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, 3 May 2010

My Hearachs Occupations

Here are all the listed occupations, with numbers, appearing between 1841 and 1901. I have stripped-away locations and 'careers' but grouped them as agricultural & fishing, clothing and 'others'. Notes appear beneath each decennial group.

1841 – 10 'Heads' and 6 sons - 16 people

5 Tenants (2 Tenants later listed as Tailor and a Dry Mason)
2 Ag Lab
2 Fishers

2 Weaveresses
2 Shoemakers

2 Carpenters
1 Independent?

All that can be said with any degree of certainty is that half appear to be engaged working the land or at sea and the other half in clothing etc. Nevertheless, this distribution is indicative that their forbears were perhaps introduced to the isle to provide specific skills?

1851 – 8 'Heads' and 3 sons – 11 people

1 Farmer
1 Farmer's formerly?
2 Ag Lab

1 Tailor
2 Shoemakers
Formerly shoemaker's wife

2 Joiners
1 Dry Mason

The balance has tipped even further with only a third associated with agriculture, including a couple of references to 'Farmer' which, without knowing whether they were farming 4 acres, 40 acres or 400 acres, doesn't especially aid me.

1861 – 8 'Heads' and 5 children – 13 people

2 Lobster Fisherman

2 Weaveresses
Shoemaker's Widow


Here we see our first reference to a Crofter and the original balance between agricultural activities and fishing on the one hand, with clothing etc on the other, is restored. Does the term 'Tenant', lacking the prefix 'Small', indicate a holding between that of the Tacksman and the Small Tenant? The Shepherd is certainly working for a Farm and the 'Post' is probably the Post Runner (which he later became).

1871 – 10 heads and 10 children (2 households inactive?)

Farm Grieve
4 Fisherman

4 Weaveress
3 Stocking Knitters

Post Runner

Having 20% of the households with no stated occupation is especially unhelpful but I am not going to interpolate from the two censuses either side as social change occurring in this 20 year period could then be masked. Of the 19 people stating an occupation, almost two-thirds are again in the 'clothing etc' group and three-quarters of these are women with a heavy emphasis on the oft-overlooked 'Stocking Knitting' industry that history has attributed to the Countess of Dunmore. I wonder whether the 'Merchant' played a role in this industry, too?

In the agricultural world, we have the Farm Grieve at Rodel Farm, our Crofter and a landless Cottar whilst we attain an all-time peak of 4 fishermen.

1881 – 8 'Heads' and 1 brother – 9 people (2 households inactive?)

Farm Manager

Ship Carpenter
Letter Carrier
2 Merchants

The inactivity of the previous decade is repeated, so perhaps I do need to check the records, including the BMDs, for clarification. Meanwhile, our Farm Manager and Shepherd remain on the farm, the fishing activity has subsided, but a Ship Carpenter has emerged and the Merchant brothers appear to be thriving. The mail is still being delivered but that flurry of female industry fails to be recorded. Whether this reflected a real change in the level of commercial Knitting or merely is an artifact of this particular census is something I am currently unsure about.

1891 – 8 'Heads' and 7 relatives

Groom (Retired)
Shepherd (Retired)
Ag Lab
2 Crofters

Wool Weaveress
5 Wool Spinners

Carpenter (Retired)

If we ignore the three retired gentlemen, whom I have included to indicate both the continuity with the past and the ageing nature of the households, then the one-third to two-thirds apportionment remains. The huge move is back to the dominance of female activity, which on the one hand suggests that the previous census was indeed neglectful of the contribution of some women to economic society, and on the other paints a true impression of the predominance of ladies in the family line at this time. I am quite surprised by the 'Tailoress', for previously I undesrtood there to be a strict demarcation between the male 'Tailor' and the female 'Dressmaker' but clearly this lady was challenging any such sexual stereotyping at this time.

1901 – 4 'Heads' and 2 relatives

Coachman (Retired)
Farm Servant

2 Tweed-Makers

These final five active folk at the start of the 20thC must have been aware that their family name was heading for island extinction. The Farm Servant and Sailor (He MIGHT be a Tailor, I will check -again!) are in the Sound of Harris with the Retired coachman up the road (it IS a road now) at Rodel whilst the few remaining females are all in Direcleit.

I will have to await the release of the 1911 census to see if there was a brief resurgence in the name on Harris but I know that it was in Lewis that we survived longest, and can still be found today.

This exercise probably points the balance in favour of an implantation of 'expertise' from Skye (and possibly a part of the Gaelic mainland before that) and the other significant fact in support is that my earlist known female Harris ancestor was called Effie Shaw. The Shaws of Strond were from Pabay and Berneray via Skye and appear to have arrived as assistant Factors for one of the owners of Harris. A shared origin, a shared perspective, a shared hope for their future could have brought this young couple together towards the end of the 18thC.

Calum Cearr and Oighrig Shaw, my great, great, great, great-grandparents...

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