More on Asbestos on Harris

Further to my previous piece, Asbestos , I have finally found a reference to the presence of asbestos on Harris:

The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal
Vol 4, 1828, p150, footnote to:

Account of Harris, one of the Districts of the Outer Hebrides

Dr MacCulloch mentions the occurrence of asbestos at Nishishee… which he conjectures to have been derived from a bed of serpentine…I found neither asbestos nor serpentine ; but of the former I have seen enough in the country to load an Indiaman. It occurs in a large perfectly isolated mass in granite in the hills of Little Borg, with fragments of gneiss, and their lower parts with peat, upon a subsoil of clay or angular gravel .


This account from 1828 matches precisely the location identified by the later-hand on Bald’s map of 1804.
I cannot yet say if the ‘Abislos Quarry’ (written by the original hand) indicates asbestos quarrying occurring as far back as 1804, but am pleased to have finally found some corroborating evidence to the existence of asbestos on Harris.

I think that the author of this ‘Account’ was William MacGillivray, who, a the age of 55 in 1851 was living at 159 King Street, Aberdeen. He was ‘Professor Of Civil And Natural History In Marischal College And University of Aberdeen, a post he had held for at least a decade.

The Natural History Museum has this entry on a man who, as they say, ‘most people today have never heard of…’ – William Macgillivray and he is also to be found amongst these Highland Naturalists.

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One thought on “More on Asbestos on Harris

  1. Dear Peter ; many thanks for your informative and amusing ( always a tricky combination )….blogs which I stumbled
    upon purely by chance . I have a query which perhaps only you might conceivably be able to answer .
    Certainly no one else has an inkling . It is the following ; I am a great admirer of William Macgillivray
    and , of course , have several times pondered the rather unlikely reports of him having stuffed a bear…
    …and a walrus…during a sojourn on Harris . Now I can imagine it feasible that he might have come
    across a stranded deceased walrus on the beaches of Harris…..not an everyday occurrence but still…
    But a bear !? Whence and how ? And what became of this triumph of the taxidermist’s art ?
    If you were able to furnish an answer to either of those questions I would be extremely greatful
    …….no to say flabbergasted . Keep up the good work !
    Omne ignotum pro magnificat
    e j macdonald

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