>About the Hebrides No VIII

>

‘Tarbert in Harris, to which the Clansman conveyed us from Loch Maddy in North Uist, was described to us by a residenter of the place, though not a native, as consisting of 26 dwelling-houses and 13 shops – he begged pardon, business premises of “merchants”. This is possibly a rather rough-and-ready summing-up, but it is correct enough in so far as indicating that the number of the latter is distinctly out of proportion to the number and requirements of the former.

The village stands at the head of East Loch Tarbert, that indentation of the sea that cuts into the land from the Minch to about a quarter of a mile from the head of West Loch Tarbert, similarly indenting it from the Atlantic, the so close approach of the two all but constituting the southern portion of Harris an island. As it is, the march between the two districts is here, the proprietor of North Harris being Sir Edward H Scott, Bart., and of South Harris the Earl of Dunmore.

The houses are all on the north or right hand side as you enter by the steamer, ust where the loch or bay becomes a creek of 300 or 400 yards in length, and narrowing to less than 50 yards at the top. The first structure to catch the eye is the Free Church, a plain enough building, erected on the summit of an eminence jutting into the sea immediately eastward of the pier. Close at hand, but standing a little lower, is the manse, a comfortable-looking, white-washed house, with a neatly-kept kitchen garden in front and sheltered so far from the wind and spray by some trees – the latter not of any dimensions, truly, but still forming a show of “wood” surpassing what we had seen as yet in working up the Long Island. Then comes the wooden pier, up from which, by a path that winds round to westward, you pass the schoolhouse (the of teacher which is also the registrar for the district, &c.), and get onto the main road or street, on the right of which stand the houses and stores of which, as above mentioned, the village consists. To right and left respectively of the pierhead is a row of eight or ten of these, some slated and others roofed with zinc, and all of one storey only.

Beyond these, going on to the head of the loch, there is a hiatus, to which succeeds a row of about a dozen newer-looking houses, two or or three of which are of two storeys and “semi-detached” from their neighbours. At the very head of the bay is the old Tarbert Inn , now disused as such; and across the road from this, almost down on the shore, the modern post and telegraph office. Following the road westwards two minutes’ walk brings you to the new Tarbert Hotel, in the very centre of the isthmus, and 30 or 40 yards further on is the house of the medical man of the district, Dr Stewart, which commands the view away down West Loch Tarbert.’
This is a gem of a description of Tarbert from 130 years ago and I only wish that I could name the author! However, we can identify ‘…Dr Stewart…’ as James Stewart for this young ‘Physician and Surgeon’ from Perthshire is found living in Kintulavig in 1881 and at 15 West Tarbert a decade later
Similary, we can be sure that the teacher who was ‘…also the registrar for the district, &c.’ was the Glaswegian Donald Bethune, he being the Schoolteacher in Tarbert in 1881 & 1891 , and that the Minister in the Manse was Roderick Mackenzie from Assynt in Sutherland who a few months after the publication of this article was giving his evidence to the Napier Commission where he makes particular reference to the work of Fanny Thomas .
We are especially fortunate in having the 1882 6-inch Ordnance Survey map (surveyed in 1878) on which to follow in the footsteps of our unknown author and then we should perhaps refresh ourselves at the ‘…new Tarbert Hotel …’ before returning later to examine the remainder of his piece…
Source: Glasgow Herald 16th September 1882 p3

