>’The Hebridean Breed’ – The True Kyloe


‘Cattle; Their Breeds, Management and Diseases; With An Index’ by William Youatt was published in 1834 by Baldwin & Cradock (London) for The Society For The Diffusion Of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) as the latest addition to their ‘Library of Useful Knowledge’.
The SDUK, as can be read here , was begun by Lord Peter Henry Brougham who was Rector of the University of Glasgow from 1824 to 1826 and instrumental in establishing the University of London. .
William Youatt (1776-1847) was an outstanding Veterinary Surgeon born in Exeter in the county of  Devon. He devotes several pages (p64-73) to ‘The Hebridean Breed’ and I have extracted some of his more interesting observations (in italics), rearranging them under ten different headings and with some comments of my own:
There is little or no variety of breeds of cattle in the Hebrides. They are pure West Highlanders.
Apparently the most ancient breed of cattle in the country.
We have been favoured with the following excellent description of the true Kyloe, or West Highland bull, by Malcolm M’Neill, Esq., of the Isle of Islay, the southernmost of the inner range of the Hebrides:
‘The Highland bull should be black, the head not large, the ears thin, the muzzle fine, and rather turned up. He should be broad in the face, the eyes prominent, and the countenance calm and placid. The horns should taper finely to a point; and, neither drooping too much, nor rising too high, should be of a waxy colour, and widely set on at the root. The neck should be fine, particularly where it joins the head, and rising with a gentle curve from the shoulder. The breast wide, and projecting well before the legs. The shoulders broad at the top, and the chine so full as to leave but little hollow behind them. The girth behind the shoulder deep; the back straight, wide, and flat; the ribs broad; the space between them and the hips small; the belly not sinking low in the middle; yet, in the whole, not forming the round and barrel-like carcase which some have described. The thigh tapering to the hock-joint; the bones larger in proportion to the size than in the breeds of the southern districts. The tail set on a level with the back. The legs short and straight. The whole carcase covered with a thick long coat of hair, and plenty of hair also about the face and horns, and that hair not curly.’
Mr. Macgillivray, in his ‘Prize Essay on the present State of the Outer Hebrides,’ says,
‘The black cattle are small, but well proportioned; and on the tacksmen’s farms (a tacksman is one who has a large tract of land, which he holds by lease) they are generally of good breed, and, although not heavy, very handsome. They are covered with a thick and long pile during winter and spring; and a good pile is considered one of the essential qualifications of a cow.
The most common colours are black, red, brown, or brandered, (that is, a mixture of red and brown in stripes—brindled.’) A whitish dun colour is also pretty frequently seen, not unlike that of the original wild cattle of Scotland…and it is remarked, that in all their traditions or fables of what are called fairy-cattle, this is the colour ascribed to these animals’
Mr. Macgillivray’ was William Macgillivray, the Naturalist who farmed at Northton and who is mentioned in this piece regarding an annotation on Bald’s Map of Harris.
The value of the West Highland cattle consists in their being hardy, and easily fed; in that they will live, and sometimes thrive, on the coarsest pastures; that they will frequently gain from a fourth to a third of their original weight in six months’ good feeding; that the proportion of offal is not greater than in the most improved larger breeds; that they will lay their flesh and fat equably on the best parts; and that, when fat, the beef is closed fine in the grain, highly flavoured, and so well mixed or marbled, that it commands a superior price in every market.
Mr. Moorhouse, from Craven, in Yorkshire, in 1763, was the first Englishman who came into the Hebrides to buy cattle. In the absence of her husband, Mr. M’Donald, of Kingsburgh, he was kindly entertained by Flora M’Donald, who made up for him the same bed that, seventeen years before, had received the unfortunate Prince Charles.
…no other breed of cattle will thrive on these islands…the Kyloes could not possibly be improved by being crossed with any others…attempts at crossing have only destroyed the symmetry of the Kyloes, and rendered them more delicate, and less suitable to the climate and the pasture.
The origin of the term Kyloe is obscure. Some writers, and among whom is Sir John Sinclair, have curiously traced it to their crossing the many Kyloes, or ferries which abound in the West of Scotland; others, and with more propriety, and one of whom is Mr. Macdonald, the author of the Agriculture of the Highlands, tells us, that it is a corruption of the Gaelic word which signifies Highland, and is commonly pronounced as if spelled Kael.
An earlier short piece on Black Cattle, Kyloes and Crodh Dubh.
Forty years ago the treatment of cattle was, with very few exceptions, absurd and ruinous, to a strange degree, through the whole of the Hebrides. With the exception of the milch cows, but not even of the calves, they were all wintered in the field: if they were scantily fed with hay, it was coarse, and withered, and half-rotten; or if they got a little straw, they were thought to be well taken care of. The majority got little more than seaweed, heather, and rushes. One-fifth of the cattle, on an average, used to perish every winter from starvation. It proved the excellency of the breed, that in the course of two or three months so many of them got again into good store-condition, and might almost be said to be half-fat, and could scarcely be restrained by any fence: in fact, there are numerous instances of these cattle, which had been reduced to the most dreadful state of impoverishment, becoming fattened for the butcher in a few months, after being placed on some of the rich summer pastures of Islay, Lewis, or Skye.
