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

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Schooling along the Sound of Harris

For the third of this series looking at education and educators during the 19thC I am grouping considering what we can glean about the then populous South coast.

From the 1st Edition OS 1-inch map (1885) of the area, we see two locations for schools:
An-t-Ob NG025863 (Details & Photo ) and Strond NG032841. The 6-inch map also informs us that in each case the school was for 'Boys & Girls'. I think a double-fronted bungalow at this location may be the school.

1841
Donald Murray, 40, P Schoolmaster, Rodil, b. Scotland

1851
Isabella Mackinnon, 31, School Mistress, Wife, Obe, ED3, b. Harris
(Donald Mackinnon, 39, Catechist & Farmer, b. Harris plus 5 children ages 1 to 10 and a female 'House Servant')

1861
James Stewart, 40, ParishSchoolmaster, Oab, ED6, b. South Uist
(Margaret Stewart, 34, Wife, b. Harris plus 7 children ages 5 months to 12 years and a female 'General Servant')

1871
Mary Mcaulay, 21, School Mistress, Industrial School, ED6 b. Stornoway
Anne Mcaualy, 23, Sister, b. Stornoway
Christina Mcaulay, 13, Scholar, Sister, b. Stornoway

1872 – Education Act

1881
Kenneth J Mackenzie, 27, Teacher, Strond, b. Ullapool
Christina Macleod, 29, housekeeper, b. Harris

1891 – None Listed

1901
John Whiteford, 46, Certificated Teacher Elementary, Obbe, ED2, b. Kilbirnie, Ayrshire
Mary Whiteford, 43, Wife, b. Kilbirnie, Ayrshire
Agnes Mary Laird Whiteford, 14, Monitor (Teacher), Obbe, ED2, b. Glasgow
Margaret Whiteford, Scholar, 12, Daughter, b. New Cumnock, Ayrshire

(Peter McCaul, 66, Retired Teacher, Obbe, ED2, b. Killin, Perthshire)

The presence in 1841 of Schoolmaster Donald Murray in 'Rodil' reminds us that it was the Church, and other Societies, that provided education at this time. Although Rodel does not feature on the list of schools provided by the 'Society for the Support of Gaelic Schools' in 1821 this does not mean that 20 years later it was not they who were responsible. However thinking about the 6th Earl of Dunmore's recent acquisition of the island and his rebuilding of St Clement's Church at Rodel tends to point in favour of Donald Murray having been a Parish Schoolmaster at this time.

The situation in 1851 is much clearer for now we have the household of Catechist & Farmer, John Mackinnon, living in 'Obe' and including his teaching Wife. If the school on 'Obbe Road' had been built by this date then I am confident that the family with their servant were its residents.

Their place appears to have been taken by 1861 by James Stewart and his family. Stewart was the teacher in Borve in 1851 and would no longer have been required there following the second Clearance which took place in 1853 to benefit the Sheep Farmer Kenneth Macdonald. In 1871 James Stewart was an Inspector of Poor in Strond and by1881 had become a School Board Clerk still living in Strond.

The only teacher in the area in 1871 is Mary Mcaulay and the only reason that I can place her here is because my relative Roderick Kerr was one of those living at 'Obe Shop' which was within Enumeration District 6. Mary's address is intriguing for it is the only reference to an 'Industrial School' in the area that I know of. However, we do know that first an Embroidery School and then some form for educating Stocking Knitters had been introduced by the Countess of Dunmore & Mrs Thomas and it seems likley that Mary, coming from Stornoway where she may have been educated at the Female Industrial School , merely imported this slightly grandiose term to add weight to her role in Harris. She was, after all, only 21 and apparently solely supporting her two sisters at the time.

In 1881 the schools at An-t-Ob, whether industrial, parochial or Public, do not feature but we do see our one and only record of a teacher in Strond in the shape of Kenneth J Mackenzie. It seems likely that the school at Strond originated as a result of the 1872 Education Act but I cannot be certain. The situation in 1891 is even worse for there are no teachers recorded that I can place with confidence in the area, although it may be that the Retired Teacher, Peter McCaul who we find in Obbe in 1901 had previously served that school. In the same year it is John Whiteford, assisted in her 'Monitor (Teacher)' role by his 14 year-old daughter Agnes Mary Laird Whiteford, who is found teaching in Obbe.

In conclusion, I am confident that the school on 'Obbe Road' provided education for the second-half of the 19thC and that, at times, it was accompanied by a Public School in Strond and by some degree of 'Industrial' education. Let us not forget Captain Alexander Macleod's 18thC educational provision in the upper reaches of his 'Mill' in Rodel that John Knox remarked upon, either!

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