Sound of Harris - Outer Hebrides - Scotland
BORERAY - History

There is evidence of longstanding human settlement on Boreray. Artefacts and burial remains dating back at least 5,000 years have been discovered amongst the shifting sands of the dunes. A number of ancient standing stones are to be found around the island. The group pictured left are thought to have formed one side of a Neolithic burial chamber.

Cailleacha Dubha

Towards the south-east of the island lies the burial ground known as Cladh Manach; it's said to contain the remains of St Donnan - a Pictish monk who followed the early Christian teachings of St Ninian - and 52 companions, all assassinated on the Isle of Eigg in 617 AD. There is a cup-marked stone (right) near the grave mounds on this site (below).

In around 1460, the island was acquired by Clan MacLean of Ardgour following a costly game of draughts for Lord MacDonald of Sleat. The MacLeans were to remain until the early nineteenth century. Evidence of the considerable works to improve Boreray's infrastructure - roads, walls, pier and a drainage system for Loch Mor - is still discernible. Few people would actually have lived on Boreray during the MacLeans' stewardship, but there was plenty of work for day-labourers from North Uist.
The thirteenth MacLean of Boreray finally left the island in around 1810. and it was divided into twenty crofts. The population grew quickly; the census of 1841 recorded 181 inhabitants. Many of the numerous ruined houses on the island date back to this particular era (The taller house above was one of the last, built c1900).

Despite the efforts of the Free Church of Scotland, who provided a fine church (pictured lower left) and schoolhouse in 1880, over-cultivation and the collapse of the kelp trade contributed to a gradual population decline until, by 1925, the last islanders were evacuated. One family - descended from the MacLeans - subsequently returned to the island, and the single, existing croft was created. After Colin MacLean's death, Boreray was again abandoned in the 1960’s. In 1999 the present crofter, Jerry Cox, started rebuilding work and remains the island’s sole inhabitant.


The remainder of Boreray (outwith the croft) continues to be used as common grazings by Borve township, Berneray.