>’The Hebridean Breed’ – The True Kyloe

>

‘Cattle; Their Breeds, Management and Diseases; With An Index’ by William Youatt was published in 1834 by Baldwin & Cradock (London) for The Society For The Diffusion Of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) as the latest addition to their ‘Library of Useful Knowledge’.
The SDUK, as can be read here , was begun by Lord Peter Henry Brougham who was Rector of the University of Glasgow from 1824 to 1826 and instrumental in establishing the University of London. .
William Youatt (1776-1847) was an outstanding Veterinary Surgeon born in Exeter in the county of  Devon. He devotes several pages (p64-73) to ‘The Hebridean Breed’ and I have extracted some of his more interesting observations (in italics), rearranging them under ten different headings and with some comments of my own:
THE WEST HIGHLAND CATTLE/THE HEBRIDEAN BREED
DESCRIPTIONS
There is little or no variety of breeds of cattle in the Hebrides. They are pure West Highlanders.
Apparently the most ancient breed of cattle in the country.
We have been favoured with the following excellent description of the true Kyloe, or West Highland bull, by Malcolm M’Neill, Esq., of the Isle of Islay, the southernmost of the inner range of the Hebrides:
‘The Highland bull should be black, the head not large, the ears thin, the muzzle fine, and rather turned up. He should be broad in the face, the eyes prominent, and the countenance calm and placid. The horns should taper finely to a point; and, neither drooping too much, nor rising too high, should be of a waxy colour, and widely set on at the root. The neck should be fine, particularly where it joins the head, and rising with a gentle curve from the shoulder. The breast wide, and projecting well before the legs. The shoulders broad at the top, and the chine so full as to leave but little hollow behind them. The girth behind the shoulder deep; the back straight, wide, and flat; the ribs broad; the space between them and the hips small; the belly not sinking low in the middle; yet, in the whole, not forming the round and barrel-like carcase which some have described. The thigh tapering to the hock-joint; the bones larger in proportion to the size than in the breeds of the southern districts. The tail set on a level with the back. The legs short and straight. The whole carcase covered with a thick long coat of hair, and plenty of hair also about the face and horns, and that hair not curly.’
Mr. Macgillivray, in his ‘Prize Essay on the present State of the Outer Hebrides,’ says,
‘The black cattle are small, but well proportioned; and on the tacksmen’s farms (a tacksman is one who has a large tract of land, which he holds by lease) they are generally of good breed, and, although not heavy, very handsome. They are covered with a thick and long pile during winter and spring; and a good pile is considered one of the essential qualifications of a cow.
The most common colours are black, red, brown, or brandered, (that is, a mixture of red and brown in stripes—brindled.’) A whitish dun colour is also pretty frequently seen, not unlike that of the original wild cattle of Scotland…and it is remarked, that in all their traditions or fables of what are called fairy-cattle, this is the colour ascribed to these animals’
Mr. Macgillivray’ was William Macgillivray, the Naturalist who farmed at Northton and who is mentioned in this piece regarding an annotation on Bald’s Map of Harris.
The value of the West Highland cattle consists in their being hardy, and easily fed; in that they will live, and sometimes thrive, on the coarsest pastures; that they will frequently gain from a fourth to a third of their original weight in six months’ good feeding; that the proportion of offal is not greater than in the most improved larger breeds; that they will lay their flesh and fat equably on the best parts; and that, when fat, the beef is closed fine in the grain, highly flavoured, and so well mixed or marbled, that it commands a superior price in every market.
Mr. Moorhouse, from Craven, in Yorkshire, in 1763, was the first Englishman who came into the Hebrides to buy cattle. In the absence of her husband, Mr. M’Donald, of Kingsburgh, he was kindly entertained by Flora M’Donald, who made up for him the same bed that, seventeen years before, had received the unfortunate Prince Charles.
‘KYLOE’
…no other breed of cattle will thrive on these islands…the Kyloes could not possibly be improved by being crossed with any others…attempts at crossing have only destroyed the symmetry of the Kyloes, and rendered them more delicate, and less suitable to the climate and the pasture.
The origin of the term Kyloe is obscure. Some writers, and among whom is Sir John Sinclair, have curiously traced it to their crossing the many Kyloes, or ferries which abound in the West of Scotland; others, and with more propriety, and one of whom is Mr. Macdonald, the author of the Agriculture of the Highlands, tells us, that it is a corruption of the Gaelic word which signifies Highland, and is commonly pronounced as if spelled Kael.
An earlier short piece on Black Cattle, Kyloes and Crodh Dubh.
18th CENTURY NEGLECT?
Forty years ago the treatment of cattle was, with very few exceptions, absurd and ruinous, to a strange degree, through the whole of the Hebrides. With the exception of the milch cows, but not even of the calves, they were all wintered in the field: if they were scantily fed with hay, it was coarse, and withered, and half-rotten; or if they got a little straw, they were thought to be well taken care of. The majority got little more than seaweed, heather, and rushes. One-fifth of the cattle, on an average, used to perish every winter from starvation. It proved the excellency of the breed, that in the course of two or three months so many of them got again into good store-condition, and might almost be said to be half-fat, and could scarcely be restrained by any fence: in fact, there are numerous instances of these cattle, which had been reduced to the most dreadful state of impoverishment, becoming fattened for the butcher in a few months, after being placed on some of the rich summer pastures of Islay, Lewis, or Skye.
