal destitution ensued, - embracing, over the islands generally, 70 per cent. of the population. Temporary relief was administered in the shape of employment on roads and other works; and an emigration fund being raised, from 4000 to 5000 of the people in the most crowded districts wore removed to Australia.
The principal books on the Hebrides are Martin's Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, 1703; Pennant's Tour in Scotland cruel Voyage to the Hebrides, 1774 ; Sir Joseph Bank's Contributions to Pennant's Tour; Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.; Macculloch's Geological Aceount of the Hebrides, 1819 ; Hugh Miller's Cruise of the Betsy; W. A. Smith's Lewisiana, or Life in the Outer Hebrides, 1874. Their history under Norwegian rule is given in the Ch•oaiea Regum Mannice ct Insularunc, edited, with learned notes, from the 11S. in the British Museum by Professor P. A. Manch of Christiania, 1860.