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

Thursday, 30 December 2010

'Ancestry of the Present People of Park'

Visiting the online Angus Macleod Archive at http://www.angusmacleodarchive.org.uk/ one is presented with a list of 14 topic areas listed at the left of the page.

Selecting the second item, 'History of Pairc, Lewis' takes us to a list of 35 documents.

But it is within the in the easily-overlooked item that precedes that list, 'Notes for Reference on the History of Park ', that another dozen treasures are to be found.

Choosing the first of these will download the pdf file 'Ancestry of the Present People of Park ' which is the best short summary of the history of the area that I have seen.

I have presented this piece in a series of steps in order that it functions as a simple guide to exploring the online Archive and I hope that you find it helpful.

There is always the Search facility (which is excellent for discovering documents in the Archive) but, once found, the only option is to download the document rather than opening the page on which it is located, making accurately citing the source, or exploring other pieces in the same section, a tad difficult.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Nollaig chridheil agus bliadhna mhath ùr !

Here is a superb site with many useful links for exploring Scottish Gaelic:


http://www.omniglot.com/writing/gaelic.htm


Slàinte mhor a h-uile là a chi 's nach fhaic...

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Lews Castle - Future, Present &...Past

As plans are in place for the restoration of Lews Castle in Stornoway, I thought I would bring together these pieces that relate to this building:

In 1851 we have these visitors at the castle and the situation that led to their presence is described here .

In 1861 the Matheson's were in residence (Sir James' Widow and her daughters were, too, in 1881) but it is 'Stornoway House' in London in which we find them in 1871 & 1891.

Other buildings in the Castle grounds were the Porter's Lodge , the Boatman's House , Nursery Cottage and the Gardener's Cottage , whilst the man credited with the design of the grounds is Charles H J Smith .

These pieces on Pigot's 1837 Directory , including the name of the Manager of Stornoway Distillery ,whose workplace was replaced by Lews Castle, hopefully complete the picture.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

"I think it is quite capable of bearing all the people in comfort."


Thus ended the evidence to the Napier Commission given by the Reverend Alexander Davidson of Manish Free Church, Harris.

The full exchange went like this:

13113. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—I forgot to follow out a question which I put about the lands. Taking South Harris as a whole, is there not enough land to support in comfort even more than the present population ?

—I should think it would give land to the present population, if the land were distributed among the people. I think it is quite capable of bearing all the people in comfort.



This, from a man who had lived, worked and raised a family amongst the people of South Harris for at least the past twenty-eight years (including officiating at the wedding of one of my female cousins in Strond in 1867) stands in stark contrast with the prevailing view of the Proprietor, the past Factors and the present Farmers of the day for whom Emigration was the only 'answer' to the 'problem'.


I was inspired to take a closer look at Alexander Davidson having been contacted by one of his descendants, as can be seen at the end of this piece on Harris Free Churchmen .


The church is described in these pages from Canmore and British Listed Buildings and this is its location as seen on the OS 1:25000 Map .

The accompanying Manse, which was the Davidson family's home for many years, is similarly described on these pages from Canmore and British Listed Buildings and its precise location can be seen here .


In previous pieces I mentioned that Captain FWL Thomas and his wife, Mrs 'Captain Thomas', had at times taken-in the children of islanders including one of Alexander Davidson's daughters and also of the widowed Fanny Thomas's later endowment of the Manish Victoria Cottage Hospital .

I would like to end with a longer extract from the Reverend's evidence to the Napier Commission, to which I have added notes & observation within the text:


13081. Do many of the young women go south?
—Not many.


The context here is that of the 'Herring Girls' of the islands who followed the fishing fleet in their progress around the coast of Scotland and England during the season.

13082. Have they never been in the habit of going much from Harris?
—No, they never went.


This is telling us that as far as Davidson was aware, the women of Harris did not participate in this work.

13083. A good many of the women in this island get employment in knitting and in spinning cloth ?
—Yes, kilt making. That is their principal employment, and of late years it has been very useful to them.


Knitting, Spinning and Weaving were clearly well-established by 1883 but whether 'kilt making' referred to an actual Tailoring activity or was Davidson's shorthand for weaving a web of cloth is not clear. As far as I know, such tailoring was not performed in creating a product for export and my researches into tailoring certainly don't indicate that it was ever a large-scale female activity on Harris.

13084. Who set that agoing?
—Well, the Countess of Dunmore takes some interest in it, as well as other parties. I see they get very much into the way of dealing with the local merchants in order to get meal.


The internal arrangements pertaining at the time between the producers and the local merchants are beyond the scope of this piece, but I am interested in Davidson's phrase 'takes some interest in it'  for that is hardly a ringing endorsement for the Countess's commitment to the cause. It is just a pity that none of the 'other parties' were named!

13085. Are most of the women in the parish employed in that way?
—Well, generally.



A reminder that, unlike on neighbouring Lewis, Weaving on Harris was traditionally dominated by the women.

13086. I mean every family?
—Perhaps not every family, but very generally they are.


The extent to which these textile industries pervaded the population and were pivotal to their survival is clear.

