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, 30 November 2010

Three Turners of Stornoway

Pigot's 1837 Directory lists three Turners in the town:
Donald McRae, Bayhead St
John McRae, Bayhead St
James Young, Keith St

I couldn't find James Young again in Stornoway, but Donald & John McRae each appear in the 1871 census where they describe their occupation as 'Turner' and from those two entries I was able to compile the following information about them and their families:

Entries in bold indicate a man who appears at least once as a 'Turner' in the census records.
The figures in brackets are there as an aid to tracking individuals down to the third generation.

Donald McRae, 35, Joiner, Bayhead St, b. Ross & Cromarty (1)
Margaret McRae, 25
Jane McRae, 5
Mary McRae, 3
Catherine McRae, 6 months
John McRae, 25, Joiner (2)

Donald McRae, 50, Joiner, Bayhead St, b. Barvas (1)
Peggy McRae, 38, Wife, b. Stornoway
Jane McRae, 14, Scholar, Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Mary McRae, 13. Scholar, Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Catherine McRae, 10, Scholar, Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
John McRae, 8, Scholar, Son, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Helen McRae, 6, Scholar Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Margaret McRae, Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Kenneth Cameron, 30, Joiner (Journeyman), Boarder, b. Fodderty, Ross

John McRae, 54, Wheelwright, Keith St, b. Stornoway (2)
Archibald McRae, 20, Wheelwright, Son, b. Stornoway (2a)
Mary McRae, 18, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Donald McRae, 16, Son, b. Stornoway
Roderick McRae , 14, Son, b. Stornoway
Jane McRae, 12, Daughter, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 10, Son, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 6, Son, b. Stornoway (2b)
Hector McRae, 2, Son, b. Stornoway (2c)

John McRae, 60, Wheelwright, 51 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2)
Ann McRae, 55, Wife, b. Stornoway
Donald McRae, 26, Baker, Son, b. Stornoway
Roderick McRae, 23, Joiner, Son, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 29, Baker, Son, b. Stornoway
Jane McRae, 21, Dressmaker, Daughter, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 16, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway (2b)
Hector McRae, 13, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway (2c)
Ann Morrison, 82, Crofter's Widow, Mother-in-Law, b. Stornoway
Isabella Finlayson, 82, Seaman's Widow, Lodger, b. Stornoway

Donald McRae, 70, Joiner, 38 Bayhead St, b. Barvas (1)
Margaret McRae, 57, Wife, b. Stornoway
Catherine McRae, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Margaret McRae, 22, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Isabella McRae, 14, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Donald McRae, 17, Joiner, Son
Isabella MacKinnon, 2, Grand-daughter

John McRae, 71, Turner, 51 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2)
Ann McRae, 67, Wife, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 28, Baker, Son, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 27, Joiner, Son, b. Stornoway (2b)
Hector McRae, 22, Turner, Son, b. Stornoway (2c)
Christina Smith, Domestic Servant, 23, b. Uig, Ross-shire
John McLean, 78, Visitor, b. Lochs, Ross-shire

Archibald McRae, 40, 51 Keith St, Turner & Blockmaker, b. Stornoway (2a)
Annabella McRae, 27, Wife, b. Stornoway
Mary Ann McRae, 4, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Mary McRae, 2, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Annabella McRae, 4 months, Daughter, b. Stornoway

Archibald McRae, 50, Joiner & Blockmaker, 51 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2a)
Annabella McRae, 37, General Servant, Wife, b. Stornoway
Mary McRae, 12, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Annabella McRae, 8, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Hector McRae, 6, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Ann McRae, 4, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Alexander McRae, 3, Son, b. Stornoway
Christina McRae, 10 months, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Christina Murray, 16, General Servant, b. Stornoway

James McRae, 36, Joiner, 51 ½ Keith St, b. Stornoway (2b)
Mary Jane McRae, 29, Dressmaker, Wife, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 6, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Jessie Ann McRae, 4, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Hector McRae, 3, Son, b. Stornoway
William McRae, 1, Son, b. Stornoway

Archibald McRae, 60, Joiner & Turner, 65 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2a)
Annabella McRae, 47, Wife, b. Stornoway
Annie McRae, 14, Monitor, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Alexander McRae, 13, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Linna McRae, 10, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Archibald McRae, 9, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Jeanie McRae, 7, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway

James McRae, 43, Turner, Keith St, b. Stornoway (2b)
Mary McRae, 39, Wife, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 16, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Jessie A McRae, 14, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Hector McRae, 13, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
William McRae, 12, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Roderick McRae, 10, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Kenneth D McRae, 9, Scholar, Son, B. Stornoway
Ann J McRae, 4, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 3, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway

Archibald McRae, 70, Joiner & Turner, 65 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2a)
Annabella McRae, 57, Wife, b. Stornoway
Annie McRae, 24, daughter, b. Stornoway
Lina McRae, 20, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Archibald McRae, 18, Son, Apprentice Joiner & Turner, b. Stornoway (2a1)
Jeanie McRae, 17, Daughter, b. Stornoway

James McRae, 54, Spinning Wheel Maker, 62 Kenneth St, b. Stornoway (2b)
Mary I McRae, 48, Wife, b. Stornoway
Hector McRae, 23, House Carpenter, Son, b. Stornoway
William McRae, 21, Carter, Son, b. Stornoway
Kenneth McRae, 19, Butcher, Son, b. Stornoway
Annie I McRae, 14, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway

It is not too surprising that a 'Turner' of 1837 would, at various times, describe themselves as a 'Joiner' or a 'Wheelwright' but James McRae's move into specialising as a 'Spinning Wheel Maker' (he is one of only two such people that I have discovered) came as a pleasant surprise!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Wakefield House of Correction

On the evening of the 30th of March 1851 there were 863 men and 74 women locked-up in the newly expanded Wakefield House of Correction in Yorkshire, England.

With them were another 40 males & 31 females, these being the prison staff and their families, and all were under the watchful eye of the Governor, Edward Shephard.

One of the 937 inmates was a widowed Printer named William Macpherson who, some 44 years earlier, had been born on the Isle of Harris.

