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Hebrides or Western-Islands, Scotland

Historical Description

HEBRIDES, or Western Islands, islands in the Atlantic Ocean, about 300 in number, of which eighty-six are inhabited; lying at various distances from the western coast of the Highlands; and chiefly pertaining to the counties of Argyll, Inverness, and Ross. Of the early history of these islands but very little is known; they appear to have been anciently under the jurisdiction of petty chieftains, sometimes independent, and at other times tributary to the kings of Norway. About the twelfth century, these chieftains began to meditate inroads on the main land: in 1153, Somerled invaded Scotland, and made an attempt to dethrone Malcolm IV., in which he was defeated by the Earl of Angus; and on a subsequent occasion he was slain in a battle near Renfrew. After the death of Magnus, son of Olave, the last of the independent chieftains, the sovereignty of the isles was ceded to Alexander III., by treaty signed at Perth in 1266; but notwithstanding that treaty, the descendants of the old chieftains assumed the title of lords of the isles, and exercised a jurisdiction irrespective of the crown. Of these, John, lord of Cantyre, married a daughter of Robert II.; and from this alliance, his family derived a great accession of power and influence. Donald, his son, at the head of 10,000 men, ravaged the county of Ross, but was eventually defeated, in 1411. James I. waged incessant war against these turbulent chiefs, many of whom he took prisoners, and hanged; and Donald, lord of the isles, was put to death in Ireland; but it was not till the reign of James V. that the lords were brought into complete subjection to the Scottish crown. Of these various isles, the principal of which are separately described, that of Lewis, with its adjacent islands, chiefly belongs to the county of Ross; those of Barra, Eig, North Uist, South Uist, Skye, and smaller isles, to the county of Inverness; and Canna, Muck, Rum, Gigha, Colonsay, Oronsay, Tiree, Coll, Mull, Jura, and Islay, with the circumjacent isles, to the county of Argyll.

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