Thursday, 31 March 2011

Napier witnesses: Rev Roderick Mackenzie

Rev Roderick Mackenzie was the Free Church minister at Tarbert, Harris at the time of the Napier Commission's visit. His place of birth is quoted as Assynt, Sutherland. Including himself, the minister's household comprises of 12 people in 1881. At that time, he was aged 43.

His wife Marjory, aged 40, came from Kilmallie, Argyll. Her mother's name was Jessie Martin (66), who is living with her daughter. Roderick and Marjory have five children, Hugh (10), Alexander M (8), Mackintosh M (6), Martin D (4) and Annabella (2). Marjory's sister Mary (41) lives with the family and works as a governess. Other members of the household include cook Helen Macaskill (23), Peggy Morison (17), a nurse and Margaret Macleod, a 23-year old dairy-maid.

By 1891, the Rev Mackenzie has moved to the Scottish mainland and is a Free Church minister living in Fodderty, a village between Dingwall and Strathpeffer in Easter Ross. By that time, his children (left at home) are Annabella (12), Nicol Martin (9) and Boyce (5). Roderick's wife Marjory and her sister Mary N (now an annuitant) are still there, as is their mother Jessie (77).

Ten years later, the Mackenzies are still at Fodderty, with Roderick (63), Marjory (60), Mary (61) as well as offspring Annabella (22) and Boyce (15).

Roderick Mackenzie died in hospital in Dingwall on 22 October 1909 at the age of 72. The first names of his parents are not recorded on the death certificate.

An appreciation of his time at Maryburgh can be found at the top of this page from the Ferintosh Parish Church website.

In the 1871 census, Roderick Mackenzie is visiting Woodbank, Snizort in the Isle of Skye. His occupation is quoted as Freechurch Men Tarbet. This is the earliest reference I am able to find of him.

Pabbay - 1841

Pabbay is located on the left of this map

This is a transcript of part of the census return for the island of Pabbay, Harris, for 1841.
Please do not confuse this Pabbay with the island off Broadford, Isle of Skye, which is under the parish of Strath. There is also a Pabay Mor off the coast of Uig, Isle of Lewis, and another Pabbay can be found among the Bishops Isles south of Barra.

The population of Pabbay was cleared in 1846 to make way for sheep.  Further information can be found on this excellent page of the Papar project.

Registered on Pabbay in 1841
Nora Mcleod 30 Ag Lab [agricultural labourer]
Cathrine Mcleod 30
Hord Mcleod 12
Finla Mcleod 10
Niel Mcleod 7
Anne Mcleod 4
Margt Mcleod 70

John Morison 40 Ag Lab
Mary Morison 40 Ag Lab
Janet Morison 15
Anne Morison 15
Murdh Morison 13
Donald Morison 10
Effy Morison 8
John Morison 5
William Morison 2

Rodh Mcleod 30 Ag Lab

John Mckay 13

Nord Mccaskill 40 Ag Lab
Rachel Mccaskill 25
Christy Mccaskill 10
Cathrine Mccaskill 2
John Mcleod 30 Ag Lab
Margt Mcleod 20
Anne Mcleod 3 MO

Donald Mclean 60 Ag Lab

EDIT: Inserted the words part of in first sentence of this post, to reflect information as suggested by Direcleit in comment below.

Napier witnesses: Murdo Morrison

Murdo Morrison is shown as a 50-year old crofter at 46 Kyles Scalpay in the 1881 census. He is shown as married to Lexy. John is their 1-year old son. Dolina Morrison (not certain if she is related) is a 21-year old servant. William Macleod is visiting, he is a fisherman.

Twenty years before, we find a Murdo Morrison as a 32-year old tenant's son in Scalpa (Harris), son of Hector (63) and Margaret Morrison (62). His siblings were Ewen (26) and Mary (28). It is not useful to go back too far in the censuses, when looking for this man. Murdo Morrison clearly states in his evidence that the original people of Kyles Scalpay were cleared from their township, and replaced by those removed from Pabbay and Berneray.

A census record from 1841 shows the population of Pabbay, Harris. It includes a Murdh Morrison, aged 13. His parents, both aged 40, are John and Mary, who have 7 children: Janet and Anne (15), Donald (10), Effy (8), John (5) and William (2) in addition to "Murdh".

I have been unable to locate Murdo's death certificate with any degree of certainty.

Boreray, 1851

Boreray is a small island off the north coast of North Uist, which suffered a population decline during the 19th century. From 181 in 1841, down to 151 in 1851 it now has just 1 permanent inhabitant. More on the island's history on this page on the Boreray Island website. It features in the Napier Report, but Boreray is not distinguishable in any of the 19th century censuses, except for 1851. In that year, 29 families were recorded in Boreray. A number of visitors, mostly young children, as well as a Sheriff's Officer, are also on the listings. I give the breakdown below. All those mentioned were born in the parish of North Uist, except where indicated otherwise.

Evan Mcdagald junior (60) Head, Farmer of 8 acres
Maron Mcdugald (47) Wife,
Children: Euphemia (21), Christian (17), Catharine (12), Hector (10, Scholar), Maron (8) and Cein (6)
Visitor: Archibald Mclean (37) Sheriff Officer

John Macdougald (64) Head, Farmer of 8 acres
Children: Meron (28), Euphemia (22), Peggy Macdougald (20), Christian (18, Weaver), Niel (16, Scholar) and John (12, Scholar)

Peter Macintosh (23) Head, Farmer of 3 acres
Catharin Macintosh (23) Wife,
Child: Ronald Macintosh (6 months)

John Macdonald (54) Head, Farmer 16 acres
Meron Macdonald (36) Wife,
Children: Peggy Macdonald (17), Angus Macdonald (15), Meron (13), Donald (10), Niel (7), and
Euphemia (9 months)
Visitors: Catharine Macrailt (32, Cottager), Kenneth (8), Donald (6), John (3): all born in Harris

John Macdonald (32) Head, Ag Labourer
Mary Macdonald (31) Wife, Weaver

Niel Macphail (36) Head, Tailor
Meron Macphail (30) Wife,
Children: Niel (5, Scholar) and Catharine (1, Scholar)

Catharine Macvicar (57) Head, Farmer of 16 acres
Children: Ronald Macvicar (25), Donald (22), Alexander (17), Niel (14, Scholar)
Visiting grandson: John Macdonald (10)

Archibald Macdougald (58) Head, Ag Labourer
Children: Euphemia (21), Margaret (18), Niel (15), Ann (11), Lexy (9), and John (6)

Catharine Maclean (62) Head, Farmer of 16 acres
Stepchildren: Margaret Maclean (34), Meron Maclean (32), Donald Maclean (30)
Son: Allan Maclean (27)
Visitors: Christian Munro (4) and Rabecca Macleod (50) (born in Harris)

Donald Maclean (40) Head, Farmer of 8 acres
Margaret Maclean (40) Wife,
Children: Ann (16), Ronald (10, scholar), Catharine (8), Allan (6, Scholar)

Meron Macdonald (52) Head, Farmer of 8 acres
Children: Rachel (17), Mary (15) and Donald (13)

Alexander Macdonald (54) Head, Farmer of 8 acres
Euphemia Macdonald (40) Wife,
Roderick Macdonald (57) Brother,
Children: Angus (16), Donald (13), John (11, scholar), Malcolm (8, scholar), Donald jr (5), Catharine (4 months)

Angus Macintosh (60) Head, Farmer of 8 acres
Margaret Macintosh (50) Wife,
Children: Isabella (19), Mary (14), Christian (12), Maryann (9),
Visitors: James Macintosh (51, Cottager), Isabella Macintosh (15, Cottar's daughter)

Allan Macdonald (60) Head, Farmer of 16 acres
Meron Macdonald (58) Wife,
Norman Macdonald (16) Servant, Ag Labourer (it is not clear if Norman is one of Allan's children)

Children: Donald (39, Boat carpenter), Finlay (34, Ground officer) and Margaret (21)

Donald Mackinnon (40) Head, Boat carpenter (born in Greenock)
Christian Mackinnon (33) Wife
Children: Donald (7, Scholar), Mary (4) and Peggy (1)

Euphemia Macdonald (23) Head, Cottager
Angus Macdonald (21) Brother, Ag Labourer

Alexander Maclean (56) Head, Cottager
Mary Maclean (42) Wife,
Children: Mary (14), Ann (8), Margaret (4)

Angus Macdonald (23) Head, Ag Labourer
Euphemia Macdonald (14) Sister,
Allan Macdonald (11) Brother,

