Tracing the History of Baligrundle

Until 1734, Baligrundle was owned by the Campbell Lords of Glenorchy (Earls of Breadalbane from 1681), who were inveterate hoarders of family and estate papers.  Many of these are now preserved in the National Archives of Scotland (NAS), including a unique plan of the township of Baligrundle1, probably drawn up around 1734 when the second Earl gave his Lismore landholding to the Campbells of Barcaldine in exchange for land on the mainland2.

Fig 2 Baligrundle Today

Fig 2 Baligrundle Today

Fig 1 Baligrundle PLan

Fig 1 Baligrundle PLan

Although it is not geographically accurate, the plan and the accompanying commentary give some unique insights into how the land was managed before the period of agricultural improvement and clearance.  Figure 1 shows the township area on the plan reduced in scale and re-orientated to allow comparison with Baligrundle today (Fig. 2); but a copy of the A3 sized original (and an accompanying plan of Killean), kindly donated by Archie and Ina MacColl, can be studied in the Lismore Museum archive.  The main feature that allows comparison between the two maps is the triangle of wet meadow, which in the modern map lies between the houses of Baligrundle 1 and 2.

Baligrundle 2&1 from Dun Mor

Baligrundle 2&1 from Dun Mor


How the Township was Rented

The township, known as Baligrundle and Tirewin (Tirone) was rated as a 6 merkland3, indicating that the original annual rent had been 6 merks or 4 pounds.  In spite of the approximate shape of the township in the plan (Fig. 1), it seems that it was substantially the same area as the present Baligrundle holdings 1-4 (265 acres or 107 ha, see below), apart from the transfer of Cullandhoir field and the mill to Kilcheran, which seems to have occurred during the 19th century under the ownership of James Cheyne.  There may also have been some readjustment to the north where the boundaries are now with Tirlaggan and Newfield.  In the plan the boundaries are with Achnacroish (AB), the sea (BC), Kilcheran (CD, including the shore of Kilcheran Loch, here called Clachleac Loch) and Craignich (DE).

In 1707, Baligrundle and Tirewin was leased for 21 years to Alexander Campbell of Clenamacrie (near Oban) for:

18 bolls of oatmeal (at 6 pounds Scots per boll);

10 bolls of bere barley, 2 bolls of bere barley (for the teind), 1 firlot and 1

peck bere barley (for the mill tax/multure) (bere at 10 merks Scots per boll);

2 quarts aquavitae (whisky) (at 5 marks per quart);

totalling 196 pounds and 16 shillings, in money equivalent4.  The agreement was by a written tack, obliging Alexander Campbell to fulfil all the traditional feudal duties, including “all hosting, hunting, watching warding and stenting as the reste of the Earls tacksmen doo”.  Alexander, the tacksman, was paying the entire rent to Breadalbane, after collecting from his subtenants, who would have farmed the township collectively.

By the 1740s, Baligrundle had passed into the possession of Colin Campbell of Glenure5, the victim of the Appin Murder in 1752, succeeded by his brother Duncan.   By 1777, Duncan had paid the debts of the senior branch of his family, acquiring both the lands and title of Barcaldine (correctly Campbell of Barcaldine and Glenure). Under their ownership there was no intermediary tacksman and each tenant had a verbal agreement for his part of the township.  We know this because, on 15 March 1766, Archibald McIntyre “possessor of one sixth of Ballegrundle”, agreed, with others, “to flit and remove ourselves our wives children collars [roof timbers] goods and gear furth & from our saids respective possessions at and against the term of Whitsunday next to come under the penalty of ten pound Sterling”6.  This was an individual rather than a communal eviction.  Around that time, one of the tenants may well have lost the leather shoe found by Donald Black, authenticated as 18th century by the National Museum of Scotland, and held by Argyll Museums.

