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

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Fishery Officers of Stornoway

In 19th century the 'Commissioners of the British White Herring Fishery' were established.

Fishery Officers were appointed with responsibility for branding the barrels of cured herring to certify compliance with the strict quality controls that had to be met prior to export.

It was only in 1939 that the requirement for one to have experience as a Cooper in order to become a Fishery Officer was ended.

David Comer, 32, Officer of the Fishery, Kenneth Street, b. Wick, Caithness
Catherine Conner, 19, Wife, b. Stornoway
Elizabeth Macpherson, 16, Visitor, b. Cumber, Dumbarton
Catherine Murray, 19, House Maid, b. Stornoway

John Doull, 33, Fishery Officer under the Board of British White Herring Fisheries, 20 Kenneth Street, b. Latheron, Cathness-shire
Ann Klind Doull, 22, Wife, b. West Wemyss, Fife
Mary Morrison, 16, Domestic Servant

In 1882 the Fishery Board for Scotland assumed responsibility for the protection of sea fisheries in Scottish waters.

James B Ingram, 38, H M Fishery Officer, 15 Kenneth Street, b. Peterhead, Aberdeenshire
Mary Ingram, Wife, 36, b. Peterhead
James C Ingram, 14, Son, b. Peterhead
Alexander Ingram, 13, Son, b. Peterhead

Telegraph Post

This marker, on the island of Kerrera, presumably warns of where the undersea cable
from Oban makes its landfall. However, the first successful Transatlantic Telegraph
cable led from here to Newfoundland and it was not until the Cold War years
 of the mid-1950s that a voice cable link to America was established,
 running, perhaps appropriately, along the Sound of Kerrera.
17th  May 2009

Ships Served by Hearachs - a few additional details

1871 EUPHEMIA CAMPBELL, Drainie, Moray
John Campbell, 27, Master, Ewan Campbell, 25, Mate, Neil Kerr, 21, Able Seaman all b. Harris

1881 Ships in European Ports, Shipping at Sea
John Smith, 62, Master, 'Euphemia Campbell 52971 Stornoway', b. Banff, Portsoy – plus Mate and 1 Seaman

1884 Dec. 14, 4 55 p.m.. The schooner EUPHEMIA CAMPBELL, of Stornoway, from Lossiemouth for Leven, in ballast, has stranded on Cairnbulg Briggs.

1884 Dec. 14, 7 55 p.m.. The EUPHEMIA CAMPBELL schooner, from Lossiemouth for Leven (ballast), stranded on Cairnbulg Briggs at 6 o'clock yesterday morning: crew saved.

1884 Dec. 15. The EUPHEMIA CAMPBELL has become a total wreck. Everything is being saved as far as practicable.

1884 14 December 1884, EUPHEMIA CAMPBELL, 19 yrs old, registered Stornoway, wooden schooner, 52 tons, 3 crew, Master and Owner H. Forbes, Stonehaven. Departed Lossiemouth for Leven in ballast. Wind SW5, stranded Cairnbulg Briggs, Aberdeenshire.


1891 STATE OF GEORGIA, Vessels, Plantation, Lanarkshire
Robert Macdonald, 32, 3rd Mate and John Cunningham, 27 Able Seaman both b. Harris plus another 73 crew and passengers.

The two-and-a-half thousand ton liner SS State of Georgia was built in 1873 and sold in 1891 to the Allan Line. She made two transatlantic crossings before joining Aberdeen Altantic line in 1893.

1901 SS LOCHIEL, Lying at Dunvegan Pier, Duirinish, Inverness
Hugh Campbell, 26, Able Seaman b. Harris
She was a MacBrayne's Mail Steamer built in 1877

1901 JAMES HALL, Burghead Harbour, Moray
William Macdonald, 45, Able Seaman,  (b. Obe!)
James Hall' had 19 crew on board

1901 GLENIFFER, James Watt Dock, Greenock East, Renfrewshire
Robert Macaulay, 23, Seaman, b. Harris
Built of iron in 1866 in Glasgow, this 800 ton sailing ship made no less than four trips to the St Lawrence in 1871. Alexander John Kerr sailed on her for several years 'in foreign parts', as his obituary puts it.

1901 GLEN ROSA, Lamlash Pier, Kilbride, Bute
Finlay McDermid, 22, Able Seaman, b. Harris
There were 16 crew aboard this steamship.

1901 HESPERUS, South Pier Oban, Argyll
Dugald Macaskill, 42, Seaman, b. Harris
There were 14 crew aboard this steamship

1901 LINGAL, Victoria Dock Leith, Midlothian
Murdoch Munroe, 26, A B Sailor, Passenger, b. Harris
There were 15 crew aboard this steamship

Seafarers from Harris

Each of these Masters, Mates, Seamen and Sailors was born in Harris.

Here we find them having put down permanent roots elsewhere, in lodgings and on a variety of vessels:

Alexander Ross, 62, Seaman, Head, Upper Sandwick, Stornoway
Angus MacQueen, 30, Seaman, Stornoway.

John Campbell, 50, Seaman Merchant Service, 57 Main Road, Sandwick, Stornoway
John Campbell, 32, Seaman Merchant Service, 8 Cromwell Street, Stornoway

Donald Macdonald, 24, Seaman Merchant Service, 69 Main Road, Sandwick, Stornoway

Kenneth Macdonald, 66, Sailor Merchant Service, 9 North Beach Street, Stornoway

William MacQueen, 47, Master, 'Mary Ann Machlachlan', Vessels, Stornoway
Alex Macrae, 42, Seaman, 'Mary Ann Machlachlan', Vessels, Stornoway
John Martin, 30, Seaman
John Martin, 18, Seaman

Kenneth Macaskill, 30, Seaman, 'Christina', Vessels, North Uist

John Campbell, 40, Seaman, Havelock Lane, Stornoway

Alexander Morrison, 47, Seaman, 27 Keith Street, Stornoway
Alexander Macleod, 30, Seaman,

William MacQueen, 55, Master, 'Mary Ann Machlachlan', Vessels, Stornoway
John MacQueen, 21, Able Seaman, 'Mary Ann Machlachlan', Vessels, Stornoway

John Campbell, 27, Master, 'Euphemia Campbell', Vessels, Drainie, Moray
Ewan Campbell, 25, Mate, 'Euphemia Campbell', Vessels, Drainie, Moray
Neil Kerr, 21, Able Seaman, 'Euphemia Campbell', Vessels, Drainie, Moray

John Campbell, 27, Master, 'Cavalier', Vessels, Drainie, Moray
Roderick Mackinnon, 20, Able Seaman, 'Cavalier', Vessels, Drainie, Moray

Donald Macaulay, 42, Seaman, 'Queen of the South', Vessels, Greenock

Donald Maclennan, 22, Able Seaman, Vessels, Gretna

Kenneth Campbell, 32, Seaman, 5 Keith Street, Stornoway

Malcolm Kerr, 58, Seaman, Stornoway

Thomas Miller, 60, Seaman, New Holme Road, Stornoway

John Campbell, 39, Seaman, Spy's Road, Row, Dumbartonshire

Donald Macleod, 37, Seaman, 112 Dempster Street, Greenock West

John Ferguson, 33, Sailor, Solitote, Kilmuir, Inverness

Sandy Mcleod, 37, Mate, 'Parratto', Portree Harbour, Skye

Kenneth Macleod, 26, Master, 'Pearl', Aberdeen Harbour, Aberdeen

Malcolm Kerr, 68, Seaman, 37 Bayhead Street, Stornoway
Norman Macleod, 35, Seaman, 18 Keith Street, Stornoway
Alexander Morrison, 65, Seaman, Keith Street, Stornoway

John MacQueen, 57, Seaman (Unemployed), 7 Keith Street, Stornoway

John Macleod, 30, Seaman (Unemployed), 5 Lowers Sandwick Road, Stornoway

Hugh Macleod, 57, Seaman, 10 Links Street, Aberdeen

Murdoch Morrison, 20, Sailor, 11 James Watt Street, Glasgow

Alexander Macdonald, 24, Able Seaman, 20 Brown Street, Glasgow
Norman Macleod, 23, Seaman

John Macinnes, 26, Seaman, 47 Crawford Street, Greenock
Ewan Macleod, 30, Seaman
Roderick Robertson, 21, Seaman

Donald Macleod, 45, Seaman, West Shaw Street, Grennock West

Daniel Maclennan, 41, Seaman Merchant Service, 467 Govan Road, Govan

Robert Macdonald, 32, 3rd Mate, 'State of Georgia', Vessels, Plantation, Lanarkshire
John Cunningham, 27 Able Seaman, 'State of Georgia', Vessels, Plantation, Lanarkshire

Hugh Macaulay, 25, Able Seaman, 'Catherine and Mary', Vessels, Cumlodden, Argyll

John Macleod, 61, Able Seaman, 'Cornelia', Vessels, Kirkintilloch, Dumbartonshire

John Macleod, 18, Able Seaman, 'Rona', Vessels, Anderston, Lanarkshire

Kenneth Macleod, 35, Master, 'Welcome Home', Leith North, Midlothian

John Macleod, 41, Seaman and Royal Naval Reserve, 5 Lower Sandwick Street, Stornoway

Donald Macdonald, 27, Sailor, Kipper Road, Stornoway

Donald Campbell, 42, Able Seaman, The James Watt Street Home, Blythswood, Glasgow

John Mackenzie, 31, Seaman Home Trade, 90 Jamieson Street, Hutchesontown, Glasgow Govan

Murdo Morrison, 35, Able Seaman, 106 West Street, Tradeston, Glagow Govan

Donald Macdonald, 25, Sailor (Sailing Vessel), 127 Blackburn Street, Govan
Roderick Macdonald, 21, Sailor (Sailing Vessel), 127 Blackburn Street, Govan
Alexander Macleod, 31, Sailor (Sailing Vessel), 127 Blackburn Street, Govan

Malcolm Mackenzie, 26, Seaman, Pointhouse Restaurant, Anderston, Glasgow Kelvinside
William Macleod, 51, Seaman
Kenneth Patterson, 25, Seaman

Angus Macleod, 35, Sailor, 93a Main Street, Anderston, Glasgow

Donald J McKillop, 22, Seaman Merchant Navy, 70 Maclean Street, Govan, Lanarkshire

Kenneth Macaskill, 33, Sailor, 174 Cowcaddens Street, Glasgow Milton

Aulay Macleod, 27, Seaman, 26 Wellington Street, Greenock West, Renfrewshire

Angus Macleod, 26, Merchant Seaman, 6 Chapel Street, Greenock West, Renfrewshire
Donald Macleod, 22, Merchant Seaman

Hugh Campbell, 26, Able Seaman, 'SS Lochiel', Lying at Dunvegan Pier, Duirinish, Inverness

William Macdonald, 45, Able Seaman, 'James Hall' Burghead Harbour, Moray (b. Obe!)

