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TITLE
Birds in the Works of Martin Martin (2 of 2)
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_ANDREWCURRIE_04
PERIOD
1980s; 1990s
CREATOR
Andrew Currie
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
1810
KEYWORDS
botany
zoology
travelogues
gazetteers
ornithology
Western Isles
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, Skye naturalist - Andrew Currie - identifies many of the birds mentioned in Martin's works.

The list for North Uist is striking; 'hawks, eagles, pheasants, moor-fowls, ptarmigan, plover, pigeons, crows, swans, and all the ordinary sea-fowls in the West Islands'. Pheasants are a puzzle since research tells me that these were introduced to Lewis between 1856 and 1859. Then there is the legend of the corncrake. Martin says, 'The bird corn-craker. The natives say it lives by the water, and under the ice in winter and spring'. Donald John Munro in 1990 tells the history of corncrakes including Martin's records.

Other North Uist records include the 'rain goose' (the red-throated diver), the 'bonnivochill', known to seamen as Bishop Carara. This is the great northern diver but who was Bishop Carara and why was the bird named after him? The 'goylir' is the storm petrel, 'sereachan-aittin' might be the tern. 'Faskidar', well described by Martin, is clearly the Arctic skua. The 'colc' is the eider. One puzzled me a lot - 'The gawlin is a fowl less than a duck. It is reckoned a true prognosticator of fair weather; for when it sings, fair and good weather always follows. The piper of St. Kilda plays the notes which it sings, and hath composed a tune to them, which the natives judge to be very fine music.' It was eventually Fred MacAulay who suggested it that might be the fork-tailed or Leach's petrel. In Gaelic, 'gobhlan-mara', the sound is similar to 'gawlin'. The swallow has a similar name reflecting the forked tail and the song may be closer. Perhaps the key will be the pipe tune

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Birds in the Works of Martin Martin (2 of 2)

1980s; 1990s

botany; zoology; travelogues; gazetteers; ornithology; Western Isles; 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, Skye naturalist - Andrew Currie - identifies many of the birds mentioned in Martin's works.<br /> <br /> The list for North Uist is striking; 'hawks, eagles, pheasants, moor-fowls, ptarmigan, plover, pigeons, crows, swans, and all the ordinary sea-fowls in the West Islands'. Pheasants are a puzzle since research tells me that these were introduced to Lewis between 1856 and 1859. Then there is the legend of the corncrake. Martin says, 'The bird corn-craker. The natives say it lives by the water, and under the ice in winter and spring'. Donald John Munro in 1990 tells the history of corncrakes including Martin's records. <br /> <br /> Other North Uist records include the 'rain goose' (the red-throated diver), the 'bonnivochill', known to seamen as Bishop Carara. This is the great northern diver but who was Bishop Carara and why was the bird named after him? The 'goylir' is the storm petrel, 'sereachan-aittin' might be the tern. 'Faskidar', well described by Martin, is clearly the Arctic skua. The 'colc' is the eider. One puzzled me a lot - 'The gawlin is a fowl less than a duck. It is reckoned a true prognosticator of fair weather; for when it sings, fair and good weather always follows. The piper of St. Kilda plays the notes which it sings, and hath composed a tune to them, which the natives judge to be very fine music.' It was eventually Fred MacAulay who suggested it that might be the fork-tailed or Leach's petrel. In Gaelic, 'gobhlan-mara', the sound is similar to 'gawlin'. The swallow has a similar name reflecting the forked tail and the song may be closer. Perhaps the key will be the pipe tune