13087. They knit a great many stockings and hose?
—Yes.

The size and importance of the knitting industry must have been very significant at this time so quite why it slipped into relative obscurity, especially in comparison with the international fame of Harris Tweed, is an interesting question that I have discussed in previous pieces.

13088. What price do they get for socks?
—Not very much—perhaps about 1s., but I can hardly say whether that is the fixed price.

That is only £2-£3 in today's money

13089. And they manufacture a peculiarly coloured native cloth?
—Almost every kind of cloth.

13090. Native dyes?
—Yes, they use native dyes.


Ignoring the slightly pejorative-sounding 'peculiarly coloured', we learn that the women were producing a variety of different cloths using 'native dyes'. It is worth noting, however, that the word 'Tweed', let-alone the two words, 'Harris Tweed', are conspicuous by their absence. It wasn't until the later marketing of the brand that they assumed common usage.




Ref: The full transcript of this evidence may be read here .

Note:
Anyone wishing to learn more about the Free Church Ministers at this time should consult the  Annals of the Free Church of Scotland 1843-1900 (which may be available as in inter-library loan).

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Captain Macleod's Other Agricultural/Industrial Building at Rodel

This link to bing maps should display a 1:25 000 OS Map centred on this particular building, the details of which may be read here whilst two old monochrome photographs showing the building and its context are here . The Google Streetview showing its current condition is here .

I am interested in discovering what uses this building, Rodel House and the Fishing Station (sometimes referred to as the 'Factor's House') were originally designed to perform. There are clues in the various contemporary accounts but they are lacking in sufficient detail to be able to say with certainty which housed the water-driven Mill, where the Net Factory was, or where the children learning to read and write were located.

Hopefully someone will spot something (either in the accounts, or perhaps from the images and maps) that will    enable us one day to say with more certainty what these three listed structures were intended to be used for.

I certainly hope so!

Note:
The Mill at An-t-Ob, which appears to have fared better than its predecessor at Rodel, features in Harris Millers & Mrs Campbell's Mill at An-t-Ob .
Or was that, after all,  where Macleod's Mill originally was and did Mrs Campbell merely re-build it as seen here ?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Of Two Tacksmen towards the close of the 18th Century

"The Tacksman of Ensay is Factor for all the Estate of Harris. He is also Baron Bailie, though he has not held a Court for these seven years. He deals deeply in the Kelp trade, and also in illicit trade.


The Tacksman of Strond is distinguished by humanity to his Sub-Tenants and Scallags, who are objects of envy to all the other Subtenants and Scallags of Harris."



Travels in the Western Hebrides from 1782 to 1790
By the Rev. John Lane Buchanan Published 1793
Page 44


I think Buchanan, who is relentlessly scathing in his comments regarding the Tacksman class, presents these two (neighbouring) extremes from Harris partly as a prescient warning of what happens when power is concentrated in the hands of one individual and his cronies and partly to demonstrate that the excesses of the Tacksmen generally were neither necessary nor inevitable.

I don't know who these two individuals were but we do know that Mrs Ann Campbell was the Tackswoman of Strond and Killigray at the turn of the 18th Century, and that she was similarly well-disposed to her Tenants & Cottars, so maybe she had inherited that position and it was Mr Campbell that Buchanan was referring to?

More commentary from this account, including an explanation of Buchanan's division of the people into Lairds, Tacksmen, Sub-Tenants & Scallags, can be read here.

The Gaelic for Tacksman is Gabhaltach whilst a Sub-Tenant is a Maladair. Scallag, which may or may not be the etymological root of 'Scallywag', does not appear to have a Gaelic equivalent but also occurs in the 1794 Statistical Account as can be seen here.

Friday, 17 December 2010

'Factor's House' or Fishing Station?

This PDF document refers to the 'Factor's House' at Rodel but, unless I am getting confused between buildings, I think it refers to what these photographs describe as the Fishing Station ?

The description given here certainly appears to match that in the PDF, and the map reference is certainly that of the Fishing Station, yet the PDF makes no reference to this documented use of the structure.

The building may well have served a variety of industrial and domestic purposes since being constructed by Captain Macleod in the late 18thC but unfortunately we cannot Ask Angus ...

...and, once demolished, whatever secrets might lie hidden in those stones will have gone forever.

There are precious- few Listed Buildings on Harris and I wonder how long it will be before this one suffers the same fate?

We know that Captain Macleod built a combined Corn and Fulling Mill powered by water (although whether at Rodel or An-t-Ob is unclear) and that he established a Spinning and Net Making Factory at Rodel yet I am unaware of anyone knowing the precise locations of these?

The 'Factors House' can be clearly seen on the right of this painting from 1819 where it's position alongside a pier suggests that some 40 years after Captain Macleod had purchased Harris (and nearly 30 years after his death) the building was indeed linked to Fishing.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Rodel Households

These are the 60 'Head of Households' as recorded in the 1841-1901 censuses.
Please bear in mind that these are listed merely to show the number of individual households and the range of occupations of those heading them. They do not provide detailed information on the overall economic activity that was being undertaken in Rodel during this time.

