The Tarasaigh (Dis)Connection

Taransay, lying just a mile off the West coast of Harris, must have been a beautiful place to live for the 140 people who called it home in the late 18thC. It had acres of fertile land, beautiful Atlantic beaches and safe anchorage for boats. The three townships of Uidh, Paibeil and Raah must have been some of the happiest in Harris.

Raah, which had been Crofted in 1826, was Cleared in 1840 for the Tacksman, John Macdonald.
The 1841 census shows the 60 year-old Farmer living on ‘Tarrinsay’ with his wife, six children, a Tutor and several servants. In all there were 72 people recorded there including an 80 year-old Hand Loom Weaver, Chirsty Kerr.

In ‘Rha’ there remained just sixteen people, including the family of 41 year-old Roderick Kerr who is classed as ‘Independent. His wife, Margaret, was 30 and their daughters Ann and Mary were 12 and 3 respectively. Chirsty, the weaver, might well have been his mother.

The other three households in Raah were those of Kenneth Campbell, a 60 year-old Farmer with his wife and five children; Mary Macleod, a 41 year-old Hand-Loom-Weaver with three children, and sixty-one year old Marion Morrison who was a fellow weaver. They had been allowed to stay after their neighbours were forced from their homes, presumably because they were still of utility to the tacksman.

A decade later, the population of Taransay was reduced from these 88 people to a mere 55, a decrease of nearly 40%. Over on Harris itself, Borve (which overlooks Taransay) had been Cleared in 1839 and was subject to an experiment in re-settlement in 1847. At least one on the families from Taransay moved there.

So it was that the 1851 census for Borve records Roderick Kerr, 48, Labourer, Margaret, 47, Mary, 16, Flora 14, Donald, 9, Cathi, 4 and Janet, 1. Despite the apparent discrepancies in ages and names, my researches indicate that this is the family from Raah.

Back on Taransay, ‘John Macdonald, 70, Farmer of 150 acres employing 7 labourers’ is one of the 55 people in 11 different households that remain.

In 1852 the Highlands & Islands Emigration Society was formed and 742 people left Harris for Australia. The next year saw the plug-pulled on the experiment in Borve and it was Cleared for a second time.

Significantly, there is no further record of Roderick, Margaret and their family and it is to be assumed that they emigrated, but may not have survived the journey…

(Note: It is possible that one, or both, of the elder daughters married, but if so it was before 1855 for there is no record of such a marriage.)

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