Big, Mid and Little Borve, Harris

I have attempted a purely statistical exercise for the population of ‘The Three Borves’ as recorded in the censuses:

1839 – Borve Cleared – Duncan Shaw, Factor’s, evidence to Parliament

1841 – No records for Borve

1847 – Borve Resettled

1851 – 138 people in 22 households – 6.3ppr (people per roof) (in ‘Bowes’)

1853 – Borve Cleared

1861 – 74 people in 14 households – 5.3ppr

Big Borve – 10 people in 2 households – 5.0ppr
Mid Borve – 20 people in 4 households – 5.0ppr
Little Borve – 44 people in 8 households – 5.5ppr

1871 Borve does not appear in its own right, hence it would take a lot of ‘untangling’ to identify possible residents by reconciliation with the residents of 1861 and 1881.

1881 – 61 people in 12 households – 5.1ppr

Big Borve – 31 people in 7 households – 4.4ppr
Borve 1 – 5 people in 1 household – 5.0ppr
Little Borve – 25 people in 4 households – 6.3ppr

In 20 years, big Borve has tripled in size, Mid Borve all-but disappeared as an entity and Little Borve has been halved.

1891 – 58 people in 14 households – 4.1ppr

Big Borve – 13 people in 5 households – 2.6ppr
Hamlets Little Borve – 45 people in 9 households – 5.0ppr

A decade later we see an almost complete reversal of the process noted previously. The distribution is almost as it was in 1861, albeit with the continued complete absence of Mid Borve.

1901 – 57 people in 15 households – 3.8ppr

Big Borve – 19 people in 6 households – 3.2ppr
Little Borve – 38 people in 9 households – 4.2ppr

Our final snapshot shows a slight move towards Big Borve who’s share of the (apparently stable) population has increased from approximately one-quarter to one-third.

However, the population remains a mere 40% of what it had been only half a century ago.

Population Size and
Household Density

1851 138 @ 6.3ppr
1861 074 @ 5.3ppr
1871 No Data
1881 061 @ 5.1ppr
1891 058 @ 4.1ppr
1901 057 @ 3.8ppr

What strikes me the most from this little table is the trend towards ever-smaller households, particularly between 1881 and 190 which was a period when the population appears to have otherwise been stable.

It points towards a closer examination of the people of Borve in the closing decades of the 19thC but that will have to wait for now.

Note: I have ‘invented’ the ratio ‘person per roof’ purely as an echo of the importance of roof timbers.

Harris Catechists

These are the Catechist (Instructor in Religious Doctrine) records for the 1841-1901 censuses.

There is probably not much to be learnt from this particular group of records but I have included them for the sake of ‘completeness’ in composing an ecclesiastical account from the Harris censuses.

1841 – None

Donald Mackinnon, 39, Catechist and Farmer, Obe, b. Harris

John Morrison, 55, Free Church Catechist, Leac a Li, b. Harris

Donald Mackinnon, 48, Catechist, Obe, b. Harris

Neil Stewart, 70, Catechist, Diraclet, b. Kilmuir, Inverness-shire

Donald Mackinnon, 56, Catechist, Smithy, Harris, b. Harris

Malcolm Morrison, 36, Free Church Catechist, Meavaig, b. Uig, Ross-shire

Donald John Maclean, 55, Catechist, Rushgarry, Bernera, b. Uist

John Smith, 41, Catechist, No 80 Scalpay, b. Uig, Ross-shire

We know that John Morrison (Gobha na Hearadh) had to vacate An-t-Ob as a result of his Free Church adherence so it appears likely that Donald Mackinnon was working for the Church of Scotland.

The 1871 ‘Smithy’ is presumably that in An-t-Ob, rather than the one established in Tarbert by Ewen Morrison, a Blacksmithing Son of John Morrison, Blacksmith and Catechist!

