Plantation and Civility in the North Atlantic World

The Case of the Northern Hebrides, 1570-1639


The settlement of the Hebrides is usually considered in terms of the state formation agenda. Yet the area was subject to successive attempts at plantation, largely overlooked in historical narrative. Aonghas MacCoinnich’s study, Plantation and Civility, explores these plantations against the background of a Lowland-Highland cultural divide and competition over resources. The Macleod of Lewis clan, ‘uncivil’, Gaelic Highlanders, were dispossessed by the Lowland, ‘civil,’ Fife Adventurers, 1598-1609. Despite the collapse of this Lowland Plantation, however, the recourse to the Mackenzie clan, often thought a failure of policy, was instead a pragmatic response to an intractable problem. The Mackenzies also pursued the civility agenda treating with Dutch partners and fending off their English rivals in order to develop their plantation.
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Biographical Note

Aonghas MacCoinnich, Ph. D (2005), is a researcher at the University of Glasgow. He has published a number of articles on aspects of the history, culture and language of the early modern Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements xi
List of Illustrations xiv
List of Maps xv
Abbreviations xvi
Conventions xx
1 The Conditions for Plantation. The Scottish Context Pre 1598 1
Introduction 1
Highlands and Lowlands – Cultural and Linguistic Divergence 3
From Barbarity to Civility 11
Hume et al & Civility 16
Winning Hearts and Minds 17
Tribalism vs Civility? The Example of the Adventurers 19
Personal Qualities 20
Civilitie and the Mackenzie Clan 23
Fisheries 25
Conclusion 27
2 The Lordship of the Macleods of Lewis 30
Introduction 30
Macleod’s Family 32
The Ewill Trowbles of the Lewis 34
The Macleods of Lewis and the Old Order 37
Rebellion, 1502–1538 45
The Extension of Royal Control and its Consequences 47
A Dysfunctional Family? Three Torcaills, 1566 and all that 57
The Wars of the ‘Bastards’? The ‘Ewill Trowbles’ of Lewis 65
The Macleods of Lewis and the Wider World 71
Trained for War? The Irish Dimension 74
Forfeiture and Plantation 80
Niall Odhar, the Brieves, Forts and Duin 83
Duin – Contexts 87
Conclusion 90
3 The Fife Adventurers and the Plantation of Lewis, 1598–1609 91
Introduction 91
The Lead-up to Plantation: From 1587 to 1598 95
‘Natives’ and their Relations with the Planters 106
‘Articlis to be Contracted amongst the Societie of the Lewis’ 108
Ministers, Religion and the Sabbath 112
Building a Civil Town 118
Buildings and Fortifications in the Plantation 124
1607–1609, Highland Policy & the Third Attempt 132
The Planters and the Mackenzies 137
The Working Plantation: The Potential for Success 141
Victuals, Grain and the Vulnerable Supply Line 145
Agricultural Potential 149
Relations with the Natives: Divide and Rule? 151
The Aftermath for the Planters 164
Plantation: Transferrable Skills 170
Participation, Identity and Casualty Rates? 171
Conclusion 174
4 The Mackenzies and Their Plantation of Lewis 176
Introduction 176
Civility, Plantation, Royal Policy and Clan Mackenzie 176
The Acquisition of Lewis 185
The Wider Gaelic World and the Broader Hebridean Context 188
The Mackenzies and the Settlement of the Northern Hebrides 194
The Financial Implications of Plantation 202
The Costs of Accommodation with the New Regime 209
The Last of the Free 213
Fir Innse Gall 214
Backs to the Wall – The End of the Macleods of Lewis 218
The New Order 224
Handling the Land 229
Building a Plantation 236
The Church 238
Winning Hearts and Minds? 244
Eirthir nan Iasg – the Mackenzies in Lewis after 1610 248
Conclusion 254
5 The Mackenzie and the Dutch, 1628–1631 258
Introduction 258
Highland Contacts and Networks 260
Mackenzie Commercial Initiatives & Dutch Contacts 262
Scottish Opposition to Seaforth’s Dutch Enclave 279
