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, 2 March 2010

Master of the Harris Mail Boat

Occasionally you stumble across an unexpected delight.

I was looking through some records associated with boats and suddenly discovered that in 1851 (nearly 160 years ago) there was a Master of the Harris Mail Boat.

Hearach John Morrison, 38, together with his wife and seven children were residing at Port Esgein, a tiny inlet in the Sound of Harris and home to the Farm of Strond.

Port Esgein is significant as it is just a short walk from Loch Rodil and thence to Rodel Harbour.

View Larger Map

John would have kept the Mail Boat in one of these three locations, reminding us that it would be another 60 years before the 'Soap Man' decreed that Obbe was the perfect spot for a Great Harbour, despite local knowledge warning him otherwise.

What kind of vessel was Morrison the Master of?
Which ports did it serve, on the mainland and elsewhere on the islands?
How frequent a service (weather allowing) did it provide?
When did it start, and cease?

The only answer I currently have is, 'I don't know', but it is certainly another piece of evidence that this now-tranquil South-Eastern end of Borrisdale, encompassing Port Esgein, the Farm of Strond and adjacent to Rodel, was once very much at the heart of Harris.

Update: Pages 2-4 in Section 2 of this report provides some clues: http://www.napier.ac.uk/randkt/rktcentres/eri/projects/Documents/WI%20Fares%20Report.pdf

'From 1840 Harris had a separate packet twice weekly in summer, one in winter, from Uig in 
Skye' and 'In 1851 the bulk of the West Highland steamboat trade was consolidated under the ownership of  Messrs David and Alexander Hutcheson and they were soon operating their own service from  Glasgow to Oban, Skye and Stornoway.' giving tantalising glimpses but still leaving us far short of the whole story.

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