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

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Roderick's Story

Roderick Kerr was born in 1845 at Direcleit to Malcolm Kerr and his wife Bess Macdonald. Bess died, possibly as a consequence of his birth, and Malcolm moved to Lewis where, three years later, he married Mary Macdonald of Steinsh. Despite searching Croft Histories and censuses, I have been unable to learn anything about Bess or her family.

Roderick was left to be raised by his grandparents, John the Tailor and Margaret, with whom he stayed until at least 1861. If the phrase 'left to be raised' sounds a little harsh to modern ears, it must be remembered that t was the usual practice in such circumstances in those days. It was also used sometimes to 'hide' 'Illegitimacy', a fact that can confound the family historian! Roderick became a fisherman and, despite his Uncle Angus being a fisher in Direcleit, made his home in An-t-Ob, the Sound of Harris being where many family members lived.

On the 2nd of February 1869, Roderick married Mary Morrison at Scarista. One of the witnesses was his cousin Rory Kerr, the Post Runner of Strond. The couple were living in the 'Obe Shop' in 1871, or rather were one of the 18 households with that address! They were predominantly fishers, a boat builder and Paupers, but the nucleus was the home of Roderick Macdonald, his wife Sarah (Grant) and their young family. Roderick was the son of the landlord of the Inn at An-t-Ob and had married the much-younger Sarah a few years earlier in Forres, Moray. Roderick the Fisherman and Mary had no children and she died before her 40th birthday.

On the 22nd February 1881, Roderick the Fisherman and widower married Margaret (Peggy) Maclennan at Scarista. Where Mary had been nearly five years his senior, Peggy was some fifteen his junior!. She came with a 2 year-old son, John Macleod, although she was a Spinster at the time of the marriage. The 1881 census shows us the new family in Obbe whilst along the road at Kyles House were the Macdonald family employing 8 people on their farm.

In 1885, Margaret gave Roderick a son of his own, Donald, and in 1889 their daughter Christy was born. So, in 1891, the family of five were in Obbe but with Roderick now working as an Agricultural Labourer and his step-son is now known as John Kerr. Up the road, the Macdonald family are still at what is now called Farm House.

By 1901, Roderick and Peggy's family had grown with the arrival of Angus and Kate in 1892 and 1895. Still living in Obbe, Roderick was now a Farm Servant and Peggy's son John listed as a Sailor. Donald, meanwhile, has moved and we find him at the Macdonald's Farm House where the 16 year-old is 'Herd Cattle on Farm'. At the house are Roderick (Farmer and General Merchant) and Sarah, their married daughter Margaret A Macleod, a Domestic Servant, a visiting Tweed Weaveress and a Shop Assistant, as well as young Donald. I believe Roderick to have been employed by the Macdonald's too.

Sarah was the 'Mrs S Macdonald' who, as a member of the Scottish Home Industries Association, wrote the famous account of the origin of Harris Tweed and of the Stocking Industry. I think it important to point out that Sarah was only 26 at the time of her marriage in 1868 so, if her account is accurate and the industry was begun in 1844, she was born around the same time as Harris Tweed itself!

Peggy produced another son in 1902 and he was called John. Nine years later, Peggy's Sailor son John died at sea and Roderick himself, in An-t-Ob, in 1919. Peggy survived him by some 30 years and Angus lived until 1963. Donald and John died elsewhere and at times unknown to me. What became of the daughters, Christy and Kate, is also a mystery for they neither married, nor died, on Harris.

So that is the end of this tale of Roderick and his family, including another of those coincidences that links, albeit tenuously, one of my relatives to the tale of Harris Tweed...

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