Baligrundle Farmhouse

Baligrundle Farmhouse


We will probably never know how the township lands, then lying in runrig, were divided fairly into six parts, and to what extent the division was a communal decision or imposed by the owner through a ground officer.  The division may have been permanent or reviewed each year. What the estate plan does show is that the tenants lived together:  “the letter h in the wintertown shews place where all the houses and barns are all closs upon one anoyr”.  The lack of any evidence of building elsewhere  indicates that the settlement was at the site of the present farmhouse and steading on Baligrundle 2.  Occupation of this site may well have been continuous since the building in the Iron Age of Dun Mor overlooking the farm, or even longer as there is a round structure immediately to the north of the house that could be a Bronze Age cairn, and another cairn lies to the south of the dun.  Another dun, Sean Dun, lies on the shore of Baligrundle 1.  The second part of the name of the township (Norse for green valley) indicates that there was also a Viking Age farm at Baligrundle.  The tenants were able to cut peats and draw water close nearby.  The field name Sheanvall (the old township) may provide a clue to the location of Tirewin.

Ruins of Baligrundle Mill

Ruins of Baligrundle Mill

The miller had his own house (h) and an acre of ground (a) at the south end of the township, now in Kilcheran.  This seems to have been restricted to the strip of low ground between the cliff and the burn, offering very limited scope for any farming activity.  The surviving ruins of the mill, and the cottage on the mill lands, built with mortar, are almost certainly nineteenth century (later than the plan).

Ruined Cottage On the original mill land

Ruined Cottage On the original mill land

Mills were usually a source of some trouble or other, particularly since millers were suspected of cheating their customers.  During the period that Alexander Campbell of Clenamachrie was tacksman, and profiting from the mill, there was a major dispute with the owners of lands surrounding the loch over his rights to draw water.  In the end, in December1728, Campbell and the miller (John Macilchonnel) had to appeal to Barcaldine for  protection against Alexander Campbell of Airds, Donald Campbell of Airds, Hugh Stewart in Clochlea and 22 others from Lismore (including the parish minister, Archibald Campbell who was tacksman of Cloichlea) who were damaging the mill and its watergang (lade)7 8

Turf & stone dykes Baligrundle 2

Turf & stone dykes Baligrundle 2



How the Land was Farmed

In the 18th century on Lismore every possible scrap of arable land was sown to cereals (bere barley and oats), with potatoes coming in as a major crop towards the end of the century.  The plan shows the township lands divided up into infield and outfield by dykes (decks in the commentary);  there are traces of very old turf and stone dykes (known as feal dykes across Scotland) as well as drystone dykes in several places on the township.  Looking over the land today, it is clear that the infield areas included cleared and levelled land, cropped every year and that the outfield areas were very rocky, with small patches of ground that would have been cultivated (with great difficulty, possibly by spade) for a few years at a time.  By the early 19th century in Argyll9, there was a simple 3-year rotation for the infield, involving oats, bere and potatoes. Today some of the former infield land is cropped for silage but the outfields have reverted to rough grazing.

Turf & stone dyke Baligrundle 2

Turf & stone dyke Baligrundle 2


Some of the field names are self explanatory:  Achnaslock (field of the hollow/ravine); Glackmore (big hollow?);  but  Neorlin and Cullandhoir are more difficult.  Donald Black has suggested that the old name Tirewin may actually be Tir Uaine – green land.

Photo 7  The Kilcheran Islands, where horses summered.JPG small

The Kilcheran Islands where the horses were summered and seals were hunted

The Wintertown (Baile geamhraidh) field was infield arable, surrounding the houses and steadings of the tenants, as in the contemporary plan of Killean.  In an agricultural economy that concentrated on grain production, there would have been relatively few cattle on Baligrundle, possibly 25 head for the six families.  As the plan does not mention sheilings, and only horses were summered on the islands, the cattle would have grazed on the uncultivable areas of pasture marked p on the plan, including the steep slopes along the shore.  Herdboys and girls would have been responsible for keeping them out of the crops;  in the 1841 census, three boys, aged 10, 12 and 14  were identified as herds, serving four farming families.  In the winter, the cattle were brought back to the wintertown where their grazing on the arable stubble would have been supplemented by “yearly a good quantity of fyne hay” harvested from the meadow between Neorlin and Achnaslockmore fields.  This low-lying area was fertile, receiving lime-rich water from its surroundings, but too wet to cultivate.  There would also Have been straw from the corn stack as the grain was progressively threshed.

