South Uist & St Kilda Summary

South Uist & St Kilda


Principal Sources


RMS I App I (9) c. 1309, Robertson’s Index p2 No 53

RMS I (412 & 551) 1371-2, (520) 1372-3

RMS II (2286) 1495, (2437, 2438) 1498

RMS III (1131) 1531-2, (3085) 1545

RMS IV (1272) 1558, (1474) 1563

RMS VI (472) 1596

RMS VII (259, 342, 344) 1610, (472, 1087) 1614, (1795) 1618

RMS VIII (203) 1621

RMS IX (7) 1634

RMS XI (541) 1663, (902) 1666, (1105) 1667

RSS II (2970) 1538-9


AS II (460) 1633


NRAS 2950/1/47 & 48 1633

NRAS 2950/1/58 1666

NRAS 2950/1/65 1671

GD201/1/92 1667

GD201/1/112 1674

GD201/1/302 & 303 1792


GD201/1/362/16 & 29

GD201/1/144 1684

GD201/2/9 1728

GD201/2/10 1730

GD201/2/20 1758

GD201/2/43 1771

GD201/2/55 1786

GD201/2/56 1786

GD201/3/6 1659

GD201/5/11/1 & 2

GD201/5/1257/5 Rental 1718


Inverness Retours (32) 1617, (47) 1627, (68) 1644, (78) 1655

E648/1/1 1718-21

E744/1/1 & 2 1748 Rental


RHP 1040 (1829) S Uist lithograph based on Bald (1805)

RHP 3009 Eriskay, Lingay & Stack Islands

RHP 3066 W Bald, Boisdale, 1805

RHP 8732 G Langlands, Loch Skipport, 1788

RHP 8738 Description of lands in RHP 8732

RHP 38151 W Bald, S Uist, 1805

Macfarlane’s Geographical Collections II pp 180-1, 529-530

Sir Robert Moray, A description of the Island Hirta, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol 12, 1678 pp 925-9

Clan Donald II pp 754-5 1597, p 762 1610, pp 770-3 1625,  p 783 ff 1657, p 790 1707

Clan Donald III p 259 1672

Book of Dunvegan I p 57 1666

GD128/49/3/1 & C Fraser-Mackintosh, Antiquarian Notes(1897), pp313-20, 322-3

JB Caird, Early nineteenth-century Estate Plans, Togail Tir, pp 67-73

F MacLeod, The Chapels in the Western Isles, 1997

WF Skene, Celtic Scotland Vol III p 430



One of our earliest references to Uist comes from the Acts of Parliament of Scotland Vol 1 p 3 where there is a reference to a letter from the king of Norway (before 1282) regarding the lands of ‘Inist’ or Uist. Ten years later, according to p 91 of the same volume ‘Guiste’ was included in the sheriffdom of Skye. Uist was part of the huge Macruari estate which then included Barra, St Kilda, Eigg, Rum and Garmoran.


RMS I App I (9) of c. 1309 refers to the:


sex davatas et tria quarteria terre in parochia de Kilpedre Blisen.

(6¾ davachs in the parish of Kilpheder Blisen)


Kilpheder is the southernmost, and larger, of the two mediaeval parishes of S Uist. The other, Howmore or Skeirhough, is consistently given as 30m from 1469 (RMS II 2286 & ALI pp 152-6) onwards. With an exchange rate of 1 davach or ounceland to 6m the total value of S Uist was probably 11¾ davachs or ouncelands. This was equivalent to 70½m or 235 pennylands. I wonder if the ‘missing’ 5d refers to St Kilda which was originally a Macruari possession. Skene’s late sixteenth-century source gives the Clanranald portion of Uist (ie Benbecula and South Uist) as 80m which I think was a slight underestimate. To confuse the issue the ‘Kandes’ or ‘South Head’ of Uist is referred to as 30m or, in the seventeenth century, to 23m.


The number of pennylands in the 1748 rental totals just over 172. I find 173½d (plus 5d for St Kilda) which is still substantially short of the expected total. Whilst a few pennylands may have been lost to the sea I cannot explain the width of discrepancy but wonder if some early settlements on the east coast of South Uist were simply absorbed by the townships on the west coast and lost their individual valuations in the process. Judging from place-names the Norse were active in settling the east coast as well but over the centuries all farm centres may have gravitated to the fertile west coast machair. The east coast glens may have become no more than shieling sites. Something similar may have happened in Benbecula.


I suspect that South Uist was just like North Uist in that tirungs and davachs were equivalent. Reference is made in RMS VIII (203) of 1621 to the tiroung de Beagistill (tirung or ounceland of Boisdale). Several other documents inform us that Boisdale was worth 6m which was the rate of exchange between ouncelands and merklands that applied throughout the Macruari estate. Another reference occurs in GD201/3/6 of 1659 which is a discharge by Mr McQueine, minister of Kylvorie in Trotternish, to Donald McDonald, younger of Moidart, for the tithes and vicarage dues from Benbecula and S Uist for 1657 and 1658


excepting the davoch of lands of Belgarva and others, possessed by John McDonald, elder of Moidart.


Just 25 years later, in 1684, Donald McDonald of Moidart grants John Macleod of Taliskir a wadset (GD201/1/144) of 10d Belliegarva and 10d Ardimacharie


or otherwise to grant wadset of so much of the dach (ie davach) lands of Garvinin


in the same parish. It is tempting to think that here we have a definition of the davach of Belgarva as 10d Belgarva and 10d Aird a’ Mhachair which is to the WSW. However there are the two properties of Lionacuidhe and Cill Amhlaidh between them so we may be dealing with more than 1 davach here.


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