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TITLE
Naturalists' Assessments of Martin Martin
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_ANDREWCURRIE_01
PERIOD
1980s; 1990s
CREATOR
Andrew Currie
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
1805
KEYWORDS
botany
zoology
travelogues
gazetteers
audio

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Martin Martin's 'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland' (1703) and 'A Voyage to St Kilda' (1698) are amongst the first printed works describing the life, culture and beliefs of the people of the Hebrides. In this audio extract from 1996, Skye naturalist - Andrew Currie - considers assessments of Martin's works by various 20th-century naturalists.



I will start by looking at some assessments of Martin by 20th-century naturalists. Dr. Frank Fraser Darling wrote in 1947, 'The Natural History of the Highlands and Islands'. He pointed out that the natural history of the small sub-oceanic islands off the west of Scotland has been worked out so far by comparatively few men. The first who left a record of his work was Sir Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles, who wrote in 1549. Next came Martin, whose book was first published in 1703. His work was detailed, accurate, and is invaluable to the student today. More recently, the status of Martin Martin was confirmed in each of the two Royal Society of Edinburgh volumes published in 1979 [The Natural Environment of the Outer Hebrides] and 1983 [The Natural Environment of the Inner Hebrides] and covering the Outer and the Inner Hebrides. In these, at least a dozen papers draw upon Martin's observations. In his 'Historical View' in 1979, Dr. John Morton Boyd says, 'Martin's 'Descriptions of the Western Isles' is regarded as the datum of the historical record of the Outer Hebrides, preceded only by the account of Donald Monro, High Dean of the Isles'. In his introduction in 1983, Morton Boyd says, 'Martin's own efforts are now dwarfed by the great body of knowledge which has accrued to the present day. Nonetheless, his account, and that of Monro, stand today as the invaluable datum of Hebridean history'.



In their book, 'The Hebrides', jointly written in 1990 by Morton Boyd and Ian Boyd, the authors confirm this view with these words, 'Martin's account and that of Monro stand today as the beginning of the living record of the Hebrides in which appear vignettes of natural history from the late seventeenth century'. I will leave the last word to John Lorne Campbell, who, in his book, 'Canna', says, 'Martin Martin's great books on St. Kilda and the Western Isles instituted an entirely new approach. They were, of course, written under the influence of the late-seventeenth-century scientific awakening'.



By the nineteenth century, Martin Martin's name appeared in many works. 'The Birds of the West of Scotland', written by Robert Gray in 1871, draws upon Martin. So also do the series of late [nineteenth] century volumes collectively described as the 'Vertebrate Fauna of Scotland'. In the present century we need look no further than 'The Birds of Scotland', produced in 1953 by the Misses Baxter and Rintoul; just one of many books which incorporate Martin's records. These, and many more, bear out the truth of Morton Boyd's assessment of Martin's works as being an invaluable datum for serious naturalists

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Naturalists' Assessments of Martin Martin

1980s; 1990s

botany; zoology; travelogues; gazetteers; audio

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Bill Sinclair Audio: Martin Martin

Martin Martin's 'A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland' (1703) and 'A Voyage to St Kilda' (1698) are amongst the first printed works describing the life, culture and beliefs of the people of the Hebrides. In this audio extract from 1996, Skye naturalist - Andrew Currie - considers assessments of Martin's works by various 20th-century naturalists.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> I will start by looking at some assessments of Martin by 20th-century naturalists. Dr. Frank Fraser Darling wrote in 1947, 'The Natural History of the Highlands and Islands'. He pointed out that the natural history of the small sub-oceanic islands off the west of Scotland has been worked out so far by comparatively few men. The first who left a record of his work was Sir Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles, who wrote in 1549. Next came Martin, whose book was first published in 1703. His work was detailed, accurate, and is invaluable to the student today. More recently, the status of Martin Martin was confirmed in each of the two Royal Society of Edinburgh volumes published in 1979 [The Natural Environment of the Outer Hebrides] and 1983 [The Natural Environment of the Inner Hebrides] and covering the Outer and the Inner Hebrides. In these, at least a dozen papers draw upon Martin's observations. In his 'Historical View' in 1979, Dr. John Morton Boyd says, 'Martin's 'Descriptions of the Western Isles' is regarded as the datum of the historical record of the Outer Hebrides, preceded only by the account of Donald Monro, High Dean of the Isles'. In his introduction in 1983, Morton Boyd says, 'Martin's own efforts are now dwarfed by the great body of knowledge which has accrued to the present day. Nonetheless, his account, and that of Monro, stand today as the invaluable datum of Hebridean history'. <br /><br /> <br /><br /> In their book, 'The Hebrides', jointly written in 1990 by Morton Boyd and Ian Boyd, the authors confirm this view with these words, 'Martin's account and that of Monro stand today as the beginning of the living record of the Hebrides in which appear vignettes of natural history from the late seventeenth century'. I will leave the last word to John Lorne Campbell, who, in his book, 'Canna', says, 'Martin Martin's great books on St. Kilda and the Western Isles instituted an entirely new approach. They were, of course, written under the influence of the late-seventeenth-century scientific awakening'.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> By the nineteenth century, Martin Martin's name appeared in many works. 'The Birds of the West of Scotland', written by Robert Gray in 1871, draws upon Martin. So also do the series of late [nineteenth] century volumes collectively described as the 'Vertebrate Fauna of Scotland'. In the present century we need look no further than 'The Birds of Scotland', produced in 1953 by the Misses Baxter and Rintoul; just one of many books which incorporate Martin's records. These, and many more, bear out the truth of Morton Boyd's assessment of Martin's works as being an invaluable datum for serious naturalists