1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Argyllshire
ARGYLLSHIRE, a county on the west coast of Scotland, the second largest in the country, embracing a large tract of country on the mainland and a number of the Hebrides or Western Isles. The mainland portion is bounded N. by Inverness-shire; E. by Perth and Dumbarton, Loch Long and the Firth of Clyde; S. by the North Channel (Irish Sea); and W. by the Atlantic. Its area is 1,990,471 acres or 3110 sq. m. The principal districts are Ardnamurchan on the Atlantic, Ardnamurchan Point being the most westerly headland of Scotland; Morven or Morvern, bounded by Loch Sunart, the Sound of Mull and Loch Linnhe; Appin, on Loch Linnhe, with piers at Ballachulish and Port Appin; Benderloch, lying between Loch Creran and Loch Etive; Lorne, surrounding Loch Etive and giving the title of marquess to the Campbells; Argyll, in the middle of the shire, containing Inveraray Castle and furnishing the titles of earl and duke to the Campbells; Cowall, between Loch Fyne and the Firth of Clyde, in which lie Dunoon and other favourite holiday resorts; Knapdale between the Sound of Jura and Loch Fyne; and Kintyre or Cantyre, a long narrow peninsula (which, at the isthmus of Tarbert, is little more than 1 m. wide), the southernmost point of which is known as the Mull, the nearest part of Scotland to the coast of Ireland, only 13 m. distant.
There are no navigable rivers. The two principal mountain streams are the Orchy and Awe. The Orchy flows from Loch Tulla through Glen Orchy, and falls into the north-eastern end of Loch Awe; and the Awe drains the loch at its north-western extremity, discharging into Loch Etive. Among other streams are the Add, Aray, Coe or Cona, Creran, Douglas, Eachaig, Etive, Euchar, Feochan, Finart, Fyne, Kinglass, Nell, Ruel, Shiel, Shira, Strae and Uisge-Dhu. The county is remarkable for the numerous sea-lochs which deeply indent the coast, the principal being Loch Long (with its branches Loch Goil and the Holy Loch), Loch Striven (Rothesay’s “weather glass”), Loch Riddon, Loch Fyne (with Loch Gilp and Loch Gair), Lochs Tarbert, Killisport, Swin, Crinan, Craignish, Melfort, Feochan, Etive, Linnhe (with its branches Loch Creran, Loch Leven and Loch Eil) and Sunart. There are also a large number of inland lakes, the total area of which is about 25,000 acres. Of these the principal are Lochs Awe, Avich, Eck, Lydoch and Shiel. The principal islands are Mull, Islay, Jura, Colonsay, Lismore, Tyree, Coll, Gigha, Luing and Kerrera. Besides these there are the two small but interesting islands of Staffa and Iona. The mountains are so many as to give the shire a markedly rugged character. Some of them are among the loftiest in the kingdom, as Ben Cruachan with its summit of twin pyramids (3689 ft.), Ben More, in Mull (3172), Ben Ima (3318), Buachaille Etive (3345), Ben Bui (3106), Ben Lui (or Loy), on the confines of the shires of Perth and Argyll (3708), Ben Starav near the head of Loch Etive (3541), and Ben Arthur, called from its shape “The Cobbler” (2891), on the borders of Dumbartonshire. There are many picturesque glens, of which the best-known are Glen Aray, Glen Croe, Glen Etive, Glendaruel, Glen Lochy (“the wearisome glen”—some 10 m. of bare hills and boulders—between Tyndrum and Dalmally), Glen Strae, Hell’s Glen (off Lech Goil) and Glencoe, the scene of the massacre in 1692. The waterfalls of Cruachan are beautiful; and those of Connel, which are more in the nature of rapids, caused by the rush of the ebbing tide over the rocky bar at the narrowing mouth of Loch Etive, have been made celebrated by Ossian, who called them “the Falls of Lora.” In several of the glens, as Glen Aray, small falls may be seen, enhanced in beauty when the rivers are in flood. Pre-eminently Argyll is the shire of the sportsman. The lovely Western Isles provide endless enjoyment for the yachtsman; the lochs and rivers abound with salmon and trout; the deer forests and grouse moors are second to none in Scotland.
Climate.—The rainfall is very abundant. At Oban, the average annual amount is 64.18 in.; in Glen Fyne, 104.11 in.; at the bridge of Orchy, 113.62 in., and at Upper Glencoe 127.65. The prevailing winds, as observed near Crinan, are south-west and south-east, and next in frequency are the north-west and north-east. The average yearly temperature is 48° F.