The proprietor, Duncan Campbell of Glenure, was particularly active in promoting  the linen industry on Lismore, encouraging the production of flax, and its transformation into linen on the island.  Baligrundle became the most important area for this new crop, producing 100 out of the 186 stones of flax supplied by the island townships for spinning in 176110.  In 1762 Katherine, daughter of Donald MacIntyre, and Ann, daughter of Donald Black, both Baligrundle tenants, were two of the first pupils at the spinning school set up by Glenure at Killean11.  However, the linen enterprise did not last for long and flax ceased to be a major source of income.

The Nineteenth Century 

The rental of Barcaldine’s Estates on Lismore12 gives details of the Baligrundle tenants in the early years of the 19th century:

Lot No             Tenant                         Rent 1815-24              Rent 1824-30

1                      Donald MacColl          £45                              £51  8  6


2                      John MacKeich           £52  10  0                    £60

3                      Dugald MacColl          £52  10  0                    £60

4                      Archibald MacColl     £105                            £120

5.                     James Carmichael       £37                              £42   5  6

6.                     Dugald Carmichael     £37                              £42   5  6

7.                     Duncan Black             £42                              £48

Even though the agricultural economy was in recession after the Napoleonic War, and several of the tenants were in arrears13, Barcaldine raised the rents in the township by around 15% in 1824.  Dugald and James Carmichael were the brothers of Hugh Carmichael (father of Alexander, the famous folklorist), a cottar on Baligrundle until he moved to a tenancy on Portcharron around 182314.

We know that life was not exactly harmonious in Baligrundle from two petitions to the landlord15.  Seal oil was an important commodity on the island, for example for  lighting, and waterproofing boots, and a quantity of seal oil had formerly been a part of the rent for the township (now converted into a cash equivalent).  By 1816, Archibald MacColl and Dugald MacColl were the only tenants maintaining nets for catching seals among the KilcheranIslands.  On 28 August 1816, they wrote to Barcaldine explaining that, the previous Friday, they had set their nets between Eilean na Cloiche, Pladda and Creag Island but that, early in the morning, “they found the netts wrapped up disorderly, torn in many parts and shattered to pieces in others, after what they contained had been pillaged, leaving only behind the streams of blood that issued from the animals caught in them.”  They had suspected their neighbour, John (Baun) MacKeich, described as a troublemaker in the township, and, sure enough, they found blood in his boat.  When they confronted MacKeich about his theft, he eventually  “brought the concealed property into their presence and dared them to take it away with them.”

The petition went on to explain that MacKeich (“the incidious robber or thief”) remained obdurate, claiming that he had the landlord’s authority for his actions.  This was clearly only the most recent trouble between them, as the petition mentions another dispute still in progress where, although Barcaldine had ordered MacKeich to pay damages, he had refused.  The MacColls had been “obliged to bring an action which is now pending before The Lord of Council and Session”.

The letter concludes:

From what has been said and from much more that might have been said of John Baun MKeich the Petitioners have reason to consider themselves in immediate danger of loosing more of their property unless a remedy be hereby provided …. the present application becomes indespensible necessary for the preservation of peace & the utility of public justice.

May it therefore please your Honor to consider the premises, find him liable to the Petitioners in a suitable sum, for the damage he causes them ….. to find him liable in the trouble and expences of this application, and subsequent procedures.