1841 (81 people in 13 households)
John Lindsay, 40, Estate Officer
John R Macdonald, 30, Farmer
Kenneth McDyer, 40, Shepherd
Angus McKay, 20, Shepherd
Angus Macleod, 60, Ag Lab
John Mckenzie, 50, Ag Lab
Donald Macmillan, 35, Ag Lab
Angus Ferguson, 30, Ag Lab

Donald Murray, 40, Parish Schoolmaster
Donald Macdonald, 40, Tailor

Allan McKinnon, 82, ?
Catherina McKay, 60, ?
Ann McKay, 40, ?

The 1841 census is not specific about addresses but I assume that the Estate Officer resided at Rodel House because the Farmer Macdonald who became Factor Macdonald is recorded as residing at Rodel House during his time as Factor.

1851 (38 people in 8 households)
John R Macdonald, 44, Land Factor & JP
Murdoch Macleod, 23, Shepherd
Donald Macmillan, 40, Farm Labourer

Angus McDermid, 35, Fish Curer
Richard H Watson, 32, Fish Merchant

Catherine Macleod, 50, Weaveress

Ann MacKinnon, 60, Formerly House Servant
Mary Macaulay, 60, Formerly Weaveress

I wonder if the Fish Curer occupied the listed building that is called the 'Factors House' but which most certainly was not occupied by John R Macdonald's extensive household? The presence of the retired House Servant now having her own home to live in, is a feature of later households too.

1861 (32 people in 5 households)
John Robertson Macdonald, 54, Factor of Harris Estate, Rodel House
Alex Macdonald 64, Farmer's Shepherd, Rodel Hill House
Donald Mclennan, 35, Farmer's Shepherd, Rodel Hill House
Roderick Macleod, 32, Farmer's Shepherd, Rodel
Donald Macmillan, 55, Ag Lab, Rodel

I do not know precisely where the two 'Rodel Hill Houses' were located but this census explicitly locates the Factor within the walls of Rodel House.

1871 (44 people in 6 households)
John R Macdonald, 64, Factor
John Cunningham, 32, Estate Factor's Clerk
Angus Kerr, 40, Farm Grieve
Roderick Macleod, 40, Shepherd
Norman Macdonald, 32, Shepherd

Donald Macmillan, 70, Cottar

Where the homes occupied by the Clerk & the Grieve were is unknown but I assume that they were close to the Factor in Rodel House (which was where Angus had been living in the previous two censuses).

1881 (38 people in 8 households)
Angus Kerr, 48, Farm Manager, Rodel Farm
Neil Macleod, 72, Shepherd, Rodel Farm
Norman Macdonald, 42, Shepherd, Rodel Farm
Norman Macmillan, 40, Farm Servant, Rodel Farm
Neil Macdonald, 46, Fisherman, Rodel Farm
Mary Maclean, 68, Laundry Maid, Rodel Farm

Catherine MacKinnon, 50, Cottar, Rodel Farm
Flora Macmillan, 60, Pauper, Rodel Farm

I doubt that any of these households were in Rodel House itself which, according to Kenneth Macdonald Kenneth Macdonald's evidence to the Napier Commission was being made ready for the Earl in 1883.

1891 (48 people in 10 households)
Norman Macdonald, 52, Shepherd, Rodel
Norman Macmillan, 52, Cowherd, Rodel
John Finlayson, 41, Gamekeeper, Rodel

Ewan Macleod, 50, Gardener, Rodel
Euphemia Mackinnon, 62, House Keeper, Rodel

Niel Macdonald, 54, Fisherman, Rodel
Roderick Macaulay, 60, House Carpenter, Rodel

Angus Kerr, 64, Retired Groom, Rodel
Mary Maclean, 80, Retired Washerwoman, Rodel
Anne Macmillan, 80, Retired Tailoress, Rodel

It is interesting to see a Gardener appearing again, his predecessor having become the Post Master at An-t-Ob sometime between 1871 and 1881. At least two retired employees are now present but I have no idea at what time between 1881 and 1891 my cousin was the Groom/Coachman.

1901 (48 people in 10 households)
Roderick Campbell, 70, Farmer, Rodel
Alexander Morrison, 48, Shepherd, Rodel
John Finlayson, 51, Gamekeeper, Rodel
Norman Macmillan, 50, Carter, Rodel

Ewan Macleod, 59, Gardener, Hamlet Rodel

Norman Macdonald, 60, Mason, Rodel
Niel Macdonald, 69, Fisherman, Rodel
Roderick Macaulay, 68, Joiner, Rodel

Angus Kerr, 75, Retired Coachman, Rodel
Effie McKinnon, 60, Retired House Maid, Rodel

The House appears unoccupied and the only interesting feature is the location of the Gardener in another specified, but unknown, location, 'Hamlet Rodel'.

Overall, I think we can see that during the second-half of the 19thC Rodel was tied to meeting the demands of Rodel House and the 'Home Farm' and it did so with an average of a mere 8 separate households.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A Somewhat Strange Affair

I was conducting a search of The National Archives when I happened upon Item reference J 77/327/9839 :

1884
Divorce Court File: 9839
Appellant: Horace Willi Kemble
Respondent: Kythe Agatha Kemble
Co-respondent: C A Murray, Earl of Dunmore
Type: Husband's petition for divorce

I think it is clear that Horace William Kemble, a Captain in the 2nd Battalion of the 79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, was wanting to divorce his wife for allegedly having committed adultery with Charles Adolphus Murray, the 7th Earl of Dunmore, who was a Colonel in the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the same regiment. It appears that Horace was appealing against a judgement made by a lower court, presumably having failed to secure his divorce?