John Munro (23) Head, Ag labourer (born in Skye)
Mary Munro (23) Wife,
Children: Anna (2) and Donald (7)

Donald Maclean (66) Head, Farmer of 4 acres
Catharine Maclean (65) Wife, Farmer wife
Children: Meron (27), Niel (22) and Euphemia (19)
Visiting granddaughter: Mary Macintosh (4)

Alex P Macdonald (42) Head, Farmer of 8 acres
Dorady Macdonald (30) Wife,
Children: John (4) and Donald (1)

Donald Macdonald (79) Head, Farmer 8 acres
Mary Macdonald (64) Wife,(born in Harris)
Children: Archibald (23) and Mary (20)
Visiting granddaughter: Rachel Macdonald (6)

Malcolm Macdonald (27) Head, Shoemaker

Christian Morrison (75) Head, Cottager
Rachel Morrison (69) Sister, Cottager

James Macintosh (33) Head, Fisherman
Lexy Macintosh (26) Wife,
Child: Catharine Macintosh (6 months) Daughter,

Ewen Macdougald Sem (63) Head, Farmer of 4 acres
Mary Macdougald (63) Wife,
Children: Mary (22), Christian (17), and Peggy (15)

John Fraser (50) Head, Schoolmaster
Jannet Fraser (50) Wife,
Jannet Mckenzie (50) Wife,(it is not clear whose wife she is)
Children: Donald (28), Alexander (22), Margaret (19, born at Gairloch), John (13, born at Gairloch), Janet (10), Isabella (15, born at Gairloch) and Hannah (6).

William Macdonald (42) Head, Farmer of 8 acres
Margaret Macdonald (29) Wife, Farmer wife
Children: Allan (7), Euphemia (1) and Donald (3)

Meron Macdonald (67) Head, Cottager

Remembering today - 31 March

Seaman MURDO CAMPBELL, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 41 Habost, Ness, died today in 1919 at the age of 19

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Does not qualify

I have today received confirmation that Angus Mciver, 25 North Tolsta, does not qualify for status of Commonwealth War Graves Commission war dead. This would have required him to have met his end as the direct result of war action. Although Angus was discharged as medically unfit (having suffered a gunshot wound to the arm), he died of disease of heart or brain, which bore no direct relationship to his war injuries. However, Angus is remembered on the North Tolsta war memorial. He lies buried in a cemetery at Dunedin, New Zealand.

A special thanks to Archives New Zealand, who did not charge me for digitising a second set of service records for an Angus Mciver, after the first lot turned out not to be for the man I was after.

Napier witnesses: John Mcdiarmid

John Mcdiarmid is 88 when he appears in front of Lord Napier in June 1883. Tracing someone with a surname like "Mcdiarmid" presents a few challenges. There are quite a few possible permutations in the spelling of that name, certainly on the census forms. What this piece of research also showed was the inconsistency in ages. Are the death certificates any more reliable than the census forms?

However, reading the evidence yields a few clues, the most important one being that he spent a great deal of his lifetime around "Strain" (Strond?) in South Harris, and the census of 1841 does pick him up there.

In 1841, John Mcdearmid is in Strond, Harris, aged 40. He lives with his wife Mary (35), who we will next encounter 40 years later. Their family consists of Marrion (20), Donald (15), Marrion (10), Christina (8), Mary (5) and Ann (2).

In 1871, a John Mcdermid is quoted as a lodger in Strond, aged 70, living with a family of Shaws. I have my doubts about the 1871 census entry, because he is shown as being retired, but not living with his wife. One of the death certificates for a John Macdermid in Harris shows a widower who passed away in Strond on 6 January 1885, which bears out my suspicions. We can therefore discount this entry.

A decade later, just before he gives evidence to the Napier Commission, John Mcdearmid is once more shown with his wife Mary in Island of Scalpay, as a retired missionary.

Direcleit has filled in the gaps of other census years, see his comment below. 

John Macdermid passed away on 5 May 1884 at the age of 88, having suffered for hemiplegia for one month, and cerebral softening for 2 years. He is listed as being the wife of Mary Ferguson, and his parents were Angus Macdermid and Mary Macleod. His death was reported to the registrar by his son Donald.

Napier witnesses: John Mcleod

John Mcleod was a fisherman at Ardhasaig at the time he was interviewed by Lord Napier in Tarbert. We find him in the 1881 census at 77 Ardhasaig, aged 62 by then. He is married to Christina (58), a wool weaver. Four adult children are mentioned at the same address, namely two sons who are seamen: Murdo (34) and John (32); and two daughters, both general servants: Christina (22) and Maggy (24).

EDIT: Thanks to Direcleit for filling in the gaps before and after 1881: 
1871 and the family were in Ardhasaig, John, Murdo & Donald were Fishermen whilst Christy was a Weaveress. Daughters Christy, 11 (Scholar)and Mary ,2 (Servant!) are there too.

An 1861 family in Ardhasaig, comprising John & Chirsty with children Murdoch, John, Duncan, Donald and Chirsty Ann appears to be them.

In 1851, John had been a Road Labourer in Ardhasaig and the boys Murdoch,5, John,2 & Duncan, 6 months, are shown.

Following the Napier commission in 1883, we find John in 1891 as a Retired fisherman at No 6 Ardhasaig together with Christy who is now a Weaveress (Tweed)whilst daughter Christy A is a Wool Spinner.

John Mcleod passed away on 27 September 1903 at the age of 85, having suffered from gangrene of the lungs for 14 days. The names of his parents are given as John Mcleod and Chirsty Macaskill. John's own wife Christy is mentioned as being deceased at the time of his own death.

Remembering today - 30 March

Guardsman KENNETH DAN MONTGOMERY, Scots Guards, late of 39 Keith Street, Stornoway, died today in 1919 at the age of 20

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Derisgil and Luachair

Two very outlandish names to start a blogpost with, and the fact that these were townships, situated on the shores of Loch Resort will probably not surprise you. Neither are inhabited today. At the time of the 1891 census, they definitely were. Derisgil had 19 residents, Luachair 24.

The RCAHMS Canmore record for Luachair describes: A farmstead comprising two unroofed buildings and four enclosures is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Inverness-shire, Isle of Harris 1881, sheet iii). Two unroofed buildings, two enclosures and a sheepfold are shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1973).

The RCAHMS Canmore record for Derisgal describes A small township comprising seven unroofed buildings, one of which is a long building, and two enclosures is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Inverness-shire, Isle of Harris 1881, sheet iii). Five unroofed buildings are shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1972).

In 1891 we find the following people on the southern shores of Loch Resort:

No 1 Derisgil
Ann Maclennan (48), crofter's wife
Murdo Maclennan (16), son of Ann Maclennan, farm labourer
John Maclennan (15), son of Ann Maclennan, farm labourer
Mary A Maclennan (12), daughter of Ann Maclennan
Donald J Maclennan (5), son of Ann Maclennan

No 2
Norman Macdonald (57), crofter, married to Nora (Flora)
Nora Macdonald (57), wife of Norman, wool carder
Salivia Macdonald (22), daughter, weaveress
Norman Macdonald (19), son, farm labourer
Marson Macdonald (16), daughter, general servant domestic
Ann Macinnes (59), boarder, weaveress & wool carder

No 3
Flora Macdonald (36), wife of Norman, web maker
Her children were: Angus (9), Donald J (7), Margret (4), Murdo (3), Mary (4 months)
John Macdonald (88), retired fisherman
Mary Macdonald (40), general servant domestic
John Macdonald (15), farm labourer

No 1 Luachair
Ann Macleod (52), gamekeeper's wife
Her children were: Malcolm (14), John (11), Finlay and Roderick (both aged 9, twins?) and Janet (6)
Catherine Macdonald (49), general servant domestic, from Lewis.

No 2
John Macaskill (42), crofter, married to Mary
Mary Macaskill (39), wool carder, married to John
Their children were: Mary (16), general servant domestic; Chirsty (14), Angus (10), Ann (8), Malcolm (6), Dolina (4) and Norman (9 months).

No 3
Finlay Macdonald (42), fisherman, married to Margret
Margret Macdonald (40), wool carder and spinner, married to Finlay
Their children were Annie (12), Hattie (10), Donald J (8), Hattie (4) and Marion (2)
Mary A Macdonald (30), general servant domestic (from Lewis)

Napier witnesses: Norman Macdonald

Norman Macdonald was heard at Tarbert on 13 June 1883. He is quoted as being a 50-year old crofter from the island of Scarp, which lies just off the northwest coast of Harris. Unfortunately, none of the 19th century censuses for Scotland mention anyone as being specifically from this island. It appears to be grouped under North Harris. Looking for a nearby township on mainland Harris, Govig, shows this to be included in enumeration district 6.

