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Isle of Coll Research Project.

Project Trust volunteers study the history of the island from 1700-1855, when Coll was a developing country where development failed, as part of their preparation for writing a community report when they are overseas. This study of the island was based on Kirk Session minutes, registers of baptisms, marriages and deaths. In 1989 Project published a pamphlet The Isle of Coll in 1716 by Nicholas Maclean-Bristol and illustrated by Kate Beckman, a returned volunteer who had served in Kenya from 1978-1979 and who returned to Coll as a member of staff in 1986. This pamphlet is intended to be used as a model for volunteers in the field when studying their own local community overseas.

Some forty years ago I heard of the existence of a manuscript written in Gaelic by a crofter’s son in Coll who emigrated to Australia in 1859. It was said to be still in existence, but despite all my efforts I was unable to find it and it was not until 2010 that I learnt that a copy had recently been deposited at the Tobermory Museum in Mull.

Donald Mackinnon (1800-1880)’s manuscript ‘An Account of the Isle of Coll and its People’ is a fascinating document. It makes the inhabitants of the island come alive in a way that other surviving records never could. It has been translated by Ronald Black, who taught Project’s staff to speak Gaelic in the 1970s, and edited with numerous notes by myself. It is being serialized in WHN&Q in the hope that subscribers, whose ancestors come from the island, will add to it.

Once all the Coll families on the island have been placed on a data base it is intended to produce a detailed map of the crofts on the island as they were from 1700-1855 with particular reference to townships, croft houses, stone walls, field patterns and lazybeds. This will add to the work that Robert A Dodgshon of the University of Wales carried out in Coll in the 1980s [see Robert A Dodgshon, ‘West Highland and Hebridean landscapes: have they a history without runrig?’, Journal of Historical Geography, 19.4 (1993), 383-398].

If financial support is forthcoming it is hoped to publish Donald Mackinnon's 'Account' with notes, maps, photographs and a commentary on its relevance to the history of the Hebrides.


                                                                                                            Nicholas Maclean-Bristol.

                                                                                                            Breacachadh Castle,

                                                                                                            Isle of Coll,


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