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The Isle of Bute in the Olden Time
By James King Hewison (1893)

Isle of Bute - the west coast


This work embodies the results of some studies of the history of the Isle of Bute, suggested to me here by visible relics of the olden time. It is the product of the few leisure hours which could be gathered up for several years out of a busy clerical life. As a labour of love it has been executed with much difficulty, since so important a subject demanded much research among authorities, manuscript and printed, in the National Record Offices and great libraries, access to which is not easy to students in the country, who have a limited time at their disposal to ransack rare and expensive works.

In writing I have kept in view the purpose of producing a readable book, as much as possible free from technical phraseology, so that the ordinary reader may not be wearied with multitudinous details which the pure antiquary considers imperative ; and I have endeavoured to strike the golden mean without defrauding the subject of its primary demand for definite accuracy.

It will have fulfilled my design if it causes those who are privileged to breathe the fragrant air of Bute to take a protective interest in those fascinating fragments preserved here, and if it draws upon these relics the attention of others who love antiquities.

Bute has already been fortunate in having local historians who have made good use of the scanty materials available for the more modern epochs of history. Their labours will be more fitly acknowledged, and a bibliography of their works given, in the second volume. Recent research, however, has opened up richer treasure-houses to the chronicler, and invested the decaying memorials of old with a new romantic interest.

Merit I venture to claim for this new work in respect of the exquisite architectural illustrations of St Blaan’s Church prepared by Mr William Galloway, architect, who has laid me under deepest obligation by permitting reduced copies to be taken of his drawings of that interesting edifice, and of the similarly fine work of Mr James Walker, architect, Paisley. I have to thank the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for the use of several engravings of objects found in Bute. The minor illustrations have been prepared from drawings by my own pen.

I have also to acknowledge obligations to the Rev. J. B. Johnstone, B.D., Falkirk, author of ‘ Place-Names of Scotland’; the Rev. John Dewar, B.D., Kilmartin; and the Rev. D. Dewar, Applecross, who have kindly given me valuable aid in reference to the “Appendix on Place-Names,” for which, as it stands, I am entirely responsible : as well as to Mr James Kay, forester, Bute; the Rev. John Saunders, B.D., Kingarth ; and the Rev. Peter Dewar, M.A., North Bute, who have kindly assisted me in my inquiries.

The second volume will contain chapters on the Homes and Haunts of the Stewarts, the Roman and Reformed Churches, the Burgh of Rothesay, the Brandanes, the Barons of Bute, and the House of Stuart, and will be illustrated.

The Manse, Rothesay, September 1893.

Exploring The Isle of Bute, Scotland

Island stories - The Isle of Bute, Argyll, Scotland

Volume I


Chapter I. What’s in a name?
Chapter II. Prehistoric Inhabitants
Chapter III. Monuments of Unrecorded Times
Chapter IV. The Introduction of Christinity - The British Church
Chapter V. The Irish Church
Chapter VI. The Hermits
Chapter VII. The Christian Odyssey
Chapter VIII. Belted King and Royal Abbot
Chapter IX. “Blaan the Mild f Cenngarad"
Chapter X. The Consecrated Colony
Chapter XI. The Seven Sleepers
Chapter XII. Moss-Grown Relics of the Celtic Church
Chapter XIII. The Northmen and Vikings
Chapter XIV. The Bishops of Sodor and Man


Appendix I. The Isles of Cumbrae
Appendix II. Charter Disponing the Church of Kingarth to Paisley
Appendix III. Extracts from Dean Munro's Description of the Western Isles
Appendix IV. Extracts from Martin's Description of the Western Islands
Appendix V. Place Names in Bute


In this volume I have carried out my intention of providing an account of the Stewards of Scotland, and a history of ‘Bute in the Olden Time,’ from the thirteenth down to the eighteenth century, to which I have added a few of the more important facts which link the last two centuries to the present time.

Having no special brief to furnish, in fullest detail, the romantic history of the Royal Stewards, I have been hampered in the effort to condense, within the straitened framework of language attractive to the reader, many important unpublished results of researches which should add a new interest to the mystery of the origin of the Stewarts who occupied the throne of Scotland.