Only the 1901 census gives a break-down of the population of Scarp (172 people), and thus we can locate a Norman Macdonald who appears to match the description of the witness giving evidence to Lord Napier's Commission 18 years before. For reference, Scarp is listed as enumeration district 7 under registration district 111/1, with 200 residents.

He is listed as a cottar at 3 Scarp, aged 72. Norman is married to Ann, aged 60 in 1901, with four children: two sons who are fishermen: Kenneth, (25) and Donald John (22); and two daughters, both marked as scrot [domestic] Mary (19) and Marion (17).

Working back with this information, we do find Norman in the 1881 census as a fisherman, married to Ann (aged 39), with children Angus (8), Kenneth (7), Donald John (4) and Mary, 3 months.

By 1891, Norman is marked as a retired fisherman, aged 56. A new addition to the family is Marion, aged 7.

From his death certificate, we find confirmation that Norman Macdonald, a fisherman from Scarp, was married to Ann Macdonald MS Macinnes. His parents are named as Donald and Margaret Macdonald. Norman passed away on 21 August 1903 at the age of 74. The cause of his death is listed as rheumatism and valvular disease of the heart.

EDIT: Inclusion of additional census information from 1881, as per suggestion from Direcleit in comment below. 

Remembering today - 29 March

Private DONALD MACLEOD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 53 North Tolsta, died today in 1918 at the age of 18

Monday, 28 March 2011

Napier witnesses: Duncan Morrison

Duncan Morrison made a brief appearance in front of the Napier Commission. He was a 73-year old tailor from Finsbay, South Harris. In 1881 he is shown as living with his wife Christina, a few years his junior, and children Margaret (37), Christina (33), John (27, a Royal Naval Reservist), and Isabella (25). We also find three grand children, Marion Mclennan (11), John Mcdonald (7), Alexr Mckenzie (5) and Ann Mckenzie (3).

Going back through the decades, we also find Catherin and Margret as an additional children to Duncan and Christina. By 1851, Duncan can be found at Quidinish, as a farmer of 7 acres employing no labourers. His account to Lord Napier mentions being cleared out of that township to go to Finsbay, which must have happened between 1851 and 1861. Although Duncan has three daughters, he only says to be supported by his son (whom we know to be John) who is in the RNR in Stornoway, borne out by the 1881 census data.

In 1891, we meet Duncan for the last time, now at Strumore in South Harris. This is now shown on the map only as a sheepwash (grid ref NG 093869), along an inlet marked as Sruth Mor, just east of Quidinish.

Napier witnesses: Thomas Brydone

Thomas Brydone had been in the job of factor for Lord Dunmore for only six months (i.e. since late 1882) when he was questioned by Lord Napier and his Royal Commission. I once more refer to Direcleit for an appreciation of his work in Harris, which appears to have lasted from 1882 until 1891-1897. It requires us therefore to look to censes after 1881 to get an idea of Mr Brydone's family history.

In 1891, we find him as factor and farmer at Farmhouse Luskentyre, with the town mentioned as Leachilce. This sounds to me like a corruption of Leac-a-Li, which is a township on the eastern side of Harris. Thomas Brydone is quoted as being born at Dunblane, Perthshire and married to Isabella, a few years his junior. The Brydones have five children in 1891, James (8), Archibald (6), Thomas (4), Isabella (2) and Alexander (10 months). Christina Macleod and Catherine Macleod are listed as domestic and farm helpers.

Upon tracing Thomas Brydone back through the years, we locate him in 1881 at Stewartston or Easter Invervack near Blair Atholl in Perthshire, as a farmer of 300 acres, of which 72 arable, employing 1 man. He lives with his grandmother Margaret and siblings Mary (23), Maggie (21) and David (19). Two Irishman are lodging with the Brydone family at Blair Atholl, Hugh and Alex Brodie, listed as hawkers, or peddlers. Travelling salesmen in today's parlance.

In 1871, Thomas is employed as a 15-year old shepherd at Calvine, near Blair Atholl. He lives with his parents James and Jean as well as five younger siblings, Mary, Margaret, Jane and Angus. Thomas is first mentioned in 1861, when he is a 5-year old scholar in Dunblane.

Thomas Brydone returned to his native Perthshire by the time of the 1901 census, when we see him at Garbruich, near Blair Atholl, in the company of their 4 younger children: Alexander (10), Jeannie (4), Isabella (2, should read 12) and Maggie (1). He died of myocardial degeneration on 4 November 1931, aged 76. He last lived at Pitlochry.

Napier witnesses: Kenneth Macdonald

Kenneth Macdonald was farmer at Scarista, and according to this article by Direcleit, had relinquished the factorship over South Harris by 1883. The fact that Kenneth was born in Applecross helped me to trace him on the census records. Kenneth Macdonald's wife is named as Mary Macrae by Direcleit, but the 1881 census record names her as Jane. The census transcript on Ancestry quotes Kenneth's occupation as "Farmer & Factor No Of Acres Unknown Employing".

In 1881, we find Kenneth, aged 64, with his much younger wife Jane, aged 36, at Big Borve. They have 3 three children, Emilie P S (4), Alexander (2) and John (9 months). Kenneth's sister Catherine (50) is there, together with a handful of farm- and house servants: John Mckinnon, William Campbell, Marion Mckinnon, Marion MacCuspaiz [Maccusbic?] and Mary Mckinnon. A decade earlier, Kenneth is shown in the company of Rebecca Macrae, his sister-in-law, but his wife Margaret [edited] does not appear on any of the census returns. He is only apparent in Harris from 1861 onwards. Kenneth's last mention on the census for South Harris is in 1891, when he is shown as a farmer at Hamlets Scaristavore, with his wife Jane and sons Alister (= Alexander), aged 12, Jan (John) aged 11 and Kenneth (9).

In 1871, Kenneth is listed with his sister-in-law Rebecca Macrae as a farmer in Harris. In 1861, the census records him as a sheepfarmer employing six labourers at Big Borve, with 4 of his servants in the house.

On 22 May 1891, only a few weeks after the census was taken, Kenneth passed away after suffering from broncho-pneumonia for six days. He was aged 80. His parents are mentioned as John Macdonald, a tailor, and Isabella Macdonald MS Macleod. His death was registered by his widow, Jane Margaret Macaulay Mackenzie.

 EDIT: Added information from 1871 and 1861 censuses, and this link to his evidence at Tarbert.

Remembering today - 28 March

Corporal HUDSON TAYLOR MACFARLANE, Canadians, late of 27 Kenneth Street, Stornoway, died today in 1917 at the age of 23

Sergeant JOHN MACLEOD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 28 Swainbost, died today in 1918

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Napier witnesses: Hugh Morrison

Hugh Morrison presented me with problems in researching his family history, as he does not appear in either the 1881 or 1891 census for the Bays area of Harris. Hugh is quoted in the Napier Report as coming from Finsbay, a couple of miles north of Rodel, enumeration district 4 in the 1881 census. However, the only Hugh Morrison that the 1881 census knows in that area is a 23-year old militiaman, whose parents are called John and Mary. The 1871 census however makes clear that this Hugh is from Ardvie, well north of Finsbay. Neither is there any death recorded for a Hugh Morrison in Harris between 1881 and 1891.

Napier witnesses: Geocrab

Roderick Ross, aged 63, is one of two witnesses from Geocrab in the Bays area of Harris. In the 1881 census, his address is merely given as "Crofters Dwelling House", without specific reference to any village. However, I have put in the search criteria as enumeration district 4, which encompasses Geocrab. His year of birth is given as 'about 1825', making him about 58 years of age - according to the census data. Roderick is a crofter.

Roderick's household is a large one in 1881. He is married to Marion, aged 44 (also recorded as a crofter), and they have seven children. Archibald, aged 18, is a fisherman. Ann, aged 16, is a general servant domestic, but is in her parents' house at the time of the census. Mary (14), Mary Jessie (12), Margret (10), Rachel (8) and Jane (6) are all scholars. All members of this family are recorded as being born in Harris.
The 1891 census shows the same family, minus Ann and Mary, as living at Geocrab, with Roderick now holding the occupation of farmer. Twenty years earlier, they are once again shown at Geocrab, with an older daughter Marion (then aged 10) also as part of the family. Roderick is then a road contracter. Finally, in 1861, we find the first reference to Roderick in the censes for South Harris. He is at that time married to Marion, but as yet without a family. However, the eldest daughter might well have been on her way by then. Roderick's occupation in 1861 is recorded as Wool Constable. That is an occupation I have been unable to trace in the various listings of occupations from the Victorian era, so if anyone knows what that entailed I'd be much obliged.

