Description of the Western Isles of Scotland

Description of the Western Isles of Scotland is the oldest known account of the Hebrides and the Islands of the Clyde, two chains of islands off the west coast of Scotland.[3] The author was Donald Monro, a clergyman who used the title of "Dean of the Isles" and who lived through the Scottish Reformation. Monro wrote the original manuscript in 1549, although it was not published in any form until 1582 and was not widely available to the public in its original form until 1774. A more complete version, based on a late 17th-century manuscript written by Sir Robert Sibbald, was first published as late as 1961.[4] Monro wrote in Scots and some of the descriptions are difficult for modern readers to render into English. Although Monro was criticised for publishing folklore and for omitting detail about the affairs of the churches in his diocese, Monro's Description is a valuable historical account and has reappeared in part or in whole in numerous publications, remaining one of the most widely quoted publications about the western islands of Scotland.[5]

A cave on Garbh Eilean in the Shiant Isles. In 1549, Donald Monro wrote that "through the arch we used to row or sail with our boats, for fear of the horrible break of the sea that is on the outward side of the point".[Note 1]
The tomb effigy of Domhnall Mac Gilleasbuig, crown tenant of Finlaggan during the mid 16th century[6]

Monro also wrote a brief description of the five main branches of Clan Donald that existed in his day under the title "The Genealogies Of The Chief Clans Of The Iles", and this work was included when Description was first published as a stand-alone volume in 1805. The Sibbald manuscript also contains details about the "Council of the Isles" that operated from Eilean na Comhairle in Loch Finlaggan on the island of Islay. This is the most detailed extant account of the supreme judiciary body that had existed under the Lordship of the Isles until its demise in the late fifteenth century.[7]


Castle Craig on the Black Isle, with the Cromarty Firth beyond. Donald Monro may have lived here in the 1560s.[8]

Donald Monro was born early in the 16th century, the eldest of the six sons of Alexander Monro of Kiltearn and Janet, daughter of Farquhar Maclean of Dochgarroch. His father was a grandson of George Munro, 10th Baron of Foulis.[9] Donald became the vicar of Snizort and Raasay in 1526,[10][11] and was nominated to the Archdeaconry of the Isles probably in or shortly after 1549.[9] These were troubled times in the Highlands and Islands, with Domhnall Dubh's attempts to resurrect the Lordship of the Isles only failing on his death in 1545. Partly as a result, the See of the Isles was one of the poorest in Scotland and although Monro lists fourteen islands as belonging to its Bishop, in practice rents were hard to collect.[12] In that year, he visited most of the islands on the west coast of Scotland and wrote his manuscript account of them, together with a brief genealogical account of various branches of Clan Donald. He referred to himself as "High Dean of the Isles"[13] and his position was one of considerable influence although the advancing Reformation added further complication to the political landscape in which he was operating.

In 1560 the new Confession of Faith was adopted and ten dioceses were created anew, with the Isles shared between Ross and Argyll. Monro converted to Protestantism and was admitted to the new ministry for the parish of Kiltearn, to which he later added the adjacent Lemlair and Alness. He is said to have lived at Castle Craig, commuting across the Cromarty Firth to preach on Sundays.[8] At Lammas 1563 he became one of three special Commissioners under the Bishop of Caithness responsible for creating new kirks. The duties were arduous but he retained his position for 12 years, despite occasional criticism by the General Assembly.[Note 2] The last record of him is dated 1574 and it is assumed he had died by 1576 when new ministers were appointed for Kiltearn, Lemlair and Alness. He never married and no extant stone marks his burial at Kiltearn,[16] his written work being his sole monument.[17]

Previous descriptionsEdit

The 8th century Kildalton Cross on Islay, carved when the island was part of Dál Riata.[18]

In or shortly before 83 AD, a traveller called Demetrius of Tarsus related to Plutarch the tale of an expedition to the west coast of Scotland. He stated that it was a gloomy journey amongst uninhabited islands and that he had visited one which was the retreat of holy men. He mentioned neither the druids nor the name of the island.[19] In his Natural History Pliny the Elder states that there are 30 "Hebudes", and makes a separate reference to "Dumna", which Watson (1926) concludes is unequivocally the Outer Hebrides. Writing about 80 years later, in 140–150 AD, Ptolemy, drawing on the earlier naval expeditions of Agricola, also distinguished between the Ebudes, of which he writes there were only five (and thus possibly meaning the Inner Hebrides) and Dumna.[20][21][22]

The first written records of native life in the Hebrides begin in the 6th century AD with the founding of the kingdom of Dál Riata.[23] Much of what is known of these times is the product of the monastic sites such as Iona, Lismore, Eigg and Tiree but north of Dál Riata, where the Inner and Outer Hebrides were nominally under Pictish control, the historical record is sparse.[24]

The names of the individual islands reflect a complex linguistic history. The majority are Norse or Gaelic but the roots of some may have a pre-Celtic origin[22][25][26] The earliest comprehensive written list of Hebridean island names was undertaken in the 16th century by Monro himself, which in some cases also provides the earliest written form of the island name.


Monro's work was first published in Latin in 1582. It forms eleven short chapters of George Buchanan's Rerum Scoticarum Historia ("History of Scotland") with all of the islands listed, although with much omission of the detailed island descriptions. The genealogy section was included.[27][28] In 1603 the portion in Scots relating to the islands was published in Certayne Matters concerning the Realme of Scotland edited by John Monipennie[28] of Pitmilly in the parish of Kingsbarns, Fife.[29] Following Buchanan, this version gives many of the island names in Latin. Thus Monro's "Heddir Iyle" (Heather Isle) is Monipennie's "Ericca". The section was republished in the 1612 Scots Chronicles, in which the acknowledgement of Monro's authorship was omitted.[30]

The original version of Monro's text has been lost, but a copy made in 1642 by Sir James Balfour of Denmilne and Kinnaird, is still extant. Three sections relating to Islay and Lismore, Tiree and Coll, and Harris were omitted, possibly by careless copying.[31] Some 40 years later Sir Robert Sibbald copied out a complete transcript that included sections missing in Balfour. Entitled Description of the Occidental i.e. Western Isles of Scotland by Mr Donald Monro who travelled through the most of them in Anno 1549 it was acquired by the Advocates Library in Edinburgh in 1733.[31] Walter MacFarlane created a third manuscript in 1749, either from a debased original or directly from Balfour as it has the same defects.[31]

Location of the Flannan Isles relative to the Outer and Inner Hebrides

Monro's work first came to a wider public when the incomplete version of Description was published in 1774 by William Auld of Edinburgh, along with some supplementary writing about the Hebrides.[32] The full title was Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, called Hybrides; by Mr Donald Monro High Dean of the Isles who travelled through the most of them in the year 1549. With his Genealogies of the Chief Clans of the Isles. Description and Genealogies were published together by Archibald Constable of Edinburgh in 1805, which was the first time Monro's work had been published as a stand-alone volume.[33] Miscellanea Scotica, published in Glasgow in 1818 included Description in volume 2 and the Genealogies in volume 4. In this version Description is given the date of 1594 in error.[34] An edition of the 1818 text limited to 250 copies was published by Thomas D. Morison of Glasgow in 1884.

The shorter list was re-published (without the Genealogies) by Peter Hume Brown in his Scotland before 1700, from Contemporary Documents in 1893 and for the first time the text was subject to scrutiny by a professional historian.[35] Walter MacFarlane's text was published by the Scottish History Society in 1908 as part of his Geographical Collections.[5] Eneas Mackay of Stirling included Description and Genealogies in tandem with Martin Martin's 1703 Description of the Western Islands of Scotland in a 1934 publication.[5] R. W. Munro's 1961 re-publication includes the full text of the Sibbald manuscript (MS), a comparison with the shorter Balfour/Auld versions, the recovered text of Monro's description of the Council of the Isles at Finlaggan,[4] George Buchanan's preface to Description in Rerum Scoticarum Historia and scholarly accompanying material.

