South Uist separated by Benbecula from its northern counterpart (although they are all now linked by a causeway and a bridge) differs from North Uist in several respects physically, in that it has more cultivatable land and there is more crofting and farming than ﬁshing, the people are more strongly Celtic, with little Norse inﬂuence, by a great preponderance they are Roman Catholic, whereas the northern island is largely Protestant.
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- South Uist Geolocation Latitude 57.2642° N Longitude -7.3312° W
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South Uist History
There are four Catholic churches in South Uist compared with the Church of Scotlandsd‘s two, and on Rcuval. A rocky hill to the north is the striking marble 30ft statue of Our Lady of the Isles by Hew Lorimer, erected with worldwide contributions in 1957 to commemorate Marian Year: being visible from great distances, it is a recognized landmark for seafarers. At Howmore, just south from where the main road skirts Loch Druidibeg, are the graves of the ancient chiefs ofthe Clanranald, and another side road a little farther on leads to the gaunt ruins of Ormaclete Castle, this took seven years to build, was occupied for only seven years, and then burned down when roasting venison caught ﬁre during the celebrations of the Jacobite victory at Sheriffmuir ln 1715.
The island has several links with Prince Charles Edward Stuart, for it was here that he sought refuge when, after the Culloden disaster, he was hunted on sea and land, with the then enormous price of £30,000 on his head, and it was at Milton, 6 miles north from Lochboisdale that his rescuer, Flora Maedonald, was born, as a handsome cairn monument testifies.
The Prince, advised that he would be safer in the Western Isles while awaiting the ship that would take him to France to enlist further help for his cause, left the mainland on 24 April 1746.
After surviving a gale, they reached Benbecula and landed on ‘a small desert island near the Harris where they ate dried ﬁsh but, ‘having plenty of brandy and sugar“, were able to wash it down with “a little warm punch".
Setting off again, they were chased by an English ‘man-of- war", the Prince and his supporters landing on a wild spot in South Uist where he lay concealed for a whole month’.
ln their entertaining Picturesque’ Scotland (l883), Francis Watt and the Rev Andrew Carter continue the tale at some length, with interesting detail.
They record that Prince Charles Edwards dress at this stage consisted of a tartan short coat and vest of the same, got from Lady Clanranald, his night cap all patched with soot drops (he had been hiding probably in a "black house', which has no chimney), his shirt, hands and face all patched with the same, a short kilt, tartan hose and Highland brogs, his upper coat being English cloth‘.
This quoted account. left by Hugh Macdonald of Baleshair, who was sent to advise the Prince, states that after ‘a dram" and a meal, which included ‘a halfstone of butter laid on a timber plate, and near a leg of beef laid on a chest before us, all patched with soot drops.
The Prince decided that for once he would drown his cares and they embarked on ‘a regular Highland debauch. quite in the manner of the "good old times”. Then we began with our bowls, frank and free we continued this drinking for three days and nights, he “the Prince” has still the better of us, and even of Boisdale himself, not withstanding his being as able a bowlsman, I dare say, as any in Scotland. But after the party the Prince resumed his hunted wanderings among the islands, often hiding and sleeping among the rocks, and reached Benbecula, where he ﬁrst met Flora Macdonald, visiting there, who agreed to help.
Happily her step father, Hugh Macdonald of Armadale, in Skye, secretly a Jacobite, was also commander of the local Hanoverian troops, and when she was arrested on suspicion of helping the Prince she was brought before him.
Finally, after further pursuits and hidings among rocks in appalling weather, with the Prince dressed as Betty Burke maid to Flora Macdonald, they left the Western Isles on 28 June in a small boat and reached Skye.
And in the “Black House" Museum at Eochar, at the south end of the bridge from Benbecula, there is a pigskin purse which the Young Pretender gave to Flora Macdonald and a piece of the tartan he wore in South Uist.
There is one main road right down the length of the island. the A865, which indeed continues up through Benbecula and North Uist to Lochmaddy, but off it there are numerous side roads, and most of these give access to seemingly endless stretches of dunes and sands. Some twenty years ago the British Government's plans to establish an Army rocket range on South Uist raised a storm of protest; but the scheme went ahead. both here and in Benbecula, and by providing welcome local employment and the natural “spin-offs’ from an establishment of some 500, including families, it has proved a boom to the local economy.
The rocket range may be glimpsed to the east from the causeway across Loch Bee at the north of the island. South Uist of course is notable angling country, but, as some of the ﬁshing is preserved, visitors should seek guidance from the Western Isles Tourist Organization, Stornoway, or of the South Uist Angling Club, which has rights on eighteen well stocked lochs. Lochboisdale is also becoming a sea-angling centre, and there is some shooting available, for snipe, duck. and geese.