>I have made brief reference to the driving of cattle from Harris to the mainland via Skye in a previous piece ‘Of Black Cattle, Kyloes and Crodh Dubh‘ but here are two references from the Old Statistical Accounts for Glenelg & Harris that clarify those droves:
Tides – The tides run very strong, both in Lochurn and Lochneavis; but the most remarkable current in this parish, or perhaps in all the west coast, is to be seen at Kylerea, the name of the sound that separates Sky from the main land; at spring-tides it runs so rapidly as to render it impossible for any vessel to pass through with a fresh breeze, and the wind never so favourable. Mackenzie, in his chart, reckons its velocity equal to nine notes an hour. Over this sound the black cattle annually driven to market from Sky, and part of the Long-island are made to swim; and though the current is so very strong, yet few accidents happen. The number cannot be exactly ascertained, but in general they may be reckoned about 2000.
They are sold in small lots from each farm to drovers, who ferry them to the Isle of Sky in the month of July; and from thence they are driven to market, sometimes to the S. of Scotland, but more frequently to England. Though there may be in all Harris about about 900 milk cows, supposed a breading stock, yet the number annually sold to drovers does not exceed 200.
Thus in the closing years of the 18thC it looks likely that some 200 of the 2000 cattle that were driven across ‘Kylrea’ to the mainland were from the ‘part of the Long-island’ called Harris.
It is easy to imagine a series of sales occurring as the cattle were passed like bovine batons along the relay race that reached its finish line as far away as England. The cattle were said to improve as they journeyed, presumably adding even more to their value in the markets of the south, and I cannot help comparing favourably their final days on Earth with those of some of their less fortunate modern cousins…