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

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A Balanced View of the Balance of Nature?

On the 18th of March 1842, the Inverness Journal announced that:
The Earl of Dunmore has ordered a supply of hares and rabbits to be let loose over the island of Harris.
The island does not contain much arable land, and the farmer will be remunerated as a sportsman for any loss he may otherwise sustain.

Eight days later on the 26th of March another paper, the Manchester Times & Gazette, quoted an article in the Inverness Courier:
'The Earl of Dunmore has ordered a supply of hares and rabbits to be let loose over the island of Harris.
This must be intended as a boon for the sportsman; it will scarcely prove one to the farmer; but the island does not contain much arable land.'

I think it is clear that either a 'press release' had been the original source of these articles (with the Journal printing it verbatim and the Courier slightly altering the emphasis of the second sentence) or that the Courier had perhaps used the Journal's article as the basis for it's piece?

Whatever the case, a couple of year's later on the 20th of April 1844 an article in the 'Scotsman' was quoted by 'The Freeman's journal & Daily Commercial Advertiser':
'Generations have passed away without seeing a rat on the small island of Tarinsay, on the west coast of Harris. An innumerable swarm of these annoying and destructive vermin have of late spread over the island, notwithstanding the efforts of Mr Macdonald, the taskmaster, to extirpate them. They appear to be increasing so fast that they threaten to over-run the whole island, and keep violent possession of it.
They are supposed to have come from the island of Soay, which lies at the distance of about three miles from Tarinsay, and into which the Earl of Dunmore, some years ago, ordered rabbits to be sent. Soon after this, the rats, which were formerly very numerous on the island of Soay, completely disappeared, having removed in a body to the neighbouring island, from which they are not inclined to take their departure in a hurry.'

Note: 'Tarinsay' for Taransay is forgiveable whilst substituting 'taskmaster' for 'tacksman' was, perhaps, a Freudian slip as the island had recently been Cleared for this same John Macdonald?

Island which spent £600,000 getting rid of rats over-run by rabbits, trumpeted the Telegraph of 27th of April 2010, referring to the island of Canna, with the same story also being covered by the Guardian, which didn't mention the cost of the operation, and by the Times, whose tabloidesque headline apparently suggests that the rabbits had consumed the island itself!

Nature & newspapers sometimes seem to share similar difficulties in maintaining balance...


  1. Only goes to show the hazards and folly of introducing species to areas to which they are not native. An exponential of the Canna problem with rabbits was shown in Australia early in the 20th century. Fortunately, rabbits cannot swim, so should be exterminated relatively easily.

  2. The tale of the rabbits in Australia is told by Dick King-Smith in his entertaining & engaging book for children, 'All Because of Jackson' - http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/book/1015/All-Because-of-Jackson-by-Dick-King-smith.html