His Majesty’s Yacht Iolaire

 Links to sites & pages about the Iolaire Disaster – New Year’s Day 1919:

The Disaster
Stornoway Historical Society
Roll of Honour article from The Scotsman
The Sinking of HMY Iolaire – 1 January 1919
Iolaire 1919
Book
When I Heard The Bell – Book Review – The Scotsman
Historical Societies Page Links
Barvas and Brue Historical Society – Timeline
Ness Historical Society
North Tolsta Historical Society
Uig historical Society – An Iolaire Survivor
Audio Recordings
Angus Macleod Archive

‘Ancestry of the Present People of Park’

Visiting the online Angus Macleod Archive at http://www.angusmacleodarchive.org.uk/ one is presented with a list of 14 topic areas listed at the left of the page.

Selecting the second item, ‘History of Pairc, Lewis‘ takes us to a list of 35 documents.

But it is within the in the easily-overlooked item that precedes that list, ‘Notes for Reference on the History of Park ‘, that another dozen treasures are to be found.

Choosing the first of these will download the pdf file ‘Ancestry of the Present People of Park ‘ which is the best short summary of the history of the area that I have seen.

I have presented this piece in a series of steps in order that it functions as a simple guide to exploring the online Archive and I hope that you find it helpful.

There is always the Search facility (which is excellent for discovering documents in the Archive) but, once found, the only option is to download the document rather than opening the page on which it is located, making accurately citing the source, or exploring other pieces in the same section, a tad difficult.

Lews Castle – Future, Present &…Past

As plans are in place for the restoration of Lews Castle in Stornoway, I thought I would bring together these pieces that relate to this building:

In 1851 we have these visitors at the castle and the situation that led to their presence is described here .

In 1861 the Matheson’s were in residence (Sir James’ Widow and her daughters were, too, in 1881) but it is ‘Stornoway House’ in London in which we find them in 1871 & 1891.

Other buildings in the Castle grounds were the Porter’s Lodge , the Boatman’s House , Nursery Cottage and the Gardener’s Cottage , whilst the man credited with the design of the grounds is Charles H J Smith .

These pieces on Pigot’s 1837 Directory , including the name of the Manager of Stornoway Distillery ,whose workplace was replaced by Lews Castle, hopefully complete the picture.

"I think it is quite capable of bearing all the people in comfort."

Thus ended the evidence to the Napier Commission given by the Reverend Alexander Davidson of Manish Free Church, Harris.

The full exchange went like this:

13113. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—I forgot to follow out a question which I put about the lands. Taking South Harris as a whole, is there not enough land to support in comfort even more than the present population ?

—I should think it would give land to the present population, if the land were distributed among the people. I think it is quite capable of bearing all the people in comfort.




This, from a man who had lived, worked and raised a family amongst the people of South Harris for at least the past twenty-eight years (including officiating at the wedding of one of my female cousins in Strond in 1867) stands in stark contrast with the prevailing view of the Proprietor, the past Factors and the present Farmers of the day for whom Emigration was the only ‘answer’ to the ‘problem’.


I was inspired to take a closer look at Alexander Davidson having been contacted by one of his descendants, as can be seen at the end of this piece on Harris Free Churchmen .


The church is described in these pages from Canmore and British Listed Buildings and this is its location as seen on the OS 1:25000 Map .

The accompanying Manse, which was the Davidson family’s home for many years, is similarly described on these pages from Canmore and British Listed Buildings and its precise location can be seen here .


In previous pieces I mentioned that Captain FWL Thomas and his wife, Mrs ‘Captain Thomas’, had at times taken-in the children of islanders including one of Alexander Davidson’s daughters and also of the widowed Fanny Thomas’s later endowment of the Manish Victoria Cottage Hospital .

I would like to end with a longer extract from the Reverend’s evidence to the Napier Commission, to which I have added notes & observation within the text:


13081. Do many of the young women go south?
—Not many.


The context here is that of the ‘Herring Girls’ of the islands who followed the fishing fleet in their progress around the coast of Scotland and England during the season.

