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, 22 November 2010

Transcription of the Description of Stornoway in Pigot's 1837 Directory

I have transcribed the entry because the 'Plain-text' option on the link I gave previously produces a rather random assortment of gobbledygook!
I have kept the original spellings and typos but introduced paragraph breaks for ease of reading.
I am working on the lists of traders, etc for a future piece. Enjoy!

Is a town in the parish of its own name, in the island of Lewis and county of Ross; 65 miles N. of Portree, In the isle of Skye, and 46 from Poolewe (described in a preceding page). It is situate in north latitude 58 7', and in west longitude 6 14' 10", at the head of a fine bay, called Loch Stornoway, considered one of the safest and most commodious harbours in North or even Great Britain; the entrance to it is north and north-by-west, and is easy of access to vessels of any burthen, at any time of the tide.

A light- house stands on Arinsh point, on the south side of the harbour, erected by the proprietor, the Right Hon. James Alex. Stewart Mackenzie, of Seaforth, governor of Ceylon : but as it was thought by the Trinity Board that its light might be mistaken for another in that quarter, the erection at Stornoway has never been illuminated; it, however, is not useless, as it serves as an excellent and conspicuous landmark for vessels. The harbour is built round the bay, in form of an amphitheatre, and the streets inn in direct lines; the houses are neat and well built, and, being in general whitewashed, have a clean appearance. A most convenient quay, with slips and landing-places, has been constructed by public subscription. The town, as viewed on entering the bay, presents a pleasing and rather imposing aspect. From small origin,Stornoway has risen to considerable size, by the exertions and patronage of the noble family of Seaforth, combined with the public spirit and enterprize of the inhabitants.

Here the white fishery, consisting of cod, ling and herrings, has been long and successfully carried on; besides which the salmon fishery is very productive. Last year (1836,) there were four hundred and fifty-nine boats employed, the complement of hands to each being six men; during that season there were four hundred and thirty tons of fish exported, consisting chiefly of cod and ling.
We may in this place be allowed to relate a fact, which, though at the time deemed Interesting merely as a singular occurrence, involves considerations worthy of being entertained In a more important light, as creating, possibly at no distant period, another branch of marine pursuit, npon our own shores, that has hitherto been followed only In more distant seas, accompanied by extreme perils and privations—we allude to the whale fishery. On the morning of the 4th of July of this year (1837), a shoal of several hundreds of whales, of the bottle-nose species, came into the bay of Stornoway; the greatest bustle and activity was immediately manifested amongst the inhabitants - chase was instantly commenced upon these unusual visiters, and, after an arduous end severe contest, twenty-eight of these leviathans of the deep were driven on shore. The writer of this article witnessed the opening of one of these enormous fish ; in the paunch were found the remains of nine fine salmon, two of which, when alive, could not have weighed less than twenty pounds each, and they exhibited every appearance of having been swallowed whole.

If we except two rope-works, a distillery and a corn-mill, Stornoway derives no prosperity from manufactures: its general trade and commerce is facilitated by the National Bank of Scotland, which has a branch establishment settled in this distant quarter of the kingdom : there are likewise agents for Lloyd's and one for the North British Fire Office, in this place.
The parish of Stornoway lies on the north-east of Lewis Island, bounded on the inland side by Barvas— it extends nineteen miles in length, by from seven to four in breadth. The surface is generally flat and moorish ; the shores partly sandy and partly rocky, and are indented by a number of bays.

Stornoway was erected into a burgh of barony by James VI, with the design of promoting the civilization of the Western Isles ; it is governed by two bailies, a treasurer, and six councillors. A sheriff's court sits every Thursday ; and a justice of peace, commissary and baron bailie courts are held as occasion may require. This place possesses several educational, religions and social institutions. The parochial school is a very efficient establishment, conducted upon the plan of the Glasgow normal seminaries; there are, also, a school for females, one founded by the Society for propagating Christian Knowledge, and a sabbath evening school. The friendly society and incorporated trades' society (associations for the support of the aged and the infirm) are liberally sustained by their respective benevolent members. The edifice erected here for the service of a masonic lodge is a handsome structure; in it are occasionally held assemblies, concerts and public meetings; in the same building is a news-room and a public library.

A cattle tryst is held about a mile from the town on the second Wednesday of July.

The town of Stornoway contains 496 houses; and the population, in this year (1837), amounts to 2,660 inhabitants.

As there is no regular direct communication with Stornoway, the most certain route by which to arrive there is to start from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Inverness ; from thence to Dingwall; then, by the mail-car, to Loch Maree ; from whence there is a boat to Poolewe, between which latter place and Stornoway a rreular packet sails twice a week. Or the traveller may take the steam-packet from Glasgow to Portree (in Skye), at which place a boat may be hired to go to Poolewe, or one may without difficulty be engaged to proceed direct from Portree to Stornoway.

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