It should be noted that although Roderick was a Road Contracter in 1871, this had nothing to do with the construction of the Golden Road, which runs through the Bays area of Harris. This was to be constructed from 1897 onwards, with the last link to Cluer completed in the 1940s. The evidence by Alexander Davidson, who pled for the construction of a roadlink through the Bays, contributed to it being laid down.

Roderick's family roots required casting the web a bit wider, but in the end I found a Rory Ross, Rory being of course a contracted form of Roderick (or Ruairidh in Gaelic). He was aged 30 in 1851, marked as a Farmer's Son Constable in Geocrab. His parents were "Archabled" [Archibald] and Mary (nee Shaw), aged 69 and 50 respectively. Rory is shown with siblings John (25), Donald (23) and Margret (20). Their father is a farmer of 6 acres employing no labourer. In 1841, they are living in Strond, with Archibald as a tenant. The family also includes Ann (18) and Catherine (18).

Roderick Ross passed away on 25 May 1893 at the age of 78 after a five-day bout of enteririts.

Donald Morrison presented me with quite a few problems in research. The Napier report quotes him as living at Geocrab, but the Donald Morrison at Geocrab that the census records show up to 1881 in fact passed away in July 1882 - nearly a year before the Commission arrived in Harris. My guess is that the other Donald Morrison from South Harris, who lived in Strond in 1881, could have been the witness at Obbe. However, there is too much uncertainty for me to give his family history.

Edit: I am happy to refer to Direcleit's comment below for an acceptable suggestion for the Donald Morrison referred to here.

Remembering today - 27 March

Lance-Corporal DUNCAN MACMILLAN, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 23 Lemreway, died today in 1915 at the age of 27

Deckhand ANGUS MACLEOD, Royal Navy, late of 12 Benside, died today in 1920

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Napier witnesses: Berneray

On 31 May 1883, two residents of the island of Berneray gave evidence to the Napier Commission at Obbe, now known as Leverburgh. The two men were Malcolm Mcleod and Lachlan Munro. At that time, Berneray (referred to as Bernera in the Napier report) was part of the parish of Harris. Nowadays, it is more closely associated with North Uist.

Malcolm Mcleod, aged 42, was a fisherman, born in 1842 in Berneray. In the 1881 census, he is shown as married to Mary Mcleod, ten years his junior, with children Marion (8), Allan (6), Effy Kate (4), Roderick (2) and Malcolm (4 months).

Malcolm senior is the son of Roderick and Chirsty Macleod of Ruishgarry, which is the farm at the northeastern end of Berneray. He is the second child, with Neil being the eldest brother (as shown in the 1871 census), and Allan (23), Mary Anne (17) and Peggy (14) the younger children. Peggy is shown as Margaret in the 1861 census. Roderick Mcleod can be traced (with some uncertainty) to a visit to Upper Sandwick in Lewis at the time of the 1851 census. He is marked as a tenant at Harris.

Malcolm went on to have Donald, Angus, Christy and Ann by the 1891 census, having 9 of a family whilst being a cottar at Ruishgarry. He ended his days at the district asylum in Inverness, where he passed away on 4 March 1892, aged 50. His cause of death is given as melancholia for 1 year and organic stomach disease for 4 months.

Lachlan Munro(e) has left less of a record in the census returns. He is quoted in the Napier Reports as being about 60. Bearing that in mind, the 1881 census yields a Lachlan Munro who was born in 1819, making him about 64 at the time that he attends the hearings in Obbe. He is shown as married to Margaret, 6 years his junior and being a farmer of 10 acres at Ruishgarry, Bernera, in 1871. Not until we go back to 1851 do we see Lachlan's parentage; at that time, he is still living with his mother Mary, who is quoted as a farmer of about 8 acres. Lachlan's siblings at the time were Malcolm, Euphemia and Alexander. Going back another decade, we encounter a degree of uncertainty when the 1841 census shows Lachlan Munro as an 18-year old at Pabbay, the island northnorthwest of Berneray.

Following the trail of census returns forward in time, we encounter a Lachlan Munro in South Harris in 1891 as a missionary at Borve, married to Margaret. I am not at all sure that this is the same man as the Lachlan Munro in Berneray. The man at Borve, who died on 19 February 1892 aged 75, was a catechist from the Free Church Highland Committee. His mother's name is given as Mary, which would tally with the man above; his father's name, Archibald, is not given in the census returns.

Napier witnesses: Rev Alexander Davidson, Free Church Harris

Rev. Alexander Davidson gave evidence at the Napier Commission's hearing in Obe [Leverburgh] on 31 May 1883. You can read his evidence by clicking on the link on his name. He is the Minister of the Free Church in Harris, and is aged 70 at the time of Lord Napier's visit to his parish.

In his evidence, Rev Davidson says he has been in Harris since 1848, so we can trace him on the census registers. In 1851, he turns up for the first time as a Free Church Probationer in Moy, Inverness-shire, the 38-year old son of William and Margaret Davidson, farmers at Fornbeg, near Moy. Alexander has a sister, Eliza, who is 8 years his senior and a brother, William, who is 10 years younger.

In 1861, Rev Davidson is in the Free Church Manse at Manish, in the Bays area of Harris. He has a young family, Malcom (6), John (2) and Janna Arah (1) with Margaret as a baby of 3 months. A number of domestic and farm helpers also appear at the Manse. A decade later, we find Catherine, Anne and Janet, as well as Alexander (jr) and Thomas Robert added to the family.

In 1881, two years before the Royal Commission came to call, we find that the enumerator, recording the census, was William Davidson, the Minister's son, otherwise employed as a draper. Younger siblings include John (22), a shepherd; scholars Alexander (12), Thomas R (10), Samuel R (7), George (6) and youngest daughter Elizabeth M (2). Christina Mclennan (27) is a general servant in the Free Church Manse, as is Mary Mcmillan (22).

The Minister appears in the census for the last time in 1891, a year before his death. Only his son John is then left at home, as is his youngest daughter Mary Elizabeth, aged 12 by then. Alexander Davidson passed away on 15 July 1892, aged 80, suffering from senile debility. He died only 9 days after his daughter Janet had got married to Tiree man Donald Tulloch Mackay, a Free Church Minister himself (with thanks to fellow researcher Direcleit).

Harris Free Church, based at Leverburgh, remains active to date, and has a website. The Manse at Manish is no longer in use as such. It was built in 1853, and is presently a listed building. A list of Free Church ministers during the 19th century in Harris is given in this post by Direcleit, who has a lot more information on the history of South Harris in his blog.

Friday, 25 March 2011


This village, now derelict, lies 6 miles east of Tarbert, on the shores of Loch Trollamaraig, a mile or two southwest of Reinigeadal. Its last permanent residents left around 1963, leaving two intact homesteads and seven ruins in the valley of the shingley beach by the heathery headland - the translation of Molinginish's proper name.

This post seeks to trace the residents of Molinginish between 1841 and 1891, using census returns. The censes of 1871 and 1901 did not make direct reference to the village. In the other censes, the spelling of its name varied, requiring a bit of lateral thinking and minor detective work.

In 1841, we find the largest number of people in the village, 56. There are two families of Campbells, with Catherine and Roderick having 9 children, and Donald and Marion having 5. Other family names are Mcdonald, Mcinnes, Mckinnon, Mclead [Mcleod?], Mclennan, Mcvay and Morrison. There appear to be 9 houses, or groups of people mentioned together at least. We find tenants, fishermen and agricultural labourers.

The 1851 census makes a clearer distinction between the family groups, but their number has decreased to 5, and the total population of the village is now 34. Only one family of Campbells is present, Roderick and Catherine. The census adds two children to their number, but omits three of the ones that were there in 1841. Their fate is unknown. The Mcdonalds have had 3 more children over the past decade, and the Mcleods 2. There is still a Morrison family, but it would seem it is a different family from 1841. No mention is made of the Mcinnes, Mckinnon, Mclennan or Mcvay families. A Mcdonald couple, John and Janet, has appeared on the scene.