13082. Have they never been in the habit of going much from Harris?
—No, they never went.


This is telling us that as far as Davidson was aware, the women of Harris did not participate in this work.

13083. A good many of the women in this island get employment in knitting and in spinning cloth ?
—Yes, kilt making. That is their principal employment, and of late years it has been very useful to them.


Knitting, Spinning and Weaving were clearly well-established by 1883 but whether ‘kilt making’ referred to an actual Tailoring activity or was Davidson’s shorthand for weaving a web of cloth is not clear. As far as I know, such tailoring was not performed in creating a product for export and my researches into tailoring certainly don’t indicate that it was ever a large-scale female activity on Harris.

13084. Who set that agoing?
—Well, the Countess of Dunmore takes some interest in it, as well as other parties. I see they get very much into the way of dealing with the local merchants in order to get meal.


The internal arrangements pertaining at the time between the producers and the local merchants are beyond the scope of this piece, but I am interested in Davidson’s phrase ‘takes some interest in it’  for that is hardly a ringing endorsement for the Countess’s commitment to the cause. It is just a pity that none of the ‘other parties’ were named!

13085. Are most of the women in the parish employed in that way?
—Well, generally.



A reminder that, unlike on neighbouring Lewis, Weaving on Harris was traditionally dominated by the women.

13086. I mean every family?
—Perhaps not every family, but very generally they are.


The extent to which these textile industries pervaded the population and were pivotal to their survival is clear.

13087. They knit a great many stockings and hose?
—Yes.

The size and importance of the knitting industry must have been very significant at this time so quite why it slipped into relative obscurity, especially in comparison with the international fame of Harris Tweed, is an interesting question that I have discussed in previous pieces.

13088. What price do they get for socks?
—Not very much—perhaps about 1s., but I can hardly say whether that is the fixed price.

That is only £2-£3 in today’s money

13089. And they manufacture a peculiarly coloured native cloth?
—Almost every kind of cloth.

13090. Native dyes?
—Yes, they use native dyes.


Ignoring the slightly pejorative-sounding ‘peculiarly coloured’, we learn that the women were producing a variety of different cloths using ‘native dyes’. It is worth noting, however, that the word ‘Tweed’, let-alone the two words, ‘Harris Tweed’, are conspicuous by their absence. It wasn’t until the later marketing of the brand that they assumed common usage.




Ref: The full transcript of this evidence may be read here .

Note:
Anyone wishing to learn more about the Free Church Ministers at this time should consult the  Annals of the Free Church of Scotland 1843-1900 (which may be available as in inter-library loan).

Captain Macleod’s Other Agricultural/Industrial Building at Rodel

This link to bing maps should display a 1:25 000 OS Map centred on this particular building, the details of which may be read here whilst two old monochrome photographs showing the building and its context are here . The Google Streetview showing its current condition is here .

I am interested in discovering what uses this building, Rodel House and the Fishing Station (sometimes referred to as the ‘Factor’s House’) were originally designed to perform. There are clues in the various contemporary accounts but they are lacking in sufficient detail to be able to say with certainty which housed the water-driven Mill, where the Net Factory was, or where the children learning to read and write were located.

Hopefully someone will spot something (either in the accounts, or perhaps from the images and maps) that will    enable us one day to say with more certainty what these three listed structures were intended to be used for.

I certainly hope so!

Note:
The Mill at An-t-Ob, which appears to have fared better than its predecessor at Rodel, features in Harris Millers & Mrs Campbell’s Mill at An-t-Ob .
Or was that, after all,  where Macleod’s Mill originally was and did Mrs Campbell merely re-build it as seen here ?

Of Two Tacksmen towards the close of the 18th Century

“The Tacksman of Ensay is Factor for all the Estate of Harris. He is also Baron Bailie, though he has not held a Court for these seven years. He deals deeply in the Kelp trade, and also in illicit trade.


