In an earlier piece we saw that Alexander ‘Fear Huisinis’ McRa and Mrs Donald Stewart were 1st Cousins and that Donald Stewart’s son, John Stewart, and his wife Jessy Macrae were 2nd Cousins.
The connection was the Macrae family of Ardintoul who were Roman Catholics (Hence in 1861 ‘Fear Huisinis’s sons Archibald Alexander & John were boarding with the Rev William Davison, a Roman Catholic Priest, at St Mary’s Church in Huntly St, Inverness) and this leads me to think that the Stewart’s were possibly of the same faith?
Donald Stewart was the Factor of Harris for Alexander Norman Macleod who inherited the isle in 1811 (I am unsure whether he inherited the Factor, too) and it was in 1834, when he purchased Harris, that the 6th Earl of Dunmore appointed Duncan Shaw to the role.
There is a reference to his successor, John Robertson Macdonald who died in 1874, having been the Dunmore family’s Factor for 35 years implying that he was in the role by 1839 but the census of 1841 only confirms that he was farming from, I believe, Rodel House. The Estate Officer living in Rodel was John Lindsay.
By 1881 the Factor for South Harris was Kenneth Macdonald and he had become Factor for North Harris by 1883. He was Assistant Factor of Harris in 1847.
Let us look at where each of these men were in 1841:
Donald Stewart – Farmer of Luskentire (Previously Factor of Harris)
Duncan Shaw – Factor of North Uist (Previously Factor of Harris)
John Robertson Macdonald – Farmer of Rodel (Later? Factor of Harris)
Alexander ‘Fear Huisinis’ McRa – Not found, but by circa 1844 he was in Harris.
Kenneth Macdonald – Not found, but by 1832 according to his evidence to the Napier Commision.
Hence we can place the Catholic Alexander McRa joining his cousin’s husband, Donald Stewart, as a fellow farmer on the fertile West Coast near the time that John Roberton Macdonald became Factor. John Robertson Macdonald’s sister, Isabella Maria Macdonald, was wife of the Rev Finlay MacRae, Minister of North Uist, who was a son of Donald Macrae of Achintee, Lochcarron.
The Factor of North Uist was Duncan Shaw whose son, Charles Shaw, informed the Napier Commission of 1883 that he assisted his father in that role from ‘Whitsuntide 1834 to Whitsuntide 1838’ which provides us with the earliest date for John Robertson having become Factor and that is a good match for the 35 years alluded to above. Charles Shaw, whos was already a ‘Writer to the Signet’ by 1841, had married John Robertson’s niece circa 1844.
Another person interviewed in 1883 was Kenneth Macdonald from Applecross who by that time was farming at Scaristavore but had been the Farmer of Borve, Harris at the time of the Clearances. In 1881 he was Factor of South Harris, a role that he had relinquished by the time he was interviewed. His wife, Mary Macrae, was of a Lochcarron family from Achintee. She was, in fact, a niece of Finlay Macrae, the Minister of North Uist.
Donald Stewart was married to a Catholic Macrae of Ardintoul descent and John Robertson Macdonald’s sister was similarly attached to a Macrae of the Achintee lineage and through them to the Established Church of Scotland.
Kenneth Macdonald had also married into that same Achintee Macrae family and Charles Shaw was married to John Robertson Macdonald’s niece which appears to rather neatly connect these three men. Alexander ‘Fear Huisinis’ McRa had been in the 75th Highlanders and John Robertson Macdonald a Lieutenant in three regiments. There were 20 years & a religious divide between these two men but they had the Army (whose force they could resort to) in common.
These factors linking Factors seem to me to be important in understanding their respective roles in the history of Harris.There were several family ties between these Factors (& Farmers) and one could, if so desired, continue to explore them further but I hope to have shown that the Messrs. Stewart, Shaw, Macdonald(s) and McRa had plenty of personal (as well as professional) incentives to ensure that they acted in unity.