Commercial Travellers in Stornoway

I have grouped these gentlemen by residence and highlighted their goods, where specified:

1861
Duncan Macpherson, 27, Wine and Spirit, Visitor, 1 North Beach Street, b. Appen, Argyllshire

1871
Francis Adam, 23, Boarder, 10 North Beach Street, b. Ballater, Aberdeen
James Campbell, 34, Boarder, 10 North Beach Street, b. Little Dunkeld, Perth
Alexander Robertson, 38, Boarder, 10 North Beach Street, b. Blairgowrie, Perth

Murdo Mackenzie, 36, Boarder, 3&5 North Beach Street (Temperance Hotel), b. Lochbroom, Ross

1881
William Mair, Spirits, Boarder, Lewis Hotel North Beach Street, b. Glasgow
George Reid, 34, Spirits, Boarder, Lewis Hotel North Beach Street, b. County Down, Ireland
William C Swan, 25, Grain, Boarder, Lewis Hotel North Beach Street, b. Muckairn, Argylleshire
John Laird, 27, Leather, Boarder, Lewis Hotel North Beach Street, b. Firth, Orkney
David Dalziell, 36, Fancy Goods, Boarder, Lewis Hotel North Beach Street, b. Kirkconnel, Dumfriess-shire

William Macintosh, 48, Visitor, Imperial Hotel, b. Weasdale(?), Sutherland-shire

1891
John Gordon, 26, Boarder, 8,9,10 North Beach Street, b. Fodderty, Ross-shire
Donald Murchison, 44, Boarder, 8,9,10 North Beach Street, b. Applecross, Ross-shire

John Annal, 33, Boarder, Royal Hotel (Cromwell St), b. Orkney, South Ronaldsay
Dugald Macfaden, 39, Boarder, Royal Hotel (Cromwell St), b. Kilfinichan, Argyll

1901
William Harper, 23, Drapery, Boarder, 8,9,10 North Beach Street, b. Birse, Aberdeen
Archibald Smith, 46, Drapery, Boarder, 8,9,10 North Beach Street, b. Glassary, Argyllshire
David G Morrison, 55, Woollens, Boarder, 8,9,10 North Beach Street, b. Brechin, Forfar

William Hume, 35, Visitor, 76 Cromwell Street, b. Chirnside, Berwickshire

D G Maclennan, Boarder, 25 South Beach Street, b. Campbeltown, Argyllshire

Clearly, regardless of whether one was in Wines and Spirits, Grain, Leather, Fancy Goods, Drapery, Woollens or whatever, North Beach Street was the location of choice for the 19thC Commercial Traveller visiting Stornoway.

Ground Officers of Harris

These were the men who kept an eye to see that the tenants, and others, were obeying the Estate’s rules regarding the land they occupied. I have indicated their locations but should point out that John Morrison of Lingerbay was the South Harris Estate Officer.

1841
NORTH
John Macaulay, 60, Ardhasaig, b. Inverness

1851
SOUTH
John Macleod, 49, Port Esgein, b. Harris

1861
NORTH
John Macaulay, 84, Ardhasaig, b. Harris
BAYS
John Morrison, 40, Lingerbay, b. Harris
SOUTH
Catherine Macleod, 60, Ground Officer’s Widow, Strond, b. Harris

1871
NORTH
Malcolm Macualay, 57, b. Harris
BAYS
John Morrison, 60, Lingerbay, b. Harris

1881
NORTH
Malcolm Macaulay, 70, Ardhasaig 64, b. Harris
SOUTH
John Morrison, 74, South Harris, b. Harris

1891
NORTH
Malcolm Macaulay, 79, No 19 Ardhasaig, b. Harris
SOUTH
Alexander Morrison, 37, Bayhead, b. Harris


1901
SOUTH
Alexander Morrison, 46, Bayhead, b. Harris

Ploughmen of Harris in 1861

It struck me, whilst reading of feannagan cultivation, that a reasonably reliable indicator of the fertile farms of Harris could be had by seeking those who ploughed them:

1861
Angus Mclean, 30, Island of Ensay, b. North Uist
Angus Kerr, 33, Rodil House, b. Harris
John Macuspal(?), 33, Scarista Veg, b. Harris
John Morrison, 52, Big Borve, b. Harris
Neil McCuish, 36, Luskintyre, b. Uist
Norman Macaskill, 48, ??? House, Island of Tarrinsay, b. Harris

John Macdonald, 20, West Tarbert, b. Harris

So there we have them, from Ensay in the Sound, via Rodel, then up the West Coat Machair to Taransay, the farms of Harris in 1861. For some reason no other census records more than a couple of ploughmen – perhaps in later years it had become more commonplace for those working on the farms to share that particular duty? – I do not know, but in 1861 those were the ploughmen of Harris.

Fishers of Harris

Another somewhat crude interrogation of the censuses, this time looking at males recording ‘fisher’ or ‘fisherman’, but removing those who were a fisher or fisherman’s son.

1841                 49
1851 230-56=174
1861 340-66=274
1871 517-44=473
1881 630-64=566
1891 492-06=486
1901 498-12=484

1841, it should be remembered, is unreliable in recording all the occupations of occupants at an address so we can only properly examine the second-half of the century.


The numbers of fishermen increased by 57% from 1851-1861 and by a staggering 73% in the following decade. Growth slows to a more serene 20% during the 1870s but the result is that for every 4 fishermen in 1851 there were 13 by 1881.


