The Poverty Party – Stornoway Distillery & Lews Castle in 1851

Sir James Matheson had bought Lewis in 1844 and three years later began the construction of Lewis Castle which was completed in 1854 at a cost of £60,000 – a staggering £40Million today!

Slap bang in the middle of this drug-financed construction project (Matheson was knighted for his role in the ‘Opium Wars’ in China) was the 1851 census and it is the evidence of that record that is presented here.

Sir James, a confirmed teetotaller, chose as the site for Lews Castle the only distillery in Stornoway and this explains why the ‘Town’ part of these addresses are ‘Stornoway Distillery’.

Address: Lewis Castle, Stornoway Distillery
John MacNeil, 55,Chairman of the Board of Supervison for the Relief of the Poor in Scotland, Visitor
William A Peterkin, 27, Secretary Clerk Board of Supervision, Visitor
John Fraser, 28, Servant of John MacNeil
Elizabeth Watson, 42, Housekeeper Lewis Castle
Betsy Watson, 11
Ann Macdonald, 25, House Servant
Ann Grant, 27, House Servant
Jane Maclennan, 30, House Servant
Agnes Nelson, 23, House Servant

The Poor Law(Scotland) Act 1845 saw the appointment of a surgeon and diplomat, John MacNeil, to oversea its implementation and he remained Chairman of the Board until 1878.

Colonsay born MacNeil visited no less than 27 of the worst afflicted Parishes during the years of the Potato Famine which explains his presence in Stornoway at this time.

It does not explain the serendipity that finds him residing at the partly constructed castle on the particular night of the 1851 census along with his Secretary, William Arthur Peterkin.

I believe this may be the first time that this particular fact has been noted.

The irony of this poverty party being housed in the owner of the isle’s palatial palace; whilst all over Lewis and Harris displaced and destitute families were scavenging the shores for limpets to cling onto their bare existence, is also noteworthy.

Address: Gardener’s Lodge, Stornoway Distillery
Alexander Macrae, 55, Gardener Lewis Castle
Mary, 46, Wife
James, 14
Alexander, 12
Catherine Ann, 9
John, 7
Catherine Lewis, 5

Address: Distillery, Stornoway Distillery
Alexander Bowie, 36, Farm Overseer (Lewis Castle)
Isabella, 36, Wife
Jessie, 13 ,Scholar
Eliza, 9, Scholar
Ann, 6
Alexander, 2
William Macleod Bowie, 2 months
Peggy Macleod, 23, House Servant
Christina Macleod, 19, Small Tenants Daughter, Visitor
John Macleod, 22, Ag Lab
Roderick Macleod, 20, Ag Lab
Angus Mackenzie, 20, Ag Lab
John Macleod, 20, Ag Lab
Malcolm Maclean, 16, Cow Herd
Marion Maclean, 23, House Servant

William Mackay, 29, Coachman Lewis Castle
Alexanderina, 28, Wife
Malcolm Macdonald, 16, Stable Servant
Mary Macelod, 27, Seamstress, Visitor
Mary Bowie, 4, Scholar, Visitor

George Munro, 27, Joiner Journeyman
Marion Macdonald, 22, House Servant

Peter Stoddart, 26, Gardener Lewis Castle
Ann Stoddart, 16, House Servant, Sister

Refs:


John MacNeil
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McNeill_(diplomat)
http://www.ambaile.org/en/item/item_page.jsp?item_id=9360

William Arthur Peterkin http://gdl.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/haynin/haynin1401.htm

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