In 1861, we find 32 people in Molinginish, with Roderick and Catherine Campbell heading up the largest family in the village. Several of their children are no longer mentioned, presumably having left for pastures new. A second family of Campbells has settled, but not the ones that were there in 1841. The Mcleods have had two additions to their family, although daughter Rachel, present in 1851, is no longer there. A new family is the Mcaskills, who have 3 daughters and two in-laws in the house. There are now also two families of Mcdonalds, one family being new.

The 1881 census sees a decrease in the population of the village to 23, with 5 families on the roll. Roderick and Catherine Campbell remain, now aged 90 and 80 respectively. A second family of Campbells, different from the ones shown in 1861, now have the largest number of children, 6. Two more Campbell families can be seen in Molinginish at the 1881 census. The only other family name is Mcdonald, Murdo and Flora as a young couple with their young son John, aged 2.

By 1891, the population has decreased further, to 17. There are now 6 families in the village. "Mordo" and Effy Campbell have taken over from his parents at 1 Moliniginish, but neither they, nor Peter and Margaret Campbell at no 2, have a family. The third Campbell family (noted as Compbell on the census) has 5 children, but the mother is not shown.

That the census does not given an accurate picture, and can easily miss out whole families is shown in the case of Angus Campbell and his wife Sarah Mckenzie.

Children of Angus Campbell and Sarah McKenzie are:

Christina Campbell, b. 1849, Molinginish.
Sarah Campbell, b. 1850, Molinginish, d. 1913.
Murdock Campbell, b. 1851, Molinginish, d. 1922.
Duncan Campbell, b. 1853, Molinginish.
Donald Campbell, b. 1857, Molinginish.

The family emigrated to Australia in or after 1857.

A note on Roderick Campbell, who first appears on the census forms of 1841. He was the son of Finlay Campbell, born in 1760 in Teilisnish, Harris, and died 1835. He married Marion McDonald. Finlay was the Game Keeper of the deer forest, and (as is shown in the account at the bottom of this post) was cleared from Teilisnish. The ruins of that particular village can still be found a mile west of Bunavoneadar along the B887 to Huisinis.

Children of Finlay Campbell and Marion McDonald are:

Alexander Campbell, b. 1791, Molinginish, Isle of Harris off Scotland, d. 1863.
Roderick Campbell, b. 1795, Molinginish, d. 1882.
Donald Campbell, b. 1800, Molinginish, d. 1845.
Marion Campbell, b. 1801, Molinginish, d. 1876.

Molinginish gave two of its sons to the Second World War. Donald Alexander Macdermid was lost only a few weeks into the war when his ship, the SS Orsa, hit a mine off Flamborough Head. Kenneth Morrison is only quoted as lost at sea, without further details.

I copy this information, courtesy Simon Fraser:
The village was occupied as part of the large farm of Scalpay and was like Scalpay sparsely occupied until the 19th century. The village was occupied until the early 1820's by shepherds of Campbell the tenant of the tack, or farm of Scalpay. In 1823 the whole population was cleared out of the land on the west of Harris from Bunamhuinneader round to Loch Resort. A family of Campbells, evicted in this clearance from Teilisnis on West Loch Tarbert, were given the lease of Molinginish and moved there with their stock. One or two others came and went, or married in. The population grew rapidly and the village grew to a maximum of about 40 people in the 1880's. While agriculture was the original occupation, it was very much on a subsistence basis. Through time most of the able bodied men became employed in fishing mainly for herring and fished around the mainland coasts. The women when not employed in agriculture dyed wool amnd made tweed for sale. The herring industry died with the First World War and the village seems to have gone onto a long terminal decline from then on although it did not go without a fight. After the war the Board of Agriculture encouraged families in Harris to relocate to Portnalong in Skye where new crofts were established. A number from Molinginish went there. The school was however built in 1921 and continued until 1935 when the authorities withdrew the teacher and paid a lodging allowance for the children to go to Tarbert. The last two occupants were brothers in one house. One died in 1963 or 1964 and the other had to leave then. There is only one person left alive who ever lived there. 

Remembering today - 25 March

King's Sergeant HECTOR MACDONALD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 25 Aignish, died today in 1918 at the age of 23
Private NORMAN MACKINNON, Australians, late of 15 Ranish, died today in 1918 at the age of 30
Private JOHN MACLEOD, Gordon Highlanders, late of 13 Leurbost, died today in 1918 at the age of 20

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Remembering today - 24 March

Sergeant DONALD MACARTHUR, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 1 Kirkibost, Great Bernera, died today in 1918 at the age of 30
Private ALEX MACASKILL, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 1 Arivruaich, died today in 1918 at the age of 31
Private JOHN MACKENZIE, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 11 Arivruaich, died today in 1918

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Remembering today - 23 March

Sapper NORMAN CAMPBELL, Royal Engineers, late of 41 Habost, Ness, died today in 1916 at the age of 27

Corporal HECTOR MACLEOD, South Africans, late of 11 Branahuie, died today in 1917 at the age of 38

Lance-Corporal ALLAN CAMPBELL, Canadians, late of 5 Arnol, died today in 1918 at the age of 33
Seaman KENNETH FINLAYSON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 11 Brue, died today in 1918 at the age of 45
Able Seaman ANGUS MACLEOD, Merchant Navy, late of 7 Maciver's Buildings, Stornoway, died today in 1918 at the age of 19
Corporal JAMES REID WILSON MACLEOD, Cameron Highlanders, late of Croir, Great Bernera, died today in 1918 at the age of 24
Private MALCOLM MACLEOD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 14 Stenish, died today in 1918 at the age of 20
Company Sergeant-Major ALEX SMITH, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 15 Ballantrushal, died today in 1918 at the age of 29

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Remembering today - 22 March

Private JOHN MACDONALD, Canadians, late of 13 Upper Shader, died today in 1916 at the age of 24

Seaman NEIL DONALD BUCHANAN, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 11 Brenish, died today in 1917 at the age of 27

Sergeant FINLAY MACIVER, Yorkshires, late of 54 Lower Barvas, died today in 1918 at the age of 24
Sergeant WILLIAM MATHESON MACIVER, South Africans, late of Green Upper Bayble, died today in 1918 at the age of 36

Private MURDO MACLEAN, Tank Corps, late of 24 Swainbost, died today in 1919 at the age of 20

Monday, 21 March 2011

Dr Charles Mackenzie Macrae

This physician, who practiced in the Isle of Lewis from 1845 until 1906, came to my attention as a result of transcribing the Napier Commission's report from Lewis. He submitted a substantial piece of evidence to the Commission in his capacity of public health officer, which can be read here.

Stornoway Historical Society have an article on Dr Macrae on a page dedicated to the early medical men of Lewis.  He was referred to as the Grand Old Man of Lewis in the dedication page of The History of the Outer Hebrides, by W. C. Mackenzie, which can be read here. Dr Macrae was married to Anabella Jane Mackenzie on 8 June 1855, and had two sons, William Alexander (1856), who went to Portland, Oregon; and Alexander William (1858), who went to India. 

We find the last reference to Dr Macrae in the 1901 census, when he is 82. He is at Barvas Lodge with his wife Annabella J, daughter Annabella,  and grandchildren Charles, Dorothy and Kenneth, aged 7, 5 and 1 respectively. The latter three were all born in Calicut, India, suggesting they were the children of Alexander William.

Three other names appear on the census form, namely
Christina Nicolson (36): a domestic nurse
Catherine Macdonald (27): a domestic servant, born in Uig (Lewis)
Christina Mackay (23): cook

This is his obituary from the British Medical Journal of 15 May 1909.

A VERY old, if not the oldest, member of the medical profession in the north of Scotland, Dr. C. M. Macrae,
of Barvas Lodge, Stornoway, died, at the ripe age of 91, on May 4th. He retired from practice three years ago on account of growing infirmity; and resigned his public -appointments at the same time; one of them-that of medical officer of health for Stornoway-he had held for over sixty years.
Dr. Macrae was an M.D. of Edinburgh University, taking that degree as well as the L.R.C.S.Ed. in 1848. He laboured all his professional life amongst the Lewis islanders, by whom he was highly respected. For a long
period of years he and his colleague (the late Dr. Roderick Millar) had the entire charge of 30,000 inhabitants of the Lewis, scattered over an area of 650 square miles. Dr. Macrae took a deep interest in everything that
toncerned the welfare of the Lewis people. He was an Honorary Sheriff-substitute, a J.P., and for many years
Chairman of the Stornoway School Board. In 1895, on completion of fifty years' practice in the island, he was presented with an illuminated address and purse containing two hundred sovereigns, along with a, silver tray and a tea and coffee service for Mrs. Macrae. He was the author of an article on Lewis in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and had written also on the medical topography of the Outer Hebrides.

