The following is a brief excerpt from the chapter on Lismore, from a wonderful book, The Island Hills,
written by Campbell Steven in 1955.
"Of all the Gaelic names scattered so profusely among the hills and glens and islands of the West, surely none is more
apt, more eminently right, than Lismore, 'the big garden.' Yet the experts maintain that this popular meaning is
incorrect. They prefer to go far back in history for their interpretation, linking the name more closely with the island's
early days. No doubt they are right; far be it from a Gaelic dunce to dispute that the original meaning of lios is a
'fortified enclosure,' or that it later assumed an even deeper significance by reason of its connection with the Christian
community. The arguments are doubtless well-founded and true. But let me at least remain a heretic. I still refuse to
think of Lismore as anything but 'the big garden.'
To begin with, it is essentially a place of peace. For although it lies on Oban's doorstep, right in the fairway of Loch
Linnhe, it knows practically nothing of the hustle and tumult of summer tourism. Few cars break the silence of its
narrow, winding roads; its grassy byways are still less frequented, and the coves of its rocky coastline are as quiet as the
cloisters of a Trappist monastery. Small wonder it is, that it came to have so many saintly associations far back in the
childhood of Scotland's history.
Long ago, the top of the Barr Mor, the island's main hill, must have made a first-class natural watchtower, ideally
situated, yet easily accessible. How the Royal Observer Corps, who did duty there, must have caught their breath that
day twelve centruies ago, when the sun first flashed on the oars of the Vikings, as their invasion galleys swept into Loch
Linnhe! Nowadays, the watcher can hardly expect anything quite so dramatic, but he need know only a little of
Scotland's story for his imagination to be stirred to the utmost. There are enough old castles along, in the full compass
circle from Duart, ancestral stronghold of the MacLeans, or Dunstaffnage, where once the Stone of Destiny is said to
have rested, to provide almost a surfeit of history and romance.
Perhaps my own most lasting impression of Lismore is of an evening climb to the cairn of the Barr Mor. The August
sun had gone down into a flaring red furnace behind the Morvern hills, yet the landscape was still not drained of colour
and the scattered cumulus clouds caught a tinting that added a hundredfold to their beauty. Beyond the Isle of the Sea,
the Jura hills were fused into a canopy of dove-grey mist, vague and dreamy, compared with the stark blackness of
Mull. Behind Maiden Island, the lights of Oban were twinkling faintly, humble imitations of the Evening Star shining
above them in a wide pool of blue. At my feet, Loch Fiart and Loch Kilcheran had already surrendered to the
shadow-tide, and after a while, I descended---slowly and reluctantly---into the darkening valley between them. Bats
were flitting about the trees of the lower slopes, and in the Kilcheran woods, the evening gossip of the rocks was
growing markedly less, til, finally, even the last most raucous talkers paused and fell silent."
|The Isle of Lismore sits off the western coast of the Scottish Highlands, across
Loch Linnhe from the Port of Appin, and just a stone's throw from the islands of
Oban, Mull and Jura. My 4 g-grandparents, Archibald and Mary Carmichael, left
this beautiful island in 1774, when they boarded the Jupiter of Larne, bound for
a new life in America. It's my belief that Lismore was also the home of my
McCormick ancestors, Duncan and Katherine Carmichael McCormick, who sailed
from the Port of Appin, just across from Lismore, to North Carolina in 1791.
|Lismore, Loch Kilcheran and the slopes of the Barr Mor
|Lismore, the road to market
|"The Signal for the Ferry" by MacIan
|The vehicle ferry on Loch Linnhe, 1930's
|The Western Isles
From the lone shieling on the misty island,
Mountains divide us and a waste of seas;
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we, in dreams, behold the Hebrides.
|18th Century Map of Isle of Lismore (Lesmoir)