Some of the discrepancies between the additions are discussed by R. W. Munro. The 1612 version by Monipennie certainly loses both accuracy and detail. For example, his publication has the Flannan Isles "halfe a mile towards the west equinoctiall" from Lewis,[36] whereas the original quoted by the Auld version has them "50 myle in the Occident seas from the coste"— in fact they are 33 kilometres (21 mi) west of Lewis.[37][38]


Buchanan was unstinting in his praise for Monro, describing him as "a pious and diligent man".[39] The latter's reputation was secure until 1824 when the geologist John MacCulloch published a lengthy criticism after visiting the islands several times between 1811 and 1821. MacCulloch decried the lack of detail Monro offered on churches and church buildings, going so far as to suggest that he was ignorant of his own diocese,[Note 3] and accusing him of credulity when it came to the recording of folk customs and beliefs. In 1840 the Rev. Alexander Nicolson wrote in the New Statistical Account that "Nothing can show the credulity of the Dean more than his account of the cockles being formed in an embryo on the top of a hill, in a fresh water spring" on Barra.[Note 4] 120 years later R. W. Munro was more generous, noting that the Dean was generally careful to distinguish between the reporting of folk tales and claims as to their veracity and pointing out that MacCulloch's statement that "it is scarcely possible to recognise one in ten" of Munro's island names was unjustified. In 1893 Hume Brown made the first of several modern attempts to identify them and listed 121 out of the 209 on the Monro list he had access to.[42] Description remains one of the most widely quoted publications about the western islands of Scotland.[5]

Identity of the islandsEdit

The site of Dunaverty Castle, a possible location for Monro's "Carrik-steach"[43]

Monro originally wrote in Scots, and some of the descriptions are difficult to render into modern English without a working knowledge of this archaic style. Some islands have genuine descriptions, but from time to time there are lists such as:

  • Vicreran: Narrest to the iyle of Belnachna layes the small iyle of Vickeran.
  • Nagawna: Hard on the iyle Vyckeran layes ther a small iyland, namit in Erische Ellan Nagaruwa.[44]

Unless the modern name is clear from Monro's spelling this can lead to difficulties with identification. The Dean's command of Gaelic was weak and he habitually provides island names phonetically in English rather than using Gaelic spellings.[45] R. W. Munro states that "of the 251 islands listed by Monro, I have been unable to identify 27, and a further 23 cannot be regarded as certain".[46] Munro's belief was that Donald Monro knew the Outer Hebrides and Iona well, but that he may have written about the islands of the Argyll coast from secondhand knowledge as they were in the Diocese of Argyll and not his own Diocese of the Isles.[47][Note 5] Later authors have made additional identifications, although some quite substantial islands do not appear to be in the lists. (They may of course appear under a different name, the connection to which remains to be established.)

The main numbering system is that of R. W. Munro based on the Sibbald MS. The names and numbers used by the 1774 Auld version are also provided. (Monro himself did not appear to use a numbering system.)[48] The list is presented in geographical sections for ease of use after Haswell-Smith. The Latinised names used by Monniepennie (1612) are also listed along with the modern name, where known, along with various notes where the island's identity is in doubt.

Firth of Clyde, Kintyre and the Slate IslandsEdit

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
1 Man 1 Man Isle of Man Isle of Man Now a Crown dependency and not part of Scotland since the 14th century. [Note 6]
2 Ellsay 2 Elsay Ailsay Ailsa Craig
3 Aran 3 Arran Arran Arran
4 Flada 4 Flada Flada Pladda With lenition, Plada(igh) yields f- in Gaelic.[52]
5 Molass 5 Molass Molas Holy Isle Modern Gaelic is Eilean MoLaise.[53]
6 Buit 6 Buitt Isle of Bute Bute
7 Inismerog 7 Inche Mernoche Isle Mernoca Inchmarnock
8 Cumbray 8 Cumbra Great Cambra Great Cumbrae
9 Cumbray of the Dais 9 Cumbray Dais Little Cambra Little Cumbrae Gaelic a deas means 'southern'. Little Cumbrae lies to the south of Great Cumbrae.
10 Avoin 10 Avoyn Porticosa Avona Sanda Modern Gaelic is Abhainn, meaning "river", although Munro states the name is derived from the Danish name Havoin, meaning "haven".[54][55]
Carrik-steach 11 Carrith Skeathe Carraig Sgeith or Dunaverty Castle Carraig Sgeith is a tiny island at NR656071, and the castle is on a headland 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the east.[56][Note 7]
11 Rachlind 12 Rachlaiun Rachuda Rathlin Island Now part of Northern Ireland.
12 Caray 13 Caray Caraia Cara
13 Gighay 14 Gigay Gigaia Gigha
14 Diuray 15 Duray Jura Jura
15 Scarbay 16 Skarbay Scarba Scarba
16 Ellan wellich 17 Veliche Isle Ballach Eilean a Bealach A "mere rock" [46] between Scarba and Jura at NM712065.
17 Gewrastill 18 Gilbrastol Genistaria Guirasdeal A "very little iyle",[57] Guirasdeal is at NM693079.[58] Monipennie has two islands here, the second being called "Gearastilla".
18 Lungay 19 Lungay Longaia Lunga
19 Fidlay chaille 20 Fidlachaille The "two Fidlais" Fiola Meadhonach At high tides the northern tip of Lunga becomes several separate islets with Rubha Fiola to the north, then Fiola Meadhonach, Eilean Ìosal and finally Fiola an Droma closest to Lunga proper.[56]
20 Fidlainrow 21 Fidlavirow See above Rubha Fiola Northern island of the Lunga group. See above.
21 Garvhelach skein 22 Garrowhellach Sheain The "three Barbais" Eilean Dubh Beag It is not clear why R. W. Munro prefers this identification to Garbh Eileach or one of the other Garvellachs.[Note 8]
22 Garvhelach na monaobh 23 Garowhillach-Nanronow See above Eilean Dubh Mor It is not clear why R. W. Munro prefers this identification to one of the Garvellach group. See above note.
23 Ellach nanaobh 24 Nanaose See above Eileach an Naoimh "Narrist to this iyle of Garowhellach-Nanronow layes ther a verey little iyle, callit in Erische Eloche Nanaose",[59] although Eileach an Naoimh is much larger than Eilean Dubh Mor.
24 Culbrenyn 25 Culibrenyn Culbremna A' Chuli A' Chuli is the third largest of the Garvellach islands.
25 Dunchonill 26 Dunchonill Dunum Dùn Channuill Dùn Channuill is also one of the Garvellach group
26 Ellan a Mhadi 27 Madie Coilp or Cuparia Unidentified Madie "layes betwixt Lungay, and being callit in Englishe the Wolfiis iyle."[60] Monipennie has two names here and it is not clear how they relate to the other lists. R. W. Munro offers no suggestion for this island's identity.[61][Note 9]
27 Belnachua 28 Belnachna Beluahua Belnahua
28 Ellan vickeran 29 Vicreran Vickerana Eilean Mhic Chiarian[63] R. W. Munro suggested it might be an unknown islet in Balvicar Bay, Seil[61] but Matheson is in "no doubt" of his identification, which is west of Luing.[63]
29 Ellan Nagavna 30 Nagawnwa Vitulina Eilean Gamhna Eilean Gamhna is in Loch Melfort.
30 Luyng 31 Lunge Lumga Luing
31 Saoill or Seill 32 Seill Seila Seil
32 Sevnay 33 Seunay Scana Shuna, Slate Islands
33 Sklaitt 34 Sklaitt Sklata Eilean-a-beithich This island no longer exists, having been quarried out.[Note 10]
34 Ellan Nagvisog 35 Nawissoge Naguigosa Unidentified Conceivably Eilean na(n) Uiseag meaning "island of the larks" but there are no obvious contenders. Another possible explanation is Eilean na Giuthasaich, 'island of the pine wood', but that gets us no closer to identifying the island.
35 Ellan Eisdalf 36 Eisdcalfe Eisdalsa Easdale

Vickeran and Nagvisog are the only two outright unknowns in this section, although there are difficulties with 22–24. If R. W. Munro's identifications are correct Donald Munro excluded the sizeable island of Garbh Eilach, after which the Garvellachs group is named. Insh in the Slate Islands is missing, but the modern name, which means simply "island"[66] is clearly incomplete. Its older names include Eilean nan Caorach and Inis-Capul.[67]

Craignish, Taynish, Jura and the Firth of LornEdit

R. W. Munro was unable to identify several islands in this group,[61] but Youngson (2001) used his local knowledge and research undertaken by Malcolm MacArthur[68] to suggest various small islands offshore from Jura. In a few instances other nearby candidates exist.

