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Fort-William, Inverness-shire

Historical Description

FORT-WILLIAM, a royal fortress and a village, in the parish of Kilmalie, county of Inverness, 30 miles (S. W.) from Fort-Augustus, and 135 (N. W. by W.) from Edinburgh; containing 1091 inhabitants. This place, called also Maryburgh in honour of the queen of William III., in whose reign the fortress was erected, and Gordonsburgh from the family of Gordon, on whose lands the village was built, is situated at the eastern extremity of Loch Eil, near the base of Ben-Nevis, and in the heart of a district abounding with wildly romantic scenery. The fortress stands on the site of an intrenchment thrown up by General Monk, and consists of an irregular triangle, defended by a glacis and fosse, with two bastions, mounted with fifteen twelve-pounders. It has a bomb-proof magazine, and barracks for the reception of two field-officers, two captains, four subalterns, and a garrison of ninety-six non-commissioned officers and privates. Fort-William was besieged by a party of the rebels, under the command of Captain Scott, in 1746; but after a resolute defence of five weeks, during which six men were killed and twenty-four wounded, the assailants raised the siege, and dispersed. A considerable portion of the wall was undermined some few years since, by the impetuous current of the river Nevis, descending from Ben-Nevis; and the structure has since that time been gradually going into decay.

The village consists of a long narrow street, extending along the margin of the lake, and intersected by various smaller streets. Its inhabitants are chiefly supported by the herring-fishery, for which the harbour affords considerable facilities, and a quay has been constructed, partly at the expense of the fishery commissioners, and partly by private contributions. A public library, which forms a tolerable collection of standard works, is supported by subscription; and the village has some good inns: one of the sheriffs-substitute, whose jurisdiction extends over part of Argyllshire, resides in the village; and there are some families of respectability within the fortress. Fairs are held for cattle and horses on the second Wednesdays in June and November, and a fair for sheep and wool on the Tuesday after the second Thursday in July, all of which are well attended. A church was recently erected, to replace a former that had been pronounced unsafe; it is a neat structure containing 350 sittings, and the missionary has a stipend of £100, of which £60 are paid by the Committee of the Royal Bounty, £20 by the heritors, and the remainder by the congregation. There are a place of worship for members of the Free Church, an episcopal, and a Roman Catholic chapel; and the parochial school is situated in the village. During Her Majesty's trip to Scotland in 1847, the royal party landed here on the 21st of August, after their visit to lona and Staffa, and hence proceeded, amid general rejoicing, to Ardverikie Lodge, in Laggan, whence they returned on the 17th September, and embarked at Fort-William for England.

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