I have not investigated the nature of William's crime, nor the circumstances that led him from the Western Isles to Wakefield, but as there are only 26 occurrences of Harris-born Macphersons in the 1851-1901 censuses and his is the only one that records a Hearach in incarceration in England I thought it worth remarking upon.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Harris Wordsmiths

I thought that I would start a list of Harris folk who have contributed to the artistic cannon in words
(& music!) and welcome any additions:

Mary MacLeod 1615-1706
Born in Rodel. Died in Dunvegan, Skye

John Morrison/Gobha na Hearadh 1790-1852
Born in Rodel. Died in Leac a Li. Buried St Clement's Church
Poet, Blacksmith & Evangelist

James MacLeod 1880-1947

Murdo MacLeod 1881-1907

Hector MacKinnon 1886-1954

Iain Archie MacAskill 1898-1933

Joan MacKenzie 1900-72

Roderick MacLeod 1903-1965
Kyles Stockinish

John Morrison 1914-
Poet & Composer

Ian Paterson 1916-1990

Rev. Colin N MacKenzie 1917-94

Domhnall R MacGillemhoire / Donald R Morrison 1919-
Poet & Shopkeeper

Malcolm MacDonald 1922-

Finlay J MacDonald 1925-1987
Author, Broadcaster & Co-Founder of Gairm
'Crowdie & Cream & Other Stories'

Crofting, Kelp, & Clearances

"Until after the middle of the last century, the land appears to have been occupied exclusively by tacksmen, generally kinsmen or dependents of the proprietor, with sub-tenants, who held of the tacksmen, and by joint-tenants, who held farms in common, each having a stated share. About the time referred to, many of the farms held by tacksmen seem to have been taken directly from the proprietor by joint-tenants. They grazed their stock upon the pasture in common, and cultivated the arable land in alternate ridges, or " rigs," distributed annually, and called " run-rig." By this arrangement, each got a portion of the better and the worse land; but no one had two contiguous ridges, or the same ridge for two successive years, unless by accident. Since the commencement of the present century, the arable land has, in most cases, been divided into separate portions, of which one was assigned to each of the joint-tenants or crofters, the grazing, as formerly, remaining in common."
Ref: Report to the Board of Supervision by Sir John McNeill, GCB,  on the Western Highlands & Islands, 1851. page viii. (Further quotes are from this Report)

This system, which is known as 'Ridge & Furrow' in 'South Britain' (or England, as it is more usually named), received its first legal assault in the 1695 General Enclosure Act (Scotland) but, as the above article from 'British Archaeology' informs us, the eradication of this equitable system of agriculture took place at varying speed and over a considerable period of time in different parts of the British Isles.

What is interesting is that Sir John then goes on to explain that when crofting was introduced as the replacement for run-rig, it allowed for the sub-division of crofts, a situation that had been impossible when the arable land was held in common and the cultivation strips were rotated annually amongst the whole populace.

This new possibility to sub-divide what had been intended to be sufficient land to support one crofting family coincided with the kelp-fuelled population explosion. In the boom years of kelp-manufacture this was not an issue, indeed it was necessary for the workforce to expand to keep-up production with the ever-increasing demand, but the new mouths could only be fed because of the wages earned from this somewhat early branch of industrial-scale chemistry. As an aside, Sodium Carbonate (or Soda Ash or Washing Soda) was used in glass-making and the manufacture of Soap and it was a man who made his first fortune from selling soap, Lord Leverhulme, who would become the owner of Lewis & Harris within 70 years of Sir John's report.

Crofting also allowed the architects of the Clearances to sub-divide crofts to 'create space' for those whom they were displacing from elsewhere thereby diminishing the livelihoods of two families for each Cleared family as described by the Sheriff-Substitute, Charles Shaw:

"The conversion of crofters' farms into grazings in Harris, many years ago, before the estate came into the Dunmore family, without providing for the people removed from these farms in any other way than by giving them portions of the land occupied by other crofters— the same system followed recently in South Uist and Barra, with the addition of locating the ejected tenants on barren moss crofts—has also affected the circumstances of the people."

When boom turned to bust, and it was inevitable that it would as the price of kelp had been artificially inflated by the effect of the Napoleonic Wars to an unsustainable £30 a ton in 1815 compared to only £1 a ton before the wars began, then suddenly there were hungry mouths to feed but neither enough land to grow sufficient food nor the wages being earned to purchase it.

As if this wasn't bad enough, the third and final blow came in the form of the Potato Famines of 1846-51, these being exacerbated by the twin factors of people forced to attempt to grow food on land that could only be cultivated as 'feannagan' (a system requiring vast quantities of kelp as fertilizer) and the repeated planting of the crop on the same meagre patches of land.

Of course, there was one other factor at work during this time and that was the development of sheep-farming as a commercial venture, again something that the removal of Run-Rig made possible. Proprietors looking for the best return on their investment had wallowed in wealth during the years of the kelp-bubble but when it burst they were left with a populace living in poverty and no obvious alternate employment. Sheep-runs were the answer for the Farmer class that was connected to the Factors of Harris either by marriage or occupation, or both.

To add insult to injury, when those Cleared away from the fertile soil to make way for sheep were unable to grow sufficient produce to pay their rents, the blame was passed to them for being unable to do so! There was the attempt to re-settle the Borves on the West coast of Harris and John Robson Macdonald gives his side of that story in great detail. What is significant in that account is that he places the blame upon the failure of the 1848 project as due to the fact that the crofters had insufficient capital to be able to develop the land they were renting. He neglects to mention that the re-settlement was undertaken against his wishes (and those of his accomplices farming that area), that it took place during some of the worst years for crop failure all over the isles, and that there is no evidence that any consideration was given to providing a system whereby capital could be made available to the crofters. What Macdonald does do, however, is turn the failed project to his advantage by using it as proof that giving the crofters land is not going to solve the problem of their destitution.

Fishing, which might alleviate the suffering in some ways, was never going to support a population that had perhaps doubled within as little as two generations, especially as those moved to 'fishing crofts' were not always in possession of boats etc and only some of those who lacked them were provided with the means to fish by the relief committee Even if the dreams of Captain Macleod and the desires of John Lanne Buchanan been realised, it would merely have meant that Tarbert would have temporarily shared in some of the wealth that went to Stornoway before the fishing fell into decline. The solution was simple. Move them off the better land, make their miserable existence even less unbearable and then portray yourself as a philanthropist by offering to offload them across the Atlantic at, in part, your own expense.

I doubt it was quite as calculated as that at first, but it seems significant that John Robson Macdonald in his evidence to McNeill clearly states that it was in 1847, the year after the first widespread failure of the potato crop, that the Countess of Dunmore offered to export some of her son's excess population to North America and this was repeated the following year with the suggestion that a dozen families might like to emigrate to 'there be settled on the property of the Honourable Charles Murray, uncle of the proprietor of Harris.'

Nice - the brother-in-law needs labour and you are happy to supply it for him!

Unsurprisingly, neither offer was met with any takers from the non-English speaking, half-starved, close-knit, Cleared and castigated islanders who had by then turned their backs on the Established Church of Scotland and fully-embraced the five-year-old Free Church.

If it is thought that I am being a little uncharitable regarding these gestures and the motivation that lay behind them, I would ask you to take into consideration the attitude of the widowed Countess's late husband to his people, to the testimony given to the Napier Commission in 1883, to the profligate behaviour of Alexander Norman Macleod who had wasted the wealth that the kelp brought to the isle, to the similarly excessive activities of the 7th Earl of Dunmore that led to the 26 year-old having to sell the North Harris Estate in 1867, and to the lack of evidence that the early development of 'Harris Tweed' by the Countess was anything but a nice marketing tale spun much later by the Duchess of Sutherland, and that if any woman should be credited with the early promotion of the industry it should be 'Mrs Thomas', whom I have identified as Frances Bousfield Thomas, the wife of Lieutenant FWL Thomas RN.

