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Religion of the Yellow Stick

Title: Religion of the Yellow Stick
Posted by: David Marsh on 28-04-2014

Discussion: I found this account in "The History of Antigonish" Nova Scotia by Raymond A. MacLean. Does anyone know of this this story?

About 1770 the laird of South Uist - Alasdair mor Bhaghasdail - began to take severe measures to rob his Catholic tenants of their faith. The laird himself renounced his faith in marriage and pursued his tenants for their faith with the proverbial virulence of the renegade. Their pastor, an Irish priest of the name of Wynne, opposed his design with courage. The new religion set up by the zealous "vert" was called by the people "creideam a'bhata bhuidhe", "the religion of the yellow stick", as the laird attempted to drive the people his own church by his yellow walking stick.

Replies to this post

Posted by: Anne Marie (MacKinnon) on 17-06-2014


There is more on this subject (yellow stick) to be found on another good site which both Angus & I use:

Posted by: David Marsh on 12-05-2014

Hello Angus,

I would very much enjoy discussing this with you. I live in America, near Boston, and will be visiting South Uist on July 7 and 8. Perhaps we could share a pint then. My e-mail is

Posted by: Angus MacMillan on 07-05-2014

That is how it is told but it is wrong in most respects. The 'religion of the yellow stick' was borrowed from a persecution in the Isle of Eigg a hundred years earlier. The Boisdale accused was not Alasdair nam Mart, who died in 1768 but his son Colin. He certainly fell out with Fr Wynn about when men should do the labour for him that was required by their tenancies. However, the Protestant Church was at Howmore and his house some miles away at Kilbride surrounded by his own tenants. There was thus no possibility of Colin standing anywhere to drive his tenants into church as they would have had no reason to be anywhere within reach. Nor did Colin renounce his faith in marriage though, in marrying a second time, he did marry a Protestant Campbell.

What actually happened was that a zealous Catholic MacDonald of Glenaladale had been the local factor and feeling the post-Culloden decline of Gaelic culture, especially as both Alasdair and Colin were modernisers, decided to try to transferthe Gaelic community to St John's, Todays PEI. The Catholic Church hierarchy was also keen and funded the enterprise. It was also the source of many of the complaints such as that the estate children were being forced to eat meat during Lent and prevented from using Gaelic.

Even the Protestant clergyman Rev Angus MacDonald of Killearnan later pointed to the errors in all this and the fact that it was not a serious matter was confirmed when, apart from a dozen families, the Glenalladale migration of 1772 hardly touched South Uist and had to be filled by families from Barra and Clanranald's mainland territories.

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