Fort George 1881 – Or where have all the Lewis Herring Fishermen Gone?

One of the particular pleasures of genealogy is how when one is pursuing of one particular area of interest an altogether new one manifests itself.

I was trawling (pun intended) for Stornowegian Herring Fishermen when I happened upon one such instance.

In 1881 I was astonished to find no less than 291 of these men in Ardersier, Inverness. Such a concentration in one place clearly implied that something was going-on. My initial thought, given that it was early in April of that year, was that perhaps I’d found the Herring Fleet massed during a fishing expedition.

The truth was altogether different and reflected another aspect of the lives of the islanders:

In 1769 the fort at Ardersier on the Moray Firth was completed and by 1881 had become
Fort George and Fortified Garrison, On the Moray Firth, Ardersier, Inverness-shire.

In the census of that year there were 1211 people at Fort George, 1043 of the males including the men of the Highland Rifle Militia:

Major Highland Rifle Militia, Commander HRM – Alexander C Macleay, 38, b. London
Major Highland Rifle Militia, Second in Command HRM
Hon Major H R Militia Full Pay – Joseph Charles Ross Grove, 46, b. Demerera, West India

Pipe Major – Robert Mackenzie, 38, b. Fodderty, Ross (Wife & Children) 4 Pipers
Bugle Major – William Thomas Smith, 41, b. Barbados, West Indies (Wife & daughter) 4 Buglers

8 Captains

14 Lieutenants

Sergeant Major – Alexander Sutherland, 44, b. Latheron, Caithness
Sergeant Major – John Anderson, 38, b. Dundee

39 Corporals, 3 Stornoway, 1 Lochs
Kenneth Munro, 23, Tailor (Master) b. SY
Alexander Macdonald, 22, Herring Fisherman, b. SY
John Maclean, 21, Herring Fisherman, b. SY
Malcolm Morrison, 23, Herring Fisherman, b. Lochs

66 Sergeants, 1 Stornoway
Nicol Nicolson, 23, Sergeant Military Duty, b. SY

824 Privates
331 Stornowegian
30 Lochs
11 Uig
1 Barvas

The Isle of Lewis supplied 379 men to the Militia of whom 331 were Herring Fishermen.

Here are the total number of people at Fort George for each census, with those listed from the Parishes of Lewis:

1841 458
1851 237
1861 363
1871 420

1881 1211 – 331 Stornoway, 30 Lochs, 11 Uig, 1 Barvas = 379 Lewis

1891 1131 – 286 Stornoway, 70 Barvas, 63 Lochs, 29 Uig = 648 Lewis

1901 756 – 5 Stornoway, 1 Barvas = 6 Lewis

Finally, this is the wonderfully graphic address of Fort George from the 1901 Census:

North West Corner of Parish of Ardersier – Washed On Three If Its Sides By The Moray Firth

Fort George: Fort George

Possible Badge of the HRM-

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