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Seamus' Journal

Scottish American Society

James A. Frost Ph.D.

SEUMAS' JOURNAL if you wish to believe my tale.

www. Tulimor Scotland Years Ago

These notes and subsequent notes are from the journal of Seumas of Pennygown on the Isle of Mull. Seumas followed ancient pilgrimage trails for most of his youth visiting ancient holy sites, for many had fascinating stories to tell. He traveled widely in Ireland and Scotland for most of this portion of his life eventually becoming more interested in reflecting on the people he met along the way. Eventually he settled in Tulimor, Scotland. Seumas kept a journal of his recollections and those of others during his days in Tulimor.

At last count, including farmers, craftsmen, fisherman, herders, and cottars, etc, there were nearly 200* souls in Tulimor by 1785. Those leasing land or those serving the population numbered about 100.

The Clearances lay just around the corner in 1785 greatly effecting Highland settlements such as Tulimor. (Curiously the population of Scotland continued to rise.) Other factors contributed to instability. The crofting movement soon dealt a death blow to those who lived on the land as tenants. At the same time, horrendous climactic conditions in the west of Scotland were contributing to crop failures. Famine threatened life itself.

Far from being a stable population in the Highlands, it experienced heightened emigration of Scots for one reason or another to other parts of the world during these years. We also saw the beginnings of commercial centers in Scotland. New ways of producing things such as textiles took over home crafting, and manufacturing became the new economic entity. Transportation becoming more advanced with new roads and bridges being built that played a part in the growth of towns and cities at the expense of fermtowns and small clachans. All in all, Scotland was entering a new era but not before it witnessed tumultuous times.

INTRODUCTION TO TULIMOR, SCOTLAND - A SETTLEMENT LOST AND FOUND Notes from Seumas' journal beginning in winter of 1765. if you wish to believe his tale.

We have seen that worst that nature is capable of, but now I am surrounded by its best. Let me explain myself, but first I must roll back the years and start there. As memory serves, the river bordering Tulimor, Scotland, Furnace Run, flowed calmly within its accustomed banks gently seeking the sea. Then the downpour greater than anyone can remember occurred, and after a number of days of incessant rain, falling at an alarming, rate, the river became an overwhelming torrent of water cresting squarely in our small community. First a slight quickening of the flow of the river, then a flood of soil and rock that had comprised Furnaces banks added to unrelenting surges of tumbling waves of water that took all into the Great Loch. Little could stand up to the forces, and sadly the soil and rock was most of old Tulimor was washed out to sea.

The day started with a gentle rain that we, inhabitants of Old Tulimor, welcomed. Then the extreme winds, usually tolerated, became extra fierce as the river gained strength. But the most frightening thing was the sky. It was black and the sounds. they were as if the otherworld had declared vengeance on our world. All that we saw around us was so very threatening and the sounds were so terrifying. In an instant our land was taken from us. Most of our cattle drowned and therein lay the saddest of all outcomes.

Escaping with our lives, we became vagabonds just as our ancestors had become as they wandered west after Culloden. There was nowhere else to turn but to follow the course of Furnace Run to its mountainous source. We traveled as a homeless tribe, eventually finding what looked like cultivatable land for farming plus there was some pastureland for the cattle, salvaged and driven along with us. We called our new land Pudhall, but we were not happy. The land was difficult to work. So little grew in the saturated soil. We consumed all that could grow and the stubble could just nourish the cattle. However, there was nothing for they could graze upon in the winter months. There was little to keep the cattle alive and many perished in the snow and cold. Others were butchered or were bled to near death to obtain blood pudding for our own sustenance. We must migrate soon or die, so sayeth Mairee, who among us can see the future.


