Harris Millers

Here are the records of Millers as recorded in the censuses for 1841-1901:

Donald Macaulay , 50, Miller, Obb, b. Inverness

John Macaulay, 30, Miller, VISITOR,Port Esgein, Farm of Strond, b. Harris
Angus Morrison, 26, Blacksmith and Miller, Obe, b. Harris

John Macaulay, 50, Corn Miller, VISITOR, Oab, b. Harris
(Wife, Marion( MS Kerr), at home in Breasdale, Uig, Lewis)

Angus Morrison, 36, Blacksmith, Oab, b. Harris

Matthew Macduley, 23, Miller, Kendebig, b. Harris
Angus Macsween, 33, Assistant Miller, Kendibig, b. Harris

1871-1901 – None Listed

Several questions immediately rise from these slim returns, including what were these particular men milling, where were their mills and why do they disappear after 1861?

John Knox, in  ‘A Tour through the Highlands of Scotland, and the Hebride Isles, in MDCCLXXXVI‘, records that Captain Alexander Macleod, when he was establishing the Harbour and House at Rodel, also constructed a ‘corn and fulling’ mill, with them both powered by one single water-wheel. There are other remains of water-powered mills on the island but it is also known that much of the corn-milling was done domestically by hand.

In 1841 and 1851 our sole miller is in An-t-Ob and then in 1861 we have just a pair of millers and they are in Ceann Dibig, the township adjacent to Direcleit in the Bays.

John Macaulay, the Miller from Breascleit, Uig, Lewis is the husband of Marion Macaulay (MS Kerr) and in 1851 is visiting his widowed Mother-in-Law at Port Esgein, Farm of Strond. His wife was the daughter of Angus Kerr the Shoemaker who a decade earlier was in the household of the Factor in Rodel.

Intriguingly, in 1861 John Macaulay is visiting none-other than Angus Morrison, the Blacksmith who a decade earlier had ‘and Miller’ appended to his occupation. He may still have been fulfilling that secondary role in 1861, hence this visit from miller Macaulay?

Angus Morrison, the Blacksmith and (sometime) Miller, was a son of John Morrison, ‘Gobha na Hearadh’, who had been the Blacksmith in An-t-Ob before Angus but had moved to Leac a Li at the time of the Disruption because his favouring the Free Church found him out of favour with the Church of Scotland establishment. John proved as good, if not better, at fashioning hymns out of words as he was at fashioning goods out of metal.

Harris Timeline

This is very much an ongoing piece that I have assembled not least to assist me in my researches.
As such, it is inevitable that many details are lacking so it is meant more as an aide-memoire that others might find useful and/or interesting.

1266 – Western Isles formally ceded from Norway to Scotland – Lordship of the Isles formed
1494 – James IV of Scotland defeats last Lord of the Isles but fails to control the islands
1544 – Taransay battle between invading Morrisons of Ness, Lewis and Macleods
1528 – Alasdair Macleod (Crotach – hunch-back) of Harris and Dunvegan builds St Clement’s church at Rodel
1547 – Alasdair Crotach buried at St Clement’s

1730 – Luskentyre, previously part of Tack of Berneray of William Macleod , becomes his home
1746 – Battle of Culloden
1755 – Population is ‘1969 souls’ (NSAS)
17?? – William’s grandaughter, Isabella, inherits and her husband, William Macleod, rules Luskentyre
1779 – Harris sold to Captain Alexander Macleod of Berneray
1782 – Rev John Lanne Buchanan begins travels, describes Macleod’s introducing certain craftsmen to Harris
1784 – St Clement’s church restored by Captain Macleod, burns down and is rebuilt
1786 – Rodel House, Harbour and fishing facilities established by Captain Macleod
1787 – ‘Piscator’ visits Rodel – his account is later published in ‘The Bee’
1790 – Alexander Hume Macleod, Captain Alexander’s Son, inherits Harris
1792 – Rev John Macleod writes Harris entry for Statistical Accounts of Scotland
1792 – Population ‘2536’ (NSAS quoting SAS)
1792 – Sea-ware and Feannagan cultivation
1794 – Sound of Harris description
1794 – ‘A Defence of the Scots Highlanders’
1794 – Taransay home to 140 people
1794 – Sound of Harris described
1797 – Robert Heron’s and the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement

1800s – Taransay has crofters in Raa but Paible and Uidh are now only farms
1804 – Bald’s Map of Harris
1808 – A warning regarding The Disease of The Curl that affects Potatoes
1810 – Horgabost cleared
1811 – Alexander Norman Macleod inherits Harris from his father, Alexander Hume Macleod
181? – Donald Stewart, Sheep Farmer, becomes Factor
181? – Seilibost divided into Crofts – to maximise population and rents
1815 – Kelp Market plummets following end of French Wars
1818 –  Rodel Cleared whilst Alexander Norman Macleod was residing at Rodel House
1824 – Present Eilean Glas Lighthouse built
1827 – An account of Baptist Preaching on Harris
1828 – Scarista cleared
1828 – Presence of Asbestos on Harris described
1829 – Seilibost partially cleared

