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.

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