Tulimors Ghost Spring 1770
if you wish to believe his tale.
www.Tulimor Scotland Years Ago
Pudhall was located on Furnace Run and this fact took on importance as a few of the men folk found it useful to abandon the land for a day or two and cast for fish along the banks of the river.
It was on one of these forays to the point where the river flows into the Great Loch that Diarmid made a miraculous sighting. He returned home from a day of fishing in such a state that we all thought that he had seen ghosts. I have found Tulimors ghost. It is the land resurrected! The sea gave it back to us. It is there I swear.He yelled to all of us who had gathered at Annas house for devotions.
What is all the skirling? There is no Tulimor since that terrible storm years ago. The land was washed away, claimed by the sea. You remember how Pum claimed that our evil ways were responsible,exclaimed old Hamish, our spiritual leader.
I saw it. It is there! Diarmid continued to yell hysterically.
Yes, there was new countryside almost as if out of a dream. It was not the old Tulimor. Rather It was a new land where the old Tulimor had been. Except now there was a yawning circular break in the rocky banks of Furnace Run allowing water to swell before spilling into the Great Loch. To my recollection, this is where solid land had been- now a deep inlet looking for all the world like a bay having been carved inland toward the hills to the west. It was surrounded by a sizable spread of land with all sorts of vegetation springing upon acreage as far as I could see. It was new land fused with land spread out at the base of the hills that had been the shielings for Tulimor and summer grazing. This older land was a section of the old Tulimor strewn with ruined homes and other buildings reduced to a rubble of tumbles of rock, timbers and refuse. My imagination began to take over, though, as I saw before me a land just waiting to be settled by this small transient band of Tulimorians that had adopted me. Here I saw a bay surrounded by fertile land and beyond that, further stretches of land spread out awaiting someone to discover its potential.
The plain was at a point between the Great Loch to the east and the giant Hills of Dorney on Scotlands west coast. The new land was deposited by a force greater than we could imagine, for only fierce storms of great magnitude could carve a bay with a fertile land around it like this. It was the promised land. I knew the land returned by the gods would be good for growing crops and herding cattle. The waters of Furnace Run and the Great Loch would provide abundant seafare and more importantly navigable routes to points north and south.
Understand that the land belongs to the clan chief. Our small band of settlers understand the concept of tenancy, for after all we are for the most part fellow clansman who willingly and knowingly owe an allegiance to the Duke as chief of the clan according to the ancient law of the land. He in turn acknowledges the kinship and therefore feels the obligation to accommodate us on his land. We thus foresee sharing the land and paying rent. We will live cooperatively if that were possible. We await his representatives who will apportion the arable land.
Pudhall had to be left behind. Most of us agreed that a more fertile land lay within a reasonable distance away and that we should take advantage of it. Pudhalls land was terrible land, really--beyond mere saturation. Also it was apparent that we were not managing the land well. Our farming was archaic, our harvests unyielding. After so many years we were willing to try something new. There was also the factor that we were aging and losing some of the original migrants. The approximately twenty of us therefore looked forward to settling in a new and productive Tulimor.
We knew from their grannies and other ancient kinfolk what old Tulimor was like. Most folk of course never lived there, but all the tales that the oldsters would tell by the fireside related to Tulimor and life on the shielings (summer pastureland) which lay a short distance away. I guess that is why they all wanted a new Tulimor, but it should not contrast too much from the old Tulimor.
Thus we migrated, Josh who knew the trails leading the way and the Grant brothers guiding our rough crafts along the river. We did not leave the cattle behind. Rabs small herd was driven along the path with us.

SEUMAS' JOURNAL Entry 3 1765

I will not go into detail on what a travail it was paddling crude crafts along the riverbanks all the while driving a tiny herd of cattle along parallel paths. We had hoped the cattle would provide the germ for a hardy stock to be raised on what we would find in the Tulimor of our hopes. This becomes important in that cattle prosper more than crops on land unlikely to be cultivated. Optimistically we gaze at the hills to the west. We see the shielings for summer grazing just as they served us in the old Tulimor. Gleyed Willie seeing the same hills and exclaims,there be fairy folk somewhere in those hills.

No one believes in fairies anymore, claimed Widow MacNichol.

Dont be so sure,was the retort from someone in the group.

We look to Old Hamish Thomas for a vision of our fitting onto the land. He has the unusual sense of forming pictures in his mind of what the land could look like. He immediately took charge and concluded,It all depends on where the most fertile land is. Everything else is surroundings. We listen with hope born of years of living in the bleakest of conditions.

And there it was. At the base of the hill country, arable land is spread out before us accompanied with more good land although boggy along a newly formed bay. Hamish continues to imagine fertile acreage on which our houses will be built and pointed out,Kail may be planted in your gardens and perhaps flax seed.

The bae of the hills held onto land that contained the remains of old Tulimor, so we began staking a claim on that land littered with rubble taking possession of the most habitable structures, piles of rock, stone and turf. In some cases, merely the roofs had been blown off during the storms. Some were willing to rest in the most primitive hovels covered with grasses, etc. that could provide shelter. Timbers that were lying about were quickly snatched up to be used later in building houses. A few wandered up into the hills where huts remained where folks lived during the growing season. For meals we survived on things that would constitute a broth. We give our thanks to Widow Mac Nichol who guided us to the grasses and greens that could be made into a broth prepared along with some grains- remnants of plantings years passed. Bere and a small quantity of oats grew in small patches and along ridges. Machair grasses along the river banks often contained black oats. We vowed we would survive the winter somehow along with the cattle that were greatly stressed.

Notes in Seamus journal 1765

The inhabitants of old Tulimor are now the inhabitants of a new Tulimor. We have come to view the future optimistically. Prayers are those of thanksgiving as we worship again in old St. Columbas kirk which was surprisingly intact.

