Donald Munro – The ‘Shah’ of Lewis

I gave a brief resume of Munro in an earlier piece:
http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/02/james-shaw-grant-shilling-for-your.html 
but thought that a complete list of his households plus a list of the others engaged in the legal profession in Stornoway might prove interesting.

1851
Donald Munro, 37, Procurator Ross and Cromarty, South Beach, Stornoway, b. Tain, Ross
William Ross, 25, Procurator Ross and Cromarty, Cousin, b. Tain
Helen Ross, 32, House Servant, b. Eddrachillish, Sutherland

(Angus Macdonald, 28, Lawyer, Benadrove, b. Stornoway)

1861
Donald Munro, 43, Chamberlain of Lews, South Beach Street, b. Tain, Ross-shire
Eliza R Munro, 24, Sister, b. Tain
Tina M Munro, 11, Scholar, Niece, b. Tain
Jane Macrae, 23, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
Margaret Macdonald, 24, Domestic Servant, b. Ness, Ross-shire
Catherine Young, 17, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
Robert Mackenzie, 21, Groom, b. Beauly, Ross-shire

(John Macdonald, 50, Lawyer, 57 Keith Street, b. Uig)
(Donald Maclean, 41, Lawyer, 52 Culngreen Road, b. Lochs)

1871
Donald Munro, 56, Solicitor and JP, 13 South Beach Street, b. Tain
Eliza Munro, 34, House Keeper, Sister, b. Tain
Crawford Munro, 22, Factor’s Daughter, Niece, b. Tain
John Ross, 17, Clerk, Nephew, b. Inverness
John Macleod, 26, Groom, b. Tarbert, Harris
Eliza Sutherland, 23, Servant domestic, b. Farr, Sutherland
Marock Sutherland, 25, Servant Domestic, b. Farr, Sutherland

William Ross, 48, Solicitor, 11 Kenneth Street, b. Tain

Napier Campbell, 38, Solicitor or Procurator of Faculty of Ross, 40 Cromwell Street, b. Edinburgh

(Donald Maclean, 52, Lawyer, 8 Invers Beach, b. Lochs)

1881
Donald Munro, 70, Solicitor and JP, 24 Kenneth Street, b. Tain
Betsy Munro, 42, House Keeper, Sister, b. Tain
William Ross, 24, Law Clerk, Nephew, b. Inverness
Jane Sutherland, 30, General Servant, b. Lairg, Sutherland
Rachel Morrison, 14, General Servant, b. Barvas

William Ross, 53, Solicitor and Procurator Fiscal, b. Tain

Napier Campbell, 48, Procurator and Enrolled Law Agent, Lodger, 17 South Beach St, b. Edinburgh

1890 – Death of Donald Munro

1891
William Ross, 63, Solicitor, 52 Francis Street, b. Tain
John Ross, 32, Solicitor, Son, b. Stornoway

Colin G Mackenzie, 31, Solicitor, 2 James Street, b. Stornoway

Peter P Slater, Solicitor, Boarder, Royal Hotel, b. Shetland

1901
Colin G Mackenzie, 41, Solicitor and Procurator Fiscal of Lewis, Park House, b. Stornoway
John Macdonald, 33, Depute Procurator Fiscal and Clerk to School-Board, 32 Keith St, b. Elgin

John Norrie Anderson, 54, Solicitor and Notary Public, Plym Nile, b. Stornoway

William A Ross, 36, Solicitor, 28 James Street, b. Logie Easter, Ross

The lack of any alternative to the Munro-Ross pairing is clear so that, even if their victims had been able to afford it, independent representation was non-existent.

What is also clear is that Munro lived surrounded by cronies (many of them related to him) but there is no sense of ‘family’, no feeling of ‘homeliness’ – one almost, but not quite, feels sorry for this evil, soul-less man…

Note: – It has been pointed-out to me that those who I have listed as ‘lawyer’ were in fact ‘sawyer’which makes more sense and explains their apparent absence post 1871. I have italicised these errors pending confirmation.

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James Shaw Grant – A Shilling for Your Scowl – the Story of a Scottish Legal Mafia – Acair 1991

I first came across the work of late James Shaw Grant (22 May 1910 – 28 July 1999) when reading his 1987 book ‘Discovering Lewis and Harris’.

I was given ‘A Shilling for Your Scowl’ as a leaving present following my first visit to the isles three years ago. The lady who presented it to me said, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, “I think you’ll enjoy this.”

The story told is that of the multi-tasking Donald Munro, a man who used and abused the Rule of Law to bring terror to the inhabitants of Lewis for most of the second-half of the 19th Century.

In holding several incompatible public and private offices simultaneously, he was able to act as if he was above the law rather than being a part of it.

It would make a great courtroom drama, with the proceedings of his final denouement being interspersed with flashbacks to the multitude of dreadful deeds that he carried out under his cloak of many roles.

Perhaps there was local knowledge at play when Munro’s 1881 address, 24 Kenneth Street, was chosen for the site of the 2005 An Lanntair Arts Centre for if ever it was necessary for a man’s dark deeds to have a lantern shone upon them, it was those of Donald Munro, Factor.

Donald Munro’s Census Locations

1814ish – Birth, Tain
1841 – (Not Located)
1851 – Procurator – South Beach, Stornoway
1861 – Chamberlain of Lews – South Beach Street, Stornoway
1871 – Solicitor & I P – 13 South Beach Street (The Star Inn)
1881 – Solicitor & N P – 24 Kenneth Street, Stornoway (An Lanntair)
1890 -Death