As I was unable to access the record I decided to see what evidence the censuses might provide regarding the outcome of this case:

In 1881 Mr and Mrs Kemble were living in Heathbourne, Bushey, Hertfordshire with their 3 year-old daughter Lucinda Dorothea and her baby sister Hilary Olive (The same Bushey that would become home to the Tapestry Weavers in 1901).

A decade later, and some seven years after the divorce petition, Horace, still soldiering, had moved to Knock Farm on the Isle of Skye and taken-up farming. He was alone there apart from his five female servants and a young male farm servant and remained there until his death at the age of 80 in 1935.

Mrs Kemble, meanwhile, was living with her widowed Mother-in-Law (Horace's mother) in Kensington, London in 1891 together with her four children, the youngest two of which were born a year either side of the 1884 court record. She had moved to her own widowed mother's house in Enfield by 1901. In both records she is shown as remaining married.

Kythe Agatha Hanbury Kemble died in 1947 at the age of 94 and, having been the main beneficiary of Horace's Will twelve years earlier, it is perhaps not too surprising to learn that she, too, ended her days at the family farm on Skye.
A newspaper notice described her as the widow of the late Lieutenant-Colonel H W Kemble.

The thing that makes this story slightly more intriguing is that in 1904 little Lucinda Dorothy Kemble (now aged 26) was married in London. Her husband was one Alexander Edward Murray, the son of the very same man that her father, twenty years earlier, had accused of having had an affair with her mother...



Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Family Tree Magazine Nomination



Some lovely person has nominated this blog in the 'Heritage' section of this competition!

You can vote here (before 20th December) and see a list of all the contenders in each category here.

Enjoy exploring the blogs - and voting, too!

(PS - Thank You Very Much Indeed to my mystery proposer)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Many Thanks...

...to those who have answered my plea for editorial assistance.

I am extremely grateful to you and the first pages will be on their way very soon.

(If anyone else wants to take a peek too, please drop me a line.)

Thanks again,

Back to the 'sgrochladh'...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Editors Wanted!

As a result of several terribly kind people repeating their suggestion that I turn some elements of this blog into something more weighty, like a book, I am devoting my creative(?) energies to that task.

I would really appreciate it if some readers volunteered to take a look at bits and pieces as they slide from my typewriter and glide gracefully into a heap on the floor.

If you can spare a few minutes to help then please send me an email with the word 'HARRIS' as the subject and I will reward you with the odd page now and again.

Please don't be shy!

The British and Irish Spinning and Weaving School

It appears that this institution was the likely link between Harris and Herts. and I have uncovered a reference in 'Womanhood 6', the publication edited by Ada S Ballin, which states:


'At the British and Irish Spinning and Weaving School, in New Bond Street, with its branch school at Bushey...'


In 1902 Volume 8 of this publication would refer to:


'The stall for Harris goods, superintended by Mrs. Thomas...'


which I think was in regard to an Exhibition of Home Industries that had been held in Scotland and which links Fanny Thomas to the island and to Home Industries/Arts & Crafts almost up to the time of her death and certainly during the period when the School in Bushey was opening & operating.


Although she is not specifically mentioned, the lady 'on the ground' in Harris at this time was Mrs S Macdonald, (born in Grantown-on-Spey as Sarah Grant) of Kyles House near 'Obbe' and of the Scottish Home Industries Association.
In 1895 this wife of the Farmer and Merchant Roderick had written her piece that appeared in a Scottish Home Industries booklet and was then referred to in the Scott Report of 1914.
(It is this account by Sarah Macdonald's on the origins of Harris Tweed that has informed most subsequent accounts.)

I am hoping to learn more about the School in Bushey from the Local Studies Centre in the museum there but meanwhile the presence of the Tapestry Weavers in Bushey appears to provide additional evidence regarding the wide range of activities undertaken by the ladies associated with the Home Industries movement and Harris.

Lululaund?

In the previous piece on Tapestry Weavers I posed the question as to what had led the ladies from Harris to Bushey? A little further examination of that little village in Hertfordshire produced a possibility which, although highly conjectural, I thought I would describe:

In 1886 a remarkable house was conceived and by 1894 people were living in it. It was known as Lululaund and was built for the artist  Hubert von Herkomer who was linked with the Arts & Crafts movement. Lululaund has been described as an 'Arts and Crafts fairytale home' .

In 1899, The Land Magazine had published the Duchess of Sutherland's account of The Revival of Home Industries and the newly-founded Scottish Home Industries Association, inspired by Ruskin's Arts & Crafts movement,  had 'Mrs S Macdonald' as its champion in An-t-Ob or 'Obbe'. FWL Thomas had died in 1885 and in 1890 the widowed Fanny Thomas married James Flowers Beckett and moved from Leith to Sussex but remained linked to Harris at this time via her Tweed depot in London.

