Tropical seeds and seed pods from the West Indies and South America, carried across the Atlantic on the Gulf Stream into the western seaboard of Ireland, Scotland and Scandinavia, given the name of Phaseoli moluccani by Sir Robert Sibbald and known colloquially as ‘Molucca Beans’.
These shells, or nuts, are very precious, and by the richer people are bound in silver. There are several other kind of sea nuts, of different makes, that are held in high veneration among the vulgar for their supposed efficacy on several occasions, and they are particularly used about the children.
[Rev John Lane Buchanan, Travels in the Western Hebrides from 1782 to 1790, 1793]
"For curing the diarrhoea and dysentery, they take small quantities of the kernel of the black molocca beans, called by them Crospunk [cnò-spuinge]; and this being ground into powder, and drunk in boiled milk, is by daily experience found to be very effectual."
[Martin Martin, A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, 1703]
"The sea casteth on shore sometimes a sort of nutts growing upon tangles round and flat, sad broun or black coullored, of the bread of a dollar some more, some less. The kernel of it being taken out of the shell, is ane excellent and experienced remedie for the bloodie Flux. They ordinarlie make use of the shell for keeping their snuff. Ane other sort of nut is found in the same manner of a less syze of a broun cullour, flatt and round with a black circle about it, quilk in old tymes women wore about ther necks both for ornament and holding that it had the vertue to make fortunate in cattle and upon this account, they were at the pains to bind them in silver, brass, or tinn according to their abilitie. There are other lesser yett, of a whitish ccoulor and round, which they call Sanct Maries Nutt [Cnò Mhoire?] quhilk they did wear in the same manner, holding it to have the same vertue to preserve women in child bearing."
[Iain Mac Mhuirich ’ic Ailein, ‘Description of the Lewis’, 1684]
Àirne Moire i.e. ‘Mary’s kidney’ (Fr Allan MacDonald)
Sùil an asail (Barra)
Tearna Moire (Carmichael)
Cnò bhachaill (Lewis)
Cnò bhachair (Macbean)
Cnò-spuinge (Dwelly: Molucca nut, washed across Atlantic in seaweed known as tùrusgar, kernels used as cure for diarrhoea and dysentery)
Hugh Cheape 11.06.09
Drift Seeds found by Winnie MacKinnon on Canna and Sanday
Our thanks to Hugh Cheape for bringing this story to our attention and for kindly supplying the text.