Friday, 31 December 2010

92 years ago - 23:59

The year 1918 is drawing to a close and Big Ben in London is about to start striking the midnight hour. Six hundred miles to the north, HMY Iolaire is ploughing her way north through the Minch, passing between Raasay, Rona and the Scottish mainland. The weather, which had been reasonable upon departure from Kyle, is turning increasingly windy. A heavy swell is beginning to rise in response to the strong southerly wind. The lighthouses, which serve as reference points for mariners in the Minch, blink their messages to Iolaire. Milaid, on the rocky cliffs near Kebock Head; Rona; Tiumpan Head on the eastern extremity of the Point Peninsula; and Arnish, near the entrance to Stornoway Harbour.

In dozens of houses in Lewis, glasses are charged to the New Year. The last year of war is ending.
Dry clothes are draped over beds, a stew is heating over the fire. In the blackhouses in Ness, and the town houses of Stornoway. A kettle is at the ready on the stove. A plate, cutlery and cups on the table. From Eoropie to Brenish, from Lemreway to North Tolsta, and between Manor Park and Newton, the same scene is repeated over and over. Only two hours to go, the boat won't make Hogmanay. But it does not really matter, the boys will be home soon.

The clock strikes midnight. It is 1919. 

To be continued

92 years ago today

It is Hogmanay 1918, and the war has been over for seven weeks. Survivors from the Western Front and the war at sea are flocking home. As are hundreds of sailors from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Three trains pull into the harbourside station at Kyle of Lochalsh, and hundreds pour onto the platform and adjoining quayside to join a ferry home. The Skye men can take the short hop to Kyleakin, or join the steamer north to Portree. The sailors and soldiers from the Outer Hebrides have a longer journey ahead of them.

The mailsteamer for Stornoway, the Sheila is alongside at Kyle, but it very rapidly becomes clear that she has nowhere near enough space to accommodate the hundreds that want to go home to Lewis and Harris. So, a cable is sent to the naval base at Stornoway, and Rear Admiral Boyle sends HMY Iolaire to Kyle to relieve the congestion. Iolaire, the former private steamyacht Amalthea arrives in the early evening, bumping into the pier as she docks.

A disorganised scramble occurs, where the throng of men divides between the Sheila and the Iolaire. No record is kept as to who goes on board which vessel. Some start off by boarding the Iolaire, then switch to the Sheila. Others do the reverse swap. Finally, at half past seven, Iolaire casts off and heads north. The Sheila follows suit in short order.

To be continued.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Clearances at Rogart - Janet and Christina Ross

Illustrative of harshness, I am requested to produce the case of Janet and Christina Ross, who succeeded their brother as tenants. In November 1877, one of the sisters attended, as usual, to pay the rent, but the factor, instead of accepting of the rent, told her that they were to be removed from their lot. After making fruitless attempts to get the factor to accept of her rent, she left the money on the table. The factor returned the money by one of their neighbours; but expecting to keep possession, they refused it. Shortly afterwards officers were sent to evict them. Instead of that being done in the ordinary way, they were shut up in a compartment of their dwelling-house till the other compartments and their barn were levelled to the ground, and their stock driven away to the hill. In this houseless condition, and their crop exposed on the field, they were visited by the ground officer, who saw clearly that they could not live without some shelter from the snow storm. A kind neighbour was applied to, and this man took them into his house for three weeks, after which time they were turned back to their old place, to live in one end of the byre which was left standing; and the ground officer, so as to make them more comfortable in their miserable situation, levelled down some manure that happened to be in the byre at the time. All this was done in the presence of three witnesses, who are ready to prove how these creatures were dealt with. As one of these creatures, on a certain occasion, applied to Mr Peacock for relief, the Rev. Mr M'Kay, who happened to be present, asked Mr Peacock if the Duke was aware of how these creatures were abused. Mr Peacock replied that the whole affair was carried out according to the Duke's instructions.
— ALEXANDER BAIN, witness; ALEXANDER GUNN, witness.'

Clearances: Rogart - Alexander Bain

—' The special Grievances of Alexander Bain, Tenant, Carry.—
My uncle George M'Kenzie, on being evicted from Strath-Carnaig, got the lot I now occupy which is situated in the tenants' pasture on the south side of Strathfleet. The lot is high and cold, and very much exposed to the north storm. I was adopted and brought up by my uncle, and his constant kindness induced me to devote as much as possible of my time to the improving of his lot, and by my own labour I reclaimed seven acres of moorland. After my uncle's death I expected to succeed him as tenant, but on account of some rent arrears left by my uncle, I was refused possession unless I would pay these arrears, which I considered illegal and unjust, consequently I was summonsed; and having occasion to be away on a certain day about the middle of July 1877, on my returning home in the evening I found my delicate wife, with my weak and numerous family, and all my furniture, turned out to the field, and all the doors locked. My first endeavour was to kindle a fire and cook a meal for my family, which 1 had to do in an earthen bank, and under drenching rain. I made several applications to get possession, but without success. At last the Duke and his factor came to the place, and stood in the hut I rudely built for protection. When his Grace was leaving I asked, what was to become of me now with my delicate wife and weak family. His Grace's reply was, " You are entirely in Mr Peacock's hands, and attend at the office Tuesday first." When I got there I was told the old story, viz., that I would get no settlement unless I would agree to pay the arrears of rent, and that in future the rent of my lot would be £9, 14s. instead of £ 3 , 7s. 6d., my uncle's rent. However, my rent was reduced to £6, but I had to pay the arrears, which I still feel a burden.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

An Uig soldier

Donald Matheson Fraser was born in 1891 in South Gairloch in Wester Ross, a son for Duncan Fraser (a gamekeeper) and Mary Matheson. By 1914, Mary is no longer alive. Donald is a student at the Heriot School in Edinburgh. On 9 December of that year, he joins the Royal Scots and is sent to the Western Front. With the exception of a gunshot wound, sustained in 1916, and a few episodes of illness, Donald comes through the campaign unscathed. But on 26 September 1917, he is reported missing, which is quickly changed to killed in action.

His father has by then moved to Invershin, a small village in Sutherland near Lairg, and receives the news of the death of his son. Donald's personal effects are sent to Duncan, which includes religious books, a wallet, a photo, letters and a bible.

Donald is remembered on the Tyne Cot memorial in Flanders, but his exact last resting place is unknown. He is also commemorated on the memorial at Timsgarry in Uig, Lewis.

Image copyright Uig Historical Society

Son of Duncan Fraser, of Achnairn, Lairg, Sutherlandshire, and of the late Mary Matheson Fraser.
Service unit: 2nd Royal Scots
Service number: 18744
Date of death: 26 September 1917 at the age of 25
Killed in action in France
Memorial: Tyne Cot Memorial, panel 11 to 14 and 162
Local memorial: Uig, Timsgarry

Monday, 13 December 2010


The Stornoway Gazette writes on 27 December 1918:

A deep gloom was cast over the island of Scarp when the sad intelligence was received of the sudden death of Pte Donald Maclennan, Royal Engineers, on the 18th ult. Pte Maclennan had been ill for some time prior to enlistment and had only been five weeks in the Royal Engineers, stationed at Kingston-on-Thames. Great sympathy is extended throughout the whole township to his sisters in their sore bereavement. Deceased was of a very cheerful and obliging disposition, and was a great favourite among his wide circle of friends. He was the friend of everyone and everyone was his friend. Deceased was 43 years of age and was unmarried.

Pioneer D Maclennan
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Finlay Maclennan, of Scarp, Harris.
Regiment: Royal Engineers, Inland Waterways and Docks
Service number: WR/339099
Date of death: 15 November 1918 at the age of 44
Cemetery: Scarp Burial Ground
An image of his gravestone can be seen on this link, courtesy War Graves Photography Project.

Looking into Donald's family history, the 1901 Census sheds some light. The following individuals were found to reside at No 2 Scarp.

Finlay Maclennan, aged 56, crofter
Donald Maclennan, aged 25, fisherman
Euphennia Maclennan, aged 22, crofter's daur
Christina Maclennan, aged 19, crofter's daur
Mary Maclennan, aged 14, crofter's daur
George Maclennan, aged 12, scholar

The name Euphennia is probably mistranscribed from Euphemia; daur means daughter.

In the 1891 census, Finlay's wife, Catherine Maclennan, is mentioned with this family. There is also a son, Donald J Maclennan, two years younger than Donald, who is not present in 1901. The mother, Catherine, died in the early hours of the morning 14 November 1896, aged 51. She appears to have suffered a very serious accident; no doctor was present to certify her death. The problems with access to Scarp led to the abandonment of the island by its last permanent inhabitants in 1971.

HMCS Galiano

Neil Maclean was one of 39 sailors on board His Majesty's Canadian Ship Galiano, lost in October 1918 when his vessel sank in a violent storm off the coast of British Columbia. Neil was the son of Maggie and the late Neil Maclean of 14 Leurbost in Lewis,  and was aged 34 when he was lost.

The last words ever heard from the Galiano were "The hold's full of water, for God's sake send help". However, no help could be sent due to 110 mph winds, and after the storm subsided hardly any trace of the vessel could be found. The Galiano was the only Canadian navy vessel lost in the First World War.
Information courtesy Dave Kiffer,, Ketchikan, Alaska.

This post is dedicated to the memory of the crew of the Galiano, listed here.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Tribute: John Maclennan, Reithmir, Valtos

I came across this tribute to John Maclennan, who is not recognised as war dead, since his demise was caused by influenza, and not related to the war.