Roderick Macdonald, 41, Master, 'Rona', off Sandbank Holy Loch, Dunoon, Argyll

John Macaskill, 32, Able Seaman, 'Tuscorora', off Sandbank Holy Loch, Dunoon, Argyll

Donald Maclean, 29, Able Seaman, 'Aster', off Sandbank Holy Loch, Dunoon, Argyll

Kenneth Macaulay, 35, Able Seaman, 'Dunara Castle', Port Tarbert, Harris
Neil Mackenzie, 23, Able Seaman

Robert Macaulay, 23, Seaman, 'Gleniffer', James Watt Dock, Greenock East, Renfrewshire

Alex Cunningham, 56, Master, 'Jane', East India Harbour, Greenock East, Renfrewshire
John Cunningham, 26, Mate, 'Jane', East India Harbour, Greenock East, Renfrewshire
Angus Macleod, 27, Able Seaman, 'Jane', East India Harbour, Greenock East, Renfrewshire

Finlay McDermid, 22, Able Seaman, 'Glen Rosa', Lamlash Pier, Kilbride, Bute

John Macdonald, 22, Able Seaman, 'Inchmurren', Vessels, Kilmartin, Argyll

Dugald Macaskill, 42, Seaman, 'Hesperus', South Pier Oban, Argyll

Murdoch Munroe, 26, A B Sailor, Passenger, 'Lingal', Victoria Dock Leith, Midlothian

Seamen of Harris

This is a 'companion' list to that of the Sailors. The terms 'Seaman' and 'Sailor' are interchangeable, but distinct from those of 'Fisherman' and 'Fisher'.

I have given the number at each location, arranged roughly North to South plus an indication of the number of Seaman's Wives listed in each census:

1851 -6 Seamen, 2 Wives
Tarbert – 5
Kentulavig – 1

1861 – 6 Seamen, 2 Wives
Finsbay – 3
Strond – 3

1871 – 4 Seamen, 1 Wife
House at Tarbert
In Postoffice Tarbert
House at Little Urgha
Harris – 1

1881 – 4 Seamen, 0 Wives
East Tarbert No 5 - 2
North Harris – 1
Ardhasaigh No 77 - 1

1891 – 7 Seamen, 4 Wives
Scalpay No 2 – 1
Kyles Scalpay - 2
No 26 East Tarbert – 1
Scadabay – 2
Kentulvig – 1

1901 – 16 Seamen, 0 Wives
Scalpay - 1
Kyles Scalpay – 1
Carragreich - 1
No 53 North Harris – 1
No 54 North Harris – 1
No 67 North Harris – 1
Direcleit – 2
6 Drinishader - 1
18 Drinishader – 1
Stockinish - 1
Finsbay – 3
Cuidinish – 1
Obb - 1

Of these 43 Seamen, only 6 are found on the South Coast and none on the West Coast of South Harris. The North (East and West Loch Tarbert ) plus the island of Scalpay and the Bays predominate.

The small numbers of Seamen, taken with the similarly small number of Sailors seen earlier, appears to suggest that Harris was able to provide a living for, and therefore to hold-onto, onto very few of her seafarers.

Table of Sailors, Seaman and the Total

Year    Sailors   Seamen   Total
1841      8             0             8
1851    10             6           16
1861      1             6             7
1871      2             4             6
1881    17             4            21
1891      4             7            11
1901      6            16           22

Placenames Collected by Iain Mac an Tailleir - Harris

Harris, Na Hearadh 'division' or 'portion'

In South Harris, the West side is known as a' Mhachair, "machair land",
contrasting with the East side which is na Bàigh, "bays".

The hilly area inland from the east coast is Bràigh nam Bàgh, "upland of the bays".

A Harris person is a Hearach or Tearach.

Ref: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/vli/language/gaelic/pdfs/placenamesF-J.pdf

The full list is here:
There are 5 pdf links at the bottom of the page that can be downloaded and searched which is extremely useful!

The 'Town' of Oban in Harris

In the course of researching the Sailors of Harris I was somewhat taken-aback to find one in 1881 who's address was 'Oban No 4'. I expanded my search for all occupants of this place and became even more mystified when it appeared from 1891 as a 'Town', a term usually reserved for one of the few larger settlements on the island.

Where was this town of Oban? Was it perhaps a transcription error of 'Obbe'? Clearly further investigation was demanded. I patiently went through each census, noting the number of people, and looking for clues as to this mystery location.

It dawned upon me, when I reached 1881, that this Oban was in North Harris (ruling-out the Obbe conjecture) and that it was tiny. Four houses worth of smallness.

I had already tried Googling for it but without success. There was nothing for it but to look at the maps. Carefully. Starting at Tarbert, where North & South Harris meet, I 'walked' less than a mile before four letters leapt out at me...Oban. Four letters and a lot of nothing-else-ness.

Oban is on the road to Scalpay. It lies no more than a mile from the Post Office in Tarbert. I'd walked past it last year, oblivious that it existed as a named settlement, let-alone somewhere demanding a separate set of entries in the censuses.

I next looked at the area on the 1883 map to see if, perhaps, I could see whereabouts the old houses had been. I could clearly see those of Tarbert and of nearby Urgha Beag but I've yet to find the four houses of Oban.

I turned to Streetview on Google Maps and was reminded that I had stopped to take photographs from Oban (as I now know it) because it affords a rather fine view across East Loch Tarbert to Direcleit. The small bay is Ob Liceasto.

So, here are the detailed census returns for Oban, Harris from the 1861 & 1881 censuses plus the number of inhabitants for the other years. The reason for ommitting 1841 and 1851 is simple – Oban doesn't get a mention, well, not the Harris one...

Margaret Macdonald, 48, Tenant's Wife, Private House Oban, b. Harris
Margaret, 19, Daughter, b. Harris
Anna Bella, 11, Scolar, Daughter, b. Harris
John Macdonald, 13, Ag Lab, Servant, b. Harris
Angus Macrae, 37, Free Minister Officiating and Leader, Oban, Lodger, b. Kintail, Ross-shire

1871 – 20 people

1881 NB 1881 sees separation of N & S Harris

Norman Macleod, 40, Fisherman, Oban No 1, b. Harris
Jane, 47, wife, b. North Uist
Donald, 18, Fisherman, Son, b,North Uist
Neil, 15, Fisherman, Son, b. North Uist
Rachel, 12, Scholar, Daughter, b. Harris
Archibald, 9, Scholar, Son, b. Harris
Margaret, 7, Scholar, Daughter, b. Harris
Mary B, 5, Scholar, Daughter, b. Harris
Effie, 3, Daughter, b. Harris
Christina, 9 months, Daughter, b. Harris

Murdo Mackinnon, 43, Fisherman, Oban No 2, b. Harris
Catherine, 36, Wife, b. Harris
Effie, 12, Scholar, Daughter, b. Harris
Duncan, 10, Scholar, son, b. Harris
Angus, 9, Scholar, Son, b. Harris
Donald, 7, Scholar, Son, b. Harris
Marion, 5, Scholar, Daughter, b. Harris
Murdo, 4, Son, b. Harris
Malcolm, 2, Son, b. Harris
Betsy Macdonald, 23, General Servant, Oban No 2, b. Harris

Ann Ferrier, 40, Wool Spinner, Wife, Oban No 3, b. Harris

Robert D Macleod, 32, Sailor, Oban No 4, b. Harris
Hannah I, 30, Wife, b. Harris
Peggy, 6 months, Daughter, b. Harris
Robert Macdonald, 15, General Servant, Nephew, Oban No 4, b. Harris

1891 - 22 people

1901 - 15 people

After the division of Harris into North and South for the purposes of the censuses, from 1881 onwards, a further refinement began. Starting in 1891, and expanded by 1901, many places that had previously simply been an 'Address' became a 'Town'. This appears to have taken place somewhat arbitrarily and certainly not in proportion to the size of any given settlement.

It was certainly a useful development, particularly when accompanied with an increasing use of numbers to identify individual houses but nevertheless, for a wee while, the Town of Oban in Harris had me foxed!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tinker, TAILOR, Soldier, SAILOR

Tailors & Sailors of Harris

This is a very simple, crude listing of returns for the search terms 'Tailor' and Sailor'.

I came upon several 'Tailors' in 'Merchant Service', perfectly reflecting the perils of dealing with this data which is what led me to take a look simultaneously at these two very different occupations.

1841 14
1851 07
1861 13
1871 07
1881 14
1891 11
1901 18

With a range from 7 to 18 and an average of 12, Tailors certainly fluctuated but hardly alarmingly.
I shall detail these Tailors another time.

1841 08
1851 10
1861 01
1871 02
1881 17
1891 04
1901 06

With a range from 1 to 17 and an average of 7, it appears that very few folk on Harris worked as Sailors.

Of course, it is entirely possible that, due to these censuses being taken in late March or early April, all the sailors were at sea. In theory they should still appear, listed aboard their 'Vessels', but in practice this is often not the case.

The other clue as to whether there were more is by looking at the number of Sailors' Wives left at home:

1851 07
1861 00
1871 02
1881 04
1891 01
1901 02

These figures tend to confirm that Harris was home to very few Sailors, but what about Seamen?

Dressmakers of Harris

Here are the dressmaking ladies of Harris that appear in the censuses from 1841 to 1901.