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name (Munro) [50] Modern name (Youngson)[68] Comments
36 Iniskenzie 37 Inche Kenyth Skennia Unidentified Not mentioned The name is clearly a variant of "Kenneth's Island" but there are no obvious contenders.
37 Ellan anthian 38 Inchian Isle Thiania Unidentified Shian Island Shian Island is located north of Loch Tarbert, Jura. There is also Inchaig in Loch Craignish at NM810044. Buchanan offers "the isle called Tyan, from an Herb".[Note 11]
38 Ellan Uderga 39 Uderga Uderga Unidentified "An unnamed island offshore from Glenbatrick" "Ane uther verey small rock".[70] Glenbatrick is on the south shore of Loch Tarbert, Jura and Youngson's suggestion is at NR516806.
39 King's Ile 40 King's Iyle King's Island Eilean Rìgh Eileanan Gleann Righ Eilean Rìgh is a much larger and better known island than the tiny islet at NR514819 in Loch Tarbert, Jura proposed by Youngson.
40 Black Ile 41 Black Isle Duffa Eilean Dubh Eilean Dubh a' Chumhainn Mhóir Eilean Dubh in Loch Craignish is at NM792019. Youngson's suggestion is in Loch Tarbert at NR555816.
41 Kirk Ile 42 Kirke Isle Island of the Church Eilean na Cille or Eilean Mor Eilean an Easbuig R.W. Munro equivocates: Eilean na Cille is at NM752969 in Loch Craignish and Eilean Mor, which once had a church, is at the mouth of Loch Sween.[61] Blaeu's Y. na heglish at the head of Loch Tarbert is Youngson's Eilean an Easbuig.[71]
42 Ellan Chriarache 43 Chrearache Triaracha Unidentified Eilean Chraoibhe chaorinn R. W. Munro notes the existence of Eilean Treadhrach, off Oronsay. Youngson's translation is "hazel wood island", and may be another islet in Loch Tarbert at NR581823 or possibly Creagach Chrosgach at NM768033 off the west coast of the Craignish peninsula.
43 Ellan ard 44 Arde Ardua Unidentified Eilean Ard Eilean Ard is in Loch Tarbert.
44 Ellan Iisall 45 Laich Ile Humlis Unidentified Eilean Iosal, Loch Tarbert Laich, humilis and ìosal all mean "low".
45 Glass Ellan 46 Greine Ilye Viridis Unidentified Glas Eilean, Sound of Islay There is also a Glas Eilean in Loch Caolisport, another in the Sound of Islay and an Eilean Glas in Loch Crinan.
46 Fruech Ellan 47 Heddir Iyle Ericca Unidentified Am Fraoch Eilean Although Monro is almost certainly referring to an Eilean Fraoch, the question is – which one? There is one on the west coast of Luing, another in the Cuan Sound off Torsa, a third at Craobh Haven and another west of the Taynish peninsula at NR712860. This last is near Eilean nan Coinean – see below. There is also Youngson's Am Fraoch Eilean in the Sound of Islay.
47 Ellan na cravich 48 Hasil Iyle Arboraria Unidentified Brosdale Island Brosdale is in the Sound of Islay. Youngson does not offer an explanation for his identification. The Gaelic craobh relates to trees or shrubs and this is also suggested by "Hasil" and "Arboraria".
48 Ellan na gobhar 49 Gatis Iyles Capraria Eilean nan Gabhar Eilean nan Gabhar Youngson identifies Eilean nan Gabhar in the Small Isles of Jura at NR538676. R. W. Munro does not specify the location and there is a second Eilean nan Gabhar, south of Eilean Righ at NM791003.
49 Conyngis Ile 50 Conings Ile Cunicularia Eilean nan Coinean Eilean nan Coinean Youngson is again offering the Small Isles of Jura, but R. W. Munro does not specify the location and there are others at NM776967 west of Taynish or at NM782974 just north of Crinan.
50 Ellan diamhoin 51 Idyle Iyle Isle of Idlemen Eilean Diomhain Eilean Diomhain One of the Small Isles of Jura.
51 Eisell ellan 52 Eisell Abridita Pladda See below One of the Small Isles of Jura
52 Ellan Abhridich 53 Uridithe Uridithe Eilean Bhride See below One of the Small Isles of Jura
53 Lismoir 54 Lismoir Lismora Lismore Not mentioned
Small Isles Bay, Jura with the Paps of Jura in the distance

With the exception of Lismore, Monro's "descriptions" in this section are little more than a name recorded in English and "Erische" (i.e. Gaelic), which makes definitive identifications hard to achieve. Youngson writes that his names "defeat all attempts to identify with Lorn, and turn out to be near Jura" and that "the islands of the Small Isles Bay and to the south of Jura are all easily identified" (although he does not make the connections explicit) and turns his attention to numbers 39–44 for a detailed analysis.[68] The strength of Youngson's analysis is that whereas most of these names evaded identification by R. W. Munro, he is able to offer candidates for almost all of them. In his interpretation, the islands round Jura are listed anti-clockwise starting at Eilean Mor, compared to Islay whose islands are listed by Monro clockwise (sun gaittis). This would however mean that several large islands are not found anywhere in the Monro list, including Eilean Righ, Island Macaskin and Eilean Mhic Chrion off the Argyll coast. There are also numerous other small islands with these names in this vicinity and it is an odd coincidence that numbers 39–41 all have strong contenders in Loch Craignish, as identified by R. W. Munro.[50]

The farm on Shuna
Gylen Castle on Kerrera. The island has "gude fertile fruitfull land" according to Monro.[72]

Youngson does not refer to the section below, which is also missing in its entirety from the Auld and Moniepennie publications.