It may well have been that, circa 1794, the dominance of the Kelp Industry and the imbalance it imposed between the needs of agricultural subsistence and the demands of commerce might help explain this otherwise ‘strange degree’ of apparent neglect?
The calves are separated from their dams two or three weeks before the cast-cows are sent to the cattle-tryst at the end of October, for it is believed that if the cows had milk in their udders they might be injured in the long journeys they are then to take; the greater part of them being driven as far as the Lowland districts, whence they gradually find their way to the central and southern counties of England.
It is true that grazing has never been the principal object of the Hebridean farmer, or has scarcely been deemed worthy of his attention: there are very few cattle fattened upon any of the islands…
Can we be certain that, in much older times, when the nucleated settlement known as a ‘baile’ or township was farming using the run-rig system, that the ‘Hebridean’ farmers did NOT fatten their cattle on the land?
The different islands of the Hebrides contain about one hundred and fifty thousand of these cattle, of which it is calculated that one-fifth are sent annually to the main land, principally through Jura, or across from the ferry of the Isle of Skye. If these average about 5L. per head, the amount will be 150,000L., or more than the rental of the whole of the islands, which Mr. Macdonald calculated at 106,720L, but which now produces a greater sum. Cattle, therefore, constitute the staple commodity of the Hebrides. Three thousand five hundred are annually exported from the island of Islay alone.
This is astounding: the year is 1834 and the Clearances (that so cruelly replaced human feet with the hooves of sheep) are still occurring yet the estimated income from island cattle is nearly 150% of that from island rents. Were island estates ever really as unprofitable as their proprietors claimed?
We have stated that more than 20,000 of the Hebridean cattle are conveyed to the mainland, some of whom find their way even to the southernmost counties of England ; but like the other Highland cattle their journey is usually slow and interrupted. Many of these small cattle are permanently arrested in their journey, and kept on low farms to consume the coarse grass, which other breeds refuse to eat; these are finished off on turnips, which are given them in the field about the end of Autumn, and they are sold about Christmas.
The pace of these journeys may have appeared leisurely but I imagine that, for the drovers at least, they were arduous, risky, dangerous and uncertain undertakings.
Their first resting-place is not a great way from the coast, for they are frequently wintered on the coarse pastures of Dumbartonshire ; and in the next summer, after grazing awhile on the lower grounds, they are driven farther south, where they are fed during the second winter on turnips and hay. In April they are in good condition, and prepared for the early grass, on which they are finished.
There is more on the subject of cattle sales and droves in these pieces:
Little is known of the history of the Hebudans, except that they descended from the same stock with the Irish and the Highlanders; but were oftener exposed to the incursions of roving tribes from every quarter, and who successively mingled with, and were lost among, but never superseded the original inhabitants.
I believe that accords reasonably well with our current understanding.
‘…for more than three centuries, the Hebrides were the resort of refugees, smugglers, and freebooters; and, at no very remote period, the inhabitants were singularly uncultivated, ignorant, idle, and miserable.’
I have no idea whether the islands ever enjoyed three hundred consecutive years of visitations from ‘refugees, smugglers, and freebooters’ but I suspect that comment tells us more about William Youatt than it does about anything regarding the history of the Hebrides.
His description of the island Gael ‘at no very remote period’ as ‘uncultivated, ignorant, idle and miserable’ is, quite simply, uncultivated, ignorant, idle, and miserable…
After, however, the union between the English and Scottish kingdoms, and when civilization had commenced on the mainland, the Hebrideans began to be reclaimed, and that was chiefly manifested in, and promoted by, a change of occupation. Although they did not abandon their seafaring life, they became honest, and were industrious fishermen, and they began to learn to be agriculturists.
Odd when one stops to consider of all those Old Norse names on the islands that mean ‘Farmstead’ and that fishing had only relatively recently replaced farming, due to the displacement of people…
The cows were housed during the winter; but among the small farmers this was conducted in a singular way—for one rude dwelling contained and sheltered both the family and the cattle.
The habitations of these people are usually divided into three apartments. The first, which occupies half of the hut, is the general entrance, and contains the agricultural implements, poultry, and cattle. The second, comprising a fourth of the hut, is that in which the family reside; and the inner one, of the same size, is the sleeping room and granary.