It was Fanny Thomas who endowed the hospital at Manish, in the settlement where the Countess eventually, after protracted prevarication, allowed the first Free Church to be built, it was she who had depots in London as well as Leith and it was she who took-in the children of destitute (Free Church) Ministers and other families in order to enable them to benefit from the experience and, most intriguingly of all, it was she whose obituary appeared in a magazine of the 'Quaker' (Society of Friends) movement.

The Countess certainly did provide some early assistance as described in the letter from the Parochial Board of Harris:

"In the spring of 1847, Lady Dunmore, from her private funds, supplied seed oats, and a considerable quantity of seed potatoes, to the tenants. Some have repaid their advances, but a greater number have not. Her Ladyship also provided materials for employing females in woollen manufactures, partly knitting and partly spinning. For these two purposes she expended above £1800. Nearly £1200 have also been expended on boats, fishing-gear, and the erection of a pier at West Tarbert, for the encouragement of the fishery."

It is not entirely clear if the sum of £1800 refers solely to the knitting and spinning manufactures, or if it includes the seed oats and seed potatoes too, but the Board includes this total expenditure of £3000 some four years previously merely as evidence that "...the parish of Harris cannot be made self-sustaining, unless a portion of the people remove elsewhere." They were using McNeill's enquiry as a means of promoting emigration and supplying supporting evidence to suggest that it was merely a last resort rather than the inevitable consequence of the (man-made) factors that I have described.

I do not doubt that many of those who did emigrate and then thrived on the North American continent, in Australia, and in many other places too, felt that they had made the best choice in the circumstances. I am also aware that many readers are descendants of those same people and that the hunger of their ancestors has been replaced by a hunger to know as much as possible about the land they left.

And 'land' is the key for under the run-rig system one would have been reminded each year, in the allotting of the strips, that no man 'owns' the land, that it is the land supports us, that by sharing in communal activities we communicate & develop a sense of community, & that as soon as one person's motivation is deemed superior to another's & greed becomes the guiding principle, we sour the land, encourage disease and pestilence and are forced to turn our backs on the land to face the sea, and towards those other lands that lie far across the ocean...

Note: This link provides a concise but comprehensive account of 'The Highland Tragedy'

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Parochial Board of Harris in 1851

The members of this board, who signed a document relating to the situation in the island on the 3rd of April 1851 in Tarbert, Harris, are listed here with some (tentative!) notes in parenthesis:

RODERICK MACDONALD Minister (by 1855 the minister of South Uist)
J. R. MACDONALD Factor (Born Snizort, Inverness-shire)
DONALD McRAE Tacksman (Factor's Nephew, Farmer of 200 acres Employing 8 men & Justice of the Peace?)
JOHN MACDONALD Tacksman (possibly the Farmer of 150 acres on the Island of Taransay?)
ALEX. McRAE Tacksman (presumably the Farmer of Nisishee Employing 21 men?)
ROBERT CLARK Surgeon (From Argyll)
NORMAN M'LEOD Merchant (possibly the 'Farmer & Ship-person' of Tarbert?)
JOHN M'LEOD Ground-Officer (From Harris and living at Port Esgein)
JOHN KERR Joiner and Tenant (see below)
R. H. WATSON Fish-curer (English-born living at Rodel)
JOHN TROTTER Superintendent of Croft Culture (Drat, I can't find him!)
ALEX. CAMPBELL Lighthouse-Keeper (Born Harris, Assistant Light Keeper at Rhinns Lighthouse, Island of Oversay, Argyll)

Several of these twelve men are familiar to me and make appearances in earlier entries so I feel a little bit mean in not having diligently made a list of links for you, but if any of them are of particular interest then a simple search should lead you to those entries.

However, I am going to look at John Kerr the 'Joiner and Tenant' who is NOT someone in my own immediate family tree but who does feature in that of a well-known island 'character'.

John Kerr (1811-1879) was the older of the two sons of a Farmer, John Kerr, and his wife, the Weaveress Marion Macleod of Scarista and Borve. Both brothers became Joiners/Carpenters and the younger one, Roderick, was the father of John Kerr, the Minister of Harris who appears in Finlay J Macdonald's 'Crowdie & Cream' as 'Ayatollah Kerr'.

John the Joiner makes three appearances in the Scottish censuses, as a Carpenter in Scarista in 1841, as a Joiner in Luskintyre with his Perthshire-born wife Janet in 1851, and as a 'Journeyman' in the company of two younger Joiners in 'East Tarbert Shed' in 1861. I should explain that in that year his wife, Jessie, was living in Obe with their five children and described herself as a 'House Carpenter's Wife'.

What happens next is not one, but two migrations for the next child is born in Wales in 1863 and the one after that in Birkenhead in England in 1866, and it was there that the 'Ayatollah's uncle died in 1879.

Looking at the Parochial Board list it is clear that several came from outside of Harris and that at least half had an interest in seeing the expansion of sheep-farms at the expense of the native population. There are also several family ties that I have yet to fully explore & make explicit but the lack of any representation of the majority of the populace on this particular Parochial Board is obvious.

Finally, as I do suspect that this John Kerr is related to me and am sure that he (like all the other Harris Kerrs whose family trees I have fully constructed) was descended from 'incomers', probably arriving at the time of Captain Alexander Macleod, I think that his inclusion is indicative that in many cases they were allied to the 'improvers'.

This is not the first time that I have made this observation, and situations are always far more complex than one can hope to fully and accurately reconstruct after such a long passage of time, but John the Joiner, Member of the Parochial Board of Harris, uncle of John the (future) Minister of the Established Church at Scarista, who finally ends his days in England, must be trying to tell me something!

I assisted my father as factor of Harris...

...from Whitsunday 1834 to Whitsunday 1838; as factor of North Uist for several years, having the chief management of it from Whitsunday 1835 to Whitsunday 1838; and as factor of the greater part of South Uist for many years. I was factor of Barra from Martinmas 1836 to Whitsunday 1838, and I have been sheriff-substitute of the whole district since November 1841.

This was the opening sentence of the answer given by Charles Shaw, Sheriff-Substitute, to a question put to him by Sir John McNeill in Lochmaddy, North Uist, on the 7th of April 1851.

His father, Duncan Shaw, was the first Factor of Harris appointed when the 6th Earl Dunmore purchased the island in 1834 and his wife Anne Margaret Macdonald's connection to the islands is to be found in this piece from the Carmichael Watson Project.

