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TITLE
Reptiles in the Works of Martin Martin
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_ANDREWCURRIE_06
PERIOD
1980s; 1990s
CREATOR
Andrew Currie
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
1812
KEYWORDS
botany
zoology
travelogues
gazetteers
snakes
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 from 1996, Skye naturalist - Andrew Currie - identifies many of the reptile species mentioned in Martin's works.

The account of reptiles and amphibians is patchy, except for Skye, which Martin knew best. Adders are reported from Harris, Eriskay, Jura, Mull and Skye. For Skye he speaks of 'vipers, frogs, toads, and asps'. The asp is simply a small, poisonous snake. Martin, however, recognizes three kinds on Skye, 'Serpents abound in several parts of this isle; there are three kinds of them, the first black and white spotted, which is the most poisonous'. Later, 'The yellow serpent with brown spots, is not so poisonous, nor so long as the black and white one'. Adders do vary in colour and Martin does not mention the zig-zag black line along the back. The female tends to be larger than the male but is also brownish with a zig-zag brown line. I think Martin is describing male and female differences, not different species. His final one - the brown serpent - is 'of all three the least poisonous and smallest and shortest in size'. I take this to be the slow worm, not really a snake at all but a legless lizard

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Reptiles in the Works of Martin Martin

1980s; 1990s

botany; zoology; travelogues; gazetteers; snakes; 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 from 1996, Skye naturalist - Andrew Currie - identifies many of the reptile species mentioned in Martin's works.<br /> <br /> The account of reptiles and amphibians is patchy, except for Skye, which Martin knew best. Adders are reported from Harris, Eriskay, Jura, Mull and Skye. For Skye he speaks of 'vipers, frogs, toads, and asps'. The asp is simply a small, poisonous snake. Martin, however, recognizes three kinds on Skye, 'Serpents abound in several parts of this isle; there are three kinds of them, the first black and white spotted, which is the most poisonous'. Later, 'The yellow serpent with brown spots, is not so poisonous, nor so long as the black and white one'. Adders do vary in colour and Martin does not mention the zig-zag black line along the back. The female tends to be larger than the male but is also brownish with a zig-zag brown line. I think Martin is describing male and female differences, not different species. His final one - the brown serpent - is 'of all three the least poisonous and smallest and shortest in size'. I take this to be the slow worm, not really a snake at all but a legless lizard