South Uist

South Uist ( Scottish Gaelic : Uibhist a Deas ) is the second-largest island of the Outer Hebrides in to date. In the northwest, there is a missile testing range. Its inhabitants are known in Gaelic as Deasaich (Southerners).Scotland. At the 2011 census, it had a usually resident population of 1,754, a fall of 64 since 2001.[8] There is a nature reserve and a number of sites of archaeological interest, including the only location in Great Britain where prehistoric mummies have been found. The population is about 90% Roman Catholic. The island, in common with the rest of the Hebrides, is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Gaelic language in Scotland. In 2006 South Uist, and neighbouring Benbecula and Eriskay, were involved in Scotland’s biggest community land buyout

Geography and geology

Looking west to Nicolson’s Leap. In the background are Beinn Mhòr on the left, and Hecla on the right.

The west is machair (fertile low-lying coastal plain) with a continuous sandy beach , whilst the east coast is mountainous with the peaks of Beinn Mhòr 620 meters (2,034 ft) and Hecla 606 meters (1,988 ft). The main village on the island is Lochboisdale ( Loch Baghasdail ), from which ferries sail to Oban on the mainland and to Castlebay ( Bāgh a ‘Chaisteil ) on Barra . The island is linked to Eriskay and Benbecula by causeways . Smaller settlements include Daliburgh ( Dalabrog ),Howmore ( Tobha Mòr ) and Ludag.

South Uist has a bedrock of Lewisian Gneiss , [9] [10] high grade regional metamorphism dating back to 2900 million years ago in the Archaean . Some show granulite facies metamorphism, but most are the lower temperature amphibolite facies . These formed part of the earth’s deep crust, left here when the North Atlantic was formed. These are the oldest rocks in the British Isles today and they have been brought to the surface by tectonic movements. They now bear the scars of the last glaciation which has exposed them.

“South Uist Machair” on the west coast is one of 40 National Scenic Areas in Scotland. [11]


Macan Tàilleir (2003) suggests that the derivation of Uist may be “corn island”. [12] HOWEVER, whilst Noting que la vist ending Would Have beens familiar to speakers of Old Norse as meaning “dwelling” Gammeltoft (2007) says que la word is “of non-Gaelic origin” and That It Reveals Itself as One of a number of “foreign place names having undergone adaptation in Old Norse”. [1]


Early history

The neolithic monument at Beinn A Charra

South Uist was clearly home to a Neolithic community thriving . The island is covered in several neolithic remains, such as burial cairns [note 1] , and a small number of standing stones, of which the largest – 17 foot tall standing – in the center of the island, at the northern edge of Beinn At Charra . Occupation continued in the Chalcolithic , as evidenced by a number of Beakerfinds throughout the island.

Cladh Hallan roundhouses

Later in the Bronze Age , a man was mummified [note 2] , and placed on display at Cladh Hallan , parts being replaced by the centuries; he was joined by a woman three hundred years later. Together they are the only known prehistoric mummies in the British Isles. [13] Towards the end of the Bronze Age, the mummies were buried [note 3] , and a row of Roundhouses built on top of them.

The remains of Dun Vulan [note 4]

Cladh Hallan was not abandoned until the late Iron Age . At That Time around, in the 2nd century BC, a broch Was built at Dun vulan ; archeological investigation suggests the inhabitants often ate pork . After the 2nd century AD, the Dun Vulan was converted into a 3-roomed house. At a similar time, a wheelhouse was constructed at Kilpheder [note 5] ; In a wheelchair (in the wheelhouse) was found an enameled bronze brooch , of a fashionable style in the Roman Britain of 150 AD [note 6] .

Kingdom of the Isles

In the 9th century, Vikings invaded South Uist, along with the rest of the Hebrides, and the gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata to the south, and established the Kingdom of the Isles throughout these lands. A short Ogham inscription has been found in Bornish , inscribed on a piece of animal bone, dating from this era; [14] it is thought that the Vikings used it as a gaming token , or perhaps for sortilege . [14]

Following Norwegian unification, the Kingdom of the Isles became a crown dependency of the Norwegian king; to the Norwegians it was Suðreyjar (meaning southern isles ). Malcolm III of Scotland acknowledged in writing that Suðreyjar was not Scottish, and king Edgar quitclaimed any residual doubts. At Kilpheder, the roundhouses were abandoned in Norse longhouses [note 7] ; at Bornish, a few miles to the north, Norse settlement was built [note 8]. As indicated by archaeological finds, residents of a wide-ranging network, stretching throughout the Norwegian empire, as adjacent lands like Ireland.