In 1817, there was also trouble at the Mill:

The petition of Donald MColl Miller Baligrundle..Humbly sheweth that the tenants absolutely refuses to pay the dues of barley which your Honour hath ordered to your Petitioner proportionalee to a one peck per every bole of what they would sale – and do they so stubbornly stood against what your Honour ordered.  Your Petitioner then only demanded what they use formerly to pay which they also refused.  Therefore your Petr. hopes that your Honour will compell the said tenants to come to terms of satisfaction to your Petitioner and as in duty bound

We can get some idea of the living conditions of the tenants at this time from a bill of comprisement, on 14 June 1816, of a “house and byer built by John MacKeith in Ballegundle” by Hugh Carmichael in Achuaran, Colin Black and Archd. McColl16:

Valued the dwelling house with two gavils [gables] one vent [chimney], three couples [pairs of rafters] pantrees [?] and cabers [wood supporting the thatch] all of oak, 36 feet long, 14 feet wide, 8 feet high in sidewall, valued at £12.15.0

Valued the byer with two gavills, two couples and all timbers of oak  £8

We the above mentioned valuators have seen two couples binded for the barn and pantrees and cabers all of oak

By the 1840s, several Argyll landlords were in financial trouble, and James Auchinleck Cheyne took the opportunity to acquire all of the south east of Lismore:  Achanard, Fiart and Craignich from Campbell of Combie by 184217;  Kilcheran, Baligrundle, Achnacroish, Killean, Tirlaggan and Portcharron from Campbell of Barcaldine by 184518.  He embarked on a policy of converting most of the townships from arable farming to the extensive grazing of livestock. 

Although the annual preparation of the rigs for cereal growing would have been done using horsepower, there was a great deal of manual work to do, particularly at harvest.  The traditional township needed a good supply of labour, but, as far as the landlord was concerned, they became redundant when the land was transformed into a sheep run.  In 184119, four heads of household in Baligrundle were described as farmers, one as miller, and 41 people in total were recorded from nine households in the township.   By 185120, the miller was still in residence but all of the farmers had gone, being replaced by a single shepherd.  The total population was 30 in seven households, mainly headed by men described as labourers.  Of the tenants in 1841, Donald MacColl, the miller, had moved to farm 25 acres at Achuran;  Archibald MacColl had died;  Allan Black was a landless labourer in the adjacent township of Kilcheran;  and Dugald MacColl appears to have left the island.  Neither of Hugh’s brothers appears in the 1851 Lismore census but Dugald was recorded as a pauper in Achnacroish ten years later, and James died in Glasgow in 187121.  In 186122, the total population was 2:  Hugh McPhail aged 47, shepherd, and his brother’s widow.

More research is needed on the activities of the Cheyne family on Lismore up to 1874 when all their Lismore lands were sold to the Duke of Argyll.  The only documentary evidence at present is from census returns, and the Napier Report in 188323, forty years after the main clearance events.  It is likely that the division of Baligrundle into five units (see below) and their subdivision for grazing management by high drystone dykes took place in the 1840s and 1850s, presumably by the paid work of the labourers living in the township before 1861.   Ground officer letters from elsewhere on Lismore indicate that tenants rather than imported dykers were responsible for dyke building on the island24.

Under the ownership of the Duke of Argyll, the agricultural economy remained the same, with the townships of Baligrundle, Craignich and Kilcheran operating as single farms, or in combination, managed by men brought in mainly from the SW of Scotland.  From around 1867 to the 1880’s, David Paterson and sons, farmers based in Dumfriesshire, but not resident on Lismore25, played a large part in the management of the Cheyne and then the Argyll estates.  Census returns show that, in 1871, Baligrundle and Craignich were jointly farmed by John McIntyre, described as a farmer of 400 acres, 5 of which were arable, and William Shankland from Dumfries was manager at Kilcheran26.  By 188127 William Duff from Kircudbright appears as the manager of the whole Argyll estate on the island (1800 acres, 30 arable) but, by 1891, three farmers were listed:  William Duff (Baligrundle), James Macfarlane from Jura (Craignich) and William Shankland (Kilcheran).  The latest available census (1901) has John Shankland farming at Craignich, George Irvine from Dumfries managing Baligrundle, and William Shankland still at Kilcheran;  but Argyll estate papers show that John Shankland Jr (son of William) had both Baligrundle and Craignich in 1913.

