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, 7 April 2010

Hamlet of Limera

In the 1851 census there were 18 people, in 3 households, in 'Limera, Hamlet of Limera, Lochs'.

Lemreway, or, Leamrabhaigh, apparently used to be known as Leumra and later Leumrava.

The expansion of the Park Sheep Farm, centred at Valamus in South Park, resulted in the Clearance, in 1843, of Lemreway and Orinsay.

In 1841 these two townships had been home to 179 and 147 people respectively.

In 1851 the 18 people listed here were the only inhabitants of Lemreway and not a soul was to be found living in Orinsay.

Robert Linton, 26, Shepherd, b. Roberton, Roxburgh
Helen, 24, Wife, b. Ashkirk, Selkirk
John, 2, Son, b. Contin, Lochs
Adam, 6 months, b. Lochs
Margaret Lillico, 6, Niece, b. Lochs
Catherine Lillico, 5, Niece, b. Lochs
Johanna Lillico, 2, Niece, b. Lochs
Marion Kerr, 23, b. General Servant, b. Harris

Donald Macdonald, 48, Fisher, b. Lochs
Malcolm, 14, Fisher, Son, b. Lochs
Morgus, 35, Fisher, Brother, b. Lochs
Angus Martin, 16, Fisher, Relationship Unknown, b. Lochs
Angus Mackenzie, 20, Fisher, Nk Viz Note Margin, b. Lochs
Roderick Mackenzie, 24, Fisher, Nk, b. Lochs
John Mackenzie, 19, Fisher, Nk, b. Lochs
Donald Macdonald, 21, Fisher, Nk, b. Lochs

Catherine Mackenzie, 75, Pauper (General Servant), b. Lochs
Catherine Mackenzie, 60, Visitor, b. Lochs

Today Lemreway, together with neighbouring Orinsay, are isolated-enough places, but 160 years ago these 18 folk must have felt themselves even more cut-off from their fellows. The sea was their prime means of movement, for there were no roads and the tracks would have been almost impassable at times, yet the nearest settlement was perhaps 6 or 7 nautical miles away.

Let us look at these three households:

The first is that of a Shepherd from the Mainland, not only with his wife and two very young children but also with three equally young nieces. Were they visitors or, as seems more likely, orphans? Whatever the circumstances, it is not surprising that they called-upon the assistance of a General Servant, of whom more later.

Secondly, we have the 8 men, each a 'Fisher', and ranging in age from 14 to 48. Whether this was their 'permanent' abode or they were merely making-use of the facilities whilst fishing the local waters I do not know. I do know that a group of, largely, such young men cannot have chosen to be living together in such circumstances if there were a more companionable alternative available.

Finally, we have the two elderly ladies, but look, one of these is a visitor so the elder Catherine Mackenzie, a Pauper, normally lives alone, presumably preferring to see out her days in the land she has lived in rather than moving to strange, but perhaps more convivial, surroundings.

18 where once there had been ten times that number.
1 man shepherding sheep on land that had sustained perhaps two or three-dozen families.
2 children, or 5 if we allow the nieces too, where over 100 would have given shrill-sign of laughter and of hope.
8 men, huddled together in their barrack.
And one women, clinging to her land, her memories and her dignity...

Lastly, what of the 'General Servant'?

Well, it so happens that her sister-in-law was one of those 147 souls torn from Orinsay some 8 years earlier which makes it all the stranger that she should be found here, apparently assisting a family whose very presence symbolises the forces that drove another young women to Stornoway and, in 1848, into the arms of her brother.

I do wonder how my '2nd great grandaunt' came to be in the Hamlet of Limera in 1851.

Map Note: The OS 10,560 map of 1854 has all the roofless houses, marked 'Ruins', and one that appears to be intact, adjacent to the 'L' of 'Leamrabhagh' - It is the sole indicator of human habitation...

The 1851 census records James Lillico, 30, Manager of Sheep Farm (Employing 10 Shepherds and 2 Boatmen) residing at 'Valamis House', Park Farm Kenmore, Lochs. There are 9 other people at Kenmore, including his wife, so we may safely conjecture that the Lillico Nieces at Limera were his daughters.


  1. Do your census returns ever mention Stiomrabhagh? That is a now derelict settlement, 2 miles west of Orinsay.

  2. Hi, they list 70 people living there in 1841, and 81 in 1851. The Lochs Community link given above takes you directly to the story of the 1857/8 clearance of Stiomrabhagh and the later resettlement.

  3. As a matter of interest, yes James Lillico was married to Helen Linton's sister. Robert Linton did not stay long in Limera, his wife Helen actually died in May 1851 and is buried at Stornaway. Robert subsequently remarried and eventually emigrated to New Zealand. I was glad to read that Robert arrived in Limera after the clearance as he is my 3 times great grandfather and I would feel sad to know that he was involved. I hope they treated Marion Kerr well, by what I know of him he was a kind and generous man.

    1. Thank you very much indeed, Isabel, for adding these details about the family.
      It is always particularly delightful to hear from a descendant of someone I have encountered during my researches.
      Thank you again,

  4. Hello Peter
    It seems that your links are no longer active.

  5. Thank you, Wendy, I have removed them from the piece - this is often the case and I do try to find the same information online elsewhere, but that isn't always possible.