Waternish and Lyndale Summary

Waternish & Lyndale


Principal Sources


RMS II (3578) 1511

RMS IV (2019) 1571-2

RMS VI (465) 1596, (1879) 1607

RMS VII (458) 1611

NRAS 2950/2/485/11 Rental 1706

NRAS 2950/2/485/12 Rental 1707

NRAS 2950/2/485/13 Rental 1708

NRAS 2950/2/485/58 Rental 1790

NRAS 2950/2/493/1 Rental 1724

NRAS 2950/2/493/2 Rental 1724

NRAS 2950/2/493/5  1754

NRAS 2950/2/493/6 Rental 1754

NRAS 2950/2/493/8 Rental 1754

NRAS 2950/1/33  1610

NRAS 2950/1/50  1655

NRAS 2950/1/59  1667

NRAS 2950/1/385

NRAS 2950/1/385/17  1797


Inverness Retours (45) 1626, (79) 1655, (95) 1664

Highland Papers II pp 284-8 1576

RHP 11788 Loch Bay (1790-1); written description in RHP 8738.


What was the assessment of Waternish? We have a number of pieces of data – some of them apparently contradictory. Originally the peninsula belonged to the Macleods of Lewis but nowhere do the documents state its full extent when it was in their hands. In 1549 Munro describes Waternish, Isay and the Ascrib Isles as all belonging to Macleod of Lewis.


However, Highland Papers II pp 284-8 prints a contract between Rorie Macleod of Lewis and his son, Torquil Macleod of Coigeach, dated 1576, which refers to Rorie’s ‘part of Wattirness’. It also reveals that the lands of Waternish had previously been wadset to Donald Gorm Macdonald (of Sleat) and Torquil agreed to pay his father 400 merks to help redeem them. Torquil had to give up some possessions in Assynt and in return Rorie was to give him two ouncelands in Lewis and the ‘aucht merk land of Wattirness with the office of stewartrie thairof’. It seems that Waternish may already have been divided in two sections. Part had been wadset to Donald Gorm, part may have been retained by the Macleods of Lewis and that was the 8m (or two ouncelands) that was associated with the bailliary. (Trotternish also had two ouncelands associated with its bailliary although it was far larger than Waternish).


In the Macleod of Harris documents Waternish is consistently given as 5 ouncelands (or 100d). (See NRAS2950/1/33 of 1610, RMS VII(458) of 1611). However it is also given as £18 13s 4d (i.e. 28m) which would equal 7 ouncelands at the rate of 4m per ounceland. (Book of Dunvegan I p 255-6 & NRAS 2950/1/385). To further confuse the issue Inverness Retours define Waternish as 5 ouncelands with an extent of 28m! Meanwhile NRAS 2950/1/50 of 1655 refers to 5 ouncelands of Waternish as well as the davach of Isay and 2 davachs of Waternish adjacent to Isay – making a total of 8 ouncelands or davachs! Finally there are some notes printed in Macfarlane’s Geographical Collections II p 532, which were probably first made by Timothy Pont before 1595. He states:

Nixt is the countrey of Vaternes, perteyning to Mackloyd of Harray, being of old the possession of Macloyd of Lewis, it is 32 merkland that is four daachs of land.

(p 183 has a similar entry).


This appears a muddle. Waternish is 4, 5, 7 or 8 davachs or ouncelands. At the same time it is 28 or 32 merklands. Strangely, nearly all the evidence becomes compatible if we make one or two allowances. I think the original Macleod of Lewis possession was 7 ouncelands of Waternish plus 1 ounceland Isay (which was reckoned with Waternish). 5 ouncelands were wadset to the Macdonalds before the 1576 contract and presumably that same five ended up with the Macleods of Harris. Another two davachs of Waternish were associated with the bailliary but eventually they too went to the Macleods of Harris. (This would explain the valuations of 28m, i.e. 7 davachs or ouncelands at 4m each). The eighth and final davach of Isay also passed to the Macleods of Harris – probably by the time of Pont’s visit, since his valuation of 32m would represent eight davachs at the Skye exchange rate of 1 ounceland or davach to 4 merks. (I think Pont simply made a mistake with his figure of 4 davachs).


Unfortunately I cannot find 160d, only 108d. Perhaps this is not surprising given the chequered ownership history of Waternish. I think that the two davachs which the Macleods of Lewis initially retained were probably in the central section – facing the Ascrib Isles to the NE and Isay to the SW. (Score & Gillen were linked to the Ascrib Isles in the eighteenth century).


Lyndale was 1 ounceland or 20d – of which I find 18¾d.


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