1841 None Listed
1851 none Listed

1861 - 8
Rachel Macaulay, 25, Dress Maker, Daughter, Strond, b. Harris
Johanna Macaulay, 21, Dress Maker, Daughter, Strond, b. Harris
Ann Silver, 24, Dress Maker, Daughter, Strond, b. Harris
BAYS - 4
Mary Mackinnon, 30, Dress Maker, Daughter, Ardvey, b. Harris
Mary Macleod, 36, Dressmaker, Head, Leacli, b. Harris
Mary Mackinnon, 24, Dressmaker, Leacli, Visitor, b. Harris
Mary Maclean, 24, Dress Maker, Granddaughter, Geocrab, b. Harris
Marion Macleod, 21, Dress Maker, Visitor, West Tarbert, b. Harris

1871 - 3
Isabell Kerr, 41, Dressmaker, Wife, Strond, b. Harris
BAYS - 1
Mary Mackinnon, 32, Dress Maker, Sister, Arvey, b. Harris
Ann Macleod, 30, Dressmaker, Daughter, Tarbert Cottage, b. Harris

1881 - 3
Marion Macdonald, 26, Dress Maker, Daughter, East Tarbert No 5, b. Harris
Christina Macdonald, 24, Dress Maker, Daughter, East Tarbert No 5, b. Harris
Ann Macaulay, 42, Dress Maker, Wife, North Harris, b. Stornoway

1891 - 8
Ketty Macaulay, 23, Dressmaker, Niece, Strond, b. Harris
Johanna Stewart, 24, Dressmaker, Daughter, Strond, b. Harris
BAYS - 2
Ann Macaulay, 58, Dressmaker, Wife, Geocrab, b. Durness, Sutherland
Maggie Martin, 18, Dressmaker, Sister, No 3 Scadabay, b. Harris
Catherine Macrae, 17, Dress Maker, Daughter, Hamlets Little Borve, b. Harris
Maggie Mckay, 23, Dressmaker, Daughter, No 17 East Tarbert, b. Harris
Bella Macleod, 22, Dressmaker, Daughter, No 18 East Tarbert, b. Harris
Mary B Macleod, 15, Apprentice Dressmaker, Visitor, No 11 East Tarbert, b. Harris

1901 - 18
Obb – 2
North Bayhead
BAYS - 4
Geocrab - 2
Grosebay - 2
NORTH - 10
No 27 - 2
No 36
No 45
No 62
Kyles Scalpay
Little Urgha - 3

(I have not listed the individuals for this year in order to keep this entry to a reasonable length)

The first thing that strikes me is how few Dressmakers there were but then it has to be remembered that in those days all girls would be expected to be able to wield a needle and thread with a high degree of accomplishment. Thus these may merely be the lucky few who were able to generate extra income from their skills.

The second thing is how many are spinsters in their twenties and thirties. Presumably once married for the majority their dressmaking was largely subsumed within the demanding role of being a wife.

Finally, we can see evidence of the growth in importance of the North over time but the South and Bays areas appear to have remained more resilient in Dressmaking than in other fields.

I intend to conducting a similar exercise for the Tailors of Harris but have been putting that off due to known transcription errors that confuse Sailors and Tailors!

The Harris Walkway - Leacli to Greosabhagh via Caolas Stocinis

This marker is on the road between the A859 and Aird Mhighei.
The Walkway has only been open since 2001and the effect of the 
island climate on the marker (unlike the writing) is clear to see.
Note the Waymarker and sign to the Coffin Road

A full description of this route, including photos, can be read here:

The Harris Walkway - Coffin Road

 The Coffin Road was the mountain pass used to take the dead from
Leacli at the head of Loch Stocinis in the rocky Bays of the East
to Seilebost and the traditional burial grounds of the West.

The journey begins with an ascent to, and through, peatbogs which, even in Summer, it is difficult to imagine a team of men bearing a coffin over. Remains of cairns can be seen, constructed to keep the coffin safe whilst the living rested. Passing through the the high, bare, rocky mountain lair of eagles, the footing becomes surer as sight of the sea in the Bays behind is lost. The brief summit is followed by first sight of the beautiful sea and sand of the Atlantic coast far below. The steep descent eases into meanderings around the fertile flat machair at the end of the Coffin Road.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Harris Walkway

This is one of several such structures marking the ancient tracks
that have been linked together to form the
Harris Walkway
Cadha is Gaelic for a narrow pass or ravine.

Harris Hotel

“Harris Hotel was built in 1865 by the 7th Earl of Dunmore, and was originally called the Tarbert Hotel. At the time, he owned the North Harris Estate and built the hotel as a “sporting retreat” for anglers.”

Source: http://www.harrishotel.com/history.asp

1871 2nd/3rd April
William Grant, 37, Hotel Keeper, Hotel Tarbert, b. Stirlingshire
Henrietta Grant, 30, Wife, b. Stornoway
John, 2, Son, b. Harris
Catherine Macdonald, 24, House Maid, b. Stornoway
Barbara Macleod, 24, House Maid, b. Stornoway
Christina Martin, 19, Cook, b. Harris
Henry Hannan, 19, Groom, b. Stornoway
Donald John Shaw, 14, Servant, b. Harris
Robert Macleod, 35, House Carpenter, Visitor, b. Harris
John Morrison, 26, Fisherman, Visitor, b. Harris
Alexander Macleod, 23, Fisherman, Visitor, b. Harris
Ewan Kennedy, 45, Police Man, Visitor, b. Inverness-shire
Alexander Kennedy, 26, Clerk, Visitor, b. South West Inverness-shire

1881 3rd/4th April
Robert Hornsby, 37, Hotel Keeper, Tarbert Hotel 37, b. Gatehouse, Kirkcudbrightshire
Maggie Hornsby, 32, Wife, b. Ballantrae, Ayrshire
James M Hornsby, 1, b. Gairloch, Ross
Agnes Ferguson, 37, Sister-in-Law, b. Ballantrae, Ayrshire
Annie S Thompson, 5 months, Niece, b. Harris
Christina Fraser, 24, House Maid, b. Gairloch, Ross
Isabella Bain, 18, Cook, Domestic Servant, b. Gairloch, Ross
Kate McCaskill, 15, Nurse, Domestic Servant, b. Harris
Alexandra Maclean, 22, Shepherd, Servant, b. Gairloch, Ross
John Murray, 17, Coachman, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
William MacKinnon, 14, Cow-Herd, Servant, b. Harris

1891 5th/6th April
Daniel McKellar, 53, Hotel Keeper, No 2 East Tarbert, b. Inverary, Argyllshire
Margaret, 23, Daughter, b. England
Dugald, 18, Son, b. Glasgow
Archie, 16, Son, b. Glasgow
Henrietta, 12, Scholar, Daughter, b. Glasgow
Margaret Eadie, 68, Housekeeper, Cousin, b. Inverary, Argyll
Kenneth Macleod, 21, Coachman, b. Barvas, Ross
Betsy Macdonald, 20, Housemaid, b. Stratherrick, Inverness-shire
Mary Morrison, 26, General Servant, b. Lochs, Ross
Alexander Macgregor, 42, Commercial Traveller, Boarder, b. Glasgow

(Donald Campbell, 37, Temperance Hotel Keeper, No 20 East Tarbert)

1901 31st March/1st April
Daniel McKellar, 63, Hotel Keeper, No 24 North Harris, b. Inverary, Argyllshire
Matilda McKellar, 58, Housekeeper (Dom), Sister, b. Inverary
Dugaldl McKellar, 28, Bookkeeper, Son, b. Glasgow
Archie McKellar, 25, Hotel Assistant, Son, b. Glasgow
Henrietta McKellar, 21, Hotel Assistant, Daughter, b. Glasgow
David Mackenzie, 25, Coachman, b. Inverpool, Ross
Christina Macleod, 19, General Servant (Dom), b. Harris
Mary Mackenzie, 19, General Servant (Dom), b. Harris

The small number of guests appearing in the censuses is a little disappointing.

All three Hotel Keeper's were 'incomers', the last two apparently bringing their staff over to Harris so that from 1881 to 1901 there appear to have been relatively few islanders employed at the hotel.

In 1903 the hotel's name was changed to 'Harris Hotel' by a new leaseholder, William Cameron, and it is his descendants, the Morrison family, who own and run the hotel today.

Un-restored at Arnol

Succession of doorways illustrating the sheer scale & complexity of a 'Blackhouse'

Taken at Noon on 29th May 2009

Direcleit - The Family 'Pile'!

Looking from 5 Direcleit towards Scalpay
This is where my great, great, Grandfather, Malcolm Kerr, was born in 1821
The ruin of a Blackhouse in the foreground
(which was temporarily reconstructed for 'Crowdie & Cream')
was the home of Angus Kerr (Malcolm's younger brother)and his family.
The remains of the house of their father, John Kerr, can be seen near the Head-Dyke.
At especially High Tides the sea entered through the front door...

Illuminations across Loch Eireasort from Chearsiadair at Sunset

Sunday, 28 March 2010

River at Tobha Mor, Uibhist a Deas (Howmore, South Uist)

There is something magical, majestic and magnificent about Tobha Mor

(I have made attempts at straightening the image but the correct horizon constantly eludes me!)

Hand Loom Weavers of Harris

1841 is the only year that sees the occupation 'H L W' (Hand Loom Weaver) in the Parish of Harris:

Chersty Kerr, 80
William Macleod, 35
Effy Maclennan, 19
Marion Morrison, 61, Rha
Mary Macleod, 41, Rha

Catherine Morrison, 50
Mary Campbell, 30

Mary Macaskill, 50, Rushgarry
Ann Macintyre, 45, Rushgarry
Effy Mackinnon, 35, Rushgarry

At this point it might appear that the term 'HLW' was used uniquely by the people on these three islands off the West and South of Harris or ,perhaps, by the aquatic Enumerator dispatched to collect their data.

Let us look a little further afield in the Parish of Harris:

In this same year, there were thirty-one HLWs on South Uist, one on North Uist but none on Harris.

Again in 1841, there were twenty-three Weavers on North Uist and only one on South Uist.

There were only five weavers recorded on Harris:

Marion Kerr, 55, Scarista
Norman Macleod, 50, Scarista

Malcolm Macleod, 40, Kentulavig

Donald Maclennan, 70, Strond
Donald Macleod, 45, Strond

It appears that North Uist and Harris were the islands of Weavers whilst South Uist, Berneray, Pabbay and Taransay were those of the Hand Loom Weavers.

In Ross and Cromarty, the Isle of Lewis in 1841 had eighty-one HLWs but only five Weavers, all the later in Uig which Parish contributed four of the eighty-one HLWs.

I am tending towards the differentiation between these two groups as being no more than an artefact of the way this census was compiled, not least because I appear to have had a relative in each of the two camps!

The Chimney Sweep of Stornoway

Duncan Macdonald, 41, Chimney Sweeper, Stornoway, b. Applecross, Ross and Cormarty
Mary Macdonald, 38, Wife, b. Stornoway
Margaret Macdonald, 19, General Servant (Domestic), Daughter, b. Stornoway
Duncan Macdonald, 1 year 6 months, Grandson, b. Stornoway

Duncan Macdonald, 53, Chimney Sweep and General Labourer, 2 Newmarket Road, b. Applecross
Mary Macdonald, 50, Wife, b. Stornoway
Mary Macdonald, 30, Fishworker, Step-Daughter, b. Stornoway
Duncan Matheson, 11, Scholar, Son of Step-Daughter, b.Stornoway
Christina A Munro, 8, Scholar, Daughter of Step-Daughter

These are the only census records of a 'Sweep' in Stornoway. Whether there were others, or people took responsibility for their own flues, remains unknown.

What the Macdonald family does provide is an insight into those tricky areas of parentage and, in particular, that of the paternal parent.

The daughter Margaret, who is 19 in 1891, is clearly the same person as the Step-daughter Mary of 1901. I suspect that her name was in fact recorded as 'Marg' and has been mis-transcribed.

