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

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Taransay Connection

At eleven o'clock on the morning on the 24th of July 1934 Marion Campbell, wife of the sheep farmer John Campbell, died on the island of Taransay. The 66 year old had been suffering from throat cancer for at least a year. Her death was registered by her son, Roderick Campbell (then resident in Leverburgh) who became the last resident farmer of Taransay following his father's death on the island in 1945.

Roderick's grandparents were Roderick Campbell, from Drinishader (later moving to Scadabay) on mainland Harris, and Lizzie (Elizabeth) MacRae who lived, and was very likely born upon, the island of Killegray in the Sound of Harris. Her father, Kenneth MacRae, would later become the farmer at Little Borve following the final Clearance of the Borves by the Factor, John Robertson MacDonald.

Similarly Lizzie's husband, the Fish Curer Roderick Campbell, would, following her death in 1888 and his remarrying, become the farmer of Borve, Berneray which the same Factor had also had Cleared during his time on Harris. Roderick, appearing on the scene several decades after the Clearance, was reputedly a well-liked & benevolent farmer and, although his departure from Berneray had been preceded by an act of unaccustomed vandalism involving the sinking of a boat, the crofters apparently meant him no personal animosity but were merely wanting their hereditary land returned to them. In this they were to succeed when the farm was recrofted in 1900.

Roderick and his son John were successful Fish Curers in Rodel but I wish to take the family a few generations back, before progressing further forward. Roderick's father, John Campbell, had been a Merchant in Scadabay and it was there that the 63 year old died in 1866. He left a widow, Rachael MacDonald, and also the name of his parents, Kenneth Campbell and Rachael Morrison.

Now, my understanding is that these Campbells were related to the Campbell family of Strond including Anne Campbell, the benevolent holder of the tack of Killegray & Strond who was engaged in legal wrangles with Donald Stewart in the 1830s and who had provided a place to live for some of those thrown from their homes in Rodel by her half-nephew, Alexander Hume MacLeod, back in 1818.

Allow me to elaborate upon that last point for it is a connection that I have only just this moment made! Alexander Hume MacLeod was the son of Captain Alexander MacLeod who was the second son to be born to Donald MacLeod, the 'Old Trojan' of Berneray during his first marriage. Anne was the widow of (another) Kenneth Campbell but had been born Anne MacLeod, the sixth of the nine children sired by the 'Old Trojan' during the 15 year course of his third marriage.

It is surely not difficult to imagine Anne's horror when her absentee-landlording relative wreaked such havoc upon people whom she had lived amongst all her life - and that he was doing so in total disregard to, and disrespect of, the wishes & endeavours of her deceased half-brother?

Anne was born circa 1775 and this, together with the information on John Campbell's Death Certificate, suggests that her late husband Kenneth Campbell and the Kenneth Campbell whose line led to Taransay were probably of similar ages, although not necessarily of the same generation?

I really don't know the details of any such link but I think it is becoming clear that the web of connections across the Sound of Harris are many and complex and that, by examining them, we may well be able to begin to better understand the motivations of those who played significant roles in the history of Harris.

Which takes us back to Taransay for, although not in the Sound itself, the lady who may well have been one of the last to end her days upon that isle did indeed begin her life on the shore of the Sound. Marion Campbell had been born on the 15th of October 1872, the eldest child of the Farm Grieve at Rodel. His name was Angus Kerr and Marion was my 2nd Cousin thrice removed.

RIP Marion Kerr 1872-1934

A note on sources: Were I to fully annotate this piece it would perhaps double in length, but being introduced recently to the work of the late Alick Morrison, who was elucidating interconnections some thirty years prior to my attempting to do so, has proved extremely fruitful and, most encouragingly, has also corroborated several of my own stumbling efforts!


  1. Good to have you back. I've very much missed your research and blogging.

  2. Welcome back to blogging, Peter, and I am looking forward to the continuation of your output.