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

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Boatmen of Lewis

Here I have collected all those recording their occupation as 'Boatman', listing them by the parish in which they were living. The Coastguard Boatmen have had a separate entry to themselves.

Robert Clark, 50, Boatman, Inaclete St, b. Stornoway

James Beaton, 26, Boatman at Custom House, b. Stornoway
Donald Munro, 38, Boatman, Widow's Row, b. Lochs
Angus Young, 30, Boatman and Labourer, Widow's Row, b. Uig
Murdo Morrison, 25, Boatman (Ferrying Sheep), Lodger, Valamis, Park Farm, b. Lochs
John Fraser, 19, Boatman (Ferrying Sheep), Lodger, Valamis, Park Farm, b. Lochs

John Mackenzie, 67, Boatman, Boatman's House, b. Stornoway

Angus Macleod, 29, Boatman, Eishken Lodge, b, . Tarbert, Harris

Angus Macleod, 37, Boatman, Brother, Eishken, b. Harris

John Christie, 73, Army Pensioner Boatman, Castle Policies Boatman's Porter Lodge, b. Blair, Perth

John Christie, 86, Retired Pensioner Boatman, Lewis Castle Policies Boatman's House, b. England

It is interesting to note that the Boatmen of Lochs are solely associated with Park Farm, where they were employed conveying sheep around the places that were once home to so many victims of the Clearances, and the Eishken Estate.

Those in Stornoway include one working for HM Customs and another employed at Lews Castle.

The absence of recorded Boatmen in Uig and Barvas, combined with the fact that those of Lochs and Stornoway were largely employed by either landowners or the State, suggests to me that the transportation needs of most people would have been met locally, presumably by fishermen?


Park Farm (PDF)

Eishken Estate -


    Dear Sir/Madam
    I am researching my family tree and wonder if you can help me.
    In your article it is stated that a John Christie Army pensioner/boatman aged 73 in 1891 is living at porters lodge.He is my great,great,great grandfather who was born in Blair Athol in 1819.( I have his birth cert)
    In 1901 there is a John Christie retired pensioner/ boatman living at Policies boatmans house aged 86.

    Do you think that they are the same person as my grandfather should be 83 in 1901 and it says that the second John Christie is born in England and not in Blair.
    Can you help me with this.
    Jim Christie
    Maidenhead Berks
    (Born Greenock)

  2. Hi and thank you for contacting me.
    I am sure that he is your ancestor because in 1901 his 44 year-old daughter Catherine is living with him &, tracing back, I have found the family in Stornoway in 1871 complete with a 15 year-old Catherine and her 4 siblings. She is also found there in 1861 aged 4.
    Ages in the censuses often vary from the 'expected' and whoever filled the 1901 form in (perhaps Catherine?) may have forgotten where he was born. Catherine 'disappears' in 1881 & 1891 but I think she may have been with her older brother, William, a Seaman, in Northumberland,England in 1881.
    I cannot be certain because according to the 1861 census William was born in Ireland but the 1881 record shows his place of birth as Scotland, although this, again, could simply be an error on the part of the person (in this case, possibly his wife?)completing the census return.
    Apologies for the length of this reply but I felt it important to explain my reasoning!

  3. Hello Peter
    Thanks for the prompt and helpful reply. Could I pick your brains with a couple of things.
    John Christie had a son called Alexander who was my great,great, grandfather. He was born in 1851 and should be 10 on the 1861 census but he is not mentioned. any ideas why ?.
    He is mentioned on the 1871 census aged 20. He like William was born in Ireland (Tipperary).
    I can only assume this is where John Christie was in the army at the time of their births as he is mentioned as an army pensioner.
    Have you any ideas where I could get his service record.

  4. Hi Jim, a good place to start regarding military service records is the National Archives and they have an online guide here:


    (His Pension record could be there too.)

    Alexander might have been sent elsewhere for his education (perhaps with grandparents, for example)and if he was a boarder his place of birth may not have been correctly recorded, so it is worth looking to see if he appears elsewhere in the UK.

    Although he became a shoemaker, it is also possible that he was at sea at the time of the census and hence, like many others, was never added to the records upon his return to land.

    Good luck with your research,