Clean Living

A look at the Washer Women of Stornoway as found listed in the censuses of 1841-1901

In those pre-detergent days of washboards and mangles, when Monday was THE day that the household’s weekly wash took place and all energy came from was elbow power, the role of women in the community who provided a washing service must have been greatly valued.

A glance at these ladies addresses, concentrated mainly in the strip alongside the Bayhead estuary, is possibly a clue as to the nature of their work. All those involved in the catching, processing and despatching of the herring would have generated voluminous quantities of sea, sweat and blood-soaked garments and some of these at least must have been entrusted to their cleaning care.

Margaret Graham, 53, 1 Bayhead Lane, Washer Woman
Son – Joiner, Boarder – Cooper

Catherine Judge, 59, 10 South Beach Street, Washer Woman
Son – Unemployed Joiner

Ann Matheson, 40, 26 Bayhead Street, Washer
5 children, ages 14 to 6

Henrietta Maciver, 48, 39 Bayhead Street, Washer
Son – Labourer

Isabella Macleod, 40, 7 Backhouse, Washer Woman
2 Boarders – Baker and a Pupil Teacher

Janet Ross, 52, 6 Bayhead, Washer
Son – Scholar(17?)

Mary Shaw, 52, 3 Bayhead, Washer
Husband – Mason

Janet Maciver, 39, 32 Keith Street, Washer Woman
3 children

1885 William Hesketh Lever buys a Soap Factory, the origin of Unilever…

Jessie Macdonald, 40, 56 Keith Street, Washer
Head – Boat Builder

Catherine Mackenzie, 57, 52 Keith Street, Washer
Head – Father, Retired Farmer

Lexy Macdonald, 40, Point Street, Washer Woman

Isabella Maclennan, 54, 22 Point Street, Washer
2 sons – General Labourer and a Plumber

Mary Morrison, 24, 2 Scotland Street, Washer
Husband – Fisherman

Mary Pink, 59, 26 Newton Street, Washer Woman
Son- General Labourer, Daughter – Fish Worker

1895 – Lever Brothers produce ‘Lifebuoy Soap’

Isabella Maciver, 65, 6 Matheson Court, Cromwell Street, Washer Woman

Mary Morrison, 40, 19A Matheson Court Cromwell Street, Washer Woman & Charwoman


One thought on “Clean Living

  1. Fascinating insight. I would like to point out that the addresses are along the estuary of the Bayhead River. There are no habitations along the Creed River other than the Creed Lodge.

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