On Thursday 7 November 1918, the death took place of John Maclennan, son of Widow John Maclennan [Margaret Buchanan], Reithmir, Valtos. He had been suffering from influenza for over a week when other complications set in, to which he succumbed on Thursday as stated. He was a fine gentle lad, pleasant in his manners, and a general favourite with all. He was over 18 years old, had joined the RNVR and had received his calling up notice for Friday [8 November] the day, after his death. Much sympathy is felt for his widowed mother and his brothers in their very sore bereavement. The funeral, which was delayed for the arrival of his brother Murdo, took place to Valtos Cemetery.

Spanish flu

As I progress with my transcription of tributes from the Stornoway Gazette for 1918, references to the "mystery illness", later identified as "influenza", begin to crop up. It starts as early as July 1918, and several islanders succumb to the 'flu, usually through the complication of pneumonia. Don't forget, this was the era before the advent of antibiotics; the discovery of penicillin was still another 15-20 years away. The pandemic, which lasted from 1917 until 1920, was to claim 50 to 100 million lives.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Boer War casualties from Lewis

I have managed to track down 4 soldiers from the Isle of Lewis who were killed during the Second Boer War in South Africa, around 1900.

John Mackenzie
Born: 23 June 1873
Last address in Lewis: 5 Laxay
Son of Alexander and Catherine Mackenzie
Regiment: 3rd Seaforth Highlanders
Killed by a shell in 1900
Mentioned on Kinloch Memorial, Laxay

Alexander Macaulay
Born: 8 November 1873
Last address in Lewis: 10 Keose
Son of Angus and Christina Macaulay
Killed during the Second Boer War

Angus Chisholm
Born: 1870
Last address in Lewis: 10 Lemreway
Son of Kenneth and Mary Chisholm

J Macleod
Last address in Lewis: 1 Upper Shader
Regiment: Scots Guards
Date of death: 24 November 1899


The tributes from the Stornoway Gazette for 1918 have yielded another tidbit to be able to add more information to one casualty: Roderick Macdonald, 23 East Street, Sandwick. His date of death was marked as unknown in the Roll of Honour. However, a date of death of 11 April 1918 from the tribute has allowed me to track the following CWGC information.

Last address in Lewis: 23 East Street, Sandwick
Service unit: 2nd South African Infantry
Service number: 13116
Date of death: 11 April 1918
Killed in action in France
Interred: Messines Ridge British Cemetery, grave V. C. 14
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial

There was a South African contingent serving on the Western Front, but I have (as yet) not been able to track Roderick down on their on-line files. 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Lady Grange on St Kilda

Rachel Chiesley, who is also known as Lady Grange, died in 1745 after spending 13 years in enforced exile on remote islands off the Scottish west coast. In 1732, she separated from her husband, James Erskine, Lord Grange and Lord Advocate. She accused him of having Jacobite leanings, something that caused her to be declared insane. Lady Grange was declared dead, but whilst her funeral was in progress, she was being shipped off to the Scottish west coast.

The first two years of her exile were spent in the Monach Isles, six miles west of North Uist. In 1734, she was transferred to St Kilda, where she apparently lived in miserable circumstances - in a cleit. After being spirited off the island in a hurry in 1740, she was taken to various other locations, but finally ended her days in Skye, where she died in 1745.

I wonder whether the account of her story was an inspiration to Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, which is set at around the same time. An extensive account can be read on Wikipedia.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Now commemorated

I am proud to announce that thanks to the efforts of myself and an Aberdeenshire based researcher, Private Finlay McLean, 10th Bn. Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) is now remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Finlay was the son of John and Henrietta McLean; and the husband of Catherine McLean, of Partick. Although he originated from 4 North Street, Sandwick near Stornoway in Lewis, he latterly lived at 48 Milton Street in Partick, Glasgow.

It came to my attention last April that Finlay Mclean could not be located on the CWGC registers. I collected the necessary evidence and forwarded it to the other researcher, who submitted the file to the Ministry of Defence. The MOD has approved the inclusion of Finlay on the CWGC register, meaning he has now Come In From the Cold.

Finlay, Rest in Peace.Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

I quote his CWGC entry
Initials: F
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Unit Text: 10th Bn.
Age: 27
Date of Death: 05/05/1918
Service No: 16895
Additional information: Son of John and Henrietta McLean; husband of Catherine McLean, of Partick.

N.B.: This casualty has recently been accepted for commemoration by the Commission. However, it will not be possible to add his name to this Memorial immediately. Please contact the Commission before planning a visit, for more information.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Addenda Panel

Disaster to Halifax

On December 6th, it will be 93 years ago since the Great Explosion at Halifax. The Nova Scotia Archives, tweeting on, reminded me of this event. The strong bonds between Lewis and Canada were implicitly shown by the inclusion of this article in the Stornoway Gazette a week after the disaster.

Stornoway Gazette, 14 December 1917

20,000 homeless
On Thursday morning of last week, a great part of the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was wrecked by the explosion on a munition ship in the harbour, which collided with a large steamer containing food provisions for Belgium. Fires broke out in the part of the city nearest the harbour. Over 2000 people, it is said, were killed by the explosion and the falling of buildings.

Fierce Blizzard
Later news, on Monday morning, says that terrible suffering among the homeless population of Halifax has followed in the wake of the great disaster which swept the city on Thursday morning. A fierce blizzard is driving in from the Atlantic, and has cut off the stricken city from all direct communication with th eouter world. No trains reached Halifax on Sunday and the snow storm is interfering greatly with the work of relief among the inhabitants. The fires which spread throughout the city immediately after the explosion, and which in some instances burned for several days, have now been extinguished, and search is being made for the bodies of the killed and those seriously wounded who may still be lying buried beneath the wreckage. The heaviest loss of life was, unfortunately, amongst children. In some areas, whole schools were totally destroyed, every child in them being killed, and the loss of life among those innocent little ones alone rode into hundreds.

4000 Dwellings Destroyed
Twenty thousandof the survivors of this greatest disaster in Canada's history are homeless and destitute. Every building, not only in Halifax but in Dartmouth and other surrounding cities, was more or less damaged.
It is learned that the munition ship carried 4000 tons of the terrific explosive known as TNT. The force of the explosion was so great that a 40-foot tidal wave followed in the wake of the explosion and washed over the main lines of the rail road, sweeping 300 freight cars, 100 passenger coaches and 20 locomotives from the rails, and round houses, damaging most of them beyond repair.
Hospital cars and supplies are being sent from all parts of the States and Canada.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Year of Burning

I quote from Wikipedia on the background to this statue, which was erected near Helmsdale in 2007:

[It] commemorates the people who were cleared from the area by landowners and left their homeland to begin new lives overseas. The statue, which depicts a family leaving their home, stands at the mouth of the Strath of Kildonan, and was funded by Dennis Macleod, a Canadian mining millionaire of Scottish descent. An identical 10 ft-high bronze "Exiles" statue has also been set up on the banks of the Red River at Winnipeg, the city founded by those who left Scotland for Canada.

Mr Macleod has said that the statues celebrate the achievements made by Scots who went to Canada. Well, I would be quite happy to acknowledge the fact that some of the Scots did go on to do great things. But those having departed Helmsdale, and that's what we're talking about, certainly did not do well. I am going through the Napier Commission's Report, which was sitting at Helmsdale on 6 October 1883. The answers to questions 38252 and 38253 actually serve to negate the reasoning for the erection of the statue.

38252. Then you stated that the expatriated people, some of them, found their way to America, where they experienced a worse fate. What ground have you for believing that the emigrants generally experienced a worse fate ?
—The fate of my great-grandfather's family. My great-grandfather's family, except himself, all went out in Lord Selkirk's expedition to the Red River. My grandfather was married before he went out, and I have seen in my grandfather's house and my father's house a pile of correspondence describing the vicissitudes they underwent. They were left exposed on the north coast, and they had to find their way from Hudson's Bay to the Red River settlement; and they were exposed to the rigours of a lengthened winter, and, to crown all, the Indians came in and killed some of them, and the rest fled over the winter's snow to Canada. Only seven or eight managed to survive and settle in Canada afterwards.

38253. Are there many evicted families from this part of the country who cast in their lot with Lord Selkirk's settlement ?
—Yes, and that accounts for the difference between those who settled here and those who were in Kildouan before.

38254. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—Had Lord Selkirk a settlement called Kildonan?
—Yes, and it is called Kildonan to this day. It is near Winnipeg. Fort Garry was the principal town in the old Red River settlement, and it has now become Winnipeg. You will see an account of it in the book called The Great Lone Land, by General Butler.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Mission Statement

Pentland Road is the blog where my stories, related to local history in the Isle of Lewis, will be posted.

My involvement with the First World War history of Lewis stems from a feeling that I, coming from one of the European countries occupied by Nazi Germany between 1940 and '45, owe a debt of gratitude towards British (and other) forces who were instrumental in lifting the yoke of national-socialism. I would like to think that digitising this aspect of Lewis history will serve to repay a minute portion of that debt.

I have no personal connection to the island, nor to any of the men whose story is told in these posts. Maybe this makes it easier for me to work through this history, as I am not emotionally involved. I can however empathise with the pain, felt by relatives and friends, who suffered bereavements in the Great War. But it is not possible to imagine what the aftermath of the Iolaire Disaster must have felt like, when more than 200 were lost at a stroke in the early hours of New Year's Day 1919.

My work, as displayed in the Pentland Road blog and elsewhere in my Internet output, is dedicated to the memory of the 1,300 men from the Isle of Lewis lost in the Great War of 1914-1919.

Donald Murray, 31 Swainbost

Coincidental to find on a day of snow and ice in his home island the report of the death of Donald Murray, the son of Angus Murray, 31 Swainbost in Ness. I copy the tribute from the Stornoway Gazette of 22 February 1918, amended with details gleaned from his death record.

Donald was a sailor on the merchant steamer Saint Jerome which was docked at Curtis Bay, Baltimore. On 31 December 1917, he had been ashore buying some clothing, but on returning to the steamer he slipped off the wharf, the whole place being one sheet of ice at the time.

