Finlay J Macdonald Ancestral Chart Update

I have added several people to this chart and, in order to render it at a reasonable scale, have stopped at his great grandparents generation. As far as I can tell, and this is a cross-reference between the Croft History of Direcleit & Ceann Debig with the Censuses and information from Mackay genealogy , these are the correct families but I have not ventured further along the various branches. I should point-out that the John Mackay born in 1826 was the Church Beadle at Scarista. More on Finlay J Macdonald can be found in these entries.

A Tale Of Two Townships

When the township was recrofted in 1885, No. 3 Direcleit became home to Alexander Macleod (1835-1911) and his wife Catherine Mackay (1847-1904), both from Geocrab, and in 1911 the croft passed to his son Donald Macleod (1870-1950).

Alexander Macleod, 48, Crofter, 14 Direcleit
Catherine, 43, Crofter’s Wife
Donald, 20, Crofter’s Son
Roderick, 16, Son
Evander, 14, Son
Kate, 8, Scholar, Daughter
Catherine, 2, Daughter
Donald Macleod, 18, Tailor’s Apprentice, Visitor

Donald Macleod married Margaret Macdonald (1866-1957) from No 7 Direcleit and his wife and their first-born are found here:

Margaret, 33, Tweed-making, 6 Direcleit
Mary E, 4 months, Daughter
Johanna Maclennan, 19, General Servant – Domestic

Donald Macleod, by the way,  has so far eluded all attempts to locate him in 1901 but his parents and several siblings are here:

Alexander Macleod, 61, Crofter, 5 Direcleit
Catherine, 52, Tweed-making, Wife
Mary, 27, Weaveress Tweeds, Daughter
Roderick, 25, Able Seaman, Son
Kate, 18, General Servant – Domestic, Daughter
Cathie, 12, Scholar, Daughter

Donald and Margaret Macleod’s second child was another daughter, Katie Ann Macleod (1904-1979), who married John Macdonald (1894-1974) , a son of Finlay Macdonald and Peggy Mackay of No. 1 Kendibig as seen here:

Finlay Macdonald, 38, Weaver Tweeds, 21 Kendibeg
Maggie, 34, Weaveress Tweeds, Wife
Alick, 9, Scholar, Son
John, 8, Scholar, Son
Mary, 5, Scholar, Daughter

The Marriage Certificate supplies the following:

26th August 1924 – Direcleit, Harris

John Macdonald, 30, Grocer, Leverburgh
(Parents: Finlay Macdonald, Crofter, Maggie Mackay) ( Mackay genealogy )

Catherine Ann Macleod, 20, Webmaker, Direcleit
(Parents: Donald Macleod, Crofter, Margaret Macdonald)

Malcolm Macaskill, Minch View, Tarbert, Witness
Mary E Macleod, Direcleit, Witness

John Macdonald and Katie Ann moved to Scarista and one of their son’s is known to us as Finlay J Macdonald (1925-1987), the broadcaster and author, who described his visits to his grandparents at Direcleit in ‘Crowdie and Cream’, ‘Crotal and White’ and ‘Corncrake and the Lysander’.

Finlay J Macdonald himself, however, was in one sense a product of the combination ‘Direcleit and Ceann Dibig’!

Ref: ‘Crowdie and Cream and other Stories, Finlay J Macdonald

Direcleit and Ceann Dibig – A Brief History

In ‘Harris in History and Legend’, Bill Lawson explains that in 1803 ‘these villages were a part of the farm of Losgaintir’ and that reference is made to the ‘sub-tenatns or cottagers in…Keandibig and the herd in Dereclet.’ At this point, I should mention that I have shown the variety of spellings as they appear in the censuses, not least as an example of how one has to take a somewhat flexible approach in interrogating databases if all the data is to be collected!

Sometime in the 1820s crofting townships were established and by 1841 at least seven dozen people were living in them:

Dirachte 84people
Kendebig doesn’t appear as a separate entity, but one could use the Croft History!

In 1846 most of the crofts were bisected to accommodate people cleared from Borve in Berneray and the figures for 1851 and 1861 reflect that situation.

I give the number of people, the number of Heads of household and a figure in brackets indicating an average household. However, the latter is slightly misleading as, for every house containing one or two people, there would be another massing ten or twelve under the one roof:

Direclet 148, 25 (6)
Kendebig 44, 8 (6)
Total 192, 33 (6)

Diraclet 148, 31 (5)
Kendibig 69, 15 (5)
total 217, 46 (5)

During the 1867 both villages were cleared , allegedly because of their proximity to the temptations of the nearby deer forest at Losgaintir, and many inhabitants emigrated to Owen Sound, Ontario but others ‘popped’ up the hill Cadha:

A few were left, scattered around the shore, and, as Lawson states, ‘The Kerrs’ house was so near the shore that a high tide came right into it.’

Derecht 32, 8 (4)
Keudebig 22, 4 (6)
Total 54, 12 (5)

Unfortunately, the division in the 1881 Census of Harris into North and South was not accompanied by an accurate recording of all the townships and hence I have been unable to produce figures for that year.

North Harris

In 1885 crofts began to be re-established and the deer forests dismantled and the resultant re-population is clear to see in the 1891 and 1901 figures:

Derechte Derichte Direclete 108, 17 (7)
Kendebig 35, 7 (5)
Total 143, 24 (6)

Dericlet 87, 19 (5)
Kendibeg, 37, 7 (6)
Total 124, 26 (5)

Modern Times
The census of 1981 was the last to separate the figures and so the last record we have of the population of Direcleit is from that year. 163 people is the highest recorded population and a healthy 92.8% of them spoke Gaelic, too!

Direcleit 163, (92,8% Gaelic speakers)
Ceann Dibig 29 (71.8% GS)
Total 192

Direcleit & Ceann Dibig 141 (89.7% GS)

The new Millennium saw the townships with virtually the same population as a century earlier but, sadly, less than two-thirds spoke Gaelic

Direcleit & Ceann Dibig 129 (65.2% GS)


Croft History ‘Deiraclete and Kendebig’ 1785-1985, Harris historical Society

‘Harris in history and Legend’, Bill Lawson

An in-depth analysis of Gaelic in Harris can be found here: