Callanish Village History

Callanish Village History

  The Story of 12 Callanish   Introduction:   It might be thought that, as a location, Callan... Read more
The Earlier Village

The Earlier Village

Whatever the shape taken by the settlement of Callanish in later years, prior to 1850 it appear... Read more
Callanish Village History

 

The Story of 12 Callanish

 

Introduction:

 

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It might be thought that, as a location, Callanish would have been a place of importance since prehistoric times, if only because of the remarkable groups of standing stones in the immediate neighbourhood. But whatever their significance long ago the stones do not seem to have occasioned a large settlement within the historical period. In the earliest surviving account of Lewis there is no mention of a place called Callanish, nor does the name appear on the first, moderately detailed map of Lewis in the mid seventeenth century. When Martin Martin put together his description of the island around 1700 he wrote mainly about the principal monument, but in the course of his description happened to mention a settlement also:

 

 

The most remarkable stones for number, bigness, and order, that fell under my observation, were at the village of Callernish, where there are 39 stones set up 6 or 7 feet high, and 2 feet in breadth each.

 

Writing of the Lewis antiquities about 1790 Cohn Mackenzie took up the story from Martin:

 

Callernish is on the side of an arm of the sea on the west side of Lewis; on a rising ground above the village, there is a circle of stones with a remarkable high stone in the centre.

 

On a plan of the island of Lewis produced in 1821 settlements, including Callernish, are shown by single black dots which must be representatives of those villages mentioned by Martin and Mackenzie, and of the little firm-villages in which all the people of Uig parish lived in 1792. For improved detail it is necessary to move forward to about 1850 when the first Ordnance Survey map, at a scale of six inches to one mile, was being surveyed and when placenames were noted down by the same surveyors.

 

Note on the placename:

 

The spelling and form of Callanish varies regularly, and its significance may be difficult to determine. On a map of 1727 it appears, well out of its proper situation, as Classernis. A suggested original form is Kallar ames, a Norse placename - explained as a promontory or headland from which calls were made, possibly for a ferry-boat. This, however, is speculation, and the first element could be older than the Norse presence in the Hebrides.

 

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