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

Friday, 18 March 2011


On Wednesday last, the girls attending the Countess of Dunmore's school for embroidery at Obbe, assembled to receive payment for the work done by them during the past half-year.
Many of the ladies of Harris were present, who were much gratified by witnessing the progress made by the children, and in examining their beautiful work.
After the business of the day had been transacted, the children were regaled upon tea, cake, and many other good things of a more substantial kind, for which treat they were indebted to the liberality of Mrs Macrae, Hushinish.
The school is of great benefit to the island, as girls who otherwise would be idle for most part of the year, were here taught a useful and elegant art by which they can not only support themselves in a respectable manner, but also contribute to the support of their families.
The poor of Harris cannot be sufficiently grateful to Lady Dunmore for the interest she always takes in their welfare.
One proof of this is the institution under notice, which is under the management of Mrs Galbraith, whose untiring exertions for its benefit are deserving of the highest commendation.

Inverness Advertiser Thursday, 3rd June 1856 (via Am Baile and the Inverness Reference Library)

The school had been opened in 1849 and this account informs us that Mary Galbraith, the 32 year-old from Ireland, was already in charge. Her husband, Henry Galbraith, was Gardener for the Dunmores and in 1861 we find the couple living in the house at An-t-Ob that had been built for the gardener in 1850.

The tea-party was provided by no less a person than the wife of Alexander McRa, 'Fear Huisinis', and one wonders what the parents really thought of her 'liberality'!

It doesn't appear as if the Dowager Countess herself was present on this occasion (which took place on Wednesday, 28th May 1856) presumably, although it not made explicit, at the school in 'Obbe'?

Nevertheless, another little window into the world of 19thC Harris has presented itself and I think we should leave the children to enjoy their 'tea, cake, and many other good things...'!

Update: They worked all day for 6d. There were 26 attending the school in 1866 and 10 of them couldn’t read and only 3 could write. School or sweat-shop?
Source: ‘The Schooling of Working-Class Girls in Victorian Scotland’, Jane McDermid, 2005

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