The couple resided at Sponish House, Lochmaddy, North Uist and in 1851 they and their three children were joined there by Charles' 60 year-old mother, Anne Shaw, who hailed from Duirinish in Skye. The Shaws are seen in each of the successive three censuses but it appears that the first Anne Shaw, wife of the Factor Duncan Shaw, died between 1871 & 1881.

What led me to take this brief excursion across the Sound of Harris was the information regarding Charles assisting his father as Factor from 1834 until 1838 but the document in which it appears, the 'Report to the Board of Supervision for the Relief of the Poor in Scotland by Sir John M'Neill...' which is described here is one that I intend to explore in detail.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Scandal at Scarista!

I was poking around in the National Archives of Scotland when I stumbled upon this unusual episode from Harris history:

On the 26th of April 1856, Allan Silver, a 35 year-old Plasterer living in Kintulavig, Harris, was tried
' for the crime of bigamy at the Manse, Harris, Scarista, Harris, Inverness-shire'.

He was the 'married, lawful husband of Catherine Fraser or Silver, servant to Catherine Mackintosh or Rose, widow, Nessbank, Inverness' and his victims were her and Ann MacLean, whom he was now 'bigamously married to' but who had returned to live with her father, a Tailor called Norman MacLean.

Allan Silver was found Guilty 'in terms of his own confession' and sentenced to 2 years in the General Prison at Perth.

What surprised me, though, was that in 1861 there was a 24 year-old Dress Maker living with her father Norman MacLean the Tailor in Strond. Her name was Ann Silver and with her were 4 year-old Duncan Silver and his 2 year-old brother, Walter Silver...

A decade later Ann had reverted to her original name of MacLean but the two boys, ages 15 and 12, kept their father's name, under which we find Walter Silver in 1901 proudly proclaiming that he was born in 'Obe, Harris', whilst now working as a 'Shipyard Plater's Helper' in Greenock.

Refs: AD14/56/150 & JC26/1856/8 held at http://www.nas.gov.uk/onlineCatalogue/

FWL Thomas's 1857 Chart of East Loch Tarbert - Direcleit Detail

On a par with my favourite map of Harris (the 1804/1805 one produced by Bald) is this chart from 1857 .
I have referred to each of these several times, the map's subtitle being  'The property of Alexander Hume Esq surveyed by William Bald, Assistant to Mr Ainslie, in 1804-5' whilst the chart was 'surveyed by Lieut. F.W.L. Thomas, R.N. Assisted by W.T. Clifton 2nd Master'.

I wish to compare Bald's view of 'Dieraclate' with that of Thomas's 'Dhiracleit' both to see what had altered in the intervening half-century, both in terms of Harris itself, of cartographic techniques and the motivation for making maps. I have attempted to provide links that display as closely as possible the same area but not precisely so.

Starting with Bald's map (this particular copy of which apparently dates from 1829), the man who probably commissioned it, Alexander Hume Macleod, had inherited the island from his father, the successful seaman Captain Macleod, in 1790 and would soon pass it on to his own son, Alexander Norman Macleod in 1811. Ignoring the pencilled annotations, which I believe to have been made during the ownership of the 7th Earl of Dunmore, the map is clearly intended to inform the landlord in some detail of the agricultural arrangements of the island. It itemises the holdings of no less than 25 separate parts and displays the location and boundaries pertaining to each of these. Additionally, major landmarks are identified as are settlements and routes for communication. There is a compass cross indicating North and scales in both 'Scotch Chains 74 feet each' and in 'Miles' as well as some soundings dotted around the casts and islands but whose unit of measure is not defined. The only other navigational information is a single 'Bearing to Gasgheir distance from Ru Hinigha 10 miles' although why we have this indication of where the island of Gaisgeir (Gasker in English) lies is a mystery. On the modern OS map this tiny island sits in splendid isolation neatly within the square kilometre at NA875116 so whether Bald included it as a useful navigational aid or simply in the interest of completeness is unknown.

Returning to the detailed section of the map around Direcleit, I want to consider the settlements that are indicated beginning with 'Tarbet'. Here we see a cluster of perhaps nine buildings bounded by a dotted-enclosure and West Loch Tarbert. Only a pair of buildings are shown in the area to the East where the present-day village is found. The settlement at the West Loch must surely indicate a link to the fishing grounds of the Atlantic for the harbour is the safest on the whole of that side of 'mainland' Harris and Captain Macleod   definitely perceived the economic future of the isle to lie within the sea rather than upon the land. Moving away from 'Tarbet' towards 'Loch Dieraclate' we encounter no signs of habitation within this part of the Farm of Luskentyre until reaching ' Ken Diebeck'.  If we assume that Bald only marked houses that were in occupation then if there had been any people living in that area he missed them but if he marked all buildings regardless of their status then the area had yet to be settled. Whichever is the case we are reasonably safe to say that whilst people were living in Kendebig  at the time there were none at Direcleit.

Compare that with the situation in 1857 where the chart still shows some six houses at 'Ceann Dhibig' but then another two-dozen scattered from 'Baille Dhiracleit' via the peninsular of 'Dhiracleit Pt' and up to 'Craobhag'. As clear an indication as one could wish for of the effect of the Clearances that took place during the first-half of the nineteenth-century in Harris.

One of those houses is of especial interest to me. If you start at 'Baille Dhiracleit', sitting on the narrow slice of land between the waters of sea and the inland loch, and let your eye traverse diagonally upwards and to the left you will reach a triangular mark with a dot inside it. This 'Trig Point' (short for 'Triangulation Point') is a fixed point whose precise location is known from other similar points that lie within sight of it and whose height above the sea has been measured to a great degree of accuracy. It is the secret behind all the work of cartography since the formation of the Ordnance Survey but whether this particular one was the work of that organisation of of Thomas himself I cannot say. This Trig Point lies within a defined parcel of land with two houses and it is the one nearest to 'Coal I' and 'Big I' that is our destination for there, some thirty-five years before the chart was constructed, my great, great grandfather Malcolm Kerr had been born.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

SPCK School at Scarista

As can be seen from this list , a school was erected at by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge at Scarista on October the 11th 1732.

At the time that the list was compiled in 1748 there were 13 boys and 9 girls attending the school.

The other three schools in the Presbytery of Uist were on the islands of St Kilda and Benbecula and at 'Borbh' which I presume to refer to the Borve on North Uist?

The 22 scholars of Scarista are the earliest that I have discovered thus far.

The Inn at Tarbert

I have previously examined Inn at An-t-Ob and the Harris Hotel and now turn my attention to the Inn at Tarbert as marked on the 1857 Chart of East Loch Tarbert.
This zoomed view shows the Inn clearly in the space that, by 1865, was occupied by the newly-built Harris Hotel.
The chart also appears to identify the school of 1851 as the squat single-storey building shown in the centre of this Streetview image. but I have not seen any reference supporting this assertion and would welcome any additional information. The long building on the left, between the 'school' and the Harris Hotel, is also shown on the chart but is not identified. Again, any further information would be most welcome!