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) Modern name[50] Comments
54 Scheip Ile Eilean nan Caorach Located in Loch Linnhe
55 Suina Shuna
56 Ferray Ile Inn Island?[73] Just north of the Lismore jetty
57 Garbh Ellan Eilean Dubh? There are numerous islands called Garbh Eilean in Scotland. R. W. Munro's identification is from Bleau's atlas.[73]
58 Ellan Cloich Eilean na Cloich Located near Lismore.
59 Flada Pladda Island R. W. Munro's index mistakenly relists Pladda, Jura,[58] but there is a Pladda, Lismore as well.
60 Grezay Creag Island Located off Lismore
61 Ellan Moir Eilean nan Gamhna?[73]
62 Ardiasgar Unidentified Translates as "the fisherman's height".[73]
63 Musadill Eilean Musdile
64 Berneray Bernera
65 Ellan Inhologasgyr Eilean Loch Oscair Located off Lismore
66 Ellan drynachai Eilean Droineach The description "quhair habitation of Bischops and Nobles were in auld times" fits its neighbour Eilean Ramsay much better.[73]
67 Ransay Eilean Ramsay Located off Lismore
68 Ellan Bhellnagobhan Eilean Balnagowan Located off Shuna
69 Kerveray Kerrera


Johan Blaeu's 1654 atlas of "Ila Insula"

Monro states "Her begin to circkell Iyla, sune gaittis aboute with litle iyles."[74] The percentage of islands listed is high and must include several very small islets or skerries. This comprehensive listing contrasts with the omission of various larger islands, including a few that are inhabited, in the Outer Hebrides. There are many correspondences between Timothy Pont's map of Islay published by Johan Blaeu (Atlas of Scotland No. 139) and Buchanan's version of Monro's list. It is possible Pont knew of Monro's work and added a few islets on this basis[75] and the correspondence with modern maps and names is not clear in some instances. Some of the linguistic connections between names are also obscure. For example, the Sibbald MS No. 72 is "Hessil" is also "Ellan Natravie" in the Auld version,[76] which names hints at a pronunciation of the Gaelic for "beach" yet Monipennie has "Colurna" and R. W. Munro identifies the island as possibly being Eilean Craobhach.[77]

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
70 Ila 55 Ila Yla Islay
71 Ellan charn 56 Earne Isle See note Am Fraoch Eilean The relationship of the names is explained by R. W. Munro with reference to Buchanan's text and the ruins of Claig Castle.[Note 12]
72 Hessil Isle 57 Hessil Iyle Colurna Eilean Craobhach?[80] The Auld version has "callit in Erish the Leid Ellan Natravie"[76] but "callit Ellan na caltin" in the Sibbald MS.[77] Calltainn, hessil and colurna are respectively Gaelic, Scots and Latin for "hazel" and Craobhach means "pertaining to trees".
73 Mullinoris Ile 58 Mulmoryris Iyle Mulvoris Eilean Mhic Mhaolmhoire
74 Ellan Osrum 59 Ofrum Ossuna Outram
75 Brydis Iyle 60 Brydes Iyle Brigidana Eilean Bhride At NR463481.
76 Corsker 61 Cors Ker Corskera Corr Sgeir Korskyr in Blaeu's atlas west of Dounowaig.
77 Ellan Isall 62 Eisilache Low island Iseanach Mòr? Ìosal and ìseal both mean "low" but Iseanach suggests a different root.
78 Ellan Imersga 63 Imerska Imersga Eilean Imersay
79 Ellan Nabeathi 64 Bethey Beathia Unidentified[73] Blaeu has Bethidh in this general location.
80 Ellan teggsay 65 Tisgay Texa Texa Blaeu's Ylen Teghsa.
81 Scheips Iyle 66 Scheipis Iyle Ovicularia Eilean nan Caorach
82 Myresnyppis Iyle 67 Myresnypes Iyle Noasiga Unidentified[73] "By the Erishe namit Ellan na Naoske".[81] Eilean na Naosg would translate as Snipe or Fieldfare Island.[73]
83 Ellan Rinard 68 Ness Poynte Iyle Vinarda Unidentified "The yle at the west poynt",[82] it is also mentioned by Monro when he describes Islay.[73] Conceivably a poetic reference to Islay itself – Eilean (nan) Rinn Àrd(a) – would be "the island of tall R(h)inns".
84 Liach Ellan 69 Lyart Iyle Cava Unidentified Located off Port nan Gallan, The Oa. There is another tiny Eilean Liath near Kilchiaran Bay, west of the Rhinns.[56] The relationship of Cava to Liach Ellan is not clear.
85 Tarskeray 70 Tairskeray Tarsheria Tarr Sgeir The Ordnance Survey do not appear to name R. W. Munro's identification.
86 Auchnarra 71 Achnarra Auchnarra Unidentified Blaeu offers Achnar, which is cognate with the Gaelic for "field".
87 Ellan moir 72 Grait Iyle The great island Eileanan Mòra Located near the Mull of Oa. Blaeu has Ylen Moir.
88 Ellan deallach dune 73 The Iyle of the Man's Figure the island made like a man Eilean Dealbh Duine West of The Oa and south of Eileanan Mòra.
89 Ellan Ian 74 Jhone's Iyle The isle of John Eilean Eoin Located in Port nan Gallan, The Oa.
90 Ellan Stagbadis 75 Starbeades Slakebadis Stac Bheatais West of The Oa near Eilean Dealbh Duine. Blaeu has Stackchabhada near The Oa.
91 Oversay 76 Onersay Oversa Orsay
92 Keanichis Ile 77 Merchands Iyle The Marchants island Eilean Mhic Coinnich "Callit by the Erische Ellan Kenyth".[83]
93 Usabrast 78 Usabrast Usabrasta Unidentified Frenchman's Rocks, one of the few contenders in this area, lie just north of Eilean Mhic Coinnich between it and Eilean an Tannais-sgeir.
94 Ellan Tanest 79 Tanefte Tanasta Eilean an Tannais-sgeir At NR188639.
95 Ellean Nefe 80 Nese Nesa Nave Island "Beside the entresse of Lochgrunord".[84]
96 Webstaris Ile 81 Vebster The Weavers island Unidentified "Callit by the Erische themselves Ellan Nabaney".[85][Note 13]

Colonsay and MullEdit

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
97 Orvansay 82 Ornansay Ornansa Oronsay
98 Ellan na muk 83 Ellan Namuche Swines island Eilean Ghaoideamal "Half ane myle lang".[86]
99 Colvansay 84 Colnansay Coluansa Colonsay
100 Mule 85 Mull Mule Mull
101 Eilean challmain 86 The Dow Iyle Columbaria Eilean Challmain Eilean a' Chalmain is southwest of Erraid.
102 Erray 87 Erray Era Erraid
103 Saint Colms Ile 88 Colmkill Island of Sanct Colme Iona
104 Soa 89 Soa Soa Soa Island
105 Ellan namban 90 Naban Isle of Women Eilean nam Ban
106 Ellan murudhain 91 Moroan Rudana Eilean Annraidh?[75] At the northern tip of Iona.
107 Ellan Reryng 92 Reringe Bernira Rèidh Eilean?[75] Suggestion by Hume Brown and appears on Bleau's map as a large island west of Iona.[75]
108 Iniskenzie 93 Inche Kenzie Skennia Inch Kenneth
109 Eorsay 94 Eorsay Frosa Eorsa
The distinctive outline of Bac Mòr, also known as the "Dutchman's Cap"[87]
Cottage on Tiree

Here the shorter Auld version has another missing passage. After Frosa (94) Monipennie states that "all their isles are subject to Sanct Colme's abbey".

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
110 Ulvay Vilua Ulva "five miles of length".[88]
111 Colvansay Toluansa Little Colonsay
112 Gomatra Gomatra Gometra "about 300 paces from this island"[88]
113 Stafay Staffæ Staffa Monipennie has "four mile southward, lye the two Staffæ both full of havening places".[88] There is but one Staffa and by modern standards the anchorages are inadequate.[89]
114 Kerniborg moir and Kerniborg beg the two Kerimburgæ Cairn na Burgh Mòr and Cairn na Burgh Beag
115 Ellan na monadh Fladda, Treshnish Isles Monipennie has "One mile from them lyes an island, the whole earth is blacke, whereof the people make peates for their fire".[88]
116 Lungay Longa Lunga, Treshnish Isles
117 Bak Bacha Bac Mòr Bac Beag is also a possibility
118 Thiridh Tiria Tiree
119 Gunna Sunna Gunna
120 Coll Colla Coll

Re Staffa above, it is a small island and in Monro's day it had not achieved its later fame, which did not occur until its late 18th century "discovery".[90] The Auld version joins Sibbald here again and Moniepennie adds Mekle Viridis and Little Viridis to the list.

