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Martin Martin

Martin Martin (Scottish Gaelic: Màrtainn MacGilleMhàrtainn) (? – 9 October 1718) was a Scottish writer best known for his work A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland (1703; second edition 1716).[1] This book is particularly noted for its information on the St Kilda archipelago. Martin's description of St Kilda, which he visited in 1697, had also been published some years earlier as A Late Voyage to St Kilda (1698).


  • Life 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


A native of Bealach, near Duntulm, Skye, Martin was thought to have authenticity in his work because he was raised in Gaeldom. Dr Johnson, however, believed him to be credulous, and some of his descriptions of second sight and other superstitions appear to be this way. He appears to have come from the Highland middle class, the tacksmen, who were factors on lairds' estates. His brother may have been tacksman at Flodigarry on Skye.

Martin graduated MA from the University of Edinburgh in 1681. Nothing seems to be known of him in his later years, except that he entered Leiden University in 1710, and there graduated as MD, afterwards residing in London until his death. He was unmarried and died "of an Asthma" in Knightsbridge on 9 October 1718.[2]

Both Johnson and Boswell read his book and took a copy of it along with them on their famous tour in 1773. [3] Johnson felt Martin had failed to record the more interesting aspects of life at the time, and suggested that this was because Martin was unaware of just how different the social structure of the Western Isles was in comparison to life elsewhere.

Martin is also known for his early descriptions of Scotch whisky:[4]

Their plenty of Corn was such, as dispos'd the Natives to brew several sorts of Liquors, as common Usquebaugh, another call'd Trestarig, id est Aquavitae, three times distill'd, which is strong and hot; a third sort is four times distill'd, and this by the Natives is call'd Usquebaugh-baul, id est Usquebaugh, which at first taste affects all the Members of the Body: two spoonfuls of this last Liquor is a sufficient Dose; and if any Man exceed this, it would presently stop his Breath, and endanger his Life. The Trestarig and Usquebaugh-baul, are both made of Oats.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Martin, Martin (1716). A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland.
  2. ^ Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart, ‘Martin, Martin (d. 1718)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 11 Jan 2014
  3. ^ MacDonald 1893
  4. ^ .Dictionary of the Scots Language
  5. ^ Martin, Martin (1703). A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland. London. p3.

External links

  •  MacDonald, James Ramsay (1893). "Martin, Martin". In  
  • Martin, Martin (1703), A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, London: Google books .
  • Martin, Martin, A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, Appins .
  • "Martin Martin", Events, The Island book trust .
  • Martin Martin provided an inspiration for travel writers, WHFP .
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