National Gazetteer, 1868


Barra - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868


"BARRA, one of the Hebrides, or Western Isles, forming, with a numerous cluster of smaller islands, a parish in the county of Inverness, Scotland. They lie at the southern extremity of the long chain, and between 40 and 50 miles from Ardnamurchan Point, the nearest part of the mainland. The islands composing the parish are, besides Barra, Fuday or Fudia, Helesay, Watersay, Sandera, Pabba, Mingala, and Bernera, with several others. Barra belonged formerly to the Macneils, who had a castle at Chisamel Bay, remains of which still exist. In 1840 it was sold to Colonel Gordon, of Cluny. This island is about 8 miles in length from N. to S., and has an average breadth of from 3 to 4 miles. A narrow and very low neck of land connects the northern with the southern part of the island. The soil is poor, and ill-cultivated. Black cattle and sheep are pastured on the hills. A fishery is carried on in large boats of singular form, built by the islanders. Limpets, cockles, and other shell-fish exist in enormous quantities, and form a valuable resource in times of scarcity. The ground gradually rises from the north and east sides of the island, attaining near Chisamel Bay an elevation of 2,000 feet, and forming a rocky coast on the south. The island has a good harbour. The language spoken by the people is pure Gaelic. The living is in the presbytery of Uist, value £166, and in the gift of the crown. Besides the parish kirk, there are two other places of worship, one of which belongs to the Roman Catholics. The island contains several circles of stones, and other remains of antiquity. Barra Head is a lofty rock on the southernmost of the islands, on which there is a fine lighthouse, with a revolving light, 680 feet above the level of the sea, and visible to a distance of 33 miles. The area of Barra Island is variously estimated at from 16,000 to 22,000 acres."

"BERNERA, one of the islands in the parish of Barra, Invernessshire, Scotland. The lofty cliffs on the eastern side of this island are frequented by great numbers of sea-fowl, which furnish an abundant supply of food to the inhabitants. On Barra Head, on this island, stands a lighthouse, the light of which is 680 feet above the sea. It was erected in 1833, and displays an intermittent light."

"LINGAY, in the parish of Barra, one of the Western Isles, coast of Scotland, near Eriskay."

"MINGALA, an island in the parish of Barra, county Inverness, Scotland, 8 miles S. of Barra. It is situated near Barra Head Light, and extends 2½ miles in length from N.E. to S.W., with an extreme breadth of 1¾ mile. Its highest elevation exceeds 900 feet above sea-level."

"PABBA, an island in the parish of Barra, county Inverness, Scotland, 4 miles S. of Watersay. It is situated in Pabba Sound. Its extent is about 22 miles from E. to W., and 1½ mile from N. to S. Its surface is rocky and barren."

"SANDERA, (or Sandray), an island in the parish of Barra, county Inverness, Scotland, 3¼ miles S.W. of Barra, and 2½ N.E. of Pabba. It is of nearly circular form, the chord of the arc being about 1½ mile. It has an indented coast line, and the interior consists of a single hill of gneiss, rising about 800 feet above sea-level. The summit appears at a distance as if covered with snow, owing to its being strewn with calcareous sand. An extensive Danish dun exists on the E. coast."

"VATERSAY, (or Watersay), an island in the parish of Barra, one of the Outer Hebrides, county Inverness, Scotland. It is situated between Barra and Sanderay Islands, near West Sound. It measures about 3 miles in length by 2 in breadth, and is much indented by sea lochs or bays, which nearly divide it into two islands, the one called Vatersay, affording good and safe anchorage."

Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003