>Captain FWL Thomas & Malcolm Gillies

>

‘At the time that he was based in the area he had a friend, Malcolm Gillies, who had been born in Skye and later became a schoolmaster in Harris and in North Uist. Malcolm Gillies had a son whom he named Frederick Thomas. This Frederick Thomas gillies was later a merchant in Lochboisdale. The former Head of the BBC’s Gaelic Department, Fred Macaulay, is named after this relative. So the name of Captain Thomas lives on in the islands.’
‘Captain Otter & Captain Thomas’ by Gillian Maclean and Finlay Macleod p120 ‘Togail Tir’
This is one of my favourite essays in Togail Tir and, whilst reading it in advance of much of my earlier work on the two Captain’s might have saved me quite a few hours of ‘toil’, in some ways it is even nicer to find published confirmation of one’s own endeavours.
What follows are the records from the censuses, charting what I believe to have been Malcolm.s journey from his home on his father’s farm, via a period as a merchant, to his vocation in education.
(I have attempted to make it easier to track individuals by using various combinations of bold and italics and I trust that readers find this so.)
1841 – Bracadale
Murdoch Gillies, 80, Farmer
Mary, 60
Malcolm, 35
Norman, 15
Marion, 25
1851 – Cladach Carinish , North Uist
Malcolm Gillies, 40, Tea Dealer in Retail, b. Kilmuir, Skye, Inverness
1861 – North Uist
Malcolm Gillies, 50, Gaelic Teacher, b. County Bracadale, Inverness-shire
Ann, 32, b. Trumisgary , Inverness-shire
Marion, 7, b. Trumisgary – as were her 4 siblings below
Mary, 6
Murdoch, 4
Ewen, 2
John, 11 months
Malcolm Gillies, 61, Gaelic Teacher, b. Brackadle, Inverness-shire
Ann, 38,
Marion, 14
Murdoch, 13
Ewan, 11
John, 9
Archie, 7, b. North Uist
Roderick, 5, b. Harris
Mary, 3, b. Harris
Malcolm, 1, b. Kilmuir
1881 – North Uist
Malcolm Gillies, 76, Missionary Teacher
Anne, 51
Marion, 27, Sewing Mistress
Mary A, 13
Ewen, 22, Arts Student
John, 20, Teacher
Roderick N, 15
Malcolm, 10
Frederick, 7, b. North Uist
Marion Ann Macleod, 1, Granddaughter, b. North Uist
1891 – North Uist
Ann Gillies, 60, Dressmaker
Ewan, 32, Student of Theology
John, 30, Ag Lab
Malcolm, 21, Ex Pupil Teacher, b. Skye
Frederick, 14, b. Harris(?)
Mary Ann Gillies Macleod, 11, Granddaughter
And finally:
1901 – Mc Dougall’s House, Boisdale, South Uist
Frederick T Gillies, 26, Shopkeeper Grocer, b. Harris
It is evident that at least two of the Gillies’s children, Roderick b.1866 and Mary b. 1868, were born in Harris suggesting that Malcolm may have spent at least these three years teaching on the island.
The next birth, that of Malcolm in 1870, took place in Kilmuir which suggests that was the latest date that he was still teaching on Harris before teaching in Kilmuir prior to returning to North Uist.
All the earlier children are indicated as having been born on North Uist and the same is said of the final child, Frederick Thomas, if we are to believe the census of 1881. However, in the next two censuses he is clearly shown as having been born in Harris.
I am happy to confirm that his birth was registered in Harris and that he was born in 1873.
Fred Thomas must have been delighted to have the lad named after him and I would love to discover whether the two of them met before Fred’s death in 1885.

>Harris Parochial School 1836/7

>

I have happened upon a source relating to the school at Rodel:
‘The Sessional Papers printed by Order of the House of Lords or presented by Royal Command in the Session 4 and 5 Victoriae, Volume III – Education Returns, Scotland Part II, page 173’ pub 1841
These were answers given by Schoolmasters to a list of questions that had been submitted to them in 1836. The report even ‘names & shames’ those Schoolmasters who had failed to make a return!
From it we may glean that the school had been established at an uncertain date and was benefiting from no private endowment, which may go some way to explaining why there was no regular school-house for the teacher.
There were 25 boys and 5 girls attending the school in 1836 and 1837 and they started when aged between 4 and 8 and only finished school when they were 15.
The schoolmaster, A. Macdougall, who took-up the post in 1829, appears to have been educated in Perth and to have received a salary of £22. A price list of 1s 6d, 2s, 2s 6d & 3s for scholars is given but which additional subjects were attracting the higher three rates is not specified.
There was an annual report made to the Presbytery and a list of the texts used is provided:
English – Dr Thomson’s books
Greek – Collectanea Minora and Xenophon, etc
Latin – Caesar, Sallust, Virgil, etc
Mathematics – Euclid
Arithmetic – Gray’s and Morrison’s
Geography – Stewart’s
History – Simpson’s Histories
Religious – Scriptures
Catechism – Assembly’s Shorter Catechism, and Williason’s
The school hours were from 9 to 12 and then from 2 to 6 with an annual break of generally about 4 weeks, presumably to allow the children to assist with harvest.
Note: Unfortunately I have not been able to discover the original questions and hence have restricted this account to those where a description is given in the answer.
(The only exception is where it is clear that the question asked if there was a private endowment)
The nature of the questions where no expansion is provided from Harris might be guessed-at from answers given elsewhere but I have elected to wait until the original questions are found.

