Readers of the Glasgow Herald on the 14th of April 1886 may have noticed an article relating the events of the monthly meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland that had taken place on the previous Monday evening. The Herald records that the Treasurer of the Society, Gilbert Goudie, presented a paper on the horizontal water mills of Shetland and that a 'model of one still existing in Taransay, Harris was exhibited'. Intrigued by this, I looked for Goudie's original paper where we learn that:
'Mr Duncan Macdonald, who is intimately acquainted with the Harris district, has described to me an old mill which he has frequently seen in use in the island of Taransay. I am indebted to his kindness for the carefully executed model now exhibited.'
The site of the mills in Taransay that Duncan Macdonald had observed in operation and upon which his model was based is described as lying '...on the Allt a'Mhuilinn, just above the point where it turns to the west along the edge of the machair at the back of Paibeil.' as can be seen in this page from The Papar Project .
Goudie's paper, which is a most interesting read and has several lovely line-drawings illustrating the text, unfortunately has neither a description nor a sketch of the model itself which leads me to wonder whatever became of Duncan Macdonald's 'carefully executed model'?
One other snippet of note is that 'Mr Alexander Carmichael, an authority on all matters relating to social economics and local characteristics in the Western Isles, tells me he has seen several such mills at work in Harris and the Lews.' but I do not know whether Carmichael recorded their location within his extensive writings?
We find the 57 year-old Bank Inspector from Dunrossness, Shetland, living in 1881 at 39 Northumberland Street, Edinburgh, along with his sister, her son, a Housemaid and a Cook.
Glasgow Herald 14th April 1886
Proceedings of the society of Antiquaries of Scotland Volum 20 1885-86 page 285
The Papar Project – Taransay http://www.paparproject.org.uk/hebrides7.html
'The Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland' - http://digital.nls.uk/archive/pageturner.cfm?id=80822037
'The Norse Mills of Lewis' – CE Uig - http://www.ceuig.co.uk/the-norse-mills-of-lewis-muilnean-beaga-leodhais/