|OS grid reference||NT138795|
|Gaelic name||Innis Garbhach|
|Meaning of name||rough island|
|Area and summit|
|Area||0.83 hectares (89,340 sq ft)|
|Highest elevation||19 metres (62 ft)|
|Island group||Firth of Forth|
|Local Authority||City of Edinburgh|
Inchgarvie (occasionally "Inch Garvie") is a small, uninhabited island in the Firth of Forth. Its name comes from Innis Garbhach which is Scottish Gaelic for "rough island". Local tradition has it that the island takes its name from the young herring, or "garvies" which sheltered in large shoals around its shores - this is however folk etymology as the first element is Gaelic.
Although now uninhabited, Inchgarvie has been inhabited throughout various periods of history. The first recorded time was in the late 15th century.
Like nearby Inchmickery, its profile and colour makes it look very much like a battleship from a distance.
Inchgarvie’s fortifications pre-date the modern period. In the days when boats were the only way to cross the Firth of Forth, the island was on the main route between North Queensferry in Fife and South Queensferry in Lothian. This made it strategically important. It was near Roman forts at Cramond and Bo'ness, at the end of the Antonine Wall.
Records of Danish attacks on nearby islands, particularly Inchcolm as well as Fife and Lothian may mean that it was used in some capacity by them. It may well also have had a Culdee hermit like Inchcolm and Inchmickery. Whatever the case, it has had a castle, or fortification on it, from the Middle Ages to the present day, although it is currently abandoned.
In 1497, the island was (along with Inchkeith, a few miles away) used as an isolated refuge for victims of the 'Grandgore', (syphilis) in Edinburgh. The 'grandgor' was recognised in the 1497 Minutes of the Town Council of Edinborough ( Phil. Trans. XLII. 421) "This contagious sickness callit the Grandgor.". The Grandgore Act was passed in September 1497, causing Inchgarvie, as well as other islands in the Firth, such as Inchkeith, to be made a place of Compulsory Retirement for people suffering from this disease. They were told to board a ship at Leith and, "there to remain till God provide for their health".
On 8 March 1514 Margaret, the widow of William Dundas of Dundas, undertook to manage the completion of the fortress that James IV and her father-in-law had begun building on her island. From 23 December 1514, Charles Dennison, Captain of Inchgarvie managed and fed a large royal construction team. The master mason was John of Cumbernauld, with his "servitor" John Strathauchin, who directed eight other masons and ten labourers. Margaret, Lady of Dundas gave them two boats. Two 'serpentine' guns and guns from Colstone were placed on the island after a visit by artillery experts in July 1515, and the island was equipped with a "blawing horne." There was also a chapel.
The fort was captured by Richard Brooke in the Galley Subtile on 6 May 1544 during an attack on Edinburgh and demolished a week later. The English commander Lord Hertford wrote that it would have been useful to garrison Inchgarvie, but his orders from Henry VIII would not allow it. In 1547, after the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, Inchcolm and Inchkeith were fortified by the English, and held for two years; it is possible that Inchgarvie was fortified at this period too.
Between 1519 and 1671, the castle was used as a prison, and in 1580 Inchkeith and Inchgarvie were made a place of exile for the plague-stricken by order of the Privy Council. On 6 September 1627, the Laird of Dundas was invited to meet the Privy Council at South Queensferry and discuss building a modern fort on the island. Like Inchkeith, Inchgarvie had a quarantine hospital, and a prison. Oliver Cromwell had this demolished.
During the reign of Charles II as King of Scots, the island was subject to continued maintenance for defensive purposes. The island was inspected by Charles in 1651 before falling into disrepair after his army was defeated by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester.
In 1707 the island is known to have been rented to Archibald Primrose, 1st Earl of Rosebery. In 1779, however, the island's fortifications were renewed once more, in response to the threat posed by John Paul Jones, American Naval Commander, who harassed British ships from a base in the Forth. These fortifications were never used in anger.
In 1878 the foundations for Thomas Bouch's Forth Bridge were laid on Inchgarvie (and their bricks remain), but after the Tay Bridge Disaster, these plans were abandoned, and the island languished until the west end of the island was extended with a pier, and used as the foundation for one of the Forth Bridge's cantilevers. The island, due to its proximity to the bridge, was also used as a construction office for the bridge, as well as accommodation for its workers within the re-roofed castle buildings. Some of the stone from the former castle was used to help build the caissons of the Forth Bridge.
The island became of renewed importance to the security of the Firth of Forth during the First and Second World Wars, during which, in combination with fortifications on Inchcolm, and gun emplacements on the mainland to the north (at North Queensferry) and to the south (at Dalmeny), it became a primary defence against air and submarine attacks on the Forth Rail Bridge and the Rosyth Dockyard. The gun emplacements were permanently manned throughout war.
Sources and references
- Grant, James (1980). Old and New Edinburgh. Cassell & Co, London, Paris, New York.
- Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
- Haswell-Smith (2004) p.490
- Ordnance Survey
- "Scottish Gazetteer - Overview of Inchgarvie Island". Edinburgh University Geography Dept. Retrieved 2007-04-20.
- Macleod, Walter, Royal Letters, from the family papers of Dundas of Dundas, Edinburgh (1897), lvii-lix.
- Pearce, J M S (April 1998). "A note on the origins of syphilis". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 64 (542): 542. doi:10.1136/jnnp.64.4.542. PMC 2170021. PMID 9576552.
- A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, pp. 555-84
- Macleod, Walter, Royal Letters, from the papers of Dundas of Dundas, Edinburgh (1897), lxxiii, citing Acta Dominorum Concillii, 26, f. 43.
- Accounts of the Lord Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 5 (1903), 20-26.
- 'Late Expedition in Scotland, 1544', in Tudor Tracts, (1903), 44: Letters & Papers, Henry VIII, vol.19 part 1 (1908), no.472.
- Garvie, James, Old and New Edinburgh, (1890), ch.34, p291.
- Macleod, Walter, Royal Letters, papers of Dundas of Dundas, Edinburgh (1897), no.56.
- "Scotland from the Roadside - Inchgarvie". ourscotland.co.uk. Retrieved 2007-04-20.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Inchgarvie.|
- The Daily Telegraph - Where seabirds go Forth (an article on islands in the Firth of Forth)
- Online (scanned) version of Old and New Edinburgh