Duirinish

   DUIRINISH, a parish, in the Isle of Skye, county of Inverness; containing, with the late quoad sacra parish of Waternish, 4983 inhabitants. This place, early in the tenth century, became the property of the Mc Leods, by marriage of the first of the Norman family of that name with the daughter and heiress of Mc Railt, the original possessor of the lands. Frequent feuds between the Mc Leods and the Mc Donalds of Uist, in which the latter made many attempts to render themselves masters of the property, subsisted for a long period; but, with the exception of certain portions of land voluntarily alienated by the Mc Leods, the whole is still in the possession of their descendants. While a number of the Mc Leods were met for public worship in the church, a party of the Mc Donalds, having landed at Ardmore, in the district of Waternish, set fire to the building; and, except one individual, the whole assembly perished in the flames. The inhabitants, however, whom the burning of the church had collected in great numbers, amply retaliated this barbarous outrage, and, attacking the invaders before they could regain their ships, stripped them of their booty, and left the entire party dead upon the shore.
   The parish is bounded on the north and north-east by Lochs Snizort and Grieshernish, on the south and south-east by Lochs Bracadale and Carroy, and on the west by the channel of the Minch. It is about nineteen miles in extreme length, and nearly sixteen miles in extreme breadth, comprising more than 50,000 Scotch acres, of which 1900 are arable, 3000 meadow and pasture, 100 woodland and plantations, and the remainder waste. The surface is boldly varied, rising in some parts into hills of considerable height, and in others into mountains, whereof the most conspicuous are the Greater and Less Helvels, which have an elevation of 1700 feet above the level of the sea, and are clothed with verdure to their summits, which form a level plain. On account of their near resemblance in shape, they constitute an infallible landmark to mariners, by whom they are called Mc Leod's Tables. From the larger of the two mountains a range of hills extends northward, terminating in Galtrigil Head, at the entrance of the bay of Dunvegan, a bold and precipitous headland 300 feet in height; and from the smaller of the Helvels a similar chain of hills stretches to the south, terminating in the cliffs of Idrigil and Waterstein, of which the former have an elevation of 400, and the latter of 600 feet. Near the point of Idrigil are three basaltic pillars, rising perpendicularly from the sea, of which one is 200 feet in height, and the two others 100 feet each; they have obtained the appellation of Mc Leod's Maidens, and there was formerly a fourth pillar, which has disappeared. The coast, from its numerous indentations, has a range of more than seventy miles in extent, and is generally precipitous and rocky; but within the many bays and lochs the shore has a moderate declivity, forming commodious beaches for landing. The lochs of Dunvegan and Grieshernish are safe roadsteads for large vessels during all winds; and Lochs Bay, Poltiel, and Carroy, though more exposed, afford good anchorages for ships in ordinary weather. Pol-Roag, a branch of Loch Carroy, is also a secure shelter, but from the narrowness of its entrance is accessible only to vessels of small burthen.
   The soil is various, generally peat-moss, with some tracts of clay and gravel; the chief crops are oats and potatoes. The system of agriculture, on the larger farms, has been improved within the last few years; the farm-houses are mostly commodious, and the fences well kept up, but on the smaller tenements, which are held by cottars without leases, the plan of husbandry is still in a very backward state. The black-cattle formerly pastured on the farms have been nearly superseded by sheep of the native Highland breed, of diminutive size, but of very delicate flavour, and remarkable for the fine texture of their fleeces: within the last forty years the black-faced breed have been introduced, but are now giving place to those of the Cheviot breed. The rateable annual value of the parish is £4999. The plantations are of modern date, and are mainly confined to the grounds of the principal landowners; they consist of oak, ash, plane, beech, alder, birch, and larch, and Scotch firs, which last, however, have not succeeded. The substrata are chiefly of the trapstone formation, intersected with veins of basalt; limestone, containing numerous fossil shells; coal, which is not workable; and veins of sandstone. The principal mansions in the parish are, Orbost, Grieshernish, and Waternish, all handsome residences pleasantly situated. Considerable quantities of shell-fish are taken on the beach, and several persons are employed in the fisheries off the coast; the fish generally are cod and ling, which, after being cured, are sent to the markets. The manufacture of kelp is also carried on, to a moderate extent. About three boats, averaging ten tons' burthen each, belong to the parish; but no other vessels visit it for the purpose of trade. A post-office has been established at Dunvegan; and facility of communication is maintained by good roads, about thirty-five miles of turnpike-road passing through the parish.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Skye and synod of Glenelg. The minister's stipend is £158, of which onethird part is paid from the exchequer, with an allowance of £57 in lieu of a manse, and a glebe valued at £22. 10. per annum; patron, Mc Leod of Mc Leod. The church, erected in 1824, is a substantial and handsome structure in the centre of the parish, and contains 550 sittings, all of which are free. An extension church, containing 330 seats, has been built in the district of Arnizort, about twelve miles from the parish church; and there is a similar church on the west side of the loch of Dunvegan. The parochial school is ill conducted; the master has a salary of £30, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £8. Four schools are supported by the General Assembly, and three by the Gaelic Society. Among the antiquities is the castle of Dunvegan, the ancient baronial residence of the Mc Leods, of which the oldest portion was erected in the ninth century; a portion was added to it in the thirteenth, and the two parts, consisting of lofty towers, were connected by a range of low building, erected by Rory Mor in the reign of James VI. The whole is situated on the summit of a lofty rock, rising precipitously from the sea, and an easier line of approach has lately been opened, by throwing a bridge across the chasm, which separates it from a neighbouring rock. In this castle are preserved, the celebrated banner called the "Fairy flag," taken by the Mc Leods from the Saracens during the crusades; an ancient drinking-cup of hard dark wood, supported on four silver feet, and striped with ribs of highly-wrought silver set with precious stones, of which some are still remaining; and Rory Mor's horn, a drinking-cup of much larger dimensions, containing five English pints, and noticed by Sir Walter Scott. There are numerous caverns in the rocks along the coast, one of which is 120 feet in length, forty feet in height, and ten feet wide; and the cave of Idrigil is resorted to by the fishermen for drying their nets, curing fish, and dressing their victuals. The parish likewise contains many barrows, circular forts, and subterraneous dwellings, in one of which, on the farm of Vatten, a long narrow passage leads into a central room arched with stone, from which branch off several galleries conducting to other apartments, which have not been explored. Some rude sepulchral urns of reddish clay have been dug up; one of these is in the possession of Mc Leod of Mc Leod, and another has been deposited in the Glasgow Hunterian Museum.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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