by Denis Rixson
Knoydart – the northern edge of the ‘Rough Bounds’ is one of the most evocative names in Scotland. This text offers a history of Knoydart from the earliest times to the present day.
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Knoydart – the northern edge of the ‘Rough Bounds’ is one of the most evocative names in Scotland. This text offers a history of Knoydart from the earliest times to the present day. A remote and desolate peninsula, its name derives from Viking settlers who only reckoned it worth three ouncelands – compared to five for the island of Eigg.
Its warlike but impoverished inhabitants caused endless problems for their neighbours during the 17th century before becoming notorious in the 18th century under the leadership of Coll of Barrisdale. His protection racket has bequeathed the word ‘blackmail’ to the English language and he was notorious across Scotland. For the Jacobites, as well, Knoydart was a fertile recruiting ground. In the 18th and 19th centuries the area suffered large scale emigration, partly as a result of the brutal clearances of 1853. A further long century of decline followed, during which sheep and then deer were preferred to people. In 1948 discontent swelled again and it became the scene of the famous land-raid by the ‘Seven men from Knoydart’. It has changed hands more often in the last 150 years than in the previous 700 years. The land continues to lie at the heart of the Knoydart problem and the book attempts to place events in their larger historical context. This is the struggle of a community to preserve itself against the harshness of the environment and the cynical exploitation of man.
Denis Rixson is a schoolteacher, local historian and bookshop proprietor in Mallaig.