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, 14 April 2010

The Rise and Decline of a Family Name on Harris

I previously looked at three options for the origin of my Hearach ancestors:
Metal-Working, Tinkering and Left-Handedness.

Looking closely at the records for Inverness-shire, Ross-shire and Argyll-shire I realised that the pattern of names in Inverness doesn't fit, in Ross there were a couple of families in Lochbroom and in Argyll the fit is better, but the occupations show no particular pattern. I am therefore ruling-out the craft aspect.

A similar exercise for the whole of Scotland produced no record of a Tinkering/Hawking tradition.

That leaves the 'famous' Left-Hander and to an examination of the actual families on Harris.

No of Families
1841 – 9
1851 – 8
1861 – 6
1871 - 5
1881 - 4
1891 - 2
1901 – 1

The pattern is clear. However, we can learn more, especially by examining first names.
Of the 9 families in 1841, one stands-out for containing 'Kenneth, Peter and William' where the others all have Angus, Malcolm & Roderick – this family move to Argyll in the 1850s and I believe them to be of separate origin, although the patriarch, Peter, was born on Harris.

That leaves 8 families and one of these disappears from the records. They probably emigrated, but a cursory attempt to find them in Canada or Australia has proved fruitless so they may have perished on the voyage.

Of the remaining 7 families, it can be seen by the sequence of the names of the male heirs that they might be the sons of between 3 or 5 fathers. Two brothers were the sons of a Malcolm and the others fathers might have been Donald, John and Roderick. As these 5 died before the arrival of Statutory Registration of Deaths in 1855 I am unable to be completely sure. It is pure chance that the line started by Malcolm, which includes the two brothers who lived until 1867, is my own.

Assuming that I am correct, then we can repeat the process and conjecture that this group of 3-5 fathers were themselves the sons of perhaps two or three men. That could mean that the 8 families are only 3 generations away from a single ancestor. Probably from Strond, possibly from Taransay.

If that too is correct then the name appeared around the middle of the 18thC and probably does reflect some significant deed done by a left-handed Hearach at that time. A deed worthy of him being known for being left-handed but, unfortunately, not significant enough to be recorded in the oral tradition.

It is a flight of fancy, but one event fits and it is the one event that might have led a man to gain recognition for his prowess with the sword he held in his left hand. It happened in 1745...

Note: The 'loss' of a name on an island starting from a miniscule presence is repeated but in most cases the origin can be traced. It is the apparent sudden appearance that has been baffling. I should also point-out that many female descendents married and raised families on Harris so, although the name has gone, there are Morrisons, Macdonalds, Macsweens, Macleods, Macaskills, Mackinnons, Macraes, Mackays, and Campbells on Harris who can trace themselves back to a Kerr ancestry.

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