Donald Stewart, Factor of Harris, and the Church on Berneray

Donald Stewart has been described as ‘the worst thing to happen to Harris’ (I apologise for not currently being able to locate the source of that comment) and this little letter from 1832 suggests that his arrogant attitude extended well beyond merely those who suffered the most at his ‘improving’ shenanigans:

COPY of a LETTER from Mr. Joseph Mitchell, Inspector of Highland Churches, describing the present State of the New Churches and Manses in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, 18th July 1832

The Minister in the Island of Berneray mentions, that many slates are off the Church, and that the Factor of Harris refused to be at the expense of replacing them.

I shall be glad to know in such cases how I am to act, where there are no seat-rents, and where the individual becoming bound for the maintenance of the Buildings (as in this instance) refuses to attend to the necessary repairs. The Act provides that they shall be compellable in such manner as Heritors are compellable for Parish Churches by the Law of Scotland.

I wrote to Mr. Stewart, the Factor for Harris, some six weeks ago, but have had no answer. I shall write again, however, urging him more strongly.

I do not know the outcome of this particular case, but a couple of years later the Court in Inverness found against Stewart for trying to withhold payment for improvements made by one Alexander Macrae, a tenant of the Estate, despite the tenancy agreement’s clear stipulation that they should be made so I doubt that ‘urging him more strongly‘ would have seen the slates replaced in any great hurry.

Ref: Accounts and Papers of The Church 1831-32


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