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, 2 August 2010

Borve Revisited

I make no apology for returning to Borve, but this time to examine all the Kerr folk to be found there and to explore a little mystery that still puzzles me.

Marion Kerr, 77, Farmer's Widow, (of a John Kerr) (Marion Macleod) (1841 Scarista)
Roderick Kerr, 37, Joiner, Son (1841 Carpenter m. bef 1855 ,Christina Maclennan)
Mary Kerr, 8, Granddaughter

Roderick Kerr, 48, Ag Lab (1841 – Rha, Taransay, by 1861 most of family presumed emigrated)
Margaret Kerr, 47, Wife (Margaret Kerr)
Mary Kerr, 16, Daughter
Flora Kerr, 14, Daughter (emigrated or married?)
Donald Kerr, 9, Son (emigrated?)
Cathi, 4, Daughter (emigrated?)
Janet Kerr, 1, Daughter (emigrated?)

Roderick Maclennon, 73, Farmer
Janet Maclennon, 72, Wife
Alexander Maclennon, 30, Shoemaker, Son
Anne Kerr, 21, Weaveress, Granddaughter (John the Tailor's daughter?)
Christian Kerr, 19, House Servant, Granddaughter (John the Tailor's daughter?)
Rachel Kerr, 17, House Servant, Granddaughter, Visitor (unidentified earlier & later)
John Kerr,12 Herd, Grandson (John the Tailor's son?)
Angus Macleod, 30, Servant

Roderick Kerr, 30, Joiner, Little Borve (d. 23 May 1877 Age 65 Borve John, Son, Registers)
Christina Kerr, 32, Wife (Christina Maclennan, daughter of Duncan Maclennan, Crofter & Rachel Mackenzie)
John Kerr, 6, Son (Later Minister of Harris at Scarista)
Rachel Kerr, 3, Daughter (m. Alexander Morrison)

Marion Kerr, 70, Weaveress, Mid Borve (Marion Macleod) (not found later)
Mary Kerr, 18, Weaveress, Granddaughter (not found later)
(Marrion's eldest son, John, was also a Carpenter/Joiner & moved to Birkenhead)

Roderick Kerr, 58, ED3
Chirsty, 46, Wife
John, 16, Son
Rachel, 13, Daughter

Kenneth Maclennan, 48, Retired Grocer, Little Borve
Catherine Maclennan, 54, Sister
Margaret Morrison, 88, Pauper, Boarder
Donald Morrison, 50, Pauper, Boarder
Alexander Morrison, 28, Retired General Merchant, Lodger (1891 Cottar at Big Borve, 1901 Shepherd at Rodel)
Rachel Morrison, Wife (Rachel Kerr)
Roderick Morrison, 1 month, Son
Christina Kerr, 56, Midwife, Mother-in-Law (Christina Maclennan)

The three households of 1851 represent three distinct families but, as is hopefully clear by now, I am convinced that they share a common ancestry.
Marion's family are interesting in that one son and his family appear to have survived all the upheavals and remained rooted to the West Coast. The other son, John, also stayed there, in Luskentire, but by 1863 this family were in Wales (as demonstrated by the birth of a child there) before settling in Dock Cottages Birkenhead (a far cry from the beaches at Borve!) by 1866. Marion and her granddaughter Mary disappear after 1861.
Roderick's family, originally from Taransay, were less fortunate and they all disappear after 1851.
The third household holds the mystery for it contains four 'grandchildren' of Roderick Maclennon and his wife Janet. By examining the 1841 census for these individuals, and eliminating those to be found with their own families in 1851, we are left with the following candidates:

Ann b. 1830 1841 - Direcleit OR Rha (Roderick Kerr & Margaret Kerr)
Christian b. 1832 1841 – None OR Catherine, Direcleit?
Rachel b. 1834 1841 - None
John b. 1839 1841 - Direcleit

Rachel is described as a 'Visitor', suggesting that the other three were long-term residents, but I can find no match for her in 1841, not only on Harris but throughout Inverness-shire & Ross-shire!

Ann, Christian and John would conveniently fill a gap in my family's records for I am missing an Ann, Catherine and John of the correct ages. It seems more likely to me that the three are siblings rather than John coming from one family, Christian from another and Ann from a third? On the other hand they could be from two or even three different families in which case the description of them as 'grandchildren' would certainly add weight to the idea that all the families are connected.

The puzzle is compounded because I cannot ascertain a Maclennon/Kerr connection amongst the parents of these children. The simplest solution, I think, is that the Mother of these children was the Maclennon's daughter? That would rule-out 'my' Direcleit trio as their four grandparents were Kerr/Shaw/Martin/Macdonald. Next we have to consider that the children were in fact a Grandnephew and Grandnieces. That would rely upon Janet Maclennon having been born with one of the four family names as above. The terms 'Grandnephew of the Wife' and 'Grandniece of the Wife' would, if I am correct, have been the proper description but as I can only find three 'GrandNephews' in all the Harris censuses (all in 1901) then it comes as no surprise to find half-a-century earlier the term 'Grandchild' in their place.

I envisage that, during the years of the Potato famines that only ended in 1851, John the Tailor would have been delighted that three of his children could be found shelter, work and food with relatives farming fertile land at Borve.
I could be totally wide of the mark, and am not helped by my inability to find Roderick and Janet Maclennon in1841, but I think this explanation is an improvement on the one that I described previously .

Note: None of the trio make any further appearance in the records apart from Catherine Kerr's death in 1855 at the age of 18. She therefore had to be 'somewhere' in 1851 which is why I am tempted to 'shoe-horn' her into being the Christian Kerr living in Borve. The fate of Ann and John remain unknown.


  1. john Kerr in this article is my great
    grand father ,parents Roderick Kerr,
    Margaret McClellan,john was born isle of Harris 1839 died 1917 Victoria
    Australia.Regards Joan

  2. John Kerr 1839/1917 was my Great grand
    father .He died in Victoria,Australia
    so did his sisters i think.
    Regards Joan.