The remains of the early 13th century Howmore monastery

However, in the mid 12th century, Somerled , a Norse-Gael of uncertain origin, launched, which made Suðreyjar entirely independent. Following his death, Somerled’s heirs ( Clann Somhairle ), Somerled’s heirs , and the dynasty (The Crovan dynasty ). The Macrory , a branch of Somerled’s heirs, ruled Uist, Barra , Eigg , Rum , the Rough Bounds , Bute , Arran , and northern Jura [15] [16] [17][18] [19] [note 9] . A small monastery was established at Howmore [note 10] .


The remains of the late 13th century parish church

In the 13th century, despite Edgar’s quitclaim, Scottish forces attempted to conquer parts of Suðreyjar, culminating in the indecisive Battle of Largs . In 1266, the affair was settled by the Treaty of Perth , which transferred the whole of Suðreyjar to Scotland, in exchange for a very large sum of money [note 11] . The Treaty expressly preserved the status of the Suðreyjar rulers; the Macrory lands, excepting Bute, Arran, and Jura, became the Lordship of Garmoran , a quasi-independent crown dependency, rather than an intrinsic part of Scotland. Following this, the Norse longhouses have been gradually abandoned, in favor of new Blackhouses [note 12]Howmore for South Uist [note 13] .

At the turn of the century, William I had created the position of Sheriff of Inverness , to be responsible for the Scottish highlands, which theoretically now extended to Garmoran. [21] [22] In 1293, however, King John Balliol established the Sheriffdom of Skye , which included the Outer Hebrides. Nevertheless, following his usurpation, the Skye sheriffdom ceased to be mentioned [note 14] , and the Garmoran lordship (including Uist) was confirmed to the MacRory leader . In 1343, King David II issued a further charter for this to the latter’s son . [23]

Blackhouses in Drimsdale

Just three years later [note 15] MacRory heir was Amy of Garmoran . The southern parts of the Kingdom of the Isles had become the Lordship of the Isles , ruled by the MacDonalds (another group of Somerled’s descendants). Amy married the leading MacDonald, John of Islay , but he was later divorced, and married the king’s niece instead (in return for a substantial dowry ). As part of the divorce, John deprived his eldest son, Ranald, of the ability to inherit the Lordship of the Isles, in favor of a new wife. As compensation, John granted Lordship of the Uists to Ranald’s younger brother Godfrey, while making Ranald Lord of the remainder of Garmoran.

However, it is Ranald’s death, disputes between Godfrey and his nephews (the elder of which Clan Ranald ) to lead to an enormous amount of violent feuding. In 1427, King James I asked that highland leaders should attend a meeting at Inverness . On arrival, many of the leaders have been seized and imprisoned; Alexander MacGorrie, sound of Godfrey, was considered to be the most reprehensible, and soon after , was soon executed. [24] King James declared the Lordship of Uist forfeit.


Calvay Castle, in Loch Boisdale

Following the forfeiture, and in that same year, the Lord of the Isles granted the Lairdship of the southern third of South Uist (traditionally called Lochboisdale [note 16] ), together with Barra , to Giolla Adhamhnain mac Neill, leader of the MacNeils . At around this time Calvay Castle was built, guarding Lochboisdale.

Caisteal Bheagram in Skirhough

The remainder of South Uist remained with the Scottish crown until 1469, when James III granted Lairdship of it to John of Ross , the Lord of the Isles; In turn, John Passed it à son own half-brother, Hugh of Sleat (the grant to Hugh Was later confirmed by the king – James IV – in a 1493 charter). Hugh died a few years later, in 1498, and for reasons that are not remotely clear, his son – John of Sleat – immediately resigned, transferring all authority to the king.

On 3 August that same year, King James IV awarded the central third of South Uist (traditionally known as Kilpheder [note 17] ), by charter to Ranald Bane , leader of Clan Ranald . [25] Two days later [note 18] , the king gave Ranald Bane a charter for the northern third (also known as Skirhough [note 19] ) as well. [25] Ranald Bane, or his heirs, built Casteal Bheagram, on Loch an Eilean in Skirhough, and their local stronghold [note 20] .

John Moidartach and his son

Some time after Ranald Bane ‘s nephew, John Moidartach [note 21] , succeeded as Laird, he fell out of favor with king James V [note 22] . By 1538, James had transferred the letter to John the younger half-brother, Farquhar [note 23] ; [26] the king gave him Skirhough shortly afterwards. [27] In 1563, Farquhar sold his part of South Uist to a distant relationship, James MacDonald (heir of the second son of John of Islay)[note 24];[28] that same year, Mary, Queen of Scots, issued a charter confirming James MacDonald as laird of these lands.[29]

The Clan Ranald Chapel at Howmore

In the following year, Farquhar was murdered by John Moidartach’s sounds. [30] The year after that [note 25] , as opponents of the Scottish reformation , Moidartach and his family took the side of the Queen during the Chaseabout Raid , and were considered back in royal favor; the Queen is being punished for Farquhar’s murder. [30] By the last decades of the century, John Moidartach had obtained a practical hold on Farquhar’s form lands, though seemingly as a result of James MacDonald’s heirs. In 1584 John died, and was buried at Howmore; a stone from the site (the Clanranald Stone ) is thought to have been his headstone[Note 26] .