Donald was for some time mail driver between Ness and Stornoway, before the advent of the motorcar, and was a great favourite on the entire route. Much sympathy is extended to his parents, brothers and sisters in their bereavement.

Bàthadh Chunndail

Bàthadh Chunndail is an event in the history of Ness which occurred in 1885. Twelve fishermen were lost as they were setting out from the bay at Cunndal, west of Eoropie. Angus Morrison, 36 Eoropie, was the skipper and his remains were the last to be recovered from the sea. He was buried on the machair nearby, just above Eoropie Beach (Traigh Shanndaigh). A memorial cairn has been placed there.

Today (27 November 2010), a ceremony was held at the Comunn Eachdraidh in Habost (Ness) to commemorate the loss, and to dedicate a new memorial cairn to remember all those lost, 125 years ago. The event was to have taken place at Traigh Shanndaigh, but due to the inclement weather it was relocated indoors.
I apologise for the scant information available, which is based on a reference in the report of the 2006 Ness Archeological Landscape Survey. Apparently, more info is held at the CE Nis office; if I learn more, I shall add it to this post.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Isaac Campbell, 33 North Bragar

Tracing casualties from the First World War is throwing up some strange findings, particularly as I continue to peruse tribute articles in the Stornoway Gazette from the last two war years. Today, I came across the above man in a tribute from December 1917. And I can find no reference to him whatsoever. He is not in the Roll of Honour for North Bragar although his brothers are mentioned. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission only knows a soldier called Isaac Campbell, not a seaman. And Isaac is mentioned as being lost at sea due to enemy action, meaning his ship was mined or torpedoed. He is not listed on the Naval History website either. There is no definitive record of merchant shipping crews lost in the war - that I know of.

Isaac had emigrated to Canada around 1907, but had returned to join the RNR. As things turned out, he "took seafaring", by which I suppose the Merchant Navy is meant, rather than the Royal Naval Reserve.The account in the Gazette is not very clear. I have found Isaac's birth record, which shows him being born on 4 June 1886. But I cannot find any reference to his death.

Nonetheless, I am pleased that I have found one more man from Lewis who made the supreme sacrifice in WW1, and am able to highlight his name, however tenuous the evidence at present.

Thursday, 25 November 2010


At the time of posting (November 2010), there is once again a vehement discussion going on about closing rural schools in the Outer Hebrides. Many rural schools were axed in the late 1980s, and another round of closures could see numbers of schools reduced by up to 11. Two schools had no pupils in the previous school year, which highlights the problem of depopulation. Back in 1960, the Secretary of State for Scotland was asked about the number of pupils in five Lewis Schools. It showed the marked decline over the preceding 40 years. I have added the 2010 school roll.

1920 1930 1939 1950 19592010
Tolsta 234 185 185 165 14549
Bernera 96 92 90 43 4518
Carloway 173 97 108 63 6430
Balallan 99 67 36 42 4527
Shawbost 226 150 124 181 13795

It should be noted that Carloway and Balallan schools are threatened with closure, as is the junior secondary school at Shawbost.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Daniel Maciver, Coll - the full story

This story starts on 13th December 1866, when Kenneth Maciver, a fisherman from Coll, Isle of Lewis, wed his bride, Mary Munro, a domestic servant, living in the same village. Kenneth was the son of crofter Colin Maciver and Margaret Matheson. Mary was the daughter of grieve Alexander Munro and Janet Macdairmid.
Nearly fifteen years after their marriage, the enumerators for the 1881 census found Kenneth and Mary with their children Alexander (aged 13), James (11), Murdo (9), Donald (3) and Margaret (1). The child called Donald was born on 4 February 1878, and he is the subject of this article. Kenneth and Mary had twelve children in all, but by the beginning of 1917, only five were left alive.

On 14 April 1889, Kenneth and his family embarked the emigrant ship “Scandinavian” for Canada at Glasgow. They were among about 300 Scottish and Irish emigrants who were seeking a new life in the colonies. Upon arrival in Halifax, they proceeded inland and settled at the Lothian colony, 60 miles southeast of present-day Saskatoon.

Whilst still in his teens, Donald, now known as Dan, along with Malcolm Docherty (…) journeyed to Winnipeg and joined the Canadian Dragoons. On 19 October 1899, again at Winnipeg, he joined the Canadian Special Service Forces for the war in South Africa. Fourteen months and twenty-three campaigns later, he was discharged on Christmas Day 1900, bearing the Queen’s Medal with four clasps (Paardeberg, Driefontein, Cape Colony and Transvaal).

Fourteen years later, the spectre of war once more descended over Europe and Daniel responded quickly. Six weeks after the outbreak of war, he enlisted at the Valcartier barracks in Quebec on 17 September 1914. On his attestation paper he was quoted as a Real-Estate Agent, with his father Kenneth Mcivor (sic) living in Saltcoats, Saskatchewan, although elsewhere Maciver senior is listed at Barvas, Saskatchewan. This hamlet is located a dozen miles north of Saltcoats. On enlistment, Daniel is described as 5 ft 10 (1.77 m) tall, of fair complexion with brown eyes and brown hair. A mole was seen at the centre of his back. He professes to be of the Presbyterian faith.

Daniel, an accomplished soldier by all accounts, does well on the fields of battle, and is promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant-Major in the 5th battalion Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment), the Fighting Fifth. He is Mentioned in Despatches twice, a distinction in itself. References to a Distinguished Conduct Medal being awarded to Daniel Maciver are, unfortunately, incorrect. He is offered to opportunity to return to Canada for further promotion, but he declines, wishing to remain “with the game”, to quote a contemporary newspaper cutting.

On 28th April 1917, the battle for Vimy Ridge is nearly over when Company Sergeant Major Daniel Maciver is killed in action. He was aged 41. The news took a few weeks to filter through to his father in Canada. It took another few weeks for the news to make it to the columns of the Stornoway Gazette. This is a transcript of that article, dated June 1917.

From the “Yorkton Enterpise” (Sask, Canada) to hand we cull the following:-
“Word was received by Mr Maciver, Saltcoats, on 19th May, that his son, Sergt Major Dan Maciver, D.C.M. of the Fighting Fifth battalion, had been killed in action. Dan, who was well known and a prime favourite throughout the district, was born at Coll, Lewis, Scotland, and came to Canada with his parents in 1889, settling in the Lothian Colony. Whilst still in his teens, Dan, along with Malcolm Docherty (now Major Docherty, DSO) journeyed to Winnipeg and joined the Canadian Dragoons. When the South African War broke out, he was one of the first to volunteer for active service, taking part in no less than twenty-three campaigns. At the outbreak of the present conflict Dan again showed his military spirit by enlisting and went overseas with the first contingent. After reaching France, he gave a splendid account of himself, and was promoted on the field to the rank of Sergt.-Major, being also frequently mentioned in despatches for bravery and coolness in action. Some time he was offered the chance to return to Canada for promotion, but preferred to stay with the game. His death is the fourth that has occurred in the family within the last five years, and he is survived by his parents and two brothers and two sisters out of a family of twelve.”
A year last Christmas, Sergt.-Major Maciver paid a visit to the haunts of his youth at Coll, and needless to say had a very cordial welcome.[end of article]

Daniel Maciver was named Donald by his parents, but seems to have adopted Dan or Daniel as a first name in Canada. His surname appears to have modified a little as well; his service record in the Canadian Army is under the name of Mcivor. Taking all the historical documentation into account, there can be little doubt that this is the story of Daniel Maciver, a Lewis-born soldier who served with distinction, and made the supreme sacrifice for King and country.

It is therefore puzzling that his name was omitted from the war memorials at Stornoway and Back. Neither is he included in Loyal Lewis Roll of Honour 1914-1918. However, even the Lewis War Memorial does not list all the names of those lost in the Great War, and neither is the Roll of Honour comprehensive, complete and correct. However, it has transpired that he is also not listed in the first volume of the regimental history of The Royal Canadian Regiment (by Fetherstonaugh, covering 1883-1933).

Daniel Maciver is remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and through an inscription on the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Pentland Road

This blog will contain stories, which I have unearthed from the history of the Isle of Lewis. The period is from the late 19th century to the present day. Exceptions confirming the rule, of course. The stories will be copied from my other blogs, primarily Atlantic Lines, and others that I have sourced myself (many times with the aid of others) will be added. The focus will be strongly on the First World War.

The title? The Pentland Road is a single-track road that runs between Stornoway and the villages of Breasclete and Carloway. It was designed to be a light railway, which was to have transported fish from the quays at Breasclete and Carloway to the processing facilities in Stornoway. However, the designs did not progress beyond the stage of a trackbed. And it was not until the 1980s that a metalled road was put in place.

The Pentland Road is a historical roadway, and I hope to make this blog a conduit for what I have found out about this island's history. The below text is a blog entry dedicated to the road.

The Pentland Road is not very well known to non-islanders, and takes a bit of finding. Residents of Carloway and Breascleit use it as a shortcut into town; it's only 16 miles to Carloway along the Pentland Road, but as much as 26 along the main road through Leurbost and Callanish. Its origins go back to Lord Leverhulme's years of ownership of Lewis. As I mentioned in a previous article, he had contrived plans to industrialise the island, and one of the projects was to establish a fishery station at Carlabhagh / Carloway. Fishermen from the West Side would land their catches at the pier there, which would save them the trip round the Butt of Lewis to Stornoway. They would refuel at Carloway and set out again. Their catches would be transferred to Stornoway by railway.

