It is the evening of Sunday 7th April 1861 and we are observing Sir James Nicolas Sutherland Matheson, 64 and his considerably younger wife, Dame Mary Jane Matheson, through the eyes of their Butler, 28 year-old William Edward Martin.
William has been keeping a close eye on the table-clearing activities of the two Housemaids, Isabella Maciver(19) and Jessie Fraser(28)
He found himself paying particularly close attention to the young Isabella.
Cook Alexandrina Mackay (a somewhat formidable figure approaching her 40th birthday) had already been stood-down for the night but Christina Matheson, the 19 year-old Scullery Maid ,still has several tasks to complete and Christina Macleod is tut-tutting over the state of the napkins that she will be laundering in the morning.
Mary Milne, the matronly mid-forties Dairy Maid, accompanies Cook to their sparse accommodation somewhere in the distant draughty heights of the castle. Simultaneously, but in somewhat more sumptuous surroundings, early-thirties Lady’s Maid Sophia Ann Chatfield is ensuring that her Lady’s boudoir is just as it should be.
Servant Alan John Cerus (a 21 year-old couth-lacking upstart in the mind of William) has just returned from a pointless errand, the point of which was to keep him as far away from Isabella as possible.
William presents the Census form to his master on a silver tray and Sir James, having checked that all his titles and positions are correctly recorded, signs it, sighs slightly and then tells William to deal with ‘That damn man’ (the Enumerator) when he collects it in the morning.
All is good in the world of the Mathesons and the nine people who serve their every whim can take a brief break now that their duties are done.
After all, it is a Sunday on Lewis…
PS I should mention that in nearby Creed Cottage, the Watcher of the Grounds, 73 year-old Malcolm Macdonald, was dozing in his chair whilst his daughter, 23 year-old Isabella, attended to her duties as Teacher of Ayrshire Needle Work.
1)The players in this scene are each as recorded on the 1861 Census return for Lews Castle, the precise details as described, however, are not…
2) All Scotland’s censuses recorded those present on a Sunday evening and were supposed to be completed on that day, a fact that may not have gone down to well, perhaps?