Although I’ve covered several of the key events that took place during Donald Stewart’s years on Harris, especially the various Clearances that he undertook to further the expansion of his and his family’s interests on the isle, I’ve perhaps tended to neglect the years either side of them.
We will start with three extracts from the Angus Macleod Archive that establish the pattern of behaviour that the three Stewart brothers made their own on the islands:
The Establishment of the Park Sheep Farm
‘The Park Sheep Farm was set-up about 1802 at the southern tip of the Park Peninsula, in the Parish of Lochs. A modern farm house was built at Valamus, on the southern shores of the Peninsula, where it may still be seen, although by now, it is falling into disrepair.’
The entry for Bhalamus in RCAHMS
allowed me to produce this link to a map of the site of the farm house that Donald Stewart inhabited: OS 1:25 000
The Stewart Brothers of Park Sheep Farm
‘…the clearance of the small tenantry in the area round about Valamus was carried out when the sheep farm was established there. The manager of the sheep farm was Mr Donald Stewart from Perthshire.’
‘By 1843 the Park Sheep Farm had taken up the whole of southern Park, including Lemreway and Orinsay, but not Steimreway, which was the subject of an unexpired lease.’
‘Donald Stewart, the original farm manager, became tenant of the farm and it was said that he made so much money in Park that he was able to move to Harris and lease and stock the farm at Luskentyre.
Eventually, he became the factor to the Macleod Proprietor of Harris who seems to have fallen under his control. He cleared the people from the whole of the Borve, West Harris area and bundled them to the Bays of Harris, and overseas.
He and his sons held a number of farms in Harris when West Harris was cleared for Donald Stewart. Squads of well-rewarded ‘flunkies’ wiped out all evidence of the community. They drowned the fires on the hearths with the household milk, and set the houses on fire.
Donald Stewart was succeeded on the Park farm by his brothers Alexander and Archibald, known in Park as ‘Gillean Ruadh na Pàirc’ (The Red-headed Men of Park). They held the tenancy of Park farm until 1842, when Walter Scott succeeded them in the tenancy.
Like their brother in Harris they oppressed the small tenantry, and the Park Sheep Farm was enlarged to the point where the people of Lemreway and Orinsay, comprising of nearly 60 families and 327 souls, were being evicted when the new tenant, Mr Scott, came to the farm.
The Park Clearances
The Estate officials came to these villages in June 1842, backed up by the force of the law, in the form of the Sheriff etc. The law was always on the side of the landlord oppressors. On this occasion the women turned on them when they were pulling down the houses and drove them off. However, the next year, they returned and drowned their fires in the hearths, and these two villages were cleared in 1843, the year of the Church Disruption in Scotland. The following year marked the end of the Seaforth Mackenzie regime in Lewis and James Matheson bought the Island for £190,000.
One of the Orinsay families cleared was that of my grandfather’s grandmother and I like to imagine that she, a single lady of 21 or 22 at the time, was one of those women who humiliated the raiding party of 1842 into fleeing for their boats and a making a hasty return to Stornoway!
Highland Cattle in 1919 by James Cameron
The Stewart family, afterwards powerfully represented at Ensay, Duntulm, and Bochcastle, were reputed to have bred the cattle in the long Perthshire glen and surrounding districts for hundreds of years, but no written records are available.
The breed owed a great deal in many respects to the brothers Donald and Archibald Stewart, who shifted with the best of their stock to the Hebrides in the early part of last century — Donald taking a Lewis farm in 1802, and Luskentyre, in Harris seven years later. In the Skye of that period, according to Donald Stewart, no one could tell how long the breed had been established.
Outstanding breeders last century were John Stewart, latterly of Ensay, son of Donald Stewart already referred to…
John Stewart, following his father’s example, blended the best of the island and mainland strains of cattle, and having large numbers to deal with on extensive feeding ranges he was able to practice line breeding most effectively.
It is interesting to learn that the Stewarts, who are normally associated with sheep rather than cattle, appear to have played a pivotal role in the breeding of Highland Cattle but my main interest is in the reference to John Stewart being ‘latterly of Ensay’ for, from the census data, it would appear that he actually lived the majority of his life on the mainland.
Notes from a Research Group
Ensay is a small isle in the Sound of Harris and formerly belonged to the lairds of Harris; about 500 acres. Belonged to the “improving Campbells” of Ensay and then after 1856 to Archibald Stewart of Luskentyre (Lord Dunmore’s factor).
