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, 27 April 2010

Harris Free Churchmen

Here are those men recorded on the censuses from 1851-1901 as working for the Free Church on the 'mainland' of Harris (with the exception of one record for St Kilda). There are 5 records of 'Catechists' between 1851 and 1891 who do not specify 'Free Church' and whose names have therefore been excluded.

John Morrison, 55, Free Church Catechist, Leac a Li, b. Harris
Malcolm Macualay, 35, Free Church Elder (Shoemaker), Visitor, b. Harris

Angus Maclean, 49, Free Church Catechist, Cluer, b. Lewis

Alexander Davidson, 48, Free Church Minister of 4 acres, Manse, Manish, b. Moy, Inverness

John Cunningham, 23, Enumerator of Census and Free Church Preacher, Grosebay, b. Harris

Angus Macrae, 37, Free Minister Officiating, Lodger, Oban, Harris, b. Kintail, Ross

Ewen Macaulay, 80, Free Church Elder, Ardhasaig, b. Harris

Alexander Davidson, 58, Free Church Minister, Manse, Manish, b. Moy, Inverness

Margaret Mackenzie, 30, Minister's Wife, Free Church Manse, Tarbert, b. Kilmalie, Argyll
(Roderick Mackenzie, 33, Free Church Minister Tarbert, Woodbank, Snizort, Inverness, b. Assynt)

Alexander Davidson, 68, Minister of Harris Free Church, FC Manse, South Harris, b. Moy

Roderick Mackenzie, 43, Minister of Tarbert Free Church, FC Manse 20, b. Assynt, Sutherland

Malcolm Morrison, 46, Free Church Catechist, Meavaig, b. Uig, Ross

Alexander Davidson, 78, Free Church Minister of Harris, Manse, Manish, b. Moy, Inverness

(Angus Giddes, 48, Minister of St Kilda Free Church, St Kilda, b. Tarbert, Ross)

Farquhar Kennedy, 34, Minister of Harris United Free Church, Boarder, Manish Cottage, b. Lochalsh, Ross

Nicol Campbell, 64, Minister of Tarbert United Free Church, no 57 North Harris, b. Ardhattan, Argyll

Donald Macdonald, 56, Missionary of United Free Church, Little Borve, b. Harris

The role of the churches, whether 'Established' or 'Free', in the lives of the people of Harris is incapable of being overstated. It is vast, complex and, at times, confusing. It unites and divides, produces calm and controversy, and can never be ignored.

John Morrison, 'Gobha na Hearadh' (The Harris Blacksmith) we have met before for it was he who, having been driven from An-t-Ob for his allegiance to the Free Church, raised the funds for the establishment of the Free Church and Manse at Manish as occupied by Alexander Davidson from, at least, 1861-1891.

Tarbert got its Free Church much later for, as we have already seen, it was Rodel and environs that was the economic and ecclesiastical hub of Harris in earlier times.

It should be remembered that, despite the dominance of the Free Church, the Established Church of Scotland continued to have a presence on the island and one of my as yet incomplete tasks is to catalogue those events in the lives of my island relatives recorded as taking place in the two opposing camps, although I have a suspicion that the distribution has more to do with the availability of a Minister for a Marriage rather than any particular allegiance at the time!

PS - John Cunningham, the 1861 'Enumerator of Census' is the only such person that I have found for Harris but it is satisfying to now be able to put a name to the man who gathered the information that year. It is also significant that he was a Hearach, for it implies that the anglicisation of Gaelic names, including spellings,  was perhaps partly within his sphere of influence?

Manish Church -http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/171068/details/harris+manish+free+church/


  1. Wow! Alexander Davidson is my Great Great Grandfather. It's wonderful to see my own research intersect with someone else.

  2. Hi,
    I am absolutely delighted to hear from you. It is indeed wonderful!

    There are various references to Manish and its Free Church in my blog but this piece is perhaps the most intriguing -


    - your great, great grandparents clearly had a particularly close & affection bond with the Thomas's!

    Please keep in touch and if there is any information that you would like to add to the blog that would be brilliant.

    All the best,