Torosay

   TOROSAY, a parish, in the district of Mull, county of Argyll, 18 miles (W. by N.) from Oban; containing, with the late quoad sacra parish of Kinlochspelve, and part of that of Salen, 1616 inhabitants, of whom 679 are in Torosay Proper. This place derives its name, signifying in the Gaelic language "the country of hills and water," from the mountainous character of its surface, and the numerous indentations of its shores by arms of the sea. Originally it formed part of the territories of the Macdonalds, lords of the Isles, whose principal residence was at Aros, in the neighbouring parish of Kilninian. In the earlier part of the 14th century, the lands were granted by the Macdonalds to two brothers of the family of the Mc Leans, who, during a visit which they paid to the chieftain Macdonald, had become his sons-in-law; the one fixed his residence at Duart, in the north-eastern, and the other at the head of Loch Buy, in the south-western, extremity of the parish. In a succeeding age, after the death of a Maclaine of Lochbuy, whose son was then an infant, Mc Lean of Duart took forcible possession of his estates, which he annexed to his own, failing, however, to obtain the person of the infant, who was conveyed in safety to Ireland, and placed under the protection of his maternal uncle, ancestor of the present Earl of Antrim. The heir of Lochbuy, on attaining the age of manhood, embarked with a few resolute attendants to recover his paternal estates, and, landing near Lochbuy, was recognised by the tenantry, who reinstated him in his inheritance, which is now mostly the property of his descendant, Murdoch Maclaine, Esq., the principal landowner in the parish. The lands of Mc Lean of Duart afterwards became forfeited to the crown, and were granted, in reward of their eminent services, to the Argyll family, of whom the present Duke sold the lands of Torosay Proper to the late Colonel Macquarrie, of Ulva, from whom they were purchased by Colonel Campbell, of Possil. The other landholders in the parish are, the Macquarrie family, of Glenforsa, the Duke of Argyll, and Duncan Mc Intyre, Esq. There are still considerable remains of the ancient castles of Duart and Lochbuy. The former, situated on the promontory of Duart, consists of a quadrangular range of buildings, with a strong tower of two stories on the north: the walls of the tower are from ten to fourteen feet in thickness, and of more ancient date than the other buildings, on one of the doors of which is the crest of the Mc Leans, with the date 1663. The castle of Lochbuy, situated on a low rock near the head of a lake, consists of a square tower of three stories, of which the two lower have roofs of stone, richly groined: though apparently of equal antiquity to that of Duart, it is in much better preservation. On the east it was defended by a semicircular fosse, which may still be traced; and the entrance was by an embattled gateway, with a portcullis and drawbridge.
   The parish is about twenty miles in extreme length, and nearly twelve in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 160 square miles. Not more than 7500 acres are arable and in cultivation, to which, however, 8000 might be added; the large remainder, with the exception of a few acres of plantations, is moorland-pasture and waste incapable of tillage. The surface is hilly and mountainous, and in some parts diversified with glens of considerable extent. The principal mountains are Ben-More and Bentealluidh, rising, the former to an elevation of 3000, and the latter to the height of 2800, feet above the level of the sea, commanding extensive prospects, and forming magnificent features in the landscape as seen from Loch-na-Gaul and the sound of Mull; especially Bentealluidh, which, being of conical form, and clothed with verdure to its summit, combines beauty with grandeur. In addition to these, a chain of mountains of inferior elevation, having one common base, extends through the whole length of the parish; and in a transverse direction, and nearly parallel with each other, are several ranges, the summits of which are peaked. At the head of Lochbuy is the mountain of Ben-Maigh, ascending from an extensive plain to a height nearly equal to that of Bentealluidh. The chief valleys are, Glenmore, Glenforsa, and Glencainail. Glenmore is about ten miles in length, constituting a narrow defile between mountains, and extending from the western to the eastern extremity of the parish; Glenforsa is about five miles in length and three-quarters of a mile in width, reaching from the coast, near Salen, to the base of Bentealluidh, in Glenmore. Glencainail, to the west of Glenforsa, with which it is nearly parallel, is about three miles in length and three-quarters of a mile in breadth, and bounded by a mountain range that separates it from Glenforsa, and by the base of Benmore, near which it terminates; the principal feature of this glen is a fresh-water lake of considerable extent, at the lower extremity.
