I first came across the work of late James Shaw Grant (22 May 1910 – 28 July 1999) when reading his 1987 book ‘Discovering Lewis and Harris’.
I was given ‘A Shilling for Your Scowl’ as a leaving present following my first visit to the isles three years ago. The lady who presented it to me said, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, “I think you’ll enjoy this.”
The story told is that of the multi-tasking Donald Munro, a man who used and abused the Rule of Law to bring terror to the inhabitants of Lewis for most of the second-half of the 19th Century.
In holding several incompatible public and private offices simultaneously, he was able to act as if he was above the law rather than being a part of it.
It would make a great courtroom drama, with the proceedings of his final denouement being interspersed with flashbacks to the multitude of dreadful deeds that he carried out under his cloak of many roles.
Perhaps there was local knowledge at play when Munro’s 1881 address, 24 Kenneth Street, was chosen for the site of the 2005 An Lanntair Arts Centre for if ever it was necessary for a man’s dark deeds to have a lantern shone upon them, it was those of Donald Munro, Factor.
Donald Munro’s Census Locations
1814ish – Birth, Tain
1841 – (Not Located)
1851 – Procurator – South Beach, Stornoway
1861 – Chamberlain of Lews – South Beach Street, Stornoway
1871 – Solicitor & I P – 13 South Beach Street (The Star Inn)
1881 – Solicitor & N P – 24 Kenneth Street, Stornoway (An Lanntair)