Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Mathesons


Photographed in September 2006 at Cuddy Point, the plaque dates from 1869, commemorating the silver wedding anniversary of Sir James Matheson and Anne Mary Perceval, held at Lews Castle. After he died in 1878, she erected a commemorative cupola on the hill above, which was restored in 2005, and pictured in February the following year. The Lewis climate is not kind. Neither is history universally kind on Sir James and Lady Anne. Sir James employed a number of managers who regarded some of the people in the island as so much lumber (read: 1851). Others took advantage of Sir James's absence to abuse their position and wear 32 official hats at the same time, some of which were incompatible with being worn by the same person at the same time (see A Shilling for your Scowl). On the other hand, Sir James can be credited with pushing for some economic developments in Lewis. One of Lady Anne's achievements is mouldering away on Keith Street in Stornoway; the Female Industrial School. Her disputes with crofters in Lochs are well recorded in the Napier Report of 1883.

Lady Matheson Memorial


Female Industrial School, Scotland Street / Keith Street, Stornoway

Norge and Titanic


The plaque can be found in the Stornoway ferry terminal, and tells the story of the SS ‪Norge‬. The gravestone is located in the Old Sandwick Cemetery, and is dedicated to the memory of the nine who were landed in ‪#Stornoway‬ but did not survive. Did you know there is a link with RMS ‪‎Titanic‬, which sank on 14 April 1912, with the loss of about 1500 lives? The inquiry that followed the sinking of the Norge concluded that insufficient life-saving apparatus had been on the ship for all on board - 700 drowned for lack of lifeboats etc. It was recommended that all ships should carry sufficient liferafts, lifeboats etc for all on board. But these recommendations were never acted upon at the time. Had they been made compulsory (as they were after the Titanic, in the ‪SOLAS‬ regulations), Titanic's sinking would not have led to the catastrophic loss of life.

We remember the victims of both tragedies.

Bonnie Prince Charlie at Arnish



Bonnie Prince Charlie's cairn at Arnish, south of Stornoway. 

Kildun, where he stayed the night, is no more. The farmhouse was demolished in 1974 to make way for the Fabrication Yard. Were it to return, it would be floating in thin air - the hill it stood on was bulldozed away.
The below image of the house was taken in the 1950s,

BPC is not a figure in Scottish history I have much time for. He was badly advised, or else he did not take heed of military advice. The consequences of his failure, after being defeated at Culloden in 1746, are well documented. Changes in Scottish society were speeded up, not caused by Culloden. However, Charles Edward gave men like Cumberland the pretext to commit the atrocities that were visited upon the Highlands and Islands in subsequent years. The burghers of Stornoway could not, or would not, give succour to BPC - but neither did they want to betray him. He was allowed to slip away across moor and loch, back to Eilean Iubhair in Loch Shell at Leumrabhagh, and on to his next failed place of shelter.

Goat Island


This plaque was placed on Goat Island in 2007. The text, now nearly illegible, reads:

In 1654, during the occupation of Stornoway by Cromwellian forces, Goat Island was used as a fort to protect the harbour from attack. The main armoury comprising two great guns and four sliding pieces was taken from the old Stornoway Castle. RCAHMS suggests that there was a fort or citadel in the Point Street area of Stornoway.

Goat Island is now connected to mainland Lewis by causeway, but until 1946 you needed a boat reach there. This image shows the situation before the construction of the causeway - Goat Island sits in the far right of the image, with the Arnish Lighthouse and beacon to its left.

Land Struggle monuments

There are three memorials to the Landstruggle across Lewis, at Aignish (January 1888), Balallan (November 1887) and Back (1919-1923). They depict three events in the history of the island in which the people fought, sometimes literally (as in the case of Aignish) for their land. The Pairc Raid involved an organised trespass, for which the eight raiders were arrested, tried, convicted and jailed. They returned home as heroes. The Coll raids are depicted as Lord Leverhulme, the then landowner, seeking to divide the crofters among themselves.


Aignish Farm Raid memorial


Pairc Raiders memorial, Balallan


Coll Farm Raiders memorial, Back