- TOBERMORY, a sea-port town, and also a quoad sacra parish, in the parish of Kilninian and Kilmore, district of Mull, county of Argyll, 30 miles (N. W. by W.) from Oban, and 171 (W. N. W.) from Edinburgh; containing 1390 inhabitants. This place derives its name, signifying in the Gaelic language the "Well of Mary," from a well near the town, which in ancient times was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to whom, also, was dedicated an old chapel, of which there are still some remains on the west side of the town. In 1588, the Florida, one of the ships belonging to the Spanish Armada, retreating towards the north, was blown up in the harbour of this town by, as some say, Maclean, of Dowart, at that time proprietor of this portion of the Isle of Mull, and was entirely destroyed. An attempt to raise the hull of the vessel was made in 1740, by Sir Archibald Grant and Captain Roe, but without any other success than the recovery of several of her guns; part of her timbers, however, were subsequently found, and some of the wood was presented by Sir Walter Scott to George IV., on His Majesty's visit to Edinburgh in 1822. In the reign of James II. of England, Archibald, the ninth earl of Argyll, having joined in the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth, landed with his followers in the bay, or, according to some authorities, in Cantyre, to assist in what proved an unsuccessful project for the invasion of Scotland: being afterwards made prisoner, he was sent to Edinburgh, where he was publicly executed. The town, which is finely situated on the north-western shore of the bay, was commenced in 1788, by the British Society for Promoting the Fisheries and Improving the Coasts of the Kingdom, who, as an inducement to settlers, granted parcels of land for building on very favourable leases. The houses along the shore are well built, and of neat appearance; and on a rising ground immediately behind, are numerous cottages of an inferior description. A public news-room, well supplied with journals and periodical publications, was lately supported by subscription. The original purpose for which the town was designed, seems not to have been carried into full effect; no fisheries of any importance appear to have been established. The site of the town, and the adjacent lands, have been recently purchased from the society, and are at present the property of Mr. Nairne, formerly of Forfarshire, but now of Aros.From its advantageous situation, and its excellent harbour, which is one of the best in the Western Isles, the town has become a thriving sea-port, and is frequented by numerous steamers, and by most of the vessels trading from the western ports of Britain to the north of Europe. The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in the coasting-trade, and in the handicrafts connected with the shipping, and requisite for the wants of the surrounding district; there are a few resident merchants, a distillery, and many shops, amply stored with various kinds of goods. The herring-fishery is followed by a few of the inhabitants; and there are several boat-builders, coopers, and other artificers connected with ship-building. The harbour is capacious, easy of access, and protected from the sound of Mull by the Calve island, which extends nearly across its mouth, leaving at the north-western extremity ample facility of entrance for vessels of the largest size, but at the south-eastern only space for small craft. Two commodious quays have been constructed, of which one, erected by the late Colonel Campbell in 1835, is accessible at low-water to vessels not drawing more than four feet depth; the other is of older date, and accessible only to vessels requiring no more than half that depth. A customhouse for the district has been established here, and also a branch of the Western Bank of Scotland, and some insurance agencies; the post-office has three deliveries weekly, and there are several good inns for the accommodation of those whom the facility of conveyance by steamers may induce to visit the place. The sheriff-substitute holds a court weekly in the town, which is also the polling-place for the electors of Tiree and Coll, the Isle of Ulva, and others of the Western Isles; and there is a lock-up house for the confinement of malefactors, but so little needed, that the upper story of it was some time ago used as a schoolroom.The district is bounded on the north by Loch Sunart, and on the east by the sound of Mull; it is about six miles in length, and nearly two miles in breadth, comprising more than 7000 acres, of which a very considerable portion is arable, producing good crops of oats and potatoes. The surface is varied with hills, some of them finely wooded; and the general scenery is pleasingly diversified, and enriched with plantations. Near the town is St. Mary's lake, a beautiful sheet of water, on the shore of which an elegant mansion called Drumfin was lately erected by Hugh Mc Lean, Esq., of Coll: the hills between which this lake is situated are precipitous. There are some thriving plantations on the lands of Mishnish, in the neighbourhood of the town. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Mull and synod of Argyll. The church, erected by parliament in 1828, stands on the hill behind the town, overlooking the bay: the minister has a stipend of £120, paid from the exchequer; with a manse and a small glebe: patron, the Crown. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. A school, attended during the winter by about 100 children, is supported by government; and there is also in the town a school of industry, maintained by the Queen Dowager, in which are ninety girls.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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