Whether she is the daughter of Duncan and Mary, or of one of them from a previous marriage/relationship could only be ascertained by seeing her birth certificate, a task that is perfectly possible to perform online but that I am currently unwilling to go to the expense of carrying-out.

A similar problem arises with her son, Duncan. His family name begins as Macdonald but changes to Matheson. This strongly suggests that his father was a Mr Matheson and that the family decided that he should take his father's name, despite his parents not marrying and thereby legitimising his birth. That was the law in Scotland . Children born out of wedlock in England remained 'Illegitimate' even if the parents married after the birth.

The reason for Duncan being given his 'new' name is very likely explained by the arrival of his half-sister, Christina. Mr Munro's liaison with young Margaret proved fruitful in a way that they might well have preferred not to have been the case and Margaret and her parents could then have decided that each child should use their respective father's names.

If the father had attended the registration, then his name would be recorded and that might be what happened with Christina, thus allowing her to use the name Munro in later life. However, it is also possible that Margaret alone registered the birth in the name of Munro, a practice that certainly took place.

I trust this all makes sense because I have attempted to distil several fairly dense paragraphs from the official explanation into an illustration from this particular family...

...and my chimney's still waiting to be swept.

Ref: Illegitimacy- http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/content/help/index.aspx?578

The Ship Chandler of Stornoway

It is Sunday, 31st March 1901 and we are at Craiglor(?) Villa, Stornoway, the home of Charles Morrison, the 62 year-old Ships Chandler from Dornoch, Sutherland.

It would have been lovely to have met Mr Morrison in his Chandlery for ,alongside Ironmongers, these are my favourite type of shop but this afternoon the whole town is quiet save for the gentle lapping of the waves.

Christina, Charles' Dornoch-born wife, and their three remaining Stornowegian children are all relaxing in this substantial Stornoway home. Maggie Ann, 33, is a Music Teacher and sits quietly sifting through some sheet music newly arrived from the mainland. Georgina Gerrie(?), her 31 year-old sister, is a Teacher of Painting and is sketching this serene Sunday scene.

Son James H, 26, a Bank Clerk and 21 year-old boarding Shop Assistant Donald Munro give the outward appearance of earnestly discussing the local retail economy, but with a particular emphasis on the latest fashionable attire of the single ladies of the town.

And what of Charles?, He is asleep in his favourite chair, dreaming of those foreign shores that can only be attained thanks to the manifest contents of his now-extensive emporium...

Note: A decade earlier the family were at 61 Cromwell Street and comprised Charles, a General Merchant, wife Christina, Margaret Ann, Teacher of Music, Georgina G, Teacher of Drawing and C, Charles M, a Clerk, John R and James H, who were Draper's Salesman, Matthew G, a Scholar and also living with them was their General Servant, Mary Campbell. 61 Cromwell Street today appears to be the central doorway in the 1886 building that houses 'Hebridean Jewellery' and 'Ceol'. It is by any measure, a most substantial residence!

If Music be the food of Love...

Musicians Teachers of Music in the census returns for Stornoway.
Those appearing in more than one decade are highlighted in bold.

Angus Morrison, 25, Musician, Mallan(?) Lane, Stornoway, b. Ross & Cromarty

Barg(Male) Steven, 45, Musician, North Beach, b. Thurso

1861 None returned (Plenty of Teachers but none specifically identified as Teacher of Music)
1871 none returned (Plenty of Teachers but none specifically identified as Teacher of Music)

Isabella Brotherton, 24, Teacher of Music, 47 Cromwell Street, b. Stornoway
Margaret Morrison, 47, Teacher (Music), Cromwell Street, b. Stornoway

Nathaniel W P McLeod, 19, Musician, 8 Lower Sandwick Road, b. Dunfermline

Margaret Morrison, 57, Teacher of Music, Breyton House, Bayhead Street, b. Stornoway
Margaret A Morrison, 23, Teacher of Music, 61 Cromwell Street, b. Stornoway
Ann W McPherson, 20, Teacher of Music, 48 Point Street, b. Stornoway
Maggie J Greeneield, 17, Teacher of Music, Free Church Manse, b. Glasgow

(Isabella MacKinlay, 30, Music Teacher, Claymore (Vessels), b. Glasgow)

Margaret Morrison, 67, Teacher of Music, 26a North Beach Street, b. Stornoway
Isabella I Gorman, 54, Music Teacher, 61, Cromwell Street, b. England
Maggie Ann Morrison, 33, Music Teacher, Craigmore Villa, b. Stornoway
Annie W Macpherson, 30, Music Teacher, 48 Point Street, b. Stornoway
Jeannie Morrison, 17, Music Teacher, 1 Bayhead Street, b. Stornoway

There are very few Musicians here but the presence of each of them is significant as it demonstrates that music played a sufficiently important role to enable people to make a career of it.

We can see the growth between 1881 and 1901 in the numbers of Teachers of Music but whether these ladies were employed in schools, purely in a private capacity, or in a combination of the two is not yet known to me.

There are plenty of possible avenues here for further exploration but, for the moment, I shall leave these music lovers to 'play on'...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Net Register Tonnage (NRT) & Why Size Matters...

I am attempting to get a 'feel' for how a single measure of a vessel might relate to a living, breathing ship in order that I can better-picture of the Jessie, Crest & Lazy Louis Kerr.

All I have to go on for each vessel is a single number, the rather cumbersome 'Net Register Tonnage' (NRT) which is really a figure for how much cargo-space a ship has.

My starting point are two ships that have been seen in Stornoway recently. My main reason for this is that I saw the Westward Ho last year and hence have a reasonably good appreciation of her proportions.
Please see: http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/03/westward-ho-at-stornoway.html
Unfortunately I missed the Reaper on her tour of the Western Isles.

Westward Ho 1894
34.7 NRT
Length 77ft
Beam 22.8 ft
Draught 10.6 ft
LxBxD/NRT = 77x22.8x10.6/34.7 = 536
L/B = 77/22.8 = 3.37

Reaper 1901
29.04 NRT
Length 70' 4”
Beam 20' 4”
Draught 8' 8”
LBD/NRT = 70.33x20.33x8.67/29.04 = 427
L/B = 3.46

I had been hoping for a simple relationship between the dimensions of each ship and her cargo space but this wasn't to be. I repeated this for a few earlier ships but the results merely proved the case.

Undaunted, and bolstered somewhat by noting that the Length to Beam ratios of most vessels are in the range of 3.3-3.4:1, I decided to create a couple of hypothetical ships:

30 NRT
L 60
B 18
D 9
LBD = 60x18x9 = 9720
L/B = 3.33

Hypothetical One and a Sixth
47.6 NRT
L 70
B 21
D 10.5
LBD = 70x21x10.5 = 15435
L/B = 3.33
15435/9720 = 1.59

As you can see, I spent a considerable period of time and creative energy in naming these vessels!

The point is that if we take the good ship 'Hypothetical' and expand her by merely one-sixth in all three dimensions we create a similar sister-ship with a massively increased volume.

In fact, we move from the capacity of the 'Jessie' to that of the 'Crest' and Lady Louisa Kerr'.

Although these calculations are wholly imaginary and utilise a plethora of simplifying assumptions, they demonstrate that all three ships were very likely to have been of a similar order of magnitude as Westward Ho and Reaper.

NB The manner in which NRT is calculated varies across space and time and I have good reason to believe that the 1894 Westward Ho's 34.7NRT is actually much closer to the 1863 Crest's 47NRT than those two figures appear to suggest.

Owners & Masters of the Crest

J Adams & Co. Liverpool 1863
Joseph Qualtroph (Shipbuilder) Port St Mary, Isle of Man 1864-1873
Alexander McDonald Tobermory 1896 (Registered Greenock)
Alexander John Kerr 1896-1903

R Madg Bideford 1863
Thomas Chtistiansen, Port St Mary, IOM, 1866
John Sansbury, Rushen 1866
John Wood Port St Mary 1866 and1868
William Raisbeck Port St Mary 1868
John Woods Port St Mary 1869-1872
John Cubbin Port St Mary 1872
James Kermode Port St Mary 1873
John Cubbin Port St Mary 1873
(John Kelly, Castletown 1881 - see below)
John McDonald (b. Isle of Mull) Tobermory 1896 (Registered Greenock)
Alexander John Kerr 1896-1903

I believe that I have found the Crest in the 1871 Census:

John Wood, 58, Master, Crest (Vessels, Cromarty, Ross and Cromarty), b. Port St Mary, Isle of Man
John Kewin, 24, Mate, Crest, (V, C, R and C), b. Port St Mary, Isle of Man
John Sweetman, 23, Ordinary Seaman, Crest (V, C, R and C), b. Castletown, Isle of Man
James Wood, 18, Ordinary Seaman, Crest (V, C, R and C), b. Port St Mary, Isle of Man

This is very likely to be her in the 1881 Census:

John Kelly, 38, Master, Crest, (St Thomas, Liverpool), b. Castletown, Isle of Man
Joseph Hudson, 30, Mate, Crest (St T, L), b. Castletown, Isle of Man
Edward Fawn, 23, Able Seaman, Crest (st T, L), b. Ramsey, Isle of Man

The 1891 Census has 8 men aboard a Crest in a Canal near Gloucester, but this is unlikely to be her.

In 1901, when she was Alexander John's, he was here:
Alexander John Kerr, 44, Seaman, Mackay's buildings, Plantation St, Stornoway, b. Stornoway
Margaret, 40, Wife, b. Stornoway
Donald, 17, Scholar, b. Stornoway
Mary, 8, Scholar
Alexander John, 4

The discovery of the Crest's crews in the 1871 and 1881 censuses pleases me greatly.
Firstly, because it was only by cross-referencing the list of Masters that I could be sure that this 1871 entry referred to the correct vessel and, secondly, because it is fairly unusual to have this many records for a small coasting ship of the time.

My next task is to investigate J Adams & Co of Liverpool and, if possible, discover precisely where the Crest was built and for what purpose.

Map showing 4 Isle of Man locations

View Isle of Man CREST in a larger map


Friday, 26 March 2010

I Saw Three Ships...

A distillation of what I've learnt regarding these three ships:

Jessie 3393 Inverness 1850 31 tons
Ports of Registry
Inverness MNL 1857
Inverness Sail 31 tons 1860 (MNL)
Stornoway Sail Sloop 1880 (MNL)
AJK 1876-1897(?) 21 years
Crew Agreements 1864, 1867-1897, some missing (MNL)
The Belfast News-Letter
Thursday, August 31st, 1876 – The Jessie, Kerr, from Stornoway
Monday, August 15th, 1881 – The Jessie, Kerr, from Stornoway

Update: I have just received a copy of Robert Simper's 'Scottish Sail - A Forgotten Era' and on p33 is a photograph from the late 1880s:
"In the centre are the trading smacks Advance and Jessie of Stornoway. The 30 ton Jessie was built at Fraserburgh in 1850..."
The image is far from clear but here I have a picture of one of Alexander John Kerr's ships taken at the time that he owned her. I am, as will be appreciated, somewhat ecstatic at this discovery!

