GIGHA, one of the Hebrides, annexed to that district of Argyleshire named Kintyre, from which it is separated by a channel 3½ miles broad. It is of a regular oblong figure; 7 miles in length, and 2½ in greatest breadth, containing about 5,000 Scots acres, of which 1,500 are arable. The coast on the west side is bold and rocky; on the east side there are several points jutting out, and a few sunk rocks, which render the navigation dangerous to strangers. Between these points are several bays or creeks, where small vessels can be safely moored. One of the bays, called Ardmeanish, near the church, has good anchorage in 6 or 7 fathom water. The small island of CARA [which see] lies at 1 mile distance on the south; and in the middle of the sound between them is the small uninhabited island of Gigulum, near which is good anchoring-ground for the largest vessels. The general appearance of Gigha is low and flat: except towards the west side, where the ground rises into hills of considerable elevation. Except in this quarter, the whole island is arable, and the soil a light loam, with a mixture in some places of sand, moss, or clay. Trap veins traverse the island in different directions. In Gigha are the ruins of an old chapel. Martin, who visited it in the beginning of last century, says: “It has an altar in the east end, and upon it a font of stone which is very large, and hath a small hole in the middle which goes quite through it. There are several tomb-stones in and about this church; the family of the Mac-neils, the principal possessors of this isle, are buried under the tomb-stones on the east side of the church, where there is a plat of ground set apart for them. Most of all the tombs have a two-handed sword engraven on them, and there is one that has the representation of a man upon it. Near the west side of the church there is a stone of about 16 feet high, and 4 broad, erected upon the eminence. About 60 yards’ distance from the chapel there is a square stone erected about 10 feet high; at this the ancient inhabitants bowed, because it was there where they had the first view of the church. There is a cross 4 feet high at a little distance, and a cavern of stone on each side of it. This isle affords no wood of any kind, but a few bushes of juniper on the little hills. The stones, upon which the scurf corkir grows, which dyes a crimson colour, are found here; as also those that produce the crottil, which dyes a philamot colour. Some of the natives told me that they used to chew nettles, and hold them to their nostrils to stanch bleeding at the nose; and that nettles being applied to the place, would also stop bleeding at a vein, or otherwise. There is a well in the north end of this isle called Toubir-more, that is, ‘a great well,’ because of its effects, for which it is famous among the islanders; who, together with the inhabitants, use it as a catholicon for diseases. It is covered with stone and clay, because the natives fancy that the stream that flows from it might overflow the isle; and it is always opened by a Diroch, that is, ‘an inmate,’ else they think it would not exert its virtues. They ascribe one very extraordinary effect to it, and it is this; that when any foreign boats are wind-bound here – which often happens – the master of the boat ordinarily gives the native that lets the water run, a piece of money; and they say, that immediately afterwards the wind changes in favour of those that are thus detained by contrary winds. Every stranger that goes to drink of the water of this well, is accustomed to leave on its stone cover a piece of money, a needle, pin, or one of the prettiest variegated stones they can find.” There are no trees at present on the island, but many large roots of oak have been found in the mosses, indicative of the former existence of wood. The island is well-supplied with springs, which afford water sufficient to turn two corn-mills. The sandbanks abound with excellent fish; and much sea-weed is thrown ashore, which is partly employed as a manure, and partly burned into kelp. The principal occupations of the inhabitants are agriculture and fishing. Between Gigha and the opposite coast of Kintyre there is a regular ferry. – The islands of Gigha and Cara form a parish, the population of which, in 1801, was 556; in 1831, 534; and, in 1834, only 468. Houses, in 1831, 91. Assessed property, in 1815, £1,597 The united parish is in the presbytery of Kintyre, and synod of Argyle. Patron, the Duke of Argyle. Stipend £266 9s. 3d.; glebe £10. Schoolmaster’s salary £25 13s. 3½d.
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My name's Jenny, I'm in my late-thirties, from Glasgow and I'm your friendly local (as everything online has become) Scottish historian. View all posts by FlikeNoir