Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

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Name: Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673  
Title: Vulgo Hebrides; Ivra  
Pagination: 118-119
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Translation of text:

so that he might be assisted by his efforts in seizing the kingdom (1) of the Scots against law and right. The Danes and Norwegians held them about one hundred and sixty years, until they were defeated in a huge battle by Alexander III King of Scots and ceded them. In the interval they had tried, both relying on force and moved by seditions, to claim their liberty and to create Kings for themselves. For the name of king was taken by others and then not too long ago by John of Clan Donald. In food, clothing and all aspects of domestic arrangements they employ an antique parsimony. Getting meat is to them hunting and fishing. They cook meat by pouring water into the intestine or hide of the slain animal; in hunts sometimes they eat it raw after draining off the blood. For drink they have the juice of boiled meat. At feasts they also drink eagerly milk whey that has been preserved for some years. That kind of drink they call ‘bland’. The majority quench their thirst with water. A not unpleasant bread is made from oats and barley (which are the only kinds of corn grown in these regions); their skill has come from daily practice. In the morning they eat a little of it, and content with that go hunting; or if some other work is to be done, they abstain from meat until the evening. They like variously coloured clothing, and especially striped. The colours they love especially are purple and blue. Previous generations used multi-coloured cloaks, decorated in various ways, as is still the custom with some. But the majority now wear darker colours, imitating heather as closely as possible, in case they should be seen by the colourful light of their clothing when lying in a heather moor. Wrapped up in these rather than protected, they endure the harshest weather in the open, and sometimes go to sleep when covered with snow. At home too they rest on the ground. They strew rocks (2) or heather, but this with the roots turned downwards and the leaves up; and so skilfully do they fashion beds in this way that in softness they vie with feathers and in healthiness far outclass them. For heather is endowed with a natural facility of drying and draws out excess moisture; it frees their nerves from trouble and restores their strength, so that those who lie down in the evening languid and tired, get up in the morning vigorous and fresh. They are all not only careless of mattresses and bed-coverings, but strive greatly for uncivilised roughness and hardness. If ever business or need draws them to foreign soil, they roll the mattresses and the host’s bed-covers on the ground, wrap themselves in their own clothes, and compose themselves for rest: anxious clearly, lest that barbarian (as they call it) softness should contaminate their traditional and inborn hardness. In war however the armour with which they cover their bodies is an iron helmet and a cuirass of chain-mail, generally coming down to the ankles. Their offensive weapon is the bow, with arrows mostly hooked with iron barbs projecting on each side, which cannot be extracted from the body unless the wound is opened wide. There are some who fight with broadswords or axes. Instead of the war-trumpet they use the bagpipe. They take great delight in music, but with stringed instruments of their own kind; some of them have strings of copper, others of gut, which they strike either with very long finger-nails or with bows. Unique to them is the ambition to decorate the instruments with large amounts of silver and gems. Poorer people display glass instead of gems. Their songs are not inelegant, and generally contain praise of brave men; and the subjects treated by their Bards are no different. To a small extent they use the old language of the Gauls.

The islands around Scotland, which use the old language and are called Western, may be described thus.

First of all is Man, which some falsely call Mona; by the ancients it was called Eubonia, by Paulus Orosius Mevania, or rather Maenavia. For in the old language it is called Manim. Former ages named the town in it Sodor, in which the Bishop of the Isles had his seat. It is situated at an equal distance from Ireland, Galloway in Scotland, and Cumbria, the province of England. It extends twenty-four miles in length, eight in width.

For a description and map of the Isle of Man see the description of England in Volume IV of our Atlas.

Next in the estuary of the Clyde rises up Ailsa, a high rock sheer on all sides except for one approach. For almost the whole year it is empty of human settlement, except that at fixed times a large number of small ships gather there to fish for haddock. It has many rabbits and sea-birds, especially that type of geese which we call 'solans'. It faces equally on the south east Carrick, on the south west Ireland, and on the north west Kintyre.

This rock may be seen on the map of Arran, fol.57 in this volume.