Harris Ministers of The Established Church of Scotland

These are the records from the 1841-1901 censuses of the ‘mainland’ Ministers:

John Maciver, 35, Parish Minister, Scarista, b. Inverness

John Mackay, 28, Church Beadle, Scarista, b. Harris

John Norman Macdonald, 32, Minister of Harris Parish, Glebe, b. South West Inverness

Charles Maclean, 40, Minister of Established Church, Manse, Harris, b. Tiree, Argyll

(Rev Donald McLean, 36, Minister of Trumisgarry, North Uist, b. Tiree)

Donald McLean, 45, Minister of Harris Parish, Glebe, South Harris, b. Tiree, Argyll

Donald McLean, 54, Minister of Harris Parish, Hamlets Glebe, South Harris, b. Tiree, Argyll

Donald McLean, 61, Minister of Harris Parish, Glebe, South Harris, b. Tiree, Argyll

(John Kerr, 36, Assistant Minister (Dalavich), Divine Cottage, Dalavich, Argyll, b. Harris)

These four Ministers (or five if we include John Kerr, Finlay J Macdonald’s ‘Ayatollah’) were based at the Manse/Glebe overlooking the sea at Scarista. They maintained a presence in the Parish despite the overwhelming mass of the population having joined the Free Church in 1843.

Sadly, for the one year that we have a ‘Church Beadle’ recorded, we do not have the name of the Minister to whom he administered his services.

Anyone seeking further information is probably best advised to look at the helpful information on the Church of Scotland site:

Harris Free Churchmen

Here are those men recorded on the censuses from 1851-1901 as working for the Free Church on the ‘mainland’ of Harris (with the exception of one record for St Kilda). There are 5 records of ‘Catechists’ between 1851 and 1891 who do not specify ‘Free Church’ and whose names have therefore been excluded.

John Morrison, 55, Free Church Catechist, Leac a Li, b. Harris
Malcolm Macualay, 35, Free Church Elder (Shoemaker), Visitor, b. Harris

Angus Maclean, 49, Free Church Catechist, Cluer, b. Lewis

Alexander Davidson, 48, Free Church Minister of 4 acres, Manse, Manish, b. Moy, Inverness

John Cunningham, 23, Enumerator of Census and Free Church Preacher, Grosebay, b. Harris

Angus Macrae, 37, Free Minister Officiating, Lodger, Oban, Harris, b. Kintail, Ross

Ewen Macaulay, 80, Free Church Elder, Ardhasaig, b. Harris

Alexander Davidson, 58, Free Church Minister, Manse, Manish, b. Moy, Inverness

Margaret Mackenzie, 30, Minister’s Wife, Free Church Manse, Tarbert, b. Kilmalie, Argyll
(Roderick Mackenzie, 33, Free Church Minister Tarbert, Woodbank, Snizort, Inverness, b. Assynt)

Alexander Davidson, 68, Minister of Harris Free Church, FC Manse, South Harris, b. Moy

Roderick Mackenzie, 43, Minister of Tarbert Free Church, FC Manse 20, b. Assynt, Sutherland

Malcolm Morrison, 46, Free Church Catechist, Meavaig, b. Uig, Ross

Alexander Davidson, 78, Free Church Minister of Harris, Manse, Manish, b. Moy, Inverness

(Angus Giddes, 48, Minister of St Kilda Free Church, St Kilda, b. Tarbert, Ross)

Farquhar Kennedy, 34, Minister of Harris United Free Church, Boarder, Manish Cottage, b. Lochalsh, Ross

Nicol Campbell, 64, Minister of Tarbert United Free Church, no 57 North Harris, b. Ardhattan, Argyll

Donald Macdonald, 56, Missionary of United Free Church, Little Borve, b. Harris

The role of the churches, whether ‘Established’ or ‘Free’, in the lives of the people of Harris is incapable of being overstated. It is vast, complex and, at times, confusing. It unites and divides, produces calm and controversy, and can never be ignored.

John Morrison, ‘Gobha na Hearadh’ (The Harris Blacksmith) we have met before for it was he who, having been driven from An-t-Ob for his allegiance to the Free Church, raised the funds for the establishment of the Free Church and Manse at Manish as occupied by Alexander Davidson from, at least, 1861-1891.

Tarbert got its Free Church much later for, as we have already seen, it was Rodel and environs that was the economic and ecclesiastical hub of Harris in earlier times.

It should be remembered that, despite the dominance of the Free Church, the Established Church of Scotland continued to have a presence on the island and one of my as yet incomplete tasks is to catalogue those events in the lives of my island relatives recorded as taking place in the two opposing camps, although I have a suspicion that the distribution has more to do with the availability of a Minister for a Marriage rather than any particular allegiance at the time!

PS – John Cunningham, the 1861 ‘Enumerator of Census’ is the only such person that I have found for Harris but it is satisfying to now be able to put a name to the man who gathered the information that year. It is also significant that he was a Hearach, for it implies that the anglicisation of Gaelic names, including spellings,  was perhaps partly within his sphere of influence?