>Groome’s Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1892-96)

>A friend alerted me to this publication that can be read on Electric Scotland or on A Gazetteer of Scotland.
Some readers may prefer one version to the other, but I leave that to your own choice!

The entry for Harris is full of information but one area of interest will suffice:

‘Eleven schools – Bernara, Denishader, Finsbay, Kyles Scalpa, Kyles Stocknish, Manish, Obe, Scalpa, Scarp, Scarista and Tarbert – all of them Public, with total accommodation for 913 children, have an average attendance of about 580, and grants amounting to nearly £800.’

Firstly, note the spellings – I have transcribed them from the original page.
Secondly, in my pieces on Education in Harris in 1891 & 1901 I listed the teachers according to where they lived and, as these are those listed 5 years either side of the publication of the Gazetteer, it seems reasonable to attempt to link each teacher to one of these 11 listed schools which I shall endeavour to do later.

For now, what strikes me is that the Gazetteer informs us that there were places for 913 children yet attendance averaged at a mere 580. In 1891 there were 18 teachers listed and some 1200 ‘scholars’ and by 1901 there were 28 teachers educating the same number of children.

So the capacity of the schools was only sufficient to accommodate three-quarters of the children and average attendance was just below 50%? Several factors suggest themselves, not least the fact that even with 11 schools the ‘school run’ was a long walk on unmade tracks in all weathers for many ‘scholars’so the fact that nearly half attended is in itself rather remarkable! The apparent shortage of school places, some 24 years after the passing of the Education Act, may be real or it is possible that those 1200 ‘scholars’ actually includes a large number of infants of pre-school age? I shall investigate further, but hopefully have given a flavour of how useful a single sentence from a source such as the Gazetteer can be!

(With thanks to SC of Islay for finding the Gazetteer!)

SPCK School at Scarista

As can be seen from this list , a school was erected at by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge at Scarista on October the 11th 1732.

At the time that the list was compiled in 1748 there were 13 boys and 9 girls attending the school.

The other three schools in the Presbytery of Uist were on the islands of St Kilda and Benbecula and at ‘Borbh’ which I presume to refer to the Borve on North Uist?

The 22 scholars of Scarista are the earliest that I have discovered thus far.

