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Calgary, Canada’s third largest city, is home to nearly 1,300,000 people, and the country’s highest concentration of millionaires – around 1,800 overall.
Its downtown skyline, backdropped by the prairies and Rocky Mountains, stocks 60 storey skyscrapers, including Canada’s highest twin towers, while below one of the continent’s busiest rail systems carries 270,000 passengers per week day.
In almost every way, Calgary, Alberta, could not be further from the bare, isolated northwestern tip of Mull that gave it its name: Calgary Bay.
Now a piece of that history – 382 acres of sheep grazing land plus a village of 20 houses abandoned during the Highland Clearances – is up for sale for £550,000.
The empty, barren property is a ‘spectacular coastal block of grazing land steeped in history, together with Calgary Pier and foreshore,’ explains a sales brochure by estate agents Strutt & Parker, with ‘sweeping views to the Treshnish Isles, Coll and the Small Isles, as well as dramatic views back over Mull beyond the famous beach at Calgary’.
The name comes from the Gaelic, Cala ghearraidh, meaning beach of the meadow (pasture).
It is a far cry from the skyscrapers of Calgary, Alberta, for ‘the land is currently grazed by sheep on a seasonal basis’ and ‘there is no electricity or mains water supply to the land at Calgary Bay’.
On the north side of Calgary Bay, where the property is located, there is a footpath to the old pier, C-listed by Historic Environment Scotland.
This small pier, constructed with stone from Iona, was originally built to allow puffers to deliver coal to the Mornish Estate and was also used to transport sheep to and from the Treshnish Isles for grazing.
Just behind the pier are the remains of the old boathouse, set into what looks like a wall but is actually a volcanic basalt dyke, as well as other former structures further up the hillside.
‘Some of these former buildings/sites may have potential or provide the basis for future development subject to obtaining appropriate planning consents,’ the agent says.
‘Just up the hill from the pier is the deserted village of Inivea, where roofless stone ruins remain as a relic of the Highland clearances.
‘At Inivea, more than 20 buildings of the township can be seen, several of them still standing to wall head level.
‘These include houses and barns, with enclosures thought to be areas once used as kitchen gardens.
‘Above the houses, a relatively flat area to the north presents patterns suggesting ridge and furrow cultivation and the supposed site of a drying kiln.
‘A rocky knoll above sites the remains of a medieval fort, though many of its stones were taken to build the houses.’
‘The existence of a farm or township at ‘Inue’ is recorded on Pont’s late-16th-century map,’ adds Mull Historical Society.
‘In 1817, the property came into the hands of Captain Allan McAskill of Mornish and local tradition says he evicted the inhabitants of the township.’
Many families affected by the clearances left for Canada from the pier at Calgary Bay.
In a strange quirk of history, their descendants may be walking the streets of Calgary city today.
However, Jo Currie’s book, Mull, The Island and Its People, notes that most of the six families removed from Inivea were accommodated within the parish: ‘The names peculiar to the township of Inivea, Gillies, McIlphadrag and MacArthur did not immediately disappear from the parish.’
Further exploration along the coastal track, beyond the property boundary, leads to another abandoned community, the ruined sheilings of Arin on the lower slopes of Bruach na Sean-pheighinne.
The western most point of the Mornish peninsula is known by the name Caillich point (Rubha Chaillich). The rock formation once had the appearance of a female head before the nose part broke away.
On the east side of the bay is Calgary Castle, which was built in 1817 by Captain Alan MacAskill, who retired there.
He built the gothic, gentrified and castellated front part on to the rear quarter, which was an 18th century traditional Laird’s residence, Calgary House, built in the 1780s.
Around 1870, the house was acquired by John Munro Mackenzie, Chamberlain of the Lews from 1848 until 1854.
As the chamberlain, or factor, to Sir James Matheson, the then owner of the Isle of Lewis, MacKenzie was the man in virtual control of the everyday lives of its people.
He presided over one of the key periods of emigration from Lewis when, between 1851 and 1855, 1,772 of the poorest sub-tenants, from a population of nearly 20,000, were assisted with their passage – not always willingly – to Canada.
In 1872 Mackenzie, retired in Calgary Castle, was visited by a relation of his by marriage, Colonel James Macleod of Drynoch, Commissioner of the Canadian North-West Mounted Police.
Colonel Macleod was so taken by Calgary Castle that he suggested it as a name for a fort along the Bow River, which had initially been named Fort Brisebois after its then-commander. Fort Calgary, in turn, gave its name to the city of Calgary, Alberta.
In late 2018, the 10-bedroom, turreted Calgary Castle with Gothic-style windows was sold for a healthy margin above the asking price of £695,000, with huge interest from across the world – including from Calgary.
Perhaps there will be more links between The Beach by the Meadow and The City by the Bow.