Crest 44427 Douglas 1862 Sail Ketch (Lloyds) 47 tons
Ports of Registry
Douglas 1862
Crew Lists 1863-1873 (MNHL)
Castletown Sail Smack 1880 (MNL)
AJK 1896-1903 (Wreck) 7 years
Crew Agreements 1867, 1886-1903 (MNL) (1897-1899 purchased)
The Belfast News-Letter
Tuesday, February 16th 1897 – The Crest, Kerr, from Stornoway
Wednesday, January 25th 1899 – The Crest, Kerr, from Stornoway

Lady Louisa Kerr 12163 Belfast 1846 Sail 49 tons
Ports of Registry
Belfast 1857 (MNL)
Belfast Sail 48 tons 1860 (MNL)
AJK 1903(?)-1914(?) 11 years
Crew Agreements 1864-1914, only 7 years (MNL), (1863, 68/9 @ PRO NI)

What strikes me the most is not that these three ships cover at least 39 years of seafaring in the life of one man, but that they served men at sea for 47, 41 and 68 years respectively.

That is an average of 52 years per vessel...

...and all achieved with wood, hemp, cotton and wind.

Stocking Knitters of Harris

I have been intending looking at this occupation but was given additional impetus to do so by some very kind words from a modern-day exponent of the craft:

Christian Campbell, 60, Spinner and Knitter, Scarista, b. Harris

Flora Shaw, 73, Stocking Knitter, East Tarbert, b. Lewis

Marion Kerr, 65, Stocking Knitter, Strond, b. Harris
Effy Kerr, 35 Stocking Knitter, Strond, b. Harris
Christy Kerr, 32, Stocking Knitter, Strond, b. Harris
Flora Morrison, 14, Stocking Knitter, Strond, b Harris
(This family group are relatives of mine)

Ann McDermid, 60, Stocking Knitter, Strond, b. Harris

Margaret Macdonald, 50, Stocking Knitter, Strond, b. Harris

Ann Macleod, 40, Stocking Knitter, Strond, b. Harris
Christy Macleod, 19, Stocking Knitter, Strond, b.Harris

Mary Maclean, 60, Stocking Knitter, Borisdale, b. Harris
Ann Maclean, 26, Stocking Knitter, Borisdale, b. Harris

Mary Macdonald, 40, Stocking Knitter, Rodel, b.

Christina MacKillop, 49, Knitter, House at Direcleit, b. Harris
Marion MacKillop, 17, Knitter, House at Direcleit, Visitor, b. Harris

Catherine Macleod, 22, Knitter, House at Direcleit, b. Harris

Effy Kerr, 29, Knitter, House at Direcleit, b. Harris (Another relative)

Ann Macdonald, 37, Knitter, West Tarbert, b. Harris

Christy MacCuspick, 32, Knitter, House at Little Urgha, b. Harris

Catherine Morrison, 65, Spinner and Knitter, Isle of Scalpay, b. Harris

Catherine Mackinnon, 14, Stocking Knitter, Wool Spinner's House, North Harris, b. Harris

1891 Non Listed
1901 Non Listed

These results demonstrate the strength of the 1871 Census in recording the Occupations of all those present as a key item.

Unless this happened to have coincided with some (so far unknown) reason for a one-off explosion in the knitting activities of the ladies of Harris, I think it is safe to say that all the other censuses simply missed recording the majority of the knitters.

Nevertheless, we have here a good picture of the situation in 1871, a time when there were 11 Stocking Knitters between Strond and Rodel, 4 Knitters at Direcleit and only 2 in North Harris.

It is almost a surprise that 'Strond Socks' never got the marketing treatment that gave us Harris Tweed!

Or was that indeed what had been attempted in 1871?...

The Belfast News-Letter

A search of the British Library catalogue of 19thC British newspapers produced an interesting set of results, all but two of them from The Belfast News-Letter:

Dundee Courier & Argus, Thursday July 12th 1866 - Arrivals - July 11 - 'Planet', Kerr, Stornoway, Herring

Thursday, August 31st, 1876 – The Jessie, Kerr, from Stornoway, with fish

Monday, December 17th, 1877 – The Lobelia, Kerr, from Stornoway

(Glasgow Herald) Wednesday, August 25th, 1880 – Lady L. Kerr, Stornoway

Monday, August 15th, 1881 – The Jessie, Kerr, from Stornoway, with dry fish

(Glasgow Herald) Tuesday, March 12th, 1889 – Daisy(s), 85, Kerr, Stornoway, Coal

Tuesday, February 16th 1897 – The Crest, Kerr, from Stornoway, with dried fish

Wednesday, January 25th 1899 – The Crest, Kerr, from Stornoway, with dried fish

This extract from the Stornoway Gazette's obituary of Alexander John Kerr is extremely helpful:
There was no one better known than Mr Kerr in the different places of call between the Mersey and Cape Wrath, and no craft more readily recognised than the "Jessie," the "Crest", and the "Lady Louisa Kerr"; which he owned and sailed in succession.

If, in 1876, the Jessie was indeed his ship, then he owned her at the tender age of 22! It could be that his father, Malcolm Kerr, was in fact the owner at that time and later passed the vessel on to his son.

I know that the Crest was bought by Alexander John in 1896 so, unless the obituary neglects to mention a period of non-ownership between the Jessie and the Crest, then he may have had the Jessie from at least 1876 until 1896, a considerable period of time.

The Lady Louisa Kerr apparently appears in Glasgow in 1880 but annoyingly her Master's name is not recorded.

The Lobelia and the Daisy could be red herrings, their Masters just  happening to have the same name, or they could be ships that Malcolm owned or that either he or Alexander John sailed in the capacity of Master.

As is usual, these latest discoveries produce more new questions than they answer but their value to me is in corroborating the obituary and by giving me my first tantalising glimpses of the Jessie.

Ref: British Newspapers - http://newspapers.bl.uk/blcs

Official Ship Numbers - ordered by sequence of ownership

3393 Jessie Stornoway 30 Net Registered Tonnage (NRT)
44427 Crest Ramsey 47 NRT
1357 Lady Louisa Kerr Belfast 40 NRT
12163 Lady Louisa Kerr Belfast 49 NRT

I know that this is the correct Crest and the Jessie (first registered in Stornoway and therefore presumably built there) looks to be a good match. Unfortunately none of these vessels have the year that they were built but I am leaning towards the second Lady Louisa Kerr as No 1357 implies a very old ship!

Ref: http://www.mariners-l.co.uk/IBON-INDEX.html
(This index is arranged numerically but it is worth doing a Google search for a ship first, although this can be rather variable - if at first you don't find it, it doesn't mean it isn't lurking there!)

Update: I have taken my researches a little further forward by identifying for which year 'Crew Agreements' for these vessels are held at the Maritime history Archive in Newfoundland.

3393 Jessie Stornoway 30NRT 1864, 1867-1897, some missing

44427 Crest Ramsey 47NRT Crew Agreements1867, 1886-1903 (1896-1899 already purchased)

1357 Lady Louisa Kerr Belfast 40NRT 1870-1874, (1863-1869 @ PRO of NI)

12163 Lady Louisa Kerr Belfast 49NRT 1864-1914, only 7 years, (1863, 1868/9 @ PRO NI)

Ref: http://www.mun.ca/mha/ (The link to On-line Crew Lists is at the Top-Right)

By combining the evidence in the sources I am able to produce the following outline of Alexander John Kerr's ownership of these three vessels:

Jessie  (built 1864) - 1876?-1897?

Crest (built 1867) - 1896-1903 (Sunk, see -http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/02/end-of-crest.html )

Lady Louisa Kerr  (built 1863) – 1903?-1914?

Therefore all 3ships were built between 1863 and 1867, in Stornoway, Ramsey and Belfast respectively.

The Jessie, at 30NRT, was considerably smaller than the Crest (47NRT) and Lady Louisa Kerr (49NRT).
It is hard to convert these figures into 'images' of the actual vessels, but they were probably all ketches, ie. two-masted, and between 60 and 80 feet in length.

The Crest appears to have been capable of being handled by a crew of three but four or five appear to have been her complement when carrying cargo.

I make no apologies for the somewhat non-linear development of this entry because this is how I find such research to develop, via a piecing together of elements from disparate sources that gradually assemble into a (more or less!) coherent whole.

Update: The reason why the Lady Louisa Kerr, Official No 1357, only has records up to 1874 may be seen here: http://www.irishwrecksonline.net/Lists/DownNorthListA.htm for in 1875 she was wrecked off Carrickfergus. A third vessel of the same name was lost on the 9th April 1898 http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/search_item/index.php?service=RCAHMS&id=124152 - I say a third as the previous two had in one case already been wrecked and the other was to give at least another 16 years service.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Ship Builders of Stornoway

We know that locally made that Sails and Ropes were available and it seems entirely reasonable to now turn to those who can construct our vessel itself.

These four fellows are the only Ship Builders listed although there are many Ship Carpenters (340) and Ship Joiners (24) plus Boat Builders (24) to be found.

Alexander Russel, 60, Ship Builder, Cromwell Street, b. Scotland

Alexander Russel, 71, Ship Builder, Cromwell Street, b. Duffus, Moray

William Cook, 43, Ship Builder (Employing 18 Men and 8 Boys), South Beach Street, b. Aberdeen

William Cook, 53, Ship Builder, 20 South Beach Street, b. Aberdeen

Donald Mackay Mackenzie, 26, Ship Builder, 25 South Beach Street, b. Stornoway

Murdo Mackenzie, 58, Ship Carpenter and Boat Builder, 58 Cromwell Street, b. Stornoway

So, our options are between Mr Russel from Duffus, Mr Cook from Aberdeen, or one of the local Mackenzies, the elder of whom is actually more of a Boat Builder.

Congratulations, Donald Mackenzie, we can discuss the details in the morning...