The Inn at Tarbert

I have previously examined Inn at An-t-Ob and the Harris Hotel and now turn my attention to the Inn at Tarbert as marked on the 1857 Chart of East Loch Tarbert.
The chart shows the Inn clearly in the space that, by 1865, was occupied by the newly-built Harris Hotel.
The chart also appears to identify the school of 1851 as the squat single-storey building shown in the centre of this Streetview image. but I have not seen any reference supporting this assertion and would welcome any additional information. The long building on the left, between the ‘school’ and the Harris Hotel, is also shown on the chart but is not identified. Again, any further information would be most welcome!
To return to the Inn, we have two sets of census records listing its residents:
1851 Tarbert Inn
FAMILY
Malcolm MacAnby (Macaulay?), 42, Inn Keeper and Crofter (Employing 5 men), b. Harris
Margaret, 37, Wife, b. Fortingall, Perth
Peter, 10, Scholar at Home, Son, b. Harris
Marion A, 8, Scholar at Home, Daughter, b. Harris
Jessie M, 6, Scholar at Home, Daughter, b. Harris
Bessie M, 4, Scholar at Home, Daughter, b. Harris
Catherine, 2, Scholar, Daughter, b. Harris
Frederick J MacAnby, 8, Scholar, Nephew, b. Lochs
John Macdougal, 35, Free Church Student, Brother-in-Law, b. Fortingall, Perth
Ann Macdougal, 22, House Keeper, Sister-in-Law, b. Harris
Emmeline E Maxwell, 22, Teacher, Cousin, b. Edinburgh
EMPLOYEES
Murdoch Morrison, 18, Waiter, Servant, b. Harris
Catherine Macleod, 23, House Servant, b. Harris
Murdoch Macdonald, 29, Ag Lab, Servant, b. Harris
Norman Macleod, 24, Ag Lab, Servant, b. Harris
Angus Mackillop, 18, Herd, Servant, b. Harris
GUESTS
Donald Macdermid, 17, Road Labourer, Lodger, b. Harris
John Macphail, 48, Seaman, Lodger, b. North Shields, Northumberland
Catherine Macphail, 41, Seaman’s Wife, Lodger, b. Greenock, Renfrew
Elizabeth Fordeson, 6, Seaman’s Daughter, Lodger, b. Greenock, Renfrew
I am almost reaching the point where a familiar name appears in a different context and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, that’s so-and-so who’s the thingamabob from where-do-you-call-it and is such-and-such’s relative…’ and that is the case with some of the folk in Tarbert Inn.
The teacher Emmeline E Maxwell appears here but I am now wondering if she was teaching the children of the innkeeper rather than at the school down the road? Angus Mackillop the ‘Herd’ was one of those I did not itemise here because I was uncertain if he was dealing with cattle but he was certainly one of the three agricultural employees that the Inn required. Of the four folk lodging at the hostelry, we recognise Donald Macdermid as one of the roadworkers building the road to Stornoway that was completed three years later but I appear to have missed John Macphail off this earlier list Englishmen and women ‘abroad’ in Harris.
1861 East Tarbert
FAMILY
John Morrison, 21, Inn Keeper, b. Harris
Betsy, 24, Waiter, Sister, b. Harris
Alexander, 19, Assistant, Brother, b. Harris
Kennethina, 10, Scholar, Sister, b. Harris
EMPLOYEES
Murdo Macdonald, 38, Ag Lab, Servant, b. Harris
John Mclellan, 24, Ag Lab, Servant, b. Harris
Isabella Frazer, 29, Domestic Servant, b. Kintail
GUESTS
William Ferrier, 31, Pedlar, Traveller, b. Ireland
Alexander Bain, 44, Ship Agent, Traveller, b. England
James Shearer, 45, Ship builder, Traveller, b. Dunoon, Ayrshire
Effy Morrison, 20, Domestic Servant, Traveller, b. Uig, Rossshire
Donald Clark, 24, Domestic Servant, Traveller, b. Uig, Rossshire
I presume that the ‘Ag Lab’ Murdo Macdonald is the same man (Murdoch Macdonald) from ten years earlier but if so he is the only constant from that earlier time. The Morrison family are running the inn and amongst their five guests are Alexander Bain who did make the list Englishmen and women ‘abroad’ but, because he wasn’t from the island, the Ship Builder Shearer is not in my list of Harris Boat Builders .
I think these two households are quite revealing and I am always particularly interested to note those staying at an inn or a hotel as they provide insight into another element of the past; but in fact the thing that is most intriguing me is whether I have correctly identified the school building in Tarbert from1857, for that is where many of my relatives would have trudged the two-miles to each day from Direcleit and that, for me, is rather a nice thought…

Education in Harris in 1794

“There is a parochial school at Rowdill, now attended by 30 poor children, the whole emoluments of which to the schoolmaster may be about 20L per annum.
There is a new school soon to be set up in another district, on the establishment of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. 
The same benevolent and patriotic society have already erected at Rowdilll a seminary of female industry.”
Rev Mr John Macleod, The Statistical Account of Scotland 1794, p380


Three short sentences that are rich with information. We have the location of the Parish school in ‘Rowdill‘, serving a mere 30 children from a population of over two-and-a-half thousand people, and in which nearly 50 years later we find Donald Murray teaching. The Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge’s intention to start a new school ‘in another district‘ the precise location of which I believe had yet to be decided upon. Finally, half a century before the discovery of the ‘Paisley Sisters’, a ‘seminary of female industry‘ had already been established by the Society at ‘Rowdill‘, – a precursor to the Embroidery School, the development of the Stocking Knitting industry, and the ‘Industrial School’, all found in or around An-t-Ob from the 1850s by virtue of the vision of the Countess of Dunmore & Mrs Frances Thomas.