Schooling in Lochs 1797-1881

As a resultof a recent enquiry I thought I’d have alook at educational provision in the Parish of Lochs, Lewis. The firstreference is to be found in The Statistical Account of Scotland where we learn from the RevMr Alexander  Simson that a ParochialSchoolhouse had been built during the previous year and a ‘Society’ (presumablySSPCK) schoolhouse constructed some two years prior to that. Two spinningschools (the majority of spinning in the islands at the time was performed using the distaff and spindle rather than with a spinning wheel) were operating, paid for jointly by the wife of the proprietor, ColonelFrancis Humberston Mackenzie of Seaforth,  and the SSPCK. This, in sum, was the situationof schooling in Lochs in 1797.
The RevRobert Finlayson composed his entry for Lochs in The New Statistical Account ofScotland in 1833 and the book itself was published in 1845, As an aside we may notethat, according to Finlayson, no Parish Register had been kept for Lochs beforehis arrival in 1831 and in this regard his parish was suffering from a similar lackof records as the neighbouring Parish of Harris. There were four schoolsprovided by the Gaelic School Society but no parish school as there was no accommodationuntil the recent erection of a schoolhouse. I wonder what had become of theParochial Schoolhouse that Simson had mentioned?
By the timeof the eventual publication in 1845 many changes had occurred since Finlaysonpenned his account but we can get a snapshot of educational provision from thecensus taken in 1841.
The 1841Census records five Schoolmasters in Lochs:
PeterMacEwen, 35, Lemreway
Donald MacFarlane,40, Laxay
MalcolmMacCritchie, 35, North Shawbost
Allan Ross,35, Keose
John Shaw,50, Borroston(?)
The soleGaelic Teacher was:
JohnMacLean,  25, Keose, b. Ross &Cromarty
An eventfuldecade later, one in which the Clearances, the Disruption and the ongoing Famineswere perhaps the most significant of several factors, sees a different set of sixSchoolmasters:
WilliamDenon, 50, Keose, b. Cromarty
WilliamMacKay, 28, Balallan, b. Durness, Sutherland
We may alsonote the presence of an unemployed schoolmaster;
DonaldMacKey, 28, Loval, b. Durness, Sutherland
Donald wasone of seven members of the MacKay household at Loval Cottage, headed by hiswidowed 64 year-old mother, and he was quite possibly the (twin?) brother of WilliamMacKay in Balallan.
The  Gaelic (School) Teachers were:
 John MacLean, 43, Laxay, b. Ross &Cormarty
NormanMacLennan, 51, Leurbost, b. Uig, Ross-shire
MurdoMacDonald, 48, North Shawbost, b. Uig, Ross-shire
MalcolmMorrison, 36, Calbost, b. Uig, Ross-shire
The presenceof four teachers in different locations certainly appears to match with theprovision of education by the Gaelic School society mentioned 18 years earlierbut the presence of North Shawbost in the census for Lochs is confusing me as Ithought it lay in the Parish of Barvas?
There is nosign of much changing by 1861 when the only two schoolmasters are Angus Murray,60, Schoolhouse, b. Dornoch, Sutherlandshire and locally-born John Smith, 28and three teachers are to be seen:
KennethMacKenzie, 40, Gaelic Teacher, Day School, b. Lochbroom
Malcolm Morrison,48, Gaelic Teacher, Day School, b. Uig, Ross-shire
AngusMorrison, 18, Teacher, Day School, b. Uig, Ross-shire (Son of Malcolm)
Similarly,in  1871:
AlexanderCrawford, 33, Keose, b. Stralachlan, Argyllshire
DonaldMacIver, 19, Laxay, b. Lochs
AlexanderMacIver (no further details)
JohnMacLeod, 50, Marvig, b. Harris
Malcolm Morrison,56, Laxay, b. Uig, Ross-shire
AlexanderMorrison, 22, Laxay, b. Uig, Ross-shire (Son of Malcolm, above)
Donald Smith,18, Lemreway, b. Lochs
There isalso Roderick MacLeod, 28, Cromore, b. Lochs who may have been the GaelicSchool’s teacher at this time whilst two families of fishermen were apparently thesole occupants of a pair of school houses.
The 1872Education (Scotland)Act  introduced compulsoryEnglish education, outlawing Gaelic from the school grounds with a rigour thatsurpassed the vigour of previous centuries with which the banning of the wearingof Highland dress and the carrying of arms had been accomplished.
Thus by 1881schooling in Lochs had expanded but only one Gaelic School appears to havesurvived:
J C Clarke,Leurbost, b. Kilmuir
AlexanderCrawford, 43, b. Stralachlan, Argyllshire
JohnCumming, 36, Ranish, b. Knockando, Elgin
RoderickMacKenzie, Marvig, b. Lochs
MurdoMacLeod, 37, Kershader, b. Lochs
AlexanderMorison, 28, Cromore, b. Lochs
We must alsonote the presence of two Sewing Mistresses:
AnneMacLeod, 46, Kershader, b. Lochs (Sister of Murdo, above)
Chirsty  Morison, 19, Cromore, b. Lochs (Sister ofAlexander Morison, above)
In additionwe have another ten Teachers, Assistant Teachers & Pupil Teachers recorded:
DuncanFraser, 21, Crossbost, b. Daviot, Inverness-shire
DonaldMacLeod, 16, Laxay, b. Lochs
MurdoMartin, 19, Arivruaich, b. Uig, Ross-shire
KennethMacKenzie, 26, Gravir, b. Gravir
DonaldMacKenzie, 19, Grimshader, b. Lochs
DonaldMacKinnon, 25, Balallan, b. Lochs
JohnMacLeod, 60, Cromore, b. Harris (Gaelic  School)
MurdoMacLeod, 37, Kershader, b. Lochs
AlexanderMorrison, 28, Cromore, b. Lochs
Alex Ross,54, Balallan, b. Perth, Blair
In summary, from the scant evidence that such records as these provide, it appears that the people of Lochs managed against all adversity to maintain Gaelic education for their children right up until the implementation of the 1872 Act. This is testament to the thirst for knowledge and respect for education that both of the Ministers who wrote for the Statistical Accounts had taken the time to remark upon in their respective reports and yet another rebuttal of the prevailing establishment view of the Gael…
I shallreturn to look at provision post the 1883 Napier Report in a later piece, butmeanwhile an excellent article on the history of education in Lewis, andspecifically in the neighbouring Parish of Uig, may be found here:
StatisticalAccount Pages –

4 thoughts on “Schooling in Lochs 1797-1881

  1. It's a great pity that the 1801-1831 censuses were never published, certainly as far as Lochs history is concerned. Interesting piece, Peter, looking forward to your follow-up on the post-Napier era, as education was definitely an item in the Napier Commission's report.

  2. The William Mackay age 28, shown in the 1851 census is my 3 X Great Grandfather. Donald is not his brother: William was illegitimate and his mother never married and lived in Durness with her sister and her husband all her life. I have a copy of William's teaching Diploma, presented in Edinburgh and dated 22nd July 1848. I also have a certificate issued in Stornoway on 18th May 1848 which states he is qualified to teach navigation. By 1861 William has abandoned his wife and son William Morrison Mackay (My 2 X Great Grandfather) and is living in Edinburgh, never returning to teaching, mainly being employed as a Cabman and sometimes Clerk, Collector Of Police. I'm not sure why he gave up teaching and finding out is on my list of things to do.I also have original solicitor's letters and documents which show that after his death in 1891 his abandoned wife and son received the inheritance he had intended, according to his will, to go to cousins in Durness.

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