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, 20 February 2011

A Tale of Two Tyrants

Cases Decided in the Court of Session, November 12th 1834 p4-7
These are the edited & annotated highlights of the second case heard by their Lordships that day:

Donald Stewart, Pursuer
Alexander McRa, Defender

...Macleod of Harris granted a nineteen years' tack of a sheep-grazing to Archibald McRa of Ardintoul, who was succeeded during the currency of the tack by his son, Alexander McRa.

The successor being 'Fear Huisins''Fear Huisinis' and the house that the McRa's built was Kyles Lodge 'Kyles Lodge' which would later become home to Mrs S Macdonald 'Mrs S Macdonald' following Fear huisin's death in 1874.

The term of entry was Whitsunday, 1814; the rent was £400 per annum, payable at Martinmas and Whitsunday; and the tack contained the following clause:

"It is hereby declared, that the said Archibald McRa and his foresaids shall have liberty to build a dwellinghouse and stone dikes upon the lands hereby set, and that, at the expiry of the present lease, he or they shall receive payment for the same; but that only on the express condition that the said dwellinghouse is built of stone and lime, and slated, and that the dikes are sufficient stone dikes; and it is declared that fanks for sheep are to be paid for as stone dikes; which dwellinghouse and dikes are to be valued by persons mutually chosen by the parties at the expiry of this lease; and it is declared, that the claim of the said Archibald McRa, and his foresaids, for building such dwellinghouse and dikes, is on no account to exceed the sum of £800 sterling, and that the said Alexander Norman Macleod, and his foresaids, shall be liable to that extent only,"

Now, by the time of this hearing, Alexander Norman Macleod had sold Harris to Lord Dunmore and the details of the case hinged upon the complex issues that Macleod's debts introduced but they are not what particularly interests me about this particular case.

McRa made meliorations during the currency of the lease; and, at the term of Martinmas, 1832, retained the sum of £100 of the rent, to account of the meliorations.

The house was built in 1820 so it seems likely that the sum retained was a reflection of that particular melioration, or improvement.

In 1830, one of the creditors of Harris had raised a ranking and sale of the estate ; in the course of which process, a sequestration of the rents was awarded, and Donald Stewart, tacksman of Luskintyre, was appointed judicial factor.

So in 1830 Donald Stewart became involved as 'judicial factor' and I have previously written of his actions in this role in a piece relating to the church on Berneray Church on Berneray.

The heritable debts exceeded the value of the estate. The judicial factor raised an action against McRa, for payment of the £100 of arrear of rent at Martinmas, 1832, and the £200 due at Whitsunday following; but the creditors, in whose right he insisted, were not possessed of any real right, until several years after the date of the lease granted to McRa.

Here we learn of Stewart acting on behalf of those to whom Macleod was in debt and attempting to reclaim the monies that had been retained by McRa because of the improvements that he had made upon the land that he rented.

McRa pleaded a right of retention of both sums, as being less than the amount of the meliorations to which he was entitled under the lease. Valuators were jointly appointed, in terms of the lease, but reserving the rights of the judicial factor and of McRa respectively. The valuators made an estimate, amounting to £506 ; and although some of the items, particularly as to the expense of a manager's house and storehouse, were objected to by the factor, there remained a sum of meliorations exceeding the amount of rents retained by McRa.

Even excluding the improvements that Stewart felt should be excluded, the amount that McRa had kept was still less than the value of the other improvements that he had made.

Lord Balgray.—The case involves a general principle which is of importance...I conceive it is as good against him as it would be against a singular successor.
Lord President.—I am of the same opinion...I am clearly of opinion that the note for Stewart should be refused.
Lord Gillies.—I concur....
Lord Mackenzie.—I am of the same opinion....

The Court refused the reclaiming note for Stewart, and awarded expenses against him since the date of the Lord Ordinary's interlocutor; and in regard to McRa's note, their Lordships remitted to the Lord Ordinary to bear parties farther.

Donald Stewart lost, and lost comprehensively, but things were to get worse in the next case that was heard and which I have already described in Mrs Campbell's Mill at An-t-Ob. . It is perhaps no wonder then that, in 1834, Lord Dunmore appointed Duncan Shaw Duncan Shaw to be his Factor and that, although Donald Stewart remained on the island as the Farmer of Luskentire for a few years, he spent his.final days back on the mainland.

He and McRa were equally disliked by those who suffered at their hands as they cleared whole settlements in their lust for land and, although this evidence concerns an apparent conflict between them, perhaps that was merely because of the role that Stewart was acting under and, for all we know, he may have been privately pleased to see his fellow farmer avoid making any additional payment to benefit Macleod's creditors? Stewart had certainly boasted in the past of enriching himself at the expense of this Macleod's father a quarter-of-a-century ago...

Update: I suspected a closer connection might exist between the two supposed adversaries in this case and think that I have found it:
(Please note that, although I have inspected the records as carefully as possible, I have not drafted a full family tree for the following folks but I believe the links as described to be true)

Alexander McRa was the son of Archibald MacRae of Ardintoul who was the son of Alexander Macrae of Ardintoul.
Donald Stewart was married to Isabella MacRae who was the daughter of Margaret MacRae who was a daughter of Alexander MacRae of Ardintoul - 'Fear Huisinis' and Mrs Donald Stewart were 1st Cousins!

Better still, John Stewart, son of Donald & Isabella, was married to Jessy MacRae a daughter of Jane Macrae who was a daughter of Archibald MacRae of Ardintoul.
Thus they were 2nd Cousins each being a great-grandchild of the first Alexander MacRae of Ardintoul.

There are, undoubtedly, several similar occurrences where members of this strata of society are concerned (as hinted at previously with regard to the Factor of Harris and the Ministers of North Uist) but in this particular case I think it adds weight to my suggestion that the interests of Donald Stewart & 'Fear Huisinis' were not as polarised as their adversarial roles in the court case might have led one to originally assume.

I rest my case...

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