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

Friday, 16 April 2010

Harris Timeline

This is very much an ongoing piece that I have assembled not least to assist me in my researches.
As such, it is inevitable that many details are lacking so it is meant more as an aide-memoire that others might find useful and/or interesting.

1266 – Western Isles formally ceded from Norway to Scotland – Lordship of the Isles formed
1494 – James IV of Scotland defeats last Lord of the Isles but fails to control the islands
1544 – Taransay battle between invading Morrisons of Ness, Lewis and Macleods
1528 - Alasdair Macleod (Crotach – hunch-back) of Harris and Dunvegan builds St Clement's church at Rodel
1547 – Alasdair Crotach buried at St Clement's

1730 – Luskentyre, previously part of Tack of Berneray of William Macleod , becomes his home.
1739 - In November the 'William' moors in Finsbay to abduct people to be taken into slavery.
1746 – Battle of Culloden
1755 – Population is '1969 souls' (NSAS)
17?? - William's grandaughter, Isabella, inherits and her husband, William Macleod, rules Luskentyre
1779 – Harris sold to Captain Alexander Macleod of Berneray
1782 - Rev John Lanne Buchanan begins travels, describes Macleod's introducing certain craftsmen to Harris
1784 – St Clement's church restored by Captain Macleod, burns down and is rebuilt
1786 – Rodel House, Harbour and fishing facilities established by Captain Macleod
1787 - 'Piscator' visits Rodel - his account is later published in 'The Bee'
1790 - Alexander Hume Macleod, Captain Alexander's Son, inherits Harris
1792 – Rev John Macleod writes Harris entry for Statistical Accounts of Scotland
1792 – Population '2536' (NSAS quoting SAS)
1792 - Sea-ware and Feannagan cultivation
1794 - Sound of Harris description
1794 - 'A Defence of the Scots Highlanders'
1794 – Taransay home to 140 people
1794 - Sound of Harris described
1797 - Robert Heron's and the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement

1800s – Taransay has crofters in Raa but Paible and Uidh are now only farms
1804 – Bald's Map of Harris
1806 - 'Strictures & Remarks' inc. an account of Alexander Hume Macleod's positive attitude is published
1808 - A warning regarding The Disease of The Curl that affects Potatoes
1810 – Horgabost cleared
1811 - Alexander Norman Macleod inherits Harris from his father, Alexander Hume Macleod
181? - Donald Stewart, Sheep Farmer, becomes Factor
181? - Seilibost divided into Crofts – to maximise population and rents
1814 - Sir Walter Scott (accidently!) visits Harris
1815 – Kelp Market plummets following end of French Wars
1818 -  Rodel Cleared whilst Alexander Norman Macleod was residing at Rodel House
1824 – Present Eilean Glas Lighthouse built
1827 - An account of Baptist Preaching on Harris
1828 – Scarista cleared
1828 - Presence of Asbestos on Harris described
1829 – Seilibost partially cleared

1830s – Farm of Strond broken into crofts
1830s – Direcleit and Ceann Dibig, parts of Luskentyre Farm, broken into crofts
1831 – Population 3810
1832 - Donald Stewart refuses to replace slates on Church on Berneray
1834 – 5th March, George Murray, 5th Earl of Dunmore buys Harris for £60,000
1834 - Duncan Shaw becomes Factor
1836 - Alexander Murray, 6th Earl of Dunmore, inherits Harris
1836 - Poor harvest, particularly of Potatoes - earliest claimed date for Countess of Dunmore marketing tweeds
1837 - Poor harvest, particularly of Potatoes
1838 – Seilibost cleared
1839 – Big Borve, Middle Borve and Little Borve cleared

184? -  Raa on Tarasaigh Cleared for John Macdonald, tacksman
1841 - Duncan Shaw gives evidence to the House of Commons Committee on Emigration, Scotland
1841 – Rev John MacIver writes for New Statistical Account of Scotland (NSAS)
1841 – Population 'upwards of 4000'
1841 - 6th Earl of Dunmore at his London home
1841 – Estate Officer residing at Rodel is John Lindsay
1843 – Church of Scotland fragments in Disruption – islanders join Free Church of Scotland
1843 - 6th Earl of dunmore considering building a harbour at W Loch Tarbert, with a link to the E Loch
1844 - John Robson Macdonald becomes Factor of Harris
1844 – Catherine Murray, Countess of Dunmore, is said to Start the Harris Tweed Industry
1845 - Alexander, 6th Earl, dies and Catherine, his wife, is 'Tutor' for her son, 4 yr old Charles Adolphus, 7th Earl of Dunmore
1846 – Potato Famines begin
1847 – Borve, Harris resettled by new Factor. Kenneth Macdonald was Assistant Factor
1848 – Sunday Postal Deliveries Cease
1849 - Countess of Dunmore establishes the Embroidery School at An-t-Ob

