Fàilte! (Welcome!)

Fàilte! (Welcome!)
This blog is the result of my ongoing research into the people, places and events that have shaped the Western Isles of Scotland and, in particular, the 'Siamese-twins' of Harris and Lewis.
My interest stems from the fact that my Grandfather was a Stornowegian and, until about four years ago, that was the sum total of my knowledge, both of him and of the land of his birth.
I cannot guarantee the accuracy of everything that I have written (not least because parts are, perhaps, pioneering) but I have done my best to check for any errors.
My family mainly lived along the shore of the Sound of Harris, from An-t-Ob and Srannda to Roghadal, but one family 'moved' to Direcleit in the Baighs...

©Copyright 2011 Peter Kerr All rights reserved

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Two Characters In Search Of A History

I am choosing to start this particular story with a marriage.

It is the 30th of April 1918 and we are in St Thomas' Church, Rutland Place Edinburgh and the wedding is taking place 'after Banns according to the forms(?) of the Church of England'.

Adele, the 36 year-old daughter of Elias Le Couvey, a Fundholder, and his wife, Francoise Bourget, is currently residing at 16 Dryburgh Gardens, Glasgow West.

John, the 58 year-old son of Roderick Kerr, a Building Contractor, and his wife, Christina MacLennan, is normally to be found at The Manse, Harris, Inverness-shire but is presently at Rouen.

We now jump back in time and in 1861 find 6 year-old John, the eldest of two children,  living in Little Borve, Harris, where his father works as a Joiner. It is easy to imagine him playing with his 3 year-old sister Rachel in this idyllic spot, sitting in fertile machair land bounded inland by the craggy outcrops of time-served gneiss and on the other side by the sea-swept shell-sand beaches of the Atlantic.

Come 1871, 16 year-old John is still living with his family, whose numbers have been swelled only by the addition of the elderley Catherine Macrae and the two 40-something Macrae 'girls'. Their address is not given on the Ancestry.co.uk transcription but it is likely to have remained Little Borve.

1881 finds 26 year-old John boarding at 33 Russell Street, Glasgow where he is a Student of Arts at the University. His future wife is still a couple of years away from being born. Back in Little Borve, his widowed mother, who was a Midwife, is living with her daughter Rachel Morrison and Alexander Morrison, a General Merchant. Little Roderick Morrison is 1 month old and we can presume that his Grandmother's occupation aided his progress into this World.

We reach 1891 and 8 year-old Adele, the middle of 5 children, is living at La Rue Faiveusaie(?) in the parish of St Saviour on the channel island of Guernsey where her father works as an Agricultural Labourer. She had been born in Forest, Guernsey.

John, meanwhile, has moved to 479(?) St Vincent Street, Glasgow and is now a Student of Theology - but clearly not of Arithmetic as he has shaved 4 years off his age, reducing it to 32.

It is now 1901 and 18 year-old Adele, is living at Le Bordage in the parish of St Peter's in the Wood, Guernsey (which sounds much nicer as St Pierre Du Bois, but the enumerator clearly wasn't going to allow more French onto his form than was absolutely necessary !). She is employed as a servant in the household of John G Lenfestey, a 57 year-old Grower and is the sole servant to this family of 3 adults and 7 children.

John is working as an Assistant Minister in Dalavich, Argyll and gives his age as 36 which is a but a mere decade below the truth. Of course, it is just possible that I have been tracking the wrong person, but the number of John Kerr's born in Harris who follow a path towards becoming the Minister living at The Manse, Scarista is unlikely to make this so.

Now, at this point, I confess that I am unable to locate my source of John's work in France during WWI but, from memory, he was tending to the troops. Bearing in mind that by 1915 he was 60 Earth-years-old (and thus 50 or less by his own accounting system) I do not know how typical this was. It might well, however, reflect the huge numbers, proportionately, of men from the Western Isles serving on the Western Front (and other 'theatres' of war).

The remains of this story are best left to be read in the place that led me to investigate this unusual coupling, namely in the pages of Finlay J Macdonald's 'Crowdie & Cream' where the Minister appears, albeit posthumously, as 'Ayatollah Kerr' and Adele as the kindly, if at times slightly gullible, face of friendliness.


The 'Ayatollah' was slightly more accurate with his Arithmetic when it came to his wedding because the 63 year-old reduced his actual age by a mere 5 years. He was actually 27 years her senior!

John's paternal grandparents were John Kerr and Marrion MacLeod, a Weaveress, of Scarista. Their eldest son , John, was also Carpenter/Joiner who moved to Birkenhead, Cheshire.

You are spared one of my customary personal links to the 'Ayatollah' because, although there definitely is one, the precise nature of our ancestral paths meeting is lost in time...

...but not in space, for it is certainly somewhere on Harris!

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