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

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Servants, Tradesmen, Wages, etc

There are a set of country regulations framed in the baron-bailie court, (the only court of justice in the parish) by which the wages of a single male servant, (here called scalag) employed in the business of the farm, were, some time ago, fixed at 21. a year, with four pair of shoes; and of women servants employed in the same work, at 6 merks Scotch, with two pair shoes, and other small perquisites or gratuities, as they may merit at the hands of the employer.

Grieves, herdsmen, grass-keepers, dairywomen, and chambermaids, may have double or triple these wages, according to the extent of their respective charges. However, these regulations have gradually fallen into disuse, and the wages of servants of every denomination have been on the rife for some years past. Some of the gentlemen's grieves have from 51. to 61. and upwards, with perquisites ; and the single scalags will not engage themselves in service farther than for three quarters of the year, desirous to be free in the summer quarter to undertake kelp manufacture, or any job which chance may put in their way, so that their annual earnings, besides seeding themselves, may be rated at something more than 3l. at an average.

In summer the gentlemen employ some hands as day-labourers, when any piece of work is to be carried on separate from the ordinary work of the farm, such as building houses or making dykes. In such ease, a common barrow man, or common dyker, has, without victuals, from 8 d. to 9 d. per day, and a more able hand 10 d.

There is only one bred mason in the country, (and he not a native) who has 1s. 6d. in the long day, and 1 s. when he works in winter. All other tradesmen, such as brogue-makers, taylors, carpenters, are fed by the employer in his house; notwithstanding which, their charges are as high as they ought reasonably to be, even though they fed themselves. Weavers are paid in meal for their work.
The parish blacksmith has a salary rated at a pecks meal, or 1s. in money from every farthing land, and is besides fed when employed. There are four other blacksmiths in the country, who contrive to make out a poor livelyhood by chance employ.

There is one bred shoemaker who serves the gentlemen's families. The country leather is poorly tanned with the juice of the tormentile root, and made into brogues for the servants and low tenantry.
There are now 6 sloops (some time ago there were 9) employed in the kelp trade, fishing, and other merchandise; for these hands are occasionally procured in the country. As their insular situation renders the sea in a manner their element, all the inhabitants on the sea-cost are, in some degree, mariners. There is one cooper in constant employ with an apprentice. Of those who are occasionally employed as house or boat carpenters, the number exceeds 20, but most of them are also farmers.
Of spinsters and weavers, the number is almost equal to that of householders, among the lower class of people, whose wives and daughters both spin and weave their wool into coarse cloths for the use of the family, and a few blankets for sale. There are besides 8 bred weavers who depend on employ from the gentlemen's families.

All the gentlemen have gardens, producing cabbages, sallads, parsnips, carrots, &c. Turnips and onions rarely thrive, owing to a worm, generated in the hot sandy soil, which corrodes them in their progress towards maturity. These gardens are managed under the inspection of the owner, by some of the farm servants. They begin to raise a few small fruits.

Reverend Mr John Macleod describing Harris in 'The Statistical Account of Scotland' 1794 (which can be read here )

The account given is so complete as to render a commentary superfluous so I have limited myself to merely providiing the following notes that may assist the reader in interpreting the (thankfully few!) more obscure references:

Notes: A merk, after 1681, was 14 shillings (having previously been 2/3rds of a pound I.e. 13s 4d ) so '6 merks Scotch' was 84 shillings or £4 4shillings. This is more than twice what the men were being paid (2£), and even after taking into account the men receiving twice as many pairs of shoes appears somewhat surprising?

Scottish Money
1 pistole
12 pounds
1 half pistole
6 pounds
1 dollar
4 merks

56 shillings
1 pound / £
20 shillings
1 merk
14 shillings
1 half merk
7 shillings
1 quarter merk
3 shillings, 6 pence
1 shilling / s.
12 pence
1 bawbee
6 pence
1 turner or bodle
2 pence
1 pence / d.

'Tormentile' is probably Common Tormentil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Tormentil (Potentilla erecta syn. Tormentilla erecta, Potentilla tormentilla) which dyes leather Red.

I am unsure of the meaning of 'bred' in the context of the mason, shoemaker and weavers who are so-described but wonder if it was a shortened form of 'well-bred'?

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