It may well have been that, circa 1794, the dominance of the Kelp Industry and the imbalance it imposed between the needs of agricultural subsistence and the demands of commerce might help explain this otherwise ‘strange degree’ of apparent neglect?
THE DROVES
The calves are separated from their dams two or three weeks before the cast-cows are sent to the cattle-tryst at the end of October, for it is believed that if the cows had milk in their udders they might be injured in the long journeys they are then to take; the greater part of them being driven as far as the Lowland districts, whence they gradually find their way to the central and southern counties of England.
It is true that grazing has never been the principal object of the Hebridean farmer, or has scarcely been deemed worthy of his attention: there are very few cattle fattened upon any of the islands…
Can we be certain that, in much older times, when the nucleated settlement known as a ‘baile’ or township was farming using the run-rig system, that the ‘Hebridean’ farmers did NOT fatten their cattle on the land?
The different islands of the Hebrides contain about one hundred and fifty thousand of these cattle, of which it is calculated that one-fifth are sent annually to the main land, principally through Jura, or across from the ferry of the Isle of Skye. If these average about 5L. per head, the amount will be 150,000L., or more than the rental of the whole of the islands, which Mr. Macdonald calculated at 106,720L, but which now produces a greater sum. Cattle, therefore, constitute the staple commodity of the Hebrides. Three thousand five hundred are annually exported from the island of Islay alone.
This is astounding: the year is 1834 and the Clearances (that so cruelly replaced human feet with the hooves of sheep) are still occurring yet the estimated income from island cattle is nearly 150% of that from island rents. Were island estates ever really as unprofitable as their proprietors claimed?
We have stated that more than 20,000 of the Hebridean cattle are conveyed to the mainland, some of whom find their way even to the southernmost counties of England ; but like the other Highland cattle their journey is usually slow and interrupted. Many of these small cattle are permanently arrested in their journey, and kept on low farms to consume the coarse grass, which other breeds refuse to eat; these are finished off on turnips, which are given them in the field about the end of Autumn, and they are sold about Christmas.
The pace of these journeys may have appeared leisurely but I imagine that, for the drovers at least, they were arduous, risky, dangerous and uncertain undertakings.
Their first resting-place is not a great way from the coast, for they are frequently wintered on the coarse pastures of Dumbartonshire ; and in the next summer, after grazing awhile on the lower grounds, they are driven farther south, where they are fed during the second winter on turnips and hay. In April they are in good condition, and prepared for the early grass, on which they are finished.
There is more on the subject of cattle sales and droves in these pieces:
‘HEBUDANS’
Little is known of the history of the Hebudans, except that they descended from the same stock with the Irish and the Highlanders; but were oftener exposed to the incursions of roving tribes from every quarter, and who successively mingled with, and were lost among, but never superseded the original inhabitants.
I believe that accords reasonably well with our current understanding.
‘…for more than three centuries, the Hebrides were the resort of refugees, smugglers, and freebooters; and, at no very remote period, the inhabitants were singularly uncultivated, ignorant, idle, and miserable.’
I have no idea whether the islands ever enjoyed three hundred consecutive years of visitations from ‘refugees, smugglers, and freebooters’ but I suspect that comment tells us more about William Youatt than it does about anything regarding the history of the Hebrides.
His description of the island Gael ‘at no very remote period’ as ‘uncultivated, ignorant, idle and miserable’ is, quite simply, uncultivated, ignorant, idle, and miserable…
After, however, the union between the English and Scottish kingdoms, and when civilization had commenced on the mainland, the Hebrideans began to be reclaimed, and that was chiefly manifested in, and promoted by, a change of occupation. Although they did not abandon their seafaring life, they became honest, and were industrious fishermen, and they began to learn to be agriculturists.
Odd when one stops to consider of all those Old Norse names on the islands that mean ‘Farmstead’ and that fishing had only relatively recently replaced farming, due to the displacement of people…
HOUSING
The cows were housed during the winter; but among the small farmers this was conducted in a singular way—for one rude dwelling contained and sheltered both the family and the cattle.
The habitations of these people are usually divided into three apartments. The first, which occupies half of the hut, is the general entrance, and contains the agricultural implements, poultry, and cattle. The second, comprising a fourth of the hut, is that in which the family reside; and the inner one, of the same size, is the sleeping room and granary.
