Fort Augustus

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Augustus, Fort (Gael. Cilla-chuimein, 'the cell or church of Cumin,' probably the 'Cumineus albus' who was abbot of Iona 657-669), a village in Boleskineand-Abertarff parish, Inverness-shire, at the head of Loch Ness, and on the right bank of the Caledonian Canal, by which it is 33½ miles SE of Inverness, and 31½ NW of Fort William. It has a post office under Inverness, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a first-class hotel, and a fair on the Monday before the second Wednesday of June. There are an Established mission church, a Free church, and St Peter's Catholic church (1840); a board school, with accommodation for 100 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 51, and a grant of£53. Pop., mostly Gaelic-speaking, of village, about 200; of registration district of Fort Augustus or Abertarff (1871) 897, (1881) 872.

To overawe the disaffected clans, a barrack was built in 1716 on the peninsula beyond the village, with the Oich salmon river on its NW, and the Tarff on its SE side, in front the deep waters of Loch Ness. As strengthened and enlarged in 1730 by General Wade, who named it Fort Augustus out of compliment to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, it was a square work, capable of accommodating 300 men, with a bastion at each angle mounting 12 six-pounders, and with a ditch, covert way, and glacis. In March 1746 it was taken and dismantled by the insurgents after a two days' siege, a shell from a neighbouring height having caused the explosion of its powder magazine; in May its eponymous hero, Cumberland, formed a camp at it, to which, among other prisoners, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, was carried in a litter. Restored to more than its former strength, it was occupied by a garrison down to the Crimean War; in 1857 it was sold for £5000 to the late Lord Lovat, whose son, the fifteenth lord, presented it in 1876 to the Fathers of the English Benedictine congregation, along with 16 acres of land, and the rental for 19 years of Borlum farm, an adjacent holding of 200 acres. On 13 Sept. 1876 the Marquis of Ripon laid the foundation-stone of a college, monastery, and hospice; the college was opened on 16 Oct. 1878, and on 24 to 26 Aug. 1880 the completed buildings were inaugurated by a solemn triduo. They occupy 3 sides of a quadrangle, 100 feet square-the college on the N; the hospice, with 30 bedrooms, on the W; and the monastery, for 40 monks, on the E. The S side is closed at present merely by the magnificent cloisters, which run right round the quadrangle, and which open here into a fine scriptorium already furnished with a printing-press, and hereafter to contain 12,000 volumes; but on this side it is intended to erect an octagonal chapter-house and a splendid church, which will bring the present cost (£65,000) up to about £100,000. A Scottish baronial tower, with clock and 9 bells, rises from the college to a height of 110 feet; over the monastery is another tower, 140 feet high; and the 15 windows of the refectory are filled with the arms of benefactors-Lords Lovat, Bute, Norfolk, Ripon, Stafford, Herries, Denbigh, and Beaumont, Mr Hunter Blair, and others. The whole is in Early English style, from designs by Mr J. Hansom and Messrs Pugin & Pugin; and, girt by terraced pleasure-grounds, and set among wooded mountains, lake, and streams, St Benedict's may vie with the grandest religions foundations of pre-Reformation days. Its college, associated with Glasgow University, is designed to provide a liberal education for 100 sons of Catholic gentlemen; is divided into a preparatory, an intermediate, and a high school; and is furnished with halls, dormitories, library, billiard room, etc. Besides the usual course in classics and science, instruction is given in land-surveying, geology, agricultural chemistry, and other branches. It remains to be noticed that St Benedict's site was formerly Benedictine property, given in 1232 by Sir John Bisset of Lovat to Beauly priory, granted by the last prior in 1558 to the sixth Lord Lovat, and forfeited by Alexander MacKenzie of Fraserdale for his part in the 15. The present monastery is an incorporation and a resuscitation of an ancient English and of a still more ancient Scottish Benedictine abbey, both situate on the Continent. The latter was the Scots abbey of St James at Ratisbon, dating from the 11th century; the former was the famous abbey of Lamspring or Lansperg in Hanover, founded as a Benedictine nunnery in the 9th century, and converted into an abbey of English Benedictine monks in 1643.—Ord. Sur., sh. 73,1878.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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