1850s – House at An-t-Ob built for the Gardener and his wife, the Embroidery Teacher
1850s – Tarbert gets its first church
1851 – Marion and Chirsty Macleod, the 'Paisley sisters' living at Port Esgein, Farm of Strond, the tenant of the tack of Strong and Killegray being a by Mrs Campbell.
1851 – John Robson Macdonald, Land Factor and Justice of the Peace, who succeeded Donald Stewart, living at Rodel House
1851 – Master of the Harris Mailboat, John Morrison, residing at Port Esgein
1851 – Crofts at Direcleit and Ceann Dibig bisected to provide homes for people cleared from Borve on Berneray
1851 - Inn at An-t-Ob first found
1851 - Potatoes Famines end - latest date for Countess of Dunmore's marketing of tweeds
1851 - Report to the Board of Supervision for the Relief of the Poor in Scotland by Sir John McNeill
1852 – Highland and Islands Emigration Society(HIES) formed – 742 leave Harris for Australia
1853 – Borve, Harris cleared again
1853 - Manish Free Church built
1854 - Glasgow Herald article on Gaelic School Exhibition and Sale
1854 – Road from Stornoway to Tarbert completed
1857 - 24th March - 7th Earl of Dunmore's 16th Birthday
1857 – Lady Dunmore and Mrs Thomas, wife of a Government Surveyor, start Stocking-Knitting(socks and knickerbocker stockings) industry
1857 - Admiral Otter's Chart of the Sound of Harris
1858 - 'In 1858Lady Dunmore was a mother to her people in Harris.' - Duchess of Sutherland writing of 'The Revival of Home Industries' in 'The Land Magazine', Vol 3, 1899.

1860s – Direcleit and Ceann Dibig cleared
1862 - 24th March - 7th Earl of Dunmore's 21st Birthday
1863 – Ardvourlie Castle built as Hunting Lodge for North Harris Estate
1865 – Harris Hotel built by Earl of Dunmore and originally called Tarbert Hotel
1867 – Abhainnsuidhe Castle built by Earl of Dunmore
1867 - North Harris Estate sold to Sir Ernest Scott for £155,000 (over two-and-a-half times what the 5th      Earl of Dunmore had paid for the whole of Harris 33 years earlier!)

1871 – Stocking Knitters of Strond, and elsewhere too, appear in abundance in the Census
1872 – Telegraph Cable from Stornoway to Scotland laid
1873 – Dunmore's restore St Clement's church
1879 - 4th March - Ardvourlie castle burnt down
1879 - The Wreck of the Yacht Astarte

1881 – SS Dunara Castle appears in Harris on this and the following 2 censuses
1881 – Angus Kerr, Farm Manager, at Rodel
1882 - Nov/Dec - Thomas Brydone becomes Lord Dunmore's Factor (Napier Commission Evidence)
1883 – Thursday, 31st May, Obbe  - Napier Commission
1884 – Direcleit and Ceann Dibig recrofted
1886 – Countess of Dunmore dies in February
1886 - Crofters' Act passed 25th June
1886 – Telegraph Cable from Port Esgein, Harris to North Uist laid
1888 – Assisted emigration to Canada established
1888 'Women's Work in Harris (Hebrides),' in The British Friend, by Edward Grub - Mrs FWL Thomas

1890 - 'Spanker' wrecked in a storm in the Sound of Harris
1895 – Crofters Commission Report allows 1 horse, 4, cows and 20 sheep per croft in Strond
1897 – Road linking Tarbert and Rodel through the Bays is completed
1897 - Manish Victoria Cottage Hospital built & endowed by Mrs Frances Thomas

1900 - Carding Mill built at Lon na Feille, the old Market Stance, in Direcleit by Sir Samuel Scott, owner of the North Harris Estate
1902 - Death of Mrs Frances Thomas
1907 - Death of Charles Adolphus Murray, 7th Earl of Dunmore
1919 - Lord Leverhulme buys South Harris for £20,000 and North Harris for £36,000
1920s – Geocrab Carding Mill built by Lord Lever – the locals refuse to use it
1924 – Leverburgh prospers
1925 - Lord Leverhulme dies, South Harris sold for £900 in an Auction
1925 - Finlay J Macdonald born
1944 - North Harris Estate bought by Sir T. O. M. Sopwith
1974 – Taransay's last residents leave


  1. The Harris timeline is very helpful in researching my MacLeod ancestors. I'm currently interested in learning about the origins of my 3rd g-parents, Norman and Catherine MacLeod. Norman, a weaver, was born c1793 based on his the birth of his son Alexander Edward MacLeod. Alexander emigrated to Woodstock, Ontario about 1862.

  2. Thanks for the timeline! I researched the story of the William. What a horror!

  3. Thank you for all the comprehensive work you have done Peter, so helpful!

  4. Thank you kindly, much appreciated!