Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Lewismen in Canadian service

Lewismen serving in the Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1918

Total found: 678
112 do not feature in the Rolls of Honour
200 cannot be traced on Veteran Affairs Canada (with any degree of reliability), in spite of being quoted as serving with the Canadians

130 were killed

37 were called up under the Army Act from 1917 onwards, 3 were defaulters, and were arrested after not answering their summons

445 volunteered for service

Marital status
53 were married
414 were single

1 was a Seventh Day Adventist
1 was United Free Church
11 were Church of England
451 were Presbyterian
6 had no religion recorded

Location of enlistment
Calgary 21
Edmonton 21
Valcartier 41
Vancouver 38
Victoria 31
Winnipeg 96
amongst others

Trades / occupations
Carpenter 35
Farmer, farmworker 50
Labourer 110
Miner 22
Sailor 15
Stonemason, -cutter 16
Teamster 21
amongst others

Dark 141
Fair 150
Fresh 40
Ruddy 45

Blue 243
Brown 99
Grey 97
Hazel 25

Black 77
Brown, dark or light 289
Dark 31
Light / fair 60

Less than 5 feet - 2
5 ft 0 to 5 ft 3.75 - 20
5 ft 4 to 5 ft 4.75 - 31
5 ft 5 to 5 ft 5.75 - 45
5 ft 6 to 5 ft 6.75 - 57
5 ft 7 to 5 ft 7.75 - 82
5 ft 8 to 5 ft 8.875 - 41
5 ft 9 to 5 ft 9.75 - 64
5 ft 10 to 5 ft 10.75 - 40
5 ft 11 to 5 ft 11.75 - 25
6 ft and taller - 19

Friday, 4 June 2010


Boreray is a small island in the Sound of Harris (between Harris and North Uist), which was home to 150 people in the 1880s, as testified in this submission to the Napier Commission. Nowadays, only one person lives there – as a crofter. The complaint in 1883 was overcrowding. The below map shows how small the island is.

Attitudes towards Gaelic

The estate factor in North Uist gave a good insight into why the Gaelic language continued on its long, slow decline in the latter years of the 19th century. I quote the relevant parts of his submission to the Napier Commission, sitting at Loch Eport on 30 May 1883.
12793. There was a statement made by some of the people here with respect to teaching the children Gaelic. Has the school board any educational views on that question? Other things being equal, would they consider that an advantage in the education of the children?
—I do not think they would.

12794. The great object is to endeavour to get as much English as possible ?
—As much English as possible.

12795. And the belief of the board is that anything done in the way of teaching the children Gaelic rather stands in the way of teaching English ?
—Well, if the teacher had plenty of time it would not do the children any harm to be taught their native language.
* and *
12854. You said something which I consider very heterodox about Gaelic. You speak Gaelic yourself?

12855. And have done so all your life?

12856. You read it?

12857. And write it ?
—I cannot say I can write it well

12858. You would not wish that you never had Gaelic?
—No, I would not.

12859. Then why is it that you discourage the teaching of it in schools, and therefore prevent Gaelic scholars from having that proper knowledge of the language which could be so easily given ?
—Without an additional staff of teachers, it could not be done. It would take up too much of their time.

12860. It is only a question of expense ?
—It is only a question of expense.

12861. You would not go to the length of saying that Gaelic is of no importance in the Highlands ?
—I believe the importance is getting less every day.

Quote from the Napier Commission

This summarises what the Clearances were all about – for those who were on the receiving end of them. I quote the Reverend Alexander Davidson, aged 70, at Leverburgh in Harris.

It is most unnatural that man should be chased away to make room for sheep and deer ; that the land should lie uncultivated when men are perishing for lack of food. It is very unnatural that old or young should not be allowed to cast a hook into a standing lake or stream to catch a trout without being pursued by an officer of the law.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

North Uist, 1883

My transcription of the Napier Commission, which I have been doing over the past week or so, is slowly progressing and we are presently in North Uist. Once more the issue appears to be the size (or lack of it) of the land that each crofter holds. Malcolm Mcinnes, a crofter from the township of Tigharry, summarises it in his reply to question 12298.

12298. Then what I understand is that though you are not dissatisfied with your present holdings, you wish to have such large holdings as would enable you to live as farmers on a farm, and not be dependent upon labour
to maintain your families?
—That is it exactly—the very thing we want—that we could make a living out of our crofts by our own labour. We don't want to be gentlemen.

In his perspective, gentlemen,  (I remind you of the date, 1883) were people who made a living out of other people's labours. It appears to have been a matter of pride to Malcolm that he be able to make a living by his own hard graft.