There are no chimneys; the smoke fills the whole hut, and escapes partly by a hole in the roof, partly by the door, and partly by orifices formed between the wall and the roof as substitutes for windows, and which, in stormy weather, are closed by a bundle of straw.
The fire is placed in the middle of the floor. The soot accumulates on the roof, and, in rainy weather, is continually dropping, and for the purpose of obtaining it for manure, the hut is unroofed in the beginning of May.
The family had their beds of straw or heath in the niches of the walls, while the litter was never removed from the cattle, but fresh layers of straw were occasionally laid down, and so the floor rose with the accumulation of dung and litter, until the season of spreading it upon the land, when it was at length taken away.
The evolution of house-types is a fascinating area of study:
The substantial and complex nature of ‘blackhouse’ construction may be glimpsed in these images:
The evidence given to the 1883 Napier Commission by Thomas Brydone, Factor of South Harris, is relevant:
The…milk is exceedingly rich, and the butter procured from it is excellent.
…the dairy is considered as a matter of little consequence in the Hebrides; and the farmer rarely keeps more milch cows than will furnish his family with milk and butter and cheese.
In North Uist and Tiree the dairy is more successfully followed than in the other islands, partly on account of the goodness of the herbage, but principally because the cows yield milk for a longer time after calving than in the neighbouring isles. The management of the dairy is exceedingly simple, and, from the very simplicity of it, other districts may learn a useful lesson. The cows are driven as slowly and quietly as possible to the fold; the wild character of the animals, as well as a regard to the quality of the milk, show the propriety of this. They are carefully drained to the last drop, not only on account of the superior richness of the latter portion of the milk, but because the retention of any part is apt to hasten, if it does not produce, that which is one of the principal objections to the Highland cows as milkers, the speedy drying up of their milk.
Youatt’s opinions on islanders is awful but his attitude to animal husbandry is exemplary.
The milk is carried to the house with as little disturbance as practicable, and put into vessels of not more than two or three inches in depth. The cream is supposed to rise more rapidly in these shallow vessels; and it is removed in the course of eighteen hours.
An episode of the BBC’s historical reconstruction programme ‘The Edwardian Farm’ (unfortunately not available on iPlayer iPlayer )included this very same approach. The series, based upon practices in use some 70 years after the publication of Youatt’s book, was based in his own home county of Devon.
A cow will not, on the average, yield more than 22 lbs. of butter (of 24 oz. each) in the summer season: she will yield about 90 lbs. of cheese, which is much liked by some on account of the aromatic flavour which is given to it by the mixture of rose-leaves, cinnamon, mace, cloves, and lemon with the rennet.
I am a little confused for there was no weight system that divided a pound into 24 ounces thus it appears that each of these 22 pounds of butter weighed 24 ounces which is one-and-a-half pounds and therefore suggests a yield of 33 lbs of butter? (You may be interested in a guide to Old Scottish Weights and Measures )
The milk of the cows is said to be excellent, but on account of the filthy habits of too many of the cotters, the butter and cheese are eaten by few beside the natives.
The longevity of many islanders suggests that their dairy produce wasn’t too toxic despite these ‘filthy habits’ and it is worth remembering that it would be another quarter-of-a-century before the ‘miasma’ theory of disease was overthrown, following yet another Cholera epidemic in London…
In the spring all the cattle are in poor condition, and those of the small tenants are in most wretched plight: sea-weed (chiefly Fucus canaliculars), boiled with husks of grain and a little meal or other substances, are then employed to support them; and in many places the cattle during the winter and spring regularly betake themselves to the sea-shore at ebbtide to feed upon the fuci.
I cannot find Fucus canaliculars but Pelvetia canaliculata Pelvetia canaliculata (Channeled Wrack) is a member of the Family Fucaceae that is certainly edible!
The rapidity of vegetation in the latter part of the spring is astonishing in these islands. A good pasture can scarcely be left a fortnight without growing high and rank; and even the unenclosed and marshy and heathy grounds are comparatively luxuriant.
In summer the cows and the milch-sheep are sent to the inland glens and moors, which are covered with hard grasses and rushes, because the portion that yields soft grass is not sufficient for their consumption during the whole year. They are attended by a woman from each family, who has a small hut or shealing for her habitation, and who makes the little butter and cheese which their scanty milk affords.
The history of the Shieling is a fascinating topic that I intend examining in detail at a later date.
In summer all the cattle are pastured; the calves are sent to their dams twice in the day, and the strippings, or last part of the milk, is taken away by the dairy-maid, for it is commonly supposed, that if the calf is allowed to draw all the milk he can, it will keep the dam in low condition, and prevent her being in calf in proper time.
This refers to the practice on farms.
Oxen are never used for the plough or on the road on any of the Hebrides.