To return to the Inn, we have two sets of census records listing its residents:

1851 Tarbert Inn
Malcolm MacAnby (Macaulay?), 42, Inn Keeper and Crofter (Employing 5 men), b. Harris
Margaret, 37, Wife, b. Fortingall, Perth
Peter, 10, Scholar at Home, Son, b. Harris
Marion A, 8, Scholar at Home, Daughter, b. Harris
Jessie M, 6, Scholar at Home, Daughter, b. Harris
Bessie M, 4, Scholar at Home, Daughter, b. Harris
Catherine, 2, Scholar, Daughter, b. Harris
Frederick J MacAnby, 8, Scholar, Nephew, b. Lochs
John Macdougal, 35, Free Church Student, Brother-in-Law, b. Fortingall, Perth
Ann Macdougal, 22, House Keeper, Sister-in-Law, b. Harris
Emmeline E Maxwell, 22, Teacher, Cousin, b. Edinburgh
Murdoch Morrison, 18, Waiter, Servant, b. Harris
Catherine Macleod, 23, House Servant, b. Harris
Murdoch Macdonald, 29, Ag Lab, Servant, b. Harris
Norman Macleod, 24, Ag Lab, Servant, b. Harris
Angus Mackillop, 18, Herd, Servant, b. Harris
Donald Macdermid, 17, Road Labourer, Lodger, b. Harris
John Macphail, 48, Seaman, Lodger, b. North Shields, Northumberland
Catherine Macphail, 41, Seaman's Wife, Lodger, b. Greenock, Renfrew
Elizabeth Fordeson, 6, Seaman's Daughter, Lodger, b. Greenock, Renfrew

I am almost reaching the point where a familiar name appears in a different context and I'm thinking, 'Oh, that's so-and-so who's the thingamabob from where-do-you-call-it and is such-and-such's relative...' and that is the case with some of the folk in Tarbert Inn.
The teacher Emmeline E Maxwell appears here but I am now wondering if she was teaching the children of the innkeeper rather than at the school down the road? Angus Mackillop the 'Herd' was one of those I did not itemise here because I was uncertain if he was dealing with cattle but he was certainly one of the three agricultural employees that the Inn required. Of the four folk lodging at the hostelry, we recognise Donald Macdermid as one of the roadworkers building the road to Stornoway that was completed three years later but I appear to have missed John Macphail off this earlier list Englishmen and women 'abroad' in Harris.

1861 East Tarbert
John Morrison, 21, Inn Keeper, b. Harris
Betsy, 24, Waiter, Sister, b. Harris
Alexander, 19, Assistant, Brother, b. Harris
Kennethina, 10, Scholar, Sister, b. Harris
Murdo Macdonald, 38, Ag Lab, Servant, b. Harris
John Mclellan, 24, Ag Lab, Servant, b. Harris
Isabella Frazer, 29, Domestic Servant, b. Kintail
William Ferrier, 31, Pedlar, Traveller, b. Ireland
Alexander Bain, 44, Ship Agent, Traveller, b. England
James Shearer, 45, Ship builder, Traveller, b. Dunoon, Ayrshire
Effy Morrison, 20, Domestic Servant, Traveller, b. Uig, Rossshire
Donald Clark, 24, Domestic Servant, Traveller, b. Uig, Rossshire

I presume that the 'Ag Lab' Murdo Macdonald is the same man (Murdoch Macdonald) from ten years earlier but if so he is the only constant from that earlier time. The Morrison family are running the inn and amongst their five guests are Alexander Bain who did make the list Englishmen and women 'abroad' but, because he wasn't from the island, the Ship Builder Shearer is not in my list of Harris Boat Builders .

I think these two households are quite revealing and I am always particularly interested to note those staying at an inn or a hotel as they provide insight into another element of the past; but in fact the thing that is most intriguing me is whether I have correctly identified the school building in Tarbert from1857, for that is where many of my relatives would have trudged the two-miles to each day from Direcleit and that, for me, is rather a nice thought...

'Naval Lieutenant Widow Recently'

When I first read those four sad words in the 'Occupation' column of an entry in the 1851 Census I knew that I had to know more.

Una Robertson was 45 when someone sitting in Kenneth Street, Stornoway wrote those words. With her was her House Maid and fellow Stornowegian, the 14 year-old Margaret Maclean. Ten years earlier things had been rather different for the 30 year-old Mrs Robertson living in South Beach Street in the house of her brother, the 35 year-old Surgeon, Roderick Millar for she had her two daughters, 12 year-old Jessie and 10 year-old Catherine, for company whilst her husband was away.

Eunice Millar had married the Royal Navy Lieutenant James Robertson on the 6th of October 1826 in Stornoway and Janet Millar Robertson had been born two years later on the 14th of October 1828. She would later marry Alexander Maciver, the 'Landed Estate Factor's Clerk'. Catherine Robertson followed her sister into the World in 1832 and she too married into officialdom in the form of Fisheries Officer David Corner.

Widow Una remained in Stornoway and in 1861 was living at 14 Kenneth Street with her two grandsons, 6 year-old Andrew F Corner born in Rothesay, Bute and his 4 year-old brother Roderick Millar Corner who was a Stonowegian. Catherine Morrison, a 22 year-old from Harris, was there too as a Servant.

By 1871 Una had moved to 25 Kenneth Street and had a new Domestic Servant, Annie Maciver, who was 17 and from the town. Lodging with her was a 38 year-old 'Supervisor Inland Revenue' called William Stewart Turner who hailed all the way from Kidderminster in Worcestershire.

We last see Eunice Robertson at the age of 75 in 1881 at 26 Kenneth Street accompanied by granddaughter Eunice Corner who had been born 20 years earlier in Stornoway and their General Servant, 22 year-old Henrietta Macdonald from the town. The inevitable Lodger took the form of a 50 year-old Fish Curer called Murdoch Smith from Nigg in Ross-shire.

Una died on the 6th of October 1881, exactly 55 years since her wedding day.
She had been a widow for at least 30 of those years.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Hurricane of the 20th/21st October 1874

Edinburgh, October 29th
A storm exceeding in violence any experienced in Britain for more than six and a-half years, blew over the whole of England, Scotland, and Wales, and a great part of Ireland, on the night of the 20-21st inst. The havoc it has caused, especially in Scotland, is enormous...
...It was on the Hebrides, however, that te.most terrible wrecks took place. A splendid new Dundee clipper, the Maja, a vessel of 1000 tons register, was lost there with all hands, to the number of twentyfour. From wreckage that has come ashore, moreover, the large Glasgow ship Isabella Kerr is believed to have been lost, with 30 souls on board. If this be true, 20 wives in Greenock will have been made widows by this single disaster. Other wrecks, of vessels both known and unknown, have been numerous, and the shore near Stornoway is strewn for miles with wreckage to the depth of a couple of feet, while even yet bodies are frequently seen tossing about in the surf.
Otago Daily Times , Issue 4011, 24 December 1874, Page 6
National Library of New Zealand
The loss of the Maju and the Isabella Kerr and a catalogue of communications relating to the wreckage associated with them may be seen here and here.