To find the Pentland Road in Stornoway, you need to follow the signs for the Council Dump at Bennadrove. Just after the garage, a broad road branches off to the left with big signs for Carlabhagh and Breascleit. After about half a mile, it leaves the houses of Marybank behind and heads out into the open moor. I have walked the length of the Pentland Road, all the way into Carloway in 4½ hours. That was pushing it a bit, as I had to catch a bus back to town from Carloway at 5 pm, and I didn't start until midday. It's a fascinating trip, particularly when travelling west, with great views. The road is level, because it was to be the trackbed for the railway. If my information is correct, a railway did exist at one time, out to the Marybank Quarry, starting at the Patent Slip in Stornoway. The Patent Slip no longer exists. It was the place where ships were launched, but these days the fuel depot and an engineering business are in its location.

The Carloway Railway never came into existence. New information suggests that Lord Leverhulme abandoned his industrial revolution for Lewis, because the Stornoway merchants were opposed to them. They saw those industries as competition and a threat to their businesses and interests. So, they agitated amongst the crofters with whom they traded, telling them that Leverhulme was out to get them off their land. With the Crofting Act barely 35 years in existence, and the memories of the land struggle of the 1880s still within living memory, they did rise up.

The Pentland Road was left as a dug out trackbed, barely passable in a motor vehicle. A branch was created to Breascleit Pier, where until very recently a small pharmaceutical plant operated. It was used for extracting a compound which was used in the treatment of cancer. Its uptake was limited, for the simple reason that its efficacy was not adequately proven. Nonetheless, the loss of 11 jobs is a blow for a small community like Breascleit. I am not aware that anyone has taken over the enterprise.

Along the Pentland Road are countless peatbeds. Peat is still used extensively for fuel in the island, but it's hard graft getting it. In April and May (when the picture in the above gallery was taken), people go out to cut the peats. The slabs you can see are quite heavy when they're freshly cut. They are left to dry, and you'd be surprised how dry they become, in spite of the climate. During the summer, they are bagged up and taken home. You need a license from CnES to cut peats, and if you buy a house in Lewis (even in Stornoway), there may be a peatbank allocated to you. The second branch from the Pentland Road, 4 miles west of Stornoway, leads to Achamor. The road reaches a height of nearly 500 feet above sealevel. The views are spectacular, as you head southwest. The hills of Lochs open out, with the dark slopes of Roineabhal set off against the backdrop of the distant Harris Hills. In winter, the latter may well be covered in snow. One of the most memorable images of the 2004/5 winter, which I did not capture on camera, was walking along a road in South Lochs at 4.10 pm, 40 minutes after sunset. The Harris Hills were set off white against the dark grey backdrop of an approaching snowshower - they were lit up by light from the east - remember, the time is after sunset, so you'd expect the light to come from the southwest.

Achamore is a singular village in Lewis, in that it is the only one not anywhere near salt water. It is about 5 miles from the sea. Plenty of fresh water lochs about though. Above Achamore rises the hill of Eitsal, on which transmitters for radio, TV and mobile telephony have been built. If I cannot see Eitsal, I don't have reception on the mobile, unless I'm in Stornoway. Before the transmitter was built, back in 1976, TV reception was poor. There was a transmitter somewhere in Sutherland. A Stornoway company had established a reception station at Bennadrove, from which the signal was fed into town by cable.

Back on the Pentland Road, it leads right up to Carloway Pier. This is still in use by fishermen. Barely. On one visit in July, I encountered a gentleman who told me he was the sole fisherman left operating out of Carloway. I believe you can still refuel there. A barometer and thermometer is set in the wall of the building of the pier. The instruments are quite old, I believe more than a hundred years. They were paid for by girls from the island who had gone to the mainland to work, and had collected their savings to pay for the barometer, to help the fishermen to predict the weather.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Not remembered

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has put the details of Evander Macleod, who drowned in the torpedoing of HMS Otway in July 1917, neatly on its website. Following the heavy loss of Lewis sailors in that sinking, the Stornoway Gazette also made mention of their names. Evander has since slipped under the radar. The Roll of Honour, published in 1921, does not refer to his death; the Lewis War Memorial does not mention him, and neither does the Point War Memorial at Garrabost, only a few miles from his former home at 34 Lower Bayble.

The loss of life during WW1 was, proportionately, heavy in the Isle of Lewis, and it is only to be expected that a few unfortunates will be missed in transcription. I trust that in time for Remembrance Sunday, Evander will be given the proper place amongst the ranks of island men who made the supreme sacrifice during the Great War.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Armistice Day 2010

Today is the 92nd anniversary of the Armistice of 1918, when the guns fell silent after four years, three months and seven days of carnage. November 11th has since been adopted as a national day of remembrance for the UK and many other countries, who were actively involved in the First World War. The dead of the Second World War and other conflicts since are similarly commemorated on that day. Remembrance Sunday, which will be observed next Sunday (14 November) is the formal occasion of Remembrance.

The war dead of the Isle of Lewis number 1300 for the First World War. This number, when viewed in the proper perspective, is quite appalling.

Total population of Lewis in 1911: about 30,000
Total male population: about 15,000
Total number who were in active service, including the Merchant Navy: about 6,000
Total number killed between August 1914 and November 1918: about 1100
Total number drowned in the sinking of HMY Iolaire on 1 January 1919: about 200

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Cruel clearances in Caithness

This triple alliteration is not attempt at levity. The county of Caithness, the far northeastern corner of mainland Scotland, saw some of the worst abuses encountered by the Napier Commission. My transcriptions took me to the coastal town of Lybster. The Commission could have done with more than just one session in Caithness, as several written statements were handed in, without people being interrogated on their content.

James Waters, a representative for Dunnet, the northernmost point on the British mainland, recounts an instance of heartrending cruelty.

An aged couple, who had brought up four sons and seven daughters on the said farm, fell a little in arrears to the landlord. The factor having unlimited power, hypothecated his subjects, and as soon as law would allow it was sold by auction for ready money; I was an eye-witness to this. The mother of this large family had been an invalid for years. The factor was looking on when all was sold off but the blankets; they were ordered to be carried out—I know not whether they were taken off the sick woman's bed or not; the people felt so disgusted no one would offer a shilling for them; had any one done so they would have got them. The factor ordered them to be carried away as they were to somewhere about the south end of the Dunnet sands. It was seen next year the factor's reason for such cruelty to this man. There were five families; he was the centre one; they were all turned out next year, and their farms made an outrun to a large farm. There has not been a plough in since; it has now become a barren waste. Another case of cruelty, two aged persons—man and wife —who had brought up a family respectably, were turned out of their home and their furniture together. They had no way to go; these two aged Christians lay six weeks beside a dyke amongst bits of furniture. At last the aged man became delirious, and wandered off through the hills; the neighbours went in search, and found him wandering with his Bible under his arm, saying he was seeking his father, who had been dead nearly thirty years. He then was allowed to put up a house in the bottom of an old quarry, and I understand is still living there.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Putting his age on

Many a youngster would tell a white lie when trying to enlist in the armed forces, early in the 20th century. It is referred to as "putting your age on", in other words, saying you're older than you are.

I found a good example in a Lewis soldier, James Macleod, who was born in Callanish as an illegitimate child. In February 1912, he enlisted with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, and told the recruiting officer he was 17 years and 2 months. As James was born on 24 January 1897, he was in fact not much older than 15 years and 2 weeks. His height was 5 feet 3½ inches and only weighed 120 lbs, 54 kg.

Six years after joining the Argylls, James was killed in action near Ypres on 8 May 1918. His body was never recovered, but his name is inscribed on the Tyne Cot memorial at Zonnebeke, 6 miles northeast of Ypres. A few days ago, I saw aerial footage from 1919 of the battlefields around Ypres, and of the village of Passchendaele, which was all but obliterated. After the Germans were pushed back from Ypres in 1917, they tried to regain their lost territory in 1918, but finally failed in September of that year.

This week, the website is offering free access to British army service records, which is how I managed to fill the gaps for James Macleod. His mother, Isabella, had moved to Stornoway by the time of the death of her son. When she gave birth, her occupation was marked as Domestic Servant. A few months after James had fallen, she wrote to the (Army) Records Office in Perth. I reproduce the text of the letter. Part of it is illegible due to a hole in the paper, as shown in the scan.

"Mrs Bella McLeod
8 Mackenzie Street

To Records Officer, Office Perth

Dear Sir,

Would you [...] me (his mother) of the late (killed in action (L/Cpl James Mcleod) 2 Bn Arg + Suth Hghns [Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders] Regt No S/43023 has any of his belongings come to hand. As far as I know, he had a wrist watch, Signet Ring, Pocket Folding mirror, Pocket Book or Wallet containing photos etc also a pocket knive [sic]. It would greatly oblige me if you could let me know at the earliest & how to  claim same.

I remain

Yours V. Truly
Mrs B. Mcleod"

The records do not relate whether the items, if any, were returned to Bella. She received a claims form, which was sent back to Perth, but that is were the records for James Macleod end.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Gamekeeper's son - WW1

Duncan Macdonald was 19 when he was killed to the east of Arras, in April 1917. It took a while for his death to be confirmed; it was not until British forces captured the territory where he was lost that they found his remains. Taking his personal effects with them, the British buried him near Fampoux.

Duncan was on my list, but only knowing that he was with the Seaforth Highlanders did not help matters much; nor the fact that his entry on the War Graves register only gives an initial "D", rather than his full name. The soldier was the son of a gamekeeper, and the article in the Stornoway Gazette that pointed me in his direction mentions the fact that his parents lived at Scaliscro, the shooting lodge some 25 miles west of Stornoway. Duncan's birth, which occurred on 5 March 1896, took place at Ath Linne, a hamlet on the Lewis Harris border some 20 miles south of Stornoway. The entry on the War Graves register refers to his parents living at Gress Lodge, 9 miles north of the town.

