Bute Text

Principal Sources


RMS II (123) 1429, (917) 1466, (1214) 1475, (1787) 1488, (2421) 1498, (2776) 1503, (2947) 1505-6, (2987-8) 1506, (3061) 1506-7, (3495) 1510

RMS III (820) 1529, (1082-3) 1531, (1321) 1533, (1376, 1377, 1378-9, 1405) 1534, (2006) 1539, (2146) 1540, (2489-2490) 1541, (2583) 1541-2, (3263, 3303) 1546

RMS IV (50) 1545-6, (97, 166) 1547, (688-9, 692) 1552, (766) 1552-3, (881, 891) 1553-4, (1139) 1556, (1409) 1561-2, (1731) 1566, (2115) 1572-3, (2401) 1575,  (2976) 1579-80

RMS V (1541) 1588, (1810) 1590-1, (2160) 1592

RMS VI (237) 1594-5, (1156) 1601, (2052) 1608

RMS VII (1232) 1615, (1605) 1617, (1813) 1618

RMS VIII (1974) 1632

RMS X (403) 1655, (617) 1657

RMS XI (541) 1663, (950) 1666, (1105) 1667


RSS I (63-64) 1496, (327) 1498-9, (713) 1501, (1317) 1506, (2098) 1510, (3790) 1527

RSS IV (219) 1549, (2788) 1554

RSS V.I (1039) 1562, (1591) 1563-4

RSS V.II (3056, 3059) 1566

RSS VII (1125) 1577


AS I (8) 1617, (20, 30-32, 46, 49) 1618, (70, 80) 1619, (137, 154, 159, 173) 1621, (186, 207,  226) 1622, (254) 1643, (334) 1651, (480, 481, 493-4) 1673, (511-12, 523, 542, 581, 593) 1674, (604, 626, 637, 639, 640-2, 647, 649, 652-3) 1675


AS II (12) 1618, (74) 1619, (81) 1620, (360) 1631, (416, 442) 1632, (713, 724-6) 1643, (743) 1647, (765) 1648, (777) 1651, (852, 866-8, 873, 875, 877) 1654, (880) 1655, (942) 1657, (966) 1658, (983-4) 1659, (1004, 1011-12) 1661, (1031-2, 1035, 1037-8, 1046) 1662, (1104, 1112) 1663, (1212, 1238) 1665, (1253, 1255-6, 1273, 1311) 1666, (1344) 1667, (1403, 1411, 1415, 1432, 1435, 1438, 1442) 1668, (1464, 1486-7, 1524) 1669


Registrum Monasterii de Passelet p 15


ER V pp 79-89, 162-169, 208-214, 249-255, 287-291, 331-335, 359-366, 406-413

ER XII p 509 ff

ER XVII p 743


RH1/2/93 before 13/2/1321

RHP 14107 – J Foulis – Survey of Bute 1758-9

RHP 14109

RHP 14262 Kames Estate

RHP 14629 Kames Estate 1807/1810

RHP 30215  1838

J Hewison, The Isle of Bute in the olden time, Edinburgh 1893-5

A Hannah, Bute farm names with personal name elements, Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society, 25 (2000), pp 61-7

P Dewar, Place-names of Bute, Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society, 6 (1912/1913)

W Ross, (ed.), Blain’s History of Bute, Rothesay, 1880.



We have valuations for most of the farms in Bute from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Our earliest evidence comes from the Exchequer Rolls where what is given is not a land valuation but a rental. However, as with Exchequer Rolls evidence elsewhere in the Highlands, there seems to have been a simple 1:1 correspondence between money rent and merkland valuation in these early returns. In the case of Bute there is a great deal of later documentary evidence which, almost without exception, supports this argument. Most of the farms in Bute can be mapped from 1437 using documents in the Exchequer Rolls, the Registers of the Great and Privy Seals, the Argyll Sasines, the Retours and the 1751 Argyll Valuation Roll. We have maps by Blaeu and Roy and an estate map by Foulis in 1758-9. Putting all of these together the evidence concerning land-assessment is remarkably consistent. Farm valuations remained unchanged for centuries although there was a degree of internal subdivision. So, for instance, Langil was originally worth 12m but was subdivided into 4 x 3m units, some of which were later subdivided into 20s (1½m) holdings. The valuations are always in Old Extent.