The pieces were in place, therefore, for seven skilled young ladies from Harris to find themselves working in Hertfordshire producing items for the extraordinary residence of an artist named Herkomer. I have no proof, and have contacted the museum in Bushey for assistance, but at least I now have a possible explanation where before there was none.

Update: The weavers at 39 Park Road were living within half-a-mile of Lululaund as can be seen on this Google Map ...

Update2: There was 'The British and Irish Spinning and Weaving and Lace School' in Bushey as can be seen on  p241 of 'Hertfordshire in History'. The 1901 census shows No 7, High Street, Bushey as 'Weaving School' and the 'Tapestry and Other Weaving Mistress' was the maiden 49 year-old Clive Bayley who had been born in the 'Indies'. I think this probably solves the mystery!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Tapestry Weavers

I was doing some highly focussed (OK, slightly random!) searching and came across four young ladies from Harris who in 1901 were employed as Tapestry Weavers.
What made this surprising was that the young ladies, aged from 15 to 25, were all credited with having been born in Obbe, Scotland but at the time of the census were boarders in the house of a 40 year-old Metropolitan Police Constable in Bushey, Hertfordshire.
Quite how this quartet came to be living at 39 Park Road, Bushey, situated a mile each way between Watford and Greater London, and precisely where they were employed remains unknown but this is the first time that I have seen such a group and hence I thought it worth a brief mention.

Ah, but what is this I see? Three more from Obbe but this time at 34 Silvester Terrace in Bushey, the Head of Number 32 being a local man, George Corney who was a Master Baker.
The two houses are home to George, his Wife and their Niece together with a Domestic Servant and no less than six Tapestry Weavers, four Carpet Weavers and two more who appear as Mixed Weavers.
Of this dozen, two are Blind and one is Deaf & Dumb.
Three of the Tapestry Weavers are 17 & 18 year-old young ladies from 'Obbe, Harris, North Britain'.

So a total of seven female Tapestry Weavers from Harris, all specifying their birthplace as 'Obbe', were possibly working together but for whom and where is uncertain for, unhelpfully, the Baker lists the ladies relationship to him not as 'Boarder' or 'Lodger' but as 'Weaver'.
I suspect that George was the landlord for the ladies at number 34, for it is clearly a separate household but the first person on the list is not shown as the Head of the Household which is the expected practice.

All rather confusing, but a tale worth the telling, nevertheless!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Three Tenants of Strond

In 1861, 12 of the 32 families in Strond (ED7) recorded their Head of Household as a 'Tenant'.
There were no Tenants' in the 26 households of 'Oab' (ED6), the 5 of 'Borisdale' (ED7) nor the 5 of Rodel (ED7) thus these 12 were the only Tenants along the Sound of Harris between Rodel and An-t-Ob.

The whole of Harris at that time had 64 'Tenant' households, which can be compared to the total of 233 Crofter households of Harris none of whom were amongst the 68 households in this region.

I am particularly interested in three of these Tenant families:

Angus Kerr, 70, Tenant, b. Harris (my great,great,great granduncle)
Marion Kerr, 61, Wife, b. Harris
Malcolm Kerr, 30, Farmer's Shepherd, Son, b. Harris (marries Isabella Maclean, daughter of one of the 18 Tenants in Strond of 1841)
Effy Kerr, 26, Daughter, b. Harris (spinster)
Roderick Kerr, 22, Post, Son, b. Harris (bachelor)
Mary Kerr, 20, Daughter, b. Harris (see below)

Angus & Marion's other three children:
Marion b. 1821, fate not yet discovered;
Angus (Rodel Farm Grieve & Coachman) b. 1829 married, on the 5th of April 1870, Lexy Morrison daughter of Kyles Scalpay's Schoolmaster;
William b. 1826, a Fisherman who drowned, unmarried, in1862

Mary Kerr would, on the 12th of February 1867, marry Angus Macsween the Tenant, who was a son of John Macsween the Weaver and his wife Anne Campbell:

Angus Macsween, 34, Tenant, b. Harris
Lexy Macsween, 36, Ag Lab, Sister, b. Harris
Malcolm Macsween, 26, Sailor (Merchant Service), Brother, b. Harris
Kenneth Macsween, 24, Sailor (Merchant Service), Brother, b. Harris
Jessie Campbell, 22, General Servant, Cousin, b. Harris
John Gillies, 9, Nephew, b. Harris

John Gillies aged 9 is the son of Kenneth Gillies the Tenant and his wife who was born Marion Macsween. It would appear that she was the sister of Angus Macsween, hence John Gillies being his nephew.

Kenneth Gillies, 50, Tenant, b. Harris
Marion Gillies, 43, Wife, b. Harris
Donald Gillies, 20, Son, b. Harris
Ann Gillies, 17, Daughter, b. Harris
William Gillies, 13, Son, b. Harris
Catherine Gillies, 6, Daughter, b. Harris
Allan Gillies, 48, Brother, b. Harris
Mary McDearmid, 20, Pauper, Friend, b. Harris

John Gillies would, on the 14th of April 1891, marry Flora Morrison, the daughter of William Morrison & Christian Kerr, she herself being a daughter of Angus Kerr the Tenant. William, a Fisherman, drowned off Thurso on the 25th of December 1890. John Gillies, a Sailor, was one of small and somewhat mysterious group calling themselves 'Yacht's Man' in 1891.