To find “the root of many kings” among the Celts of Scotland, I have ransacked every likely place for facts, with such success, chronicled herein, as may possibly provoke some other zealous investigator to follow up the clues through those unpublished MSS., which are the treasures of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, and which my examination did not exhaust. By their means the ghost of Banquo may yet become more vocal than he was to King Macbeth.

To ensure reliable investigation into the connection of Alan—the progenitor of the Stewards—with Brittany, I visited that ancient province, and in the Public Library at Rennes, as well as in the British Museum, verified the supposition that the Fitz Alans were also Bretons. On my return, I had the honour and good fortune to receive from the Right Honourable the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres the use of a large collection of MSS. referring to the Fitz Alans and their Breton contemporaries, which were gathered during a lifetime by the late learned peer, his father, who had given much attention to the early history of his ancestry. Many of these documents are extracts from the chartularies of French monasteries and records of Brittany, made by distinguished French scholars, notably Monsieur Francisque Michel.

I have to thank the Earl of Crawford and Bal-carres for his kindness in intrusting this valuable collection to me.

I have also to thank the Most Noble the Marquess of Bute, K.T., for his courtesy in permitting me to study in Mountstuart Library, to have access to his charters, and to publish the Report on Rothesay Castle, drawn up by Mr Burges, architect.

To the many friends who have assisted me in the production of this work, including those artistic helpers whose names are associated with the beautiful plates throughout this volume, and are mentioned in the descriptive Index, I tender my thanks.

For ten years I have, in imagination, listened to the voices of the saintly and patriotic makers of our Fatherland, and have followed throughout these western regions our immortal heroes,—Aidan from Erin to Iona—Wallace from Lanark to London— Bruce from Carrick to Cardross—the Brandanes from Bute to Bannockburn and many another field; but now the accomplishment of this work brings the regret that I must forbear their “pastyme and gud companie,” and let the sword of freedom descend, darkling, into its rusty scabbard,—the sweet chant of St Blaan turn into the wind-gusts whistling through his still roofless fane—the countenance of Walter, gallant companion of the Bruce, “ seemly to sycht,” find base presentment in the mutilated effigy that memorialises his fame in the Lady Kirk—and communion in the brave days of old become exchanged for association in the diurnal conflicts of a more flexible, and therefore a meaner age, wherein too many consider patriotism to be a restrictive prejudice.

The Manse, Rothesay, March 1895.

Isle of Bute


Chapter I. The Prigin of the Royal Stewarts
Chapter II. The Stewards of Scotland
Chapter III. The Brandanes
Chapter IV. The Home of the Stewarts
Chapter V. The Barons of Bute
Chapter VI. The Royal Burgh
Chapter VII. The Roman Church
Chapter VIII. The Reformed Church
Chapter IX. Three Centuries of Civil Life in Bute


Appendix I. Genealogy of Maormor of Leven
Appendix II. Genelogical Tble of the Stewards of Scotland
Appendix III. Preception De Ecclesia B. Marine De Combornid
Appendix IV. Inquisition made in Norfolk in 1275
Appendix V. Donatio De Sparlaid
Appendix VI. Auctoramentum De Guguen
Appendix VII. Fondation Du Prieure De S. Florentsous Dol
Appendix VIII. Charter of Fitz Jordan to Marmoutiers
Appendix IX. Carta De Molendino De Bortone
Appendix X. Carta Henrict Regis Anglorum De Cella S. Trini-Tatis Eboracensis
Appendix XI. Charter of St Florent Attested by Alan
Appendix XII. Donation X Riarmoutiers Par Jourdain
Appendix XIII. Genealogical Table of the Fitz Alans and Stewarts
Appendix XIV. Genealogical Table showing the Descent of the Stewards
Appendix XV. Mr J. R. Thomson's Report on Rothesay Castle
Appendix XVI. List of Stewart Charters
Appendix XVII. The Bannatynes of Kames

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