The Taransay Connection

At eleven o’clock on the morning on the24th of July 1934 Marion Campbell, wife of the sheepfarmer John Campbell, died on the island of Taransay. The 66 year oldhad been suffering from throat cancer for at least a year. Her deathwas registered by her son, Roderick Campbell (then resident inLeverburgh) who became the last resident farmer of Taransay followinghis father’s death on the island in 1945.
Roderick’s grandparents were RoderickCampbell, from Drinishader (later moving to Scadabay) on mainland Harris, andLizzie (Elizabeth) MacRae who lived, and was very likely born upon,the island of Killegray in the Sound of Harris. Her father, KennethMacRae, would later become the farmer at Little Borve following thefinal Clearance of the Borves by the Factor, John RobertsonMacDonald.
Similarly Lizzie’s husband, the FishCurer Roderick Campbell, would, following her death in 1888 and hisremarrying, become the farmer of Borve, Berneray which the sameFactor had also had Cleared during his time on Harris. Roderick,appearing on the scene several decades after the Clearance, wasreputedly a well-liked & benevolent farmer and, although hisdeparture from Berneray had been preceded by an act of unaccustomedvandalism involving the sinking of a boat, the crofters apparentlymeant him no personal animosity but were merely wanting theirhereditary land returned to them. In this they were to succeed whenthe farm was recrofted in 1900.
Roderick and his son John weresuccessful Fish Curers in Rodel but I wish to take the family a fewgenerations back, before progressing further forward. Roderick’sfather, John Campbell, had been a Merchant in Scadabay and it wasthere that the 63 year old died in 1866. He left a widow, RachaelMacDonald, and also the name of his parents, Kenneth Campbell andRachael Morrison.
Now, my understanding is that theseCampbells were related to the Campbell family of Strond includingAnne Campbell, the benevolent holder of the tack of Killegray &Strond who was engaged in legal wrangles with Donald Stewart in the1830s and who had provided a place to live for some of those thrownfrom their homes in Rodel by her half-nephew, Alexander Hume MacLeod,back in 1818.
Allow me to elaborate upon that lastpoint for it is a connection that I have only just this moment made!Alexander Hume MacLeod was the son of Captain Alexander MacLeod whowas the second son to be born to Donald MacLeod, the ‘Old Trojan’ ofBerneray during his first marriage. Anne was the widow of (another)Kenneth Campbell but had been born Anne MacLeod, the sixth of thenine children sired by the ‘Old Trojan’ during the 15 year course ofhis third marriage.
It is surely not difficult to imagineAnne’s horror when her absentee-landlording relative wreaked suchhavoc upon people whom she had lived amongst all her life – and that hewas doing so in total disregard to, and disrespect of, the wishes &endeavours of her deceased half-brother?
Anne was born circa 1775 and this,together with the information on John Campbell’s Death Certificate,suggests that her late husband Kenneth Campbell and the KennethCampbell whose line led to Taransay were probably of similar ages, although not necessarily of the same generation?
I really don’t know the details of anysuch link but I think it is becoming clear that the web ofconnections across the Sound of Harris are many and complex and that,by examining them, we may well be able to begin to better understand themotivations of those who played significant roles in the history ofHarris.
Which takes us back to Taransay for,although not in the Sound itself, the lady who may well have been oneof the last to end her days upon that isle did indeed begin her lifeon the shore of the Sound. Marion Campbell had been born on the 15th of October 1872, theeldest child of the Farm Grieve at Rodel. His name was Angus Kerr andMarion was my 2nd Cousin thrice removed.
RIP Marion Kerr 1872-1934
A note on sources: Were I to fullyannotate this piece it would perhaps double in length, but being introduced recently to the work of the late Alick Morrison, who was elucidatinginterconnections some thirty years prior to my attempting to do so,has proved extremely fruitful and, most encouragingly, has also corroboratedseveral of my own stumbling efforts!