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.

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