Education in Harris in 1851

Here are the teaching men and women as found in the 1851 Census. I have provided the Head of each household in parenthesis where appropriate.

The use of (?) indicates a word, place or phrase that is clearly incorrect but whose correct version currently eludes me!


Emmiline E Maxwell, 22, Teacher, Cousin, Tarbert Jun, Tarbert, b. Edinburgh

(Malcolm Macanby, 42, Jun Keeper & Crofter (Empl. 5 Lab), b. Harris)


Margaret A Campbell, 24, Schoolmistress, Tarbert, b. Harris


(Christina Morrison, 60, Schoolmaster’s Wife, Tarbert, b. Harris)


Donald Morrison, 60, Schoolmaster, Kyles Scalpay, Father, b. Harris)

(Neil Morrison, 15, Scholar, Head, b. Harris)


Duncan Morrison, 42, Gaelic Teacher, Rainingdale, b. Barons, Ross


BAYS (2)

Malcolm Morrison, 30, Teacher of the General Assembly CE(?), Visitor, Lecklie, b. Harris

(Mary Macleodd, 30, Retired Merchant (Empl 3 Servants), b. Harris)


Donald Maclean, 24, Schoolmaster, Finsbay, b. North Uist



James Stewart, 28, Parishead(?) schoolmaster of Harris, Borve, b. South Uist



Isabella Mackinnon, 31, School Mistress, Wife, Obe, b. Harris



John Mcaskill, 22, Teacher, Visitor, Island of Bernera, b. North Usit

(Mary Mcgillvray, Female Teacher, b. Uig, Ross)


Donald Mckay, 28, Teacher of General Bleancher(?) of Education, Island of Bernera, b. Stalkilek(?), Caithness



These 10 teachers had some 279 ‘Scholars’ between them according to the Census returns which sounds like a pretty reasonable pupil-teacher ratio?


I am quite surprised to find such an early concentration of teachers in the North but even more surprised to see Donald Morrison living in Kyles Scalpay away from his Wife in Tarbert and giving his 15 year-old scholarly Son the role of Head of household!


Elsewhere, we see a teacher in the recently resettled Borve although he, along with most of the people, would be Cleared from that fertile place within a couple of years…


In the Bays we notice a teacher in Leac a Li but as he is a ‘Visitor’ it is only in Finsbay that we can be confident of there having been any educational provision at this time.


The only school in the crowded South appears to have been that in An-t-Ob so Mrs Mackinnon probably had quite a large number of children across a wide range of ages in her establishment.


On the island of Berneray across the Sound of Harris we have not only the two resident teachers but a third one making a visit.


So those are my findings from 1851, the first census year that provides us with an indication of the number of ‘Scholars’ as well as listing all the inhabitants occupations.


For completeness, here are the educators of 1841:



Donald Morrison, 42, Teacher, Tarbert, b. Inverness



Donald Murray, 40, P Schoolmaster, Rodil, b. Scotland



Armager(?) Nicolson, 60, Schoolmaster, Rusgary, b. Inverness


There’s not a lot to be said about this apart from the apparent paucity of educational provision if this represents the true picture. I am surprised to find Donald Murray in Rodil rather than at An-t-Ob but his place of residence is only a guide as to the area in which he taught rather than a record of where his school was actually located.


It is unfortunate that this is the only information that I have available before the formation of the Free Church in the ‘Disruption’ of 1843 because it would have been nice to have had a more solid baseline from which to gauge the subsequent influence of the church upon education prior to the 1872 Act.



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