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, 11 January 2011

A Harris House Interior of 1787

In an earlier piece on 'The Bee' I said that there were numerous small details that I wished to return to. One such is contained on page 285 where we read:

In the house where the deer was brought to the party, were found most of the utensils used in the Hebrides for agriculture and domestic use. A chasscroomb for tilling the ground by manual labour, a straight spade for digging it, a rustil or sharp piece of iron for cutting the furrows, a sack made of straw for holding corn, a straw carpet for spreading it upon, a quearn or hand mill for grinding it, an iron pot for boiling their victuals; the fire-place in the middle of the house, with dogs, cats, ducks, and poultry surrounding the fire. The mistress of the house, a decent lady, had never seen a growing tree.
" You are a native of this island, madam?''
' By no means,.. I came to it on my marriage; but I came from the isle of Sky, and, never saw any thing larger grow, than a broom bush.'
" From whence came the trees that make the roof of your house?"
'From the woods.'
" What woods?"
'The woods of Assynt to be sure.'

Our author, the mysterious 'Piscator', provides an excellent impression of the interior of this house somewhere near Tarbert and his exchange with the lady of the house is also revealing. She originated from 'Sky' but came to Harris upon getting married, thought whether her husband was a native or not is unclear. Regardless, she serves as a reminder of the late Captain Macleod's developments on the island and his introduction of incomers to help facilitate them.
In 1787 'Piscator' (probably John Knox) and his fellows from the British Fisheries Society caught these developments at what would prove to be their zenith for only  three years later the Captain was deceased (thus the 1792 account in 'The Bee' containing posthumous tributes to him) and his death, followed by that of the Kelp industry, sealed the fate of the island and left it to be plundered by the Clearing sheep-farmers.

The Bee, or Literary Weekly Intelligencer,

Original Pieces and Selections from Performances of Merit, Foreign and Domestic

A Work Calculated to Disseminate Useful Knowledge among
All Ranks of People at a Small Expence
By James Anderson
Vol 8, p285 1792

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