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

Monday, 21 March 2011


The Estate of Harris will be exposed to sale in the course of next winter.
This Property forms part of the chain of Islands commonly denominated the Lewis or Long-Island.
Beside the main land of Harris, the Estate comprehends a number of Islands, of which seven are of considerable extent.
The Property extends to about 93,500 Scots acres, whereof about 7000 are Arable, and the greater part of the remainder Hill Pasture.
The Land Rent is about L3600, and the public burdens are moderate.
A Freehold and Church Patronage are attached to the lands.
There are valuable Fishing Banks, and the Shores, which are extensive, produce annually about 600 Tons of Kelp, well known in the market to be of very superior quality.
There are also several safe and accessible Harbours, and there is an excellent carriage road of considerable extent leading though the south and west parts of the main land.
The extension of steam navigation must be attended with important advantages to the Property.
Further particulars will be given in future advertisements.
Applications may be made to Messrs. Dickson and Steuart, W. S, 3 Royal Circus, Edinburgh.
Mr Donald Stewart, Factor of the Estate, resident Luskintyre, in Harris, will give directions for shewing the property.
Edinburgh, 20th April, 1832

Source: Inverness Journal, 18th May 1832 via Am Baile & Inverness Reference Library

This is what George Murray, 5th Earl of Dunmore, bought from Alexander Norman Macleod for £60,000 in 1834. He considered it to have been a bargain and, with an apparent annual rental return of 6%, it is easy to see why he thought so.

One can easily imagine Donald Stewart making an excellent job of 'shewing the property', no doubt emphasising the opportunities to extend the sheep farms but perhaps forgetting to mention his ongoing legal disputes regarding the church on Berneray or the lease held by Mrs Anne Campbell of Strond & Killegray?

Confusion regarding the naming of the isles, which continues to rumble-on today, is shown by the reference to 'The Lewis' for if anything the phrase is more correctly 'The Lews' but I do not intend following that particular diversion today.
The seven islands 'of considerable extent' that accompany 'the main land of Harris' are Berneray, Ensay, Killegray, Pabbay, Scalpay, Scarp and Taransay all of which were within the Parish of Harris. The Freehold was presumably Rodel House whilst the church patronage refers to the appointment of the Minister to the Parish Church at Scarista.

Whilst there were 'valuable Fishing Banks' it was already Stornoway that was profiting the most from these for Tarbert had been overlooked by the British Fisheries Society four decades previously.
The 600 Tons of Kelp being produced at this late stage comes as a surprise for the market had collapsed 20 years ago but on the other hand we know that in 1821 the Farm of Strond had manufactured 115 tons of high-quality Kelp.

The 'extensive carriage road' was that running from Rodel to An-t-Ob and thence along the West coast to Luskintyre but the majority of overland travel was along unmade tracks and the sea remained the main 'road', a term that was still commonly used to describe such sea-routes.

Steam navigation would indeed provide improved communications however not during the lifetimes of the 5th or 6th Earls but in that of the Charles Adolphus Murray, the 7th Earl of Dunmore.

Note: Many more references to these matters appear elsewhere in this blog and I have merely directed readers to those pieces that might otherwise be overlooked!

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