Remembering today - 21 March

Seaman EVANDER MACIVER, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 3 Tong, died today in 1915 at the age of 36

Private MURDO MACLEOD, Gordon Highlanders, late of 6 Vatisker, died today in 1917 at the age of 23

Private KENNETH MACLEOD, Royal Field Artillery, late of 32 North Shawbost, died today in 1918

Saturday, 19 March 2011


I am continuing my little series about vessels in port around the Isle of Lewis at the time of the 1901 census. I was quite surprised to find 68 names in the census return for men on board vessels at Carloway. This village on the west coast of Lewis, has a pier and is a fishing port. Nowadays, there is not much going on around the pier there. 110 years ago, it was a veritable hive of activity.

Or appeared to be. The census enumerators, who wrote up the returns, made a breathtaking mess of the east coast fishermen at Carloway. The total number of names is actually 35, meaning that with one exception, they are all written up twice. I shall endeavour to disentangle the web of confusion.

On that night of March 31st / April 1st, 1901, there are four fishing vessels at Carloway. These are:

White Queen,
Johanna Petrie

The confusion starts when the men are counted more than once in any of the following locations
1. On board their vessel
2. At the quay in Carloway
3. On board their vessel in Loch Carloway

Worse than that, several of the men from the Glenalva are counted with another vessel when ashore at the quay. Some of the names are suffixed with BF 348, which could refer to the vessel's registration. This tallies with the fishing vessel Onward, which carried the BF 348 registration from 1879. However, that name does not appear on the census forms.

All this means that they are counted under different "Household schedules".

Schedule 80: Consolation
Schedule 81: Glenalva
Schedule 82: Johanna Petrie; White Queen, at Carloway Pier or in Loch Carloway
Schedule 83: White Queen; Johanna Petrie in Loch Carloway
Schedule 84: Consolation at Carloway Quay

Well, that is enough to turn anyone's head. Let's clear this up and bring each crew member to his boat.

White Queen
Peter Buchan, 28, St Combs
Joseph Buchan, 48, Buchanhaven, Master
John Buchan, 30, St Combs
Robert Buchan, 23, St Combs
William Cormack, 39, Banff - also quoted with Glenalva
Alexander Glass, 25, Aberdeen, ship's engineer
William Mason, 40, Kincardineshire, fireman
Peter Reed, 45, Burnhaven, Mate
Andrew Strachan, 37, Inverlochy, Cook
William Strachan, 25, Inverlochy

George Bruce, 49, Portnockie
William George (or Wiliam J. ) Bruce, 22, Banff
William Innes (or William James), 36, Portnockie
John Mair Johns, 36, Portnockie
James Mair, 34, 6 Fountain Street, Banff - also quoted with Glenalva and BF 348
Alexander Mair, 21, Portnockie - also quoted with BF 348
James Wood Reid, 31, Peterhead, Master
Francis Slater, 48, Portknockie, Mate
George Slater, 19, Portknockie
Francis Slater, 16, Portknockie, Cook
Alexander Watt, 40, Fraserburgh, also quoted with Glenalva
John Watt, 19, Banff - also quoted with BF 348
Alexander Wood, 39, Portessie
William Wood, 39, Portknockie - also quoted with Glenalva and BF 348John Wood, 20, Banff, - also quoted with Glenalva and BF 348

Johanna Petrie
John Buchan, 44, St Combs, Master
Charles Buchan, 38, St Combs, Mate
Andrew Buchan, 24, St Combs
William Davidson, 37, Aberdeen, engineer
Andrew Duthie, 37, Inverlochy
Gilbert Duthie, 27, Inverlochy
Charles Fait (or Fax), 27, Inverlochy
Alexr Milne, 35, Peterhead

Alexander Mair, 27, Portknockie
Alexander Watt, 40, Banff also quoted with Consolation
William Wood, 39, Portknockie, Master also quoted with Consolation and BF 348
John Wood, 22, Banff also quoted with BF 348


This vessel is proving enigmatic for me. She was in Stornoway harbour at the time of the 1901 census, during the night of 31st March / 1st April. Only three men are quoted on board, namely:

John Bain, master, aged 34, Stornoway
Allan Mcleod, mate, aged 32, Stornoway
D Mcdonald, ordinary seaman, aged 20, Stornoway

Although there was a Royal Navy ship, HMS Rambler, in service around 1901, it was in port in Malta on the night of the census. HMS Rambler was built in 1879, and saw service in China, the Boer War and the Mediterranean, finally to be sold in 1907. The nature of the Rambler in Stornoway is presently a mystery. Any further info of course welcome.


A vessel of that name was in Stornoway harbour at the time of the 1901 Census, on the night of 31st March / 1st April. She was probably the Macbrayne ferry plying between Kyle of Lochalsh and Stornoway. An image of the vessel docked at Kyle can be viewed on this page on the Am Baile website. There is also an extensive history of the ship on the same page, to which I refer.

On that night in 1901, there were 27 members of crew on board.
When going back through the previous censes, it is noticeable that several crewmembers had shorebound occupations before going to sea. One was a carpenter, another was a tailor. As they originated outside the Outer Hebrides, further perusal of this subject lies outwith the remit of this blog.

John Allan 58, fireman, Glasgow
John Mackinlay 27, 2nd officer, Glasgow
Theodore Sobenson 49, chief engineer, Norwegian
Neil MacCaig 21, 2nd engineer, Glasgow
Archd Macculloch 43, AB seaman, South Knapdale, Argyll
Robert Urquhart 50, AB seaman, Gairloch, Rossshire
Malcolm Macdougall 23, AB seaman, Tobermory [Mull], Argyll
Alexr Mackinnon 24, seaman, Strath, Inverness
Angus Nicolson 58, AB seaman, Portree, Inverness
Lachlan Buie 38, AB seaman, Small Isles [Jura], Argyll

Andrew Munro 46, AB seaman, Snizort [Skye], Inverness
George McTuilkan 28, AB seaman, Tarbert, Argyll
John Maclean 55, seaman, Portree, Inverness
John Fullerton 36, donkey man, Arran, Bute
John Cameron 49, fireman, Tiree, Argyll
Kenneth Macdonald 31, fireman, Kilmuir, Inverness
Wm J Diamond 35, fireman, Glasgow
John Allan 58, fireman, Glasgow
James L Masson 44, purser, Inverness
John Fisher 21, asst purser, Ardchattan Muckairn, Argyll
Mary Brown 44, stewardess, Gairloch, Ross
Angus Campbell, 64, master mariner, Tarbert, Argyll
Charles Harkness, 26, steward, Port Glasgow, Renfrew
William Irvine, 23, asst stewart, Glasgow
Donald MacTavish, 26, chief officer, North Knapdale, Argyll
Wm Timpson, 21, steward, Glasgow
Thomas Wattling, 40, cook, Edinburgh
Walter Weir, 15, steward, Greenock

Remembering today - 19 March

Private HECTOR MACLEOD, Cameron Highlanders, late of 84 Keith Street, Stornoway, died today in 1916 at the age of 28

Friday, 18 March 2011

SS Coverdale

Fellow researcher Direcleit has looked extensively into the census forms for Lewis and Harris, and I am quite happy to refer you to his blog for some of his work with the census returns.

I have done a little bit for my research into WW1 and its impact on the Lewis contingent. This evening I came across the census record for Stornoway, under the heading of Vessels. The address is given as Stornoway Outer Harbour. There are several vessels in port, with their name used for an enumeration district. One of them was the John Coverdale. I shall highlight others in days to come.

The SS John Coverdale was operated by Coverdale & Co of West Hartlepool (Sunderland) from 1899 until 1911. In that year, the steamer was sold to Maclay & Mcintyre of Glasgow for £14,500. They operated the vessel as SS Kassanga. She was torpedoed in the Irish Sea on 20 March 1918 by U-103, at position 52.27N, 05.26W, between Wexford in Ireland and Aberystwyth in Wales. The Kassanga had been en-route from Glasgow with a cargo of coal. No life was lost.

