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

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


The Star (Saint Peter Port, England),
Saturday, October 11, 1879; Issue 53
19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II

In connection with the wreck of the yacht Astarte, and the gallant rescue of her crew, there are some interesting facts that have not been made public. The Astarte, belonging to Mr R. A. Napier, of Glasgow, was caught in the storm of the 21st ult. in the Minch, while running from Tarbert, Harris, to Barra, in the outer Hebrides. On Monday afternoon she ran for shelter to an island at the entrance to the Sound of Harris, called Greanern, about four miles from Lochmaddy, and close to the Uist coast. The gale increased to a hurricane during the night, and the sea ran fearfully high. The yacht dragged her anchors, and was eventually dashed onto the rocks near a small island about eleven miles from the west coast of Harris, where she soon broke up and sank. The passengers and crew, amongst whom were three ladies and two children, were with much difficulty got ashore with life-lines. They were dragged through the raging surf, one lady being nearly drowned. They took what shelter they could amongst the heather which grew on the top of this small rocky island. The privations they suffered were intense, and the force of the gale was such that they with difficulty prevented themselves from being blown off the rock into the sea. Thus they remained wet and starved, being utterly without food all that day and night, until early the next morning, when relief came to them from the most unexpected quarter. It appears that some men on the Uist coast saw the wreck of the yacht, but owing to the faerful sea running, no boat would venture out. Three men proceeded over the hills to Lochmaddy, and gave instruction to the Procurator Fiscal, who instantly telegraphed the news to Lord Dunmore, in Harris. The telegram was received in the middle of the night, but in less than two hours his lordship got a crew of three men together, who proceeded under his command to make ready for sea the only available boat at the moment, which was an un-decked but strongly built cutter-rigged fishing-boat of about six tons. In this small open boat, armed with baskets of provisions they started in the dark, under a close-reefed mainsail, to beat against a S.W. Gale for 11 miles through a very heavy sea of the open Atlantic. After beating for five hours they reached the island, and found the women and children in an exhausted state. After adminstering spirits and food to them they were put on board the gallant little boat, and were taken back to Rodel, in Harris, in safety, where they were treated with the greatest care by the shooting tenants. The little boat then put to sea again for the second time and rescued the remainder, whom she brought back to Harris in the afternoon. Lord Dunmore's fishing-boat is called the Dauntless, and well she has now earned her name, as no other boat on the coast would venture out that day, and a few more hours of exposure on that storm-beaten rock must have been attended with serious results for the women and children. The names of the rescuing crew are Lord Dunmore, John McRae, McLeod, and Norman Macdonald.
- Daily Telegraph

(M'Leod was Ewen McLeod and all three men were apparently fishermen)

The National Lifeboat Institution (precursor of the RNLI) awarded Lord Dunmore its Silver Medal and each of the three Harrismen received £5, which was a considerable sum in 1879.

I am confused by the reference to the part played by the telegraph, for the message appears to have arrived some seven years before the subsea cable along which it was sent? http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/03/telegraphy-on-harris.html

Looking for Fishermen who fit from South Harris in the censuses:

John McRae, b. 1846, Obbe, (married to an Effy Kerr, but not a known relative!)
Ewen McLeod, b. 1842, Smithy (presumably Obbe)
Norman Macdonald, b.1839

I cannot be certain, but these are good candidates and the 7th Earl of Dunmore was born in 1841 so these men were of his generation – young enough to brave the elements, old enough to have the wisdom to survive the experience!

I believe that I have found 'Greanern' for the island of Greineam lies about 4 miles from Lochmaddy off the North East coast of North Uist, but the reference to the 'open Atlantic' and 'the west coast of Harris' might appear to conflict with this? As Greineam is the only island at the this distance from Lochmaddy, at the entrance to the Sound of Harris, and about eleven miles from An-t-Ob and enroute for a voyage from Tarbert to Barra via the Minch (rather than the Atlantic), I am reasonably sure of this.

The record at Canmore gives us this additional information regarding the wreck, https://canmore.org.uk/site/295308/astarte-sound-of-harris , but doesn't identify the island of 'Greanern' which is, of course, why I wanted to do so!
(There is a larger island called Greineam near Berneray, but that is too far from Lochmaddy and too near to Harris to fit the facts)

I hadn't heard of this particular episode until I came upon the newspaper cutting, and hence thought it worth sharing with you!

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