Thursday, 23 August 2012

Campbells, 16 Habost, Ness

Donald Macsween very kindly gave me permission to use this image of medals, recently retrieved from a house in Habost. They commemorate the deaths of two of his great-granduncles, Malcolm and Angus Campbell, during the First World War.


Last address in Lewis: 16 Habost, Ness,
Son of Finlay and Marghed McLean Campbell, of 16, Habost, Port of Ness, Stornoway.
Service unit: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: C/7174
Date of death: 9 May 1915 at the age of 20
Killed in action at Neuve Chapelle
Memorial: Le Touret Memorial, Panel 38 and 39
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross


Last address in Lewis: 16 Habost, Ness,
Service unit: 2nd Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3/7204
Date of death: 24 May 1915
Killed in action
Memorial: Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, panel 38
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Norman Maclean, 5 Vatisker

Last address in Lewis: 5 Vatisker,
Son of Donald Maclean, of 5, Vatisker Back, Stornoway.
Service unit: 4th Highland Mountain Bde, Royal Garrison Artillery
Service number: 4335
Enlisted at Stornoway

Date of death: 18 May 1915 at the age of 22
Died in Egypt
Interred: Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery, grave L. 194
Mentioned on family gravestone in Gress Cemetery, Lewis
Local memorial: Back; Nicolson Institute WW1, middle panel

Norman was 19 years and 6 months old when he enlisted on 29 April 1912. He was sent to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 19 March 1915. He arrived at Alexandria, Egypt on 2 April, and proceeded to Gallipoli on April 8th. On 7 May 1915, he was admitted to hospital in Gallipoli for a nervous breakdown. His death, according to official records, was caused by acute religious mania.

Norman is shown on the 1901 census aged 8, the son of Donald (56) and Ann (50) and brother to Catherine (25), Mary (17), Kenneth (13) and Alexander (11). By the time Norman died in Egypt, his parents had both passed away within days of each other in 1907, and his brother Alexander had drowned a few weeks after the death of his parents. Although pre-dating the birth of Norman in 1893, the 1891 census also reveals two elder sisters, Henrietta (11) and Ann (9).

His brother Kenneth served in the RNR and survived the war.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


I was recently shown a navigational chart for Stornoway Harbour, which dates back to 1919. Modifications were entered on the chart, to show (e.g.) the causeway to Goat Island. However, there were a few features on the chart that no longer exist today. The most prominent changes are on the Arnish Peninsula. The construction of the Fabrication Yard there in the 1970s changed the landscape beyond recognition.

This first image is from the early 20th century, showing Arnish House (Kildun Farm), which was demolished in the mid 1970s. A most intrigueing feature is the smearing house at the neck of the peninsula, which I will describe a little later in this post. The hill immediately northwest of the neck of the peninsula, height 77 ft, was partly bulldozed out of existence. In fact, the hill on which Kildun Cottage once stood has been removed and is now occupied by the Fabrication Yard.

The smearing house was the place where the sheep were smeared. Nowadays, to combat infestations by parasites, sheep are dipped with chemicals. Until recently, organophosphates were used. At the start of the 20th century, a mixture of salt butter and tar was used for applying onto the sheep. Tobar an Dualchais have published a recording from 1964 about the practice. In summary, groups of men went round the Highlands and Islands to smear the sheep, a dirty practice by all accounts, and great stories were told in the smearing sheds.