It was a few days after settling, we were excited to see a boat pulled up to one of the banks of our newly claimed bay. It was of no great surprise to see a boat there, as natural as seeing boats docked at a town to the north. Surprising was that the crew had lost no time in spotting this altered landscape and finding that it was in the process of being settled. They immediately declaring this clan land. Aboard the boat were ground officers appointed by the Dukes factor who picked out land they personally might lease and sublet. It never occurred otherwise to Old Hamish who was our spokesman or constable to whom we yielded decision making. The chief of the clan of course held ultimate authority over whatever is decided by his officers.

What excited the men was the stretch of pastureland where cattle might graze. Anticipated was the profitability of raising and selling cattle to those who drive the cattle south to trysts where cattle are bought and sold. Many in Tulimor will no doubt become such drovers for rents must be paid and there is profit in buying and selling cattle, leather goods, and hydes. The gentlemen were quick to point out this fine harbor where fishing boats one day may dock to unload fish and sea food. The Duke and his closely related officers obtain considerable profit in assessing rents.

The ground officers appointed by the Dukes factor announced to all of us gathered at the church that leasing of land was the order of the day. We thus understood that we were to be tenants on land that belonged to the Duke and would have to pay rents. But still we were eagerly anticipating the mere prospect of land to be awarded to us by any means. That procedure was a lottery system. Each of us stood equally in the distribution of arable land as well as the outlying land for grazing our cattle. Apparent land that had the most potential for farming and that which was too boggy would be determined by the Duke’s men.

Decisions were plotted along a line between starving and subsistence, but the Duke had an obligation to provide for the clansmen on his land. Acknowledging this, some assistance was extended, such advice on increasing the size of herds, and finding buyers of some of the stock. We also needed to procure seed and the implements for serious farming. This inventory plus the horses to pull plows would have to be secured plus the considerable equipment in order to set up households, and shelters for cattle, goats, and sheep. The gentlemen were true to their pledge to help. In fact, they gave us some seed for our first attempts at planting.

The meeting in the church, established for the purpose of planning resulted in a plan of sorts, but Hamish admitted that without an influx of settlers who could provide for themselves with the intent of homesteading on the recently available land, planning was futile. There was hope that we could prosper according to the Dukes men. Time and the prospect of others discovering this new and fruitful land lay ahead according to them. That too was a promise fulfilled by the gentlemen. They were responsible for the resourceful newcomers that came to Tulimor eager to work fertile land. They came at the Dukes bidding

By some miracle, we were discovered or Tulimor was discovered as we desperately gathered grain from what was growing on the land from years past. In the meantime, we needed to sew the little seed we could find and that required that we work the soil. Foot ploughs were the only answer. The Grants here-to-fore were metal smiths had worked over a forge before the great storms, promised they could fashion foot plows and eventually a coulter and other parts for a plough pulled by horses. Also they knew where to find the timbers along the Great Loch that they could put to use in fashioning a wooden plough with a steel sleeve and coulter.

Entry 4 Early Days of the Tulimor Settlement

We gather together on Sundays to worship as we are accustomed to, but in the evenings we look to Bella and Morag to draw from their vast store of tales of long ago. Morags hypnotic voice is of fairy stories, of magic, of the special gifts of some folk who sense evil, or see the unseeable. She describes curses and cures, how to prevent or overcome spells or perhaps how to work a spell on someone. Some of her stories have been told over a thousand peat fires going back centuries.

Bella tells of the early days of old Tulimor. She speaks of times when there was nothing to eat, animals were dying in the fields. What sustained us tapped her vast knowledge of vegetables, herbs, and greens that we ate to stay alive. The animals were sorely neglected, left to forage on anything available.

You will be interested in what I have observed of house building by village folk taking upon themselves, construction of something livable for their families, a snug wee house perhaps with a connected byre to shelter a cow or two. Stables for draught animals and a barn for farm implements may be close by. It is probably a cruck-built house, the crucks being timbers coupled with others of the same shape forming an A for the length of the house. Found on the land, the timbers could be large tree branches or trunks that have angled offshoots that touch each other at the very topmost timber. A thatched roof stooped low from the winter winds is thus hipped in its appearance. Walls are built of stone supplemented with turf, wattle or clay strengthened with straw. It may have a closet in the middle for cheese making. A partition divides the main room from the byre. The wall may have box beds along it becoming the partition itself. Then a dirt floor is pounded down. A hearth of some sort against one of the walls accommodates a fireplace for cooking. All in all, I would conclude that a family drawn together around the fire on a cold winter evening in this wee house is a warm comforting scene.

A word about working the land.

Sowing of bere (primitive barley) may be first because it comes up the soonest, barley, oats requiring good soil and some fussing, and a little bit of rye, all seeds that the Duke’s gentlemen gave us will be attempted on the southernmost reaches of the available fertile land. Finlay, Duncan, his boys, and Colm, set out to haul fertilizer in one form or another to their particular plots of land. Since the land they encounter, especially at the foot of the hills, is strewn with rocks and rubble from water runoff. This would have to be cleared or broken up. Sometimes, they have to poke foot ploughs into crevices between the rocks to break up clods of earth, then turn endless sods over in order to gain enough workable soil to do the planting. They won’t rest, however. Another furrow awarded to another tenant lies a short distance away and requires the same land preparation. Then there is he planting of seed..