33 Keith Street, Stornoway

I have been intending compiling this list of those residing at number 33, and its associated parts, for some time because these records from five consecutive censuses provide us with a typical portrait of the people of the town of Stornoway in the 19thC:

Murdo Montgomery, 65, Sawyer, 33 Keith St, b. Stornoway
Ann Montgomery, 55, Wife, b. Stornoway
Dugald Mcgillivray, 27, Carter, Boarder, b. Invernessshire
Murdo Macleod, 21, Apprentice Joiner, Boarder, b. Lochs
Norman Montgomery, 16, Apprentice Miller, b. Lochs
Margaret Thomson, 29, Domestic Servant, b. Barvas
Donald Macleod, 27, Tailor(poss Sailor?), Lodger, b. Barvas
Kenneth Macleod, 18, Cartwright, 33 Keith St, b. Inverness-shire

Malcolm Kerr, 36, Seaman, 33 Keith St, b. Invernessshire
Mary Kerr, 38, Wife, b. Lochs
Catherine Kerr, 11, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Ann Kerr, 8, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Alexander John Kerr, 5, Son, b. Stornoway
Malcolm Kerr, 3, son, b. Stornoway
Margaret Kerr, Daughter, 4 months, b. Stornoway

Multiple-occupancy is quite usual for the time as are households comprising people from a variety of families originating from across the isles and in a range of occupations.
The second family is obviously why I first came upon 33 Keith Street but other occupants over time have also appeared in the particular entries on occupations that I have provided links for.

George Mackenzie, 69, Grocer & Spirit Dealer, 33 Keith St, b. Stornoway
Isabella Mackenzie, 56, Grocer & Spirit Dealer, Wife, b. Stornoway
Alexander Mackenzie, 34, Joiner, Son, b. Stornoway
Isabella Lees, 28, Ship Carpenter's Wife, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Mary Mackenzie, 22, Domestic Servant, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Elizabeth Mackenzie, 20, Domestic Servant, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Isabella B Cooper, 8, Scholar, Granddaughter, b. Portmahomack, Ross-shire
Mary Lees, 6 months, Granddaughter, b. Stornoway

Catherine Mackenzie, 71, Pauper, 33 ½ Keith St, b. Lochs

Maggie Mackenzie, 63, Pauper, 33 ½ Keith St, b. Uist, Invernessshire
Marion Mackenzie, 28, General Servant, Daughter
Barbara Mackenzie, 24, General Servant, Daughter

The first thing to note is the use of '33 ½' to identify a dwelling. The next Census suggests that this was probably the 'Back Court' of number 33 and the use of '½', which we might liken to '33a', is found all over the town. The presence of two Pauper households here is a sad reminder that poverty existed within the town as well as in the rural areas of the islands.
The other feature is that the main house appears now to be one household and we learn that George and Isabella were both in trade and that their daughter Isabella has married a Mr Lees and gave birth to a daughter in Stornoway six months before the census. Unfortunately we do not know which daughter was responsible for granddaughter Isabella B Cooper.

George Mackenzie, 79, Builder, Head, 33 Keith St, b. Stornoway
Isabella Mackenzie, 67, Wife, b. Stornoway
Alexander Mackenzie, 43, House Carpenter, Son, b. Stornoway
Margaret Mackenzie, 34, House Keeper, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Mary Macdonald, 32, Seaman's Wife, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Isabella Lees, 7, Scholar, Granddaughter, b. Govan, Lanarkshire
Mary Macdonald, 2, Granddaughter, b. Stornoway
Alexander Macdonald, 9 months, Grandson, b. Stornoway
Kenneth Macsween, 18, Carter, Servant, b. Lochs
Isabella Cooper, 18, Granddaughter, b. Tarbert, Ross-shire

William Maclean, 46, General Labourer, 33 Keith St Back Court, b. Lochs
Ann Maclean, 39, Wife, b. Lochs

Neil Morrison, 40, Carter, 33, Keith St Back Court, b. Lochs
Catherine Morrison, 35, Wife, b. Lochs
Murdo Smith, 18, Tailor (Apprentice), Boarder, b. Lochs
Kenneth Morrison, 18, Shoemaker (Apprentice), Boarder, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Alexander Macdonald, 18, Cooper (Apprentice), Boarder, b. Lochs
Malcolm Maclean, 18, Tailor (Apprentice), Boarder, b. Lochs

The Mackenzie family are still the sole family occupying number 33 but a dramatic change of occupation has seen George become a builder possibly a reflection of his son Alexander being a Joiner/House Carpenter or had the Temperance movement played a part, too? Daughter Mary has married a Mr Macdonald and added two more Stornowegians to the population during the past couple of years and we can see that her sister Isabella Lees was in Govan giving birth to a daughter seven years ago.
The 'Back Court' is now home to two households with that of the Morrisons playing host to four young apprentices from Lochs and Uig.

Malcolm Maciver, 32, Tailor & Clothier, 33 Keith Street, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Annie Maciver, 24, Wife, b. Stornoway
Malcolm Maciver, 3, Son, b. Stornoway
Kate Maciver, 1, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Maggie Macleod, 20, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
Alexander Macleod, 26, Naval Reserve Man, Boarder, b. Stornoway
John Mackay, 25, Naval Reserve Man, Boarder, b. Stornoway
John Macaulay, 28, Naval Reserve Man, Boarder, b. Stornoway
Donald Macaulay, 25, Naval Reserve Man, Boarder, b. Stornoway
William Macleod, 30, Naval Reserve Man, Boarder, b. Stornoway

Malcolm Macleod, , 32, Fisherman, 33 Keith Street, b. Lochs
Catherine Macleod, 32, Wife, b. Lochs
Roderick Macleod, 5, son, b. Lochs
Maggie Macleod, 1, Daughter, b. Stornoway
John A Macleod, 6 months, Son, b. Stornoway
Murdo Macleod, 35, Sailor, Visitor, b. Lochs
Isabella Macleod, 28, Visitor, b. Lochs

We appear now to have two large households at number 33 and no reference to the 'Back Court'.
I do not know if the sixteen residents and one visitor were indeed squeezed together under one roof, reflecting the fifteen people at the address in 1861, but the presence of five who gave their occupation as 'Naval Reserve Man' is interesting. Did they have other occupations at this time or were they unemployed, for being in the Naval Reserve is not in itself a job. Possibly they were engaged in Naval duties at this time in which case it would be interesting to know if being billeted on families was typical. Yet more puzzles to be solved!