Manish Church –

Roof Timbers

A visitor to Roger Mackenzie’s ‘Lewis Loom Centre’ at The Old Grainstore, Bayhead, Stornoway cannot fail to notice that amongst the various lengths of wood above their head is one of circular cross-section that is labelled ‘Herring Drifter’s Sailing Mast’.

It might be thought that this timber was some later addition, an act of ‘olde-worlde’ artifice but, in fact, it is wholly typical of the Western Isles for these are a land without native forests whether of oak, larch, spruce or ash. The few oaks that are found are of such diminutive stature that it was only recently that they were correctly identified as a ‘normal’ rather than a ‘dwarf’ species.

When the Clearances took place it wasn’t just the quenching of the hearths that marked the end of a home’s occupation but the removal (to spare it from destruction) of its roof.

Accounts of the 1843 Clearance of Orinsay and Lemreway in the Pairc district of South Lochs, describe the roof timbers’ removal and transportation by boat. It was an act of finality for, without the protection of the floor by thatch and the feeding of the earthen core of the walls with rain, the traditional Blackhouse would soon succumb to the rigours of the climate and the force of gravity.

(Even were the roof to remain, the quenching of the fire has been shown to accelerate the process of decay in these chimney-less structures.)

So when you look at that spar from a sailing vessel, you are being reminded of recycling as necessity, reuse of something that had once served men at sea and now could serve people onshore.

Electric Islands

There are a vast fleet of vessels harvesting the seas around the Western Isles . The resource that they greedily extract for consumption is not fish but something far more valuable and for which the population has an ever-expanding requirement. This resource is carried unseen beneath the waves to the shore where it then snakes its way towards those whose needs it meets. It is electricity.

The isles have become, save for some emergency vehicles and licensed carriers, a petrol-free zone. All transportation, whether by bus, car or via van, is powered by electricity. Further, the cars are not privately owned but operated by a smartcard system that tracks their usage and charges for it accordingly. The GPS monitoring of journeys in real-time enables the system to construct a vast database of patterns of usage so that it can look-ahead for potential problems such as rush-hour shortages as well as alerting users to bottlenecks, breakdowns and other potential problems.

The system employs people offshore constructing and maintaining the power generating system and on land ensuring that the provision of that power is permanent. A vehicle maintenance and supply team deals with the inevitable breakdowns and accidents and also ensures that enough vehicles are available in the right places at the right time.

Consumers can request a vehicle if one is not to hand and the system is sophisticated enough to avoid duplication of journeys by near-neighbours. The integration of buses, taxis and the elimination of the petrol-driven private car combine to provide residents and visitors with a cost-effective, pollution-free and community-friendly transport system.

Visitors will leave their vehicles on the mainland and a new fleet of faster ferries convey them to the isles. Whilst the environmental impact of the new car parks at the mainland ports is controversial it is a price the inhabitants consider worth paying as less of their taxes are spent in subsidising fuel and transport on the islands.

Such schemes have been tried in other places with bicycles. They failed in Cambridge, via vandalism and theft, but still flourish in, I think, the Netherlands. The isles, by their very nature, are the ideal place for such a scheme to exist for powered vehicles to the benefit of all.

Jobs, lasting jobs, would be created. Pollution, whether noxious or ‘noise-ious’, would be vastly reduced. And the communal spirit of the ancient townships revitalised in a modern manner.

(I am sure that there are several colander’s-worth of holes to be found in the above, but the idea of shared vehicles is something that I first considered some 30 years ago when the technologies necessary were science-fiction. Today they exist)

Donald Munro – The ‘Shah’ of Lewis

I gave a brief resume of Munro in an earlier piece: 
but thought that a complete list of his households plus a list of the others engaged in the legal profession in Stornoway might prove interesting.

Donald Munro, 37, Procurator Ross and Cromarty, South Beach, Stornoway, b. Tain, Ross
William Ross, 25, Procurator Ross and Cromarty, Cousin, b. Tain
Helen Ross, 32, House Servant, b. Eddrachillish, Sutherland

(Angus Macdonald, 28, Lawyer, Benadrove, b. Stornoway)

Donald Munro, 43, Chamberlain of Lews, South Beach Street, b. Tain, Ross-shire
Eliza R Munro, 24, Sister, b. Tain
Tina M Munro, 11, Scholar, Niece, b. Tain
Jane Macrae, 23, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
Margaret Macdonald, 24, Domestic Servant, b. Ness, Ross-shire
Catherine Young, 17, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
Robert Mackenzie, 21, Groom, b. Beauly, Ross-shire

