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TITLE
'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, circa 1695' (4)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_MARTIN_MARTIN_04
PLACENAME
Stornoway
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Stornoway
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Martin Martin
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1407
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.

'A woman of Stornvay [Stornoway], in Lewis, had a maid who saw visions, and often fell into a swoon; her mistress was very much concerned about her, but could not find out any means to prevent her seeing those things; at last she resolved to pour some of the water used in baptism on her maid's face, believing this would prevent her seeing any more sights of this kind. And accordingly she carried her maid with her next Lord's day, and both of them sat near the basin in which the water stood, and after baptism, before the minister had concluded the last prayer, she put her hand in the basin, took up as much water as she could, and threw it on the maid's face; at which strange action the minister and the congregation were equally surprised. After prayer the minister enquired of the woman the meaning of such an unbecoming and distracted action; she told him it was to prevent her maid's seeing visions; and it fell out accordingly, for from that time she never once more saw a vision of any kind. This account was given me by Mr Morison, minister of the place, before several of his parishioners who knew the truth of it. I submit the matter of fact to the censure of the learned; but for my own part I think it to have been one of Satan's devices to make credulous people have an esteem for holy water.'

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' (4)

ROSS: Stornoway

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 /> 'A woman of Stornvay [Stornoway], in Lewis, had a maid who saw visions, and often fell into a swoon; her mistress was very much concerned about her, but could not find out any means to prevent her seeing those things; at last she resolved to pour some of the water used in baptism on her maid's face, believing this would prevent her seeing any more sights of this kind. And accordingly she carried her maid with her next Lord's day, and both of them sat near the basin in which the water stood, and after baptism, before the minister had concluded the last prayer, she put her hand in the basin, took up as much water as she could, and threw it on the maid's face; at which strange action the minister and the congregation were equally surprised. After prayer the minister enquired of the woman the meaning of such an unbecoming and distracted action; she told him it was to prevent her maid's seeing visions; and it fell out accordingly, for from that time she never once more saw a vision of any kind. This account was given me by Mr Morison, minister of the place, before several of his parishioners who knew the truth of it. I submit the matter of fact to the censure of the learned; but for my own part I think it to have been one of Satan's devices to make credulous people have an esteem for holy water.'<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.