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, 14 June 2010

Sounds of Harris - 7th Movement

In Strond the widowed Christian Morrison (24th May 1914) had her maiden sister Effy (1912) and her widower brother Malcolm (1905) with her. Their widowed sister Mary (1910) and her 10 children were nearby. Brother Angus was the Retired Coachman up the road at Rodel with wife Lexy (1921) and their married daughter Marion with her husband John Campbell and their child. John's father, the Fish-Curing Roderick had moved to Rodel with a new wife and two new children. He has also turned to Farming, as well as producing offspring well-into his sixties!

At Direcleit, Angus the Fisher's widow Mary (1914) was Tweed-Making with her maiden daughter Marion who was engaged in the same occupation. Her married daughter Ann (1945) was with her Mason-Labouring husband and their growing family. Son John (1950) was a Salmon Fisher at The Chanonry Point Fishing Station 2, Rosemarkie in Moray.

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, a Sailor. Their son Donald, meanwhile, has moved and we find him at Roderick and Mrs S Macdonald's Farm House where the 16 year-old is 'Herd Cattle on Farm'. I believe Roderick to have been employed by the Macdonald's too. Peggy produced another son in 1902 and he was called John, presumably after his grandfather, John the Tailor who had been born in Strond 110 years earlier.

The Tarbert Hotel had changed hands and Daniel McKellar was running it with his sister and his three adult children forming what today would be termed the management team. There were three servants resident, including the Coachman, but no guests. The other Coachmen were at the Gardener's House, serving Rodel, and somewhere on the North Harris Estate. The Factor of that Estate was a Robert Sinclair and there was a Farm Grieve at Luskentire. Three teenage Cattlemen appear at Big Borve, Scarista and the Farm House on the Sound at Kyles, where Donald Kerr performs the role. As an aside, in 1903 the hotel's name was changed to 'Harris Hotel' by a new leaseholder, William Cameron, and it is his descendants, the Morrison family, who own and run the hotel today.

There are now 8 Gamekeepers, all but one serving the North Harris Estate, whilst Blacksmithing still shows the Morrison dominance with all but one of the 6 bearing the name. Ewen, the son of 'Gobha na Hearadh', remains in retirement at the age of eighty.

At the pier in East Loch Tarbert the SS Dunara Castle 1901 had her Master, John McDougall and the crew of 16 seamen and 4 attendants. Only two passengers were aboard her that Sunday evening, a local Crofter and Fisherman and a female Domestic Servant. I have searched for other passengers around the island, but found none. We now leave the 25 year-old SS Dunara Castle, safely at harbour in Tarbert, in the knowledge that 29 years hence she will be carrying the last inhabitants of St Kilda on their final journey away from home.

Developments in the church have led to the formation of the United Free Church with Ministers Farquhar Kennedy, at Manish Cottage, Nicol Campbell at Tarbert and a Missionary residing at Little Borve. The Established Church at Scarista remains in the hands of Donald McLean, 61, Minister of Harris Parish, Glebe, South Harris but one of his successors, John Kerr, is an Assistant Minister (Dalavich) living at Divine Cottage, Dalavich, Argyll. I shall return to him later.

Retired Staff Commander James Flowers Beckett and his wife, Frances Sarah, were living in St Leonard's On Sea in England but she died in Edinburgh on the 7th of September 1902. The certificate gives her usual address as St Leonard's On Sea. I do wonder whether she had chosen to return to Edinburgh for she died after a Cerebral Thrombosis and it was her husband's Solicitor, who hailed from Hastings, who signed as informant. At the age of 82, Frances Sarah Thomas Bousfield ended her days in the City that had been her home for so many years. I find that very revealing of the lady. It also was extremely helpful of her for it allowed me to confirm that she was, indeed, the Mrs Captain Thomas who did so much to develop the Harris Tweed industry.

Boat-Building was represented by 10 men, including a Ship-Carpenter on the Sound, but the Bays continued to predominate in this field.

The Bays also now have their first Post Office, at Manish, where 51 year-old Mary Mackay is the Assistant Postmistress and her 80 year-old mother is the Grocer there. Scalpay has it's Sub-Post-Mistress and a Letter Carrier with Tarbert similarly provided for. At An-t-Ob, where Mary Galbraith continues as Post Mistress, there are now two Letter Carriers. I think we can see the impact of the 1897 opening of the road through the Bays in this expanded postal provision on Harris.

Communication was improving in other ways too with Mary Macdonald, 18, and Joanna Macleod, 19,being each being a Telegraphist and Assistant in Tarbert. Mary Campbell, 20, performs the same role on Scalpay at her mother's Post Office. It is perhaps unsurprising to see the move by the start of the 20th Century from all-male 'Telegraph Clerks' to all-female 'Telegraphists', but perhaps more surprising to see that Tarbert housed the only telegraphic office on 'mainland' Harris. One might have expected An-t-Ob to have warranted a telegraphic presence in the South of Harris, especially after the 1886 link to the Southern Isles had been made, but clearly this was not the case.

Several of these telegraphic personnel were born in the Uists, recalling that, at this time, Harris and the Southern Islands were within Inverness-shire and were thus more closely politically linked than are Harris and neighbouring Lewis geographically!

I have decided to leave the last word to this entry from the 1901 Census:

Attending Wake In House
I believe this household to be unique in census records as four of those present were attending a wake in the house on the night of 31st March/1st April 1901:
Christy Shaw, 80, Formerly Tweed Weaveress, Head, No 3 North Harris, b. Harris
Catherine Macdonald, 52, Tweed Weaveress, Daughter, b. Harris
Duncan Macdonald, 60, Crofter, Son-in-Law, b. Harris
Joan Maclennan, 15, General Servant Domestic, b. Harris
John Macdermid, 29, Fisherman, Attending Wake In House, b. Harris
John Martin, 31, General Labourer, Attending Wake In House, b. Harris
John Macleod, 24, Teacher (labourer), Attending Wake In Hose, b. Harris
Donald Shaw, 21, Navvy, Attending Wake In House, b. Harris

'No 3 North Harris' indicates to me an address in Tarbert and it appears that Mrs Shaw's daughter and her son-in-law, together with their General Servant, are the four usual residents.

However, on this particular Sunday evening, they were accompanied by four young men, aged from 21 to 31, whose occupations are as varied as their family names. The youngest, Donald Shaw, is the only one who might have been related but, were this the case, surely Mrs Shaw would have made it clear at this time of family bereavement?
What I am wondering, and it is admittedly merely a conjecture, is whether these four had carried, or were to bear, the coffin on the deceased person's final journey?

That concludes the evidence from the seven censuses, but the story is not quite complete...

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