Belmont House
A magical venue for holidays and events

I once read the comments of a visitor to Clugon bemoaning the fate of those forced to live in such a remote spot.

November 23rd 2019

I once read the comments of a visitor to Clugon bemoaning the fate of those forced to live in such a remote spot. No road! she commented; you could hear the righteous indignation. She missed the point. The sea was the road, and Clugon a well situated settlement easily accessible from and to anywhere else on the Unst coastline.

The 1775 Unst Cess Rental records 14mx land at Clugon occupied by Andrew Williamson, Andrew Spence, and Donald Tait, from various landowners. Unfortunately Clugon did have visitors who walked, four legged ones. The savvy beasts of South-a-Voe regularly came to graze there, doing much damage to the corns and the green braes. So bad was it that the human inhabitants rebelled, despairing of getting their crops harvested safely. They upped and flitted.

By the year 1791 Clugon - and consequently the adjacent isle of Huney – were deserted. The previous year Thomas Mouat of Belmont had bought the Unst lands of the Muness estate. With his customary briskness he had embarked on a programme of improvements. In 1790 he built a new house and byre to William Clenis in Muness (was he the son of George who appears in the ledgers from 1791-94, a fish curer who earned a fee of £20 for splitting and salting fish in 1790, a poor fishing year), a new house and byre to Alex Jameson in Ramnageo, extended the dykes of Litlagarth and Ramnageo, and carried out repairs to Charles Sharp’s house in Muness and John Winwick’s in Ramnageo. John’s son Magnus worked as a beach boy in 1792. The Winwicks were an important family; they started at Hannigarth but appear all over south Unst, with the kind of lengthy ledger entries which indicate ability and adaptability. The family entwined with the Mouats over generations.

Muness became the hub of the fishing business in south Unst. The Old Booth was repaired, and a New Booth built. Mouat was anxious to keep the good tenants who fished to him, and he saw the possibility of Clugon as a place where tenants might again settle. He therefore wrote to the other gentlemen “concerned in the property of Colvadale” - John Ross of Scarpoe, John Scott of Greenwall, and Thomas Sanderson of Buness - suggesting a sheep and cattle proof dyke to be built at joint expense to get tenants in the township once again.Mouat was not one for the leisurely deliberations of folk slow to make up their minds. He asked for an immediate decision or he would fence Brough (of Colvadale) on his own and leave Colvadale to take its chance. Wisely, the others agreed.In fact Thomas was no stranger to the desire of estate tenants for enclosure. People could see the advantages perfectly well; near Belmont dyke building had been progressing steadily for a least a decade. Some of the good fishermen would move to the easting if there was a decent house and land to grow crops safe from marauding almarks. Much easier for them to get home at weekends.