William Morrison, 30, Fisherman, b. Harris
Christy Morrison, 29, Wife, b. Harris
Flora Morrison, 4, Daughter, b. Harris
Angus Morrison, 2, son, b. Harris
Christy Morrison, 2 months, Daughter, b. Harris

All four of these families lived along the Sound of Harris between Borrisdale, Strond and An-t-Ob ,but it was only when looking at Angus Kerr's fellow Tenants in Strond in 1861 that I realised the 'Tenant' connection and its possible significance within this part of the island at this time.

There were no Crofters anywhere between Rodel and An-t-Ob, just these dozen Tenants in Strond who represent more than a third of the households in that place and nearly a fifth of those in the region.

The 5 households at Rodel were the Factor's, those of three Farmer's Shepherds and finally that of an Agricultural Labourer. The 5 in Borrisdale were those of a Tailor, a Retired Weaver, a Retired Tenant, a Retired Herd and finally that of a Pauper who had previously been a General Servant.

The pattern is clear: at Rodel Farm are those working directly for the Dunmore's on what might be described as the 'Home Farm'. Over the hill at the Eastern end of the Sound were retired employees with one economically active Tailor. It is only when we get to the Farm of Strond that we find other activity taking place in the form of our dozen Tenants and their neighbouring households:

One Mason, a Gardener, three Fishermen, the Ground Officer's widow, two Shoemaker's Widows (one with her shoemaking son) an Agricultural Labourer, the Public Shepherd, a 'Seaman Packet' and three Sailors, a County Constable, the Retired Factor's Clerk, two Retired Tenants, a Weaveress, a very elderly Weaver and a Retired Weaveress who is now a Pauper.

In these 20 non-Tenant households we can see something of the 'flavour' of the area and, although it would take a complete analysis of each of the 179 individual's occupation to be more precise, I am prepared to say that this mixture of Fishers, Sailors, Weavers and 'Officials' employed by the proprietor is reasonably representative. Thus Strond in 1861 was the site of a group of tenants tending the farmland who were accompanied by men who made their living from the sea and others who were providing support to the owners. It is not until we get to An-t-Ob that this dominance that stretches from Rodel through Borrisdale and Strond is broken.

These demographics, in combination with the family connections as outlined above, appear to me to give credence to my growing conviction that my (distant) uncle Angus's family was one of those whose status/standing/class (I am struggling to find the appropriate term!) meant that they escaped the (ill)treatment that the Factor, John Robson Macdonald, was notoriously inflicting on so many less fortunate souls.

Angus was one of the 28 Tenants in An-t-Ob and Strond in 1841 but one of the only 12 remaining in that same area by 1861. His children worked in trusted positions in the households, or on the land, of the Factor and Farmers of Harris and married into similar families whose offspring were similarly employed - Isabella Maclean, for example, worked at Rodel in the home of a Fish Curer who later became a Farmer and then was employed by Kenneth Macdonald the Sheep Farmer at Big Borve before marrying Malcolm the Shepherd.

This process eventually resulted in one of Angus's granddaughters, Marion, becoming a Farmer's Wife.
She married the eldest son of the Fish-Curer-turned-Farmer whom her Aunt Isabella once worked for. Marion Kerr, the daughter of Angus Kerr the Farm Grieve, set-up home on Rodel Farm as Mrs John Campbell, her husband and his father being the two Farmers resident in Rodel.

I have touched upon this before and elsewhere in this blog, too, but had not previously examined the way the pattern that Angus the Tenant's descendants wove fitted into the larger picture of the area.

I think one could quite reasonably claim that they were 'comfortably woven into the fabric of society'...

Update: This view from the 1857 Chart of the Sound of Harris , surveyed 'Under the Direction of Capt. HC Otter', shows the ribbon of houses that were Strond. I believe Borrisdale referred to the cluster of 5 houses just below the clearly marked 'Stone Wall or Dyke' although what the strange rectilinear space that straddles the track in their midst remains a mystery.

Friday, 3 December 2010

A Couple of Old Posts...

...that I thought I would mention as they might prove useful to other researchers.

The first, 'Where's Malcolm?' , is an account of how I stumbled upon the fantastic Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland and what I discovered there.

The second, 'The Belfast News-Letter' , shows how a search of newspaper archives can supply some surprising information.

You might also like to read my transcript of the Stornoway Gazette's obituary of Alexander John Kerr .

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Inverness District Lunatic Asylum

I understand that this establishment, more correctly called Craig Dunain Hospital, was built in the 1860s and more detail can be read here .

These are the men & women born in Harris whom the census records indicate were Patients within it.
I have arranged them by Occupation and put in bold those who may appear more than once:

1871 (1)
Donald Morrison, 34, Farm Servant

1881 (2)
Donald Morrison, 45, Farm Servant
Annabella Mcdonald, 22, N.K.

