Builders of Stornoway

These are the Builders as listed in all the censuses from 1841-1901. It should be pointed-out that there were vastly more men who were Masons throughout this time so the appearance of ‘Builder’ as a separate classification from the middle of the Century is clearly of significance:

Norman Macleod, 60, House Builder or Mason, Head, Head, Gairbost, b. Harris
John Urquhart, 73, Church Street, b. Urray, Ross-shire
James Christie, 39, Builder, Head, Francis Street, b. Rothes, Moray
Alexander Gair, 50, Builder, Visitor, Point Street, b. Kiltearn, Ross-shire
(John Maciver, 52, Dyke Builder, Head, Melbost, b. Stornoway)

John Macdonald, 30, Mason Builder, Son, Garynahine Road, b. Stornoway
John Macrae, 50, Mason Builder, Head, Melbost Road, b. Stornoway

Alexander Mackenzie, 69, Builder and Joiner, Head, 12 Francis Street, b. Stornoway
John Munro, 34, Mason (Builder), Head, Laxdale Lane, b. Harris

George Mackenzie, 79, Builder, Head, 33, Keith Street, b. Stornoway
Alex Mackenzie, 78, Builder and Achitect, Head, 29½ , b. Stornoway
Alexander Morrison, 32, Builder, Head, Lewis Street, b. Stornoway
Francis E Sheets, 30, Builder (Foreman), Head, b. England
(Donald Stewart, 65, Dyke Builder, Head, 18 Vatisker, b. Stornoway

James Macrae, 48, Builder, Head, 36 Lewis Street, b. Stornoway
William J Mackenzie, 36, Builder, Head, James Street, b. Stornoway

(Norman Forbes, 35, Carpeneter and Builder, Lodger, Thule House, Barvas, b. Stornoway)

Norman Forbes, 45, Builder and Contractor, Head, Balone House, b. Stornoway
(Norman’s home can be read about and seen here: Balone
Angus Macdonald, 51, Builder, Head, 14 Scotland Street (Court), b. Uig, Ross-shire

I have  included the two Dyke Builders simply because, having chanced upon them, I felt that they should be recorded somewhere!

A very interesting resource for the Listed Buildings in Stornoway:

Head Lodge Dwellers of Lewis

A slightly different approach in which I am looking at those who were the Head of Household in a ‘Lodge’, regardless of the function of each Lodge at the time:

Alexander Macrae, 55, Gardener Lewis Castle, Gardener’s Lodge, Stornoway Distillery, b. Fodderty

John Macpherson, 69, Nurseryman, Porter’s Lodge, Stornoway, b. Crathinard, Aberdeenshire
Angus Macleod, 39, Game Keeper, Morsgail Lodge, Uig, b. Harris
James Macrae, 33, Inspector of Poor and Registrar, Meary(?) Lodge, Uig, b. Harris

Margaret Mackenzie, 36, Keeper of Mason Hall, 25 Kenneth St (Masonic Lodge), b. Stornoway
John Maclean, 50, Contractor of Works, Porter’s Lodge, b. Inverness-shire
Donald Morrison, 41, Mason, Creed Porter’s Lodge, b. Stornoway
John Christie, 52, Pensioner from the Army, Castle Stables Lodge b. Blair Atholl
John Munro, 37, Game Keeper, Marybank Lodge, b. Contin
James Young, 35, Salmon Fisher, Sandr Road Sandwick Lodge, b. Creich, Sutherlandshire
Alexander Macrae, 44, Shepherd, Gress Lodge, b. Inverness-shire
John Hymers, 45, Manager of Sheep Farm, Head, Eishken Lodge, Lochs, b. Inverness-shire
Angus Macleod, 48, Game Keeper, Sorval Cottage or Lodge, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Angus Macleod, 49, Gamekeeper, Morsgail Lodge, b. Tarbert, Inverness-shire

Alexander Campbell, 60, Porter Lodge Keeper, Creed Porter’s Lodge, b. Stornoway
John Maclean, 55, Agricultural Labourer, Porter’s Lodge, b. Duirinish, Inverness-shire
Christina Macdonald, 24, housekeeper, Lodge, Uig, b. Stornoway

