Boatmen of Harris

A Boatman was someone providing a ferry service across lochs and, in these cases, along the coast.

I have attempted to list these boatmen from South to North but a couple of the records are difficult to discern, and one simply gives the location as the ‘Boatman’s House’!

1851
ENSAY
John Macleod, 20, Boat Man, Servant, Islands of Ensay and Kelligray, b. Harris
Donald Macrae, 19, Boat Man, Servant,
(William Macaskill, 32, Agricultural Labourer, Head, b. Harris)
SOUTH
Donald Macaskill, 31, Boatman, Kentulavig, b. Harris
BAYS
Donald Morrison, 39, Boat Man, Losbery(?), b. Lochs – possibly Grosebay?
Evander Maclellan, 30, Boatman, Direcleit, b. Harris
John Morrison, 30, Boatman, Direcleit, b. Harris
NORTH
Murdo Campbell, 48, Boatman, Tarbert, b. Harris

1861
BAYS
Aulay Macleod, 48, Boatman, Molingainish, b. Harris – possibly Kyles Stockinish?

1871
SOUTH
John Mackenzie, 40, Boat Man, Strond, b. Harris
Donald Mackenzie, 35, Boat Man, Strond, b. Harris
Kenneth Mackenzie, 34, Boat Man, Strond, b. Harris
John Shaw, 65, Boatman, Obe Shop, b.
BAYS
Donald Morrison, 56, Boatman, b. Lochs – assumed Grosebay?
Roderick Campbell, 38, Boatman, Boatman’s House, b. Harris

1881 None listed
1891 None listed


1901
SOUTH
John Ferguson, 60, Boatman, Kentulavig, b. Harris

It is vital to appreciate that at the time we are observing, there were no roads that we would recognise by that name today. The sea was the highway and upon it would be a wide variety of vessels, large and small, some powered by sail and others by sweat.

It seems reasonable to conjecture that the men recorded here would have been called upon to move people, precious goods such as roof timbers and anything else that their boats were suitable for carrying.

There presence predominantly on the Sound and Bays of Harris reminds us that here were the safe harbours that were lacking on the Atlantic West coast. Theirs was a role worthy of more research.

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