Work in Progress (May 2017)
Part 5. The North End Ferry
In the aftermath of the ’45, Duart Castle on Mull served as a garrison for government soldiers and as a naval base. The Commissioners of Supply for Argyllshire were responsible for public roads and ferries and, in 1752, they met to fix the costs for the ferry from Fiart on Lismore to Mull, which was needed for troops coming by land from the north, reaching Duart through the island. The North End ferry was not mentioned but it was part of this chain of communication.
In 1766, the Commissioners received a petition from twelve local landowners, about problems that are familiar even today. There was only one ferry boat based at Port Appin, serving both Lismore and Kingairloch, and “travellers are often detained for several days upon the island, let their business be never so pressing, when wind or tide is contrary.” “The boat is often detained [at Kingairloch] for several days by contrary winds, and other ways, during which time there is no crossing to or from Lismore.”
Their suggested remedy was to employ a second boat and build a “publick house” on the Lismore side for the comfort of waiting travellers. At that time, there was no building of any kind within a mile of Point. However, there was a complication: as today, the ferry landed at “Point of Achuaran”/Ruardgainich (Point), which was on the land of Duncan Campbell of Achuaran (see Part 2); he was a petitioner, but Donald Campbell of Airds (who was not) claimed the
The old ferry slip at Point
exclusive rights to the ferry, and may have been concerned about competition with his existing publick house (further south – see Commissioners minute of 1760; there were 7 or 8 publick houses on Lismore in 1791) . A decision was deferred until Airds could be consulted.
The archive does not record the next step, and there is no evidence that a second ferry boat was introduced at that time but, as shown by births in the Parish Records, a dwelling house of some kind had been built at Ruardgainich by 1777; the father of the baptized child was ferryman Malcolm McFarlane. Patrick Campbell and Elizabeth McVean were living at “Achuaran Ferry” at least between 1778 and 1783, but they had been succeeded by Blacks by 1813 when Colin Black made a subscription to the publication of a Gaelic bible. He was a man of some substance – when he died in 1828, the year of the birth of his last child, the family could afford a gravestone in the churchyard. The 1841 Census provides the first definite evidence for an inn at Point, but it is likely that the McFarlanes, Campbells and Blacks provided hospitality before then.
In 1832, the Lorn District Road Trustees (successors to the Commissioners) set rates for the Port Appin Ferry, now operating with two men and two boats, as follows:
Foot passenger 6d (reduced to 3d each for parties)
Shod horse 1/-
Single cow 6d
Hire to Kingairloch 4/-
John Black and Mary McColl were resident, at least between 1839 and 1847, and he is described as a ferryman, in a household with two servants, in the 1841 Census. The Airds 1839/40 rental suggests that he had a tenancy of land (rent £26) and the Second Statistical Account confirms that there was an “inn at the Point Ferry”. Altogether, the Blacks appeared to be prospering but they were shortly to be replaced.
The former Point Inn
In 1841, Donald McColl (1780-1873) was the miller at Baligrundle in the south of the island, but he returned to Achuaran (where he had been born) when James Cheyne cleared Baligrundle of its tenants. In 1851, aged 70, he was tenant of 25 acres at Point, rent £26, and, in 1861, he was “innkeeper and farmer of 30 acres at Point”. It is likely that the substantial inn building and the impressive steading at Point (now holiday cottages) were built around this time by Alexander Haig. The 1871 census does not include McColl’s landholding but, when he was succeeded by his son Alexander, it was to 120 acres, 60 arable at Point. This was the modern Point and Park Farm, crossing the boundaries of the original Fennachrochain (see Parts 1 and 4). Alexander emigrated to N America in 1887, but died in Ontario, aged 45, in 1889.
Point Steadings today
Donald McColl presided over the Point Inn until his death in 1873 but a drowning accident on 16 March 1879 resulted in the abandonment of its alcohol licence. Thereafter it served for some time as a Temperance Hotel before becoming a private residence. In the 1890s it was the home of John McIntyre, the leading lime merchant on Lismore, praised in the Napier report for his contribution to employment on the island.
From the Scotsman archive:
“An accident resulting in the loss of three lives took place between Appin and Lismore on Wednesday evening. It was pay-day at the limestone quarry on Sheep Island, off Port Appin, and some of the men were more or less under the influence of liquor. Five of them proposed to cross over to Lismore in a boat of 10½ feet keel. Mr Maclachlan, manager of the works, interfered, and succeeded in locking up one of the men, while the other four, named Donald Black, Alexander Macgregor, Alexander Buchanan and Dugald Carmichael, launched the small boat, but they had scarcely put off when they commenced quarrelling and one of them jumped overboard. The noise of the quarrelling in the boat attracted the attention of a young man named Hugh McIntyre, who hurrying down to the water’s edge, saw the occupants of the boat were hardly in a fit state to manage the boat and jumped in to pilot it across to Lismore. Shortly after another dispute arose, which ended in a fight and the boat was capsized. Carmichael was saved by a shepherd putting off a boat from Lismore and Buchanan by Dr Buchanan of Appin but Macgregor was found dead in the boat while McIntyre and Black had sunk. Black and Macgregor were married and leave families. McIntyre was unmarried. It’s believed that the men had been drinking that day at the Inn at Point on Lismore, before going to Sheep Island. When one of the bodies was eventually retrieved from the water, a heel mark impression was found on the side of his face. The Inn at Point was closed and no other has ever opened since.”
Census data 1841-1901
Commissioners of Supply of Argyll, 1752. Extract from the Minutes of 7
May 1752. Relating to the Ferry from Fiart to Mull. Copy in the Lismore archive
Commissioners of Supply of Argyll. 30 April 1766. Copy in the Lismore archive
Lorn District Roads Trustees. Extract from the Minutes 15 October 1832. Fares for Lismore ferries. Copy in the Lismore archive.
McGregor G. (1841). Second Statistical Account of Scotland. United Parish of Lismore and Appin.
McNicol D. (1791). First Statistical Account of Scotland., Vol. 1. LII. United Parishes of Lismore and Appin.
NRS GD174/1166 Particulars and Rental of the Farms for sale by Campbell of
Airds., 1839/40. Copy in the Lismore archive.
Old Parish Records, Lismore Parish. 1766-1854. Copies in the Lismore archive.
Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Crofters and Cotters in the Highlands of Scotland (18884). (Napier Commission).
Scotsman 13 December 1879. Fatal Boat Accident at Appin.
White A M. (2009). St Moluag’s Church, Isle of Lismore. Transcription of the
Gravestones in the Old Graveyard. Published privately.