There are no chimneys; the smoke fills the whole hut, and escapes partly by a hole in the roof, partly by the door, and partly by orifices formed between the wall and the roof as substitutes for windows, and which, in stormy weather, are closed by a bundle of straw.
The fire is placed in the middle of the floor. The soot accumulates on the roof, and, in rainy weather, is continually dropping, and for the purpose of obtaining it for manure, the hut is unroofed in the beginning of May.
The family had their beds of straw or heath in the niches of the walls, while the litter was never removed from the cattle, but fresh layers of straw were occasionally laid down, and so the floor rose with the accumulation of dung and litter, until the season of spreading it upon the land, when it was at length taken away.
The evolution of house-types is a fascinating area of study:
The substantial and complex nature of ‘blackhouse’ construction may be glimpsed in these images:
The evidence given to the 1883 Napier Commission by Thomas Brydone, Factor of South Harris, is relevant:
MILK
The…milk is exceedingly rich, and the butter procured from it is excellent.
…the dairy is considered as a matter of little consequence in the Hebrides; and the farmer rarely keeps more milch cows than will furnish his family with milk and butter and cheese.
In North Uist and Tiree the dairy is more successfully followed than in the other islands, partly on account of the goodness of the herbage, but principally because the cows yield milk for a longer time after calving than in the neighbouring isles. The management of the dairy is exceedingly simple, and, from the very simplicity of it, other districts may learn a useful lesson. The cows are driven as slowly and quietly as possible to the fold; the wild character of the animals, as well as a regard to the quality of the milk, show the propriety of this. They are carefully drained to the last drop, not only on account of the superior richness of the latter portion of the milk, but because the retention of any part is apt to hasten, if it does not produce, that which is one of the principal objections to the Highland cows as milkers, the speedy drying up of their milk.
Youatt’s opinions on islanders is awful but his attitude to animal husbandry is exemplary.
The milk is carried to the house with as little disturbance as practicable, and put into vessels of not more than two or three inches in depth. The cream is supposed to rise more rapidly in these shallow vessels; and it is removed in the course of eighteen hours.
An episode of the BBC’s historical reconstruction programme ‘The Edwardian Farm’ (unfortunately not available on iPlayer iPlayer )included this very same approach. The series, based upon practices in use some 70 years after the publication of Youatt’s book, was based in his own home county of Devon.
A cow will not, on the average, yield more than 22 lbs. of butter (of 24 oz. each) in the summer season: she will yield about 90 lbs. of cheese, which is much liked by some on account of the aromatic flavour which is given to it by the mixture of rose-leaves, cinnamon, mace, cloves, and lemon with the rennet.
I am a little confused for there was no weight system that divided a pound into 24 ounces thus it appears that each of these 22 pounds of butter weighed 24 ounces which is one-and-a-half pounds and therefore suggests a yield of 33 lbs of butter? (You may be interested in a guide to Old Scottish Weights and Measures )
The milk of the cows is said to be excellent, but on account of the filthy habits of too many of the cotters, the butter and cheese are eaten by few beside the natives.
The longevity of many islanders suggests that their dairy produce wasn’t too toxic despite these ‘filthy habits’ and it is worth remembering that it would be another quarter-of-a-century before the ‘miasma’ theory of disease was overthrown, following yet another Cholera epidemic in London…
SEA-WARE & SPRING
In the spring all the cattle are in poor condition, and those of the small tenants are in most wretched plight: sea-weed (chiefly Fucus canaliculars), boiled with husks of grain and a little meal or other substances, are then employed to support them; and in many places the cattle during the winter and spring regularly betake themselves to the sea-shore at ebbtide to feed upon the fuci.
I cannot find Fucus canaliculars but Pelvetia canaliculata Pelvetia canaliculata (Channeled Wrack) is a member of the Family Fucaceae that is certainly edible!
The rapidity of vegetation in the latter part of the spring is astonishing in these islands. A good pasture can scarcely be left a fortnight without growing high and rank; and even the unenclosed and marshy and heathy grounds are comparatively luxuriant.
SUMMER & SHIELINGS
In summer the cows and the milch-sheep are sent to the inland glens and moors, which are covered with hard grasses and rushes, because the portion that yields soft grass is not sufficient for their consumption during the whole year. They are attended by a woman from each family, who has a small hut or shealing for her habitation, and who makes the little butter and cheese which their scanty milk affords.
The history of the Shieling is a fascinating topic that I intend examining in detail at a later date.
In summer all the cattle are pastured; the calves are sent to their dams twice in the day, and the strippings, or last part of the milk, is taken away by the dairy-maid, for it is commonly supposed, that if the calf is allowed to draw all the milk he can, it will keep the dam in low condition, and prevent her being in calf in proper time.
This refers to the practice on farms.
ONE FINAL OBSERVATION
Oxen are never used for the plough or on the road on any of the Hebrides.
Source:
Advertisements