The 14% decline from this peak to the figures of 1891 and 1901 (which is the only decade to demonstrate stability) might reflect, in part, the effects of re-crofting on Harris but I cannot be sure of the importance of this factor. If nothing else, these figures echo the phrase from the evidence to the Napier Commission of men ‘turning their backs on the land to face the sea’…

Mackae’s Buildings, Plantation Street, Stornoway 1901

This address appears in the 1901 census as home to 37 people in these 7 households:

George Donald, 36, Postman, Head, b. Stornoway
Alexander J Kerr, 44, Seaman, Head, b. Stornoway
Alexander Lamont, 40, Woollen Weaver, Head, b. Portree
Malcolm Macdonald, 31, Insurance Agent, Head, b. Uig, Ross-shire
(Alexanderina, 38, Sick Nurse (Formerly), Wife, b. Kinlochbervie, Sutherlandshire)
William Maciver, 57, Brewer’s Agent and Dealer, Head, b. Stornoway
John Mackenzie, 45, Mason (Contractor), Head, b. Stornoway
Murdo Macleod, 49, Mason Contractor, Head, b. Uig, Ross-shire

A varied group that includes one of only two references to brewing in Stornoway ,the other being the 19 year-old Brewer’s Apprentice Malcolm MacIntyre, son of the Hotel Keeper at 25 South Beach Street’s Imperial hotel.


Obviously it was the presence of Alexander J Kerr that first led me here, but I have no idea where ‘Mackae’s Buildings’ were on ‘Plantation St’ in 1901. Plantation Road appears on the 1881-1901 censuses as ‘Plantation St’ so I presume that the name was changed at some time during the 20thC?


If anyone knows of Mackae’s Buldings (or when the street became a road) please get in touch.

Sewing Mistresses of Harris

These are the ladies as recorded in the 1841-1901 censuses. I have made comments following each census:
1861
SOUTH
Mary Galbraith, 37, Teacher of Embroidery, Wife, b. Ireland
Mary, who lived at the house built by the Countess of Dunmore for the Gardener (Henry Galbraith) is not strictly a ‘Sewing Mistress’ but I have included her for the sake of completeness.
1871
SOUTH
Jessie E Macrae, 24, Embroidery School Mistress, Head, b. Thurso, Caithness-shire
(Mary Galbraith, 47, Teacher of Embroidery, Wife, b. Ireland)
?
Mary Macaulay, 21, School Mistress, Industrial School, b. Stornoway
It would be interesting to know when Mary Galbraith first had an assistant but I presume that Jessie’s presence is indicative of the success of the Emroidery School at this time.

Mary Macaulay has been included because this is the only reference I have found specifically to an ‘Industrial School’ in Harris. There were 34 people at the address ‘Industrial School’ in 5 households but the precise location is unknown to me.
1881
SOUTH
Jessie Brunton, 32, Sewing Mistress ‘Elm School’, Wife, b. Meigle, Perthshire
Mary Mackinnon Jnr, 32, Sewing Mistress (School), Sister, Crofter’s Dwelling House, b. Harris
Bella Macrae, 30, Housemaid and Sewing Mistress, South Harris Niece, b. Lochalsh, Ross
NORTH
Mary Morrison, 37, Sewing Mistress, Daughter, East Tarbert 32, b. Harris
Isabella Macaskill, 25, Sewing Mistress, Sister-in-Law, Missionary’s House, b. Lochs
We do not see our first Sewing Mistresses until 1881 following the introduction of the the Education Act (Scotland) 1872. Was ‘Elm School’ a name, or merely shorthand for ‘Elementary’? It might even be ‘Embroidery’… Our one precise location is East Tarbert but I would like to know where in North Harris the ‘missionary’s House’ was.
1891
BAYS
Margaret Macrae, 39, Sewing Mistress, Wife, Finsbay, b.Uig, Lewis
Christy Gillanders, 29, Sewing Mistress, Daughter, Private House, Geocrab, b. Lewis
Jane Brown, 37, Sewing Mistress, Wife, Public Schoolhouse, Kyles Stockinish, b. Loudon, Ayrshire
Jessie Young, 21, Teacher’s Wife Sewing Mistress, Wife, 19 Drinishader, b. Harris
NORTH
Marion Duncan, 36, Sewing Mistress, Wife, Public School, North Harris, b. Harris
Mary Morrison, 47, Sewing Mistress, Daughter, No 10 East Tarbert, b. Harris
SCALPAY
Peggy Morrison, 22, Sewing Mistress, Daughter, Scalpay No 74, b. Harris
Bessie Mackinnon, 53, Sewing Mistress, Sister, Scalpay No 56, b. Harris
Catherine S Smith, 30, Sewing Mistress, Sister, Scalpay No 25, b. Kilfinan, Argyll
A very noticeable shift has taken place with the appearance of the four ladies in the Bays from Finsbay, via Geocrab and Kyles Stockinish, to Drinishader. Mary Morrison is still in East Tarbert and Scalpay makes a significant, and intriguing, appearance.
1901
BAYS
Catherine Campbell, 26, Sewing Mistress, Daughter, 7 Plocrapool, b. Harris
Maggie Simpson, 33, Sewing Mistress ‘Occasional’, Wife, School house, Drinishader, b. Glasgow
What we can say is that, for a brief time in the late 19thC, there were several ladies working specifically as Sewing Mistresses and that their numbers and distribution again reflect the general trend away from the South as the home of innovation.

There are several obvious gaps here such as where are the Sewing Mistresses for the Schools in the South after 1881?, or of Tarbert in 1901? It may be that several of those teaching Sewing are ‘hidden’ amongst those not specifying a subject on the census returns.

Whatever the reason, at least we have these recorded Sewing Mistresses of Harris.