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, 28 July 2010

Guano Factory of Stornoway

In 1901 are to be found these two men in Stornoway:

Alexander Maclennan, 60, Guano Factory Labourer, 15 Coll, b. Stornoway
John Mackenzie, 56, Labourer in Guano Factory, 29b Lower Sandwick St, b. Stornoway

I am pretty sure that the word IS 'Guano' rather than being 'Gas' or 'Gut' which (along with 'Oil) are the only other instances of the word 'Factory' that appear in this census for the town. There are less than a dozen Guano workers to  be found in the whole of Scotland between 1841-1901 so these two are pretty special.

I understand the term 'Guano' to refer not only to the excrement of sea birds, bats and seals but also to manure made from fish and whales. It seems entirely possible that the Guano was produced at the 'Gut' Factory but if anyone has any further information regarding the Guano Factory of Stornoway then please do contact me.


  1. I can't tell you anything about the "guano" factory, but am reliably informed that there used to be a herring gut processing plant in the town. Its lorries, leaking fish innards, would leave a trail of stink in their wake as they made their way to the industrial estate at Newton.

  2. The Gut Factory Manager was 37 year-old John Grant from Peterhead who was Boarding at 2 Shell St in 1901. The Foreman was 37 year-old Robert Hepburn from Buckie, Banff who was with his wife and 2 children at 36 Newton St. Seems likely the Gut/Guano Factory(ies) were part of the one operation.

  3. Hello, Alex McLennan was my Great Aunts Grandfather, if that makes sense! They lived at Nether Coll in Stornoway, and started out as tenants, he was a fisherman and a shipwright at othertimes. The Guano ( a polite term for dried encrusted seabird poo) must have either been scraped off the cliffs nearby or imported from South America, Oceania or China, to be processed It was a valuable resource used in various 19th and early 20thC industries - superceded now by other chemicals. I can only imagine the smell. It is a bit weird to be researching a little offshoot of your family tree, decide to check the Guano Factory reference, and the first google item you pick mentions your ancestor by name! Serendipity....