In 1596, concerned by the active involvement of highland leaders in Irish rebellions against Queen Elizabeth of England , King James VI of Scotland (Elizabeth’s heir) asked them to join the Dumbarton on August, and produce the charters for their land. As neither John Moidartach’s heirs, nor those of James MacDonald, did so, Skirhough and Kilpheder became forfeit, by the corresponding Act of Parliament. Consequently, the king awarded them to Donald Gorm Mor, the heir of Hugh of Sleat, as a reward; [31] he had been one of the few highland leaders who obeyed the king’s summons. [32] Donald Gorm Mor subinfeudated Skirhough and Kilpheder back to Clan Ranald, for £ 46 per annum.


Loch Boisdale

The leader of the MacNeils did not submit to the 1609 Statutes of Iona . Using this as justification, Clan Ranald drove the MacNeils out of Lochboisdale, and was awarded a charter for it, in 1610. [33] In 1622, Donald Gorm Mor’s successor, Donald Gorm Og [note 27] , is found requesting that the Privy Council is punishing the Clan Ranald leadership for not removing their families and tenants from Skirhough; [34] presumably they had not been paying the rent.[35] By way of settlement of the dispute[note 28], Donald Gorm Og was granted lairdship over Lochboisdale as well;[35] thus Donald Gorm Og became laird of the whole of South Uist, while Clan Ranald held it as his feudal vassals.

In 1633, Donald Gorm Og decided to simply sell the book of South Uist to the Earl of Argyll [note 29] ; in January 1634, this arrangement was confirmed by a charter. [36] In 1661, Charles I , the Earl’s son – the Marquess of Argyll – was convicted of high treason, and his lands became forfeit. Thus, in 1673, it was the king that Clan Ranald paid for their South Uist. [37]

Debt, poverty, and loss

The remains of Ormaclete Castle

In 1701, Allen MacDonald, the leader of Clan Ranald, built Ormaclete Castle as his new residence in the Uists. In 1715, some venison caught fire in the kitchen, which lead to the whole castle burning down. Like many of the MacDonald leaders, Allen was a supporter of the Jacobite rebellion , and was a few days later, at the Battle of Sheriffmuir , was himself killed. After this, the Ranald Clan leadership moved into Benbecula’s Uists back.

During the Jacobite Rising of 1745 , Ranald MacDonald, the leader of the Clan Ranald [note 30] , raised the Jacobite army [note 31] . In the following year, Bonnie Prince Charlie was able to hide at Calvay Castle, after having fled from the Battle of Culloden , until he was able to escape from the aid of Flora MacDonald . Ranald, it had no effect, was accidentally naming him as DonaldMacDonald.

Kelp on the Bornish beach

Ranald’s debts proved burdensome for his family, but his grandson, Ranald George MacDonald , was able to keep them at bay thanks to the Napoleonic Wars ; the wars had restricted the supply of certain minerals, turning the production of soda ash by burning kelp into a highly profitable activity. Kelp harvesting (and burning) has become one of the principal economic activities of the population of South Uist, [38] but when the wars ended, competition from imported bark collapsed . [39] In 1837, facing bankruptcy, [39] Ranald sold South Uist to Lt. Colonel John Gordon ofCluny .

Already known to treat people as slaves , and the financial advantages to livestock farming, Gordon was ruthless, evicting the population with short notice. On August 11, 1851, he asked everyone in South Uist to attend a public meeting at Lochboisdale; selon eyewitness year [note 32] , he dragged the attendees from the meeting, sometimes in handcuffs, and Threw Then onto waiting ships, like cattle . [40] Having cleared much of the land, bringing in the population with flocks of blackface sheep, bringing in lowlandfarmers to care for them. The population population moved to Canada; The remaining populace of South Uist is less than half of the 1841 total [note 33] [41]

Later history

Lochboisdale became a major herring port later in the 19th century. In 1889, counties were formally created in Scotland, on shrieval boundaries, by a dedicated Local Government Act ; South Uist therefore became part of the new county of Inverness . Following late 20th century reforms, South Uist became part of the Highland Region.

The population level remained steady after the 19th century clearances {{in 2004 it was 2285 [41] }}. Following a series of different landowners, South Uist has been owned by South Uist Estates Ltd. since 1960; in 2006, the local community bought all of the company’s shares, via the special purpose vehicle Sealladh na Beinne Mòire [note 34] .


Our Lady of the Isles

Tourism is important to the island’s economy and attractions include the Kildonan Museum, the 16th century Clanranald Stone, and the ruins of the house where Flora MacDonald was born.