John Christie, 73, Army Pensioner Boatman, Castle Policies Boatman’s Porter Lodge, b. Blair, Perth
John Maclean, 64, Gate Keeper, Porter’s Lodge, b. Duirinish, Inverness-shire
John Morrison, 42, Gamekeeper, Gress Shooting Lodge, b. Alness, Assynt, Ross-shire
Malcolm Smith, 60, River Watcher, Creed Porter’s Lodge, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Ann Munro, 52, House Keeper, Sporting Lodge, b. Contin, Ross-shire
Mary Maclean, 18, Housekeeper, Shooting Lodge, b. Ross-shire
Ann Maciver, 50, House Keeper, Lodge, b. Uig
Mary Mackenzie, 16, House Maid, Shooting Lodge, b. Bernera, Ross-shire

Donald Cameron, 35, Game Keeper, Gress Lodge Game Keeper’s House, b. Rannoch, Perthshire
Catherine Maclean, 60, Lodge Gate Keeper, Porter’s Lodge, b. Dunvegan, Inverness-shire
Ann Smith, 38, Gate Keeper, Creed Porter’s Lodge, b. Stornoway
Mary Chisholm, 30, House Keeper, Eishken Lodge, Lochs, b. Dores, Invernerness-shire
Christina Ross, 60, Farmer’s Widow, Gamekeeper’s House Sorval Lodge, b. Ross-shire
Charles G Gillespie, 64, Living On Own Means, Scaliscas Lodge, b. Inverness-shire
Ann Maciver, 58, Housekeeper In Charge, Uig Shooting Lodge, b. Uig
Roderick Mackenzie, 53, Gamekeeper, Uig Gameleeper’s Lodge (Erista), b. Lochbroom
Dolina Macleod, 46, House Keeper, Grimersta Shooting Lodge, b. Uig, Ross-shire

Several of these people appear elsewhere under entries concerning their individual occupations but I thought it perhaps useful and interesting to have a list in one place as a summary of the Lodges of Lewis.

Note: There are a few spellings that are awry – if anyone would like to supply corrections, Please do so!

Nursery Cottage, Stornoway

I mentioned before that I find the history of individual buildings and the people who called them ‘Home’ particularly interesting and, having happened upon Nursery Cottage in my look at Customs Officers, I thought I’d explore further:

Alexander Macrae, 74, Gardener and Forester, b. Fodderty
Mary Macrae, 66, Wife, b. Lerwick, Shetland
John Macrae, 27, Out Door Office Of Customs, Son, b. Stornoway
Caroline L Macrae, 25, Housekeeper, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Andrew L Maclean, 5, Grandson, b. Stornoway

Alexander Macrae, 86, Head Nurseryman, b. Fodderty
John Macrae, 37, Officer House Customs, Son, b. Stornoway
Caroline Lewis Macrae, 35, Housekeeper, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Mary Jane Maclean, 28, General Servant, Grand-daughter, b. Stornoway
John Maclean, 21, Joiner, Grandson, b. Stornoway
Andrew Lothian Maclean, 15, Scholar, Grandson, b. Stornoway

James Cambridge, 51, Pensioner RN Machine Knitter, b. Ireland
Christy Ann Cambridge, 49, Wife, b. Stornoway
Mary Agnes Cambridge, 23, Milliner, Daughter, b. Buckie, Banffshire
Marion Macdonald, 23, General Servant Domestic, b. Uig, Ross-shire

Roderick Macrae, 35, Forester, b. Dingwall
Maggie Macrae, 27, Wife, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Catherine Macrae, 6, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Duncan Niel Macrae, 4, Son, b.Stornoway
Alexina Macrae, 1, Daughter

I do not know the precise location of Nursery Cottage, nor whether it still remains albeit with another name, but it appears to have been somewhere within the grounds of Lews Castle.
Alexander Macrae can be found back in 1861 at Gardener’s House No 1, but whether that became ‘Nursery Cottage’ or not I cannot say.

One, at least, of the Macrae’s daughters gave them three grandchildren with the name Maclean but tracing their story is beyond the scope of this particular piece.

Following them, in 1891, we meet the Cambridge family headed by the retired Royal Navy gentleman James. If ‘Machine Knitter’ is correct, and the presence of nearly 100 such people in Scotland in 1891 makes it seem likely, then he is unique in the censuses of Lewis and Harris in recording that particular occupation. I do wonder whether he had been disabled in the course of duty and this was a way for him to supplement his pension and remain active alongside his hat-making daughter?