Roderick Macdonald, Scalladale, In the Isle of Harris, was charged with having, in July last, stolen four wedder sheep, the property of Mr Stewart, Luskintyre.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to fourteen years’ transportation.
Inverness Journal 22nd April 1842
We know much of Donald Stewart, the farmer of Luskintyre, but what of Roderick Macdonald of Scalladale?
The 1841 census record 7 people of that name on the island but we can ignore the youngest three, who were only 1, 2 & 7 years old, leaving us with the following quartet who are shown in order of their ages:
14, Scarp son of Donald & Margaret
28, Carragrich, Tenant
35, Obb
40, Molnahcuradh, Shepherd, wife Effy & 5 children
A decade later, those still found on the island aged 20 and over are listed below with those who match, and therefore were certainly not our man, shown in bold:
23, Scarp
25, Obe, Merchant & Innkeeper’s son (He who soon married Sarah Grant)
40, Carragrich, Crofter
46, St Kilda, Farmer of 3 acres & Bird Catcher employing no men
50, Drinishader, Farmer of 4 acres, wife Catherine
It is clear that only two of those who were listed in 1841 can be positively matched in the list of 1851 leaving us with the two oldest men from 1841 as potential candidates.
So what clues might we glean from the place named in the article, Scalladale?
Sgaladail (Scaladale) is a tiny settlement adjacent to Ardvourlie in North Harris, but that is a modern place and no buildings, not even ruins, are shown there on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6-inch map.
A clue may be provided by this record from RCAHMS but I can see no ruins shown at NB 180 092 on the current 1:50 000 or 1:25 000 OS maps.
Nevertheless, the reference to these five possible shielings would make sense if ‘Scalladale’ referred not only to where Roderick was living at the time but perhaps also to the ‘scene’ of his crime.
Was he, in that July of 1841, living in a summer shieling and, perhaps, doing so in the capacity of Shepherd?
If so, then the 40 year-old of ‘Molnahcuradh’ might well be him, especially as neither he nor any of his family can be accurately identified as remaining on Harris in 1851.
It is also just possible that the Roderick we seek was already in the shieling at the time of the census, evading the enumerator’s eye and thus absent from the record.
One thing that would help enormously in eliminating the man of ‘Molnahcuradh’ from my investigations (which I certainly would prefer to be able to do) would be if I had a any idea as to where the 53 people living in the place of that name actually were! Only seven peoples’ occupations are given; two were Tenants, two were Ag Labs and three were Shepherds; suggesting that wherever the location, it was most certainly closely associated with one of the sheep farms.
In conclusion, I cannot be sure if any of the Roderick Macdonalds of 1841 were indeed our sheep-stealer but, whoever he was, his punishment of fourteen years in the antipodes was an awfully harsh treatment for taking just four of Donald Stewart’s castrated sheep.
Note: The National Archives provide some useful educational information on Transportation as a punishment: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/candp/punishment/g09/g09cs1.htm
I have just discovered that Roderick Macdonald,
sentenced at his trial in Inverness in 1842 to 14 years Transportation,
arrived in Tasmania aboard the ‘Emily’ in that same year.
In the final ‘Remarks’ column is written
‘Died 1845 Sepr.’
I don’t know what the value of four wedders was in 1841,
but I do know it cannot be compared to the value of a human life…
RIP Roderick Macdonald


