Monday, 9 May 2011

Prince Alfred visits Stornoway

Prince Alfred was the third Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and lived from 6 August 1844 until 30 July 1900. During his long stint in the British Royal Navy, he served on HMS Raccoon as it visited Stornoway on 16 July 1863. The Wellington Indepent of 8 October 1863 carried a relayed account of the event.

Her Majesty's Ship Racoon, having Prince Alfred on board, arrived at Stornoway, on a most beautiful evening, on the 16th July, soon after 8 o'clock, and the entrance of the majestic frigate to the bay was the signal for a most enthusiastic display of loyalty. The volunteers manned the battery, and fired a royal salute, the shipping dressed in the gayest of bunting, while throughout the town, and at Lews Castle, the seat of Sir James and Lady Matheson, and the picturesque eminences in the neighbourhood surrounding it, flags floated in the breeze in honor of the royal visitor. At night, the castle was brilliantly illuminated, and to the west of it, on a conspicuous hill overlooking the harbour, a bonfire blazed till the break of day. On the Racoon coming to an anchor, Mr Pithie, the Collector of Customs, and the Postmaster, went on board with the mails; and afterwards, Sir James went to pay his respects to the Prince,, who was graciously pleased to accept an invitation to pass the following day at the castle. With royal punctuality, he went on shore at the South Beach, on Friday morning at half-past 9 o'clock, accompanied by Major Cowell, and was received by Sir James Matheson, Sheriff Macdonald and other respectable inhabitants, amid loud cheers and drove off to the castle to breakfast. The Stornoway volunteers, commanded by Captain Munro, formed a guard of honor. The forenoon was spent in driving over the pelasure grounds around the castle, and a fishing excursion to the neighbourhood. In the afternoon, his Royal Highness visited the town, and as he walked the streets was repeated cheered. In the evening there was a general illumination, and a dance was given at the castle, to which the commander (Captain Count Gleichen), the officers of the Racoon, and a numerous party from Stornoway were invited. Shortly after midnight his Royal Highness announced his intention of retiring. The band then played the National Anthem, and, taking leaving of the host and hostess, his Royal Highness left the castle amid great cheering. While the Racoon was in the harbor, she was inspected by a number of the inhabitants who were treated by all on board with the greatest courtesy and consideration. Having taken in a supply of coals, she got up steam and bore away for Skye on Saturday morning about 7 o'clock.
[end of article]

Fellow researcher Direcleit has written about the various collectors of taxes at Stornoway during the 19th century. I shall highlight the collector referred to in the article above.

Mr Michael B Pithie lived at 6 Kenneth Street in the town. At the time of the 1861 census, he was aged 49. He was married to Cecilia (46) and had three children, Stien [Christina?] (12), Jemima (10) and Janet C (5). The couple originated from Kirkcaldy in Fife. In 1851, the family is residing in Francis Street, Stornoway, and have five children. In 1881, we find Michael B Pitties [sic] and his wife Cecilia returned to 5 High Street, Kirkcaldy, still a collector of customs.

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