Bute was divided into two parishes, Kingarth and Rothesay, which we can roughly map on the basis of the data in ER XII p 509 ff of 1507. The boundary seems to have run from between Rothesay and Ascog in the north-east along Lochs Fad and Quien to Scalpsie Bay in the south-west. (This border may have fluctuated slightly – in 1507 the Exchequer Rolls list Kerrycrusach in Kingarth whereas Origines Parochiales Scotiae places it in Rothesay). There is a degree of uncertainty about the values of some farms – for instance Ascog. There are also farms such as Blardive (listed in 1437) which may have been absorbed into other units but about which I can draw no firm conclusions.



The Pennyland valuation


We have little evidence for pennylands in Bute. We have three pennyland valuations in RH1/2/93 which dates to before 13 February 1321. (To complicate matters I think two of these three were very large and contained properties which later became separate). There are also two farms – Lenihall and Lenihuline – in which the first element is undoubtedly a contraction of Leth-pheighinn or half-pennyland. There are other names in Bute and Arran with a similar first element which may have the same derivation but for which we have no early documentary sources – Leninteskine in Bute being one example. Given the paucity of direct evidence I have supposed that the pennyland to merkland ratio in Bute was the same as that for its neighbour Arran, which probably came within the fiscal reach of the Scottish kingdom at about the same time. In Arran the ratio was 1d to 6m.


I find 119¾m in Kingarth parish and 193½m in Rothesay parish making a total of 313¼m. If we include Inchmarnock in Rothesay then the total for Rothesay becomes 201m and the total for Bute is 320¾m. This might suggest that Bute had a nominal total value of 360m which was 3 ouncelands. The parish of Kingarth seems to have been more or less exactly 1 ounceland or 120m whilst Rothesay was notionally 2 ouncelands or 240m. (A note of caution should be sounded since this assumes that Rothesay parish has lost about 40m of its original assessment). Rothesay parish may itself have been made up from two once-separate ounceland parishes and the natural boundary between them would appear to be the low ground between Kames and Ettrick Bay.


The situation in Bute is complicated by the fact that feudal assessments in merklands overlay the earlier valuations. In particular a knight’s fee was £20 or 30m and there are several farms in Bute which reflect proportions of this. Kingarth (at the southern head of the parish) was a £20 estate and Bute contains 8 farms worth £5 (or 7½m) which are each a quarter of a knight’s fee. If, however, we do a frequency analysis of the values of all the farms in Bute it is striking how many are fractions or multiples of the number 6. Of some 63 early farms in Bute (counting Kilmory as 1), 27 are worth 12m (2d), 9m (1½d), 6m (1d), 3m (½d) or 1½m (¼d). The most common farm size was 3m or ½d (16 examples or about one-quarter of all the farms).



Significant farms


After Scoulag (16m) and Kilchattan (originally 14m), the largest farms in Bute were the five 12-merk or 2d units. Two of these, Langil and Ardroscadale, are clearly Norse. Dunalunt, was probably an important Dark Age military centre whilst Kames was the base of a mediaeval estate. Kilmory, like Kilchattan, must have been a major religious unit. It appears that the pennyland assessment system involved a degree of structural support for the church. This is evidenced by the number of Kil-names which are farms worth ½d or more. In Bute there are:


Kilchattan 14m (2⅓d) in 1437

Kilmory  12m (2d)

St Colmac  7½m  (1¼d)

Kilbride  6m (1d)

Kilmichael  5m

Kildavanan  3m (½d)


Hannah has argued that Kilwhinleck (5½m in 1507) is not a Kil-name but Blain (1880) claimed there was formerly a chapel here.


Another name regarded as significant elsewhere is ‘Kerry’ which is a corruption of ceathramh or quarterland. There are 10 examples in Bute:


Kerrycroy  5m

Kerrymenoch (by Stravanan)  2m

Kerrycrusach  3½m

Kerrylamont  5m (The name Lamont (lawman) derives from the Norse).