The chaplain wrote the message to Murdo and Helen Macdonald that their son Duncan had been lost:

[...] He must have been killed on 11th April. The ground where he fell has recently been won from the enemy. His body has been found and buried. We do not yet know which troops have found and buried our dead, nor do we know exactly where their graves are, but it must be somewhere just to the front of Fampoux, to the east of Arras.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Clearances: Assynt

I copy part of the evidence given to the Napier Commission at Lochinver, on the west coast of northern Scotland, in July 1883. Assynt, the area surrounding Lochinver, was owned by the Duke of Sutherland, and his name continues to be cursed by many. I am not in a position to give a balanced view of the issue - but the actions perpetrated in his name do not do the Duchy of Sutherland any favours whatsoever.

John Mackenzie, Clashmore, was accused of being a ring-leader in a case of preventing what was regarded as an encroachment of the rights of the neighbourhood by Mr David Humphrey, and in face of every evidence to his innocence, he was sentenced to lose his croft, and he is now a pauper invalid and a burden to his neighbours. Donald Macleod, Clashmore, came in for the vengeance of the same power in connection remotely with the resistance offered to Mr Humphrey, when cutting off part of the Baffin pasture, when some boys went to obstruct the work. On this, Mr M'Iver ran to catch two boys assumed to have been obstructing the work, reaching a house, the boys got out of Mr M'Iver's sight, and he rushed into the house, supposing they had entered. There was a very sick woman who had been taken out of bed and placed on a shake-down at the fireside, Mr M' Iver went on, however, searching for the boys, and tossing things about, and so frightened the woman that her death shortly afterwards took place. The boys not being there, were not found, and Mr M'Iver, as soon as he came out, dashed at two small boys at play. The boys who were about nine years of age, and knowing of no offence, did not think of running from the factor, remained to be caught. Mr M'Iver, seized one of them by the throat, and kneeling down held his captive to the ground, insisting that he should tell the names of the persons engaged in the obstruction. Hugh Macleod, the boy's brother, seeing this, remonstrated with the factor, who now persisted, demanding the father's name. Hugh took hold of the factor's hand and told him to let go, but as Mr M'Iver held on, and the boy being in great danger, Hugh now took hold of the hand that was throttling the boy. On this, the factor's two sons and Mackay came. The factor said Hugh had struck him, but so little evidence was there for this, that an attempt was made to get Hugh to criminate himself. After this one of them came with a paper for Hugh to sign, which paper proved to be a declaration that he was guilty of striking the factor. He was told if he would sign this declaration, the factor would be his friend, and he would get anything he wanted ever after. But Hugh refused, saying he would have the factor prosecuted. The result was, that the father Donald had to emigrate with all his family, excepting Hugh, who had a little shop in which he carried on some business. The avenger did not rest satisfied with what he had done to the father. Hugh was about as offensive to him as Mordecai was to Haman. Taking advantage of Hugh's absence, his shop and his groceries, which he left carefully in boxes, were attacked by order of the factor, and when he returned he found the house broken into, and the boxes of goods smashed and damaged to a ruinous degree, and the house, which was built at the family's expense, except the roofing, was levelled to the ground shortly afterwards, and the timber handed to another man. John Mackenzie, son of Donald, an old, respectable man of 70, equally without foundation accused of the same offence, and deprived of his croft, which had come down to him from his forefathers. He went all the way to Lairg, then to Dunrobin, and not finding the Duke there, he went to Tarbert; but after travelling in all 160 miles, his efforts were in vain. The belief was, that the persistent hostility on the part of some of the officials was at the root of this. Humphrey said to John one day
—"You are bending to the grave,"
—"Yes," said John, "but see you are not bending with the weight of the evil you are doing to the widow and orphan."

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Daniel Maciver, Coll

Daniel was a sergeant-major in the 5th battalion Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment), the Fighting Fifth, when he was killed in action on 28 April 1917, aged 41. His link to the Isle of Lewis did not become clear to me until I was going through tributes in the Stornoway Gazette for 1917. The article, which sourced its information from a Canadian newspaper, the Yorkton Enterprise (Saskatchewan), gave quite a bit of information, but there was no reference to him from local files.

Let me quote the article first.

From the "Yorkton Enterpise" (Sask, Canada) to hand we cull the following:-
"Word was received by Mr Maciver, Saltcoats, on 19th May, that his son, Sergt Major Dan Maciver, D.C.M. of the Fighting Fifth battalion, had been killed in action. Dan, who was well known and a prime favourite throughout the district, was born at Coll, Lewis, Scotland, and came to Canada with his parents in 1889, settling in the Lothian Colony. Whilst still in his teens, Dan, along with Malcolm Docherty (now Major Docherty, DSO) journeyed to Winnipeg and joined the Canadian Dragoons. When the South African War broke out, he was one of the first to volunteer for active service, taking part in no less than twenty-three campaigns. At the outbreak of the present conflict Dan again showed his military spirit by enlisting and went overseas with the first contingent. After reaching France, he gave a splendid account of himself, and was promoted on the field to the rank of Sergt.-Major, being also frequently mentioned in despatches for bravery and coolness in action. Some time he was offered the chance to return to Canada for promotion, but preferred to stay with the game. His death is the fourth that has occurred in the family within the last five years, and he is survived by his parents and two brothers and two sisters out of a family of twelve."
A year last Christmas, Sergt.-Major Maciver paid a visit to the haunts of his youth at Coll, and needless to say had a very cordial welcome.
An on-line study group into the Canadian Expeditionary Force was most helpful in eliciting the information I was after.

Finding his birth certificate proved tricky, but thanks to the Registry at Stornoway Town Hall, I managed to find his as Donald Maciver, son of Kenneth and Mary, born on 4 February 1878. This ties in with the (partly erroneous) birth information from the attestation paper. This quotes him as born in 1888, but that is not possible if he enlisted in 1899 aged 21, or died in 1917 aged 41. The day and month of birth did check out. Daniel is likely to have been the name he was called by as he grew up. At the time of the 1881 census, the last Scottish census he appeared on, Daniel is mentioned as 3-year old Donald, son of Kenneth (a fisherman) and Mary, and brother of Alexander (aged 13), James (11), Murdo (9) and Margaret (1). His parents were married in Back Free Church on 13 December 1866 by the minister Donald Mcmaster.

Kenneth was the son of crofter Colin Maciver and Margaret Matheson.
Mary was the daughter of grieve Alexander Munro and Janet Macdairmid.

Donald's parents emigrated to Canada in 1889, as the article says, and he joined up for the Boer War of 1899-1901. He gained the Queen's Medal with four clasps (Paardeberg, Driefontein, Cape Colony and Transvaal) before being discharged on Christmas Day 1900.

Fourteen years later, the spectre of war once more descended over Europe and Daniel immediately responded. He enlisted at the Valcartier barracks in Quebec on 17 September 1914, 6 weeks after the outbreak of war. On his attestation paper he was quoted as a Real-Estate Agent, with his father Kenneth Mcivor (sic) living in Saltcoats, SK, although elsewhere Mciver senior is listed at Barvas. This hamlet is located a dozen miles north of Saltcoats. On enlistment, Daniel is described as 5 ft 10 (1.77 m) tall, of fair complexion with brown eyes and brown hair. A mole was seen at the centre of his back. He professes to be of the Presbyterian faith.

During the First World War, Daniel is mentioned in despatches twice; being mentioned in despatches is a distinction in itself. The reference to a DCM is not correct; Daniel was never awarded this medal. He was sadly lost in the aftermath of the battle for Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and is only mentioned on the Vimy Memorial; the location of his grave is unknown.

I have entered Daniel's details on Faces from the Lewis War Memorial under the heading of Coll.

Donald Maciver, another WW1 casualty not listed as such

Last address in Lewis: 17 Knock, Point
Son of Murdo and Mary Mciver, of 17 Knock, Point
Service unit: 179th Canadian Infantry
Service number: 859994
Date of death: 24 May 1920 at the age of 28
Was gassed; quoted as severely wounded
Interred: Winnipeg (Brookside) Military Cemetery, grave Mil. 246

He does not feature on the local war memorial in Garrabost, and is not listed as deceased in the Roll of Honour, presumably because he died 18 months after the end of the First World War. However, Donald still qualifies for inclusion as he passed away before 1922 (the CWGC cut-off point) and he was born in Lewis.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Clearances: Strathnaver

I'm currently transcribing the Napier Report for Sutherland (the far north of Scotland), which carries some harrowing evidence. Angus Mackay, a 22-year old student of divinity, is being interrogated.

You say you are used and abused by the officials of the estate. Will you be good enough to mention instances of abuse?
I will give you a few specimens. The first case is one of Angus Gordon, tenant, Aird. In 1879 a road was made through Angus Gordon's croft while a large piece was taken from him at the lower end and a lime storing-house built upon it. The tenant was promised surface damages as his corn was partly destroyed, and a reduction of rent, but on making his demands when paying his rent he was only laughed at, and told that they would get plenty men to take his croft if he was not pleased with it. As he had roused the ire of the officials they gave permission to the vessels carrying lime into the river, to use for ballast the stones of the dyke fencing in Gordon's lot at the lower end. The dyke was pulled down accordingly, and now his croft is exposed to damage from his neighbours' cattle; and next year his rent was raised eighteen shillings—that was when the general rise was made on the rent —but he went to the Duke and the rent was reduced again.

