Glenelg Summary



Principal Sources


APS I pp 4, 91

APS XII Supplement p 7

RMS I App 1, 31; App 2, No 862 Index A & Index B No 4

RMS II (179) 1430

RMS III (1267) 1532-3, (1470) 1535, (1958) 1539, (2088) 1539-40, (2297) 1540-1

RMS IV (2093) 1572, (2964) 1579-80

RMS VI (1981) 1607

RMS VII (119,149,167) 1609, (346) 1610, (458) 1611

RMS IX (4, 7) 1634, (625) 1636

RMS XI (1105) 1667

RSS VII (554) 1576

RRS VI (486) c. 1343

Robertson’s Index p 48 No 4, p 99, p 100 No 2

Macfarlane’s Geographical Collections II, pp 174-5, 522, 525-6, 542-3

Book of Dunvegan I & II (catalogue system now replaced by NRAS 2950)

NRAS 2950 (Macleod Muniments in National Register of Archives for Scotland) eg:

NRAS 2950/1/50 1655

NRAS 2950/1/59 1667

NRAS 2950/2/488/2

NRAS 2950/2/488/3

NRAS 2950/2/488/11  1735

NRAS 2950/2/488/12  1754

NRAS 2950/2/488/13  1755

NRAS 2950/2/488/14  1769

NRAS 2950/2/488/18  1773

NRAS 2950/2/485/58  1790


OPS II, II pp 829-30


RH9/3/142 Rental 1738

RHP 23075/1 Map 1804 (original is NRAS 2950/1/380/28

RHP 23075/2 Table 1808

RHP 23075/3 Sale Particulars 1823

RHP 6554 Sale Particulars for Arnisdale 1919

RHP 6559 1862


Inverness Retours (9) 1585, (19) 1608, (22) 1609, (45) 1626, (79) 1655, (95) 1664

J & RW Munro, Acts of the Lords of the Isles No 24 pp 38-9

T.M. Murchison, Glenelg, Inverness-shire: Notes for a Parish History, 1957, TGSI Vol. 39/40, 1942-50



Glenelg is problematic in that there is a marked disjunction between the earlier and later evidence for land-assessment. The early evidence is all consistent. APS I p 4 makes it clear that Glenelg had once been part of the estate of the King of Man. It eventually passed into the hands of the Macleods although Fraser of Lovat held about a third in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. (Lovat’s share is detailed in Book of Dunvegan I p 37 and RMS III (2297) of 1540-1). The Macleods were the dominant family in what had once been the northern half of the old Kingdom of Man and the Isles – the half that remained with the Kings of Man after Somerled’s rebellion in the mid-twelfth century. We can be pretty certain that it was reckoned 12 davachs or ouncelands (240d) from the early fourteenth century because RRS VI (486) of c. 1343 refers to 8 davachs and 5 pennylands being two parts (i.e. two-thirds) of Glenelg. (Cf Book of Dunvegan I p 275 and Robertson’s Index p 48 No 4). We also have eighteenth-century references to the 12 davach lands of Glenelg; eg NRAS 2950/2/488/11/1 of 1735 & RH9/3/142 of 1738.


Glenelg had an Old Extent valuation of £32 or 48m and therefore an exchange rate of one ounceland or davach to four merks. This is the same as in Skye, Harris and Lewis which were all formerly part of the old Northern half of the Kingdom of Man and the Isles. OPS II, II pp 829-30 quotes a Macleod document of 1583 which makes it clear that davachs were equivalent to ouncelands in Glenelg. Several 10d units are described as half-davachs and the documents lists 120d or 6 davachs in total (half of Glenelg). Using this and other contemporary documents, not all with valuations, we can build a pretty comprehensive list of the farms in Glenelg during the sixteenth century. These can then be compared with the eighteenth-century rentals and the 1804 map to give a picture of how the district evolved over time.


The problem arises when we try to square the earlier evidence with what we know from the eighteenth-century rentals. These are consistent and we have figures of 92½d in 1735, c. 96½d in 1754, 96d in 1790 – all well below the expected total. Moreover if we compare individual units it seems that the pennyland valuation had depreciated considerably. For instance the two Myles were 20d in 1583; in the eighteenth century Upper Myle and Killysmore were 2d and Mylemore was probably 4d making a total of 6d. Similarly the two Corraries were 10d in 1583, only 5d in 1735. Aricharnachan drops from 5d to 2d; Burblach is 10d in 1583, 4d in 1754. None of the eighteenth-century rentals gives a total of more than 96½d although we would expect 12 ouncelands to equal 240d. What is going on?


