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

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Roderick Macdonald, Scalladale, In the Isle of Harris, was charged with having, in July last, stolen four wedder sheep, the property of Mr Stewart, Luskintyre.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to fourteen years' transportation.
Inverness Journal 22nd April 1842

We know much of Donald Stewart, the farmer of Luskintyre, but what of Roderick Macdonald of Scalladale?

The 1841 census record 7 people of that name on the island but we can ignore the youngest three, who were only 1, 2 & 7 years old, leaving us with the following quartet who are shown in order of their ages:

14, Scarp son of Donald & Margaret
28, Carragrich, Tenant
35, Obb
40, Molnahcuradh, Shepherd, wife Effy & 5 children

A decade later, those still found on the island aged 20 and over are listed below with those who match, and therefore were certainly not our man, shown in bold:

23, Scarp
25, Obe, Merchant & Innkeeper's son (He who soon married Sarah Grant)
40, Carragrich, Crofter
46, St Kilda, Farmer of 3 acres & Bird Catcher employing no men
50, Drinishader, Farmer of 4 acres, wife Catherine

It is clear that only two of those who were listed in 1841 can be positively matched in the list of 1851 leaving us with the two oldest men from 1841 as potential candidates.

So what clues might we glean from the place named in the article, Scalladale?

Sgaladail (Scaladale) is a tiny settlement adjacent to Ardvourlie in North Harris, but that is a modern place and no buildings, not even ruins, are shown there on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6-inch map.

A clue may be provided by this record from RCAHMS but I can see no ruins shown at NB 180 092 on the current 1:50 000 or 1:25 000 OS maps.

Nevertheless, the reference to these five possible shielings would make sense if 'Scalladale' referred not only to where Roderick was living at the time but perhaps also to the 'scene' of his crime.

Was he, in that July of 1841, living in a summer shieling and, perhaps, doing so in the capacity of Shepherd?
If so, then the 40 year-old of 'Molnahcuradh' might well be him, especially as neither he nor any of his family can be accurately identified as remaining on Harris in 1851.

It is also just possible that the Roderick we seek was already in the shieling at the time of the census, evading the enumerator's eye and thus absent from the record.

One thing that would help enormously in eliminating the man of 'Molnahcuradh' from my investigations (which I certainly would prefer to be able to do) would be if I had a any idea as to where the 53 people living in the place of that name actually were! Only seven peoples' occupations are given; two were Tenants, two were Ag Labs and three were Shepherds; suggesting that wherever the location, it was most certainly closely associated with one of the sheep farms.

In conclusion, I cannot be sure if any of the Roderick Macdonalds of 1841 were indeed our sheep-stealer but, whoever he was, his punishment of fourteen years in the antipodes was an awfully harsh treatment for taking just four of Donald Stewart's castrated sheep.

Note: The National Archives provide some useful educational information on Transportation as a punishment: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/candp/punishment/g09/g09cs1.htm

I have just discovered that Roderick Macdonald,
sentenced at his trial in Inverness in 1842 to 14 years Transportation,
arrived in Tasmania aboard the 'Emily' in that same year.
In the final 'Remarks' column is written
'Died 1845 Sepr.'
I don't know what the value of four wedders was in 1841,
but I do know it cannot be compared to the value of a human life... 
RIP Roderick Macdonald


  1. Molnahcuradh is in fact Molhagearraidh, a settlement on the east coast of Eishken. Small wonder he fell through the census net.

  2. Thanks, but that is very odd because he and the other 52 folk living there are recorded in the 1841 census for the parish of Harris, not Lochs?

  3. That, of course, changes the perspective ever so slightly, I agree. Not Eishken, therefore.

  4. Thanks for finding 'Mulhagery' at Grid Ref NB197118 which I have located on the 6-inch OS map where it appears as Mol na Hearradh.
    It sits astride the Harris-Lewis border just North of Ardvourlie but, interestingly, most (possibly all?) of the buildings appear to have lain on the Lochs, Lewis side as can be seen here:
    Using this new information, I have searched for the Shepherd's family in Lochs in 1851 but in vain.
    This, together with the fact that Mol na Hearradh lies at the end of Glenn Sgaladail, leads me to fear that it was indeed this Roderick Macdonald who stole Donald Stewart's sheep...

  5. The boundary between Lewis and Harris has always been a bone of contention, and I think that at some stage it may have lain just outside Airidh a'Bhruaich, about 4 miles north of Aline where the boundary lies nowadays.

  6. Indeed, and it would appear that at the time of the 1851 Census it was considered to lie further into Lewis than is the situation today!

    This piece from CE Uig tells the tale



    1. The address for CE Uig has changed so the web address for the article is now: http://www.ceuig.co.uk/on-the-lewis-harris-boundary/