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
121 Calf 95 Calfa Culsa Calve Island "Upon the narrest coste of Mull layes ane iyle callit Calfe, ane myle of lenthe, full of woods, with ane sufficient raid for shipes, perteyning to M'Gillayne of Doward."
122 Glass Ellan moir and Glass Ellan beg 96 The Glasse Iles Glassæ Glas Eileanan Glas Eileanan is just off Rubha an Ridire. R. W. Munro also mentions Eileanan Glass further up the Sound of Mull at NM596450
123 Ellan Ardan rider 97 Ardin Rider Arden Eider Eilean Rubha an Ridire A small isle at NM724405 close to Glas Eileanan.
124 Ellan amhadi 98 Ellan Madie Luparia or "Wolfe island" Eilean a' Mhadaidh, Loch Don
125 Ellan moir 99 Ellan Moir A great isle Eilean Mòr, Lochbuie "Upon the shore of Mull, lyes ane ile, callit by the Erishe Ellan-moir, guid for store and for fishing, pertening to M'Gillayne of Lochbuy."

Small IslesEdit

Blaeu's 1654 Atlas of ScotlandThe Small Isles
No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
126 Rum 100 Ronin Ruma Rùm
127 Ellan na neach 101 The Horse Iyle Horse island Eilean nan Each Off Muck
128 Ellan na muk 102 Swynes Ile Swine island Muck
129 Cannay 103 Kannay Canna Canna
130 Egge 104 Egga Egga Eigg


No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
131 Soabretill 105 Soa Urettil Soabrittella Soay Blaeu's atlas also uses the Auld name.
132 Sky 106 Sky Skye Skye
133 Orandsay 107 Oransay Oronsa Ornsay "At the west syde of Sleit lyes ane callit Oransay, ane myle lange"[91] Ornsay is east of Sleat and not of this size.
134 Ellan Naguyneyne 108 Nagoyneyne Cunicularia Eilean a' Mhàil "Fornent Loche Alshe lyes ane iyle, callit in Erishe Ellan Nagoyneyne, that is to say, Cunings ile",[92] i.e. "rabbit island". Hume Brown identified this as MacKenzie Island but R. W. Munro was unable to place it.[75] Matheson offers Eilean a' Mhàil, which was known as Eilean nan Gillean in the 19th century.[63][93] However, Roy's military map of 1755 shows Eilean Ban in Loch Alsh as Id. Gilain.[94]
135 Pabay 109 Pabay Paba Pabay
136 Scalpay 110 Scalpay Scalpa Scalpay
137 Crowling 111 Crowling Crulinga Crowlin Islands
138 Raarsay 112 Raarsay Raorsa Raasay
139 Ronay 113 Ronay Rona South Rona
140 Ellan Gerloch 114 Ellan Gearlochie Gerloch Longa Island
141 Fladay 115 Fladday Flada Staffin Island Also known as Fladdaidh.[95]
142 Ellan Tuylmen 116 Tuilin Euilmena Tulm Island
143 Orandsay 118 Cransay Oronsa Oronsay, Loch Bracadale
144 Bwya moir 119 Buyamoire Great Bina Wiay
145-52 Unnamed islands 120-26 Unnamed islands Evidence from Buchanan and Pont's maps suggest that nos 145–9 were in Loch Bracadale and 150–2 in Loch Dunvegan.[96]
153 Ellan Isa 127 Isay Isa Isay Monipennie adds "beside it is Ouia".
154 Ellan Askerin 128 Askerin Askerma Ascrib Islands
155 Ellan Lindill 129 Lindill Lindella Eilean Mor, Lyndale Point In Loch Snizort at NG362573.

No 117 is an additional but unnamed island in Auld. "Four myle of sea fra this ile Tuilin, northwart, lyes an ile callit -----."[97]

Barra and the UistsEdit

John Lorne Campbell (1936) states that Monro "apparently had visited Barra, but it is clear that he writes of the smaller islands from hearsay alone".[98] Nos 156–64 are also known as the Bishop's Isles. Monro does not treat Benbecula, South Uist and North Uist as separate islands. Under Ywst he states: "and in the north syde of this there is ane parochin callit Buchagla, [Benbecula[99]] perteining to the said Clandonald. At the north end thereof the sea cuts the countrey againe, and that cutting of the sea is called Careynesse, and benorth this countrey is called Kenehnache of Ywst, that is in Englishe, the north head of Ywst."[100]

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
156 Lingay 130 Lingay Linga Lingeigh
157 Gigarmen 131 Gigarun Gigarmena Greanamul According to Campbell (1936) Hume Brown made this identification in his 1893 publication Scotland before 1700.[98]
158 Berneray 132 Berneray Benera Barra Head
159 Megalay 133 Megaly Megela Mingulay
160 Pabay 134 Pabay Paua Pabbay, Barra
161 Fladay 135 Fladay Flada Flodday near Vatersay
162 Scarpay na mult 136 Scarpnamutt Scarpa Muldoanich[98] Monipennie adds "Vernecum" here. Edward MacQueen suggested Lianamul in 1794.[96]
163 Sanderay 137 Sanderay Sandera Sandray
164 Vatersay 138 Wattersay Vatersa Vatersay
165 Barray 139 Barray Barra Barra
166 Orbandsay 140 Orvansay Oronsa Orosay
167 Ellan nahaonchaorach 141 Nahacharrach Onia Unidentified[Note 14] "In Englishe the Sheipes ile, ane little ile full of gerssing and store, perteining to M'Neill of Barray."[101] "Not known" according to Campbell,[98] but conceivably Fiaraidh, which means "grass" or "pasture" island and which Campbell assigns to 177.
168 Ellan nahakersait 142 Nahakersait Hakerseta Heilen "Not known" by Campbell.[98] The names looks like a corruption of na h-acarsaid, "of the anchorage", and Munro probably refers to Sheileam/Healam in the bay of "An Acarsaid" at the end of the Bruairnis peninsula on Barra.
169 Garvlanga 143 Garnlanga Garnlanga Garbh Lingeigh Also identified by Campbell.[98]
170 Fladay 144 Flada Flada Flodday, Sound of Barra
171 Buyabeg 145 Bwyabeg Little Buya Eilean Sheumais "Not known" according to Campbell,[98] but R. W. Munro states that an earlier name for Eilean Sheumais (James's Island) was Fuidheidh Beag and that it was renamed "after a fugitive from the mainland".[96]
172 Buya moir 146 Bywa-moir Great Buya Fuiay "Not known" according to Campbell.[98]
173 Hay 147 Hay Haya Unidentified Fuiay (No 172 above) according to Campbell.[98]
174 Hellisay 148 Hettesay Hell sea Hellisay
175 Gigay 149 Gigay Gigaia Gighay
176 Lingay 150 Lingay Lingaia Lingay There are other contenders: Lingeigh and Garbh Lingeigh off Fuiay.
177 Feray 151 Feray Foraia Fiaraidh
178 Fuday 152 Fuday Fudaia Fuday
179 Eriskay 153 Eriskeray Eriscaia Eriskay
180 Vyist 154 Ywst Vistus Uist
181 Blank 155
182 Helsker na caillach 156 Helsker Nagaillon Helsther Wetularum Monach Isles In the 18th century Lady Grange was kidnapped and conveyed to the Monach Isles. She wrote that "I was in great miserie in the Husker".[102]
183 Haifsker 157 Haysker Haneskera Haskeir "Northwast fra this Kentnache of Ywst, be twalve myle of sea".[103]
184 Hirta 158 Hirta Hirta Hirta
185 Valay 159 Valay Velaia Vallay

Numerous islands are missing from the lists including Ronay, Stuley, Baleshare, Kirkibost and Calvay.

