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

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Scalpaigh (Scalpay) Population Data 1841-1901

Here, with some comments, are the figures as found in the censuses:

5 households with 31 people – 6.2 people per hearth

In the 1840s the 338 people of Pabbay were Cleared, many to Scalpay. A figure of 20 families being sent there by Captain Sitwell , who was a Commissioner to the 7th Earl of Dunmore, indicates that this was the influx of 1846, just a year after the death of the 6th Earl and hence during the Dowager Countess's time as her son's Tutor. These 20 families had been preceded by an earlier group of 20 in 1842/3:

45 Households with 282 people – 6.3 people per hearth

In his Report of 1851, Sir John M'Neill used a figure of 5.2 people per household in his calculations so the average for Scalpaigh in that year, 6.2 people per hearth, is significantly larger.

1857 - Chart of East Loch Tarbert - compare Chart with map below of same area 20 years later

69 Households with 371 people – 5.4 people per hearth

82 households with 419 people – 5.1 people per hearth

1878 OS Map survey performed - 6-inch map

96 households with 532 people – 5.5 people per hearth

87 households with 484 people – 5.6 people per hearth

122 households with 582 people – 4.8 people per hearth

There is plenty more to be investigated here, such as occupational change during this period, but I think it is clear that, apart from the brief interlude of 1891, Scalpaigh's overcrowding grew steadily worse as the century progressed. The population had more than doubled within 50 years of 1851, a time when there had already been insufficient land to support its 45 families, so the circumstances in which those people found themselves at the dawn of the 20th Century must have been truly desperate.

Pabbay, the island where so many had originated, had once been known as 'the granary of Harris'. It's people were cleared to feed sheep and perhaps as many as a third of its human mouths sent to face potential starvation on Scalpaigh...


  1. Decrease in population in 1891 can be attributed to movement of five families to Maaruig, two families to Scaladale/BoghaGlas and two families to Scotisay.
    Angus Macsween

  2. Many thanks, Angus, greatly appreciated.