The Norse Mills of Lewis | Muilnean Beaga Leòdhais

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The cause of my sadness is the mill’s decline,
Not getting what I need for my baking.
-Calum Ruairidh Bhàin (Calum Mackay, Bragar)

The Norse Mills of Lewis by Dr Finlay Macleod (Acair, 2009) is surely the most comprehensive volume imaginable on our horizontal mills – including their construction and use, context in world history, references in bàrdachd, photos and a complete (?) annotated list of all known mills on the Island.  Uig has the greatest concentration.  An exhibition of Dr Finlay’s research opens in the main gallery at An Lanntair in Stornoway on 12 October.

The book is available in English or Gaelic from local shops, our museum, Acair or directly from us for £15, p&p free.  Below is an example of a single mill entry, in this case our Muileann a’ Mhinisteir (the Minister’s Mill) on the north edge of Glen Valtos (illustrated above and more pictures here).

Muileann a’ Mhinisteir

This one is located high above Gleann Bhaltois in what seems to be rather an unusual site for a mill. It is west of a stream running south from Loch a’ Gheòidh and above a sheer drop where the stream cascades down the north side of the glen.  From below, it seems a most precarious situation. On site, little remains of the small underhouse which is built into the rock with large stones. The lower millstone rests with its atypically small rynd-bed. A second lower millstone is broken in two, with one half used in the wall and the other half inside, with clear jumper chisel cut-marks on its eye. The lade is well-built, with a stone base and a good drop; it runs west of the stream and there is a dam on the loch. NB 075346.

We have extracted from Dr Finlay’s book a list of the 67 recorded Uig mills to visit, for you new millbaggers.