Kerrytonlia  3m

Kerrymenoch (by Kerrytonlia)  3m

Kerenevin  4m

Keremoran   4m

Kerryfearn  2½m

There is also Kerrytriach (by Kilmichael in the north of the island) for which I have no valuation. (Cretriach Hill, at NR 9971, is marked Kerrytriach on the Roy Protracted Copy).


In general terms Kerr-names refer to davachs – of which they were quarters. By analogy with Kintyre where 1 davach was the same as 1 pennyland we should expect a davach to be worth 6m in Bute. On this basis a quarterland should be worth 1½m but in Bute they are all worth more than this. It may be that Kerry does not always imply a quarter of some absolute unit like an ounceland or davach but simply a quarter of whatever unit was being subdivided. Kerenevin and Keremoran, for instance, seem to have been subdivisions of a Scoulag estate worth 16m. Unfortunately I don’t think we have enough data to come to robust conclusions about Kerr-names in Bute.


One of the more difficult issues with islands like Arran and Bute (where we know there were pennylands) is that their total ounceland value is very small compared to islands north of Ardnamurchan. How is Bute only worth 3 ouncelands when Eigg is worth 5? I think the answer is that ouncelands were mapped to davachs in a different way north and south of Ardnamurchan. In the north-west a davach and an ounceland were regarded as equivalent. In Kintyre and, I think, Arran and Bute, one pennyland (ie one-twentieth of an ounceland) was worth one davach. (This does not seem so unreasonable if we reflect that in the far north of Scotland there seem to have been 3 davachs to an 18-penny ounceland – i.e. each davach was worth 6d).


One pennyland was worth 4m (Scots) in Kintyre; in Bute and Arran it was worth 6m. The total value of Bute was probably 360m (Scots) or 3 ouncelands (Norse) at 120m per ounceland. This would also mean it was worth 60 davachs (Pictish or Cumbric). In davach terms there is not the same mismatch with islands north of Ardnamurchan. Bute’s 60 davachs now fare much better against Eigg’s 5 davachs.


Bookmark and Share
Posted in Bute
4 comments on “Bute Text
  1. Vicky Moore Jacobs says:

    I love your site!
    Do you think that it is possible that the family with the surname spelled Macwerich (1506), Makweriche, M’Wertycht, Makquhrrycht, M’Vyrricht, M’Quherich, M’Worriche, McWorich, McVirich, McVirche, McVorich and MacMorich (1506)
    of lands of Achamor, Auchmoir, Baroun, on Bute could have morphed into the surname of Moore, Muir. Is the Barrone you have indicated under Rothesay Parish the same as the present spelling of Barone Park?
    Muir family owned the lands of Barone Park from late 17th century. Could it be possible that the previous indicated names could possibly be the same kin as the Moore then Muir family of Barone Park. Any thoughts?
    Thank you in advance for your thoughts,
    Best Regards,
    Vicky Moore Jacobs

    • drixson says:

      Vicky, Thank You. This issue of surnames is really tricky. Macvurich etc could become Currie! Sometimes this process was helped by the misspelling of Gaelic names. Sometimes it was because they were deliberately Anglicised. In Kintyre, for instance, many Gaelic names were ‘converted’ into English ones when they entered the church records. The Kintyre Antiquarian Society produces a magazine which I’m sure carried an article about this many years ago. How would you know for sure? Well I think all you could do is track back through family records. It might also be worth contacting the Scottish Genealogy Society after this pandemic is over. (Probably also worth looking at the Hearth Tax Records). Another source I recommend is George Black, ‘The Surnames of Scotland’.
      Yes Barrone = Barone Park – but always worth bearing in mind that the heart of a farm (or estate) was not always in the same place over the centuries.

  2. Vicky Moore Jacobs says:

    Do you have any information for Bush Farm on Bute near Rothesay?
    That also would have been a family of Muir/Moore.

    • drixson says:

      Try ‘The Place-Names of Bute’ by Gilbert Markus. I’ve searched high and low but cannot presently find my copy. Experience tells me I’ll only find it once I’ve stopped looking for it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *