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?