History of Plockton
This account from ___ is the best that we have on the historical background of the village.
Before the 19th century, there are no records of many people having lived on the site where Plockton now stands. It is, however, possible that a small crofting community of three or four families did exist . . .
(The name Plockton comes from the Gaelic word ploc — meaning a lumpish promontory, and the English word town — Plocktown.)
Before the 19th century, there are no records of many people having lived on the site where Plockton now stands. It is, however, possible that a small crofting community of three or four families did exist.
The first mentions of Plockton can be traced back to 1787 and 1794 when the Earl of Seaforth’s factor talks about the need to lay out or plan a village on the Plockton peninsula.
In the publication The Highlands and Hebrides in 1786, John Knox, one of the founders of the British Fishery Society, mentions the Bay of Ploc as a suitable site for a new fishery centre. He also refers to the difficulty of obtaining a supply of fresh water on the Ploc peninsula.
In 1798, the estate which included the Ploc promontory was put up for sale and it was eventually bought by Sir Hugh Innes.
In 1801, the new owner drew up plans for a planned village and these plans were largely implemented over the next twenty years. In fact, by 1841, there were 537 residents in the village of Plocktown. This is still the largest number of people who have ever been permanent residents in the village at one time.
The reason for this increase in population was due to the rise of the fishing industry and in 1841 Plocktown is referred to as, ‘a thriving fishing centre with two schools’. Some of the vessels berthed in Plockton at this time were capable of trading with places on the Clyde coast.
By means of these sloops and smacks, the fishermen were able to transport their herring to Greenock and Glasgow, where they were able to realise the highest market price. These trips south also meant that the inhabitants of Plockton were able to trade with the more varied and cosmopolitan markets of urban Scotland.
Despite a generous harvest from the sea, the land in Plockton at this time was not considered to be of very good quality. A letter of the time says, ‘The excellent quality of Highland Milk is well known but it is not to be expected from cows on such poor feeding as can be found in Plocktown’.
Between 1850 and 1880, Plockton reached its peak in population and maritime activity. Sir Alexander Matheson had taken over as proprietor and once he had built his mansion home at Duncraig Castle, he carried out afforestation work to the area. He also brought forward the extension of the Highland Rail line to Stromeferry, built a new school in Plockton (it is still used today) and contributed in many ways to the general improvement of the village.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Plockton’s economic formula ceased to work reliably and many young men began to emigrate abroad. A resident of Plockton at the time, Sandy MacLennan, remembers the period. ‘When I was a young man (in the 1890s) a whole crowd left Plockton to settle in New Zealand. I thought of going myself but I had steady work and I was glad I didn’t go. Their first harvest over there was poor and they were longing for the slat herring and potatoes which we still had in Plockton. Some of them soon came back home.’
Times in Plockton were quite hard between 1850 and 1918 with fishing on the decline and the soil continuing to offer only survival harvests. Despite this, the influence of the church was seen as important to most families.
When material success was proving elusive, constant reminders that material prosperity was of secondary importance gave a source of comfort to many villagers.
Also of great psychological and economic value to some was the existence of a good school. This school enabled those with ability and inclination to embark on professional careers at minimal cost and with maximum encouragement from the community in general.
During the fifty year period 1870 to 1920, the number of professionally qualified people who had their basic education at Plockton School was, in relation to the population, five times the national average.
The first few years after 1918 probably saw Plockton’s lowest point in terms of economic and social vitality.
Heavy war casualties and pre-war emigration had cut down the severely the number of men in the 20–25 age group, while the total population of the village was only half the 1841 figure.
The first marriage for ten years of a man resident in Plockton took place in 1924 (Dan MacKenzie).
Since the end of the Second World War, Plockton has seen its fortunes see-saw. During the 1970s, and right up to the present day, tourism has gown in importance. The people of Plockton have realised its importance in stabilising the local economy.
Plockton is now a thriving place and people from all over the world come to visit what has been called ‘Britain’s Prettiest Village’. Because of this popularity, which has also been enhanced by the fact that the hit TV series ‘Hamish Macbeth’ was made locally, there has been a worrying trend whereby a significant number of houses in the village have become holiday homes.
Despite this, the community is a vibrant, energetic one, and visitors to Plockton and the surrounding area will always find a warm welcome awaiting them.