1891 (10)
Donald Macdonald, 34, Fisherman
Roderick McKinnon, 27, Fisherman

Norman Cunningham, 42, Sheriff Officer

Donald Morrison, 55, Farm Servant
Samuel Mcdonald, 20, Labourer

Alexander Campbell, 46, No Occupation
Neil Mcinnes, 59, No Occupation

Ann McKinnon, 45, Weaveress
Ann McKinnon, 40, Weaveress

Christina McCuspic, 63, General Servant

1901 (11)
Donald Macdonald, 44, Fisherman
Donald Macdonald, 32, Fisherman
John Mackay, 27, Fisherman
Donald Macleod, 26, Fisherman
Donald Morrison, 50, Fisherman

John Macsween, 29, Labourer

Catherine Maclennan, 43, Fisherman's Wife
Anna Bella Macleod, 41, Dressmaker
Jessie Morrison, 53, Dairy Maid
Catherine Macdonald, 28, Servant
Margaret Morrison, 25, Servant

As we do not know what led to each of these incarcerations it is impossible to know the nature of the illnesses (or, indeed, indiscretions) themselves, but the fact that over half of those recorded in 1901 were associated with fishing could well be indicating an aspect of that harsh existence that might otherwise be overlooked?

It appears that in 1871 there were about 300 Patients, in 1881 the number rose to 400 and then again to 500 in 1891. By 1901 there were nearly 650 Patients at the hospital but what story that might relate regarding attitudes to mental health is beyond the scope of this piece.

Norman Cunningham, who is described as a Sheriff Officer in 1891, appears to be the same Norman Cunningham who was a Lighthouse Keeper, albeit unemployed in 1881 but working on Raasay in 1871?
If so, I am happy to be able to relate that by 1901 he and his wife Mary were living-out their retirement in Manish on Harris with their 25 year-old daughter, Christy, who had been born at Sumburgh Head in the Shetland Isles. I have written a little more about him in one of my pieces on Lighthouse Keepers.

Horsacleit Lodge

Seeing this photo of the lodge from one of my 'Contacts' on Flickr (Contacts are like Facebook Friends or Twitter Followers) inspired me to learn more about the story of the lodge.

I checked what, if anything,  I had previously written and discovered just a passing reference to the name itself being derived from the Norse for 'Horse Cliff' (It may also appear spelt as 'Horsaclett' or 'Horsaclete').

The next port of call was the RCAHMS which provided this Site Record from the Canmore section of their Search Resources . At this point I didn't look at the Public Contribution to that record.

However, I did find a comment at the British Listed Buildings site.

We are extremely fortunate to be able to access and contribute to these wonderful online resources and my aim in writing this is merely to highlight, & thereby encourage, such collaboration and cross-referencing.

Of course, we are also able to take a 'virtual walk' around the area thanks to Google Street View !

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Norman MacCaig's poem ' Aunt Julia'

The poem: http://www.readingroom.spl.org.uk/classic_poems/gibson.htm

Spinning Wheel Makers of Stornoway

I mentioned in the previous piece on the 'Turner' men of Stornoway that there were two occurrences of 'Spinning Wheelmakers' in the censuses.

James McRae,who was born to the Turner & Wheelwright John McRae and his wife Ann in about 1845 became a Spinning-Wheel Maker by 1901.

His is not the earliest record however because in the census of 1891 we find 68 year-old Donald Macdonald, a 'Spinning Wheelmaker' living with his wife & family at 25 Bayhead St in Stornoway:

1891
Donald Macdonald, 68, Spinning Wheel Maker, 25 Bayhead St, b. Stornoway
Margaret Macdonald, 64, Wife, b. Stornoway
Bell Macdonald, 36, General Servant, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Murdo Macdonald, 34, Cooper, Son, b. Greenock, Renfrew
Aulay Macdonald, 27, Baker, Son, b. Stornoway
Donald Macdonald, 44(?), Apprentice Clerk, Grandson, b. Glasgow

Obviously I wanted to discover more about Donald and his family and this single record already provides additional information beyond names and approximate years of birth::
At some time around 1857 (and perhaps for a protracted period between 1855 and 1864) the Macdonald's, or at least Mrs Margaret Macdonald, were in Greenock where their son Murdo had been born.
One of the children had moved to Glasgow and produced Donald the Grandson but this Donald's age appears likely to be incorrectly recorded?

1881
Donald Macdonald, 57, Wheelwright, 19 Bayhead St, b. Stornoway
Margaret Macdonald, 55, Wife, b. Stornoway
Bella Macdonald, 25, General Servant (Domestic), Daughter, Stornoway
Murdo Macdonald, 24, Cooper, Son, b. Greenock, Renfrew
Colin Macdonald, 19, Wheelwright, Son, b. Stornoway
Aulay Macdonald, 17, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway

So a decade earlier they were a few houses nearer to the centre of Stornoway with both Donald and a son who we hadn't met before, Colin, working as Wheelwrights. Murdo was already Coopering.