The final family, that of Forester Roderick Macrae, sees a return to that role just as it had been right at the start when an earlier mainland-born Macrae had been the first householder at Nursery Cottage.

Roof Timbers

A visitor to Roger Mackenzie’s ‘Lewis Loom Centre’ at The Old Grainstore, Bayhead, Stornoway cannot fail to notice that amongst the various lengths of wood above their head is one of circular cross-section that is labelled ‘Herring Drifter’s Sailing Mast’.

It might be thought that this timber was some later addition, an act of ‘olde-worlde’ artifice but, in fact, it is wholly typical of the Western Isles for these are a land without native forests whether of oak, larch, spruce or ash. The few oaks that are found are of such diminutive stature that it was only recently that they were correctly identified as a ‘normal’ rather than a ‘dwarf’ species.

When the Clearances took place it wasn’t just the quenching of the hearths that marked the end of a home’s occupation but the removal (to spare it from destruction) of its roof.

Accounts of the 1843 Clearance of Orinsay and Lemreway in the Pairc district of South Lochs, describe the roof timbers’ removal and transportation by boat. It was an act of finality for, without the protection of the floor by thatch and the feeding of the earthen core of the walls with rain, the traditional Blackhouse would soon succumb to the rigours of the climate and the force of gravity.

(Even were the roof to remain, the quenching of the fire has been shown to accelerate the process of decay in these chimney-less structures.)

So when you look at that spar from a sailing vessel, you are being reminded of recycling as necessity, reuse of something that had once served men at sea and now could serve people onshore.

Stornoway Hospital(s)

These are the census records that include the word ‘hospital’:

Peggy Macdonald, 50, Hospital Keeper, 14 Keith Street, b. Stornoway

Mary Sharpe, 26, Housekeeper, Hospital, b. Stornoway

1891 – None Listed

1896 – Lewis Hospital opens on the 1st February

Easthill Road, The Louis Hospital

Marion Macdonald, 38, Matron of Institution, b. South Uist
Jessie Macrae, 42, Head Hospital Nurse, b. Strath, Inverness-shire
Jessie Macrae, 22, General Servant, b. Barvas

Catherine Macleod, 24, Patient, Fishworker (Unemployed), b. Stornoway
Ann Macleod, 16, Patient, Crofter’s Daughter, b. Uig
Katie M Maciver, 14, Patient, Scholar, b. Stornoway

Murdoch Murray, 20, Patient, General Labourer (Unemployed), b. Barvas
Alexander Macmillan, 13, Patient, Scholar, b. Stornoway

Mossend Fever Hospital

Catherine Mackenzie, 49, Hospital Nurse, b. Stornoway
Sophia Mackenzie, 20, Assistant Nurse, Daughter, b. Glasgow

Malcolm Macleod, 39, Patient, Coachman (Not Domestic), b. Lochs
Mary Macleod, 36, Patient, b. Scalpay

It is interesting that the records of 1871 and 1881 indicate the presence of a hospital in the town well before the opening of Lewis Hospital in 1896, but in ‘The Soap Man’, Roger Hutchinson mentions that Stornoway had a hospital in 1884 when the young William Lever first visited the island.

Several things interest me from the 1901 Census (apart from the spelling of ‘Louis’!).

We see that the Matron and Head Nurse are resident along with their five patients. This being a Sunday evening, I wonder if the other nurses would have been scattered throughout the town in their own homes? Unfortunately, if this was the case, they neglected to identify themselves as hospital nurses. It is also striking that all five patients are between 13 and 24 years of age.

Mossend Fever Hospital or, to give it its full title, the Infectious Diseases Hospital is thankfully low in patients but it is interesting to contrast the ages of the two patients, in their mid to late thirties, with the youthfulness we saw in the Lewis Hospital.

I have been unable to learn anything more about the Mossend Fever Hospital apart from this mention of the ‘Old Fever Hospital’ that also locates ‘Widow’s Row’, an address that I have given in other pieces but only now know the location of:

Blackhouse Walls

This ruin of part of a Blackhouse at Arnol shows the elements used in the construction of the walls. A pair of concentric, round-cornered, dry-stone walls are in-filled with a mixture of peat-mould and soil and then turfed. The roof structure rested on the inner walls so that water shed from the thatch kept the grassed area moist ensuring that the walls remained wind and rainproof.