The Tacksman of Strond is distinguished by humanity to his Sub-Tenants and Scallags, who are objects of envy to all the other Subtenants and Scallags of Harris.”


Travels in the Western Hebrides from 1782 to 1790
By the Rev. John Lane Buchanan Published 1793
Page 44

I think Buchanan, who is relentlessly scathing in his comments regarding the Tacksman class, presents these two (neighbouring) extremes from Harris partly as a prescient warning of what happens when power is concentrated in the hands of one individual and his cronies and partly to demonstrate that the excesses of the Tacksmen generally were neither necessary nor inevitable.

I don’t know who these two individuals were but we do know that Mrs Ann Campbell was the Tackswoman of Strond and Killigray at the turn of the 18th Century, and that she was similarly well-disposed to her Tenants & Cottars, so maybe she had inherited that position and it was Mr Campbell that Buchanan was referring to?

More commentary from this account, including an explanation of Buchanan’s division of the people into Lairds, Tacksmen, Sub-Tenants & Scallags, can be read here.

The Gaelic for Tacksman is Gabhaltach whilst a Sub-Tenant is a Maladair. Scallag, which may or may not be the etymological root of ‘Scallywag’, does not appear to have a Gaelic equivalent but also occurs in the 1794 Statistical Account as can be seen here.

‘Factor’s House’ or Fishing Station?

This PDF document refers to the ‘Factor’s House’ at Rodel but, unless I am getting confused between buildings, I think it refers to what these photographs describe as the Fishing Station ?

The description given here certainly appears to match that in the PDF, and the map reference is certainly that of the Fishing Station, yet the PDF makes no reference to this documented use of the structure.

The building may well have served a variety of industrial and domestic purposes since being constructed by Captain Macleod in the late 18thC but unfortunately we cannot Ask Angus …

…and, once demolished, whatever secrets might lie hidden in those stones will have gone forever.

There are precious- few Listed Buildings on Harris and I wonder how long it will be before this one suffers the same fate?

We know that Captain Macleod built a combined Corn and Fulling Mill powered by water (although whether at Rodel or An-t-Ob is unclear) and that he established a Spinning and Net Making Factory at Rodel yet I am unaware of anyone knowing the precise locations of these?

The ‘Factors House’ can be clearly seen on the right of this painting from 1819 where it’s position alongside a pier suggests that some 40 years after Captain Macleod had purchased Harris (and nearly 30 years after his death) the building was indeed linked to Fishing.