(John Macdonald, 50, Lawyer, 57 Keith Street, b. Uig)
(Donald Maclean, 41, Lawyer, 52 Culngreen Road, b. Lochs)

Donald Munro, 56, Solicitor and JP, 13 South Beach Street, b. Tain
Eliza Munro, 34, House Keeper, Sister, b. Tain
Crawford Munro, 22, Factor’s Daughter, Niece, b. Tain
John Ross, 17, Clerk, Nephew, b. Inverness
John Macleod, 26, Groom, b. Tarbert, Harris
Eliza Sutherland, 23, Servant domestic, b. Farr, Sutherland
Marock Sutherland, 25, Servant Domestic, b. Farr, Sutherland

William Ross, 48, Solicitor, 11 Kenneth Street, b. Tain

Napier Campbell, 38, Solicitor or Procurator of Faculty of Ross, 40 Cromwell Street, b. Edinburgh

(Donald Maclean, 52, Lawyer, 8 Invers Beach, b. Lochs)

Donald Munro, 70, Solicitor and JP, 24 Kenneth Street, b. Tain
Betsy Munro, 42, House Keeper, Sister, b. Tain
William Ross, 24, Law Clerk, Nephew, b. Inverness
Jane Sutherland, 30, General Servant, b. Lairg, Sutherland
Rachel Morrison, 14, General Servant, b. Barvas

William Ross, 53, Solicitor and Procurator Fiscal, b. Tain

Napier Campbell, 48, Procurator and Enrolled Law Agent, Lodger, 17 South Beach St, b. Edinburgh

1890 – Death of Donald Munro

William Ross, 63, Solicitor, 52 Francis Street, b. Tain
John Ross, 32, Solicitor, Son, b. Stornoway

Colin G Mackenzie, 31, Solicitor, 2 James Street, b. Stornoway

Peter P Slater, Solicitor, Boarder, Royal Hotel, b. Shetland

Colin G Mackenzie, 41, Solicitor and Procurator Fiscal of Lewis, Park House, b. Stornoway
John Macdonald, 33, Depute Procurator Fiscal and Clerk to School-Board, 32 Keith St, b. Elgin

John Norrie Anderson, 54, Solicitor and Notary Public, Plym Nile, b. Stornoway

William A Ross, 36, Solicitor, 28 James Street, b. Logie Easter, Ross

The lack of any alternative to the Munro-Ross pairing is clear so that, even if their victims had been able to afford it, independent representation was non-existent.

What is also clear is that Munro lived surrounded by cronies (many of them related to him) but there is no sense of ‘family’, no feeling of ‘homeliness’ – one almost, but not quite, feels sorry for this evil, soul-less man…

Note: – It has been pointed-out to me that those who I have listed as ‘lawyer’ were in fact ‘sawyer’which makes more sense and explains their apparent absence post 1871. I have italicised these errors pending confirmation.

Stornoway Hospital(s)

These are the census records that include the word ‘hospital’:

Peggy Macdonald, 50, Hospital Keeper, 14 Keith Street, b. Stornoway

Mary Sharpe, 26, Housekeeper, Hospital, b. Stornoway

1891 – None Listed

1896 – Lewis Hospital opens on the 1st February

Easthill Road, The Louis Hospital

Marion Macdonald, 38, Matron of Institution, b. South Uist
Jessie Macrae, 42, Head Hospital Nurse, b. Strath, Inverness-shire
Jessie Macrae, 22, General Servant, b. Barvas

Catherine Macleod, 24, Patient, Fishworker (Unemployed), b. Stornoway
Ann Macleod, 16, Patient, Crofter’s Daughter, b. Uig
Katie M Maciver, 14, Patient, Scholar, b. Stornoway

Murdoch Murray, 20, Patient, General Labourer (Unemployed), b. Barvas
Alexander Macmillan, 13, Patient, Scholar, b. Stornoway

Mossend Fever Hospital

Catherine Mackenzie, 49, Hospital Nurse, b. Stornoway
Sophia Mackenzie, 20, Assistant Nurse, Daughter, b. Glasgow

Malcolm Macleod, 39, Patient, Coachman (Not Domestic), b. Lochs
Mary Macleod, 36, Patient, b. Scalpay

It is interesting that the records of 1871 and 1881 indicate the presence of a hospital in the town well before the opening of Lewis Hospital in 1896, but in ‘The Soap Man’, Roger Hutchinson mentions that Stornoway had a hospital in 1884 when the young William Lever first visited the island.

