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

Monday, 10 May 2010

Admiral Henry Charles Otter, RN

One of the joys of conducting genealogical research is the way the wind and currents transport one into waters new.

Henry Charles Otter was born in 1808 (+/- 1 year) in Bolsover, Derbyshire which is roughly midway between Liverpool and Skegness and therefore a good distance from the sea.

He appears, or at least I have been able to discover him, three times in the census data and a few other times elsewhere:

In 1845, having been engaged to undertake a survey of the waters of, and off, Western Scotland, Henry Otter buys the Manor House in Oban*.

1851 finds Henry C Otter, Commander RN, and his wife on Portsea Island, Hampshire, visiting John F Birch, a General in the Royal Engineers. As it was this branch of the Army that provided services to the Ordnance Survey, it is extremely likely that the General and the Commander were discussing matters relating to surveying, whether on land or at sea.

The 1857 Chart of the Sound of Harris

In 1858 the first Transatlantic Telegraphy cable was laid and Captain Otter pilots the final stages of the journey into Trinity Bay, Newfoundland** from HMS Porcupine, a paddle-steamer that he is also using in his survey of the waters of the Western Isles. He notes the peculiarities of the tides in the Sound of Harris at this time***, too, and no doubt his survey played a pivotal role in the later cabling of the isles****

In 1861 this 54 year-old Captain in the Royal Navy is at his brother's in Dagenham, Essex together with his 46 year-old wife Mary Jemma who hales from Gravesend in Kent. Charles Otter in as Examiner in the Court of Chancery, a powerful if ponderous body that it is outside the scope of this present discourse to examine. The significant point is that the Otter's were clearly a family of some substance.

By 1871 Henry is an Admiral (Retired List) still living with his brother in Hanwell, Middlesex but, despite his status being 'Married', Mary Jemma is not present.

I believe he died in June 1876 in Hampshire at the age of 68.

Update: I have discovered that the marriage of Henry Charles Otter and Mary Jemima Birch took place in June 1850 in Brighton, Sussex. It  would seem likely that the John F Birch with whom they were found in the 1851 Census was in fact Mary's father. Mary Jemima Otter of 36 Buckingham Terrace, Edinburgh died on the 15th of November 1904. Colonel George Francis Birch took care of her affairs. Oh, and in 1871 Mary was with her husband at his brother's in Hanwell, they were merely separated by an intervening sister of the Otter brothers in an oddly-arranged census return! Following Henry Charles Otters death, we find her in 1881 living with her sister Jane Birch in Edinburgh. As far as I can ascertain, Henry and Mary had no children.


*Manor House Oban

**Atlantic Cable


****http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/03/telegraphy-on-harris.html , http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/03/telegraphy-on-lewis.html ,

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