In Stornoway, 17 years earlier, the John Coverdale was recorded with the following crew:

George Dixon, 46, Master, England
Alfred Olsen, 47, 1st Mate, foreign subject (Sweden)
Wm Bromley 24, 2nd Mate, England
G A T Dixon 25, 3rd Mate, England
T Lawrie 44, Cook, Leith (Mid Lothian)
G Jaben 30, AB (seaman), foreign subject (Holland)
T Hutchinson 21, AB (seaman), Leith (Mid Lothian)
A Groat 24, AB (seaman), Westray (Orkney)
D Groat 22, AB (seaman), Edinburgh
T Hughes 29, AB (seaman), Wales
J W Bulman 31, 1st Engineer, England
J Airey 25 2nd Engineer, England
T Sweeting 26, 3rd Engineer, England
Ra Pease 21, 4th Engineer, England
J Campbell 49, Fireman, Leith (Mid Lothian)
A Carter 28, Fireman, US
O Stanke 25, Fireman, foreign subject, Germany
R Lord 18, Mess Room Boy, Leith (Mid Lothian)
J Fernie 31, Steward, Musselburgh (Mid Lothian)
T Luttle 20, AB (seaman), Barbados
W A Olsen 22, AB (seaman), foreign subject (Sweden)
R Waterson 18, Ordinary seaman, England
J Anson 46, carpenter, England
J Boyle 32, fireman, Ireland
J Matthew 32, fireman, Ireland
G Cannon 27, fireman, England
P Lohirra 27, fireman, foreign subject (Germany)

These losses speak of the gallantry of all ranks

The date is 11 April 1917, and the war diary of the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders gives a precise and dispassionate account of an attack on the Hyderabad Redoubt near Fampoux, northern France. Heavy machine gun fire resulted in losses amounting to 364 out of a total strength of 432. Six out of the 364 were from Lewis, and are mentioned on this page.

Remembering today - 18 March

Private KENNETH J MACLEAN, Gordon Highlanders, late of 33 Church Street, Stornoway, died today in 1919

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Remembering today - 17 March

Private JOHN MACDONALD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 6 Aird Tong, died today in 1915 at the age of 22

Private NORMAN MACIVER, Cameron Highlanders, late of 21 Arnol, died today in 1916 at the age of 21

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Remembering today - 16 March

Serjeant MURDO MACIVER, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 14B Breasclete, died today in 1917 at the age of 23
Private NORMAN MORRISON, Gordon Highlanders, late of 10 South Dell, died today in 1917 at the age of 23

Private MURDO MACKENZIE, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, late of 16 Port of Ness, died today in 1918 at the age of 30

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Remembering today - 15 March

Seaman JOHN CAMPBELL, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 13 Aird, died today in 1915 at the age of 33

Monday, 14 March 2011

Trench warfare

I have completed the transcriptions for 1916 from the war diaries of the 2nd battalion Seaforth Highlanders, and the last few entries were quite revealing as to conditions on the ground. What was also quite striking was the lack of progress on the ground. From July 1st until December, the battalion moved in the area between Beaumont-Hamel and Sailly-Saillisel, a distance of about 10 miles.

The accounts also mention the mud and the atrocious state of the trenches, sometimes not affording any cover at all. One day, 14 men were lost when they were filling in old trenches, because they hit live ammunition in the ground.

Remembering today - 14 March

Private KENNETH N MACDONALD, Canadians, late of 5 Plantation Road, Stornoway, died today in 1915 at the age of 35

Gunner ANGUS MACIVER, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 3 Aird, died today in 1917 at the age of 41
Private MALCOLM MACKENZIE, Machine Gun Corps, late of 1 Aird Uig, died today in 1917 at the age of 36
Lance-Corporal NORMAN MACKINNON, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, late of 67 (Halfway House) Balallan, died today in 1917 at the age of 30

4th Engineer WILLIAM MACLEAN, Merchant Navy, late of 25 Francis Street, Stornoway, died today in 1918 at the age of 31
Engineer WILLIAM MACLEAN, Merchant Navy, late of 3 Newton Street, Stornoway, died today in 1918 at the age of 30

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Battle of Somme

I have just transcribed the war diary from the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, who fought at the battle of the Somme. They were engaged near Beaumont-Hamel, and made no real progress that first day. Their losses were substantial, more than 70 men and officers. Reading the war diary, it strikes me how the emphasis lies with the officers, not so much with the men. Although those that merited a distinction (a medal) are singled out.

Twenty men from Lewis were lost on that first day, 1 July 1916, fifteen of whom served with the 2nd Seaforths. Losses among all British forces stacked up to 60,000. And what did it achieve? No more than 7 miles of terrain gained.

Remembering today - 12 March

Sergeant MALCOLM MACAULAY, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 30 Balallan, died today in 1915 at the age of 27
Sergeant MALCOLM MACAULAY, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 8 Kershader, died today in 1915 at the age of 27
Private SAMUEL MACDONALD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 8 Aird Tong, died today in 1915 at the age of 23

Friday, 11 March 2011

Remembering today - 11 March

Seaman GEORGE GRAHAM, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 1 Flesherin, died today in 1915 at the age of 30
Private MURDO MACAULAY, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 34 Gelir, died today in 1915 at the age of 20
Private JOHN MACKENZIE, Gordon Highlanders, late of 25 Leurbost, died today in 1915 at the age of 26
Private RODERICK MACLEOD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 37 North Shawbost, died today in 1915
Seaman DONALD MURRAY, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 4 North Tolsta, died today in 1915 at the age of 43
Private DONALD MURRAY, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 12 Coll, died today in 1915 at the age of 46
Seaman RODERICK SMITH, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 20 South Bragar, died today in 1915 at the age of 28

Thursday, 10 March 2011


That was the heading for a page in the war diary for the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders. Upon reading it, I was horrified. I mean, I understand the necessity for keeping track of the manpower of a military unit, and how it increases or decreases. To refer to it as wastage rankles a bit with these 21st century eyes. But that is of course not correct either; my attitude towards history is to view it through the eyes of the time. And during the Great War, a man's life was not worth much.

Wastage for Month of November 1915
Officers Other ranks
Decrease Increase Decrease Increase
Killed + missing - - 4 -
To Hospital, sick 3 - 100 -
To Hospital, wounded - - 14

(1 died)
From Hospital - 1 - 40
Reinforcements - - - 14
Others - - 6 -
TOTAL 3 1 124 54
Net: 2 Net: 70

Remembering today - 10 March

Private MALCOLM MACKENZIE, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 8 Carloway, died today in 1915 at the age of 34
Private RODERICK MACLEOD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 5 Lundale, died today in 1915 at the age of 19
Lance-Corporal ROBERT MORRISON, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 37 Breasclete, died today in 1915 at the age of 20

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

To be remembered

I have tracked down a third WW1 casualty from Lewis who is not recognised by CWGC but should be. My contact with the IFCP (In From the Cold Project) sounded very enthusiastic when I flagged this up, and I shall be ordering a death certificate or the man's service record for confirmation. This has to come from New Zealand, but thanks to the Internet that is no problem whatsoever. Although the process takes several months, I am looking forward to announcing that the man, described below, will be coming in from the cold as well.

Lance Corporal ANGUS MACIVER
Aonghas, Mac Aoinghais Mhic Ruairidh Mhic Mhurchaidh Oig
Last address in Lewis: 25 North Tolsta,
Service unit: New Zealanders
Service number: 49644
Date of death: 1916 at the age of 36
Local memorial: North Tolsta
Served in Gallipoli. Invalided to New Zealand and died there

Monday, 7 March 2011

Remembering today - 7 March

Quarter-master Serjeant ANGUS MACKAY, Royal Army Service Corps, late of 31 Valtos, died today in 1918 at the age of 49

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Remembering today - 6 March

Private JOHN MURRAY, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 27 South Dell, died today in 1915 at the age of 21

Corporal COLIN MACIVER, Gordon Highlanders, late of 62 North Tolsta, died today in 1916 at the age of 26

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Roll of Honour

Over the four years that I have been working on the listings of Lewis-born casualties from the Great War, I have reached the conclusion that Loyal Lewis Roll of Honour 1914-1918 is a valuable document; but not as reliable as made out by some. Another example emerged today, in the shape of the information on Robert Stewart, late of 4 Scotland Street, Stornoway. His date of death is listed as 16 February 1915; but all the available information points to a Robert Stewart who died of wounds on 24 November 1914. I could publish a list of discrepancies between the Roll of Honour and my findings, but that would not serve much useful purpose. Neither am I claiming that my publication, Faces from the Lewis War Memorial, is devoid of errors. I would like to think though that I am working to eliminate as many errors as possible using whatever sources come to hand.

