- MORVERN, a parish, in the district of Mull, county of Argyll, 18 miles (W. S. W.) from Strontian; containing 1774 inhabitants. This place, which anciently formed part of the territory of the celebrated Somerled, Thane of Argyll, takes its name from the Gaelic term Mhor Earrain, signifying "the great division, mainland, or continent." The parish is in the northern part of the county, and measures in extreme length from east to west twenty miles, and fifteen miles at its greatest breadth; comprising 85,369 acres, of which 4054 are arable, 78,246 pasture, and the remainder wood. It forms a peninsula, being bounded on all sides by water except along its eastern limit, which extends for twelve miles; and its line of coast falls but little short of 100 miles. On the north it is girt by Loch Sunart, on the west and south by the sound of Mull, and on the south-east by Linnhe loch. Towards the middle of the parish, Loch Aline, running into the land on the south from the sound of Mull, and Loch Teagus, in like manner penetrating from Loch Sunart on the north, form a kind of peninsula of the western division of the parish, though not so perfect a peninsula as the larger. The coast is marked by numerous creeks and bays, where vessels find good anchorage and shelter; and there are also several ferries for the convenience of local transit, affording great accommodation to the people. The inhabited islands of Oransay and Carna, belonging to the parish, are situated in Loch Sunart. The former is barren and rocky, about two miles long, and pierced in many places on each side with creeks and bays, which sometimes nearly meet each other; it is separated from the main land on the south by Druimbuy, a safe and commodious harbour, scarcely surpassed by any on the western coast, though but little frequented. The island of Carna, not far to the north-east of Oransay, lies near the entrance of Loch Teagus, and has in many parts a rugged and forbidding surface, but in its eastern portion is verdant, fertile, and pleasant. The loch of Aline, on the south, has a convenient harbour; but some draw-back to its extensive use is found in its narrow entrance, and the necessity of waiting frequently for a favourable wind and tide. The bay of Ardtornish, with north and westerly winds, also offers safe anchorage.The surface in the interior is varied by several mountains; the highest are those of Ben-eaddan, Benna-hua, and Si'ain-na-Rapaich, the first of which rises 2306 feet above the level of the sea, and has towards the summit a series of excavated steps called Fingal's Stairs. The scenery of the parish in general is not interesting; but some portions supply a very pleasing, and occasionally a splendid, contrast to the less inviting tracts. The more distant views, also, especially those of the sable waters of the sound of Mull, and of the lofty mountain ranges on the isle, are of considerable interest; and several of the scenes have been celebrated by the muse of Scott. Airi-Innis is the largest inland lake, measuring two miles in length and half a mile in breadth; besides which there are the lakes of Daoire-nam-Mart and Ternate. The principal river is that of Gear-Abhain, which, after being increased by numerous tributaries, and flowing through a pleasant valley till enlarged by a supply of water from Airi-Innis, falls into Loch Aline. Minor streams, and torrents and cascades, occur in every part of the locality; and among the last the most celebrated are the falls of Ardtornish, which overhang the bay of the same name, near the ruins of the ancient castle. The waters in different directions contain a tolerable supply of fish, and the usual kinds are taken in the sound of Mull, with the exception of haddock and whiting, which latter, however, are abundant in Lochs Linnhe and Sunart. There is a small salmon-fishery in Loch Aline.The soil is of moderate fertility, and the crops generally cultivated are oats, barley, and potatoes, with small quantities occasionally of sown grasses and turnips; but no more grain is raised than is necessary for home consumption. Husbandry has, however, been considerably improved, chiefly by the subdivision of farms and the introduction of a better system of cropping; much bad land, also, has been improved, and several tracts of moss reclaimed. The small holders are usually tenants at will; where leases are granted the period is for nineteen years. The sheep are mostly the black-faced, frequently crossed with Cheviots, and the cattle are the Argyllshire or West Highland; large numbers of sheep are constantly grazed, and some hundreds of cows. The rocks in Morvern are of two distinct species. The country from Ardtornish, on the south, stretching along the sound of Mull to the north-western boundary, in breadth about five miles, consists principally of lofty ranges of the trap formation; while in the interior and the upper part of the parish the substrata are chiefly gneiss and mica-slate. Freestone from the quarries of Loch Aline and Ardtornish has been used for many public works. Good lead-ore is found at Lurg, in GlenDubh; and at Ternate, on the property of Ardtornish, are indications of copper, a metal once wrought here. The parish is said to have been formerly covered with wood, large quantities of which were consumed, while standing, in the disturbed times of 1745. The mosses abound in the remains of forests; and immense trunks of oak are seen on the sides of mountains, as well as large coppices of this and other wood in different places, the cutting of which was a lucrative source of revenue previously to the sale of the Argyll estates in 1819, when the lands passed to other proprietors according to the present divisions. Almost every other description of timber has also suffered from the axe since the extensive introduction of sheep-farming; but some very fine old trees are yet remaining, and the shores of Loch Sunart display heights richly clothed, especially with birch, to the great embellishment of the scenery. The rateable annual value of the parish is £4752. There are three ferries on the sound of Mull, and two on Loch Sunart; but the communication with distant places is carried on chiefly by the Tobermory steam-vessels, which, if suspended in the winter, are replaced by a packet-boat plying between Loch Aline and Oban. The parish is almost entirely destitute of roads; and, in consequence, the communication of the post-office with that of Oban, which takes place three times a week, is much impeded. A fair is held twice annually, on the days preceding the Mull summer and winter markets, for the sale of black-cattle, the hiring of servants, and general business. Coal is imported occasionally for fuel; but peat is in general use, though procured at much trouble and expense.The parish is in the presbytery of Mull and synod of Argyll, and in the patronage of the Duke of Argyll: the minister's stipend is £155, with a mause, and a glebe of sixty acres, valued at £27. 10. per annum. Morvern being formed of the two ancient parishes of Kilcolumkill and Kilumtaith, united shortly after the Reformation, there are two churches, at which the incumbent officiates alternately, as well as at several other stations. One of the churches was built in 1780, and the other in 1799; both are in good repair, and afford sufficient accommodation, and all the sittings are free. A portion of the parish, at the head of Loch Sunart, has been united quoad sacra to the parliamentary parish of Strontian, in the parish of Ardnamurchan; and a missionary preaches in this quarter every fortnight, supported by the Royal Bounty. There are also two catechists, maintained from the same fund. A Roman Catholic chapel has lately been erected. There are three parochial schools, where English and Gaelic are both taught, with the ordinary branches of education; and the higher studies may be followed, if required, at one of the schools: the maximum salary is divided among the masters, who have also about £8 each in fees. The ruins of a religious establishment founded by St. Columba are still visible; and in the parish is also a vitrified fort, with several old castles, of which the most interesting is the ruin of Ardtornish. This was in ancient times a stronghold of the Lords of the Isles, and the place where a meeting was held between the commissioners of Edward IV. and those of John, of the Isles, on the 19th of October, 1461, when the treaty was concluded in which the latter acknowledged himself a vassal of the crown of England, and engaged to assist Edward in reducing the Scots to his sway. Here is also shown the tomb of the celebrated Machd-Mhic-Ian, who is said to have been killed in this parish in 1625, in an encounter with the clan Cameron.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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