>ALEXANDER N M’CLEOD, Esq, of Harris, being desirous of establishing a CATTLE MARKET on his Estate, notice is hereby given to Drovers and Cattle Dealers, that this Market or Tryst will be held at the head of the Ford of Luskintyre, in Harris, on the 20th of July, being the Tuesday following the Stornoway Cattle Market. Lochstocknish, which is well known to be a good harbour, is within two miles of the Marketplace. Every accommodation will be given to Dealers; they may depend upon getting Vessels and boats to ferry the Cattle either to the Isle of Skye or the mainland, on very moderate terms, and a good shew of cattle may be expected.
Harris, 7th June, 1813

This notice appeared in the Inverness Journal of Friday, 2 July 1813 and I obtained a copy of the image via the service provided by Am Baile and Inverness Reference Library.

Alexander Norman Macleod had inherited Harris from his father, Alexander Hume Macleod, in 1811 and by the time of this notice some 34 years had passed since his grandfather, Captain Macleod, had purchased the Estate. It is quite surprising to learn that, as late as 1813, there wasn’t an established Cattle Market on the isle. i presume, therefore, that we can say with a fair degree of confidence that the first such Cattle Tryst was this one on the 20th of July.
I don’t know for how long it remained ‘at the head of the Ford of Luskintyre’ nor whether Loch Stocinis became the principle place of departure for the cattle heading elsewhere, but my understanding is that cattle were taken from near Tarbert to either Uig on Skye or to Poolewe on the Mainland whilst others were taken from Rodel to either Uig or Dunvegan on Skye.
More questions to answer, as usual, but it’s pleasing to be able to say that we have Alexander N M’leod to thank for starting the annual cattle fair and the resultant droves from Harris.

>Taking A Stance – On A Drove-Stance


On the 3rd of December 1846 a case was heard in court between the Marquis of Breadalbane and ‘James M’Gregor and others‘.
The case, which is extensively recorded in great detail, was with regard to a long-standing drove-stance that had been moved and the relationship of drove roads with later, mainly military, routes.
The place in question was Inverouran in Argyll which lies just off the modern A82 road and it is what the case has to tell us regarding the history and practice of droving that particularly interests me:
“The drove-road by Glencoe and the Blackmount was used for driving sheep and cattle long before the public road was formed, and it has continued to be used down to the present time in the same way as before the formation of the present road.
Nicely reminding us that it was such paths that had formed a large part of the land communication network for many, many years.
At Inverouran, the drove-road leaves the present public road for about two miles. It runs through the drove-stances in dispute, and has been used as a part of the drove road for the sheep and cattle from time immemorial.
I suggest that ‘time immemorial’ implies at least several centuries of use.
Shortly before 1745, a military road was, with the necessary engineering deviations, made under the authority of parliament, on or along the line of the former and ancient drove-road, which afterwards became the road by which the cattle and sheep were driven.
The first roads were built for political, rather than economic, purposes.
In 1803 this line of road was, in common with the other roads in the Highlands, placed under the management of parliamentary commissioners, and is so still; and, with the exception of occasional deviations, the present public road runs along the line or course of the ancient drove-road.
Not all ‘modern’ roads follow these ancient routes so it is nice to have this particular one confirmed.
The military road, and the present parliamentary road are, substantially, in the lino of the ancient drove-road, and came in its place, and, among others, to supply its purposes, which, until recently, have been its chief use.”
” On their journey, certain places for resting and refreshing sheep and cattle are indispensable. These places are generally situated at the average distance of ten miles from one another, being the safe and proper distance sheep and cattle on a journey can daily travel without sustaining serious injury, and they are called drove-stances or stages, and are invariable and indispensable accompaniments of drove-roads; and on the great drove-road by Glencoe and the Blackmount, there have been for centuries past, and as far back as its history reaches, drove-stances at stated distances, for the resting of the sheep and cattle.
So we know that the average speed of these droves was about 10 miles per day which fact is worth pondering when you consider that some of these animals would leave in July to travel all the way from the Western Isles to England!
There are fixed rates of charge for every hundred sheep, and every score of cattle, attached to each stance; and these rates, – generally 1s. 6d. for every hundred sheep, and the like for every score of cattle for each night, -have been fixed for time immemorial.”
Using the Retail Price Index reveals that 1s 6d is a little over £5 today and that is for every 100 sheep or 20 cattle and for each day of the journey. 5p per sheep per night and 25p per cow which it would be interesting to compare with modern haulage rates per 10 miles!
I might return to this case to see what other snippets might be lurking there but for now I think that’s enough on the disputed drove-stance of Inverouran.
Source: The Scottish Jurist Vol XII 1867