Lewis and Harris and the north westEdit

Lewis and Harris is the largest of Scotland's islands[104] and the third largest in the British Isles, after Great Britain and Ireland.[105] It incorporates Lewis in the north and Harris in the south, both of which are frequently referred to as individual islands, although they are joined by a land border. The island does not have a common name in either English or Gaelic and is referred to as "Lewis and Harris", "Lewis with Harris", "Harris with Lewis" etc.[106] The first sub-section contains another group not listed by the 1774 Auld version. The ordering of the Sibbald MS is in places slightly different from Moniepennie's and the correspondence is not always obvious. The former's numbers 197 and 201 appear to have been omitted completely in the latter.


No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
186 Soa 160 Soa Soa Shillay Identified by Hume Brown although R. W. Munro lists it as "doubtful".[96] Matheson suggests Boreray.[63]
187 Stroma Stroma Stromay In the Sound of Harris but closer to North Uist.
188 Pabay Pabaia Pabbay, Harris
189 Berneray Barneraia Berneray, North Uist
190 Enisay Emsaia Ensay, Outer Hebrides
191 Keligir Kelligira Killegray
192 Sagha beg Little Saga Saghaigh Beag
193 Sagha moir Great Saga Saghaigh Mòr
194 Hermodray Harmodra Hermetray
195 Scarvay Scaria Sgarabhaigh
196 Grya Grialinga Groaigh
197 Linga Missing "Linga" Lingay lies near Killegray in the Sound of Harris but there is an islet just to the north called Langay or Langaigh.
198 Gillinsay Cillinsa Gilsay
199 Heyia Hea Tahay?
200 Hoya Hoia Unidentified R. W. Munro notes the peninsula of Hoe Beg.[96]
201 Ferelay Missing Spuir? This little skerry is at NF853843between Pabbay and Boreray. Heather's chart of 1804 shows "Fure Isle" here[107] although Monro seemed to believe the isle was inhabited.
202 Soya Beg Little Soa Soay Beag
203 Soya moir 185 Soya-Moir Great Soa Soay Mòr
204 Ellan Isay 186 Ellan IIsa Isa Ìosaigh "Isay" located off Harris, according to R. W. Munro.
205 Seuna beg 187 Senna-Beg Little Seuna Unidentified
206 Seuna moir 188 Senna-Moir Great Seuna Unidentified
207 Tarandsay 189 Tarandsay Taransa Taransay
208 Slegain 190 Sleyein Slegana Sleicham? Not identified by R. W. Munro who notes that Blaeu puts the island between Taransay and Scarpa.[108] Sleicham lies off Ensay.[56]
209 Tuemen 191 Tivein Tuemon Unidentified Blaeu places the island near Slegain above.[108]
210 Scarpe 192 Scarpe Scarpa Scarp
211 Flavain 193 Seven Haley Iles Flannæ Flannan Isles

Loch RògEdit

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
212 Garvellan 194 Garvellan Garn-Ellan Seanna Chnoc Named Garvilan I. in a coastal chart of 1804.[107]
213 Lambay 195 Lambay Lamba Unidentified Possibly Campaigh
214 Fladay 196 Fladay Flada Flodaigh, Outer Loch Ròg There is also Flodaigh, Lewis and a Fladaigh at NA993152 near Scarp.
215 Keallasay 197 Kealnsay Kellasa Cealasaigh
216 Berneray beg 198 Berneray-Beg Little Bernera Little Bernera
217 Berneray moir 199 Berneray-Moir Great Bernera Great Bernera
218 Kirtay 200 Kertay Kirta Eilean Chearstaidh
219 Bwya beg 201 Buya-beg Little Bina Fuaigh Beag
220 Buya moir 202 Buya-Moir Great Bina Fuaigh Mòr
221 Vexay 203 Vaxay Vexaia Vacsay
222 Pabay 204 Pabay Pabaia Pabaigh Mòr
223 Sigrame moir na goneyne 205 Sigrain-moir-Nagoinein Great Sigrama Siaram Mòr Siaram Mòr is south of Pabaigh Mòr. Monipennie adds "Cunicularia" here – the ungarbled Gaelic would be Siaram Mòr na(n) Coinean.
224 Sigram beg 206 Sigrain-Beg Little Sigrama Siaram Beag

Some small outer islands are missing including Bearasaigh and Cealasaigh.


No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
225 Pigmeis Ile 161 The Pigmies Ile island of the Pigmeis The "dry island" of Luchraban[109] This story about an island inhabited by diminutive people that has "ane little kirk in it of ther awn handey wark"[110] was not unravelled until the early 20th century by William Cook and tales of the "little men of Luchruban" remained current in the 1960s.[111]
226 Ellan Fabill 162 Fabill Fabilla Eilean Mòr Phabail At NB524302.
227 Ellan Adam 163 Adain Adams island Eilean a' Chrotaich? Located off Point, the Gaelic name means the "humpacked (person's) island" but the relationship between the two names is not clear.
228 Ellan na Nuan 164 Na-naun Lambe island Eilean nan Uan At NB459307.
229 Ellan Huilmen 165 Huiture Hulmetia Eilean Thuilm "Betwixt this ile and Stornaway ther lyes Ellan Huiture".[112] Eilean Thuilm appears as "Holm Island" on old maps and tulm/tuilm is the Gaelic form of the Norse holm.
230 Ellan Viccowill 166 Vic-couill Viccoilla Eilean na Gobhail Not identified by R. W. Munro[Note 15] but by Matheson, who lists various Gaelic names for this islet in Stornoway harbour.[63]
231 Havreray 167 Haleuray Hana Tannaraidh Monipennie adds "Rera" here, possibly intending "Hana Rera" as one island.
232 Laxay 168 Laxay Laxa Eilean Mòr Lacasaidh, Loch Erisort
233 Ere 169 Err Era Eire? "Which is in English Irland".[113] Not identified by R. W. Munro, but this islet is at NF996798 just north of Grodhaigh in the Sound of Harris.[56]
234 Ellan Cholmkle 170 St. Colmes Ile Dove island Eilean Chaluim Chille
235 Torray 171 Tooray Tora Eilean Thoraidh At NB419204 near Eilean Chaluim Chille.
236 Ellan Iffurt 172 Ellan Hurte Affurta Eilean Liubhaird
237 Scalpay of Harray 173 Scalpay of Harray Scalpa Scalpay, Outer Hebrides
238 Fladay 174 Fladay Flada Fladda-chuain "Towards the northeist frae [Scalpay] ... be 20 myle of sea".[114]
239 Senta 175 Senta Senta Garbh Eilean In Gaelic the Shiant Isles are Na h-Eileanan Seunta. The description of the strong currents through the Toll a' Roimh natural arch is vivid.[115]
240 Senchastle 176 Senchastle Old Castle Eilean Mhuire Seann Chaisteal (old castle) is the name of the southwestern promontory on Eilean Mhuire.[56][108]

Various islands are apparently missing including Seaforth Island, Eilean Mhealasta and Boreray.

North Highland coastEdit

No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
241 Ellan Ew 177 Ellan Ew Ew Isle of Ewe
242 Ellan Gruinord 178 Gruynorde Grumorta Gruinard
243 Ellan na clerache 179 Na-clerache Priests island Priest Island
244 Ellan af vill 180 Afuil Afulla Unidentified Bottle Island (Eilean a' Bhotail in Gaelic) is a possibility as is nearby Eilean Dubh.[108]
245 Havreray moir 181 Hawrarymoir Great Habrera Tanera Mòr
246 Havreray beg 182 Hawrarybeg Little Habrera Tanera Beag
247 Ellan na neach 183 Naneache Horse isle Horse Island
248 Ellan Mertark 184 Mertarye Marta Ika Isle Martin

Missing are Isle Ristol, Handa and Oldany Island.

