Muckairn Summary



Principal Sources


RMS V (1228) 1587 on original of 1584

RMS VI (1436, 1451) 1603

RSS VI (1722) 1572

Book of Islay pp 5-8 1203

CRA p 3


GD 112/2/93/1 1728

GD 202/18 pp 65-6 1648


AS I (136, 170) 1621, (307) 1649, (316, 323, 328) 1650

AS II (1, 11) 1617, (114) 1621, (128-9, 131, 146) 1622, (275, 281, 297) 1629, (363, 375) 1631, (506-7, 532-4) 1634, (565) 1636, (1118) 1663, (1134, 1138-9, 1172-3) 1664, (1190-91) 1665


Argyll Retours (34) 1628, (57) 1636, (91) 1687


AE Anderson, Presbytery Records of Lorne 1651-1681, in TGSI, Vol XXXVI pp 112-138, 1931


Muckairn is radically different to most other parishes in the mainland West Highlands. Firstly it is comprehensively assessed in pennylands with only a few late merkland valuations. Secondly it is very obvious what the pennyland to merkland exchange rate was. There is overwhelming evidence that 1d was equal to ½m. When we compare this with the neighbouring parish of Kilmore & Kilbride (where 1d = 2m) the net effect was a form of levelling. Muckairn’s relatively high pennyland valuation was being devalued. Was this a deliberate policy? And if so, why?


The New Statistical Account for Muckairn quotes a manuscript description of the area dating to about 1700:


There is one single roum of land, or plough of land … called Achnacloich, with the adjacent small isle Elinanabb, or Abbot’s Isle, which is not within the said baronry, but is holden of the abbot of Inshaffrey of Strathearn … All the rest of the country, being twenty-five ploughs of land, are a regality by themselves.


To this OPS II, I p 133 adds, (quoting a ‘Paper at Taymouth’):


The barony or regality of Kilmaronag … was of the extent of 60 marks.


The single plough of Achnacloich was worth 5d and so the 25 ploughs of Kilmaronag should be worth a notional 125d (5 x 25). Muckairn as a whole would then be worth 130d. In fact the holdings of the Abbot of Iona and the Bishop of the Isles were 128d in 1532. If we add Achnacloich to this then our total moves up to 133d – which is what I find in the table. At 1d to ½m this should come to 66½m. The ‘Paper at Taymouth’ suggests 60m for Kilmaronag by itself and so notionally 62½m for the whole of Muckairn – which is also what I find in the table.


There is an apparent disjunction between Iona’s holding as given in the Rental of the Bishopric of the Isles in 1561 (CRA p 3) at 100d; and the 128d listed in RMS VI (1436) of 1603 which refers back to an original document of 1532. Despite its tenor this list may include properties that did not always or properly belong to Iona. One such was Killespickerill (10d) which was once the property of the Bishopric of Dunkeld. I am also puzzled by the statement in the reddendo of 1603 to the effect that Muckairn formerly extended to £78 (117m).


In sum Muckairn was probably 7 ouncelands or 140d or 70m. Of this 5 ouncelands or 100d clearly belonged to Iona, 10d to the Bishopric of Dunkeld, 5d (or a quarterland) to the Abbot of Inchaffrey. Of the balance of 25d a further 18d must have belonged to ecclesiastical bodies such as Iona or the Bishopric of the Isles but I have no information as to which properties these were. Muckairn has preserved its Norse system of land-assessment better than anywhere else in Argyllshire. I am not sure how to reconcile this with the fact that most of it was owned by Iona. Moreover we know that it was already held by Iona in 1203 since it then appears in a list of the monastery’s possessions which was ratified by the Pope.


The comments about ‘ploughs’ of land represent an intrusion of vocabulary that was more relevant elsewhere. I do not know of anything similar with regard to other parishes in Argyll although it is interesting that a ‘plough’ of land was regarded as the same as a quarterland. Twenty-six ‘ploughs’ would therefore be the same as 6½ davachs or ouncelands.


Smith lists Muckairn as 220m with Ardchattan. I reckon Muckairn was 140d (70m) and Ardchattan was probably 90d (180m) so I think the true total of the combined parish was 250m. This still leaves us with the problem of why a pennyland in Muckairn was only worth ½m whilst a pennyland in Ardchattan or Kilmore & Kilbride was worth 2m.


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