Carloway Bridge

This bridge is said to be one of the oldest flyovers in Scotland. It was built in the 19thC but precisely when does not appear to have been recorded. Family sources inform me that the builders were two brothers from Stornoway:

Allan John Montgomery was born on the 4th May 1856 and Alexander Montgomery on 3rd May 1858 to a Tailor, Donald Montgomery and his wife Ann (Murray) of Guershader Road, Stornoway.
They were the 3rd and 4th offspring in a family that grew to a total of 9 children, all boys apart from the youngest who was born in 1872.

Donald’s father and grandfather were Tailors in Luerbost, Lochs and that was were he was born. Ann was a Weaver’s daughter from Barvas Road, and latterly Laxdale, in Stornoway.

Allan John, by 1881, was a Stone Mason (Journeyman) but at the time of the census was serving as a Private in the Highland Reserve Militia at Fort Ardersier, ‘On The Moray Firth’. Alexander, also a Mason, was visiting a family in Maryhill, Lanarkshire.

By 1891, Allan John the Mason is living on the Barvas Road with his wife Margaret (Beaton) and their six children, aged from 1 to 11. Alex remains a Mason but has also built a family of four in Laxdale with his wife, Isabella.

Our final glimpses of the Masons finds Allan and 7 of a family at 48 Barvas Road and Alex with his family of 6 at 14 Guershader in 1901. In between producing children they also produced the bridge.

These two Masons were my grandfather’s uncles and my informants are my two cousins who are fellow descendants of their older brother, Norman Montgomery.

Ref: RCAHMS Carloway Bridge

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Cured Herrings for Carloway?

I happenstanced upon a couple of entries on the ScotlandsPlaces.gov.uk site which hosts the Canmore searchable database of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)…

It is Monday13th January 1890 and the vessel SPANKER of Stornoway is on her way to Carloway, on the West coast of Lewis, from her home port. Her owner, M (possibly, Murdo, with whom AJK worked ashore in later life?) Maclean, saw his ketch leave with three crewmen aboard under the Captaincy of Alexander John Kerr. She was laden with cured herring, those salted silver darlings of the sea lying packed in hand-hewn barrels in those most-happy of days for the Lewis fisheries.

34 year-old Kerr, an experienced seaman who’s first voyage had taken him to Archangel some 20 years earlier, had undertaken many such coastal trips as had his 68 year-old father, Malcolm, who may have been with him on this occasion. (Although we know that the 31 year-old Spanker was registered as SY 832 we do not know her Official Number and hence cannot search the Newfoundland archives for further information.)

What we do know is that at some point on this Winter’s day in the Sound of Harris, those dangerous shallow-strewn waters between Berneray & Harris, they ran into a Southerly storm (recorded as Force 10 on the Beaufort Scale).

This 58′ 6″ long sailing ship with a beam of 16′ 6″, fully-laden so that there were maybe only a couple of feet of free-board between her midships and the boiling sea below, became stranded on the rocks somewhere in Obbe Bay. What thoughts did these men have?

Alexander John’s mind, fully-focussed upon his responsibilities, must be allowed to have wandered back to his home in 13 Church Street where his wife Margaret (MacArthur), 6 year-old son Donald and little baby Catherine Isabel (who tragically died of Tetanus, aged 5) who probably did not notice the wind moving round and gathering in intensity. He may also have reflected upon the fact that he was yards away from the shore where his grandfather had been born.

Whether they were attempting to make safe harbour in An-t-Ob, or hoping to ride-out the storm in this treacherous stretch of sea cannot be known, but Maclean’s cured herrings never reached Carloway, nor did whatever else those barrels may, or may not, have contained…

120 years later, if you take the ferry from Berneray to ‘Leverburgh’, you will follow, in part, the fateful course of the last journey of the ‘Spanker’.

Should you do so, take time to peruse the Admiralty Chart on board, the Blue-Sea of the Sound spattered Jackson-Pollock fashion by the Sand-Yellow blotches of the myriad islands and shallows lying in wait and, as you make the two near-ninety degree turns that are the only safe passage, spare a thought for those four men on that stormy day all those years ago who’s fate, save for that of the skipper, I do not know…

Ref: http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/214131/details/spanker+an+t+ob+harris+atlantic/

A ‘spanker’ is a gaff-rigged sail used on square-rigged ships to add speed and that is probably the reason for the name of this ship in those days when the race to catch, cure & despatch the herring was at its height.