Another instance is the case of one Christina Mackay, Beathag. She was an old woman and permitted James Thomson, her brother-in-law, to live in an end of her house, but, as the factor was at enmity with this man, he evicted Christina before the term, and sent the ground officer round the district forbidding the people upon pain of eviction to give her shelter in their houses. The public broke open the door of her house and she went in again and stayed till the term, when she was formally to be evicted upon a warrant. The thing preyed upon her mind so much that when the day of final eviction came she died about twelve o'clock, broken hearted, the ground officer and sheriff officer being then within half a mile of her house on their way to evict her.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Remembered - Donald Angus is Donald Mackenzie

As I continue to fill in details on more of the WW1 casualties from Lewis, I was posed quite a riddle last night.  And it was very sad indeed, when I found out exactly what had been going on.

The story starts on 9 October 1874, when, at 2 am, Jessie Mackenzie and her husband John (a ploughman) were delighted with the birth of their first born, a daughter, Marion. They had only been married since the previous December. Jessie and John went on to have another four children, Roderick, Donald, Mary A. and Hector. They were 1, 5, 6 and 11 years younger than Marion, according to the Census of 1891. By then, their father was marked as a crofter and fish-curer.

Marion grew up to be a fish worker in Stornoway, a common occupation for island women in the latter years of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century - and not just in Stornoway. They would go to many other Scottish fishing ports to gut herring at the phenomenal speed of 60 a minute.

Two months before her 21st birthday, on 19 August 1895, Marion gave birth to a baby boy, who was to be known as Donald. She did not register the birth until September 27th that year; and the birth register coldly refers to the baby as illegitimate, quoting no father's name.

Six years later, there is another Census (in 1901). Donald's age is quoted incorrectly as 4 (he will in fact be 6 that year). He is mentioned as a grandchild; his uncle Hector is now aged 16 and an apprentice baker. Grandfather John is working in a guano factory - which is not necessarily processing bird excrement, but is also thought to have been fish offal. Marion Mackenzie is not mentioned on the census return for 29 Lower Sandwick - but we catch up with her shortly.

The Great War starts in 1914. Donald is a lance-corporal serving with the 3rd battalion of the Gordon Highlanders when he is transferred to hospital in Aberdeen. He died on 21st July 1915, aged 19, of pulmonary tuberculosis. By then, his mother has moved to the city of Aberdeen and is quoted as living at 2, Gilcomston Terrace; she is married to a stonecutter (dry process) by the name of Alexander Miller.

Two years after the end of the war, the Stornoway Gazette published a Roll of Honour, entitled "Loyal Lewis Roll of Honour 1914-1918", in which there is a casualty at 27 Lower Sandwick. He is named as Donald Angus, and for more than three years I have run into a wall trying to find out more details on this man. Angus is not commonly used as a surname, and nobody by that name is recorded as having been born in Scotland before 1900. The Roll of Honour quoted a string of Mackenzies at 27 Lower Sandwick, and by searching for a Donald Mackenzie, dying on 21 July 1915, having served with the Gordons in WW1, I tracked down the correct casualty. The birth- and death-records of Scotland's People filled in the gaps and I'm confident that Donald Angus is Donald Mackenzie.

The erroneous entry for this man started in 1916 with the first Roll of Honour, and was copied into the second (and final) volume, published in 1921. I cannot speculate whether this mistake was linked to Donald's illegitimate status at birth.

Postscript: Marion Miller succumbed to miliary tuberculosis (widespread throughout the body) on 10 July 1932, almost exactly 17 years after her son died. Her age is quoted as 55 on the death record, but she is actually 57. She died at Aberdeen, survived by her husband.

With thanks to blogger Direcleit for kindly supplying the census returns and the info on the guano factory.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


In the compilation of “Faces from the Lewis War Memorial” (which remembers the Fallen from the Isle of Lewis in World War I), there are quite a few names with very little information. It sometimes takes a little bit of effort to disentangle the web and let the light from the past shine more clearly. An example.
The Roll of Honour mentions an Iver Maciver from 9 North Shawbost, who, serving with the Canadians, died of wounds in 1916 at the age of 21. I just couldn’t cross reference him - not with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, not with the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, and not with the CEF records on Libraries and Archives Canada either.

Until this evening. Looking at the page for North Shawbost again, it occurred to me that Kenneth Maciver, also quoted at 9 North Shawbost, might be the brother of “Iver”. Kenneth Maciver is reported to have been born at Lochcarron, so I did a search on ScotlandsPeople for Macivers in Lochcarron around 1895 - and who came out but Evander Maciver. Born to the same parents as Kenneth.

Using the sources quoted above, I now search for Evander Maciver, dying in 1916 - and this was the result:

Last address in Lewis: 9 North Shawbost,
Son of John and Isabella Maciver, of Carnan House, Shawbost, Stornoway. Born at Lochcarron, Ross-shire.
Service unit: 52nd Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)
Service number: 440086
Date of death: 9 July 1916 at the age of 21
Died of wounds
Interred: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, grave VIII. C. 6
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Evander was born at Lochcarron, northeast of Kyle, on 9 August 1894
When he enlisted for service, in the Manitoba town of Sewell in Canada, he stood 5 ft 5 in tall.
He is described as of fair complexion and fair-haired with light blue eyes.
Evander was a Presbyterian, and a carpenter by trade.

Rest in peace.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Napier Commission in Orkney

Transcribing more evidence from the Napier Commission in Orkney, I found it to contain some pretty harrowing stuff - unexpected perhaps. The island of Rousay, northwest of the archipelago's capital Kirkwall, was owned by a General Burroughs. He exercised his law-enshrined powers as landowners to such an extent that his tenants referred to his conduct as "wanton and inconsiderate inhumanity", only marginally diluted to "[being treated in an] utterly inconsiderate and unrighteous manner". The island's minister, Archibald Maccallum, spoke on behalf of most of the island's crofters, followed by an interrogation of others. James Leonard requested an assurance from the landowner that none of the evidence given by him or others would lead to 'consequences' - an assurance that General Burroughs refused to give point blank. In fact, he rebutted the request by saying that if anyone was not happy, they should just go away. The case, presented by Georgina Inkster, was a good demonstration of the general's high-handed attitude. Another exampled was quoted by James Leonard:

A woman [lived] in our island whom the proprietor visited, when she was on her death-bed. She had a small croft, and he would have to leave it, because he was going to give it to another person—a stranger. She said she would never leave it until she was put to a house from which no man could remove her. He said—What house is that?—and she said—' Where I will be buried;' and he struck his stick on the ground and said, ' Would you like to be buried here on this floor?'

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Fallen from aloft

I am presently trawling the archives of the Stornoway Gazette, looking for tributes to men who fell in the service of King and country during the First World War. The Gazette was not published until January 1917, meaning that the first half of the Great War was not covered. The tributes are incorporated into my WW1 tribute site "Faces from the Lewis War Memorial" (link leads to page with links to tributes).

Apart from that, I have also come across a tragic accident, in which a sailor was killed on board his ship. The Gazette reported on 4 May 1917 that the Norwegian barque Yuba had been brought in for inspection. The captain reported that he had found one of his seaman lying dead on the deck. He had gone up the rigging in the dark, and had evidently fallen from aloft. The remains were buried at Sandwick Cemetery.

I intend to visit Sandwick Cemetery to find that sailor's grave, and have also found out that the Yuba did not outlive its unfortunate crewmember for very long. German U boat U-50 torpedoed the sailing ship some five weeks later, on 7 June 1917, 110 miles north of Stornoway. The ship was reported to have been en route from Savannah (Georgia, USA) to Aarhus (Denmark). No lives were lost in the attack. The U-boat was destroyed by a mine off the Dutch island of Terschelling on 31 August 1917, with the loss of all hands.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Napier Commission in Skye - Attitude

I am currently working my way through the Napier Commission's Report for the Isle of Skye. The landowner at the time (1883) in the northwest of the island was Dr Nicol Martin. His attitude towards his tenantry is eloquently portrayed in reply to:

7570. You think they could not pay the rent?
—I know they could not do it, and they would not do it. They are getting indolent and lazy besides. Look at this winter; they did nothing but go about with fires on every hill, and playing sentinels to watch for fear of sheriff's officers coming with warnings to take their cattle for rent. They went about with pitch-forks and scythes and poles pointed with iron or steel, and it was a mercy no one would serve the processes upon them, or they would have murdered him sure enough. You cannot get a sheriffs officer now to serve a process on any tenant in Skye.

Raasay weeps

A harrowing tale of evictions from the island of Raasay, as I continue to copy, paste and clean up the findings of the Napier Commission, now sitting at Torran in Raasay. Raasay is the longish island off the east coast of Skye. Donald Mcleod, a 78-year old former fisherman from Rona, just north of Raasay, tells of the evictions of fourteen townships. Chairman Lord Napier is asking about this.

7837. We want to find out if you know about the evictions in former times. The first one began in the time of M'Leod himself about forty years ago. Do you recollect that?
—I don't remember the first removing, but I remember Mr Rainy about thirty years ago clearing fourteen townships, and he made them into a sheep farm which he had in his own hands.

7838. What became of the people?
—They went to other kingdoms—some to America, some to Australia, and other places that they could think of. Mr Rainy enacted a rule that no one should marry in the island. There was one man there who married in spite of him, and because he did so, he put him out of his father's house, and that man went to a bothy—to a sheep cot. Mr Rainy then came and demolished the sheep cot upon him, and extinguished his fire, and neither friend nor any one else dared give him a night's shelter. He was not allowed entrance into any house.

7839. What was his name?
—John MLeod.

7840. What is the name of the town were his father was?

7841. Will you give us a rough estimate of the population of the fourteen townships?
—I cannot; there were a great number of people.

7842. Were they hundreds?
—Yes, hundreds, young and old. I am sure there were about one hundred in each of two townships.

7843. Will you name the towns?
—Castle, Screpidale, two Hallaigs, Ceancnock, Leachd, two Fearns, Eyre, Suisinish, Doirredomhain, Mainish.

