A cluster of islands that lie 21 Miles North West of Gallan Head in Uig, the principal one being “Eilean Mor”.
In his book, “A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland”, Martin Martin wrote:
“..it has the ruins of a Chappel dedicated to St Flannan, from whom the island derives its Name”
Probably from as early as the 17th century the Flannans were attached to holdings in Uig parish, indeed Rev Hugh Munro wrote at the end of the eighteenth century:
“The people of the farms to which the isles are connected, go there once a year to fleece their sheep and to kill sea-fowls, both for food and on account of their feathers.”
According to tradition grazing on the Flannans was exemplary, ewes would have twin lambs and even sickly sheep would benefit from a spell spent on the islands. By the 1920s the rent paid for the islands was 5, this gave one the right to pasture for 50 to 60 sheep. The sheep were distributed over six of the islands according to what the area could sustain: 24 to 30 on Eilean Mor, 10-11 on Eilean Tighe, 6 on Soray, 1 on Sgeir Toman, 2 on Roarein and 8 on Eilean a Ghobha. By the 1970s the Bernera crofters considered the cost and trouble of putting sheep onto the islands outweighed the benefits and the practice came to an end.
In earlier days it was probably the feathers and down that were taken into account when setting the rent. In the 1760s it was recorded that 38 stone of feathers were taken from the Flannan Isles, Rona and Sulasgeir and sold. The most prized bird for feathers was the eider duck, valued for its down as the puffin was for its flesh.
In 1899 a lighthouse was built on Eilean Mor by engineer David Alan Stevenson assisted by his brother Charles Alexander.
This lighthouse led to a great mystery in December 1900 when the three keepers vanished without trace. A party, sent out to investigate why the light was not lit, found an untouched meal on the table. The occurrence gained national publicity and became the inspiration for the poem by Wilson Wilfred Gibson “Flannan Isle.”
The light, which was served by a shore station at Breasclete, was automated in 1971.
You can read more of the mystery about the Lighthouse Disaster in the Lews
Read all about it!
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