1830s – Farm of Strond broken into crofts
1830s – Direcleit and Ceann Dibig, parts of Luskentyre Farm, broken into crofts
1831 – Population 3810
1832 – Donald Stewart refuses to replace slates on Church on Berneray
1834 – 5th March, George Murray, 5th Earl of Dunmore buys Harris for £60,000
1834 – Duncan Shaw becomes Factor
1836 – Alexander Murray, 6th Earl of Dunmore, inherits Harris
1836 – Poor harvest, particularly of Potatoes – earliest claimed date for Countess of Dunmore marketing tweeds
1837 – Poor harvest, particularly of Potatoes
1838 – Seilibost cleared
1839 – Big Borve, Middle Borve and Little Borve cleared

184? –  Raa on Tarasaigh Cleared for John Macdonald, tacksman
1841 – Rev John MacIver writes for New Statistical Account of Scotland (NSAS)
1841 – Population ‘upwards of 4000’
1841 – 6th Earl of Dunmore at his London home
1841 – Estate Officer residing at Rodel is John Lindsay
1843 – Church of Scotland fragments in Disruption – islanders join Free Church of Scotland
1843 – 6th Earl of dunmore considering building a harbour at W Loch Tarbert, with a link to the E Loch
1844 – Catherine Murray, Countess of Dunmore, is said to Start the Harris Tweed Industry
1845 – Alexander, 6th Earl, dies and Catherine, his wife, is ‘Tutor’ for her son, 4 yr old Charles Adolphus, 7th Earl of Dunmore
1846 – Potato Famines begin
1847 – Borve, Harris resettled by new Factor. Kenneth Macdonald was Assistant Factor
1848 – Sunday Postal Deliveries Cease
1849 – Countess of Dunmore establishes the Embroidery School at An-t-Ob

1850s – House at An-t-Ob built for the Gardener and his wife, the Embroidery Teacher
1850s – Tarbert gets its first church
1851 – Marion and Chirsty Macleod, the ‘Paisley sisters’ living at Port Esgein, Farm of Strond, the tenant of the tack of Strong and Killegray being a by Mrs Campbell.
1851 – John Robson Macdonald, Land Factor and Justice of the Peace, who succeeded Donald Stewart, living at Rodel House
1851 – Master of the Harris Mailboat, John Morrison, residing at Port Esgein
1851 – Crofts at Direcleit and Ceann Dibig bisected to provide homes for people cleared from Borve on Berneray
1851 – Inn at An-t-Ob first found
1851 – Potatoes Famines end – latest date for Countess of Dunmore’s marketing of tweeds
1852 – Highland and Islands Emigration Society(HIES) formed – 742 leave Harris for Australia
1853 – Borve, Harris cleared again
1853 – Manish Free Church built
1854 – Glasgow Herald article on Gaelic School Exhibition and Sale
1854 – Road from Stornoway to Tarbert completed
1857 – 24th March – 6th Earl of Dunmore’s 16th Birthday
1857 – Lady Dunmore and Mrs Thomas, wife of a Government Surveyor, start Stocking-Knitting(socks and knickerbocker stockings) industry
1857 – Admiral Otter’s Chart of the Sound of Harris
1858 – ‘In 1858Lady Dunmore was a mother to her people in Harris.’ – Duchess of Sutherland writing of ‘The Revival of Home Industries’ in ‘The Land Magazine’, Vol 3, 1899.

1860s – Direcleit and Ceann Dibig cleared
1862 – 24th March – 6th Earl of Dunmore’s 21st Birthday
1863 – Ardvourlie Castle built as Hunting Lodge for North Harris Estate
1865 – Harris Hotel built by Earl of Dunmore and originally called Tarbert Hotel
1867 – Abhainnsuidhe Castle built by Earl of Dunmore
1867 – North Harris Estate sold to Sir Ernest Scott for £155,000 (over two-and-a-half times what the 5th      Earl of Dunmore had paid for the whole of Harris 33 years earlier!)

1871 – Stocking Knitters of Strond, and elsewhere too, appear in abundance in the Census
1872 – Telegraph Cable from Stornoway to Scotland laid
1873 – Dunmore’s restore St Clement’s church
1879 – 4th March – Ardvourlie castle burnt down
1879 – The Wreck of the Yacht Astarte

1881 – SS Dunara Castle appears in Harris on this and the following 2 censuses
1881 – Angus Kerr, Farm Manager, at Rodel
1882 – Nov/Dec – Thomas Brydone becomes Lord Dunmore’s Factor (Napier Commission Evidence)
1883 – Thursday, 31st May, Obbe  – Napier Commission
1884 – Direcleit and Ceann Dibig recrofted
1886 – Countess of Dunmore dies in February
1886 – Crofters’ Act passed 25th June
1886 – Telegraph Cable from Port Esgein, Harris to North Uist laid
1888 – Assisted emigration to Canada established
1888 – ‘Women’s Work in Harris (Hebrides),’ in The British Friend, by Edward Grub – Mrs FWL Thomas