This structure is a superb combination of form and function, evolved hundreds of years before cavity wall construction was used in brick-built houses, and even longer before the introduction of insulation into the walls of such houses. An estimate of the labour involved in building these walls can be appreciated by considering that a cubic metre of soil weighs one metric tonne and that these walls are about one metre wide.

This informative page includes an image of a cutaway model of the Blackhouse at 42 Arnol:

Harris Hotel

“Harris Hotel was built in 1865 by the 7th Earl of Dunmore, and was originally called the Tarbert Hotel. At the time, he owned the North Harris Estate and built the hotel as a “sporting retreat” for anglers.”


1871 2nd/3rd April
William Grant, 37, Hotel Keeper, Hotel Tarbert, b. Stirlingshire
Henrietta Grant, 30, Wife, b. Stornoway
John, 2, Son, b. Harris
Catherine Macdonald, 24, House Maid, b. Stornoway
Barbara Macleod, 24, House Maid, b. Stornoway
Christina Martin, 19, Cook, b. Harris
Henry Hannan, 19, Groom, b. Stornoway
Donald John Shaw, 14, Servant, b. Harris
Robert Macleod, 35, House Carpenter, Visitor, b. Harris
John Morrison, 26, Fisherman, Visitor, b. Harris
Alexander Macleod, 23, Fisherman, Visitor, b. Harris
Ewan Kennedy, 45, Police Man, Visitor, b. Inverness-shire
Alexander Kennedy, 26, Clerk, Visitor, b. South West Inverness-shire

1881 3rd/4th April
Robert Hornsby, 37, Hotel Keeper, Tarbert Hotel 37, b. Gatehouse, Kirkcudbrightshire
Maggie Hornsby, 32, Wife, b. Ballantrae, Ayrshire
James M Hornsby, 1, b. Gairloch, Ross
Agnes Ferguson, 37, Sister-in-Law, b. Ballantrae, Ayrshire
Annie S Thompson, 5 months, Niece, b. Harris
Christina Fraser, 24, House Maid, b. Gairloch, Ross
Isabella Bain, 18, Cook, Domestic Servant, b. Gairloch, Ross
Kate McCaskill, 15, Nurse, Domestic Servant, b. Harris
Alexandra Maclean, 22, Shepherd, Servant, b. Gairloch, Ross
John Murray, 17, Coachman, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
William MacKinnon, 14, Cow-Herd, Servant, b. Harris

1891 5th/6th April
Daniel McKellar, 53, Hotel Keeper, No 2 East Tarbert, b. Inverary, Argyllshire
Margaret, 23, Daughter, b. England
Dugald, 18, Son, b. Glasgow
Archie, 16, Son, b. Glasgow
Henrietta, 12, Scholar, Daughter, b. Glasgow
Margaret Eadie, 68, Housekeeper, Cousin, b. Inverary, Argyll
Kenneth Macleod, 21, Coachman, b. Barvas, Ross
Betsy Macdonald, 20, Housemaid, b. Stratherrick, Inverness-shire
Mary Morrison, 26, General Servant, b. Lochs, Ross
Alexander Macgregor, 42, Commercial Traveller, Boarder, b. Glasgow

(Donald Campbell, 37, Temperance Hotel Keeper, No 20 East Tarbert)

1901 31st March/1st April
Daniel McKellar, 63, Hotel Keeper, No 24 North Harris, b. Inverary, Argyllshire
Matilda McKellar, 58, Housekeeper (Dom), Sister, b. Inverary
Dugaldl McKellar, 28, Bookkeeper, Son, b. Glasgow
Archie McKellar, 25, Hotel Assistant, Son, b. Glasgow
Henrietta McKellar, 21, Hotel Assistant, Daughter, b. Glasgow
David Mackenzie, 25, Coachman, b. Inverpool, Ross
Christina Macleod, 19, General Servant (Dom), b. Harris
Mary Mackenzie, 19, General Servant (Dom), b. Harris

The small number of guests appearing in the censuses is a little disappointing.

All three Hotel Keeper’s were ‘incomers’, the last two apparently bringing their staff over to Harris so that from 1881 to 1901 there appear to have been relatively few islanders employed at the hotel.

In 1903 the hotel’s name was changed to ‘Harris Hotel’ by a new leaseholder, William Cameron, and it is his descendants, the Morrison family, who own and run the hotel today.