Map Reference: Balemartine 300
Name Type: township
Meaning: Martin's town/village
This is ScG Baile Mhàrtainn ‘the township of Martin’. It is not known who the eponymous Martin was. This township name does not occur in sixteenth-century records and it is likely to be a relatively late Gaelic settlement name, indicating a change in tenant of land originally owned by Soroby parish. The church’s ownership came to an end in 1567 when it granted the land to MacLean of Duart (MacLean-Bristol 1995, 155). The absence of lenition (Màrtainn rather than Mhàrtainn), however, in the older versions of the recorded name is evidence of an earlier origin. The name appears in a story entitled ‘Big Dewar of Balemartine’ collected by Gregorson Campbell. In this story John MacLean ‘held the township of Balemartine’. He refused to pay tax and when a Campbell enforcer sailed to the island to collect due payment, he was sent packing. This tale is likely to be a conflation from a number of different historical periods.
‘He was John MacLean, a native of Dowart [Duart] in the island of Mull, who fled to Jura (JGC note: The cause of John Dewar’s flight to Jura is said to have been occasioned by his having given information to MacLaine of Lochbuie which was injurious to MacLean of Dowart in a dispute that occurred between them [possibly in 1498 – see MacLean-Bristol 1995, 78]). He is said to have been the first man from that island to have settled in Tiree, and on that account was known as Dewar (Diùrach). (JGC note: several of John Dewar’s descendants are at the present day in Tiree. They are known as Na Diùraich, one family who are descended from the elder of his sons being cottars in Balemartine).’ (Campbell 1895, 51-3; for another version see Dewar Manuscripts 1862-6, vol. 6, 217- 224; MacLean Manuscripts 1879-81, vol. 17, 72-77, Inveraray Castle Archives uncatalogued; see MacLean-Bristol 2015, 24 for a full analysis of this story) ScG Taigh Mhàrtainn ‘the house of Martin’ is located on the shore in the village. Martin is said to have died from a broken heart on the same day as his wife, having previously seen two coffins leaving the house, suggesting he had second sight (David McClounnan, 2/2002, oral source).
There is a ScG Sloc Mhàrtainn ‘the gully of Martin’ in Sandaig, Tiree. The personal name Martin is quite common among Highland place-names, some of which relate to St Martin (of Tours) (www.saintsplaces.gla.ac.uk accessed 2/2016). There is a Ballimartin on Islay, which appears in the records in 1631: ‘it is safe to assume that the change from Stainepoll to Ballemertine reflects a change in ownership or tenantry...at some point in the early seventeenth century’ (Macniven 2015, 249). There is a Balmartin on North Uist, an Allt Mhartuinn on South Uist, a Geodha Mhartin in Lewis, and a Sron mhic gille Mhartain in Kingussie (SP).
Other Forms: Balmartin - The map MVLA INSVLA in the Atlas of Scotland, Atlas Novus, by Joan Blaeu, 1654. These maps were largely based on work by Timothy Pont who mapped Scotland between 1583 and 1596. NLS, 123.
Balimartein - ICA Bundle 472/194.
Balemartine - Tiree Rental 1747.
Balemartine - The Turnbull Map of Tiree 1768 and accompanying survey text.
Ballamartin - Typed List of Inhabitants of Tyree and their Age in September 1779.
Taken from an unknown publication, 1998.201.1
Balemartin (1771) - Argyll Estate Instructions, ed. Eric Cregeen, Scottish History Society, 1964
Information:Rev. John Gregorson Campbell, Clan Traditions and Popular Tales, Lord Archibald Campbell, ed., 1895, Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition V, Argyllshire Series, (London, David Nutt), 51-3
BIG DEWAR OF BALEMARTINE, TIREE
He was John MacLean, a native of Dowart in the island of Mull, who fled to Jura. [note: The cause of John Dewar's flight to Jura is said to have been occasioned by his having given information to MacLaine of Lochbuie which was injurious to MacLean of Dowart, in a dispute that occurred between them.] He is said to have been the first man from that island to have settled in Tiree, and on that account was known as Dewar (Diùrach). [note: several of John Dewar's descendants are at the present day in Tiree. They are known as na Diùraich, one family who are descended from the elder of his sons being cottars in Balemartine.]