Lews Castle – Future, Present &…Past

As plans are in place for the restoration of Lews Castle in Stornoway, I thought I would bring together these pieces that relate to this building:

In 1851 we have these visitors at the castle and the situation that led to their presence is described here .

In 1861 the Matheson’s were in residence (Sir James’ Widow and her daughters were, too, in 1881) but it is ‘Stornoway House’ in London in which we find them in 1871 & 1891.

Other buildings in the Castle grounds were the Porter’s Lodge , the Boatman’s House , Nursery Cottage and the Gardener’s Cottage , whilst the man credited with the design of the grounds is Charles H J Smith .

These pieces on Pigot’s 1837 Directory , including the name of the Manager of Stornoway Distillery ,whose workplace was replaced by Lews Castle, hopefully complete the picture.

"I think it is quite capable of bearing all the people in comfort."

Thus ended the evidence to the Napier Commission given by the Reverend Alexander Davidson of Manish Free Church, Harris.

The full exchange went like this:

13113. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh
—I forgot to follow out a question which I put about the lands. Taking South Harris as a whole, is there not enough land to support in comfort even more than the present population ?

—I should think it would give land to the present population, if the land were distributed among the people. I think it is quite capable of bearing all the people in comfort.




This, from a man who had lived, worked and raised a family amongst the people of South Harris for at least the past twenty-eight years (including officiating at the wedding of one of my female cousins in Strond in 1867) stands in stark contrast with the prevailing view of the Proprietor, the past Factors and the present Farmers of the day for whom Emigration was the only ‘answer’ to the ‘problem’.


I was inspired to take a closer look at Alexander Davidson having been contacted by one of his descendants, as can be seen at the end of this piece on Harris Free Churchmen .


The church is described in these pages from Canmore and British Listed Buildings and this is its location as seen on the OS 1:25000 Map .

The accompanying Manse, which was the Davidson family’s home for many years, is similarly described on these pages from Canmore and British Listed Buildings and its precise location can be seen here .


In previous pieces I mentioned that Captain FWL Thomas and his wife, Mrs ‘Captain Thomas’, had at times taken-in the children of islanders including one of Alexander Davidson’s daughters and also of the widowed Fanny Thomas’s later endowment of the Manish Victoria Cottage Hospital .

I would like to end with a longer extract from the Reverend’s evidence to the Napier Commission, to which I have added notes & observation within the text:


13081. Do many of the young women go south?
—Not many.


The context here is that of the ‘Herring Girls’ of the islands who followed the fishing fleet in their progress around the coast of Scotland and England during the season.

13082. Have they never been in the habit of going much from Harris?
—No, they never went.


This is telling us that as far as Davidson was aware, the women of Harris did not participate in this work.

13083. A good many of the women in this island get employment in knitting and in spinning cloth ?
—Yes, kilt making. That is their principal employment, and of late years it has been very useful to them.


Knitting, Spinning and Weaving were clearly well-established by 1883 but whether ‘kilt making’ referred to an actual Tailoring activity or was Davidson’s shorthand for weaving a web of cloth is not clear. As far as I know, such tailoring was not performed in creating a product for export and my researches into tailoring certainly don’t indicate that it was ever a large-scale female activity on Harris.

