- UIG, a parish, in the Island of Lewis, county of Ross and Cromarty; containing, with the islands of Great and Little Bernera, Pabbay, and Vuiavore, 3316 inhabitants. This place seems to have derived its name, signifying in the Gaelic language "a solitary spot," from its situation on the western coast of the island of Lewis, at a remote distance from the parishes of Stornoway and Lochs, from which it is separated by a tract of swampy moorland extending nearly twelve miles in length. With the exception of occasional incursions of the Danes, and hostilities between the rival clans of the Macaulays and the Morrisons, who were continually at war, the place does not appear to have been distinguished by any events of historical importance. The parish is bounded on the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean, and, including the frith of Loch Roag, which penetrates for several miles into the interior, is about twenty-four miles in length and ten miles in average breadth; comprising not much less than 124,000 acres. Scarcely 300 acres are arable and in cultivation; about 1800 are meadow and pasture, and the large remainder moorland, moss, and waste. The surface is diversified with hills of moderate elevation, which prevail throughout nearly the whole of the interior; but towards the shore the ground is nearly level. The hills are intersected by extensive tracts of moorland, and numerous fresh-water lakes; and the lowlands are watered by several rivulets, whereof the principal are, the Grimsta and Cean loch, which flow into Loch Roag; the Resort, which falls into the bay of that name; and the Red River, which joins the bay of Uig. Of the fresh-water lakes, the only one of any considerable extent is Loch Langavat, on the south-western boundary of the parish, which is more than nine miles in length and nearly two miles in extreme breadth: of the others, the largest does not exceed two miles in length and one mile in breadth. They all abound with trout of small size, and salmon are found in moderate quantity in the rivers. There are several perennial springs of excellent water; but they are generally small, and afford only a scanty supply.The coast, including its windings, is about forty miles in extent, and is indented with many friths and bays. The principal is Loch Roag, on the north-west, intersecting the parish for twelve miles to the southeast; its entrance is about eight miles in breadth, and is divided by islands, which also abound throughout its whole length, the most considerable being the greater island of Bernera. This frith, in which an extensive herring-fishery was formerly carried on, contains several roadsteads, of sufficient capacity for the safe anchorage of the whole of the British navy. Loch Resort, on the western coast, penetrates for nearly eight miles into the land, forming a boundary between the islands of Lewis and Harris; it is a little more than two miles in breadth at the entrance, from which it gradually diminishes to a point. The bay of Uig, also on the western coast, is likewise about two miles in breadth at the entrance, which is exposed to all the fury of the Atlantic Ocean. It is protected on the north by the promontory of Gallan Head, and on the south by a headland of inferior height, constituting the western extremity of the island of Lewis; it penetrates into the land for three miles and a half, preserving a mean breadth of about one mile, and branches out into several well sheltered creeks. Since the failure of the herring-fishery at Loch Roag, the inhabitants have been engaged in fisheries of cod and ling, which are found in abundance off the coast, and in taking which about eighty open boats and one decked vessel are employed; the fish are cured in dryinghouses on the shore, and about thirty tons are annually prepared for the London market. Shell-fish of every kind are also abundant on the shores of Loch Roag, and the oysters and lobsters taken here are of very superior quality: indeed vessels from England frequently stay here for several months to fish for lobsters, of which not less than 100,000 are on an average sent to London annually. Of the numerous islands within the parish, the Flannan islands, seven in number, are about thirty miles distant from the main land; they are supposed to have been the residence of the Druids, and contain many interesting relics. Of the others, four are inhabited, and the remainder afford good pasturage for cattle and sheep; the larger islands, Bernera and others, are described under their respective heads.The soil along the coast is generally light and sandy; in the interior, partly clay, but chiefly mossy; and, with the help of sea-weed as manure, every where capable of being rendered tolerably fertile. The crops are oats and barley, with a few potatoes, which have been gradually growing more into use as an article of food; but the quantity of land under cultivation is far from being sufficient to supply the wants of the inhabitants, and the system of husbandry is still in a very unimproved state. The moorlands afford tolerably good pasture for black-cattle and sheep, upon the rearing of which the people place their chief reliance, and to the improvement of which, within the last few years, they have paid a considerable degree of attention. The cattle, sheep, and horses, are mostly of the small Highland breeds, which from time immemorial have been reared in the parish; and large numbers are sent to Stornoway, for the supply of the southern markets. Recently, however, sheep of the Cheviot and blackfaced breeds have been introduced, and they appear to thrive well. There are no villages of any importance; but in various parts are rural hamlets, or clusters of houses, containing each from forty to fifty families, who are employed in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. The manufacture of kelp is carried on to a considerable extent, and about 225 tons are annually sent to market; the people also weave woollen and other cloths for their own use. There is a post-office at Stornoway, the only market-town in the island of Lewis; but there is little facility of communication, from the want of roads, which circumstance tends greatly to impede the improvement of the district. The rateable annual value of the parish is £2542.The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Lewis and synod of Glenelg. The minister's stipend is £158. 6. 7., of which one-third is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £7 per annum: the patronage of the incumbency is exercised by the Crown. The church, situated nearly in the centre of the parish, is a neat plain structure, erected in the year 1829, and containing 1000 sittings. A catechist is appointed and supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and the members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school is attended by about fifty children; the master has a salary of £28, with a house, and half an acre of land, and the fees average £5 per annum. Two schools are maintained by the society just named, three by the Edinburgh Gaelic School Society, and one by the education committee of the General Assembly: commodious schoolrooms, with dwelling-houses for the teachers, were built at Valtos and Calanish by Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Mc Kenzie. At Calanish, on the eastern shore of Loch Roag, are the remains of a Druidical temple in nearly entire preservation, consisting of a circle of thirteen upright stones, each six feet in height, in an undressed state as taken from the quarry, placed at a distance of six yards from each other, and inclosing an area almost thirty yards in diameter, in the centre of which is an upright stone of very large dimensions, thirteen feet in height. Leading towards the entrance of the circle is an avenue of two parallel ranges of six upright stones, each six feet high; and on the east and west of the circle are single ranges of three similar stones, and on the south a range of two. At Carloway are the remains of a Danish fort, one of the most entire in the country; the circular inclosure is surrounded by two concentric walls of stone, about thirty feet in height, of great thickness at the base, but gradually tapering towards the summit. At Melista are the remains of a nunnery, near which were found by a peasant, while digging in the sand, in 1840, a great number of pieces of bone or ivory, beautifully carved in various devices, and evidently intended as figures for the game of chess.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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