He and his seven sons were alike powerful and strong men. They held the township of Balemartin (on the south side of Tiree), including Sorabi where a burying ground is, and where there was at one time a chapel to which was attached the land of Sorabi garden. At this time the people of the island were paying rent or tax (cìs), but it was found impossible to make Big John Dewar submit to pay the tax. The first time any attempt was made to compel him to pay it, he took with him his seven sons to Island House, the proprietor's residence, and put them on the sward in front of the house (air dòirlinn an eilein), saying, "This is the payment I have brought you, and you may take it or leave it." Another attempt to enforce payment from him ended as told in this account:
One day when he and his sons were ploughing, two of the sons being at Sorabi as there were too few people in the neighbourhood, and his sons were at some distance from him, he had to go himself to repair the ploughshare (a ghlasadh an t-suic). It was the beginning of summer and he left the horses in the plough, eating the wild mustard (sgeallan) in the field where he was ploughing, grass and other herbage being scant. While their father was away at the smithy, the sons who were at Sorabi, on taking a look seawards observed a boat (bìrlinn) coming in towards the shore. It kept its course for the small bay of boats (port nan long) in Balemartine and had on board a very strong man called "Dark John Campbell" (Iain Dubh Caimbeul) who was sent to collect tax from those in the island who were unwilling to pay it. He had an able crew with him in the boat.
They landed, and when they reached the place where Dewar was ploughing, the first thing hey did was to seize the horses in the plough (na h-eich a bha 's an t-seisreach), to take them away in the boat as payment of the tax. When they were almost ready to be off, Dewar came in sight on his return from the smithy. On seeing the unwelcome strangers he quickened his steps to intercept them, and took hold of the horses to hold them back. Campbell drew his sword, bidding him to be off as fast as he could or he would put his head beside his feet. Dewar drew his own sword and said, "Come on and do all you are able."
The fray began between them, and Dewar was driving Campbell, Inveraray, backwards until he put him among the graves (lic) in the burying ground, and it so happened that Campbell stumbled on MacLean's Cross and fell backwards. Before he could raise himself Dewar got the upper hand of him. On seeing him fall, his men were certain that he must have been killed, and they went away with the horses to the boat and put off to sea. "Let me arise," Campbell said, "and I will give you my word that I will never come again on the same errand." "I will," Dewar said, "but give me your oath on that, that it will be as that (gu 'm bi sin mar sin)."
Campbell gave his word, "and more than that," he said, "I will send you the value of the horses when I reach Inveraray." "You will now come with me to my house," Dewar said, "and you need not have fear or dread; your house-quarters and welcome will not be worse than my own, till you can find a way of returning home." In the course of some days Campbell got away, and he never returned again to "bullyrag" or intimidate anyone. On reaching Inveraray he was as good as his word. He sold the horses and sent the price to Dewar, who was never compelled to pay the tax.
Extracts from 'The Gaelic Otherworld' by John Gregorson Campbell, Edited with commentary by Ronald Black, (Edinburgh; Birlinn, 2005), p44:
A man in Balemartine on the south side of Tiree (air an leige deas) whose wife had died in childbed was sitting one night soon after with a bunch of keys in his hands. He saw his wife passing and repassing him several times. The following night she came to him in his dreams, and reproached him for not having thrown the bunch of keys at her, or between her and the door, to keep the keep the fairies from taking her back with them. He asked her to come another night, but she said she could not, as the company she was with was removing that night to another brugh far away.
A ball of hair (gaoisid) called a ronag, was put in the milk-pail on Lammas day (or on the Thursday after) to keep its substance in the milk during the rest of the year. MacSymon (Mac Shìomain, a sept of MacArthurs), a native of Balemartin, Tiree, was much resorted to in former times for these constitution balls. On Lammas day (Lùnastal) he gave all who came to him a little bag of plants, sewn up, to be placed in the cream jug (crogan uachdair) for the ensuing year, that the cattle and the milk might retain their virtue or substance (toradh). Taigh Mhartainn [possibly the original Martin after whom Balemartine named - JH] was not the house directly east of the house Vindy MacKay lived in, but the next one east again, on the shore. He died from a broken heart on the same day as his wife, and had previously seen two coffins leaving the house [he may have had second sight] David McClounnan, 2/2002.
There is a Ballimartin on Islay, which also appears late in the records (1631). 'It is safe to assume that the cane from Stainepoll to Ballemertine reflects a change in ownership or tenantry...at some point in the 17th century.' (Macniven 2006, 419)
Local Form:Languages : Gaelic