Castles (in the Air)

Ardvourlie Castle
In 1863, Ardvourlie Castle, on the shores of Loch Seaforth, was built as a hunting lodge for the North Harris Estate which was being run my the widowed Lady Catherine and her Factor. It was let on a tenancy basis to sporting friends.

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle
Charles, 7th Earl of Dunmore, decided that Ardvourlie Castle was too far removed from his sporting activities. In 1867 Fincastle was constructed, Fincastle being the courtesy title (Viscount Fincastle) of the first sons of the Earls of Dunmore, but it later was renamed Amhuinnsuidhe Castle after its location.

Here are the residents of each castle as seen in the censuses of 1871-1901:

1871
Isabella Burns, 22, Domestic Servant, Ardvourlie Castle, b. Stornoway
Arabella Murray, 19, Domestic Servant, .b Ireland
Murdo Morrison, 21, Schoolmaster, Visitor, b. Carloway

Murdo Macaulay, 57, Gamekeeper, Ardvourlie Castle, b. Harris
Elizabeth, 54, Wife, b. Aberfeldy, Perthshire
Robert, 26, Assistant Gamekeeper, Son, b. Athline, Ross-shire
Jessie, 21, Daughter, b. Athline
Emma, 17, Daughter, b. Athline
John Macleod, 5, Grandson, b. Tarbert, Inverness-shire

Anne Braden, 47, Housemaid, Avensrudh Castle, b. England
Mary E Elliot, 16, Visitor, Niece, b. England
Donald Scott, 28, Gamekeeper, b. Perthshire

(Murdo Macleod, 60, Farmer, Scalpay, b. Fincastle, Harris)
This is odd as the castle was only built 4 years ago!

1879 – Ardvourlie Castle burnt down on Tuesday, 4th March
…built about 16 years ago at great cost by Lord Dunmore.’
Glasgow Herald, Thursday, March 6, 1879; Issue 12232

1881
Betsy Macaulay, 32, Housekeeper, 1 Ardvourlie, b. Harris
Margaret Macleod, 26, House Maid, Cousin, b. Harris
Marion Mackay, 16, Visitor, b. Harris
Peter Macaulay Smith, 3, Visitor, b. Peterhead

Frederick Macaulay, 29, Gamekeeper, 2 Ardvourlie, b. Lochs
(Wife and 4 children all b. Harris)
Chirsty Mackenzie, 22, General Servant, b. Lochs

Murdo Macfarland, 48, Assistant Gamekeeper, 3 Ardvoulie, b. Ness, ross-shire

Elizabeth Covell, 32, General Servant (Domestic, Castle, N Harris, b. England
Margaret Macleod, 28, General Servant (Domestic), b. Harris
Euphemia Mackinnon, 32, General Servant (Domestic), b. Harris

1891
Marjory(?) Macdonald, 35, House Maid, 1, Ardvourlie, b. Harris
Bella Mackay, 20, Third House Maid, b. Harris

Frederick Macaulay, 48, Gamekeeper, 2 Ardvourlie, b. Lewis
(Wife and 9 children)

Kate Mackenzie, 29, Housemaid Domestic, Finn Castle, b. Harris
Marion Mackay, 28, Under Housemaid, b. Harris

1901
Ewan Macdonald, 25, Deer Stalker, Gamekeepers House, b. Kilmonivig, Inverness-shire
Flora Finlayson, 34, Housekeeper, b. Portree

(There are also several entries for 1 and 2 Gamekeepers House, N Harris but I intend focussing on those people associated with Gamekeeping in a separate article)

The most obvious feature is that none of the censuses have captured occupants other than employees and their visitors.

Whilst we can be fairly sure that the domestic staff were living in the castles themselves, those supporting the sporting activities appear predominantly to have inhabited associated houses.

Although I am slightly disappointed by the ‘thinness’ of these results, perhaps they demonstrate how small a part these castles played in the everyday lives of the 4000+ people of Harris despite they being the people who paid the highest price in establishing these ‘sporting’ venues on the Highlands and Islands…

…It is only now, with the purchase of the North Harris Estate by the people of Harris that they will begin benefiting directly from the income generated by Amhuinnsuidhe Castle.

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