Angus Maciver, 42, Spirit Dealer, 33 Keith St, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Mary Maciver, 42, Wife, b. Uig, Ross-shire
John Maciver, 14, Scholar, Son, b. Uig
Christina Maciver, 12, Scholar, Daughter, b. Uig
Catherine Ann Maciver, 3, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Margaret Mary Maciver, 1 month, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Finlay Smith, 32, Crofter, Brother, b. Barvas

Alexander Maclean, 42, Cooper, 33 Keith St, b. Stornoway
Mary Maclean, 42, Wife, b. Stornoway
Catherine Maclean, 9, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Maryann Maclean, 7, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Alexander Duncan Maclean, 4, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Flora Maclean, 3 months, Daughter, b. Stornoway

Mary Graham, 66, Head, 33 Keith St, b. Stornoway
Donald Nicolson, 42, Fisherman, Brother, b. Barvas
Angus Morrison, 43, Fisherman, Brother, b. Barvas
Norman Macdonald, 21, Fisherman, Brother, b. Barvas
Donald Macdonald, 28, Fisherman, Brother, b. Barvas

Our final list shows a return to the Spirit Dealing of 30 years previously. The Maciver family appear to have moved to the town from Uig at least three years earlier. I don't know if Finlay Smith was Mary Maclean's brother but it is interesting that one of the Uig-born Macivers had a Barvas-born brother.
On the subject of brothers, I would suggest that the four fishermen, with three different surnames, living at Mary Graham's were not in fact all brothers of hers, unless she had a particularly convoluted family history!

In conclusion, I hope that this rather long list of those associated with 33 Keith Street during a forty-year period has served, as suggested at the start, as an illustration several aspects of Stornoway and its people.
Oh, and if anyone can tell me what became of number 33 and 33 ½/Back Court I would love to know because as far as I can tell they have disappeared!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


A terrible S.W. storm visited the Hebrides and north-western coast of the mainland of Scotland on October 1st, doing immense damage. At Stornoway it was destructive almost beyond precedent, and the barometer was lower than during the Tay Bridge gale. Every vessel in the harbour was driven from her moorings, and several went ashore. The sea covered South Beach street, flooding the houses and strewing the roadway with smashed boats and other wreckage. Throughout the islands great numbers of fishing-boats were sunk or smashed, and in some villages the inhabitants are thus deprived of the means of earning their living.
In Mull and Skye the damage done is about equally great. In the latter island no such storm is said to have been experienced since 1860. The damage to crops, houses, and other property on land is very large. At Portree alone nearly 100 trees were blown down.
Much commiseration is felt for the Lews crofters, as they were exceptionally unfortunate at the herring fishing, since which their potato crop has failed, and now this storm has come to fill up their cup of disaster.
This will be a suitable place to mention that last Saturday, the 14th, was the first anniversary of the terrible storm which caused such havoc to life and property on the Berwickshire coast. In Eyemouth and Burnmouth services were held in the churches, and in the former place the parish church-bell was tolled, and the shops shut during service, while the inhabitants donned mourning garb, and the fountains of grief seemed to be reopened.

Source: Otago Daily Times , Issue 6496, 7 December 1882, Page 3
National Library of New Zealand

One of those vessels 'driven from her moorings' may have been the 'Jessie' but, if so, she certainly survived to perform many more years valuable service.

'...a most eventful voyage...'

This, originally from the Pall Mall Gazette of 1889, is truly tragi-comic:

The Welsh schooner Pursuit, Captain Williams, has had a most eventful voyage of nearly six months' time from Weston Point, near Liverpool, to Carloway. The vessel left the Mersey laden with salt in the end of September, 1888, and put into Stornoway on the 23rd October. There she remained for some time wind-bound, and made two ineffectual attempts to make her destination, which is only about 50 miles distant. Ultimately she sailed from Stornoway on Sunday, 23rd December last, under charge of a pilot, but when near Carloway that evening she was caught in a heavy westerly gale, which drove her towards the Orkneys, and the master succeeded, after losing most of his sails, in getting her into Thurso. Unfortunately the mate, who had been most reluctant to leave in the vessel, dropped down dead in the height of the gale. After getting a new supply of sails from Wales the vessel left Thurso, and advices have been received at Stornoway that she has now arrived at her destination. It may be stated that the exact distance between the place of loading and discharging is only about 410 miles. (Pall Mall Gazette)

Source: Boston Evening Transcript - Apr 3, 1889


What has become of Lady Sophie Scott, the wife of Sir Samuel Edward Scott, M.P. for West Marylebone? Asks the London Daily Mail of April 23. She has disappeared from London in the strangest manner. She drove from her residence, 7, Grosvenor square, W., last Monday to do some shopping in Bondstreet, dismissed her coachman there, and has not returned home since.
Sir Samuel, naturally much distressed, telegraphed to various addresses of friends all over the country to ascertain whether his wife had gone to stay with them, but could gain no intelligence at all. Information has since been received, we understand, from Lady Sophie Scott; and it would appear that she, perhaps exaggerating the seriousness of some difference which had occurred between her and Sir Samuel, has parted from him. Lady Sophie Scott was before her marriage Lady Sophie Cadogan, and is the daughter of Earl Cadogan, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. This painful affair became known to the Earl while he was entertaining the Duke and Duchess of York last week.
It was less than three years ago that the marriage occurred, and it was the grandest wedding, other than royal, that London had seen for many a long year. There wore half a dozen or more members of the Royal Family present at it. Lady Sophie Cadogan was 22 years of age at the time, and her husband was a year older. Sir Samuel was ao that time Lieutenant in the Royal Horse Guards. He is a member of the famous banking family of Scott, and is enormously wealthy, with seats at Sundridce Park, Bromley, Kent, and North Harris, N.B.
Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XXVI, Issue 8538, 9 June 1899, Page 4 National Library of New Zealand

Monday, 22 November 2010

Stornoway's Only Other Millwright

Having looked at John Mclennan who was the Miller & Millwright at Stornoway Mill Stornoway Mill from 1851 until the mill burned down in 1890, I am now turning my attention to the second Millwright of Stornoway.