Lord Lorne and Scottish Opposition to Seaforth’s Schemes 283
Conclusion 287
6 The English in the Isles and the British Fishery Company 290
Introduction 290
English Antecedence in the Hebrides 291
King James and English in the Isles, 1603–1610 294
Monson, Mason and their Early Experiences in the Hebrides 298
Captain Mason and the Assize Fishing of the North Isles 299
Mason’s Career: Piracy, Plantation and Naval Procurement 302
Building a Fleet: Timber and Iron 308
The Emergence of the English interest and the British Fishery 310
Mare Liberum? 310
Ideology or Prejudice? Sir William Monson and Civility 312
English Mercantile Connections with the Netherlands? 316
English Plantation in Stornoway: Maps and Descriptions 321
The Earls of Seaforth and the English 327
Anglo-Scottish Tension in the Hebrides from 1634 329
Conclusion 334
7 Conclusion 336
Appendices 365
A1 A Description of the Lewis Fisheries, c. 1631 (Part 1) 365
A2 A Description of the Lewis Fisheries, 1631 (Part 2) 367
B1 Some Siol Torcaill Family Relationships, 1572 369
C1 The Principal Adventurers in Lewis, 1598–1609 370
C2 The Minister’s Account of the Plantation of Lewis, c. 1607 370
C3 Contract Signed by the Portioners of Lewis, 1600 381
C4 Non-‘Native’ Persons, Stornoway, 1598–1609 386
C5 The Known un-Knowns in Lewis, 1598–1609 399
C6 Some Financial Transactions of the Forrets of Fingask,
1598–1609 401
C7 Associates of and Witnesses for the Forrets of Fingask,
1598–1609 403
C8 Some Financial Transactions of James Spens of Wormiston,
1598–1609 405
C9 Witnesses and Sureties for James Spens of Wormiston,
1598–1609 407
C10 Some Debts Owed by the Learmonths of Balcomie,
1599–1606 409
C11 Some Debts of Robert Lumsden of Airdrie, 1599–1606 410
C12 Some Debts Owed by the Anstruther Family, 1598–1609 412
C13 Fish and the Economy of ‘Cost Syde’ Towns of Fife, 1569–1599 413
D1 Gaelic Poem by Alasdair mac Mhurchaidh, c. 1636 × 1643 415
D2 The Merchants and Fishers of Lewis 1632–34 420
D3 Table – Fishermen & Merchants in Lewis, 1634 421
D4 Some References to Lewis Trade in the Aberdeen Shore Work
Accounts, 1623–37 422
D5 Land and People in Lewis, 1610–1718 424
D6 Fishermen, Merchants and Visitors to Lewis, 1609–1669 447D7 Merchants, Burgesses & Lewis Contacts, 1620–1642 452
D8 The Penny Lands of Lewis, c. 1754 455
E1 Commission of Factory, Seaforth to Hamilton, 1628 461
E2 Memorandum, for Dutch Negotiations, c.1628–29 462
E3 Contract, Seaforth and the Zeeland Merchants, 1629 464
E4 Dutch Fishermen in Lewis, 1629 469
E5 Conditions for the Hollanders. No Date, 1629 × 1630 470
E6 Memorandum anent the Hollanders. No Date, 1629 × 1630 473
E7 Mr Bernard Mackenzie & the Lewis Company, 1631 475
F1 Englishmen Present in Lewis, 1630–42 480
F2 Raising Stock for the Company of Lewis, n.d., c.1629–31 485
F3 The Appointment of Captain Mason, n.d., c.1629–31 487
F4 The Projected Costs of a Fishing Bus Fleet, n.d., c.1629–31 487
F5 Calculations of Profit and Loss, the Fishing Fleet, n.d.,
c.1629–31 489
F6 ‘Plantation of Fishing on the Islands of Scotland’ n.d.,
c.1629–31 489
F7 Memorandum Regarding English Strategic Interest in the Fisheries,
n.d., c.1629–31 494
F8 Description of the Island of Lewis, November 1629 497
F9 Anglo-Scottish Tension at Stornoway, 1634–35 500
F10 Shareholders in the British Fishery Company, 1635 502
G1 Note on Language Choice & Nomenclature 505
G2 Glossary of Scots Gaelic and Scots Terms 507
G3 Gaelic Personal Names and their English Alias 509
Bibliography 511
Unpublished Primary Sources 511
Published Primary Sources 515
Published Secondary Sources 525
Unpublished Dissertations 549
Works of Reference 549
Index 551


All interested in the history of plantation and state formation in the Atlantic world and anyone interested in clanship, civility and Dutch, English, Highland-lowland interaction in early modern Gaelic Scotland.


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