1890 – ‘Spanker’ wrecked in a storm in the Sound of Harris
1895 – Crofters Commission Report allows 1 horse, 4, cows and 20 sheep per croft in Strond
1897 – Golden Road linking Tarbert and Rodel through the Bays is completed
1897 – Manish Victoria Cottage Hospital built & endowed by Mrs Frances Thomas

1900 – Carding Mill built at Lon na Feille, the old Market Stance, in Direcleit by Sir Samuel Scott, owner of the North Harris Estate
1902 – Death of Mrs Frances Thomas
1919 – Lord Leverhulme buys South Harris for £20,000 and North Harris for £36,000
1920s – Geocrab Carding Mill built by Lord Lever – the locals refuse to use it
1924 – Leverburgh prospers
1925 – Lord Leverhulme dies, South Harris sold for £900 in an Auction
1925 – Finlay J Macdonald born
1944 – North Harris Estate bought by Sir T. O. M. Sopwith
1974 – Taransay’s last residents leave

The Rise and Decline of a Family Name on Harris

I previously looked at three options for the origin of my Hearach ancestors:
Metal-Working, Tinkering and Left-Handedness.

Looking closely at the records for Inverness-shire, Ross-shire and Argyll-shire I realised that the pattern of names in Inverness doesn’t fit, in Ross there were a couple of families in Lochbroom and in Argyll the fit is better, but the occupations show no particular pattern. I am therefore ruling-out the craft aspect.

A similar exercise for the whole of Scotland produced no record of a Tinkering/Hawking tradition.

That leaves the ‘famous’ Left-Hander and to an examination of the actual families on Harris.

No of Families
1841 – 9
1851 – 8
1861 – 6
1871 – 5
1881 – 4
1891 – 2
1901 – 1

The pattern is clear. However, we can learn more, especially by examining first names.
Of the 9 families in 1841, one stands-out for containing ‘Kenneth, Peter and William’ where the others all have Angus, Malcolm & Roderick – this family move to Argyll in the 1850s and I believe them to be of separate origin, although the patriarch, Peter, was born on Harris.

That leaves 8 families and one of these disappears from the records. They probably emigrated, but a cursory attempt to find them in Canada or Australia has proved fruitless so they may have perished on the voyage.

Of the remaining 7 families, it can be seen by the sequence of the names of the male heirs that they might be the sons of between 3 or 5 fathers. Two brothers were the sons of a Malcolm and the others fathers might have been Donald, John and Roderick. As these 5 died before the arrival of Statutory Registration of Deaths in 1855 I am unable to be completely sure. It is pure chance that the line started by Malcolm, which includes the two brothers who lived until 1867, is my own.

Assuming that I am correct, then we can repeat the process and conjecture that this group of 3-5 fathers were themselves the sons of perhaps two or three men. That could mean that the 8 families are only 3 generations away from a single ancestor. Probably from Strond, possibly from Taransay.

If that too is correct then the name appeared around the middle of the 18thC and probably does reflect some significant deed done by a left-handed Hearach at that time. A deed worthy of him being known for being left-handed but, unfortunately, not significant enough to be recorded in the oral tradition.

It is a flight of fancy, but one event fits and it is the one event that might have led a man to gain recognition for his prowess with the sword he held in his left hand. It happened in 1745…

Note: The ‘loss’ of a name on an island starting from a miniscule presence is repeated but in most cases the origin can be traced. It is the apparent sudden appearance that has been baffling. I should also point-out that many female descendents married and raised families on Harris so, although the name has gone, there are Morrisons, Macdonalds, Macsweens, Macleods, Macaskills, Mackinnons, Macraes, Mackays, and Campbells on Harris who can trace themselves back to a Kerr ancestry.


Forced to turn your back on machair lands
You face the sea
Who’s salt-spray carves itself upon
Your face

Working oars, and ropes and sails
You handle your boat
Who’s voyages are etched into
Your hands

Looking back at island peaks
You see the heart of Harris
Who’s ancient rocks strengthen
Your heart

This sea-ware safe returned to shore
You feed the hungry souls
Who’s peat-smoked tales feed
Your soul

Forced to turn your back on machair lands
You face the future
Who’s uncertainty’s reflected in the deep-dark loch in which we see
Your face

Tarasaigh (Taransay)

The population of Taransay is given here for each census from 1841-1901:

1841 88   33m 39f   + Rha 16 6m 10f (Raa was Cleared in 1840 for John Macdonald, Tacksman)
1851 55   25m 30f
1861 55   25m 30f
1871 68   36m 32f
1881 31   16m 15f
1891 0
1901 0

The 40% decline between 1841 and 1851 was followed by a period of stability but, interestingly, some 16 of the 68 people living on the island in 1871 were born elsewhere in Harris, Lewis and Ross-shire. Nine came from the the Bays, four from the West and one each from Bernera, Scarp and Ensay. Lochs, Lewis and Gairloch supplied the remaining two.

A decade later the population was down to 31 living in half-a-dozen households and a couple of years later the cottars were barred from raising livestock and growing oats or barley. Unsurprisingly, such conditions made life untenable and we can see the results in the final two censuses.

An excellent online source on Taransay is: http://www.paparproject.org.uk/hebrides7.html