>Importation of Deer – Or where the one on Barra came from!

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HARRIS, August 2. – IMPORTATION OF DEER. – Early on the morning of Saturday last, the 27th ultimo, the inhabitants of Tarbert were agreeably surprised by the arrival there of nine magnificent stags from Atholl forset, in Perthshire, being a present from Lord Glenlyon to the Earl of Dunmore. The noble animals were, on the same day, marked, and turned loose into his Lordship’s forest, amidst hundreds of admiring spectators, who collected to witness the noble scene, and from the gallant style in which they bounded off to the hills, it was quite evident that they had not suffered the slightest injury on their passage to this country. The object of importing them is to improve the breed in Harris, as the Atholl deer are well known to be among the finest in Scotland.
The Aberdeen Journal August 21st 1844
The story of the stag who went for a holiday including a month of turnip munching at Eolaigearraidh (Eoligarry) on Barra is told in this previous piece. 

>Wintering in the South…

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‘Island of Barra. – A much valued correspondent in Stornoway writes us:-
The House of Barra, on the island of the same name, in the West Highlands, the late residence of the Macneils, and the property of Colonel Gordon of Cluny, was lately totally destroyed by fire.
He also narrates the following curious circumstance:-
Two years ago a few deer were brought from Athol to Tarbat, on the island of Harris, by the late Earl of Dunmore, and there turned at large.
In the month of November last, one of these, a fine stag, swam across the Sound of Harris, a distance of about five miles, went through North and South Uist, swam across from South Uist to Barra, a distance of eight miles, remained there a month where it daily fed on the turnip field at the house of Oligary, and then returned to South Uist where it was lately seen.
This,” says our friend, “is worth while putting in the paper.”
It really is.’
Greenock Advertiser, quoted in the Glasgow Herald of 26th January 1846
Today, of course, his journey would require him to undertake a little less swimming! – http://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/techservices/bridgescausewaysferries/index.asp

>Scalpaigh (Scalpay) Population Data 1841-1901

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Here, with some comments, are the figures as found in the censuses:
1841
5 households with 31 people – 6.2 people per hearth
In the 1840s the 338 people of Pabbay were Cleared, many to Scalpay. A figure of 20 families being sent there by Captain Sitwell , who was a Commissioner to the 7th Earl of Dunmore, indicates that this was the influx of 1846, just a year after the death of the 6th Earl and hence during the Dowager Countess’s time as her son’s Tutor. These 20 families had been preceded by an earlier group of 20 in 1842/3:
1851
45 Households with 282 people – 6.3 people per hearth
In his Report of 1851, Sir John M’Neill used a figure of 5.2 people per household in his calculations so the average for Scalpaigh in that year, 6.2 people per hearth, is significantly larger.
1861
69 Households with 371 people – 5.4 people per hearth
1871
82 households with 419 people – 5.1 people per hearth
1881
96 households with 532 people – 5.5 people per hearth
1891
87 households with 484 people – 5.6 people per hearth
1901
122 households with 582 people – 4.8 people per hearth
There is plenty more to be investigated here, such as occupational change during this period, but I think it is clear that, apart from the brief interlude of 1891, Scalpaigh’s overcrowding grew steadily worse as the century progressed. The population had more than doubled within 50 years of 1851, a time when there had already been insufficient land to support its 45 families, so the circumstances in which those people found themselves at the dawn of the 20th Century must have been truly desperate.
Pabbay, the island where so many had originated, had once been known as ‘the granary of Harris’. It’s people were cleared to feed sheep and perhaps as many as a third of its human mouths sent to face potential starvation on Scalpaigh…