Lewis and HarrisEdit

Sula Sgeir from the south west. Donald Monro wrote that the men of Ness sailed there in their small craft to "fetche hame thair boatful of dry wild fowls",[116] a tradition that continues to this day.[117]
No. (Munro) Name (Sibbald MS) No. (Auld) Name (Auld) Name (Monipennie)[49] Modern name[50] Comments
249 Haray and Leozus 207 Harrey Hary and Lewis Lewis and Harris
250 Ronay 208 Ronay Rona North Rona
251 Swilskeray 209 Suilskeray Suilkeraia Sula Sgeir


Monro provides a brief description of the five main branches of Clan Donald that existed in his day under the title "Heir Followis The Geneologies Of The Chieff Clans Of The Iles".

The arms of Macdonald of Macdonald

Clan Donald are descendants of Somerled and Monro claims that in earlier days the House was known as "Clan Gothofred".

This Somerle wes the sone of Gillebryde M'Gilleadam, name Vic Sella, Vic Mearshaighe, Vic Swyffine, Vic Malgheussa, Vic Eacime, Vic Gothefred, fra quhome they were called at that time Clan Gothofred, that is, Clan Gotheray in Hybers Leid, and they were very grate men in that tymes zeire. (Translation from Scots: This Somerled was the son of Gillebryde M'Gilleadam, son of Sella, son of Mearshaighe, son of Swyffine, son of Malgheussa, son of Eacime, son of Gothefred, from whom they were called at that time Clan Gothofred, that is, Clan Gotheray in the Gaelic language, and they were very great men in those times.)[119]

The name "Gofraid" also appears in numerous other versions of Somerled's ancestry.[120]

Council of the IslesEdit

Ruins on Eilean Mòr in Loch Finlaggan, looking toward the Paps of Jura and the hills of Islay
Eilean na Comhairle - "Council Island" – lies just offshore from the ruins on Eilean Mòr Finlaggan, Islay

Finlaggan was the site of the court of the Buachaille nan Eileanan, the chief of Clan Donald. Eilean na Comhairle (council island) was originally a timber framed crannog constructed in the 1st century BC, just offshore from Eilean Mòr (large island), which was known as the Island of St Findlugán during the Medieval period.[121]

The Auld version of Monro's text has under No 55 "Ila" only "Ellan Forlagan, in the middle of Ila, ane faire iyle in fresche water" as the concluding sentence and there is no specific reference to the Council.[122] Monipennie provides a slightly longer text as a translation from Buchanan about the government of the Isles that operated from Eilean na Comhairle at Finlaggan.[123] However the Sibbald MS has a much longer description, the earliest and most detailed of the three main texts that have persisted into the modern era.[Note 16] Monro describes the membership of the Council, comprising "14 of the Iles best Barons" and its role as the supreme court of justice.[124]

After the forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles by James IV in 1493 Finlaggan's buildings were razed and its coronation stone destroyed to discourage any attempts at restoration of the Lordship.[125][126] The Council was briefly revived during Domhnall Dubh's 1545 rebellion, just four years before Monro's text was written.[127] The barons listed by Monro are:

The identity of Clan McNaie is unknown.[129]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Monro wrote in the original Scots form: "throw the quhilk Volt we useit to row or sail with aire boats, for feir of the horrible brak of seais that is on the outwart side of the point" (Sibbald MS version)[1] or "through the quilk vylt we use to row ore saill with our bottis, for fear of the horrible breake of the seas that is on the outwar side thereof" (Auld version).[2]
  2. ^ Monro came under investigation for his lack of diligence ("he was not so apt to teache as his charge required") and his poor command of Gaelic. The resulting report has not survived and it is assumed he was exonerated.[14][15]
  3. ^ MacCulloch wrote: "If he [Monro] had been Verger instead of Dean he could scarcely have been more ignorant of the diocese to which he belonged."[40]
  4. ^ The spring concerned is probably that near the summit of Ben Eoligarry overlooking Compton Mackenzie's grave at Cille Bharra. It is possible that the high levels of calcium carbonate in the water gave rise to this superstition as it becomes deposited on sand grains.[41]
  5. ^ Only 9 of the 27 islands R. W. Munro could not identify lie north of Islay.
  6. ^ Although Man was no longer part of Scotland at the time Monro was writing it retained its ancient ecclesiastical ties to the islands of Scotland through the Diocese of Sodor.[51]
  7. ^ According to the Auld version, "one the shore of Kintyre, layes ane iyle with a castle ... quherin is ane guid havin for small bottis".[55] Munro (1961) states that this "is indeed the name of a half-submerged rock some distance from the Kintyre shore; but there is no such island on which a castle could be built and no evidence in history of any such castle".[43] He quotes the view of Andrew McKerral recorded in Kintyre in the Seventeenth Century that Monro may have been referring to nearby Dunaverty Castle,[43] which although not on an island is situated on a rocky headland attached to the mainland by a narrow path.[56] It is the only island excluded by Buchanan[43] and is not listed by Monipennie.
  8. ^ There are three large islands in the Garvellach group, which might reflect Moniepennie's "three Barbais" and the Sgeiran Dubha rocks are just offshore from Eileach an Naoimh.
  9. ^ A derivation of Ulva (see No. 110 Vilua) is from the Old Norse ulvøy meaning "wolf island".[62] The tidal Ulva Islands in Loch Sween at NR727824 are thus a possibility for Madie, "the Wolfiis iyle."
  10. ^ Eilean-a-beithich was quarried for its slate to a depth of 76 metres (249 ft) below sea level leaving only the outer rim of the island. Tipping of the quarry detritus eventually filled up the channel which separated Eilean-a-beithich from Seil, then the quarry came to a catastrophic end when a sea wall gave way.[64][65]
  11. ^ R. W. Munro suggests Buchanan may be referring to the corn marigold, known in old Scots by a variety of names such as yellow gowans. Eilean an dìthein would be "flower island" (dìthean is also the root for a number of related flowers including daisies, ox-eyes and marigolds), but the specific suggestion of a name related to flora is not in any of the extant Scots manuscripts.[69]
  12. ^ "At the mouth of Kyle Ila, betwixt it and Duray, lyes ane ile, callit in Erische Leid Ellan Charne, in English the iyle of Earne".[74] Only Am Fraoch Eilean, Brosdale Island and Glas Eilean fit the geography exactly.[56] Am Fraoch Eilean means "heather island" but R. W. Munro quotes Buchanan's version—inter Ilam & Iuram sita est insula parua a cumulo lapidum cognominata— as evidence, noting that in 1772 Thomas Pennant was told of the prior existence of a MacDonald castle on the island, the ruins of which he believes gave rise to the description. Monipennie's translation of Buchanan is "Betwixt Ila and Jura lyes a little island, taking the name from a cairne of stones".[78] There is an Eilean a' Chùirn further south, cùirn being the genitive of càrn (stone) which R. W. Munro does not refer to and he dismisses an islet with a similar name near Eigg.[79] Matheson suggests Ellan charn may be Brosdale Island, which "appears on an old map as Chreig Yl.?".[63]
  13. ^ The Na Badagan rocks lie just off Ardnave Point near Nave Island, and south of Port Ellen between Sgeir Phlocach and Sgeir nan Crùban is a narrows called Bealach Wabina.
  14. ^ Not identified in R. W. Munro's index, but not listed by him as unidentified either.
  15. ^ Not identified in R. W. Munro's index, but not listed by him as unidentified either.[63]
  16. ^ The other two extant descriptions of the Council can be found in Macdonald, Hugh (c. 1628) History of the Macdonalds and in Martin, Martin (c. 1695) A Description of The Western Islands Of Scotland.[7]