Last address in Lewis: 4 Scotland Street, Stornoway
Brother of Mrs. Annie MacKay, of 82, North Watson St., Glasgow. Son of Alexander and Christina Stewart of 2 Holm or Garden Road, Stornoway
Service unit: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3/7057
Date of death: 24 November 1914 at the age of 18
Died of wounds
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial; Nicolson WW1 memorial, right panel
Was called up at the start of the war.

Remembering today - 5 March

Seaman DONALD MORRISON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 41 South Shawbost, died today in 1916 at the age of 42

Seaman NORMAN MACLEAN, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 19 North Bragar, died today in 1917 at the age of 28

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Lewismen from the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders

I am compiling a new site, dedicated to the memory of those Lewismen who fell whilst serving with the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders during the First World War. It will follow the progress of the unit right through the war, and consists of transcripts from the War Diary for the 2nd Seaforths supplemented by maps and tributes to the Fallen. The first casualty, Angus Paterson, was only 18 when he died on 15 September 1914, caught out in the open during an artillery bombardment on the positions east of Soissons. Although he is listed at 5 Upper Barvas, his family connections point to the Mission House at Geshader in Uig. I hope to devote a separate post to that.

No coincidence - Seaforth Cemetery

Cheddar Villa cemetery, later renamed Seaforth Cemetery, was the scene of heavy fighting in April 1915, during the battle for St Julien [St Juliaan] northeast of Ieper / Ypres. Here are 16 burials for men from the Isle of Lewis, who were all killed between April 23rd and April 27th, 1915. They were all in the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, of whom more than 100 are buried at Seaforth Cemetery. The names of the Lewis casualties are:

3/7329 Pte Alex Don Graham (19), 34 Benside
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 21).

3/7218 Pte Donald Maciver, 13 Vatisker
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 29).

104 Cpl Alex Dan Macleod (22), 38 Point Street, Stornoway, son of Donald and Isabella
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 32).

3/6755 Pte John Macaulay (23), 4 Hacklet, Great Bernera, son of John and C. Macaulay,
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 38).

3/6411 Pte Donald Macgregor (35), 12B Tolsta Chaolais, son of Murdo and Annie
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 39)

3/7108 L/Cpl Dugald Mackenzie (21), 36 Eoropie,
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 44).

9328 Sgt Alex Montgomery (28), 5 Sheshader
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 53).

3/7220 Pte Murdo Morrison (19), 31 Cross
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 57)

9258 Cpl Angus Macleod (25), 43 Ranish, Son of Leod Macleod
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 6).

3/7402 Pte John Smith (19), 19 Habost, Ness
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 63).

3/6697 Pte Donald Mackay (27), 27 Arnol, son of Norman Mackay
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 67).

3/6688 Pte Finlay Mackay (24), 18 Carloway, son of Donald and Isabella
Grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 68).

3/6923 Pte Donald Mackenzie (23), 3 Knockaird, son of Donald and Henrietta.
Grave B.1. (Headstone "A" 41)

3/6806 Pte Kenneth Macleod (21), 14 Sheshader
Grave C. 3

3/6810 L/Cpl Malcolm Macaskill (22), 3 Kirivick, son of Norman.
Grave C. 7

No coincidence - Rosières

Rosières-en-Santerre was (once more) the location of heavy fighting in August 1918, according to CWGC's record for this location. All three Lewismen buried in the Communal Cemetery extension were serving with the 2nd Canadian Division and died on 9th, 10th and 11th August 1918, i.e. in the same battle. They had all joined the Canadian forces from British Columbia, two of them voluntarily, one under the military draft.

2137501 Pte Angus Norman Murray (aged 34), 17 South Dell, husband of Edith Murray
29th Canadian Infantry (British Columbia Regiment)
Enlisted at Victoria BC in October 1917; resident of Portland, Oregon, USA
Date of death: 9 August 1918
Grave I. C. 10

2021278 Pte John Macphail, (aged 30), 11 North Bragar, son of Angus and Annie Macphail
72nd Canadian Infantry (British Columbia Regiment)
Drafted in at Trail BC in January 1918
Date of death: 10 August 1918
Grave III. A. 26

77635 Sgt Alex John Morrison (aged 30), 13 East Street, Sandwick, son of John and Catherine
16th Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)
Enlisted at Victoria BC in October 1914
Date of death: 11 August 1918
Grave III. C. 18

No coincidence - Houplines

Houplines is a small town east of Armentières on the border between France and Belgium. Three of the burials at the Communal Cemetery extension are for Lewismen from the 2nd battalion Seaforth Highlanders who fell when the town was first taken in October 1914. They are all buried in section II. D.:

6401 Sgt Norman Campbell (aged 35), 37 Gelir, died 20 October 1914, grave 10
6533 Pte Donald Macdonald (aged 38), 13 Habost (Ness), Son of Angus and Catherine, died 22 October 1914, grave 21.
6946 Pte Aulay Macaulay (aged 32), 32 Breasclete, died 20 October 1914, grave 5.

Remembering today - 3 March

Seaman ALEX MACRAE, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 10 Aignish, died today in 1916 at the age of 25

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Remembering today - 2 March

Private NORMAN MACKAY, Gordon Highlanders, late of 1 Upper Bayble, died today in 1916 at the age of 25
Private DONALD MACLEOD, Gordon Highlanders, late of 39B Ranish, died today in 1916 at the age of 18
Private COLIN NICOLSON, Canadians, late of 20 Upper Bayble, died today in 1916 at the age of 21

Leading Deckhand JOHN MACAULAY, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 7 Islivig, died today in 1918 at the age of 37

I shall observe a minute's silence at 7pm (1900 GMT) this evening in memory of John Macaulay and the other Lewis casualties from the First World War. Please feel free to join me from a distance.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Now commemorated - update

I reported in a posting last December that Finlay Mclean, late of 4 North Street, Sandwick, was accepted for entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission register. His last resting place was not known, but I received news today that his grave is located in the Lambhill Cemetery in Glasgow. A CWGC gravestone will now, in due course, be erected over his grave. Up to now, his name was going to be entered on a memorial in southern England for all those whose grave is unknown. It is much better that a commemorative stone will be placed over Finlay's actual grave, in Glasgow.

95 years ago today

1 March 1916 - Groningen, Holland
The 1,500 men of the Royal Naval Division have been interned in this city in the north of Holland since late 1914. Among the 100 men from the Isle of Lewis is Donald Macleod. He was born in the village of Gearrannan near Carloway in December 1891. Donald was in the 1st Royal Naval Division, Benbow Battallion. His former schoolmaster at the Nicolson Institute, Mr Gibson, wrote him a Christmas card at the camp in December 1915. Donald replied on 2nd January 1916, extending best wishes to teachers and pupils at his school. He also expressed the wish that Holland would go to war, which would release his companions in Benbow Battallion and himself back into service for Great Britain.

On 1 March 1916, Donald was lying ill with pleurisy in the University Hospital in Groningen. He would not last the day.
A collection was held among the burghers of Groningen to buy a huge Celtic cross, out of sympathy with this lad of only 24, who died so far away from home. His mates from D company, Benbow Battallion have organised a huge wreath, in the shape of an anchor.

On passing along Groningen's main street, people stop and bare their heads. Shopworkers stand outside their premises, residents outside their doors, including maids and servants. The cortege finally pulls up at the Southern Cemetery, where Donald is laid to rest.

Donald's wish was not to be granted. Benbow,Drake, Collingwood and Hawke Battallions were to remain interned until the Armistice, in November 1918. Those that returned to the island after the war would not readily speak of their experiences. They felt it a matter of shame that they had led the 'cushy life' of an internment camp, where their fathers, brothers and sons had fought and died in the trenches or in the North Atlantic.

Two more Lewismen would not return home, but lie buried at Groningen: John MacLeay, of Shader, Barvas and John Smith of Lower Bayble. A fourth, Angus MacLeod of Portnaguran, was discharged home for being unfit for service. He died at Plymouth of pulmonary tuberculosis. 

Donald Macleod's portrait courtesy Mairi M. Macritchie
Funeral pictures, as attributed on the images above
The full story of HMS Timbertown is told on this site, hosted by Menno Wielinga.

Remembering today - 1 March

Private JOHN CAMPBELL, Cameron Highlanders, late of 10 Upper Garrabost, died today in 1915 at the age of 17
Seaman DONALD MACAULAY, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 7A Tolsta Chaolais, died today in 1915 at the age of 30
Private MALCOLM MACDONALD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 11 Kirkibost, Great Bernera, died today in 1915 at the age of 23

Seaman DONALD MACLEOD, Royal Naval Division, late of 4 Garenin, died today in 1916 at the age of 24