From Paupers to Very Poor…

Paupers recorded on censuses taken in Harris

Year       Male       Female       Total

1851       21            52              73

1861       18           49               67

1871        07          21               28

1881       09           20               29

1891       00           03               03

1901       03           11                14

I was about to begin pontificating upon these figures when I came upon a record from 1851:

Kenneth Morrison, 80, a Hearach was living in Widows Row, Stornoway with his wife, Catherine.

Occupation – Very Poor…

Very Poor – What levels of despair and destitution do those two small words define?

There are seven Paupers recorded in Stornoway in 1851 but only Kenneth has his occupation described as ‘Very Poor’.

Perhaps not poor enough to qualify for State Aid and hence become a Pauper (or too proud to do so, or in some other manner denied access?) but sufficiently so for the Enumerator to use the word ‘Very’ to describe his and Mrs Morrison’s plight.

On this very night, elsewhere in Stornoway, John McNeil, Chairman of the Board of Supervison for the Relief of the Poor in Scotland, was in the newly-built Lews Castle on one of his many information-gathering exercises.

His circumstances were certainly not ‘Very Poor’…

Note: I have so far been unable to locate ‘Widows Row’ in Stornoway but in 1901 it appears as ‘Newvalley widows Row’. Since first composing this piece, I have discovered the location of this 1851 Widow’s Row in this very interesting letter:

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