- KILCHOMAN, a parish, in the Islay district of the county of Argyll, 12 miles (W. by S.) from Bowmore; containing 4505 inhabitants. This place, which is situated at the south-western extremity of the island of Islay, is supposed to have derived its name from a church founded here by St. Chomanus, who was sent by St. Columba from the monastery of Iona, to convert the inhabitants to Christianity. Little more of its ancient history is known than that, for many years, it was in the possession of the Danes and Norwegians, and subsequently became the property of the Macdonalds, lords of the Isles, of whose baronial seat the site is now occupied by the manse and gardens of the minister. In 1588, a sanguinary battle took place between the Macdonalds and the Macleans, of whom the latter, of the isle of Mull, landed a considerable force to dispossess the former of their territory. The conflict occurred near the shore of Loch Gruinard, and terminated in the defeat of the Macleans, whose leader fell in the action; and his followers giving way, many of them took refuge in the church of Kilnave, near the field of battle, pursued by the Macdonalds, who set fire to the building. The body of Maclean, being found among the slain, was buried in the church of Kilchoman.The parish, which is of peninsular form, is bounded on the west by the Atlantic, and on the east by Loch Indal; and is deeply indented on the north by Loch Gruinard, between which and Loch Indal there is little more than a mile of land at high water. It is about twenty miles in extreme length, and five at its greatest breadth, comprising upwards of 50,000 acres, of which not more than 5000 are arable, and the remainder, with the exception of twenty acres of plantations, is hill pasture and waste. The surface is diversified with ridges of hills of moderate elevation, the highest not exceeding 500 feet above the level of the sea; and between these undulating ridges are large tracts of level ground, covered with moss, and interspersed with lakes, of which the largest, Lochgorum, is about 600 acres in extent, and from five to seven feet in depth. There is no river of any importance. The coast, which is more than thirty miles in circuit, is mostly bold and precipitous, abounding on the east with creeks, and on the west with bays. The largest bay is that of Kilchoman; but it is so exposed to the swell of the Atlantic that fishing-boats, to be in safety, must be drawn above high-water mark. Loch Gruinard is about four miles in length, and affords shelter for small vessels, but is partly dry at low water; Loch Indal is twelve miles in length, and eight in breadth at the entrance, forming a good roadstead, and is much frequented by vessels in adverse weather.The soil includes almost every variety: on the shore of Loch Indal is some rich alluvial land of great fertility; on the western shore the soil is less productive, and in other parts nearly sterile. The crops are, oats, barley, potatoes, turnips, peas, and beans, with the usual grasses. The system of husbandry is improving on some of the farms; considerable progress has been made in draining the lands, and several tracts of moss have been reclaimed; but from the tenure of the smaller farms, the spirit of enterprise is much restrained. The chief attention is paid to the improvement of live stock; the cattle are generally of the West Highland breed, but the sheep, with the exception of a few of the blackfaced, are of a very ordinary kind. The principal substrata are, clay-slate, greywacke, alternating with thin beds of quartz, basalt, greenstone, and porphyry. There is no limestone; but the want of it is supplied by the abundance of shell-marl found in the numerous creeks and bays. Slate of good colour and quality is extensively quarried at Kilchiaran. The rateable annual value of the parish is £7430. Sunderland House is a spacious mansion, erected by the proprietor in 1820, pleasantly situated on an acclivity, about a mile from the shore of Loch Indal, and surrounded with thriving plantations. Balinaby is also a handsome residence. There are three villages in the parish, viz., Portnahaven, Port-Charlotte, and Port-Wymss, which last has but recently grown into existence. At Bridgend, about nine miles distant, is a post-office, from which letters are brought daily by a private messenger; and facility of communication is afforded by good roads, which intersect the parish in various directions, and are kept in proper order.The Ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Islay and Jura and synod of Argyll. The minister's stipend is £158. 6., of which two-thirds are paid from the exchequer, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £15 per annum; patron, the Crown. The parish church, erected in 1825, is a handsome structure containing 700 sittings, all of which are free. A church has been built at Portnahaven. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church; and at PortCharlotte is one for Independents. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £25. 13. 4., with a house, an allowance in money in lieu of garden, and about £4 fees. Two schools are supported by the General Assembly, one by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and one by the Edinburgh Gaelic Society; there are also six Sunday schools. The poor have the interest of some charitable bequests and private contributions; and the Kirk Session possess the privilege of recommending patients to the royal infirmary of Glasgow. There are numerous ruins of religious houses, to which are attached cemeteries still in use; and in the present churchyard is an ancient cross, beautifully sculptured. On several of the hills are obelisks, of which the history is unknown; and on islands in the lakes, and in various ravines on the shores of the coast, are remains of fortifications. Under a large stone near Sunderland House, which had fallen from the erect position in which it originally stood, were found two golden ornaments, weighing nearly six ounces; and in the hills around have been found rude coffins of stone, some containing human bones, and others urns of unbaked clay, rudely formed.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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