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Bass Isle, Haddingtonshire

Historical Description

BASS, ISLE, in the parish of North Berwick, county of Haddington. It is situated in the mouth of the Firth of Forth, about a mile and a half from the shore; the circumference of the rocky isle is full a mile, and its height above the surface of the sea 420 feet. On the north it is lofty and precipitous; on the south somewhat conical, sloping moderately down to the base: it is only accessible on the south-east. Pasture is afforded for about thirty sheep, and the rock is the resort of myriads of sea-fowl. Its history is of considerable interest: it was purchased by government in October 1671, and converted into a state prison for the Covenanters, a purpose which it served during the reigns of Charles II. and James II. After the Revolution, it held out for several years against the new dynasty, amidst numerous and vigorous enterprises for its reduction, and was signalized as the last place in Great Britain that yielded to the rule of William and Mary. In 1701 the king ordered the fortifications to be demolished, and in 1706 the Bass was granted by the crown to President Sir Hew Dalrymple for one Scots penny, reserving the power of re-fortifying the rock, should government at any time deem it expedient to do so. The fort and the dungeons are all unroofed, and the chief interest of the isle arises from its historical associations, these crumbling ruins speaking of seventeen years' solitude and suffering, endured by above fifty of Scotland's sons, who, some for a longer and some for a shorter part of that period, here endured a painful imprisonment and exile for their zeal as Covenanters. See North Berwick.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis