Coll and Gunna Summary

Coll and Gunna



RMS I App II (859) 1343

RMS II (2264) 1495

RMS III (712) 1528, (2787) 1542,

RMS IV (1352) 1559

RMS VII (1386) 1616, (1628, 1652) 1617

RMS VIII (1610) 1630

RMS IX (1310) 1643

RMS X (531) 1656

AS I (2) 1617

AS II (83) 1620, (177) 1624, (282, 283) 1629, (684, 685) 1642, (918) 1656

RSS V, I (389) 1558, V, II (3008) 1566, (3166) 1566-7

ER XIII p 217 of 1509

Argyll Retours (59) 1642, (93) 1695

HP I pp 253 & 260 of 1672, p 285 1674

Monro ALI pp 5-7 (1354 Indenture)


Blaeu (Jura)

G Langlands Map of Coll, 1794, Royal Scottish Geographic Society

RHP 8862/2 Map & Description of Tiree by J Turnbull, 1768-9

RHP 13171 Sketch of Bousd

Argyll Valuation Roll 1751

E. Beveridge, Coll and Tiree, Edinburgh (2000)

A Johnston, ‘Norse settlement patterns in Coll & Tiree’ in B Crawford (ed), Scandinavian Settlement in Northern Britain, Leicester, 1995.

R Cochrane, Report of the Excursion of the Cambrian Archaeological Association, Dublin, 1900. (= Cambrian Scotch Excursion).



In the documents Coll is generally treated in two parts. There was a central section worth 30 merks which seems to have passed from John Macdougall of Lorn to the Macleans between 1354 and 1449. The description of this section is repeated in much the same way throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The two ends of Coll were both originally church lands and they ended up in the hands of the Duke of Argyll. They are described as 15m in HP I p 260 of 1672, as 12d in HP I p 285 of 1674 and 15m in the Argyll Valuation Roll of 1751. (I think the 12d reference is simply an error since 15 merks would be the equivalent of 50d). The total in the AVR is therefore 15m (Duke of Argyll) + 29m (Maclean of Coll) = 44m. Coll had mail-lands just like Tiree but either the system was not so comprehensive or it has been less well preserved.


The tirung of Cornaig is defined in a grant of Mary to Hector Maclean of Coll dated 1558 (OPS II, I, 333). The 6m included Sedustill (Sorisdale), Pollis (Bousd), Cornakveg (Cornaigbeg) and Cornakmore (Cornaigmore). These are all located at the NE end of Coll and formed a distinct ounceland. RHP 8826/2 gives them as 10 mail-lands each making a total of 40. Normally a tirung was 48 mail-lands so either a farm is missing, or lost to sand-blow, or these 4 units are under-valued. Sorisdale is first mentioned as belonging to Iona in 1203 (Book of Islay p 5 ff). By 1566-7 the whole tirung seems to have belonged to Oronsay Priory (RSS V, II (3166)). From 1616 several documents refer to the ‘twa Cornikis’ at the eastern end of Coll being worth 13s 4d or 1 merk. I suspect 1 merk is simply a mistake for 1 tirung, a mistake committed in RMS VII (1386) of 1616 and then repeated in RMS VIII (547), AS II (177), (282) and (283).


The situation at the western end of Coll is extremely confusing. In RSS V, II, (3008) of 1566 and (3166) of 1566-7 we learn that Caoles, Ardnish, Fresland and Gunna belonged to the nunnery of Iona. In 1574 (OPS II, I, p 333 quoting the Protocol Book of Gavin Hamilton) the lands are given as the ‘Teringa of Kylis’, Ardnish, Fresland and Gunna. This confirms that the farm of Caoles was a tirung or 6m. In RMS VII (1386) of 1616 the western end of Coll is described as extending to 7 quarterlands (ie 1¾ tirungs or 10½m). Reference is then made to the half-tirung of Ardnish plus Fresland and Gunna extending to 7 merklands. I think the 7 merkland reference is a mistake and since it confuses the issue hopelessly I am going to ignore it.


The documents repeat each other but RMS VII (1628) of 1617 gives details of the expected annual returns and from these we can pin down the respective valuations. Caoles rendered 48 ‘maleas’ as we should expect since we know it was a tirung and therefore consisted of 48 mail-lands. Upper and Lower Ardnish rendered 24 ‘maleas’ which is correct for the half-tirung they are stated to be. Fresland rendered 4 bolls which, because a boll is priced the same as a ‘malea’, we can regard as 4 mail-lands – a figure which is confirmed by RHP 8826/2. (4 mail-lands is one-twelfth of a tirung or half a merk). The only ambiguity lies with Gunna which returned 8 ‘maleas’ of ‘farine’ (flour or meal) and another 8 of ‘grano’ (grain). This means that Gunna was worth either one-third of a tirung (2m) or one-sixth (1m). I am inclined to the latter because of the statement that the west end of Coll consisted of  7 quarters. The figures so far are:

Caoles 1 tirung or 6m or 4 quarters

Ardnish ½ tirung or 3m or 2 quarters

Fresland one-twelfth tirung or ½m or ⅓ of a quarter

For Gunna to complete the 7 quarters exactly it needs to be 8 mail-lands or 1m. Confirmation of this comes in RHP 8826/2 where Gunna is given as 8 mail-land.


In sum, this would mean that the west end of Coll was worth 9½ merklands (not including 1m Gunna). If we add this to the notional 6m of the eastern end we have a total of 15½ merklands, not 15. However it is easy to imagine the odd half-merk being sacrificed by memory.


Although the major units in Coll are usually referred to as tirungs there is one reference (HP I p 253 of 1672) which speaks of the ‘dorverg’ of ‘Kiles’. I wonder if this was a use of the term ‘davach’ since Caoles was indeed an ounceland.


The total for Coll (including Gunna) is 46½m which makes it likely that the true valuation was 48 merks or 8 tirungs, each valued at 6 merks. Farms generally consisted of a tirung, a half, quarter or eighth-tirung. However we do not find place-names beginning with Kerr or Ocht as in Kintyre.


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