The Ropemakers of Stornoway

Having ascertained where these people worked, I elected to identify those from the earliest two censuses and give the numbers employed for the following five:

Update: Pigot's 1837 Directory informs us that there were two Rope-works and lists two 'Rope & Twine Makers' as seen below:

Alexander Morison, Bayhead St
Donald Morison, Bayhead St

1841 5 listed
Donald Morrison, 30, Rope Maker, Mill Street, b. Ross and Cromarty
Alexander Morrison, 30, Rope Maker, Bayhead Street, b. Ross and Cromarty
Roderick Macleod, 20, Rope Maker Apprentice, b. Ross and Cromarty
Murdo Morrison, 20, Rope Maker Apprentice, Mill Street, b. Ross and Cromarty
Donald Morrison, 16, Rope Maker, Bayhead Street, b. Ross and Cromarty

1851 13 listed
John Stewart, 36, Ropemaker, Keith Street, b. Bute
John Smith, 32, Ropemaker (Journeyman), Enaclete, b. Uig, Ross
Donald Morrison, 28, Ropemaker, Bayhead Street, b. Stornoway
Murdo Morrison, 33, Rope Maker, Bayhead, b. Stornoway
John Mackenzie, 34, Ropemaker, Bayhead Street, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Allan Mackenzie, 24, Ropemaker, Bayhead Street, b. Stornoway
Norman M, 23, Ropemaker, Bayhead Street, b. Bayhead, Stornoway

John Macrae, 31, Rope Spinner, Bayhead Street, b. Stornoway

John Grant, 18, Ropemaker Assistant, Keith Street, b. Stornoway
Angus Grant, 16, Ropemaker Assistant, b. Stornoway

Malcolm Matheson, 23, Apprentice Ropemaker, Bayhead, b. Stornoway
Murdo Maciver, 16, Ropemaker Apprentice, Bayhead, b. Lochs
David Macleod, 14, Apprentice Rope Maker, Culregrein, b. Stornoway

1861 10
1871 13
1881 15
1891 10
1901 03

From 1851 to 1891, the Rope Making industry consistently employed between 10 and 15 people.
Unless the 1901 result is due to some unknown artifact, it probably accurately depicts the fate of Rope Making as ships turned increasingly from sail to steam for their power.

Rope Making in Stornoway

I had begun to look at those people with an association to the Rope Making industry but got side-tracked into wondering whereabouts in the town they would have been working.

A couple of online pals came to my aid and what follows is a distillation of what's been discovered thus far:

The OS 10,560 map of 1851 (the product of the Royal Miners and Sappers identified earlier) shows three features relating to Rope Making.

An open Rope Walk, running roughly North to South at the Northeastern Corner of the present-day Golf club. From its Southern end (near the much later Lodge) a short walk across a wooden bridge would have taken us onto a track leading to the second feature.

A Ropery, comprising a long, thin line of buildings running roughly West to East from the vicinity of the Butchers Shop near the Co-Op to Westview Terrace. A few paces beyond the far end of this we find the final feature.

The Rope Work House, situated at the point where the Ropery track abutts Westview Terrace, is still shown on the OS 10,560 map of 1960. By this time,however, all that remains of the Ropery is a thin line that follows its alignment whilst the straight line of Rope Walk is all but lost within a meandering path.

Update: Pigot's 1837 Directory informs us that there were two 'Rope-works' in the town and lists two men, Alexander and Donald Morison, as 'Rope and Twine Makers'.

Sailmakers of Stornoway

A list of Sailmakers from 1851 to 1901, highlighting those who appear in more than one census:
William Pope, 46, Sailmaker (Master, employing 1 man), South Beach, b. Rothsay, Bute
George Pope, 20, Sailmaker (Journeyman), Son, b. Stornoway

William Pape, 55, Sailmaker, Point Street, b. Rothsay, Bute
Daniel Pape, 17, Sailmaker, Son, b. Stornoway

William Pope, 65, Sailmaker, 44 Point Street, b. Rothesay, Bute
Daniel Pope, 26, Sailmaker, Son, b. Stornoway
Ebenezer Maciver, 34, Sailmaker, 11 South Beach Street, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Roderick Macleod, 70, Sailmaker, 5 New Street, b. Stornoway
Donald Maciver, 19, Sailmaker (Apprentice), 2 Kenneth Street, b. Stornoway
Neil Macleod, 18, Sailmaker (Apprentice), 32 Keith Street, b. Stornoway

Daniel Pope, 36, Sail Maker, 33 Stornoway, b. Stornoway
Murdo Maclean, 19, Sailmaker, 61 Keith Street, b. Stornoway
John Maclean, 18, Sailmaker, 12 Church Street, b. Stornoway
William Pope, 76, Retired Sailmaker, 32 Stornoway, b. Rothesay, Bute
William Maclean, 23, Sailmaker, No 36 Inaclete, b. Stornoway

Daniel Pope, 46, Sailmaker, 41 Francis Street, b. Stornoway
Murdo Maclean, 29, Sailmaker, Keith Street, b. Stornoway
John Maclean, 28, Sailmaker, 21 Lewis Street, b. Stornoway
John Macrae, 24, Sailmaker, 80 Keith Street, b. Stornoway
Angus Macdonald, 28, Sailmaker, 73 Keith Street, b. Lochs
Malcolm Macmillan, 16, Sailmaker (Apprentice), 10 Scotland Street, b. Shader, Ross

John Maclean, 38, Sailmaker and Fish Salesman, 61 Lewis Street, b. Stornoway
John Macrae, 34, Sailmaker, 80 Keith Street, b. Stornoway
Hugh Mackenzie, 23, Sailmaker, 50 Bayhead Street, b. Stornoway
Torquil Macleod, 57, Sail Maker, 13 North Beach Street, b. Lochs
John Murdo Nicolson, 16, Apprentice Sailmaker, 18 Scotland Street, b. Stornoway
Donald Macdonald, 49, Sailmaker and Crofter, 18 Sandwickhill East Street, b. Stornoway

Daniel Pope, 56, Retired Sailmaker, 22 Argylle Street, Rothesay, Bute, Visitor, b. Stornoway

I think that there is something very special about a specialised, skilled craft being handed-down the generations and we can see that the Pope family served some of the Sailmaking needs of Stornoway for at least 40 years. Daniel appears to have had a daughter but no son to pass the tradition on to...

Hats & Brollies

No 'Man about Town' would dream of leaving home without his hat and, in this wet climate, his umbrella.

These twin requirements are ably met by Mr James McDonald, 26, an enterprising young 'Hatter and Umbrella Maker' from no-less a place than fashionable Edinburgh itself.

At 24 ½ Keith Street you will also find his wife, Jane, who is a few years his younger and comes from the beautiful City of Stirling.

Mr James Riddel, a slightly older gentleman from Portobello in Midlothian, is the maker of these wonderful umbrellas.

Please hurry, for these sole manufacturers of hats and brollies in Stornoway are only open around 1871...

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Smile Please! - but only if you can stay still...

In 1871 William Macdonald , a Nairn-born 39 year-old Photographer, was lodging at 18 Cromwell St , Stornoway.

A decade late, in 1881, the 58(?) year-old from Forres was staying at 11 Keith Street.

Down the road at number 20 was 47 year-old William Macleod, a Stornowegian 'House Painter and Photographer'.

Off the islands, a 16 year-old 'Photographer's Assistant 'from Stornoway, Eliza Macpherson, was at Airds Place, Kilmore and Kilbride in Argyll and another Stornowegian 'Photographer's Assistant', Clementina Tulloch, was at 18 Albert Street, St Andrew in Midlothian.

By 1891, 58 year-old Photographer William Macelod was living at 34 Keith Street whilst 'Photographer Retoucher' Eliza Macpherson had moved to 7 Cuthard Street, Elgin in Moray.

She appears again in Elgin in 1901 but as an 'Artist Photographic' visiting the home of an Inland Revenue Officer. There is no further record of Mr Macleod.

This photograph is from circa 1897 and I am now able to say with a fair degree of certainty that it was taken by William Macleod.
It may well be one of his last photos.

'Westward Ho' at Stornoway

On the
30th May 2009
this 106ft, gaff-rigged ketch
from the Faroes visited

She was built
 and sold to the
Faroe Islanders

A small glimpse
of what would
have been a
familiar sight
in Stornoway
a century
or more

Built in 1884 by Leaver & Co., Grimsby as a fishing vessel. 
Launched as the WESTWARD HO. 
Tonnage 88.51 gross, 34.7 net, dim. 77 x 22.8 x 10.6ft. 
Original built with one mast, in 1925 converted to a ketch rigged fishing vessel. Sail area around 230 sq. ft.

Pictures of her under sail:

Information  from the
Tall Ships Race 2008

Mr Torquil McLeod

Should you be requiring the services of a decorator or glazer in Stornoway, I feel duty bound to introduce you to the excellent services of Mr Torquil McLeod, a 30 year-old 'Painter, Paper Hanger and Glazer' of 21 Point Street in this, his home town.

Should you call upon the family, you will find that Mrs Mary Irvin McLeod, his 25 year-old wife who hails from Gretna, is somewhat busy with her two Stornowegian Sons, 3 year-old Alexander Sinclair Macleod and 5 month old George Stephen Macleod.

However, her Mother, the charming Margaret A S Hunter who was born 53 years ago in Wellington, Shropshire will occupy the children whilst Mrs McLeod fetches you some tea.

Ah, someone at the door, Torquil, perhaps?

No, it is the 14 year-old scholar, John Hunter, Margaret's Son who has lived all his life in Stornoway.

Perhaps best to leave your card and ask Torquil to pay you a visit in the morning?

What led the Hunter's from Shropshire first to Gretna(?) and thence to Stornoway you wonder, as you step into the late-afternoon Spring-sunshine of 1881...

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Farm Grieves of Harris

These are the Farm Grieves, or overseers (plus Farm Managers and Estate Officers/Factors) from the censuses and arranged from South to North:

John Lindsay, 40, Estate Officer, Rodil, b. Scotland
(Marrion Kerr, 20, b. Harris)
Marion is the daughter of Angus, a Shoemaker of Strond at this time.

Duncan Shaw, 60, Factor, Iponish, North Uist, b. Scotland

(Donald Stewart, 65, Farmer, Luskentire, b. Scotland)
(John R Macdonald, 30, Farmer, Rodil, b. Inverness)

John R Macdonald, 44, Factor, Rodel, b. Snizort, Inverness
Kenneth Macdonald, 30, Factor's Clerk, Rodel, b. Applecross, Ross-shire
(Angus Kerr, 20, Farm Servant, Rodel, b. Harris)
It is wholly appropriate that the first record features the long-serving John Robson Macdonald who was the Dunmore's Factor residing in their island home, Rodel House. Kenneth Macdonald would, 30 years hence, be the Factor based at Borve. Angus is the son of Angus, a Tenant in 1841.

John Robson Macdonald, 54, Factor of Harris Estate, Rodel House, b. Snizort, Inverness
(Alexander Macleod, 30, Retired Factor's Clerk, Strond, b. Harris)

Alexander Macdonald, 43, Scaristavore, b. NW Inverness

Our first Farm Grieve, on the West coast, perhaps indicative of the displacement and replacement of people by sheep on the machair land?

John R Macdonald, 64, Factor, Rodel, b. Snizort, Inverness
(John Cunningham, 32, Estate Factor's Clerk, Head, Rodel, b. Harris)
Angus Kerr, 40, Rodel, b. Harris

Angus had previously been a Farm Servant then Ploughman at Rodel so his presence as the promoted Farm Grieve follows a clear 'career progression'!