>Captain FWL Thomas & Malcolm Gillies

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‘At the time that he was based in the area he had a friend, Malcolm Gillies, who had been born in Skye and later became a schoolmaster in Harris and in North Uist. Malcolm Gillies had a son whom he named Frederick Thomas. This Frederick Thomas gillies was later a merchant in Lochboisdale. The former Head of the BBC’s Gaelic Department, Fred Macaulay, is named after this relative. So the name of Captain Thomas lives on in the islands.’
‘Captain Otter & Captain Thomas’ by Gillian Maclean and Finlay Macleod p120 ‘Togail Tir’
This is one of my favourite essays in Togail Tir and, whilst reading it in advance of much of my earlier work on the two Captain’s might have saved me quite a few hours of ‘toil’, in some ways it is even nicer to find published confirmation of one’s own endeavours.
What follows are the records from the censuses, charting what I believe to have been Malcolm.s journey from his home on his father’s farm, via a period as a merchant, to his vocation in education.
(I have attempted to make it easier to track individuals by using various combinations of bold and italics and I trust that readers find this so.)
1841 – Bracadale
Murdoch Gillies, 80, Farmer
Mary, 60
Malcolm, 35
Norman, 15
Marion, 25
1851 – Cladach Carinish , North Uist
Malcolm Gillies, 40, Tea Dealer in Retail, b. Kilmuir, Skye, Inverness
1861 – North Uist
Malcolm Gillies, 50, Gaelic Teacher, b. County Bracadale, Inverness-shire
Ann, 32, b. Trumisgary , Inverness-shire
Marion, 7, b. Trumisgary – as were her 4 siblings below
Mary, 6
Murdoch, 4
Ewen, 2
John, 11 months
Malcolm Gillies, 61, Gaelic Teacher, b. Brackadle, Inverness-shire
Ann, 38,
Marion, 14
Murdoch, 13
Ewan, 11
John, 9
Archie, 7, b. North Uist
Roderick, 5, b. Harris
Mary, 3, b. Harris
Malcolm, 1, b. Kilmuir
1881 – North Uist
Malcolm Gillies, 76, Missionary Teacher
Anne, 51
Marion, 27, Sewing Mistress
Mary A, 13
Ewen, 22, Arts Student
John, 20, Teacher
Roderick N, 15
Malcolm, 10
Frederick, 7, b. North Uist
Marion Ann Macleod, 1, Granddaughter, b. North Uist
1891 – North Uist
Ann Gillies, 60, Dressmaker
Ewan, 32, Student of Theology
John, 30, Ag Lab
Malcolm, 21, Ex Pupil Teacher, b. Skye
Frederick, 14, b. Harris(?)
Mary Ann Gillies Macleod, 11, Granddaughter
And finally:
1901 – Mc Dougall’s House, Boisdale, South Uist
Frederick T Gillies, 26, Shopkeeper Grocer, b. Harris
It is evident that at least two of the Gillies’s children, Roderick b.1866 and Mary b. 1868, were born in Harris suggesting that Malcolm may have spent at least these three years teaching on the island.
The next birth, that of Malcolm in 1870, took place in Kilmuir which suggests that was the latest date that he was still teaching on Harris before teaching in Kilmuir prior to returning to North Uist.
All the earlier children are indicated as having been born on North Uist and the same is said of the final child, Frederick Thomas, if we are to believe the census of 1881. However, in the next two censuses he is clearly shown as having been born in Harris.
I am happy to confirm that his birth was registered in Harris and that he was born in 1873.
Fred Thomas must have been delighted to have the lad named after him and I would love to discover whether the two of them met before Fred’s death in 1885.

>’The Living Voice’

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This is the title of Michael Robson’s brilliant essay in ‘Togail Tir ‘, the 1989 book that is a treasure for those of us with an interest in the mapping of the isles and matters arising from such mapping.
On page 102 of the book and with regard to the recording of placenames by the Ordnance Survey, he writes, ‘The islanders who helped were recorded by name, and it would be an interesting and worthwhile task to identify them all.’ which is precisely what I intend to do for one such individual.
Robson records ‘Angus Shaw, at Strond’ as the man who helped so what can we learn of Angus?
There are a few possible candidates for this man but the one who appears to be the best fit appears in the censuses as shown below (People in bold are those who appear more than once over time)
1841 – Strond
Angus Shaw, 25
Mary Shaw, 25
Christian Shaw, 1
1851 – Geocrab
Angus Shaw, 42, Gamekeeper
Una Shaw, 36
Christy Shaw, 10
Duncan Shaw, 8
Alexander W Shaw, 6
Donald Shaw, 4
John Shaw, 1
1857 – Charts of the Sound of HarrisSound of Harris (Otter) & East Loch Tarbert (Thomas)
1861 – Ardslave
Angus Shaw, 50, Gamekeeper
Winford Shaw, 40
Christina Shaw, 20
Duncan Shaw, 17
Donald Shaw, 13
John Shaw, 11
Anne Shaw, 7
1871 – Strond
Angus Shaw, 64, Gamekeeper
Una Shaw, 58
Duncan Shaw, 25
Alex Shaw, 25
Donald Shaw, 21
John Shaw, 19
Anne Shaw, 17
1875-77 Ordnance Survey surveying Harris
1881 – Strond
Angus Shaw, 70, Crofter
Ann Shaw, 60
Alexander Shaw, 34
Anna Shaw, 24
Donald Shaw, 32
Rachel Shaw, 12, Granddaughter
Angus Mackay, 10, Grandson
John McDermid, 80, Brother-in-law
1891 – Strond
Una Shaw, 79, Crofter
Alexr Shaw, 40
Anne Shaw, 32
Rachel Shaw, 22
1901 – Strond
Alexander Shaw, 45, Crofter
Anne Shaw, 36, Sister
Rachel Morrison, 30
Angus Mackay, 25, Nephew
Peggy Mcsween, 12, Granddaughter
I am sure that this is the same family, followed from 1841 onwards, and am reasonably sure that this is indeed the Angus Shaw who assisted the Ordnance Survey.
Whether his wife, ‘Mary’, died and he remarried Una/Winford(?)/Ann could be discerned from an examination of their Death Certificates, plus those of the daughter Christian and one of the later children, should one wish to do so.
However, I am happy to present Angus Shaw, born circa 1810, a Gamekeeper in South Harris and father of six, as my first contribution to this ‘…interesting and worthwhile task…’ !
Notes: Robson also discusses the roles of Alexander Carmichael and FWL Thomas and I remind readers of the gem that is Bald’s 1804/5 Map of Harris & of my less-shiny attempt at a prose-poem on landscape.

