The Scottish Hurricane of 1675
The summer of 1675 was unseasonably long and hot in Scotland, especially in comparison to the cold year before it and the years that followed. In the Autumn, something unexpected took place:
‘This yeir, 1675, had a very hott summer, and a good harvest, except two windy dayes in September, whereby much corn was shaken; the victuall remaining dear [in price] notwithstanding, becaus all the old victuall was spent. The end of November, and beginning of December of this year was very warm, many people fall sick and die; the astma, or coch, or cold, with a feavor, turns the epidemick disease in toun and country, whereof many dyes, and of feavors mo[r]e dye than was observed in other yeirs before.’ (Law, Memorialls, 84.)
The preceding two years had been hard to the point that no surplus crop remained and prices had risen. Famine had been evaded in 1674, but in 1675, a possibly weakened and economically-stressed population may have been more susceptible to epidemics as winter approached.
The summer had brought a welcome bounty, but then the storm of the ‘two windy days’ struck:
‘At this tyme doth Lord Neil Campbell, brother to the Earle of Argile, set into Mull to take it in possession for his brother, with his ships and birlins, on the 20th and 21st of September 1675. But there arose so great a storm these two days, that the ships and birlins, wherein he took his men, were forced back, and sorely dismantled, the great mast of the ship broken, the fall whereof broke the forship, and the birlings exceedingly shattered, that they were rendered useless till repaired again; all the men were preserved alive very providentially.’
Law also recorded the impact of the storm to the south in Dunbartonshire, where he was a minister:
‘That storm was so great that it was over all the land, and, indeed, it was a hurricane; for great oaks were blown up by the roots, and laid over at Rosedoe [i.e., Rossdhu Castle by Loch Lomond] by twos and threes; great old trees of 200 years standing broken in the midst there; some lesser trees broken in the midst, and the tops caryed a great way off with the force of the wind, where they fell, to great admiration which I did see. The corns up and down the land not cut down were so shacken, that the people gott little more than straw to cut down.’
The Old Tower of Rossdhu. Copyright here.
The old castle at Rossdhu is now a ruin in Loch Lomond Golf Course.
Witchcraft was the suspected cause of the hurricane:
‘A rumor went that there was a witch-wife named Muddock had promised to the M’Lains, that, so long as she lived, the Earle of Argile should not enter Mull; and, indeed, many of the people imputed the rise of that great storme unto her paction with the devil, how true I cannot assert.’ (Law, Memorialls, 82-3.)
On occasion, Cape Verde-type hurricanes track so far north that they curve round to Ireland or Western Scotland. The ‘hurricane’ in Scotland took place 13 days after the powerful New England Hurricane of 7 September, 1675.
For other ‘wonders’ of the 1670s and 1680s, see here.
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