Twenty four miles from this is situated Arran, turning almost north: twenty four miles long, sixteen wide. The whole island rises into very high and very rough mountains. Only the sea coast is cultivated. The sea bursts in where it is lower and makes quite a large bay, whose entrance is closed by the Holy Island. And so, as the mountains rise on all side and break the force of the winds, the harbour is very safe for ships within; and in the invariably quiet waters there is such copious fishing that, whatever is caught that exceeds the need for one day, the people throw into the sea as if into a fish-pond.

Not far from the coast of Arran lies the small island Pladda, which is full of rabbits.

For the map of Arran with Pladda adjacent, see fol.58.

Bute is eight miles long, four wide; it is situated further into the Firth of Clyde, from Arran (as [Fff p.119] has been said) eight miles distant to the north east; on the north west it is more or less half a mile from Argyll, to the east six miles from Cunningham. Almost all of it is low, and quite suited for crops and pasture. It has one town of the same name as the island, and in it the old castle of Rothesay. It has another castle on the bay, which in the native tongue is called Kames, that is Bent.

To the south west is Inchmarnock, low, and for its size fertile and cultivated; one mile long, half a mile wide.

Further into the Firth of Clyde are the Great and Little Cumbrae, a small distance apart; the Great one has crops, the Little broadhorns.

A map of these islands, viz. Bute, Inchmarnock, and Great and Little Cumbrae is on fol.60.

A little more than a mile from the promontory of Kintyre is Sanda Island, that is with a harbour; the name is taken from an anchorage for ships; because when the Danes held the islands, their fleets directed their course to it.

See Avon on the map of Kintyre.

Rathlin, since it is closer to Ireland, will be found in the description of Ireland, on the map of Ulster in the second part of this volume, fol.32.

And four miles from Kintyre is the small island of Cara; and not far from it is situated Gigha, six miles long, a mile and a half wide.

These islands are on the map of Kintyre.

JURA (Section Note)

From this (scil. Gigha) Jura stretches twenty four (miles) in length. It is twelve miles distant from Gigha. The coastal parts are quite often cultivated; the interior is covered with woods and has an abundance of various kinds of deer. Some think that it was in antiquity named Dera, a name which means 'deer' in the Gothic language.

Two miles from this is Scarba, running from east to west four miles in length, a mile wide; in rare spots cultivated by man. The flow of the sea between it and Jura is so violent that except at certain times it cannot be overcome by either sails or oars.

After this many ignoble islands are then scattered, Eilean a'Bhealaich or Broom, Guirasdeal, Lunga, both Fiolas. Three distinguished by the name Garvellachs, Culbrenyn [?], Dun Chonnuill, Eilean a'Mhadaidh [?], Belnahua, Vickeran [?], Eilean Gamhna, Luing, Seil, Shuna. These last three are quite rich in cattle and crops; they come under the Earls of Argyll. Next to them is Slate, because tiles, which they call slates, are cut out from its cliff. Then Nagvisog [?], and Easdale, and Inch Kenneth [?], and one called Shian, from a herb harmful to crops not dissimilar to yellow-weed, except that it is of a softer colour, and Uderga [?], and Eilean Righ, soon Eilean Dubh, that is black, and Eilean na Cille, and Triarach [?]. Then Eilean Ard, Eilean Iosal, and Glas Eilean, and Am Fraoch Eilean. Likewise Eilean Craobhach, Eilean nan Gabhar, Eilean nan Coinein, and Eilean Diomhain, and Eilean Bhride. Likewise Lismore, on which was once the episcopal seat of Argyll, eight miles long, two wide. In it besides the commodities common to the others, metals are found. Then Eilean nan Caorach, and Shuna, Ferry Island [?], island of Sheep [?]. Likewise Pladda, and Eilean na Cloiche, and Gressa [?], and Eilean Mor, and Ardiescara, and Eilean Musdile, and Bernera, formerly called holy asylum, a noble wood of yew, Eilean Loch Oscair, Eilean Droineach covered with thorns, elder and the ruins of a large building. Eilean na Balnagowan, productive of wood. Likewise Eilean Ramsay, and Kerrera.

  [Continuation of text]

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