John Munro, 29, Millwright, Nursery, Bayhead St, b. Pittenweem, Rossshire
Ann Munro, 30, Wife, b. Farr, Sutherland
Betty Munro, 3, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Jane Munro, 2, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Jane Mcpherson, 16, House Servant, b. Harris

John Munro, 40, Millwright, South Beach Street, b. Parish of ?, Rossshire
Ann Munro, 44, Wife, b. Reay,  County of Sutherland
Betsy Munro, 13, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Jane Munro, 11, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Jemima Munro, 9, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Alexanderina Munro, 7, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Johanna Munro, 2, Daughter, b. Stornoway

John Munro, 40, Millwright, Goathill Cottage and Farm House, b. Kitton, Ross-shire
Ann Munro, 50, Keeper at Dairy, Wife, b. Tongue, Sutherland
Jane Munro, 20, Assistant Dairy, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Alexanderia Munro, 16, Assists at Dairy, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Johanna Munro, 11, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway

John Munro, 59, Mill Wright, 18 South Beach St, b. Kiltearn, Ross-shire
Ann Munro, 60, Wife, b. Lairg, Sutherlandshire
Alexina Munro, 26, General Servant, b. Stornoway
Thomas Hardee, 31, Bank Accountant, Lodger, b. Glencoe, Argyllshire

The first question that arises has to be which Mill was John Munro associated with during this time? Stornoway only had the one grain mill and we know that John Mclennan was the Miller and Millwright there. However, the New Statistical Account informs us that the town also had a Carding Mill and a Saw Mill so perhaps it was at one, or even both, of these that Munro worked?

Looking at his addresses we see that in 1851 it was the Nursery, Bayhead, then South Beach Street in 1861, Goathill Cottage & Farm House in 1871 and finally 18 South Beach Street in 1881. Unfortunately this flitting around the town does nothing to aid us in identifying where these other two mills were located but perhaps they supply some clues although what follows is extremely tentative:

The 'Nursery, Bayhead' might refer to what later became 'Nursery Cottage', home to the Gardener & Forester in 1871? If so, I think it may place John Munro within the Castle grounds in 1851.
The move to South Beach Street could well reflect the need both for a larger house (the Munro's had 4 daughters by then) and to remain within easy reach of the Castle grounds?
'Goathill Cottage' is clearly shown on the 1st Edition OS 1" map of 1858 (as is the Mill on the Bayhead River which the later 6" map helpfully identifies as a Corn mill) and the family's move out of town and diversification into Dairy Farming is perhaps indicative that Millwrighting alone was insufficient to maintain them?
Finally, the return to South Beach Street by 1881 following, presumably, three of the daughters being married or working elsewhere, suggests that the Dairy Farm was probably insufficiently profitable to continue.

All things considered I think John Munro was probably more likely to have been associated with the Grain Mill at Gress Farm, or the later one at North Dell in Barvas, although in 1881 there was a Miller whose address 'Miller's House, Barvas Road, Stornoway' which is yet another mystery to be solved!

In 1841 there were some 195 people living in Mill Street, Stornoway including one of the town's seven Sawyers and six of the Parish's Hand Loom Weavers, including almost all of those who were resident in the town itself. Is it possible that the single waterwheel was used to power all three of the mills, or was it the case that in-between the writing of the New Statistical Account in the 1833 and either the 1841 Census, or certainly by the time that the 1858 map was being surveyed, the other two mills had ceased to function?

If all three were powered by the one wheel then the catastrophe of 28th February 1890 would explain why, with the exception of John Mclennan who in 1891 stayed-on at Mill House, we see no further records of any Millwrights in the town?

Update: Please see: http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2011/01/stornoway-harbour-surveyed-1846-by.html for an indication as to where and what John Munro was milling.

Stornoway Mill & Millers

The earliest reference I have is in Pigot's 1837 Directory where we are informed that 'If we except two rope-works, a distillery and a corn-mill, Stornoway derives no prosperity from manufactures...' and that the Millwright was William Latta of Stornoway mill.

William Latta, 60, Miller, Mill St, b. Scotland
(Magaret Latta, 40, and a few servants are listed)

John Mclennan, 30, Miller & Millwright, Stornoway Mill, Mid Glen, b. Contin, Ross
Mary Maclennan, 40, Wife, b. Lochwinnoch, Renfrew
Margaret Latta, 50, Aunt, b. Lochwinnoch, Renfrew
Roderick Morrison, 58, Mill Servant, b. Stornoway
Margaret Morrison, 30, House Servant, b. Barvas

1861 I can find neither John Mclennan, nor anyone else, at Stornoway Mill!

John Mclennan, 49, Miller & Small Farmer, Mill House, b. Contin, Ross-shire
Mary Mclennan, 59, Wife, b. Lochwinnich, Renfrewshire
Mary Houston, 30, Housekeeper, Niece, b. Lochwinnoch
Ann Mcdonald, 12, Scholar, Niece, b. Contin, Ross-shire
Roderick Mckenzie, 31, Assistant Miller, b. Gairloch, Ross-shire
Donald Ross, 17, Farm Servant, b. Stornoway
William Mcdonald, 14, Cowherd, b. Stornoway
Barbara Kenzie, 26, General Servant, b. Stornoway

John Mclennan, 59, Meal Miller & Farmer (15 acres arable land), Mill House, b. Contin, Ross-shire
Mary Mclennan, Wife, b. Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire
Annie Macdonald, 23, Niece, b. Contin
Peggy Finlayson, 20, General Servant (Domestic), b. Stornoway
John Macdonald, 19, Ploughman, b. Stornoway
Murdo MacPhail, 14, Herdboy, b. Lochs

1890 - mill destroyed by fire on 28th February

John Maclennan, 70, Mill Wright Farmer, Mill house, b. Contin
Mary Campbell, 78, Wife, b. Lochwinnoch
Mary Maclennan, 78, Wife, b. Lochwinnoch
Angus Maclean, 17, Farm Servant, b. Uig, Ross
Jessie Mackenzie, 30, Domestic Servant, b. Gairloch, Ross

(John Matheson, 39, Farmer, Mill House, b. Dingwall, Rossshire, his Wife and 4 children plus)
(John Maclennan, 80, Retired Miller, Uncle, b. Dingwall)

I think we can be confident that for at least the period 1851-1891 the Miller was John Mclennan from Contin, a Nephew of Margaret Latta, the Wife of our first Miller, William Latta. In retirement, John was still resident at the Mill House, the Head of the Household being his own Nephew, John Matheson from Dingwall.

More information on Stornoway Mill, including a project to restore the Waterwheel, can be seen here: http://www.stornowayamenitytrust.co.uk/waterwheel_home.asp

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.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

"...an immense shoal of herrings..."

In December 1837,
an immense shoal of herrings,
of a large size,
set into the lochs on the western coast of Harris.

One shoal entered a creek in the Sound of Harris,
the mouth of which dries at half-tide,
while the depth within the bar is seven fathoms;
and about 200 crans were caught in this pool alone.

(Edinburgh Weekly Chronicle, 16th December 1837.)  

Pigot's 1837 Directory - Stornoway

The two-page entry for Stornoway gives both an account of the town's facilities for its 2660 inhabitants in their 496 houses and a list of individuals as varied as John Dobbie, the Manager of the Stornoway Distillery Co., the Plasterer, Donald McLeod, of Barvas St. and James McAllister, the Fishery Officer at his office in Francis Street. This early and comprehensive document is most interesting and makes for an informative and entertaining read.