"A small seaport town and a registration district in Kilarrow parish, Islay island, Argyllshire. The town stands on the E side of Loch Indal, 3 miles SW of Bridgend, 11 SW of Port Askaig, 13 N of the Mull of Islay, and 110 by sea route WSW of Greenock. It was founded in 1768; and, though a good deal checked by the subsequent erection of Port Charlotte and Port Eleanor on the opposite side of the bay, it has had considerable prosperity, and is the capital of the island. It was laid out upon a regular plan, but has been greatly disfigured by the medley character of its private houses, every builder having been allowed to please himself as to the material, shape, and size of his structures. A wide main street begins at the quay, ascends a brae, and terminates at the summit by the parish church; another street ascends the brae in a transverse direction, crossing the former at right angles, and terminating by the schoolhouse; and, parallel to this second street, runs a third of very poor appearance, popularly known as Beggar Row. The hill-tops beyond the streets command a charming view of all Loch Indal, with Islay House, the Ruins, and a great extent of the island. The town has a post office under Greenock, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, an hotel, a round parish church with a spire, a Free church, a Baptist chapel, a public school, a large distillery, and a considerable trade both by sea and inland. The quay is strong and good; and the harbour affords excellent anchorage to vessels, but lies exposed to NW winds. Fairs are held on 12 Aug. and 12 Nov. if a Friday, otherwise on the Friday after; and a horse market is held at each of the two fairs, as also on 12 Feb. if a Tuesday, else on the Tuesday after. Sheriff small debt courts sit four times a year. The public school, with accommodation for 210 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 113, and a grant of £91,2s. Pop. of town (1841) 1274, (1861) 985, (1871) 867, (1881) 823; of registration district (1861) 2701, (1881) 1875."
Extract from Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 1882-4