History and genealogy
The islands of Argyll have had a turbulent history, and each generation has left its mark. These remnants of past lives blend in with the landscape and embellish it.
Early signs of habitation on the Isle of Luing include two ruined hill forts, ideally placed defensive positions from which to monitor the surrounding islands and mainland. The southern most of these still has a flight of steps, and pillared doorways with cup markings. The northern fort was excavated at the end of the 19th Century, and a number of Bronze Age artifacts were found, and are now held in theMuseum of Edinburgh. The island was part of the kingdom of the Lord of the Isles, and passed through the hands of the MacDougals, MacDonalds, MacLeans and Campbells.
There is also the remains of an early "lake dwelling" built of oak logs binding together a mass of stones. There are more signs of this style of dwelling on nearby Loch Seil.
Other remnants of past lives include the ruined church of Kilchattan which was first recorded in 1589, and in use until the 17th century. The walls of the church are graffitied, presumably by children over 300 years ago, with carvings of old West Highland Galleys.
The church yard provides a fascinating insight to the lives of past islanders, with quarriers, sailors and crofters side by side. Gravestones of note include those of Covenanter Alexander Campbell who formed a strict sect in 1787, only to later expell all the other members for not adhering strictly enough to it's beliefs. The stones which he carved himself denounce "play actors and pictures", "dancing schools", men (that) have whiskers like ruffian soldiers" and much, much more.
The geology of the island has affected much of it's recent past. The island is primarily slate, with narrow bands of basalt running north-west to south-east across it. The villages of Cullipool and Toberonochy both had slate quarries being worked during the 18th and 19th centuries. The picturesque vilages with their whitewashed cottages owe much to this period. Much of the slate left the island from the jetty at Black Mill Bay which today is just a cluster of houses looking west to the islands of Lunga and Scarba. The peak of Scarba looms over much of Luing, and has on it's southern shore the Corryvreckann whirlpool.
Many islanders now are still employed in agriculture and fishing, with clams (scallops), prawns and lobsters being the primary catches.
Agriculture has been important to the islanders for much of its recent history, with sheep and cattle being kept, and oats, barley and potatoes being grown. During the 19th century the Marquis of Breadalbane encouraged his tenants and crofters to improve their land by draining it, and gave prizes for cattle, sheep, ploughmen, and the best gardens.
Nowadays the island is home to the Luing breed of cattle, a cross between Highlands and Shorthorns that was officially recognised in 1965.
If you are searching for information on relatives that may have lived on Luing, one possible starting point is the census. It is interesting to look at the 1881 census which shows the village of Cullipool predominantly occupied by slate quarry workers, whereas Toberonochy lists mainly agricultural workers (including dairymaids) and fishermen. A map of Toberonochy 1880 shows no slate quarry development but a map of 1900 shows the quarry, with its tramways going out to the slate banks which had been built up in the intervening 20 years by the deposits of discarded slate.
The two main sources of employment on Luing during the 19th century were the slate mines and the farms/crofts.
Farm and Croft Tenants
Farming methods had been improved at the end of the C18th/earlyC19th when runrig was replaced with the subdivision of farms and enclosure. This subdivision made more tenancies available, and as a result in 1834 we see many more surnames listed. It was at this time that the Rt Hon. Earl of Breadalbane started the premiums for the small tenants or common tenants who showed superior industry and skill in farming.
"Netherlorn and its Neighbourhood"
by Patrick H Gillies (1909) gives an insight into the history and landscape of the area
The Scottish Slate Islands Heritage Trust
runs an excellent museum on Easdale Island
Some 19th Century census results are available online as part of the FreeCENS Project
(the relevant parish is "Kilbrandon & Kilchatton")
The Statistical Accounts for the parish are available online for 1971-79 and 1834-45
(as a non-subscriber you can browse scanned
Luing History Group
The principal object of the Group is to advance education for the public benefit in the heritage and history of the Isle of Luing and also, where appropriate, its adjacent, smaller and mainly uninhabited islands, including the Garvellachs, Scarba, Lunga, Torsa, Shuna, Fladda, Belnahua, Rubha Fiola and other small islets.
The Group collates and records historical, ethnological, biological, archaeological, geological and other related information. More information about the Group is available on the Luing Community Trust Website.