Monday, 11 April 2011

Occupation: vagrant

In the 1851 census, we see 825 people in Scotland whose occupation is marked as Vagrant. In later censuses, the numbers of vagrants across Scotland hovered between 200 and 300.

In law, vagrancy is described as the state or action of one who has no established home and drifts from place to place without visible or lawful means of support.  In the 19th century, a vagrant was thought to be one who was able to work for his maintenance but preferred instead to live idly, often as a beggar. 

In 1851, the potato famine was barely over. Thousands of people had been driven to extreme poverty and starvation in Ireland and mainland Britain, often losing their livelihood and home in the process. To describe these unfortunates as Vagrants is harsh, although not strictly speaking inaccurate. We also see vagrants as inmates of the Glasgow Poor House (numbering about 100) - and it is quite noticeable, again upon glancing up and down the list - how many of those people described as Vagrants in Scotland were listed as coming from Ireland.

In the Outer Hebrides, we find ten vagrants in the Isle of Harris, and one in the Isle of Sandray (Barra).
Parish 111, Harris, had ten people listed as vagrant. It is not possible for me to verify whether they  actually really were vagrants

Marien Mac Lollan (50), mother-in-law, place of birth unknown, formerly farmer's wife. Lived with a family of Macdonalds at Drinishader.

Marion Macaulay (35) is a sister of Alexander Macaulay in Scadabay, living in a family of 10.

Catharine MacDond (8) "said to be a tenant's daughter", living with a family of Macdonalds at Cluer

Catharine Macinnes (77), living with a family of Mclellans at Kendibig

Donald Mackay (70), visiting a family of Mackays at Grosebay. He is a retired cotton merchant

Marion Martin (12), the daughter of Duncan and Ann Martin at Scadabay.

John Mclean (50), formerly a shepherd, living with Mary Mclean at Meavag. No relationship is indicated between these two.

Christian Mclellan (58), "a tenant's wife", visiting Lecklie and staying with a family of Macdonalds

Mary Mclellan (14), "a tenant's wife", visiting Lecklie and staying with a family of Macdonalds.
I seriously doubt whether Mary was "a tenant's wife" at her age. I think that the enumerator has ditto'd once too many here 
Marion Mcleod (12), visiting a family of Mcleods at Scadabay.

It is noticeable that all these people live in the empoverished Bays area of Harris.

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