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

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1892-96)

A friend alerted me to this publication that can be read on Electric Scotland or on A Gazetteer of Scotland.
Some readers may prefer one version to the other, but I leave that to your own choice!

The entry for Harris is full of information but one area of interest will suffice:

'Eleven schools - Bernara, Denishader, Finsbay, Kyles Scalpa, Kyles Stocknish, Manish, Obe, Scalpa, Scarp, Scarista and Tarbert - all of them Public, with total accommodation for 913 children, have an average attendance of about 580, and grants amounting to nearly £800.'

Firstly, note the spellings - I have transcribed them from the original page.
Secondly, in my pieces on Education in Harris in 1891 & 1901 I listed the teachers according to where they lived and, as these are those listed 5 years either side of the publication of the Gazetteer, it seems reasonable to attempt to link each teacher to one of these 11 listed schools which I shall endeavour to do later.

For now, what strikes me is that the Gazetteer informs us that there were places for 913 children yet attendance averaged at a mere 580. In 1891 there were 18 teachers listed and some 1200 'scholars' and by 1901 there were 28 teachers educating the same number of children.

So the capacity of the schools was only sufficient to accommodate three-quarters of the children and average attendance was just below 50%? Several factors suggest themselves, not least the fact that even with 11 schools the 'school run' was a long walk on unmade tracks in all weathers for many 'scholars'so the fact that nearly half attended is in itself rather remarkable! The apparent shortage of school places, some 24 years after the passing of the Education Act, may be real or it is possible that those 1200 'scholars' actually includes a large number of infants of pre-school age? I shall investigate further, but hopefully have given a flavour of how useful a single sentence from a source such as the Gazetteer can be!

(With thanks to SC of Islay for finding the Gazetteer!)


  1. The Gazetteers can be fascinating. Incidentally, you might enjoy "Tales & Travels of a School Inspector" by John Wilson. I loved it, and learned from it :-) Jo

  2. Thanks for that, Jo.
    It's now been added to my loooong list of 'must reads'! :)

  3. You can also get the Groome gazetteer entries, individually separated and indexed along with contemporary text here: http://www.scottish-places.info/features/featurehistory1075.html