A House

I find the history of buildings, whether they be monumental statements of public and private pride or the humblest of constructions, fascinating.

I came upon this reference to a house in Stornoway:

20 Bayhead
18th century
A lone survivor, albeit altered, of the old settlement around Bayhead.
The building’s age is indicated by its roof pitch, low entrance and the disposition of windows, which are well set back into their reveals.


(Ref: “Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide”, by Mary Miers, 2008.Rutland Press)

It is also a British listed Building and can be seen here: 20 Bayhead

It is particularly awkward to accurately trace the occupancy of a specific building when interrogating a database of census transcriptions.

In England, it is possible to view original images of the census returns and page back and forth, thus retracing the steps taken by each enumerator and this is particularly useful in rural areas where roads and houses often lack precision in naming and numbering.

The Scottish records cannot be researched in this manner and one has to resort to a number of tricks to locate the information that is being sort. But that’s part of the fun!

1821 – The Town Plan of 1821 should enable identification of the owner of the building.it also shows the extent of the bay that lay North of it, in contrast to the present day situation near the head of the bay. I think it was the property of a Mr D McDonald in 1821, the 6th site down from New Street.

1841-1861 Insufficient address data to identify occupants

1871
Norman Mciver, Shoemaker, 56, b. Stornoway, wife Catherine and 5 children
Murdo Mackenzie, Cooper, 55, b. Stornoway, wife Isabella and 3 children
Total 12 people

1881
Norman Mciver, Shoemaker, 65, wife Catherine and 9 children including Norman, Apprentice Blacksmith, 26 and Duncan, General Labourer, 18.
Alexander Morrison, Seaman, 58, b. Barvas, wife Mary
Margaret Maciver, 60, Margaret Morrison, 59 b. Aberdeen
Total 15 people

1891 – Address not listed

1901
Donald MacFarquar 47, b. Stornoway, Blacksmith & Wheelwright, wife Catherine and 6 children including Janet, Dairy Keeper, 19 plus Annie Macleod, Domestic Servant, 19.
Total 9 people

1911
Donald Macfarquhar dies at No 22 but the Informant is his Brother-in-Law, Archibald Munro of No 20.
Archibald was the Town Clerk and Harbour Master and husband of Donald’s sister, Mary.

1927
John Kerr, Blacksmith, 27, b. Stornoway and wife Mary Ann Macdonald 26
 (According to Marriage Certificate, at time of his Death in 1957 he was a Motor Mechanic)

1935
Ronald MacFarquhar, but I think it was Donald!
(According to Death Certificate of Donald Kerr, 51, Building Contractor, of 10 Bayhead Street)

1945
Donald MacFarquhar, Grain Merchant, son of the 1901 Blacksmith & Wheelwright
(According to his wife Mary Kerr’s Death Certificate – she was the third child of Alexander John Kerr and his first wife, Margaret Macarthur)

2010 – Veterinary Surgery

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An Unintended Consequence of Victorian Apprenticeships

One interesting and unusual aspect of Victorian life was how young men were trained in particular skilled occupations.

The son of a blacksmith, for example, (sometimes even if following in his father’s footsteps) would be taken under the wing of another craftsman for his apprenticeship. Literally ‘under the wing’ because the lad would not only work with his mentor but actually become part of the household.

(Anyone who has been ‘taught’ to drive by a parent will be able to empathise with the benefit of being apprenticed outside the family!)

Often these apprenticeships would take the form of a reciprocal arrangement whereby the families exchanged sons and, sometimes, this would result in an even closer tie between the two families if there happened to be a daughter ‘available’ and a marriage ensued.

Daughters, if they did not meet a match as a by-product of these apprenticeships, would almost certainly go into domestic service. This was the predominant form of female employment until WWI spurred the process, albeit hesitatingly, of allowing women into the wider workplace.

Domestic Servants were often the daughters of friends or relatives in what appears to have been a similar system to that in place for the male apprentices.

They, too, might make a match with a member of the hosting household, more usually a fellow employee, and thus it was that Victorian society (which was far more geographically mobile than is often assumed) aided the dispersion and social mobility of (skilled working-class/aspiring lower-middle class) families, a fact attested to by comparison of the locations of surnames over time.