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Barra


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[cf. ScG barr, ‘top, uppermost, cream’].

An island and parish comprising the main island and several smaller nearby islands in the Outer Hebrides at the southern coda of the archipelago. The principal island is about 8 miles by 5, and today sustains a population of about 2,500, many of them bearing the surname MacNeill and claiming descent from the Irish hero Niall Noígiallach [of the Nine Hostages]. Gaelic is still the first language of the many islanders, and thus Barra is perceived by some commentators as one of the most culturally pristine locations in Celtic Scotland. The inhabitants of Barra once spoke of the Otherworld as Roca Barraidh, an island on the dim western horizon.

See John Lorne Campbell (ed.), The Book of Barra (London, 1936).

Subjects: Religion.


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