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.

End of the male line on Harris

Once I had completed researching my own lineage on Harris and Lewis, I thought that it would be interesting, and fairly easy!, to chart all of the Kerr families on Harris. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It has taken a considerable effort to amass the information.

The excellent thing about Scottish records is that they contain more information than their English counterparts and it only costs pennies over £1 to access an image. Compare that with the £9.25 for a (less-informative) Birth, Marriage or Death Certificate from England! Nevertheless, I have not accessed every single such record for Harris but sufficient for me to be able to present the following with a pretty high degree of confidence.

Oh, and my one complaint where the English records are superior to the Scottish, is that the indexing of those in Scotland is comparatively poor and one is charged to view each set of results, whether or not a likely ‘hit’ happens to be found within them.

These, the, are the 10 original ‘Hearth-holds’ (as I have elected to describe them!) from 1841.
I have only included the male descendants as their histories show how the name expired from the island:

A) Chersty (1761-bef1851) Tarrinsay, Hand Loom Weaver

B)Rock (1800-?) Strond, Tenant, Emigrated? bef1851

C) Rodrick (1800-?) Rha (Taransay), Ind, Emigrated? bef 1861

D) Peter (1796-) Glendsiluvaig, Tenant, 1851 – Kentulavick, Dry Mason, Moved to Argyllshire

E) Angus, Strond, Shoemaker (1791-bef1851) and Margaret (1790-1864)

e1) Donald (1816-1887)
Strond, Shoemaker, 1851 Farm of Strond, Shoemaker, 1881 Strond Merchant

e2)John (1826-1886)
1851 Farm of Strond, Port Esgein, Shoemaker, 1861 Tarbert, Grocer, 1871/81 Strond, Merchant

e2e) Donald (1858-1925) (John’s Son)
1901 Berneray, Road Labourer 1925 Strond, Crofter, Single

e2e1) John (1895-1958) (Donald’s ‘Illegitimate’ Son)
1958 Crofter, Single

F)John (1796-bef1861) Obb, Tenant, 1851 Obb, Farmer

f) Malcolm (1814-1894) Obb, Ag Lab
1861 Obe, Crofter, 1871 Smithy, Crofter 1891 Obbe, Crofter)

G) Marrion, Scarrista, Weaveress (1786-bef1871)

g1) John (1811-1879) Scarista, Carpenter
1851 Laskintyre, Joiner By 1871 he and his family had moved to Birkenhead, England

g2) Rodk 1816-1877 Scarrista, Carpenter
1851, Bowes, Farm Labourer & Joiner

g2g) John Kerr (1855-?) (Roderick’s Son) ‘Ayatollah Kerr’

H) Alexr (1796-bef1851) Tarbert, Fisher

h1)Malcolm (1816-1894) Tarbert, Fisher
1861 E Tarbert, Lobster Fisherman 1871 Boat Carpenter

h2)Donald (1821-bef1871)
1861 E Tarbert, Lobster Fisherman

I) Angus (1801-1867) Obb, Tenant
1851 Farm of Strond, Port Esgein, Ag Lab

i1) Angus (1826 -1910)
His career at Rodel I have described in detail elsewhere

i2) Malcolm (1831-1905)
Strond, Shepherd 1871 Strond, Cottar 1881 Strond Shepherd

i3) Roderick (1831-1891)
Post Runner, Single

i4) Wiiliam (1836-1862)

J) John(1801-1867 Dirachte, Tenant
1851 Direcleit, Tailor)

j1) Malcolm (1821-1898) Ag Lab
Moved to Stornoway by 1848 to pursue his seafaring career, remarry and produce my Lewis cousins

j2) Angus (1835-bef1881) One of Angus’ daughters leads to my only known cousin in Harris.
1861 Direcleit, Fisherman

j3) John 1839-1917(?)

j4) Donald (1843-?) 1891 Auctioneer’s Labourer, Glasgow

j5) Niel (1846-bef1871?)

j2j) John (Angus’ son) 1868-1950 1891 Direcleit., Fisherman

j2j1) John Kerr (prob911-1985, NOT born on Harris) (John’s Son) witness on his father’s Death Cert.

j1j) Roderick (Malcom’s Son) 1901 Obbe Farm Servant

j1j1) Donald (1885-?) (Roderick’s Son)
1901 Farm House, Herd Cattle on Farm

j1j2) Angus (1892-1963)

j1j3) John (Macleod) Kerr (1879-?) (Roderick’s Step-son)
1901 Obbe, Sailor/Tailor

j1j4) John Kerr (1902-? Died elsewhere)

This John, son of Roderick, son of Malcolm, son of John, son of Malcolm, was the last male Kerr to be born on Harris. He died elsewhere.