7858. Did the people out of these fourteen townships that Rainy cleared go of their own accord?
—No, not at all. The people were very sorry to leave at that time. They were weeping and wailing and lamenting. They were taking handfuls of grass that was growing over the graves of their families in the churchyard, as remembrances of their kindred.

7859. Mr Cameron.
—Might that not occur even though the people left of their own free-will, if they were much attached to their kindred?
—No, they were sent away against their will, in spite of them.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

John Macaulay, 7 Islivig

A tribute and account of the fate of Leading Deckhand John Macaulay.
Please note that further research into John, his ship and shipmates is relayed on this site.

John Macaulay was lost when SS Kenmare was torpedoed in the Irish Sea on Saturday, 2 March 1918. He came from the village of Islivig in the district of Uig in Lewis. His remains turned up on the east coast of Ireland, north of Dublin, and lie buried in a grave in Balrothery. His grave is marked by a Commonwealth War¬graves Commission headstone.

This tribute is dedicated to his memory, and endeavours to tell the story of SS Kenmare, the German submarine U-104 which fired the fatal torpedo and John Macaulay’s final resting place.

John’s family history

John was the son of fisherman Donald Macaulay of Islivig and domestic servant Margaret Macaulay who were married at Miavaig on 4 April 1878. Both were aged 26 at the time. It is worth pointing out that in the Gaelic community, the name Margaret is sometimes converted to Peggy. They continued to live in Islivig after their marriage. Donald and Peggy were blessed with the birth of a son, John, on 7 December 1881. It has not been part of my investigations to find out whether they had any more children.

Thirty-six years later, on 16 January 1917, John (now living at 7 Islivig) was married to Catherine Ann Macaulay, a 29-year old nurse from 19 Brenish. She is the daughter of boat-builder John Macaulay and Isabella Matheson. The marriage was conducted at Seaforth House on Scotland Street in Stornoway.

By that time, John’s mother Peggy had died, and Donald, by that time aged 62, was a crofter. His son, John, was a seaman in the Merchant Service, but (1917 being a war year) also marked as being in the Royal Naval Reserve, as so many islanders were.

S.S. Kenmare

The Kenmare was launched on 16 February 1895 at Wigham, Richardson and Co. of Newcastle upon Tyne. She was powered by a triple-expansion steam engine, generating 437 hp. She was completed for the City of Cork Steam Packet Co. Ltd. Her dimensions were 264.5 x 36.5 x 16.9 feet, measuring 1,346 gross tons.

During the First World War, she found herself under attack by German submarines (U-boats) on four occasions. On 27 June 1915, SS Kenmare was attacked by gunfire off Youghall, but outran her attacker with minimal damage. Two years later, on 21 October 1917, Kenmare was off Holyhead, bound from Liverpool to Cork, when a torpedo passed only a few feet from her stern. A few weeks later, the Kenmare had to fire at a submarine that was chasing her. However, the last attack, on 2 March 1918, proved fatal.

That day, SS Kenmare was sailing from Liverpool to Cork with a general cargo at position 53°40’095”N 5°06’099”W. This is 60 km (approximately 35 nautical miles) north of east from Skerries, Co Dublin and 40kms (approximately 25 nautical miles) north west from The Skerries, Anglesey.. At around 7pm, U-104 fired a torpedo without warning. It inflicted severe damage, and Kenmare sank by the stern within two minutes. Only one lifeboat was serviceable, and the three who had managed to get into it tried to find other crew members. Three more were saved. In spite of shouting being heard, the occupants of the lifeboat did not manage to locate these unfortunates as it was dark by that time and the sea covered in wreckage. Twenty-nine members of crew perished, 24 of whom were in a boat which overturned – the weather being poor and the sea rough at the time. The First Mate, four crewmen and Gunner James Henry Chamberlain Brougham RNVR, aged 20 survived the torpedoing of the ship. This was remarkable, bearing in mind that the ship sank in just two minutes. Two other gunners, Able Seaman Albert Edward Aston RNVR and Leading Deck Hand John Macaulay RNR did not survive. Apparently, the ship’s gun had been thrown from its mountings by the force of the explosion. The survivors were picked up by the steamer Glenside the next morning, and taken to Dublin.

U-boat postscript

U-boat 104 had been in service for only five months at the time of the attack on the Kenmare. U-104 sank a total of eight ships, which accounted for a third of the number of ships (25) sunk by its commander, 32-year old Kapitän-Leutnant zur See Kurt Bernis, until he was killed in the sinking of his U-boat on 25 April 1918.

On 23 April 1918, U-104 was attacked by USS Cushing using depth charges. These damaged the submarine. Two days later, HMS Jessamine came across the submarine on the surface in St George’s Channel as its crew were attempting to repair the damage, caused by the depth charges. KLt Bernis dived his submarine, but depth charges from HMS Jessamine forced him to surface. The U-boat was finally sunk, taking 31 to the bottom with her. Ten sailors were left in the water, after their vessel went down, of whom only one was picked up by the warship. The other nine were left to drown in the sea.

Found in Ireland

John Macaulay was not saved from the sinking of the Kenmare. Although the one working lifeboat remained on the scene as long as possible, the shouting of the floundering seamen ceased after some 10 minutes. It is a matter of conjecture what happened during the next fourteen days.

Coast Watchman John Doherty and Constable Masterson found the body of John Macaulay on a beach at King’s Point (shown left) north of Balbriggan Co. Dublin on Saturday 16th March 1918. Two other bodies of sailors were found on the same day washed up on nearby beaches at Skerries Co. Dublin and Gormanston Co. Meath, but only John Macaulay’s body could be identified. He carried a letter which is said to have identified him as George [sic] Mcauley of Stornaway. He is described as a fine young sailor of about 25 – however, at the time of his death, John Macaulay was actually aged thirty-five. All three were dressed in semi-naval uniform.

Inquests into the deaths of the three sailors were held by Coroners Friery and Corry, and the evidence disclosed nothing further than that two of the men carried beads and scapulars, while a disc showed that McAuley was a Presbyterian. The bodies, which were only a few days in the water, bore no sign of violence, and the medical testimony was that death was due to drowning. A verdict of “found drowned” was duly returned by the Jury under foreman Mr George Mongey.

News found its way to John’s native Isle of Lewis, and was relayed by local weekly newspaper Stornoway Gazette, on 15 March 1918.

“It is with deep regret we have to record the death by drowning of Seaman John Macaulay (Iain Dhomhnaill an Taillear) [John the son of Donald the Tailor] Islivig on Saturday 2nd inst. His boat the “Kenmore” [sic] was torpedoed, and only six out of a crew of thirty-five were saved. John was one of the finest young men that could be met in a day’s march. To his young and sorrowing widow, and to his other near relatives and friends, the heartfelt sympathy of the whole community is extended in their very sad and sore bereavement.”

John’s family had endeavoured to have the body transferred home, but the authorities would not sanction this. An account of the funeral was forwarded to his family by the Acting Divisional Officer of Coastguard at Rush, and the Stornoway Gazette copies this; I insert additional information as supplied by the Drogheda Independent and Drogheda Advertiser in their editions of March 23rd, 1918.

The funeral started from the Coastguard Station, Balbriggan (shown left, about 1920). The military supplied four horses and the coffin was place on the limber, and we marched through the town of Balbriggan. The military firing party, with a piper at its head, led the procession; a military funeral party and a body of police followed behind the coffin with as many of the Coastguard as could be obtained; and a large crowd of the inhabitants followed to the churchyard. the piper played a lament and other Scottish airs suitable for the occasion. (Pipers’ Band of the Royal Engineers playing the Dead March) The military also took photographs of the funeral and if they turn out successful you will be sent copies. Your son is buried at Balrothery Churchyard, and the funeral service was carried out by the Protestant minister (Rev. H. B. Good, Rector, Rev. C. Benson L.L.D. and Rev. R. Scriven). Your son was given the grandest funeral that was ever seen in Balbriggan and I think it is particularly gratifying to know that full honours were paid to his remains. Three volleys were fired over the grave and the piper played between each volley.”


It would stand to reason that such a grand occasion would be remembered for many years to come in a small town like Balbriggan. Not in this instance. British armed forces burned and looted the centre of the town on 9 September 1920 in reprisal for the alleged killing of an R.I.C officer by the I.R.A. earlier in the evening, as the unfortunate policeman left a local pub. This would have eclipsed if not erased the burial in the collective and popular memory of the inhabitants of the town.

In the 1930s, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission commissioned the erection of a grave-stone over John Macaulay’s grave at Balrothery, a gravestone which faces east. His was one of many such gravestones in Ireland that were put up by the Office of Public Works, a branch of the Irish Government. In the 1920s, the family ordered the installation of iron railings around the grave site. The spelling of John Macaulay’s name on the gravestone (Macauley) is noted, but the information on the stone confirms the identity of the casualty.

Catherine Ann, John’s wife, died in Stornoway on 17 April 1961, aged 73. From the limited resources available to me, I have not been able to find out if she remarried and / or had children.

John’s father, Donald Macaulay, passed away in the district of Uig in 1933, aged 80.

John Macaulay is also remembered on the commemorative panel in Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin.

He is also mentioned on the West Uig division of the Lewis War Memorial at Stornoway

and on the Uig War Memorial at Timsgarry


• David J. Grundy, Skerries, Dublin

Scotland’s People

The Drogheda Historical Society, from the archives of The Drogheda Independent and The Drogheda Advertiser, Mellmount Museum, Drogheda, Co Louth, Ireland

Stornoway Gazette, 15th March 1918 and 12th April 1918, from transcript of original copies, held on microfiche at Stornoway Library

Comann Eachdraidh Uig, Uig Museum, Timsgarry, Isle of Lewis

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

• Cork Examiner archives (now Irish Examiner), courtesy Brendan Mooney

• From book: The Irish Boats (Cork & Waterford), courtesy Brendan Mooney

• Portrait photograph: Loyal Lewis Roll of Honour 1914-1918, Stornoway Gazette, 1921 (held at Stornoway Library)

• Photographs of Balbriggan Coast Guard Station are the copyright of Mr. David Brangan and is reproduced with his kind permission.