Angus Kerr, 48, Farm Manager, Rodel Farm, b. Harris

Donald Macleod, 27, Farm Manager, S Harris, b. Harris
Malcolm Macaskill, 47, S Harris, b. Harris

Kenneth Macdonald, 64, Farmer & Factor, Big Borve, b. Applecross, Ross
John Mackenzie, 35, Big Borve, b. Harris

Angus Macvicar, 50, Farm House, N Harris, b. N Uist

Kenneth Macdonald, who has farmed Borve since it was cleared for the second-time in 1853, is now listed as the Factor. We have a couple of Farm Managers in the South as well as Farm Grieves at Borve and somewhere in the North. Discovering the date that Borve Lodge came into existence appears to be today's uncompleted task.

Malcolm Macaskill, 50, Grieve's House, S Harris, b. Harris
Donald Maclennan, 44, Grieve's House, S Harris, b.

Thomas Brydon, 35, Factor, Farmhouse Luskentyre, (Leaclee), b. Dunblane, Perthshire

Robert F Matheson, 34, Factor & SB(?) Clerk No 14 West Tarbert, North Harris, b. Leith

Thomas Brydon was Factor of the South Harris Estate.
Where were the Grieve's Houses, An-t-Ob, Strond, Rodel?

John Mackinnon, 33, Farm-Grieve, Farm Grieve's House of Luskintyre, Stockinish, N Harris, b. Harris

(Margaret Macleod, 60, Wool Spinner, Cottar's house Leac a Li, Stockinish, Grieve's House Luskintyre Crofting Township of Leac a Li, b.Harris – 12 Macleod's give same details)

Malcolm Macaskill, 60, (Retired), Obbe, b. Harris

Robert Sinclair, 56, Factor, N Harris, b. Buchaven, Stirlingshire

I have included Malcolm Macaskill because he was a Farm Grieve in South Harris at the time of the previous two censuses and the Macleod entry for the clues contained.

I suppose what has surprised me the most is the fact that, in a period of 50 years, we only have 13 different people recorded as Farm Grieves, Farm Managers or Factors on Harris.

The presence in 1841 of Marion Kerr in Rodel interests me. Her father was Angus the Shoemaker not Angus the Tenant who's son Angus spent the remainder of his working life at Rodel. Therefore there were two contemporaneous Kerr families linked to the Estate over the perio 1841-1901. She married John Macaulay, the Miller of Uig, and we find the couple visiting her widowed mother in 1851. 

Oh, and Angus Kerr remained at Rodel, styling himself a 'Retired Groom' then 'Retired Coachman' before his death in 1910 at the age of 84...

Gamekeepers of Harris

These are all the Gamekeepers found in the census returns for Harris.
I have separated them into South Harris and then North Harris and added notes for each decade:

Angus Shaw, 42, Geocrab, b. Harris

Finlay Macleod, 30, Visitor, Port Esgein, Farm of Strond, b. Harris

As Finlay Macleod is only visiting Port Esgein and is later found in North Harris he may well have been working on the latter Estate at this time. He and a Miller, John Macaulay, are at the home of the Shoemaking Kerr family with the 'Paisley Sisters' also living at Port Esgein at this time.

Angus Shaw, 50, Ardslave, b. Harris

Finlay Macleod, 44, Miavaig, .b Harris

We are awaiting the construction of the two castles of Harris in 1863 and 1867 but nevertheless it is surprising that these two remain the only 'permanent' Gamekeepers recorded.

Angus Shaw, 64, Strond, b. Harris

Murdo Macaulay, 57, Ardourlie Castle, b. Harris
Donald John Mackenzie, 45, House at Tarbert, b. Harris
James Robertson, 37, Main Road of Harris, b. Perthsire
Donald Scott, 28, Avensrudh Castle, b. Perthshire

Angus Shaw is still serving the South Harris Estate but we now have a Gamekeeper at each castle plus two more on North Harris.

John Finlayson, 28, South Harris, b. Stirling

Roderick Mackay, 32, Farm House, N Harris, b. Lochbroom
D John Mackenzie, 60, Stavke Loft, N Harris, b. Harris
Finlay Macleod, 63, Miavaig, b. Harris
Angus Macleod, 46, Luachair Keeper's House, N Harris, b. Harris
Charles Macleod, 23, Bunamhewdara, N Harris, b. Harris
Murdoch Macaulay, 65, Keeper's House, N Harris, b. Harris
Robert Macaulay, 25, (Unemployed), Son, Keeper's House, N Harris, b. Harris
Frederick Macaulay, 29, 2 Ardvourlie, b. Lochs
Murdo Macfarland, 48, Assistant GK, 3 Ardvourlie, b. Ness, Ross-shire

John Finlayson has taken over the role at Rodel and we see 8 gamekeepers serving the castles and the North Harris Estate.

John Finlayson, 41, Rodel, b. Stirling
Roderick Macleay(?), 43, Hamlets Little Borve, b. Lochbroom
Donald Macleod, 47, Leaclee, b. Harris
Duncan Shaw, 45, Flodabay, b. Harris

Murdo Macaulay, 78, No 2, N Harris, b. Harris
Finlay Macleod, 75, Tolomochan House, N Harris, b. Harris
Charles Macleod, 32, No 2 N Harris, b. Harris
Frederick Maculay, 48, 2 Ardvourlie, b. Lewis

Borve Lodge, on the West coast, is represented now but the predominance of the North is still in evidence.

John Finlayson, 51, Rodel, b. Stirling
Roderick Macleay, 53, Little Borve, b. Lochbroom
Duncan Shaw, 52, Flodabay, b. Harris

Murdo Macdonald, 86, 2 Gamekeepers House, N Harris, b. Harris
Donald Macdonald, 22, 5 Solomochan cottage, N Harris, b. Kilmonivig, Inverness-shire
John Macinnes, 40, 2 Bunavoneadder, N Harris, b. Harris
Angus Macleod, 66, 1 N Harris, b. Harris

Samuel Morrison, 35, Laxdale(?), b. Harris

The previous pattern is maintained but whether the apparent drop from the 1881 heights is a true reflection of sporting activity or merely an artiface of the peripatetic nature of Gamekeeping is not known.

Anecdotally, one of my English Gamekeeping ancestors appears in one Census in a large group of Gamekeepers staying in a barn! They were clearly engaged in supporting a hunt away from their families at the time.

The other surprise has been to see that throughout the years a Gamekeeper has resided in the Bays of Harris, initially in isolation but then latterly accompanied by a colleague living in Rodel.

I have not yet established a construction date for Borve Lodge, today still in private ownership but now within the area administered by the West Harris Trust which combined the estates of Luskentyre, Borve and Scaristavore.

Castles (in the Air)

Ardvourlie Castle
In 1863, Ardvourlie Castle, on the shores of Loch Seaforth, was built as a hunting lodge for the North Harris Estate which was being run by the widowed Lady Catherine and her Factor. It was let on a tenancy basis to sporting friends.

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle
Charles, 7th Earl of Dunmore, decided that Ardvourlie Castle was too far removed from his sporting activities. In 1867 Fincastle was constructed, Fincastle being the courtesy title (Viscount Fincastle) of the first sons of the Earls of Dunmore, but it later was renamed Amhuinnsuidhe Castle after its location.

Here are the residents of each castle as seen in the censuses of 1871-1901:

Isabella Burns, 22, Domestic Servant, Ardvourlie Castle, b. Stornoway
Arabella Murray, 19, Domestic Servant, .b Ireland
Murdo Morrison, 21, Schoolmaster, Visitor, b. Carloway

Murdo Macaulay, 57, Gamekeeper, Ardvourlie Castle, b. Harris
Elizabeth, 54, Wife, b. Aberfeldy, Perthshire
Robert, 26, Assistant Gamekeeper, Son, b. Athline, Ross-shire
Jessie, 21, Daughter, b. Athline
Emma, 17, Daughter, b. Athline
John Macleod, 5, Grandson, b. Tarbert, Inverness-shire

Anne Braden, 47, Housemaid, Avensrudh Castle, b. England
Mary E Elliot, 16, Visitor, Niece, b. England
Donald Scott, 28, Gamekeeper, b. Perthshire

(Murdo Macleod, 60, Farmer, Scalpay, b. Fincastle, Harris)
This is odd as the castle was only built 4 years ago!

1879 - Ardvourlie Castle burnt down on Tuesday, 4th March
'...built about 16 years ago at great cost by Lord Dunmore.'
Glasgow Herald, Thursday, March 6, 1879; Issue 12232

Betsy Macaulay, 32, Housekeeper, 1 Ardvourlie, b. Harris
Margaret Macleod, 26, House Maid, Cousin, b. Harris
Marion Mackay, 16, Visitor, b. Harris
Peter Macaulay Smith, 3, Visitor, b. Peterhead

Frederick Macaulay, 29, Gamekeeper, 2 Ardvourlie, b. Lochs
(Wife and 4 children all b. Harris)
Chirsty Mackenzie, 22, General Servant, b. Lochs

Murdo Macfarland, 48, Assistant Gamekeeper, 3 Ardvoulie, b. Ness, ross-shire

Elizabeth Covell, 32, General Servant (Domestic, Castle, N Harris, b. England
Margaret Macleod, 28, General Servant (Domestic), b. Harris
Euphemia Mackinnon, 32, General Servant (Domestic), b. Harris

Marjory(?) Macdonald, 35, House Maid, 1, Ardvourlie, b. Harris
Bella Mackay, 20, Third House Maid, b. Harris

Frederick Macaulay, 48, Gamekeeper, 2 Ardvourlie, b. Lewis
(Wife and 9 children)

Kate Mackenzie, 29, Housemaid Domestic, Finn Castle, b. Harris
Marion Mackay, 28, Under Housemaid, b. Harris

Ewan Macdonald, 25, Deer Stalker, Gamekeepers House, b. Kilmonivig, Inverness-shire
Flora Finlayson, 34, Housekeeper, b. Portree

(There are also several entries for 1 and 2 Gamekeepers House, N Harris but I intend focussing on those people associated with Gamekeeping in a separate article)

The most obvious feature is that none of the censuses have captured occupants other than employees and their visitors.

Whilst we can be fairly sure that the domestic staff were living in the castles themselves, those supporting the sporting activities appear predominantly to have inhabited associated houses.

Although I am slightly disappointed by the 'thinness' of these results, perhaps they demonstrate how small a part these castles played in the everyday lives of the 4000+ people of Harris despite they being the people who paid the highest price in establishing these 'sporting' venues on the Highlands and Islands...

Monday, 22 March 2010

Malcolm Miller & Me...