The People of the Township 

Under Glenorchy/Breadalbane ownership, the tenants were expected to attend the Lismore baron court held annually at Drishaig near KilchurnCastle on Loch Awe, normally in the summer months between June and August.  The business of the court, conducted in Scots not Gaelic, was mainly to regulate the management of the land, although it occasionally dealt with civil cases, and tenants were excused from swearing their oaths if they were “lying sick on Lismore”.  This annual trek to a court conducted in a foreign language must have been unpopular, at the least.  Later, under Barcaldine, the court was held nearer to home at Ferlochan in Barcaldine.

Records of the Lismore court survive in reasonable condition for the years 1615-1620, 1624, 1628-30, 1634-5, 1638, 1641-3 in the Breadalbane papers and there are several rentals for later in the 17th century.  These documents in “Secretary” handwriting are difficult to read and the Museum is currently arranging for them to be deciphered by an expert in handwriting.  This will allow us to find out the names of the seventeenth century tenants, how they paid their rent, and some of the offences they committed. The last courts, held at Taylochan on Lismore in February 1749, on behalf of Colin Campbell of Glenure, were taken up with establishing which tenants did “cutt, peel, bark or pull up by the roots” ash, oak or alder trees on Glenure’s lands.

In the 17th century and later, the surname MacIntyre was prominent amongst tenants and millers, and Donald MacIntyre was ground officer for the township in the early years of the nineteenth century.  As we have seen from the Barcaldine rental, the tenants up to 1830 were MacColls, Carmichaels, MacKeichs and Blacks and, in the the 1841 census, MacColl was the dominant surname.  From the Baligrundle Carmichaels came two men who would become eminent in artistic circles:  Alexander Carmichael, the folklorist, and Archibald Knox the Liberty-based designer of silverware (grandson of Dugald Carmichael).  Malcolm MacColl, son of the late Archibald MacColl tenant in Baligrundle, was the central character in the “deforcement crisis” in 1843, when officers of the law were twice violently prevented from arresting him28.

The Re-settlement of Baligrundle 

George Campbell the 8th Duke of Argyll reported to the Napier Commission in 188329 that “I have no hesitation in saying that my property in Lismore is one of the few cases I know in which consolidation has been carried much too far. But I am not responsible. I purchased the property only a few years ago, and found almost the whole of it under lease to one sheep-farmer, whose ordinary residence and whose largest farms are in the Low Country.”    However, more than 30 years were to pass before the cleared lands on Lismore, now owned by his son, John Campbell the 9th Duke, were resettled.

Following the report of the Napier Commission and the passing of the Crofters’ Act in 1886, there was considerable pressure across the Highlands and Islands for the establishment of new crofts.  The Congested Districts Board was set up for this purpose in 1897 and, from 1906, one of the remits of the new Board of Agriculture for Scotland was land reform.   Lismore was not included in the Congested Areas but that did not prevent an unsuccessful petition being launched in 1907 for the break up of Frackersaig into smallholdings30.

Out of this political climate came the proposal by the Board, in 1913, to divide Baligrundle into four, and Craignich into nine, new crofts for occupation by local families31. Records of the Land Court preserved in the archives at Inveraray show that, by November 1913, the Board had selected four candidates from Lismore that met their requirements for the Baligrundle crofts:

Baligrundle 1 (90 acres 1 rood 8 perches) annual rent £40.12.0

Baligrundle 2 (82 acres 3 roods 11 perches)  £40

Baligrundle 3 (54 acres 1 perch)  £26

Baligrundle 4 (39 acres 1 rood 17 perches) £19

1.  Dugald McGregor, 35, single, with £300 capital.  Mason, living at  Kilandrist, with experience of farm service for some years

2.  Dugald Campbell, 35, single, with £250 capital.  Ploughman, living at Killean, involved in farm work all his life

3.  Alexander Macgregor, 36, single, with £200 capital.  Ploughman, living at Balure, with several years experience of farm service

4.  John Black, 55, married with 1 son (7) and 4 daughters (16, 14, 12, 10),with £40 capital, 1 cow and young cattle.  Shepherd, living at Kilcheran, constantly engaged in agricultural work

However, the rent book shows that, from Martinmas 1914, the tenants were:

Baligrundle 1 Dugald Campbell;

Baligrundle 2 Donald McColl (later Alexander Macgregor);

Baligrundle 3  Colin Black;

Baligrundle 4 John Black;

each paying the rents as agreed by the Land Court in 1913.  Colin Black (64) was ploughman at Achuran in 1901, with 3 sons and 4 daughters.  Donald McColl, from Balnagowan, did not settle in Baligrundle, moving on to Garmony in Mull32.