>Renting Rodel

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Isle of Harris.
TO LET with Entry Whitsunday next (1887),
the FARM OF RODEL,
consisting partly of Arable Land
and partly of Hill Grazing.
Apply to Mr BRYDONE, Luskintyre, Harris,
or Messrs. DONDAS & WILSON,
15 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
This advertisement appeared in the Scottish Highlander on the 17th March 1887 and it interests me greatly:
Firstly, ‘Mr Brydone’ is Thomas Brydone, who had been the Factor of the South Harris Estate for only 6 months when he appeared before the Napier Commission. His life has been explored more fully in this piece from ADB’s ‘Pentland Road’ blog.
Secondly, six years before the advert my relative Angus Kerr was the Farm Manager at Rodel but was no longer in that role in 1891. We also know that in 1883 Rodel House was unoccupied and, apparently, being readied for the 7th Earl of Dunmore. From that same piece we see that in 1891 my relative was a ‘Retired Groom’ and then in 1901 a ‘Retired Coachman’, so if the Earl did indeed return to Rodel House anytime between 1883 & 1891 then Angus was probably the man driving him & his guests around in their coach!
Finally, although there is no Farmer listed at Rodel in 1891, those shown there in 1901 were Roderick Campbell and his son John, who was living with his wife Marion and her parents – Angus & Lexy Kerr.
It must be remembered that all those, including my relatives, who thrived at Rodel Farm were able to do so because of the dreadful event that took place there in 1818. and that it was one Mrs Anne Campbell, holder of the Tack of Strond & Killegray, who kindness at this particular time was remarked upon. 
Was this the real reason for her incurring the wrath of Donald Stewart in 1834?  I suspect so!

>A Balanced View of the Balance of Nature?

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On the 18th of March 1842, the Inverness Journal announced that:
The Earl of Dunmore has ordered a supply of hares and rabbits to be let loose over the island of Harris.
The island does not contain much arable land, and the farmer will be remunerated as a sportsman for any loss he may otherwise sustain.
Eight days later on the 26th of March another paper, the Manchester Times & Gazette, quoted an article in the Inverness Courier:
‘The Earl of Dunmore has ordered a supply of hares and rabbits to be let loose over the island of Harris.
This must be intended as a boon for the sportsman; it will scarcely prove one to the farmer; but the island does not contain much arable land.’
I think it is clear that either a ‘press release’ had been the original source of these articles (with the Journal printing it verbatim and the Courier slightly altering the emphasis of the second sentence) or that the Courier had perhaps used the Journal’s article as the basis for it’s piece?
Whatever the case, a couple of year’s later on the 20th of April 1844 an article in the ‘Scotsman’ was quoted by ‘The Freeman’s journal & Daily Commercial Advertiser’:
RATS IN THE HEBRIDES
‘Generations have passed away without seeing a rat on the small island of Tarinsay, on the west coast of Harris. An innumerable swarm of these annoying and destructive vermin have of late spread over the island, notwithstanding the efforts of Mr Macdonald, the taskmaster, to extirpate them. They appear to be increasing so fast that they threaten to over-run the whole island, and keep violent possession of it.
They are supposed to have come from the island of Soay, which lies at the distance of about three miles from Tarinsay, and into which the Earl of Dunmore, some years ago, ordered rabbits to be sent. Soon after this, the rats, which were formerly very numerous on the island of Soay, completely disappeared, having removed in a body to the neighbouring island, from which they are not inclined to take their departure in a hurry.’
Note: ‘Tarinsay’ for Taransay is forgiveable whilst substituting ‘taskmaster’ for ‘tacksman’ was, perhaps, a Freudian slip as the island had recently been Cleared for this same John Macdonald?
Island which spent £600,000 getting rid of rats over-run by rabbits, trumpeted the Telegraph of 27th of April 2010, referring to the island of Canna, with the same story also being covered by the Guardian, which didn’t mention the cost of the operation, and by the Times, whose tabloidesque headline apparently suggests that the rabbits had consumed the island itself!
Nature & newspapers sometimes seem to share similar difficulties in maintaining balance…