Timothy Pont, 1580s: This is the earliest map we’ve found so far which actually names the island: ‘Ylan Martin’. Note there is no mention of St Martin, and the spelling ‘Ylan’ suggests it is taken phonetically from the Gaelic ‘Eilean’ and that Martin is possibly a Gaelic word and not a person’s or a saint’s name. The map is based on Timothy Pont’s survey of Scotland carried out in the 1580s, a time of great upheaval in Scottish political and religious life. The Reformation of 1560 had swept away the Catholic faith, and the parish church at Clachan would have been stripped of all its papist imagery and statuary. Mary Queen of Scots lost her head in 1587. Meanwhile in the North, Timothy Pont , originally from Caithness, was riding his horse round the Highlands noting place names and settlements. The circular symbol beside ‘Ardmery’ (Ardmair) indicates a settlement there.
This is a small part of a huge map hanging in Castle Leod showing all the Cromartie Estate property in Coigach. when it was being administered by the Commission for Annexed Estates. Lord Cromartie had supported the Jacobite cause, and led many of his tenants away to fight.Those who survived ended up being transported to North Carolina. It was hard times in Coigach. The writing on the island reads: “This Island is well known to the Herring Fishers when the Herrings run in Loch Broom, both for convenience of Anchorage and also storage of Cask and other provisions. The whole is Barren ground and the soil appears to be Mossie covered with Heath except towards the Coast where there are Shiels of good Grass which together with the favourable situation and that there is no snow lyes, it is esteemed a good place for a Winter grazing’ There are no buildings shown on the island and this, together with the reference to the island being used for winter grazing, suggest that at this date it had no permanent population. We know that one of the young men transported to North Carolina gave his home as Isle Martin. Maybe he had been the only able-bodied man in the family, after he’d gone they gave up the island and went back to the mainland. Archaeology may help us find out if there were any houses earlier than 1775.