South Uist is home to the Askernish Golf Course . The oldest race in the Outer Hebrides, Askernish was designed by Old Tom Morris , who also worked on the Old Course at St Andrews. Morris was commissioned by Lady Gordon Cathcart in 1891. [42] The Askernish race existed intact until the 1930s, then was abandoned, and ultimately lost. Its identity remains hidden for many years before its apparent discovery, to claim disputed by some locals. [43] [44] [45] Restoration of the race to Morris’ original design was held up by disagreements with local crofters, [46] [47] After legal challenges were resolved in the courts, the race opened in August 2008.

The popular summer school music, Ceòlas , takes place every year in Daliburgh School on the island. It is followed by the local children’s summer school, Fèis Shooting a’Mhurain.

After a protracted campaign South Uist residents took control of the island on 30 November 2006 in Scotland’s largest community land buyout to date. The previous landowners, a sporting syndicate, sold the assets of the 92,000 acres (372.31 km 2 ) estate for £ 4.5 million [48] to a Community Company known as Stòras Uibhist, which was set up to buy the land and to manage it. [49] [50] The buyout was in most of South Uist, and neighboring Benbecula, and all of Eriskay coming under community control. [51]

The proposal for the community of the environment, which is the subject of regeneration of the local economy, reversing decline and depopulation, and reducing dependency, while remaining aware of the environmental needs, culture and history of the islands . The company claims its name – Uibhist Stones (meaning Uist Resource ) – symbolizes hope for the future wealth and prosperity of the islands.

The SEARCH project (Sheffield Environmental and Archaeological Research Campaign in the Hebrides) is a long-term perspective of the Bronze Age to the 19th century.

Missile testing

Eastern Kilpheder

In the north west of the island at ( 57 ° 20’N 07 ° 20’W ), a missile testing ranks Was built in 1957-1958 to launch the Corporal missile , Britain and America’s clarification needed ] first guided nuclear weapon. This development has gone ahead of time, with some concerns that the Scottish Gaelic language would not survive the influx of English-speaking Army personnel. The British Government Claimed That There Was an ‘overriding national interest’ in Establishing a training ranks for Their newly purchased this Corporal, a weapon That Was to be at the front lines of Cold War defense. The Corporal missile was tested from 1959 to 1963, before giving way to Sergeant and Lance tactical nuclear missiles. The ‘rocket range’ has been known locally and has been used to test high altitude research rockets, Skua and Petrel . Local opposition to the range inspired the 1957 Rockets Galore novel by Compton Mackenzie .

The Range is still owned by the MoD operated by QinetiQ as a testing facility for missile systems Such As the surface area-to-air Rapier missile and Unmanned Air Vehicles [52] In 2009 the MOD annoncé That It Was Considering running down icts missile testing ranges in the Western Isles, [53] with potentially serious consequences for the local economy.

Nature reserve

Main article: Flora and fauna of the Outer Hebrides
Flowering machair on South Uist

Loch Druidibeg in the north of the island is a national nature reserve owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage . The reserve covers 1,677 acres of machair , bog , freshwater lochs , estuary , heather moorland and hill. [54] Over 200 species of flowering plants have been recorded on the reserve, some of which are nationally scarce. South Uist is considered the best place in the UK for the Naiad Slender Najad ( Najas flexilis ) [55] which is a European Protected Species .

Nationally important populations of breeding waders are also present, including redshank , dunlin , lapwing and ringed plover . The reserve is also home to greylag geese on the loch and in the summer corncrakes on the machair. Otters and hen harriers are also seen.

There has been considerable controversy over hedgehogs on South Uist. The animals are not native to the islands, having been introduced in the 1970s to reduce garden pests. It is asked that they pose a threat to the eggs of the nesting wading birds on the island. In 2003, the Uist Wader Project – headed by Scottish Natural Heritage – began a series of hedgehogs in the area. Following a campaign and concerns over animal welfare, this cull was called off in 2007; instead of hedgehogs are being captured and moved to mainland Scotland. [56] [57] [58]


According to the 2011 Census, there are 1,888 Gaelic speakers (60%) on South Uist and Benbecula. [59] ‘Na Meadhoinean’, or Middle District in South Uist is the strongest Gaelic -speaking community in the world, at 82%.

Notable residents

Northern Skirhough
  • Flora MacDonald (1722-1790), born at Milton. Known for her help of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
  • Angus McPhee (1916-1997) born at Iochdar. Outsider artist.
  • Danny Alexander (born 1972) the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for West Geirnish on South Uist for three years as a child. [60]
  • Kathleen MacInnes (born 1969), singer, TV presenter and actress.
  • Mairi MacInnes (Scottish Gaelic singer). Born in North Wooddale, one of the youngest Gold Medallists Mod – Isle of Skye 1982. Opened South Uist Causeway in the same year.

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