The 1871 Ordnance Survey map shows a dwelling house and steading on Baligrundle 2 only, with no other buildings on Baligrundle 1,3 or 4 but, by 1913, there were  buildings on Baligrundle 1.  The deeds of the present farmhouse on Baligrundle 3 show that it was started in 1914 to meet the needs of the incoming tenant.

Further research is needed to establish what the tenants of 1 and 4 were provided with at entry, and how the new building was financed.

The file in the Inveraray archive records several years of struggle by the new Duke (Niall Campbell, the 10th Duke from 1914-1949) and his agents to secure compensation from the Land Court for the assets transferred to the tenants.  Some idea of how the tenants prospered after the re-settlement can be gained by studying a valuable new accession by the Lismore Museum archive:  Papers relating to the management of Baligrundle and Killean crofts (agricultural invoices and receipts, general papers, catalogues of livestock sales etc), spanning nearly the entire 20th century.  Donated by the Campbell family, formerly of No. 1 Baligrundle.


This webpage is very much Work in Progress, drawing information from Donald Black, Norma and Gillespic Black, Beth Campbell, Fiona Lees, Archie MacColl, Ian & Memory MacDonald.  We hope to fill in many of the gaps in knowledge, and improve the illustrations over the coming months.  Please let Bob Hay at have any queries, comments, additions or corrections.



1 NAS (RHP12324/1)
2 New Statistical Account of Scotland, Lismore and Appin 1841
3 NAS Breadalbane Muniments GD112/9/1/2  Rental of Lorn, Lismore & Benderloch, 1675
4 NAS Breadlalbane Muniments GD112/10/7 Register of Tacks 1628-1717
5 NAS Campbell of Barcaldine Muniments GD 170/917/1 1743
6 NAS Campbell of Barcaldine Muniments GD170/431/10/0001
7 NAS GD 112/2/106/53
8 NAS GD 112/2/106/52/00001
9 New Statistical Account for Argyll Parishes (1834-45)
10 NAS GD170/395 item 4 (copy in museum)
11 NAS GD 170 395
12 Rentals 1800-1840 Lismore  NAS GD170/569/2
13 Rent 1800-1832 Lismore NAS GD170/568/17
14 Lismore in Carmichael’s Childhood & Youth: the 1830 and 18402. paper to the Edinburgh University Alexander carmichael Conference June 2011 (In press)
15 Petitions NAS GD170/564
16 Rentals 1800-1840 Lismore NAS GD170/569/2
17 Sasine Records GR 2127/90
18 Sasine Records GR2296/141
19 Lismore Census 1841
20 Lismore Census 1851
21  Lismore in Carmichael’s Childhood & Youth
22  Lismore Census 1861
23 Evidence taken by her Majesty’s Commissioners of Enquiry into the condition of the Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.  Vol III.  Presented to Parliament, 1884
24 Review of Scottish Culture vol 22, 99-119, 2010
25 On the Agriculture of the County of Argyll.  Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.  1878
26  Lismore Census 1871
27  Lismore Census 1881
28  Lismore: The GreatGarden p137-138
29 Crofts and Farms in the Hebrides.  Being an account of the management of an island estate for 130 years by the Duke of Argyll (1883)  To the Right Honourable Lord Napier and Ettrick, Chairman of the Royal Commission (Highlands and Islands).  David Douglas, Edinburgh.
30 NAS AF42/4296
31 Most of the information from here onwards comes from an uncatalogued file in the Inveraray Archive
32 Information from Archie MacColl, Balnagowan
Bob Hay