  1. ^ Monro (1961) p. 85
  2. ^ Monro (1774) No. 175
  3. ^ Munro (1961) p. 1
  4. ^ a b Monro (1961) p. v
  5. ^ a b c d Munro (1961) p. 37
  6. ^ "Cast of a grave slab from Finlaggan, Islay, Inner Hebrides". National Museums of Scotland. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  7. ^ a b Munro (1961) p. 95
  8. ^ a b Munro (1961) pp. 17–20
  9. ^ a b Alexander Ross (1884) "The Reverend Donald Munro, M.A., High Dean of the Isles". The Celtic Magazine. Volume 9, pp. 142–44
  10. ^ MacLeod (2004) p. 25
  11. ^ Munro (1961) p. 11
  12. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 12–13
  13. ^ Munro (1961) p. 15
  14. ^ Ross, Alexander (1884) "The Reverend Donald Munro, M.A., High Dean of the Isles". The Celtic Magazine Volume 9. pp. 142-44.
  15. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 21–22
  16. ^ Munro (1961) p. 25
  17. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 23–25
  18. ^ "Kildalton Great Cross" RCAHMS. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  19. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 239–40.
  20. ^ Breeze, David J. "The ancient geography of Scotland" in Ballin Smith and Banks (2002) pp. 11–13
  21. ^ Watson (1926) pp. 40–41
  22. ^ a b Watson (1994) p. 38
  23. ^ Nieke, Margaret R. "Secular Society from the Iron Age to Dál Riata and the Kingdom of Scots" in Omand (2006) p. 60
  24. ^ Hunter (2000) pp. 44, 49
  25. ^ Gammeltoft, Peder "Scandinavian Naming-Systems in the Hebrides – A Way of Understanding how the Scandinavians were in Contact with Gaels and Picts?" in Ballin Smith et al (2007) p. 487
  26. ^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) various pages.
  27. ^ "Liber Primus" The Philological Museum. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  28. ^ a b Munro (1961) p. 27
  29. ^ Identification by the publisher of Monipennie (1818)
  30. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 27–28
  31. ^ a b c Munro (1961) p. 29
  32. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 30–31
  33. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 31–32
  34. ^ Munro (1961) p. 32
  35. ^ Munro (1961) p. 36
  36. ^ Monipennie (1612) p. 191
  37. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 330
  38. ^ Monro (1744) No. 193 "Seven Haley Isles".
  39. ^ Munro (1961) p. 42. Translation from the original Latin (recorded on p. 27) by James Aikman.
  40. ^ Monro (1961) p. 34
  41. ^ Munro (1961) p. 133
  42. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 33–36
  43. ^ a b c d Munro (1961) p. 114
  44. ^ Monro (1774) Nos. 29 and 35
  45. ^ Munro (1961) p. 9
  46. ^ a b Munro (1961) p. 115
  47. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 111–12
  48. ^ Munro (1961) p. 45
  49. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Moniepennie (1612) pp. 181–94
  50. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Munro (1961) pp. 163–68 and/or as otherwise stated.
  51. ^ Burton, Edwin Hubert (1913) "Ancient Diocese of Sodor and Man". Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 14. Robert Appleton Company/Wikisource. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  52. ^ "Lenition". Scottish Gaelic Grammar Wiki. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  53. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 8
  54. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 5
  55. ^ a b Munro (1961) p. 49
  56. ^ a b c d e f g h "Get-a-map". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  57. ^ Monro (1774) No. 18
  58. ^ a b Munro (1961) p. 165
  59. ^ Monro (1774) No. 24
  60. ^ Monro (1774) No. 27
  61. ^ a b c d Munro (1961) p. 116
  62. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 102
  63. ^ a b c d e f g Matheson (1963) p. 49
  64. ^ "Netherlorn and its Neighbourhood:Chapter II – Easdale" Electric Scotland Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  65. ^ "Slate Islands – The Islands that Roofed the World" Retrieved 14 November 2009.
  66. ^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 65
  67. ^ "Insh Island". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 14 November 2009.
  68. ^ a b c Youngson (2001) pp. 10–11
  69. ^ Munro (1961) p. 136
  70. ^ Monro (1774) No. 39
  71. ^ Youngson (2001) p. 11
  72. ^ Munro (1961) No. 69 p. 55
  73. ^ a b c d e f g h i Munro (1961) p. 117
  74. ^ a b Monro (1774) No. 56
  75. ^ a b c d e Munro (1961) p. 118
  76. ^ a b Monro (1774) No. 57
  77. ^ a b Munro (1961) p. 58
  78. ^ Monipennie (1612) p. 184
  79. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 121–22
  80. ^ Munro (1961) p. 166
  81. ^ Monro (1774) No. 67
  82. ^ Munro (1774) No. 68
  83. ^ Monro (1774) No. 77
  84. ^ Monro (1774) No. 80
  85. ^ Monro (1774) No. 81
  86. ^ Monro (1774) No. 83
  87. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 108
  88. ^ a b c d Monipennie p. 186
  89. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 127
  90. ^ Bray (1996) pp. 89–90
  91. ^ Monro (1774) No. 107
  92. ^ Monro (1774) No. 108
  93. ^ Ordnance Survey of Scotland (1856–87) "First Series, Sheet 71 – Glenelg"."A Vision of Britain Through Time". University of Portsmouth and others. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  94. ^ Roy's Military Survey of Scotland 1747-1755. National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  95. ^ "Fladdaidh" Staffin Community Trust/Internet Archive. Wayback archive 24 July 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  96. ^ a b c d e Munro (1961) p. 119
  97. ^ Monro (1774) No. 117
  98. ^ a b c d e f g h i Campbell (1936) pp. 26–30
  99. ^ M'Lauchlan, Rev. Thomas (Jan 1866) "On the Kymric Element in the Celtic Topography of Scotland". Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Edinburgh, VI Part 2, p. 315 which records that Beandmoyll, Beanweall, and Benvalgha are other variants found "in charters".
  100. ^ Monro (1774) No. 154
  101. ^ Monro (1774) No. 141
  102. ^ Laing (1874) p. 728
  103. ^ Monro (1774) No. 157
  104. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 502
  105. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 262
  106. ^ Thompson (1968) p. 13
  107. ^ a b Heather (1804)
  108. ^ a b c d Munro (1961) p. 120
  109. ^ Pymies Isle Archived 2012-04-06 at the Wayback Machine Virtual Hebrides. Retrieved 17 November 2012
  110. ^ Monro (1774) No. 161
  111. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 133–34
  112. ^ Monro(1774) No. 165
  113. ^ Monro (1774) No. 169
  114. ^ Monro (1774) No. 174
  115. ^ Nicolson (2002) p. 217, who writes that Monro was "coming north from Skye".
  116. ^ Monro, D. (1774) No. 209
  117. ^ Hatton, Scott Guga Archived 2009-12-20 at the Wayback Machine. Culture Hebrides. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  118. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 92–4
  119. ^ Monro (1774) "The Geneologies Of The Chieff Clans Of The Iles".
  120. ^ Woolf (2005) pp. 3–4
  121. ^ Caldwell (2011) p. 20
  122. ^ Monro (1774) No. 55
  123. ^ Munro (1961) p. 56
  124. ^ Munro (1961) pp. 102, 106
  125. ^ Caldwell, David (April 1996) "Urbane savages of the Western Isles". British Archaeology. No 13. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  126. ^ Caldwell (2011) p. 59
  127. ^ Munro (1961) p. 110
  128. ^ Munro (1961) p. 144
  129. ^ Munro (1961) p. 104



Further readingEdit

  • A Description of The Western Isles of Scotland, a 2010 English translation by Austin Mardon

External linksEdit