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

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Duncan Shaw & Charles Shaw of North Uist

I have previously written about Charles describing assisting his father as Factor of Harris from 1834 until 1838. Duncan Shaw was appointed to the role when the 5th Earl of Dunmore purchased Harris and replaced as Factor by the 6th Earl just two years after he had inherited the island.

What I hadn't realised was that, thanks to the of story of some cutlery, we can learn a little more of these two men:

Duncan Shaw of Dalnagar was married to Miss Macleod, a daughter of Kenneth Macleod of Ebost. Their son, Charles Shaw, married Miss Macdonald of Balranald.

How do we know this? Simply because Charles Shaw inherited 'The silver knife, fork and spoon given by Prince Charles Edward Stewart to Murdoch Macleod, 3 July 1746' as can be read in the paper of that name by George Dalgleish in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 118 (1988), 291-300. The original document may be accessed via this Table of Contents page.

The tale is a fascinating one, and well worth reading, but my interest lies not in the provenance of the silverware but in the families of the two men and their respective spouses.

Duncan Shaw of Dalnagar: Dalnagar is in Perthshire and Duncan Shaw appears in the 1841 Census as Factor of North Uist. His age is shown as 60 with a birth year of about 1781

Miss Macleod of Ebost: The 1851 Census for the household of Charles Shaw in North Uist clearly shows 'Anne Shaw, 60, Mother, b. Duirinish, Skye' so I can now reveal that 'Miss Macleod of Ebost' was Anne Macleod of Ebost who was born in about 1791.

Charles Shaw was born in about 1812 in the same parish as his mother.

Miss Macdonald of Balranald was born Anne Margaret Macdonald in 1824 in North Uist and her name we have seen before in this piece from the Carmichael Watson Project. 

All this is gleaned from the 1851 Census (apart from Duncan Shaw's) and the subsequent censuses confirm each year and place of birth as described.

To recap, Duncan Shaw of Dalnagar (b 1781) married Anne Macleod of Ebost (b 1791) and they had Charles Shaw (b 1812) who married Anne Margaret Macdonald of Balranald (b 1824).

I am quite pleased to have stumbled across the means of assembling these details for all four of these people and it might be worth retreading our steps and looking again at Duncan Shaw's Examination on Thursday 19th March 1841 by those compiling the First Report From The Committee on Emigration, Scotland 1841.

He tells us that he has been resident in the 'Long Island' for '29 years last Whitsuntide', ie since May/June 1811. He later states that he first reached there in 1812 and had spent the previous 6 years in Skye where he had come to from his native Perthshire. So he was in Skye from 1805 or 6 until 1811 or 12. The missing year might be simply an error on his part or it could be that it was the time that he spent as Factor of South Uist? It doesn't greatly matter, but I do like to get these details correct if at all possible! What interests me is that, assuming that he was born in 1781, then he went to Skye when he was 24 or so, remained there until he was 30 and clearly met & married Anne Macleod who gave birth to their son Charles around the time that he became a Factor in the 'Long Island'.

This all seems to fit with the details so far described and acts as a form of corroboration which is always nice to have.

I trust that this hasn't been too long-winded an account and you will be glad to learn that I am going to finish now and have some dinner – Now, whatever did I do with that cutlery?...


  1. Hope you found your knife & fork. I really enjoyed reading your post and George Dalgliesh's article was fascinating. I must get along to National Museums at some point...

  2. Thank you for those kind words - I am delighted that you enjoyed reading it!