13084. Who set that agoing?
—Well, the Countess of Dunmore takes some interest in it, as well as other parties. I see they get very much into the way of dealing with the local merchants in order to get meal.


The internal arrangements pertaining at the time between the producers and the local merchants are beyond the scope of this piece, but I am interested in Davidson’s phrase ‘takes some interest in it’  for that is hardly a ringing endorsement for the Countess’s commitment to the cause. It is just a pity that none of the ‘other parties’ were named!

13085. Are most of the women in the parish employed in that way?
—Well, generally.



A reminder that, unlike on neighbouring Lewis, Weaving on Harris was traditionally dominated by the women.

13086. I mean every family?
—Perhaps not every family, but very generally they are.


The extent to which these textile industries pervaded the population and were pivotal to their survival is clear.

13087. They knit a great many stockings and hose?
—Yes.

The size and importance of the knitting industry must have been very significant at this time so quite why it slipped into relative obscurity, especially in comparison with the international fame of Harris Tweed, is an interesting question that I have discussed in previous pieces.

13088. What price do they get for socks?
—Not very much—perhaps about 1s., but I can hardly say whether that is the fixed price.

That is only £2-£3 in today’s money

13089. And they manufacture a peculiarly coloured native cloth?
—Almost every kind of cloth.

13090. Native dyes?
—Yes, they use native dyes.


Ignoring the slightly pejorative-sounding ‘peculiarly coloured’, we learn that the women were producing a variety of different cloths using ‘native dyes’. It is worth noting, however, that the word ‘Tweed’, let-alone the two words, ‘Harris Tweed’, are conspicuous by their absence. It wasn’t until the later marketing of the brand that they assumed common usage.




Ref: The full transcript of this evidence may be read here .

Note:
Anyone wishing to learn more about the Free Church Ministers at this time should consult the  Annals of the Free Church of Scotland 1843-1900 (which may be available as in inter-library loan).

Captain Macleod’s Other Agricultural/Industrial Building at Rodel

This link to bing maps should display a 1:25 000 OS Map centred on this particular building, the details of which may be read here whilst two old monochrome photographs showing the building and its context are here . The Google Streetview showing its current condition is here .

I am interested in discovering what uses this building, Rodel House and the Fishing Station (sometimes referred to as the ‘Factor’s House’) were originally designed to perform. There are clues in the various contemporary accounts but they are lacking in sufficient detail to be able to say with certainty which housed the water-driven Mill, where the Net Factory was, or where the children learning to read and write were located.

Hopefully someone will spot something (either in the accounts, or perhaps from the images and maps) that will    enable us one day to say with more certainty what these three listed structures were intended to be used for.

I certainly hope so!

Note:
The Mill at An-t-Ob, which appears to have fared better than its predecessor at Rodel, features in Harris Millers & Mrs Campbell’s Mill at An-t-Ob .
Or was that, after all,  where Macleod’s Mill originally was and did Mrs Campbell merely re-build it as seen here ?

‘Factor’s House’ or Fishing Station?

This PDF document refers to the ‘Factor’s House’ at Rodel but, unless I am getting confused between buildings, I think it refers to what these photographs describe as the Fishing Station ?

The description given here certainly appears to match that in the PDF, and the map reference is certainly that of the Fishing Station, yet the PDF makes no reference to this documented use of the structure.

The building may well have served a variety of industrial and domestic purposes since being constructed by Captain Macleod in the late 18thC but unfortunately we cannot Ask Angus …

…and, once demolished, whatever secrets might lie hidden in those stones will have gone forever.

There are precious- few Listed Buildings on Harris and I wonder how long it will be before this one suffers the same fate?

We know that Captain Macleod built a combined Corn and Fulling Mill powered by water (although whether at Rodel or An-t-Ob is unclear) and that he established a Spinning and Net Making Factory at Rodel yet I am unaware of anyone knowing the precise locations of these?

The ‘Factors House’ can be clearly seen on the right of this painting from 1819 where it’s position alongside a pier suggests that some 40 years after Captain Macleod had purchased Harris (and nearly 30 years after his death) the building was indeed linked to Fishing.

