- ULVA, an island and quoad sacra parish, in the parish of Kilninian and Kilmore, district of Mull, and county of Argyll, 12 miles (W. S. W.) from Aros; containing, with the islands of Little Colonsay, Gometray, and Staffa, and a portion of the main land of Mull, 859 inhabitants. This place is supposed to have derived its name, of Scandinavian origin, from the number of wolves by which the island was formerly infested. Till within a very recent period, it formed part of the possessions of the descendants of its ancient chieftains, the Macquaries, of whose baronial residence there are still some vestiges remaining. The feudal custom of exacting from their vassals a fine on the marriage of a virgin, and which was called "Mercheta Mulierum," appears to have been exercised by the Macquaries in the island until nearly the close of the 18th century. This fine, which was originally paid in the produce of the land, was for a long time fixed at one sheep, but was ultimately commuted for the payment of a crown in money. Including the islands of Little Colonsay, Gometray, and Staffa, which are all described under their respective heads, the parish comprises an area of about sixty square miles; the greater portion is either arable and in cultivation, or grazing land affording good pasturage for sheep and cattle. The island of Ulva is separated from the main land of Mull by a sound not more than 100 yards in width, and from the island of Gometray, on the west, by a still narrower strait; it is about four miles and a half in length and nearly two in breadth, and presents a great variety of surface. The coast is bold and rocky, in some parts rising by successive ledges to an elevation of nearly 1300 feet from the level of the sea, and in many places exhibiting beautiful ranges of basaltic columns, little inferior to those of Staffa. On a farm on the south side of the island, and within a quarter of a mile from the shore, is a natural arch of columnar basalt, in front of a rock rising perpendicularly to the height of 100 feet; it forms the entrance to a romantic cave, sixty feet in length and almost of equal breadth, of which the arched roof, thirty feet high, has every appearance of artificial groining. On the shore of Loch-na-Keal is the promontory of Ardnacallich, near the bay of that name, which affords shelter to vessels, and has good anchorage; while on the north of the island is the bay of Soriby, which is easy of access, and where ships of any burthen may ride in perfect safety. On the south of the island is the bay of Crakaig, between which and Little Colonsay are several small islets; and in the narrow strait that separates the island of Ulva from that of Gometray, is the bay of Glackindaline, in which is a commodious harbour. Large quantities of salmon have been found in the bay of Soriby, and off other parts of the northern coast; and skate, flounders, lythe, plaice, soles, turbot, seath, cod, ling, mackerel, and herrings are taken in abundance off the isle. Shell-fish of every kind are also plentiful; and if due attention were paid to the encouragement of the fisheries, this island might be made one of the most valuable stations in this part of the kingdom. Ulva is the resort of all the different sea-fowl that visit the western coast; and the hills and moorlands abound with grouse, plover, snipes, woodcocks, hares, rabbits, and almost every other sort of game.The soil is various, but generally fertile; in some places a rich deep mould, in others alternated with sand and gravel: there are also some tracts of peat-moss supplying fuel. The hills in the district afford excellent pasturage for sheep and cattle; the shores furnish large quantities of shell-sand and sea-weed, which are used for manure, and tend much to the enrichment of the lands. Among the crops are, oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips; and in 1837 an attempt to raise wheat and peas was made by Mr. Clarke, the principal landed proprietor, by way of experiment, and was attended with complete success. The system of husbandry has been improved; the lands are inclosed with dykes of stone, and the farm-buildings are mostly substantial and commodious. The arable lands are generally near the shore, the pastures more in the interior; and under the encouragement of liberal leases, the tenants are still doing much in the way of draining and otherwise improving the lands. Considerable attention is paid to the livestock, consisting principally of sheep and black-cattle, of which large numbers are sent to the Falkirk trysts, and to the markets of Doune and Dumbarton; great numbers of pigs are also fed, and sent to Glasgow. The manufacture of kelp is carried on in various parts by the inhabitants during their intervals of agricultural pursuits, and about 100 tons of it are annually made, which, from its superior strength and quality, obtains a decided preference in the market. Plantations have been for some time in progress, and already contribute to the beauty of the scenery; they are generally under good management, and in a thriving condition. There are no mines of any kind in operation. The principal fuel is peat from the mosses, with a little brushwood; and a small quantity of coal is occasionally brought from the Clyde for the use of a few families. The residence of the chief landed proprietor is a handsome modern mansion, at a small distance from the site of the ancient seat of the Macquaries, and situated in an extensive park embellished with thriving plantations; the house commands a beautiful view of Ben-More and the other mountains of Mull, and of the picturesque cataract of the Esse-forse. There is no village properly so called. The Ulva inn, which has been recently repaired and greatly improved, affords every accommodation to the numerous parties visiting Staffa, for which purpose boats are at all times in attendance. Near the inn are a smithy, one or two shops for the sale of merchandise, a house for the ferryman, and a few straggling cottages, the occupants of which are employed in the handicraft trades requisite for the wants of the neighbourhood. There is a post-office, which has a regular delivery; and facility of communication is chiefly maintained by sea, the roads being in a very imperfect state. Ulva was separated for quoad sacra purposes from the parish of Kilninian and Kilmore, and erected into a parish, by act of the General Assembly in 1833; its ecclesiastical concerns are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Mull and synod of Argyll. The church was erected in 1828, under an act of parliament of the 5th of George IV., and is a neat substantial structure containing 320 sittings, of which 100 are free; the minister has a stipend of £120, with a manse and a small glebe: patron, the Crown. There are two branches here of the Kilninian parochial school; the masters have respectively salaries of £15 and £9, with dwellinghouses, in addition to the fees, which, however, are very inconsiderable. There are also two schools supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, of which the masters have respectively £15 and £6, with a dwelling-house each.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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