The latest release of Valuation Rolls online provides an excellent window into Harris at a time when people on the estate were still suffering from the after-effects of famines, forced emigrations and the fear of further clearances.
It was being administered by the Factor John Robertson MacDonald on behalf of the Tutors of the 14 year-old 7th Earl of Dunmore and a cursory glance at the Harris Timelinemay help provide the context within which this particular roll sits. In this account I have used the spellings as they appear on the original document.
The record begins in Berneray where the whole of Borve, the cleared township occupying the fertile machair on the west of the island, was a Sheep Farm rented to William MacNeil for £120. The township of Rushgarry, on the other hand, wa divided into 21 separate crofts paying rents ranging from £4 to £20 and totalling £161 12s 6d.
The islands near North Uist in the Sound of Harris, owned by Harris following a fifty-year long legal wrangle, we being rented for £7 7s by ‘K MacDonald’, presumably the farmer Kenneth MacDonald who, in 1847, was the Assistant Factor responsible for the debacle of the attempted resettlement of Borve in Harris. He would later appear before the Napier Commissionto give his view of how Harris had been faring during his long period of residence.
We then reach the island of Harris itself and here there are listed seven Sheep Farms and their tenants, plus the one on the island of Taransay:
Hushinish – Sheep Grazing (Alexander McRae £884 6s 11 1/2d)
Luskintyre (Finlay McRae £320)
Taransay (John McDonald £177 10s)
Rodil (John Robertson McDonald £160)
Scarista Vore (Kenneth McDonald £120)
Marig (Widow C Morrison £83)
Ardvourlie (Donald Stewart – Shepherd £80)
Borves (Kenneth McRae £76)
Little Scarista (Robert Clarke £67 4s 6d)
Bunavin Edder (Alexander Grant – Shepherd £47)
It is, I think, worth noting that four of these men, John Robertson MacDonald ( Factor, born Snizort, Inverness-shire) John MacDonald, Tacksman, born Harris), Alexander McRae (Tacksman born Glenshiel, Ross-shire ) and Robert Clark (Surgeon, from Argyll) were on the dozen-strong Parochial Board of Harris in 1851.
One thing I am currently unclear about is whether Luskintyre was held by Finlay MacRae, the Minister in North Uist who happened to also be the factor John Robertson MacDonald’s brother-in- law, so if anyone can assist in clarifying that then I would be most grateful.
Finally, we have the Deer Forest of Harris rented by Lord Hill for £300 and Scalpay Light House Grounds for which the Commissioners of Northern Lights were paying £24 5s 5d annually.
Next time: Crofters & Cottars.