Not surprisingly, there aren’t many references to Isle Martin in newspapers of the 18th century. British ports issued shipping lists, indicating which ships had come into port, where they were bound and, sometimes, their cargo.
19th Century: Newspapers were getting to be much more immediate in their reporting of news, and probably had a far greater readership as costs of printing and transport went down. There was regular news from the West Coast being reported in familiar newspapers such as the Ross-shire Journal, while particularly exciting events were copied almost verbatim in newspapers across Britain.
Here are a couple of slow news day reports, but one is from 1869 and the other from 1912. Both refer with amazement to the longevity of two island residents. We know quite a lot about Mrs Macrae’s life, but haven’t yet identified the old man. Of course, Mrs Macrae was nowhere near 105 years of age but it does suggest there’s something in the island air….
‘Isle Martin – there is an old man living in this island who is 102 years of age. He is employed at quarries in the island, at 2s a day. He is said to be very temperate in his habits, never having drunk alcohol or smoked tobacco. He has never been confined to bed for a single day, but rises every morning at 4 o’clock, when he attends to the wants of his small croft before proceeding to his regular work at the quarries.’
‘Mrs Macrae, a native of Isle Martin, a small island three miles long and situated about a mile from the mainland of Ross-shire, is 105 years old, and one of King George’s oldest subjects. there is neither post office, church nor shop on the island, whose total inhabitants number only sixteen. Thye old woman speaks Gaeliconly, and is in possession of all her faculties. She still helps to herd the cattle. It is sixteen years now since she has been off the island.’
Ross shire journal – 1893
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