1871
Donald Mcdonald, 48, Ship Carpenter, 18 Bayhead St, b. Stornoway
Margaret Mcdonald, 43, Wife, b. Stornoway
Isabella Mcdonald, 18, General Servant, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Donald Mcdonald, 18, Apprentice Turner, Son, b Stornoway
Murdo Mcdonald, 14, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Catherine Mcdonald, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Colin John Macdonald, 9, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Aulay Mcdonald, 7, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway


So from this we learn of an older son, Donald, who was an Apprentice Turner whilst his father was working as a Ship Carpenter.
Isabella hadn't yet adopted the diminutive forms of her name, Bella & Bell, but we now know that she wasn't for example, an 'Annabella' and Colin was originally Colin John. Two small details but of the kind that can prove useful clues sometimes!
Note also that in this record, Murdo is erroneously shown as having been born in Stornoway and hence if I had been looking for Murdo Macdonald's born in Greenock around 1857 he would have slipped through the net.

1861
Donald Mcdonald, 37, Carpenter, 11, Bayhead St, b. Stornoway
Margaret Mcdonald, 33, wife, b. Stornoway
William Macdonald, 14, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
John Mcdonald, 12, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Bella Mcdonald, 9, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Donald Mcdonald, 7, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Murdo Mcdonald, 4, Son, b. Greenock, Renfrewshire
Ann Mcdonald, 2, Daughter, b. Greenock, Renfrewshire
Colin John Mcdonald, 3 months, b. Stornoway

The family are even closer to town and, coincidentally, are in the house that my grandfather was born in some 14 years later. We see William and Ann for the first time and Greenock-born Ann lends credence to the whole family having spent at least a couple of years in Greenock around the year 1858.

1851
Donald Mcdonald, 28, Joiner, Bayhead, b. Stornoway
Margaret Mcdonald, 24, Wife, b. Stornoway
William Mcdonald, 4, son, b. Stornoway
John Mcdonald, 2, Son, b. Stornoway

Here we see the family in its infancy but in the street that they would live in for at least another 40 years.

1841
Isabella McDonald, 45, Mill St, b. Ross and Cromarty
Donald MacDonald, 19, Carpenter's Apprentice, b. Ross & Cromarty
John MacDonald, 17, b. Ross & Cromarty
Colin MacDonald, 12, b. Ross & Cromarty
William Macdonald, 12, b. Ross & Cromarty

I cannot be sure that this is the correct family but, in addition to the young man Donald's occupation we also have the names of his mother (presumably) and brothers, names that he would give to his own children and which are a hugely valuable indication that Donald Mcdonald, who became one of only two of Stornoway's 'Spinning Wheel Makers' and spent his entire working life in Bayhead, began learning his craft when at the family home in Mill Street, that offshoot of Bayhead that I discussed in the piece on Stornoway's Millers.

I am not attempting to track the whole family and, for example, there's still the mystery of the Glaswegian grandson, but for the sake of completeness here's what I have found for 1901:

It appears that Donald and Margaret had either passed-away or moved away from Stornoway.
Of the four children who had been with them in 1891, I have discovered the following:

Isabella/Bella/Bell Mcdonald isn't to be found. There is one who at first sight appears to fit for she is living with her brother Murdo, but when we discover that their mother is a Christina Macdonald we can exclude them both. Bell may have married, moved or died young.

There is a Murdo Mcdonald who is a Cooper of the correct age living at 3 Laxdale, Stornoway with his wife Donaldina and their 1 year-old daughter Margaret. He is shown as a Stornowegian but there are none of his name who were Greenock-born to be found.

Aulay the Baker, now aged 37, we find visiting the Blacksmith's House in Garrabost which is home to the Blacksmith William Mcdonald and his wife Sarah. I think it is reasonable to conjecture that Aulay has led us to his oldest brother who we last met as a Scholar back in 1861.

This is not by any means the whole story of this family but merely a beginning that I hope is of interest both for what it tells us about them whilst also demonstrating something of the higgledy-piggledy manner by which I meander along the genealogical way...

Update: I have found five more occurrences of this specialised craft:
1901 Archibald McRae, 48, Joiner & Spinning Wheel-Maker, 14 Helen St, Kintail, b. Kintail, Rossshire

1881 Magnus Anderson, 59, Spinning Wheel Maker, Braeside House, North Yell, Shetland, b. North Yell

1861 Robert Graham, 36, Turner & Spinning Wheel Maker, Knocknafenaig, Argyll, b. Kilfinichen, Argyll
1861 William Mcpherson, 62, Crofter & Spinning Wheel Maker, Glenmick, Aberdeen, b. Strathdon
1861 John Mcpherson, 58, Crofter & Spinning Wheel Maker, Brother, Glenmuick...

There could well be a family connection between Archibald McRae of Kintail and his island namesakes but what interests me as much is what led each of these men at these particular times in different parts of Scotland to specify their craft so precisely. Perhaps it has something to tell us about the story of spinning and associated hand-crafts but, with the exception of Robert Graham, what strikes me is that these men were all 'middle-aged' to 'elderly' at the time (48-68 years old) which might indicate both the skilled nature of the work and, perhaps, that it was something more suited to someone in their advanced years?

Update2: 68 seconds of craftsmanship - http://ssa.nls.uk/film.cfm?fid=2192

Update3: Clothing in the highlands & Islands in the 19thC - http://www.scran.ac.uk/packs/exhibitions/learning_materials/webs/55/dealbhmor_aodach_Beurla.html

Update4: 18thC Spinning Wheel from Harris - http://collections.glasgowmuseums.com/starobject.html?oid=176285