We were met at the rail station by a mini bus and driven to Southampton docks, not the ferry docks,these had towering warships in various shades of gloomy grey looming around and here, at the waters edge, three spindly sticks rose like cobwebbed cricket stumps...

Peering over the edge I saw a familiar silhouette, one that looked larger in photos than it did bobbling on the icy water, one that I suddenly realised was to be my home for the next two weeks, one which was laughing hysterically at the copy of La Nausee that lurked in my bag but which was rapidly reaching for my stomach. Bloody Hell!

It was the last week of April 1976 and I was to spend Cup Final fortnight (Man United v Southampton, yes THAT ONE...) sailing in this three-masted schooner on the freezing North Sea. It had seemed quite a good idea last Summer when I'd applied for sponsorship for this character-building-once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity but I was still wallowing in post O'level relief then and the reality of A' level studies hadn't been nightmared-of...

Actually, the 'Lower-Sixth' was going pretty well...that is to say, the extra-curricular stuff was. In February I'd played the lead male in Christopher Fry's 'A Phoenix Too Frequent' which wasn't difficult in one way as it's a three-hander and two of the trio are female roles...

It was, as our Drama Teacher reminded us, the most ambitious production of his long and distinguished career so there's no pressure then, as they'd say these days. 'Phoenix' is 150 minutes plus of pretty heavy-going 'tragi-comedy' and I was on stage for all but about 12 minutes of it and, up until the first performance, I'd never remembered my lines...

Now, a masterful stroke was employed because a Prompt was chosen and it was deemed necessary for me to rehearse my lines at every opportunity with she, who happened to be, as was also said at every opportunity, the most beautiful girl in the school. She was also brilliant. Well, she saw through my ploy that Prompts had to do the stage-kissing bits too...

The three actual performances were the only times that I was word-perfect (a fact that threw the two ladies totally, resulting in them chalking-up a few penalty-points, as I recall) and the local rags gave us good reviews and the female lead let it be known that we did 'proper' kissing (which we did) and thus it was that I gained the reputation of being a 'rather good kisser'...

Anyway, back to the quayside and Sartre, the ship, and me. The Malcolm Miller was purpose built in Aberdeen as a training vessel for the (then-called) Sail Training Association. She was (and presumably in her latest guise as a luxury cruising yacht, still is) a 150ft long steel ship with three masts, one crows-nest and a host of memories to tell.

Once all 39 'trainees' were accounted for, we were shown below to our bunks (in the case of half-a-dozen unfortunate souls, their hammocks) and then mustered on deck for our initial initiation. The main mast, or middle stump, is actually a rather large lump of wood and somewhere up there, amongst the mysterious myriad of sheets (ropes, not sails) and shrouds (steel ropes, not Turin-type) was a nest. Now a nest, as we all know, is a large, comfy, nurturing bowl where proud parents can keep there young safe and warm and well-fed. This wasn't one of those. This 'nest' was a contorted crush-barrier, torn from a football terrace and taken God knows how many multi-fathoms into the air before being fixed (HOW?) to the mast. This was a torture-nest, a veritable vertigo virago, and, get this, to experience this least comfortable of all ill-conceived perches you had to climb a ladder, a wire rope ladder, a ladder who's width steadily narrowed at every terror-trembling step, a ladder that swayed under the weight and movement of the ascending ant-like 'trainees' that clung to it as if the future of the whole colony depended upon it – which, of course, is the whole point of life at sea.

All 39 of us made it. I counted us all up, and I counted us all down, as it were. But the 39 men who descended were definitely different from the 39 boys who had ascended. It broke the ice. After that, we scurried around 'our' ship safe in the knowledge that the worst was over (Oh, the innocence of youth...).

I should perhaps mention that my next foray into 'serious' Thespian (a couple of Sixth Form Reviews notwithstanding) was to be invited back to school to play a cameo role as Jacques Roux, the 'radical priest' in Peter Brook's Marat/Sade. Actually, it was my Chemistry teacher's production rather than Mr Brooks' and we never got to perform it once the Head was educated into the finer points of the play's contents, but at least I later got to date Charlotte Cordet in a weird art/life-mirroring kind of way. 'Charlotte' was actually a delightful, witty, extremely intelligent Irish colleen and ending our relationship was far crazier a thing than any of my straight-jacketed antics in the play. (Oh, the foolishness of youth...)

In addition to the 39 press-ganged trainees, one of whom was a Borstal Boy who started the swearing which, within a week, had spread throughout us faster than scurvy used to decimate real sailors, there were 3 leaders, a cook, a bosun, several able-seamen and the Captain. One of the perennial topics of conversation, again something that I think the Inmate have had begun, was the precise extent of the legal powers of the Captain once we were at sea. We were pretty sure that keel-hauling wasn't allowed but equally sure that Treason on the High Seas remained a Capital offence that he could execute should the need arise. We were pretty obedient at sea, but 39 sealed bottles of teenaged testosterone were bound explode should we be granted any shore-leave in, say, France, Holland or (cough) Edinburgh.

As it transpired, Cherbourg was saved due to a) most of us were still recovering from sea-sickness and b) the fact that we'd only been penned into our moated can for a day or two. Den Helder is the Dutch Naval Port and not only were we rank amateurs in comparison to the real matelots but the Dutch bars were as welcoming as ever to us 'Brits'.

Edinburgh was different. It was our last night. We'd been together for two weeks bar the nights in France and Holland. And there were a couple of Edinburgh lads in our number. That's about all any of could remember in the morning – apart from the serious bollocking we all got for returning several hours later than we were supposed to...

Talking of hours, time on board took on a new dimension once we were divided into our three 'watches' (Fore, Main & Mizzen, one mast each) and the day similarly divided but into four-hourly chunks (plus the two 2 hour 'dog watches') and we became shift-workers on a shifting-sand of time.

I was fortunate in having read of this nautical peculiarity and thus grasping the theory and, to an extent, the practice in advance of it becoming a reality. Several souls for whom the bells were an alien intrusion on their slumbers could be seen wildly confused at having to go to bed straight after breakfast or waking to the smell of boiling cabbages.

We left Southampton the next day and motored up the Solent for safety reasons. Chugging along at 5 knots on a fairly flat sea was bound to induce a false sense of security that was rudely interrupted when we were summoned to get of our backsides and raise sail, which appeared to coincide with the appearance of a more active sea and certainly was accompanied by the first few bouts of sea-sickness. Sea-sickness can be vaguely amusing as it spreads amongst the crew but takes on an altogether different character when it takes you in its mind-churning, stomach-hurling 'I'd rather die than suffer another second of this' grasp. And it will. There are very, very few people who will never suffer. Amongst sailors, I mean. I consider myself fortunate because I was acclimatised in a little over 24 hours. Some of the lads took three or four days. The good thing was that people did demonstrate a surprising amount of sympathy (empathy?) and no-one was blamed for the longevity of their individual torment.

Under sail and on our way, and about to cross the most congested shipping lanes in the World...

It was when we had left Cherbourg and were making our way along the French coast that I happened to have the helm and was given the order 'Hard a Port', to turn the bow to face across those shipping lanes and steer us back to the English side. On the occasions since then when I have taken a ferry across the channel, I always remember the thrill of actually doing that same journey with that great ship's wheel in my hands, with the wind in the sails that we had set, without GPS, without power, with pride...

There was one other time when I was at the helm having been called on Watch at 2 in the morning. We were pootling along the North Sea in light winds and a clear sky. The watch leader and I were consulting the compass. A look-out scanned to Port and another to Starboard. The rest of our team were allowed to wander the deck or sit in the warmth below. We four were responsible for the safety of all on board. We watched the lights slipping by. A few were other vessels. Others were the identifiable beacons and lighthouses. But the lights we marvelled at were those of the sky above us. We could easily have covered our compass and navigated our path with these dependable, celestial, timeless pin-pricks. The only danger was that of losing the familiar constellations in the unfamiliar background of stars that our light-polluted lands usually keep hidden. It was magical, incredibly cold, but wonderful.

34 years later, it is still with me but now with the added knowledge that three generations before me members of my family were making their living by harnessing the wind to drive them over the sea...

The morning we left Den Helder the Captain decided it would be a good idea to get every scrap of canvas aloft and the hoots we got from the Dutch naval vessels swelled our pride. I was scrubbing the deck at the stern simply because it was something to do. The slight heel was to be expected. The bucket sliding from Port to Starboard wasn't. I retrieved it but it stubbornly repeated its action, with what appeared to me to be slightly more haste. I recall thinking, 'Something's Up' and then it happened. An unforecast Force 8 gale appeared from nowhere and our Starboard gunwale was engulfed. 'All Hands' was called and with our pride between our legs, we scrambled to get as many sails down as quickly as possible. It was one of those occasions where adrenalin allows ordinary human beings to do extraordinary things. People scurried hither and thither in organised but seemingly disorganised ways. I do not know how close we may have been to disaster but I do know that the Captain thanked and praised us and we never again put all our sails on show...

The Cup final took place on a gloriously sunny afternoon off the Northumberland coast. No, it took place at Wembley Stadium but I was listening to it as we crawled along in the lightest of breezes. I know it was pretty calm because I took the opportunity to voluntarily and without very good reason to ascend to that 'nest' and take some photos from the yard-arms. A couple of things you need to know about yard-arms: a) they are less than a yard wide. b) they are more than a yard long. There appears to be a lot of nautical terminology that falls foul of the trades description act, but maybe it's Treason on the High Seas if you articulate that?

There was one guy on board who had brought his SLR and a complete set of lenses and, yes, he spent a lot of time aloft. I suspect he became an award-winning photo-journalist covering war-zones and, if so, I spotted his potential first...

1-0 NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Southampton had kicked-us out into the Solent and now another Southampton had kicked me in the Solar-Plexus. I had only been a 'fan' of United since 1967/8 because I'd only been in Britain since July 67 and had returned here almost totally ignorant of the game of football. I knew, of course, that England had won the 1966 World Cup but for some strange reason my Aberdonian father hadn't made much of a fuss about it whilst we were abroad.

Southampton – yes, the one that the Titanic sailed from, the ship that carried 8 year-old Winifred Quick to America (well, almost) where she grew-up and her grandson married my cousin in Canada.


The final three days are a bit of a blur because of those 72 hours I was awake for precisely 71 hours and 59 minutes and 59 seconds. The 'Watch' thing. It bit me. The net result was that I spent my final hour afloat in a chain locker. Why? Why was I manually coiling this heavy, cold, wet and thoroughly filthy in a bottom-of-the North-Sea-kind-of-disgustingness-way mile of chain inside the tin-tight confines of the bow of this vessel? I really do not know the answer but I do know that that was what I was doing.

I blame Southampton.

We were in Edinburgh.

The sea does things like that to you...