This Stewart family was later “powerfully represented” at Ensay, Duntulm, and Bochastle.
Before settling in Luskintyre, Donald and his brother were in Lewis on Park Farm where they were ruthless evictors of crofters. Donald began as a hired shepherd from Appin, became manager of the farm for The Skye Group and later became tenant and “prospered so well that he moved to a more promising location on the North Harris estate.” He expanded his holdings at the expense of Macleod of Harris and secured farms for his friends and relatives.
Unfortunately, these notes are not sourced but they rang sufficient bells to lead me to a familiar place
and the notes appear to have been compiled from contributions to this discussion board.
(Which, if I had found it sooner, could have saved me a bit of time in compiling this piece!)
The notes are followed by a family tree for the ‘Stewarts of Ensay’ and it may be seen at the site cited below but from that tree I want to focus upon a few features.
Firstly, the tree comes from a 1907 document recording the family as described by a Mrs Stewart of Milton Farm and she states the following regarding one of Donald Stewart’s sons, the Rev. Unknown Stewart:
Described by Mrs Stewart of Milton as he who “refused to be associated with his father’s farms and moved briefly to Australia as a farmer, but later returned as a Gospel missionary in Harris.
(Fasti Ecclesiastesshows no such person.)
This mysterious ‘Rev. Stewart’ who returned to Harris as a Gospel Preacher would not appear in the Fasti unless he was an ordained Minister of the Established Church of Scotland. I think I may have previously located him as a Catechist
living in Direcleit in 1861 when the 70 year-old gives his birthplace as Kilmuir in Inverness-shire. The age is far too great but the sudden appearance of a preacher called Stewart on the island, and the story as told, surely makes it seem too unlikely a coincidence for this not to be the ruthless Donald Stewart’s son?
Secondly, Donald’s son John Stewart (b.circa 1825 on Harris) pursued his farming career on the mainland, conscientiously noting the island of his birth in each census, and it was a William Stewart who lived at Ensay House as the 19th Century turned into the 20th. He was a Captain in the Army but whether or not he too maintained his relatives’ skill in breeding Highland Cattle I couldn’t say.
Finally, and much to my delight, I have finally found Donald Stewart in 1851 as can be seen in the second of these two lists of his households from the censuses, in which those appearing in both lists are shown in bold:
Donald Stewart, 65, Farmer, Luskintyre
Isabella Stewart, 55
Richmond Stewart, 30
John Stewart, 15
Helen Stewart, 15
Mary Stewart, 12
Grace Stewart, 9
Jessy Stewart, 7
Isabella Dickson,, 20
Rosh Mcleod, 20, House Carpenter
Helen Mcmillan, 15, Female Servant
Isabella Mcleod, 30, Female Servant
Ann McGillip, 15, Female Servant
Cathrine Mcleod, 20, Female Servant
Christian Mclellan, 15, Female Servant
Mary Urquhart, 20, Female Servant
Donald Stewart, 70, JP & Farmer, Farm House of Achintee, Kilmallie, Inverness, b. Fortingal, Perthshire
Isabella Stewart, 60, Wife, b. Kintail, Ross-shire
Mary Mcintosh, 22, Clergyman’s Wife, Daughter, b. Harris
Jessy Stewart, 17, Daughter, b. Harris
Isabella Stewart, 16, Grand-Daughter, b. Stornoway
John Mackay, 78, Poor Man, Visitor, b. Kintail, Inverness-shire
Malcolm Mccaskill, 26, Shepherd, Servant, b. Harris
John Cameron, 20, Farm Servant, b. Kilmallie
John Mccoll, 16, Farm Servant, b. Kilmallie
Mary Ann Chisholm, 50, House Servant, b. Kingston, Jamaica
Ann Mackay, 24, House Servant, b. Durness, Surtherland
Catherine Mcsweyn, 25, House Servant, b. Harris
Margaret Mclean, 17, Dairy Maid, b. Harris
Jane Mccoll, 15, Kitchen Maid, b. Oban, Argyll
It is interesting to see that he employed three Hearachs in his mainland home but that is no compensation for the appalling inhumanity that he and his brothers wrought on the people of Pairc and Harris.
It is not for nothing that Donald Stewart is known by many as ‘the worst thing to happen to Harris’
Other pieces from Donald Stewart’s time as Factor of Harris that may be of interest: