An Islay Miscellany

When the Islay Museum celebrated its Silver Jubilee in July 2002, the Museum's Management Committee decided that one way to celebrate this achievement was to publish a book called An Islay Miscellany. It's a collection of short extracts from the Museum's large library and archives, and it ended up to become a fascinating book. From what I'm told, the book was sold out after a couple of years and was reprinted in 2007. Fiona MacGregor was kind enough to mention it to me and sent a copy to my home address last week. I was very pleased when I saw the book for the first time and wondered why I never heard of it before. It really is a fascinating book to read and there are so many interesting stories. They are all printed in several different chapters; the people, the sea, far off times, conflict, the land, myths and legends, poetry and an introduction by former museum curator Gordon Booth and the present curator Malcolm Ogilvie. To give you an idea of the stories you can find in this book I have quoted a couple of stories in this post. The first story is called "Pigs, Dunghills and Short Cuts", and is an extract from the Stent Book of Islay.

Pigs, Dunghills and Short Cuts
Bowmore 11th April 1804. It has been now represented to the meeting that the town of Bowmore is very much annoy'd by a destructive crowd of pigs running up and down the streets, and that many of the inhabitants, regardless of propriety, keep their dunghills upon the streets. This meeting consider themselves authorised to order a better police, appointing Archd Adair & Mr Hector Simson as superintendents, who are hereby recommended, to publish all the inhabitants of Bowmore, that eight days after the date of that publication, each owner of a pig which shall be found loose upon the street shall pay a fine of not exceeding 2/6 Sterling for each offence. Continue reading......

The second story I like to quote from is about a disastrous gale which took place in 1893. The waters around Islay are very treacherous and were reason for many shipwrecks but the events that took place in 1893 were almost unbelievable. Below an extract from an article that appeared in the Campbeltown Courier on the 25th of November 1893.

Disastrous Gale - Thirty-eight Fishing Boats Wrecked at Islay
A Gale of north-easterly wind attended with most disastrous results passed over the country on Friday and Saturday last, causing the loss of numerous lives - stated between 300 and 400 - the loss of a large number of vessels of every description, and great destruction of property on land. In this district the strength of the gale was not felt at its full force, and no damage is reported, but the extensive fleet of fishing boats engaged in Islay waters suffered to a considerable extent, no fewer than thirty-eight skiffs being either totally wrecked or damaged through being driven ashore. All along the coast the shore was strewn with pieces of nets, oars and spars of one kind or another, and many of the crews had narrow escapes with their lives. Almost all the boats at Port Askaig suffered, and many of them were driven ashore, including the mail smack which runs between Port Askaig and Colonsay. The damage was not confined to Islay boats, and quite a large number from the east coast, the ayrshire coast, Campbeltown and Arran, were destroyed or seriously damaged.

These were just fragments of the stories published in this higly interesting book. I think this book is a must for people who visit the island and I wonder how I could do without all these years! The book is available from the Islay Museum and Celtic House at Bowmore, is highly recommended and another great addition to the growing number of Islay books.

Tag: history islay book tales shipwrecks

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