We might argue that there must have been a conscious decision on the part of the landowner to halve the pennyland assessment. No tenant would disagree with this since it would represent a lightening of their fiscal load. (Many rentals worked on the basis of so many merks per pennyland). The impetus may have been economic, a chronic disjunction between the value at which the land was assessed and what it could actually produce. Certainly the end of the seventeenth century was particularly hard on Scotland in climatic and economic terms. We could suggest that the so-called ‘Little Ice Age’ dictated some modification of agricultural assessment. The problem is that we have no evidence for this on the west coast and it is not apparent in other areas of the West Highlands which went through similar trauma.


Perhaps a more reasonable solution is to suggest that between 1583 and 1730 there was much amalgamation and composition of farm-units, quite possibly provoked by the above-mentioned climatic and economic conditions. It is likely that in 1583 farms like Myle and Corrary included other units not differentiated by name in that document. By the time of the eighteenth-century rentals the names of the main farms of Corrary and Myle were being used in a more restricted sense. The peripheral units may have always had their own valuations but in 1583 these were subsumed within the valuation of the primary holding. By the eighteenth century the peripheral units were becoming absorbed by the principal farms and relegated to the status of sheilings or grazing areas. However, instead of their valuations passing to the enlarged main farm the assessment of the peripheral unit then gradually dropped from the collective memory. Clamboyle was worth 10d in 1583 but by the eighteenth century was just part of the farm of Sandaig which may have been reckoned as little as 5½d. The Sandaig valuation was the one that passed into the rental books, not the combined value, and the one-time assessment of Clamboyle slipped into oblivion. In a similar fashion the northern shore of Loch Hourn between Arnisdale and Kinlochhourn seems to have been 25d in 1583, only about 9½d in 1773.


By way of analogy we can look at what happened in the Ross of Mull during roughly the same period. Ross was probably 3 ouncelands and therefore worth 60d. We have a 1587-8 rental which gives 54½d. Next we have a decreet of 1672 which gives 46¼d. Finally we have the Argyll Valuation Roll of 1751 which tells us that Ross only comprised 25½d. In less than two centuries more than half the pennyland reckoning has simply been forgotten. Is this what happened in Glenelg?


It is striking that we have so few markland valuations for Glenelg. The theory of expressing ouncelands or davachs in merklands applied here as along the rest of the west coast but the practice was seldom. We find them in the Retours, in the context of Iona’s holding, and for Lovat’s third which was valued at £10 (15m) in Book of Dunvegan I p 37 of 1540. We tend not to find them at the level of individual farms.


Norse place-names are well-established in Glenelg even if, in a land-assessment context, they are in a small minority. We can point to Bernera (4d), Suardalan (3d), Scallasaig (4d), Sandaig (5½d?), Meillarie (5d), Arnisdale (7d). There are a few other less certain candidates but however we calculate it the value of farms with Norse names was only some 10-20% of the total value of Glenelg.


Glenelg offers us our only Pit-name on the west coast. This survived until the end of the eighteenth-century when it was converted into baile. The Pitalman of 1540 is now Bailanailm.


One other noteworthy feature is the presence of two names containing the word imir or iomair (ridge or field). There is Iomairaghradain which had a valuation of 3d and Iomair nam fear more which is marked on the OS 1st Series 6″ Sheet CXXVII (Ross, 1872-6) at the mouth of Glen Bernera on the west side of Amhainn Eilg. This is also mentioned by Forbes in his Place Names of Skye p 382. Imiriconart (“the plain ridge”) is referred to by Pennant in the context of Islay (A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides, 1772, p 208, Birlinn edition) but otherwise imir seems not to feature as a significant place-name element on the west coast.


Glenelg did not include the whole knuckle of land we might imagine just from looking at the map today. The southern shores of Loch Alsh and Loch Duich were not considered part of Glenelg. Timothy Pont wrote (Macfarlane’s Geographical Collections II pp 542-3):

Item the march betwix Glenelg and Kantell [Kintail] is the seat Rosaig.

I think Rosaig should be read Kosaig or Cosaig. There is a Garbhan Cosach at NG 8023 on the coast. In RHP 6559 of 1862 the northern border is marked at c. NG 8023.


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