Monday, 30 August 2010

30 August 1930

On that day, the villagers of St Kilda were packing up their belongings, before leaving the island of their birth forever. Some left a bowl of grain on the table, with the Bible open at the chapter of Exodus. A community, a culture, a way of life was coming to a close after thousands of years. Life on their outpost in the Atlantic had become untenable, to their minds, and the Hiorteachs had requested their own removal. The steamer Harebell took them to the village of Lochaline, on the mainland and on to Glasgow.

A lot has been written about St Kilda, with insights changing as the years and researches progress.  Someone has recently mooted the idea to repopulate the islands with permanent inhabitants - an idea that is as fanciful as it is unrealistic. Even today, with modern, powerful boats, it is not always possible to cross the sea to the islands. In the past, there would be no communication with St Kilda for 8 months of the year, due to the severity of the weather and the ocean. That has not changed.

Work is in progress to establish a St Kilda Centre at Mangersta in Lewis, where culture and history of St Kilda will be remembered. For it is no longer alive.

Image courtesy

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


In 2012, it will be 100 years since the sinking of RMS Titanic. The last survivor died a few years ago, aged 97. It is through reading up on local history that I have learned that the sinking of the Titanic need not have been as catastrophic in terms of loss of life as it turned out to be. Eight years before the Titanic sank, the emigrant ship SS Norge struck Hazelwood Rock, just east of Rockall in the Atlantic. The Norge went down in 20 minutes, taking 700 to the bottom with her.

Not all eight of the lifeboats launched from the Norge stayed afloat; some sank at the moment of launch, but a handful were spotted by fishermen and taken to the United Kingdom. One lot of survivors was put ashore at Stornoway, and treated at the local hospital. Nine succumbed to their ordeal and lie buried at Sandwick Cemetery, a 15-minute walk from my position. One boat is thought to have drifted northeast to and beyond the Arctic Circle; but there is no confirmation of her fate.

Nobody has heard of the Norge. No rich and famous on board that ship. Just dirt poor emigrants from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Russia. In particular the Russian emigrants were the undesirables of that country. Jews, who had been packed away onto the western fringes of the Tsarist realm, and generally hated and detested in many circles of the Russia of 1904. The board of inquiry into the sinking of the Norge found that there were insufficient lifeboats for the number of people on board. A recommendation was issued that laws should be introduced, requiring ships to carry sufficient lifeboats, -rafts and other craft to accommodate all on board in the event of abandon-ship. This was not followed through.

This negligence was catastrophic for the passengers on board RMS Titanic on 14/15 April 1912.

Friday, 20 August 2010


This is an excerpt from the Napier Commission's hearings in the Isle of Skye in 1883. Sitting in Uig, now well-known as a ferry port for sailings to North Uist and Harris, the Commission heard the verbatim account of an eviction, and the rather harsh treatment of a man who declined to pay an additional £1. Donald Nicolson is 78 in May 1883, but in 1878 he was kicked off his croft in Totescore, a few miles north of Uig. His account is translated from his native Gaelic.

Lord Napier starts off the examination after the preliminaries:

What have you to state to us?
—My rent was doubled, and I would not get it even then unless I would promise to pay an additional £1. My rent was £7, 10s., and it was doubled at once, and another pound added. I did not refuse to pay the double rent, but I declined to pay the extra £1. I then got warning. When the summer came, the officer came and ejected me. He put everything I had out of the house, and I was only wanting payment for my houses, and I would go. The doors were locked on me. The tacksman of Monkstadt sent word round to the rest of the crofters that any one who would open door for me would be treated the same way as I was next year—and they are here to-day—and not one of them would let me into his house, they were so afraid. I could not cut a peat. My son's wife was in with her two young children, and we were that night in the cart-shed, and our neighbours were afraid to let us in, and crying over us. The peats were locked up. They still had the mark upon us. We had not a fire to prepare a cake. There was plenty of meal outside, but we had not a fire to prepare it. I was then staying in the stable during the summer. I could only make one bed in it. My daughter and my son's wife and the two children were sleeping in that bed, and I myself was sleeping on the stones. The Presbytery of the Established Church, during a vacancy, allowed me to enter the glebe. The factor then shut up my outhouses, and I would not be permitted to enter one of them. I was afterwards staying in the house of a poor woman who was taking care of a sick friend, and the factor challenged Mr Stewart, the tacksman of Duntulm, for permitting me to have shelter in this house, for it was on his ground that this poor woman was; and it is Mr Grant, the minister of the parish, who is supporting me to-day,

Sheriff Nicolson: When did all this happen ?
—Five years ago. There was due to me £ 6 for the making of drains on the lot, and my neighbours got this, but none was allowed to me. The factor would not pay me a penny, and it is still due to me.

Did you get anything for the house?
—The sum due by me was £35, but I got credit for the value of the house, which was £7 ; I did not get value for the other houses. They were valued at £17, 10s. and I did not get the value for them.

Lord Napier: Who was the factor?
—Mr Alexander Macdonald, the present factor. He was law agent as well in the matter.

The Interpreter made the following statement:
—He was evicted twice, but when put out he had a shed to enter into, and he entered the shed and entered the stable, and then he was evicted out of these, and an interdict was issued against him forbidding him any more to enter the house or the lands. Under stress of circumstances, he entered a barn, the key of which was given to him for the purpose of securing the crop, but was had up for breach of interdict, and for this breach of interdict he was fined 10s. with the alternative of five days' imprisonment. The expense of the interdict was something like £8. In the £35 there was a whole year's rent due. He was charged, besides, violent profits, being the legal penalty for remaining in possession after the term.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

William Scambler

William Scambler was a 30-year old trimmer / cook on board His Majesty's Trawler "THOMAS STRATTEN", when this ship hit a mine off the Butt of Lewis on 20 October 1917. William's remains were buried at Sandwick Cemetery near Stornoway. Today, I managed to track down records of his birth and his death, which paints the following picture.

William Scambler
Birth record
Date of birth: July 23rd, 1887, 5h AM
Place of birth: Glorat, Campsie, Stirlingshire
Name of father: James Scambler, assistant gamekeeper (present at registry office)
Name of mother: Elizabeth Harriet Scambler, nee Dryden
Place and date of their marriage: Edinburgh, 14 October 1886.

Death record
Name: SCAMBLER, William
Rating: Trimmer / Cook
Official no and port division: 712.T.C. (Po)
Branch of service: R.N.R.
Ship or unit: H.M. Trawler "THOMAS STRATTEN"
Date and place of birth: 23.7.1887, Lennoxtown, Stirling
Date of death: 20.10.1917
Name and address of cemetery: Civil Cemetery, Sandwick, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, grave O. 1321.
Relatives notified and their address: Wife, Alice; Branxton, Innerwick, Berwick, Scotland

Among William's shipmates, none of whom were recovered were (further details courtesy CWGC)

BOWSER, Walter, Trimmer, RNR, TS 6310 (aged 18), Son of Thomas Frederick and Lilian Bowser, of 42, Beecroft St., St. George's Rd., Hull. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial panel 27

BROWN, Charles John, Deck Hand, RNR, DA 5540 (aged 24). Son of Alice Mary Brown, of Clare Cottage, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, and the late Charles John Brown. Remembered on Chatham
Naval Memorial panel 26.

COLLINSON, James, Deck Hand, RNR, SD 3895 (aged 21). Son of George Collinson, of 158, High St., East End, Sunderland, and the late Catherine Collinson; husband of Catherine Millar (formerly Collinson), of 58, Loudoun Square, Cardiff. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial panel 26.

PARRISH, Charles, Ordinary Telegraphist, RNVR, Tyneside Z 10209 (aged 20). Son of Willie and Amanda Matilda Parrish, of 75, Carr House Rd., Shelf, Halifax. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial panel 27

PIRIE, James, Deck Hand, RNR, DA 3948. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial panel 28

PLAYFORD, John, Deck Hand, RNR, DA 10703 (aged 26). Son of Sarah Ann Playford, of Pockthorpe, Raveningham, Norwich. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial, panel 26.

POLLARD, Thomas Edward, Deck Hand, RNR, DA 12923. Son of Fanny Pollard, of Gorran Haven, Gorran, Cornwall. Remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial, panel 24.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Frederick Cyril Crocker

I found this old email from December last year, in which Frederick Cyril Crocker is suggested as a WW1 casualties whose roots lie in Stornoway. And so they do. He was born at 18 Newton Street on 22 December 1888 to Lieutenant John Crocker. of Claremont. Portishead, Somerset, formerly of Lerwick and Stornoway. R.N. Divisional Officer of Coast Guards, Southend Division, who was married to Annie, daughter of the late James Bardsley. Cyril was educated at Wexford, and Andemon Institute, Lerwick, Shetland, and prior to the outbreak of war was an Officer of Excise at Gateshead. He married at Glasgow, 10 June, 1011, Janet, daughter of Peter Macleod, of Stornoway, and had two daughters.: Patricia Joan Mary, born 28 April, 1912; and Annie Valerie, born 4 Feb. 1915.

Cyril joined the Northumberland Fusiliers at the beginning of 1914. volunteered for Imperial service when war began, was severely wounded in action at St. Julien, 26 April, 1915, while leading the platoon in a bayonet charge after his platoon officer, Lieut. Garton, had fallen, and died in the East Suffolk Hospital, Ipswich 1 June, following.

With thanks to Alastair Macewen and Anne Brooks' Genealogy.