Agriculture.—Argyllshire was formerly partly covered with natural forests, remains of which, consisting chiefly of oak, ash, pine and birch, are still visible in the mosses; but, owing to the clearance of the ground for the introduction of sheep, and to past neglect of planting, the county is now remarkable for its lack of wood, except in the neighbourhood of Inveraray, where there are extensive and flourishing plantations, and a few other places. Replanting, however, has been carried on. Most of the county is unfitted for agriculture; but many districts afford fine pasturage for mountain sheep; and some of the valleys, such as Glendaruel, are very fertile. The chief crop is oats; there is a little barley, but no wheat. The shire is one of those where the crofting system exists, but it is by no means universal. It is predominant in Tyree and the western district of the mainland, but elsewhere farms of moderate size are the rule. The cattle, though small, are equal to any other breed in the kingdom, and are marketed in large numbers in the south. Dairy farming is carried on to some extent in the southern parts of Kintyre, where there is a large proportion of arable land. In the higher tracts sheep have taken the place of cattle with excellent results. The black-faced is the species most generally reared.
Industries.—Whisky is manufactured at Campbeltown, in Islay, at Oban, Ardrishaig and elsewhere. Gunpowder is made at Kames (Kyles of Bute), Melfort and Furnace. Coarse woollens are made for home use; but fishing is the most important industry, Loch Fyne being famous for its herrings. The season lasts from June to January, but white fishing is carried on at one or other of the ports all the year round. Slate and granite quarrying and some coal-mining are the only other industries of any consequence.
Communications.—Owing partly to the paucity of trading industries and partly to the fact that, owing to its greatly indented coast-line, no place in the shire is more than 12 m. from the sea, the railway mileage in the county is very small. The Tyndrum to Oban section of the Caledonian railway company’s system is within the county limits; a small portion of the track of the North British railway company’s line to Mallaig skirts the extreme west of the shire, and the Caledonian line from Oban to Ballachulish serves the northern coast districts of the Argyllshire mainland. In connexion with this last route mention should be made of the cantilever bridge crossing the Falls of Lora with a span of 500 ft. at a height of 125 ft. above the water-way. The chief means of communication is by steamers, which maintain regular intercourse between Glasgow and various parts of the coast. In order to avoid the circuitous passage round the Mull of Kintyre the Crinan Canal, across the isthmus from Ardrishaig to Loch Crinan, a distance of 9 m., was constructed in 1793-1801, at a cost of £142,000. It has 15 locks, an average depth of 10 ft., a surface width of 66 ft., and bottom width of 30 ft., is navigable by vessels of 200 tons, and runs through a district of remarkable beauty. Another canal unites Campbeltown with Dalavaddy. In summer the mails for the islands and the great bulk of the tourist traffic by the MacBrayne fleet is conveyed through the Crinan Canal, transhipment being effected at Ardrishaig and Crinan. Throughout the year goods traffic between the Clyde and elsewhere and the West Highland ports is conveyed by deep-sea steamers round the Mull. Before the advent of railways the shire contained many famous coaching routes, but now coaches only run during the tourist season, either in connexion with train and steamer, or in districts still not served by either.
Population and Government.—Owing to emigration, chiefly to Canada, the population has declined, almost without a break, since 1831, when it was 100,973, to 74,085 in 1891 and 73,642 in 1901, in which year there were 24 persons to the sq. m. In 1901 the number of Gaelic-speaking persons was 34,224, of whom 3313 spoke Gaelic only. The chief towns are Campbeltown (population in 1901, 8286), Dunoon (6779) and Oban (5427), with Ardrishaig (1285), Ballachulish (1143), Lochgilphead (1313) and Tarbert (1697). The county returns a member to parliament. Inveraray, Campbeltown and Oban belong to the Ayr district group of parliamentary burghs. Argyllshire is a sheriffdom, and there are resident sheriffs-substitute at Inveraray, Campbeltown and Oban; courts are held also at Tobermory, Lochgilphead, Bowmore in Islay, and Dunoon. Both Presbyterian bodies are strongly represented; there are Roman Catholic and (Anglican) Episcopal bishops of Argyll and the Isles, and there is a Roman Catholic pro-cathedral at Oban. Campbeltown, Dunoon and Oban have secondary schools, Tarbert public school has a secondary department, and several other schools earn grants for giving higher education. Part of the “residue” grant is spent by the county council on classes of navigation and other subjects in various schools, short courses in agriculture for farmers, and in providing bursaries.