My grandfather was John, son of Annie, daughter of Malcolm, son of John, son of Malcolm.

One odd fact that I have noted is that those who ’emigrated’, whether to Lewis, Argyll or England, produced significantly more male heirs, both during their time on Harris and after.

There must be many in Argyll and England with Harris roots, but whether they are aware of them or not I have absolutely no idea!

Similarly, the daughters of some of the men who remained on Harris had families so, hidden within Harris amongst the more-familiar island names, are people descended from my original ‘Hearth-holds’ …

Note: I hope that the combination of letters and numbers used to identify each generation is reasonably easy to follow. I opted for it for reasons of brevity.

Home Spun at Deer Cliff

Four thick walls with rounded corners,
On the shore of this Deer Cliff

Four generations lived and left,
At the foot of this Deer Cliff

One hundred-and-thirty years of life,
At the place they call Deer Cliff

Through Clearance, flood and famine
They stayed at this Deer Cliff

Tailoring and Fishing,
Working from this Deer Cliff

Knitting, Weaving, Wool-spinning,
Turn threads to webs of time

Wool-Weaving and Tweed-Making,
Clo Mhor from this Deer Cliff

Nineteen-Fifty saw the end,
The final breath was taken.

Four solid walls and generations,
Direcleit home spun to dereliction.

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:

A vision of venison in a once-wooded place…

Somehow, when I was scanning through this document of Gaelic placenames
composed by Iain Mac an Tailleir I somehow missed the very one I was seeking:
Dieraclete (Harris) Diricleit, ‘Deer Cliff’, from Norse.
The ‘Deer Cliff’ is the nearer line of hills in this view taken from the Tarbert-Uig ferry.

Delighted as I am to have now  found this, at the time I was working on the idea that Direcleit might be a contraction of ‘Doire nam Cleit’ or Oak Grove (of the) Cliff.

Dirnanean in Perthshire apparently derives from Doire nam Eum, Oak Grove of the Birds, and Diriebught in Inverness from Doire nam Boc, Oak Grove of the Bucks!

As an aside, I recently came upon this interesting note on the flora of the area:

Coastline from Tarbert dock to Direcleit hosts a broad range of native tree species including Aspen, Downy Birch, Hazel, Grey willow, Sallow Willow, Rowan, Holly.

The name ‘Craobhag’ is given to the place that lies between Tarbert and Direcleit and means ‘Small Oak’. In fact these are stunted English Oaks, NOT Sessile Oaks,indicating that the site was recognised in the past for its woodland activity.

Ref: WI Native Woodland Restoration Survey Report (Native Woodland Report PDF)

You can see how this helped fuel my ‘Oak Grove’ conjecture, but alas, I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

Incidentally, the sequence of names from Tarbert round the coast runs as follows:

Diren – Another contraction of ‘Doire’?
Cadha – Pass/Cliff?
Craobhag – Small Oak
Direcleit – Deer Cliff
Ceann Dibig -Head of the Deep Bay?

Loch Direcleit

Looking South along the length of the loch towards the sea at Bagh Direcleit
The loch. a mere 140 yards from the sea & 40 yards above it, descends to 27 yards at its deepest point
Looking South-West, this scene typifies Direcleit

The second-furthest bay is where the stream drains the loch to the sea 300 yards away.
The high-point on the right is about 150 feet above sea-level.

Direcleit – The Family ‘Pile’!

Looking from 5 Direcleit towards Scalpay
This is where my great, great, Grandfather, Malcolm Kerr, was born in 1821
The ruin of a Blackhouse in the foreground
(which was temporarily reconstructed for ‘Crowdie & Cream’)
was the home of Angus Kerr (Malcolm’s younger brother)and his family.
The remains of the house of their father, John Kerr, can be seen near the Head-Dyke.
At especially High Tides the sea entered through the front door…