A Study of Turf: Historic Rural Settlements in Scotland and Iceland

This recent study http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/E135075240900017X  suggests that the familiar blackhouse wall ‘sandwich’ of two parallel stone walls infilled with earth and topped with turf was actually developed as a direct result of the 1879 Lewis estate regulations.

The implication is that Turf was the predominant building material in the earliest times, turf being ideally suited for the purpose in this environment, and that centuries of adaptation and innovation involving combinations of turf and stone ensued until the development of the ‘traditional’ island blackhouse in the late 19thC.

Thus the form appears to have arisen following centuries of continuity and change based upon methods used in the days of the Norse but amended in ways reflecting the unique circumstances pertaining in the isles.

It is a fascinating study and my attempt at this brief synopsis is a poor substitute to reading the account in full.

Gardener’s Cottage, Stornoway

Lews Castle was built during the years 1847-54. At the same time a cottage was constructed for the Gardeners and these are the census records for the men who appear to have occupied it:

(1841 – Alexander Macrae, 49, Seaforth Lodge, b. Ross & Cromarty)

1847 – Castle construction begins

1851
Alexander Mcrae, 55, Gardener’s Lodge, b. Fodderty, Ross
Peter Stoddart, 26, Distillery, b. Dunse, Berwick (Address reminds us that the teetotal Sir James Matheson built Lews Castle where the Stornoway Distillery had stood)

1854 – Castle complete

1861
Peter Liddle, 27, Gardener’s Cottage, b. Carnwath, Lanarkshire
Revere(?) Black, 25, Gardener’s Cottage, b.Ireland
Alexander Macrae, 65, Gardener’s House No 1, b. Kinloch Ussle(?), Ross-shire

1871
John Smith, 35, Gardener’s Cottage, b. Haddington
Alexander Macrae, Nursery Cottage, b. Fodderty, Ross-shire (see Nursery Cottage )

1881
George Macdonald, 45, Gardener’s Cottage, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Alexander Macrae, 86, Nursery Cottage, b. Fodderty, Ross-shire

1891
David Conning, 37, Gardener’s Cottage, b. Haddington

1901
David Conning, 47,Gardener’s Cottage,  b. Haddington

Note: I have included Alexander Macrae because, despite never giving his address as the Gardener’s Cottage, he served as a Gardener, Forester and Head Nurseryman for at least 40 years!

Mackae’s Buildings, Plantation Street, Stornoway 1901

This address appears in the 1901 census as home to 37 people in these 7 households:

George Donald, 36, Postman, Head, b. Stornoway
Alexander J Kerr, 44, Seaman, Head, b. Stornoway
Alexander Lamont, 40, Woollen Weaver, Head, b. Portree
Malcolm Macdonald, 31, Insurance Agent, Head, b. Uig, Ross-shire
(Alexanderina, 38, Sick Nurse (Formerly), Wife, b. Kinlochbervie, Sutherlandshire)
William Maciver, 57, Brewer’s Agent and Dealer, Head, b. Stornoway
John Mackenzie, 45, Mason (Contractor), Head, b. Stornoway
Murdo Macleod, 49, Mason Contractor, Head, b. Uig, Ross-shire

A varied group that includes one of only two references to brewing in Stornoway ,the other being the 19 year-old Brewer’s Apprentice Malcolm MacIntyre, son of the Hotel Keeper at 25 South Beach Street’s Imperial hotel.


Obviously it was the presence of Alexander J Kerr that first led me here, but I have no idea where ‘Mackae’s Buildings’ were on ‘Plantation St’ in 1901. Plantation Road appears on the 1881-1901 censuses as ‘Plantation St’ so I presume that the name was changed at some time during the 20thC?


If anyone knows of Mackae’s Buldings (or when the street became a road) please get in touch.

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:

1851
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)

1861
John Macdonald, 30, Mason Builder, Son, Garynahine Road, b. Stornoway
John Macrae, 50, Mason Builder, Head, Melbost Road, b. Stornoway

1871
Alexander Mackenzie, 69, Builder and Joiner, Head, 12 Francis Street, b. Stornoway
John Munro, 34, Mason (Builder), Head, Laxdale Lane, b. Harris

1881
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

1891
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)

1901
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: http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/scotland/western+isles/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:

1851
STORNOWAY
Alexander Macrae, 55, Gardener Lewis Castle, Gardener’s Lodge, Stornoway Distillery, b. Fodderty

1861
STORNOWAY
John Macpherson, 69, Nurseryman, Porter’s Lodge, Stornoway, b. Crathinard, Aberdeenshire
UIG
Angus Macleod, 39, Game Keeper, Morsgail Lodge, Uig, b. Harris
James Macrae, 33, Inspector of Poor and Registrar, Meary(?) Lodge, Uig, b. Harris

1871
STORNOWAY
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
LOCHS
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
UIG
Angus Macleod, 49, Gamekeeper, Morsgail Lodge, b. Tarbert, Inverness-shire

1881
STORNOWAY
Alexander Campbell, 60, Porter Lodge Keeper, Creed Porter’s Lodge, b. Stornoway
John Maclean, 55, Agricultural Labourer, Porter’s Lodge, b. Duirinish, Inverness-shire
UIG
Christina Macdonald, 24, housekeeper, Lodge, Uig, b. Stornoway

1891
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
LOCHS
Ann Munro, 52, House Keeper, Sporting Lodge, b. Contin, Ross-shire
UIG
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

1901
STORNOWAY
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
LOCHS
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
UIG
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:

1871
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

1881
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

1891
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

1901
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.