Rodel Households

These are the 60 ‘Head of Households’ as recorded in the 1841-1901 censuses.
Please bear in mind that these are listed merely to show the number of individual households and the range of occupations of those heading them. They do not provide detailed information on the overall economic activity that was being undertaken in Rodel during this time.
1841 (81 people in 13 households)
John Lindsay, 40, Estate Officer
John R Macdonald, 30, Farmer
Kenneth McDyer, 40, Shepherd
Angus McKay, 20, Shepherd
Angus Macleod, 60, Ag Lab
John Mckenzie, 50, Ag Lab
Donald Macmillan, 35, Ag Lab
Angus Ferguson, 30, Ag Lab
Donald Murray, 40, Parish Schoolmaster
Donald Macdonald, 40, Tailor
Allan McKinnon, 82, ?
Catherina McKay, 60, ?
Ann McKay, 40, ?
The 1841 census is not specific about addresses but I assume that the Estate Officer resided at Rodel House because the Farmer Macdonald who became Factor Macdonald is recorded as residing at Rodel House during his time as Factor.
1851 (38 people in 8 households)
John R Macdonald, 44, Land Factor & JP
Murdoch Macleod, 23, Shepherd
Donald Macmillan, 40, Farm Labourer
Angus McDermid, 35, Fish Curer
Richard H Watson, 32, Fish Merchant
Catherine Macleod, 50, Weaveress
Ann MacKinnon, 60, Formerly House Servant
Mary Macaulay, 60, Formerly Weaveress
I wonder if the Fish Curer occupied the listed building that is called the ‘Factors House‘ but which most certainly was not occupied by John R Macdonald’s extensive household? The presence of the retired House Servant now having her own home to live in, is a feature of later households too.
1861 (32 people in 5 households)
John Robertson Macdonald, 54, Factor of Harris Estate, Rodel House
Alex Macdonald 64, Farmer’s Shepherd, Rodel Hill House
Donald Mclennan, 35, Farmer’s Shepherd, Rodel Hill House
Roderick Macleod, 32, Farmer’s Shepherd, Rodel
Donald Macmillan, 55, Ag Lab, Rodel
I do not know precisely where the two ‘Rodel Hill Houses’ were located but this census explicitly locates the Factor within the walls of Rodel House.
1871 (44 people in 6 households)
John R Macdonald, 64, Factor
John Cunningham, 32, Estate Factor’s Clerk
Angus Kerr, 40, Farm Grieve
Roderick Macleod, 40, Shepherd
Norman Macdonald, 32, Shepherd
Donald Macmillan, 70, Cottar
Where the homes occupied by the Clerk & the Grieve were is unknown but I assume that they were close to the Factor in Rodel House (which was where Angus had been living in the previous two censuses).
1881 (38 people in 8 households)
Angus Kerr, 48, Farm Manager, Rodel Farm
Neil Macleod, 72, Shepherd, Rodel Farm
Norman Macdonald, 42, Shepherd, Rodel Farm
Norman Macmillan, 40, Farm Servant, Rodel Farm
Neil Macdonald, 46, Fisherman, Rodel Farm
Mary Maclean, 68, Laundry Maid, Rodel Farm
Catherine MacKinnon, 50, Cottar, Rodel Farm
Flora Macmillan, 60, Pauper, Rodel Farm
I doubt that any of these households were in Rodel House itself which, according to Kenneth Macdonald Kenneth Macdonald’s evidence to the Napier Commission was being made ready for the Earl in 1883.
1891 (48 people in 10 households)
Norman Macdonald, 52, Shepherd, Rodel
Norman Macmillan, 52, Cowherd, Rodel
John Finlayson, 41, Gamekeeper, Rodel
Ewan Macleod, 50, Gardener, Rodel
Euphemia Mackinnon, 62, House Keeper, Rodel
Niel Macdonald, 54, Fisherman, Rodel
Roderick Macaulay, 60, House Carpenter, Rodel
Angus Kerr, 64, Retired Groom, Rodel
Mary Maclean, 80, Retired Washerwoman, Rodel
Anne Macmillan, 80, Retired Tailoress, Rodel
It is interesting to see a Gardener appearing again, his predecessor having become the Post Master at An-t-Ob sometime between 1871 and 1881. At least two retired employees are now present but I have no idea at what time between 1881 and 1891 my cousin was the Groom/Coachman.
1901 (48 people in 10 households)
Roderick Campbell, 70, Farmer, Rodel
Alexander Morrison, 48, Shepherd, Rodel
John Finlayson, 51, Gamekeeper, Rodel
Norman Macmillan, 50, Carter, Rodel
Ewan Macleod, 59, Gardener, Hamlet Rodel
Norman Macdonald, 60, Mason, Rodel
Niel Macdonald, 69, Fisherman, Rodel
Roderick Macaulay, 68, Joiner, Rodel
Angus Kerr, 75, Retired Coachman, Rodel
Effie McKinnon, 60, Retired House Maid, Rodel
The House appears unoccupied and the only interesting feature is the location of the Gardener in another specified, but unknown, location, ‘Hamlet Rodel’.
Overall, I think we can see that during the second-half of the 19thC Rodel was tied to meeting the demands of Rodel House and the ‘Home Farm’ and it did so with an average of a mere 8 separate households.