It is Easter here in Tulimor and Bella insists this holiday be observed as it had been in the old days. It is important she says. This day, Easter Sunday, and the days we just labored through are holy and I believe we are beholden to the Lord for this new land and the bounty of nature that we find living upon it. In that sense, we are blessed with the rebirth of the world and all its many gifts. Ploughs should be set aside during these days and no seed planted. Thus the week before Easter Sunday is considered the holiest period on the calendar and Bella cautions that no fowl or flesh should be consumed on these days. Our devotion must include sacrifices.


This is the fifth entry in my diary for the Tulimor we know of today. Alas, I have let the years pass since my last report and it is enough to say that the township has progressed as a community. There are houses and worked fields. New settlers have arrived and have built houses and barns. Farmers such as Keenan Burns, Angus MacIvor and Farquhar Fraser are a few of the farmers who were awarded claims to land on a rotating basis which allows farmers to have access to the most fertile soil awaiting their turn.

We now have added herds of cattle to the pastureland thanks to herders Gregor MacLachland and Malcolm MacGibbon, thus bringing a highly marketable commodity to the community. Ploughs have been put to use and we have seen several successful harvests. At this writing, we are well into the period known as Beltane, a time-honored seasonal festival. It is spring and the farmers are already pulling up the poor barley that comes early and finds itself in bere bannocks and porridge that substitute in the diet for oats. Oats will come along, however.

Bella insists that people celebrate the time-honored festival, Beltane, with a festival, this to take place at the very top of Beann Balamnan. Once light has been lost to the ever diminishing night on Beltane eve, a bonfire of immense proportions will be set afire by first creating the need fire, worked into a flame by old time farmers Ian and Michael and some others from nearby township of Krionach. This flame is set to a considerable collection of branches and tree limbs that has been accumulating for weeks in preparation for the event.

On this occasion, I remember taking part in the singing and dancing around the fire until long into the night. Then at daybreak, all of us who were able, climbed Beann Balamnan to watch for the first glimmer of sunlight. The last burning embers of the fire were divided, and the next day, cattle were driven between the divided fires. This is a blessing of sorts to assure health and fertility to the cows.

Mureal, a superb baker, insisted on choosing the king of the May by the time-honored method of presenting unmarried lads of the village with a large bannock she bakes that has knobs on it ready to be torn off by participating lads. This year was no exception. Her recipe for Beltane bannocks follow:

Mureal bakes her bannocks on a very hot griddle over a fire. I watched her as she put milk into a pan with a pinch of salt and some butter. She then brought the contents of the pan to a boil and quickly stirred barley meal to create a pliable dough. She then turned the dough onto a floured surface and rolled it out on thinly. Cut to size the bannocks were then baked on a preheated griddle, turning them once. The bannocks were eaten hot right off the griddle, with delight I may add. Eggs well whisked were added to make them Beltane bannocks. A small amount of the eggs was poured onto the ground as a tribute to the earth- a Beltane custom.

A knob on Mureals bannock is by custom--black. The lads, eyes covered, made a selection. In this instance, Allan, Duncans oldest son, selected the black knob and thus became the King of the May. Later, he was persuaded to leap over the fire--perhaps to re-enact a sacrifice of the king--an ancient custom. Allan was a magnificent King as he chose Maireen to be his queen.

The two reigned over the May festivities for days to come. Maureen had an inkling that Allan had his eyes on her as she washed her face in the May 1st morning dew, also a custom.

On that first day of Beltane, Bridhe stood by her door all morning gesturing to the revelers that they should watch for the evil that is rife during the gloaming later on. Shaking her head vigorously and wagging her finger, the wise ones of the village knew what she was referring to.

Young maidens are alert to the young lads that may have had their eyes on them. What all of the young people look forward to, however, is leading the cattle up onto the sheilings where the hillsides are rich with new grass. The young people will remain up there for the entire summer, and for them it is a period of freedom and fun as they devote some idle time to singing, playing their pipes, whistles, and fiddles, and telling tales around the bonfire at night.

Blind Rory is still carrying on about the stones at Beagmonthe bearing some inscriptions. He is insisting that we dig up the ground around the stones. We are going to have to remove them because they might be cursed,he contends. I should add that Rory may not be able to see what we see but senses some things we should take a closer look at. He can also warn us of the visits of Ole Crooked Grey who loves to steal into gardens and scare the wee ones. It is said that years ago in old Tulimor, he carried off little Isabel McLeod. She was never seen again. So they say.