Colonsay and Oronsay

   COLONSAY and ORONSAY, two islands, in the parish of Jura, district of Islay, county of Argyll, 15 miles (N. N. W.) from Portaskaig; containing about 840 inhabitants. These islands, which are contiguously situated in the Atlantic Ocean, about twenty miles to the west of the isle of Jura, are supposed to have derived their names from St. Colon and St. Oran, respectively. The former saint founded a monastery for Culdees, prior to his settlement at Iona, and the latter presided over a priory of canons regular, founded by one of the lords of the Isles, as a cell to the abbey of Holyrood. The islands are separated from each other only by a frith, in some parts scarcely a hundred yards wide, and which, being dry at the reflux of the tide, gives them the appearance of one continuous island. Together they are about 12 miles in length, varying from one mile to nearly four miles in breadth, and comprise about 11,300 acres, of which one-third is arable and meadow, and the remainder hill pasture, moorland, and moss. The soil is various, and has been much improved by the proprietor, who has also reclaimed considerable tracts of unprofitable heath and moor, and introduced the best system of husbandry. The chief crops are, potatoes and barley, of which large quantities are sent to Islay for the distilleries, and to Ireland. Great numbers of black-cattle and sheep are reared on the pastures, and, from the attention paid to the improvement of the breed, obtain a high price in the markets of Doune and Dumbarton, to which they are mostly sent. The plantations consist principally of elm, ash, sycamore, and alder. The house of Killoran, situated here, was built in 1722, on the site of the ancient Culdee establishment; it is a spacious mansion, to which two wings have recently been added. At Oronsay, a handsome residence was built in 1772.
   There is no village. Kelp is still manufactured here, affording employment to about 100 persons during the summer, and is sent to Liverpool. There are several fishing-stations on the coast, but they are so exposed to the swell of the Atlantic, that comparatively little benefit is derived from them; the fish taken are, cod, haddock, ling, skate, turbot, flounders, eels, and lobsters of large size and excellent quality. The harbour of Portnafeamin affords secure shelter, and a substantial quay has been erected by the proprietor, near which is a good inn. There is a church, built by the heritors in 1802, a neat structure, containing 400 sittings, all of which are free. The minister, who is appointed by the incumbent of Jura, has a stipend of £50, and a house and garden, with some land given by the proprietor of Colonsay. A parochial school for teaching English and Gaelic exists here; the master has a salary of £11. 2., with £1. 10. fees. Some portions remain of the ancient priory of St. Oran, founded on the site of a Culdee establishment supposed to have been the first instituted by St. Columba. The ruins are by far the most interesting in the West Highlands, with the exception only of those of Iona; they consist chiefly of the church, in which are still preserved the tombs of the ancient lords, with a portion of the cloisters and conventual buildings, and an ancient cross with an inscription, of which the words Hæc est Crux Colini Prior Orisoi are still legible. There are also the ruins of a castle on an island in a lake near Colonsay House, which is supposed to have been a stronghold, or place of retreat in times of danger. Sir John Mc Neill, G. C. B., late envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the court of Persia; and Duncan Mc Neill, Esq., lord-advocate for Scotland, were natives of the place.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

Look at other dictionaries:

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