   Among the rivers are, the Lussa, the Forsa, and the Ba. The Lussa has its source in some lakes near Glenmore, from which it flows in a north-eastern direction for nearly two miles, when it deviates towards the south-east: after a rapid course of six miles, it runs into the sea at Loch Spelve. The Forsa takes its rise near the base of the mountain Bentealluidh, and, flowing northward, falls after a course of about four miles, in which it has received the waters from the heights of the glen to which it gives name, into the sound of Mull near Pennygowan. The Ba issues from the lake of that name, in the western portion of the parish, and, passing in a north-western direction, after a course of two miles joins Loch-na-Gaul. There are many inland lakes; the most conspicuous are Loch Ba and Loch Uisge. Loch Ba, which is near the western extremity of the parish, is about seven miles in circumference: Loch Uisge, romantically situated near the head of Loch Buy, an arm of the sea, is five miles in circumference; and owing to the precipitous elevation of its banks, every feature in the surrounding scenery is distinctly reflected on its surface. None of the smaller lakes are remarkable for their extent or any peculiarity of character. The rivers abound with salmon, grilse, and sea-trout; trout of small size are found in all the fresh-water lakes; and in such of them as have communication by rivers with the sea, the fish that ascend the streams frequently remain till the end of spring. The coast is indented with numerous bays, of which the principal are, Loch Buy, on the south; Loch Spelve and Loch Don, on the east; and the bays of Duart, Craignuire, Mac Alister, and Corinachencher, on the north. Loch Buy is about three miles in length and two in width. Loch Spelve is six miles long and about a mile and a half in breadth, communicating with the sea by a lateral opening nearly in the centre of the eastern side, which is supposed to have been produced by some violent convulsion, thus changing the loch from its original character as a fresh-water lake into an arm of the sea. Loch Don is four miles in length, and half a mile in breadth at its entrance, beyond which it contracts itself to a few yards, but again expands into an irregular surface of considerable width. The bay of Mac Alister is two miles wide, and each of the others about a mile. These several bays abound with cod, ling, whiting, plaice, flounders, skate, and lythe; herrings, mackerel, and gurnet, are also taken during the seasons. Oysters and muscles are abundant on the shores of Loch Spelve, especially the former; and in the bays of Duart and Craignuire, shell-fish of circular form, of the size of an oyster, and of little less depth than the cockle, are found in great quantities at low-water. The soil is various; on some of the arable lands, tolerably fertile; near the shores, a deep loam alternated with sand and gravel; and in other parts, clayey: on the higher lands are extensive tracts of peat. The chief crops are oats and bear, with potatoes, turnips, and the usual grasses. The system of husbandry is improved, and considerable breadths of waste land have been reclaimed and brought under cultivation; but the principal reliance of the farmers is upon the rearing of sheep and cattle, for which the hills afford good pasture. The farms are of various extent, and there are many small crofters. The buildings on the larger farms are generally substantial and commodious, and many of the houses are of recent erection; but the cottages of the crofters are of a very inferior order, and few inclosures have been made except on the immediate lands of proprietors. The Laird of Lochbuy is making extensive improvements. The sheep are mostly the black-faced, and much attention is paid to their breed by the importation of "tups" from the southern districts, and of ewe lambs from the mainland of Argyll; the cattle are all of the West Highland black-breed, and under the patronage of an association of gentlemen for their improvement, much benefit is anticipated. The Mull ponies, of small stature, but strong and hardy, and equal to arduous labour, have here, of late, been improved in size; but what they have gained in that respect, is more than counterbalanced by what they have lost in spirit, and in their capability of enduring fatigue. There are some remains of the ancient woods with which, from the discovery of large trunks of trees in all the peat bogs, it seems evident that the parish must have abounded; these consist of copses of oak, ash, mountain-ash, hazel, birch, and holly. The plantations are of recent formation, and consist of larch, and spruce, Scotch, and silver firs, interspersed with elm, alder, beech, and plane, of which the last is found to flourish in some of the most unfavourable situations both with respect to soil and climate. At Fishinish, on the Lochbuy estate, are some large planes in a very thriving condition, while there is scarcely a tree of any kind, or even a shrub, in the neighbourhood. The principal substrata are, trap, sandstone, and coarse limestone, of which the hills are generally composed; granite, in large boulders, occurs near the shore; and rock-crystals, and calc and fluor spars, are found in the rocks. The limestone abounds with fossil remains, chiefly of the testaceous kind. The ateable annual value of the parish is £5008. The principal seats are, Lochbuy House, a handsome manion, erected by the grandfather of the proprietor, at he head of Loch Buy, and at a small distance from the ancient tower, commanding a fine view of the loch, and of the island of Colonsay, in the Atlantic; Achnacroish House, the seat of Colonel Campbell, of Possil, to which considerable additions have been made by the present proprietor; and Glenforsa, the seat of the late Captain Macquarrie. The only village of importance is Salen. Fairs for black-cattle and sheep are held annually, on The lands of Fishinish, on the Tuesday before the last Wednesday in May and October; and a fair for horses on the first Friday after the 20th of August. The postoffice, at Auchnacraig, has three deliveries weekly; and facility of communication is afforded by the district road from the ferry at Auchnacraig to Tobermory, which passes for seventeen miles through the parish, and by the road to Kilfinichen, which intersects the southern portion of the parish for eighteen miles. Steamers ply almost daily in the sound of Mull; the bays are all frequented by trading vessels, and there are ferries to Morvern, Nether Lorn, and Kerrara.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Mull and synod of Argyll. The minister's stipend is £172. 18. 4., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £11 per annum; patron, the Duke of Argyll. The church, erected in 1783, and repaired in 1832, is conveniently situated, and contains 280 sittings, all of which are free; there are also parliamentary churches at Kinlochspelve and Salen. Torosay has three parochial schools; the masters receive salaries of £15 each, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £5 each annually. There are also schools supported from the funds of the General Assembly and the Gaelic Auxiliary Society, of which the masters have salaries of £20 each. At the extremity of Laggan Point, on the south side of Loch Buy, is an excavation in the rock, 300 feet in length, about twenty feet in width at the mouth, and forty feet high: these dimensions it retains for about one-third of its extent, when it expands into a breadth of forty-five feet, and reaches 120 feet in height, which elevation it preserves to its extremity. From the point where it begins to expand, branches off, at an angle of thirty degrees, another cave, 150 feet long, twelve feet broad, and twenty-four feet in height, and which appears to have had an entrance from the sea that is now closed. The whole bears the appellation of din's Cave, which it probably received from the Danes when they had possession of the Hebrides. At Killean, and also at Laggan, are the ruins of ancient chapels of which the history is unknown; and in the buryinggrounds adjacent to them are some richly-sculptured tombstones, supposed to have been removed from the island of Iona. Stone coffins, containing human bones and ashes, have been found in various places, while excavating the ground for the formation of roads; and also some silver coins, among which were a Spanish dollar, a shilling of Queen Elizabeth, and a small coin of Charles II.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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