Several things interest me from the 1901 Census (apart from the spelling of ‘Louis’!).

We see that the Matron and Head Nurse are resident along with their five patients. This being a Sunday evening, I wonder if the other nurses would have been scattered throughout the town in their own homes? Unfortunately, if this was the case, they neglected to identify themselves as hospital nurses. It is also striking that all five patients are between 13 and 24 years of age.

Mossend Fever Hospital or, to give it its full title, the Infectious Diseases Hospital is thankfully low in patients but it is interesting to contrast the ages of the two patients, in their mid to late thirties, with the youthfulness we saw in the Lewis Hospital.

I have been unable to learn anything more about the Mossend Fever Hospital apart from this mention of the ‘Old Fever Hospital’ that also locates ‘Widow’s Row’, an address that I have given in other pieces but only now know the location of:

Borve, Harris, Post-Clearance of 1853

Following the 1839 clearance of Borve, it was resettled by the new Factor in 1847 only to suffer a second clearance in 1853.

In 1851 there were 138 people living in Borve but the1861 Census lists a mere 74 people in 14 Households in all three parts of Borve:

Big Borve
Kenneth Macdonald, 43, Sheep Farmer Employing 6 Labourers, b. Applecross, Ross
Margaret Maclellan, 57, Cottar, b. Harris

Middle Borve
Finlay Mackennon, 48, Grass Keeper, b. Harris
Marion Kerr, 70, Weaveress, b. Harris
Christy Campbell, 60, Pauper, b.Harris

Little Borve
Kenneth Macrae, 57, Sheep Farmer, b. Kintail, Ross
Alexander Macrae, 45, Sheep Farmer, b. Dornie, Ross
Hugh Munro, 31, Shepherd, b. Lewis
Joseph Allen, 36, Butler, b. England
Malcolm Kerr, 30, Joiner, b. Harris
Duncan Maclennan, 75, Cottar, b. Harris
Christy Macleod, 60, Cottar, b. Harris
Kenneth Macdonald, 48, Cottar, b. Harris
Angus Macdonald, 42, Cottar, b. Harris

In another 20 years the Farmer Kenneth Macdonald would add ‘Factor’ to his occupation but even in 1861, just 8 years after the Clearance, we can clearly see the effect of replacing these three human communities with sheep.

Three Sheep Farmers, one Shepherd, a Green Keeper and a Butler, but not a crofter in sight.

Just 5 landless Cottars, a Weaveress, a Pauper and a Joiner are all that remain from the previous population on some of the most fertile machair on Harris.

Not forgetting the three sheep farmers ‘imported’ from the Mainland…

(Crowdie & Cream Note: The Joiner was ‘Ayatollah Kerr’s’ father, the Weaveress his Grandmother)

Uig Millers

Here are the Millers of Uig, Lewis as recorded in the 1851-1901 censuses:

John Macaulay, 50, Miller, Breasclet, b. Caoles Phas, Inverness-shire

(John Macaulay, 30, Miller, Visitor, Port Esgein, Farm of Strond, b. Harris – visiting his , Mother-in Law, Margaret Kerr)

Marion Macaulay, 40, Miller’s Wife, Breasdale, b. Harris
(John Macaulay, 50, Corn Miller, Visitor, Obb, b. Harris)
Donald Maciver, 23, Miller, Breasdale, b. Uig

Donald Maciver, 32, Miller, Breasclet, b. Uig

Donald Maciver, 42, Miller, Miller’s House, b. Uig
Donald Macdonald, 17, Miller’s Servant

Donald Maciver, 53, Miller, Breasclete Mill House, b. Barvas
(Mary Ann Maciver, 42, Wife, b. Stornoway)

Catherine Mackenzie, 65, Miller’s Wife, MIL, School house, Uig, b. Loch Conan, Ross-shire
(Ronald Macdonald, 37, Scholar Master, b. North Uist)

Donald Maciver, 63, Miller, Mill House, b. Uig
John Maciver, 27, Miller, Son, b. Breasclete

It is clear that the two John Macualys and Donald Maciver were the principle millers at Breascleit (Breasclete). These results also confirm that the ‘Breasdale’ of 1851 is indeed Breascleit.

A fascinating contemporary account of milling on Lewis, especially regarding the imposition of centralised mills upon the populace, can be read here:

A photo of the Old Mill at Breasclete: and another on the RCAHMS site: