Hermetray

Hermetray

Hermetray (Gaelic: Thearnatraigh) is an uninhabited island off North Uist, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

Gulls and buzzards nest in the cliffs. The island periodically gets rats.

Geography and geology

Hermetray lies in the Sound of Harris on the edge of the Minch. It is on the south side of the sound, but is legally part of Harris. The island is 72 ha in area, and 35 metres at its highest point, Cnoc a' Chombaiste (Compass Hill). The rock is Lewisian gneiss.

Martin Martin visited the island in 1695 and said of it, that it had:

"Moorish soil, covered all over almost in heath, except here and there, with a few piles of grass and the plant milkwort. Yet not withstanding this disadvantage, it is certainly the best spot of its extent for pasturage amongst these isles, and affords plenty of milk in January and February beyond what can be seen in other islands."

Martin arguably exaggerated the fertility of the island.

Loch Hermetray and several lochans in the south are fishless.

History

The island's name is Norse, and means "Herman's Island" (Hermunðrs ey), although it is not known who this person was.

Seòlaid na h-Eala, which is south of the island is named after the Eala Bhàn (White Swan), a famous 17th century birlinn. Seòlaid means a sailing channel, "fairway in the sea" or anchorage.

Martin Martin mentions that there is:

"the foundation of a house built by the English in the reign of King Charles the First's time, for one of their magazines to lay up the cask, salt etc, for carrying on the fishery, which was then begun in the Western Islands; but this design miscarried because of the civil wars which then broke out."

Martin was referring to Lord Seaforth's fishery, set up in 1633, but which collapsed a mere seven years later. It was part of Charles I's "Company of the General Fishery of Great Britain & Ireland".

In 1841, a population of 8 was recorded as living on the island (a single household), but it is now uninhabited.

In 1921, a Norwegian ship, the Puritan was wrecked here. Reportedly the three survivors would not partake of a crate of whisky which was wrecked with them, and did not thank their rescuer, Alasdair Beag of Berneray, when he arranged for them to be returned to their home country. Hebrideans explain this by the name of the ship, although it should be pointed out that the ship's survivors spoke neither Scottish Gaelic nor English.

References

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