Sunday, 23 October 2011

The January snowstorm of 1881

The Glasgow Herald, 24 January 1881, issue 20

Our Stornoway correspondent telegraphs as follows on Friday night regarding the effects of the snowstorm in the Lewis:

The storm which we are no experiencing is the most severe which has been felt here for upwards of twenty years. The fall of snow is very great, and in some places, the wreaths [drifts] are from eight to ten feet deep, and the roads are scarcely passable. The post runner between Tarbet, Harris, and Stornoway, a distance of 34 miles, left the former place early on Wednesday on horseback with the mails, and only arrived this evening, thus taking three days instead of one for the journey. The depth of snow in some places was 12 feet. Several houses were snowed up on the outskirts of Stornoway, and in some instances the inmates had to be cut out.

The cold is most intense, 23 degrees of frost [-5C] being registered today. The weather is clear, with the barometer registering as high as 31½ degrees [1065 mbar]. On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, it blew a perfect hurricane, with blinding showers of snow. The mail steamer was forced to put back on Wednesday, after proceeding about ten miles, and the steamer Princes Alice, from Liverpool to the East Coast, was detained here thirty hours by the storm. The barque Elizabeth, of Inverness, which left on the 15th, put back today, having encountered terrific weather. She got as far as Dunnet Head.

There is much destitution and great scarcity of fuel among the poor, and relief committees have been formed for the purpose of supplying coals among the poor and opening a soup kitchen for their benefit. On the mainland the mails are repeatedly detained  by the snow, being carried between Garve and Ullapool by a sledge.

Malcolm Morison, Dalibragh, South Uist, while going to see his brother, residing at Kilphager, wander in the snow on to the ice on a freshwater loch and fell in. He was rescued by some people who heard his cries, but he died shortly afterwards. On Tuesday last a woman named Mackary, with her Donald, while crossing the moor from Knock Queen to Loch Eport, North Uist, got exhausted. The man went for assistance, but was too much exhausted to accompany the parties who went to aid his mother. On their going to the moor they could not find the woman, and her body was afterwards discovered buried in the snow, life being extinct. In the Uist, the weather is described as the most severe experienced there for many years, the snow on the roads in some places being six feet deep. Sheep are lying on the hills, and hand-feeding with fodder is quite common. Many sheep are found buried in the snow.

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