Hugh Matheson’s of Stornoway

A comment from a friend regarding ‘the Fortum & Mason’s of Stornoway’ led me to explore the early years of Hugh Matheson & his family. For reasons that will become clear, I have started in 1901:
1901
Hugh Matheson, 57, Baker & Grocer, 2 Francis St, b. Stornoway
Marion Matheson, 43, Wife, b. Dunvegan, Inverness-shire
(7 children, ages 3 to 16)
1891
Hugh Matheson, 47, Baker, 41 Cromwell St, b. Stornoway
Marion Matheson, 32, Wife, b. Durinish, Inverness-shire
(3 children)
1881
Hugh Matheson, 37, Baker, 25 North Beach St, b. Stornoway
Marian Matheson, 21, Wife, b. Durnish, Inverness-shire
(2 children ages 4 months and 5 years)
1871
Hugh Matheson, 27, Baker, Son, 48 Keith St, b. Stornoway
(Malcolm Matheson, 56, Shoemaker, b. Stornoway)
(Mary Matheson, 50, Wife, b. Stornoway)
1861
Hugh Matheson, 17, Baker Apprentice, 13 Cromwell St, b. Stornoway
(Ann Macdonald, 58, Shop Keeper (Baker’s), b. Stornoway
(Malcolm Macdonald, 33, Baker (Master employing 2 boys), b. Stornoway
1851
Hughina Matheson, 7, Daughter, Keith St, b. Stornoway
(Malcolm Matheson, 36, Shoemaker, b. Stornoway)
(Mary Matheson, 31, Wife, b. Stornoway)
(3 more children ages 2 to 9)
1844 27th January Hugh Matheson b. Stornoway
1841
(Malcolm Matheson, 26, Shoe M, b. Ross & Cromarty)
(Mary Matheson, 20, b. Ross & Cromarty)
I am reasonably confident that these records display Hugh’s location at the time of each census with the exception of that taken in 1851. There are no other Ross-shire born Hugh Matheson’s who appear to ‘fit’ yet the person in the census of 1851 is female but of precisely the same age.
Possibly, Hugh and Hughina were twins, but the Old Parish Register only records Hugh Matheson, born on the 27th of January 1844 in Stornoway, and there are no records of a Hughina Matheson born anywhere in Scotland between 1842 and 1846. A further complication occurs because the 7 year-old Hughina is listed at the head of the children despite having an older sibling. It is a bit of a mystery but, whilst interesting in itself, need not distract us from the ‘story’ of Shoemaker’s son Hugh Matheson who became the founder of, according to my source, Stornoway’s finest emporium!
A photograph of the shop in Francis Street may be seen here .
(With thanks to Angela for inadvertently inspiring this entry!)

1 Fleoideabhagh (Flodabay), Isle of Harris

I was perusing the records of British Listed Buildings within the Parish of Harris and alighted upon this one whose ‘Listing Text’ grabbed my attention – with references to Finlay J Macdonald, Masons and Ardvourlie Castle it was bound to do so! I suggest taking a look at the Google Streetview (it appears as a tab from the above link) to see for yourself what we are told is possibly the first house of this kind to be constructed in the Baighs (Bays) area.

The one part of the entry that is slightly confusing to me is the final sentence in the ‘Notes’ because I cannot discover a Donald Macaulay who fits the description. I am not questioning the facts as written, merely saying that I was hoping to find this Donald Macaulay in the censuses in order to perhaps add a little extra information but, alas, am unable to do so on this particular occasion.

Finally, I have discovered two John Mackinnon’s living in Flodabay in 1841 & 1851 and, in the case of the younger one, in 1861 too. However, each was a Farmer by this time and the censuses make no reference to the military past of either of them thus I am unable to tell which it was who had the house built 170 years ago.

Note: The birth years of the two men are given as 1781 & 1786; and 1801, 1797, 1796; respectively in the censuses and the wife of the younger one is shown as Christian, Christy & Christina. I mention these variations to demonstrate the type of difficulty encountered regarding names and dates when undertaking Genealogical research.

Ciorstag (Chirsty) Mackinnon illustrates what happens when an English ‘equivalent’ of a Gaelic name is attempted, particularly at a time when the Gaelic language was deemed to be inferior.

The reason for the variation in the birth year can be due to several factors but one aspect of the 1841 census that the example of the younger John Mackinnon demonstrates for us was the ’rounding-down’ of ages to the nearest 5 years. Thus he was likely to have been 44 at the time of the 1841 census and the Enumerator changed this to 40 hence it showing as 1801 for the year of his birth. This phenomenon does not explain the change we see in the dates given for the older man but an increase in the year of birth, with the implication that the person is younger than he or she actually is, is quite common for obvious reasons – maybe the architects of the 1841 census were being quite canny by building this feature into their census!