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TITLE
'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, circa 1695' (2)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_MARTIN_MARTIN_02
PLACENAME
Isle of Lewis
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Martin Martin
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1404
KEYWORDS
audio
literary landscapes

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This audio extract is from 'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland circa 1695' by Martin Martin, first published in 1703. It is read here by Grant Butchart.

'There was an ancient custom in the island of Lewis to make a fiery circle about the houses, corn, cattle, etc, belonging to each particular family: a man carried fire in his right hand, and went round, and it was called 'dessil', from the right hand, which in the ancient language is called 'dess'. An instance of this round was performed in the village Shader, in Lewis, about sixteen years ago (as I was told), but it proved fatal to the practiser, called MacCallum; for after he had carefully performed this round, that very night following he and his family were sadly surprised, and all his houses, corn, cattle, etc., were consumed with fire. This superstitious custom is quite abolished now, for there has not been above this one instance of it in forty years past.'

Martin Martin was probably born in Bealach, near Duntulm Castle, Isle of Skye, into a minor gentry family associated with the MacDonalds of Sleat. After graduating from Edinburgh University in 1681 he tutored the heirs of the MacDonalds of Sleat and MacLeods of Harris before leaving for London in 1695.

Encouraged by fellow Episcopalians and antiquarian colleagues he undertook ethnographic work on his native Western Isles, setting off for a tour of Lewis in 1696, followed by a trip to St Kilda the following year. 'The Late Voyage to St. Kilda' was published in 1698, followed by his most celebrated work, 'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland' in 1703.

Despite being promised financial remuneration for his work, the money remained unpaid and Martin returned to Skye to tutor once more. At the age of 41 he enrolled as a trainee physician at Leiden University in the Netherlands and on his return to England he continued to practice medicine, finally graduating at Rheims in 1716. He died on 9 October, 1718.

Martin Martin's accounts of life in the Hebrides, before the advent of the Union, the 'Forty-Five', Highland Clearance, and Victorian Romanticism, are amongst the first printed works to describe the history, culture and traditions of an area where the old structures of society still prevailed.

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'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, circa 1695' (2)

ROSS

2000s

audio; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: Martin Martin

This audio extract is from 'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland circa 1695' by Martin Martin, first published in 1703. It is read here by Grant Butchart.<br /> <br /> 'There was an ancient custom in the island of Lewis to make a fiery circle about the houses, corn, cattle, etc, belonging to each particular family: a man carried fire in his right hand, and went round, and it was called 'dessil', from the right hand, which in the ancient language is called 'dess'. An instance of this round was performed in the village Shader, in Lewis, about sixteen years ago (as I was told), but it proved fatal to the practiser, called MacCallum; for after he had carefully performed this round, that very night following he and his family were sadly surprised, and all his houses, corn, cattle, etc., were consumed with fire. This superstitious custom is quite abolished now, for there has not been above this one instance of it in forty years past.'<br /> <br /> Martin Martin was probably born in Bealach, near Duntulm Castle, Isle of Skye, into a minor gentry family associated with the MacDonalds of Sleat. After graduating from Edinburgh University in 1681 he tutored the heirs of the MacDonalds of Sleat and MacLeods of Harris before leaving for London in 1695. <br /> <br /> Encouraged by fellow Episcopalians and antiquarian colleagues he undertook ethnographic work on his native Western Isles, setting off for a tour of Lewis in 1696, followed by a trip to St Kilda the following year. 'The Late Voyage to St. Kilda' was published in 1698, followed by his most celebrated work, 'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland' in 1703.<br /> <br /> Despite being promised financial remuneration for his work, the money remained unpaid and Martin returned to Skye to tutor once more. At the age of 41 he enrolled as a trainee physician at Leiden University in the Netherlands and on his return to England he continued to practice medicine, finally graduating at Rheims in 1716. He died on 9 October, 1718. <br /> <br /> Martin Martin's accounts of life in the Hebrides, before the advent of the Union, the 'Forty-Five', Highland Clearance, and Victorian Romanticism, are amongst the first printed works to describe the history, culture and traditions of an area where the old structures of society still prevailed.