History.—The early history of Argyll (Airergaidheal) is very obscure. At the close of the 5th century Fergus, son of Erc, a descendant of Conor II., airdrigh or high king of Ireland, came over with a band of Irish Scots and established himself in Argyll and Kintyre. Nothing more is known till, in the days of Conall I., the descendant of Fergus in the fourth generation, St Columba appears. Conall died in 574, and Columba was mainly instrumental in establishing his first cousin, Aidan, founder of the Dalriad kingdom and ancestor of the royal house of Scotland, in power. In the 8th century Argyll, with the Western Islands and Man, fell under the power of the Norsemen until, in the 12th century, Somerled (or Somhairle), a descendant of Colla-Uais, airdrigh of Ireland (327–331), succeeded in ousting them and established his authority, not only as thane of Argyll, but also in Kintyre and the Western Islands. Somerled died in 1164 and his descendants maintained themselves in Argyll and the islands, between the conflicting claims of the kings of Scotland, Norway and Man, until the end of the 15th century.
Up to 1222 Argyll had formed an independent Celtic princedom; but in that year it was reduced by Alexander II., the Scottish king, to a sheriffdom, and was henceforth regarded as an integral part of Scotland. Among the various clans in Argyll, the Campbells of Loch Awe, a branch of the clan McArthur, now began to come to the fore, though the mainland was still chiefly in the possession of the MacDougals. The position of the lords of the house of Somerled was now curious, since they were feudatories of the king of Norway for the isles and of the king of Scotland for Argyll. Their policy in the wars between the two powers was a masterly neutrality. Thus, during the expedition of Alexander II. to the Western Isles in 1249, Ewan (Eoghan), lord of Argyll, refused to fight against the Norwegians; in 1263 the same Ewan refused to join Haakon of Norway in attacking Alexander III. Forty years later the clansmen of Argyll, mainly MacDougals, were warring on the side of Edward of England against Robert Bruce, by whom they were badly beaten on Loch Awe in 1309. The clansmen of the house of Somerled in the isles, on the other hand, the MacDonalds, remained loyal to Scotland in spite of the persuasions of John of Argyll, appointed admiral of Edward II.’s western fleet; and, under their chief Angus Og, they contributed much to the victory of Bannockburn. The alliance of John, earl of Ross and lord of the Isles, with Edward IV. of England in 1461 led to the breaking of the power of the house of Somerled, and in 1478 John was forced to resign Ross to the crown and, two years later, his lordships of Knapdale and Kintyre as well. In Argyll itself the Campbells had already made the first step to supremacy through the marriage of Colin, grandson of Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochow, first Lord Campbell, with Isabel Stewart, eldest of the three co-heiresses of John, third lord of Lorne. He acquired the greater part of the lands of the other sisters by purchase, and the lordship of Lorne from Walter their uncle, the heir in tail male, by an exchange for lands in Perthshire. In 1457 he was created, by James II., earl of Argyll. He died on the 10th of May 1493. From him dates the greatness of the house of the earls and dukes of Argyll (q.v.), whose history belongs to that of Scotland. The house of Somerled survives in two main branches—that of Macdonald of the Isles, Alexander Macdonald (d. 1795) having been raised to the peerage in 1776, and that of the Macdonnells, earls of Antrim in Ireland. The principal clans in Argyll, besides those already mentioned, were the Macleans, the Stewarts of Appin, the Macquarries and the Macdonalds of Glencoe, and the Macfarlanes of Glencroe. The Campbells are still very numerous in the county.
Argyllshire men have made few contributions to English literature. For long the natives spoke Gaelic only and their bards sang in Gaelic (see Celt: Literature: Scottish). Near Inistrynich on the north-eastern shore of Loch Awe stands the monumental cairn erected in honour of Duncan Ban McIntyre (1724–1812), the most popular of modern Gaelic bards. But the romantic beauty of the country has made it a favourite setting for the themes of many poets and story-tellers, from “Ossian” and Sir Walter Scott to Robert Louis Stevenson, while not a few men distinguished in affairs or in learning have been natives of the county.
The antiquities comprise monoliths, circles of standing stones, crannogs and cairns. In almost all the burying-grounds—as at Campbeltown, Keil, Soroby, Kilchousland, Kilmun—there are specimens of sculptured crosses and slabs. Besides the famous ecclesiastical remains at Iona (q.v.), there are ruins of a Cistercian priory in Oronsay, and of a church founded in the 12th century by Somerled, thane of Argyll, at Saddell. Among castles may be mentioned Dunstaffnage, Ardtornish, Skipness, Kilchurn (beloved of painters), Ardchonnel, Dunolly, Stalker, Dunderaw and Carrick.