>The Harris Drove

>I have made brief reference to the driving of cattle from Harris to the mainland via Skye in a previous piece ‘Of Black Cattle, Kyloes and Crodh Dubh‘ but here are two references from the Old Statistical Accounts for Glenelg & Harris that clarify those droves:

Tides – The tides run very strong, both in Lochurn and Lochneavis; but the most remarkable current in this parish, or perhaps in all the west coast, is to be seen at Kylerea, the name of the sound that separates Sky from the main land; at spring-tides it runs so rapidly as to render it impossible for any vessel to pass through with a fresh breeze, and the wind never so favourable. Mackenzie, in his chart, reckons its velocity equal to nine notes an hour. Over this sound the black cattle annually driven to market from Sky, and part of the Long-island are made to swim; and though the current is so very strong, yet few accidents happen. The number cannot be exactly ascertained, but in general they may be reckoned about 2000.
They are sold in small lots from each farm to drovers, who ferry them to the Isle of Sky in the month of July; and from thence they are driven to market, sometimes to the S. of Scotland, but more frequently to England. Though there may be in all Harris about about 900 milk cows, supposed a breading stock, yet the number annually sold to drovers does not exceed 200.
Thus in the closing years of the 18thC it looks likely that some 200 of the 2000 cattle that were driven across ‘Kylrea’ to the mainland were from the ‘part of the Long-island’ called Harris.
It is easy to imagine a series of sales occurring as the cattle were passed like bovine batons along the relay race that reached its finish line as far away as England. The cattle were said to improve as they journeyed, presumably adding even more to their value in the markets of the south, and I cannot help comparing favourably their final days on Earth with those of some of their less fortunate modern cousins…

>The Edinburgh encyclopedia, conducted by D. Brewster, 1830


For background, the 1811 Census recorded 3569 people in Harris living in 760 houses.
Selected highlights from pages 716-7 (interspersed with a few of my comments)
The east coast of Harris is singularly indented all along with innumerable bays, creeks, and natural harbours, and presents a frightfully rocky and barren appearance when viewed from the sea.
The neighbourhood of the shore, however, is inhabited all along; and near the little settlements are patches of barley, oats, and potatoes, raised by extreme labour.
Some of these being the remnants of Captain Macleod’s fishing developments of nearly 50 years earlier; and some being the result of early 19thC Clearances such as those of Horgabost, Rodel, Scarista & Seilibost.
Calligray and Ensay lie about a league and a half east from Berneray, being separated from each other, by a narrow sound called Caolas Scaire, through which the tide passes with the most impetuous current known upon these coasts. The sea in which these islands are situated, is called the Sound of Harris, and is much frequented by shipping .
All the early accounts remark upon the Sound regarding its tides & its extensive shipping.
Cattle and kelp are the chief saleable articles of produce.
The former soon to be replaced by sheep and the latter, some decades later, by Harris Tweed.
Harris and its islands contain about 900 milk cows; and about 200 head of cattle are generally sold annually to drovers. The whole stock of cattle in Harris and its islets may be about 2500.
It is difficult to imagine 2500 cows roaming around on Harris and observing some 200 cattle being driven across the land and sea to the mainland, following the fairs on the island, must have been a magnificent sight.
The sheep in Harris are of a diminutive size, of a thin lank shape, with straight horns, the face and legs white, tail short, and wool sometimes bluish-grey, sometimes black, brown, russet, or blotched of various colours: their number is about 1100.
Clearly not to the author’s taste, but what a lovely palette of wool walking across the landscape!
Note that there were two-and-a-half times as many cattle as there were sheep.
On Harris a considerable tract of ground has been stocked with Tweed-dale or black faced sheep, by Mr. Mackinnon of Corry, and other gentlemen.
The word ‘gentlemen’ reminds us that here were are being told of the work of an ‘improving’ farmer from outwith the islands.
In some of the mountainous islands, they are said to have sometimes four, and sometimes even six horns.
Jacob sheep? Or Soay, Shetland, Spanish?If anyone reading this has researched the history of the primitive multi-horned sheep of Scotland I’d love to hear from you!
The number of goats is trifling.
Similarly what’s the story regarding these useful (& tasty?) creatures in Scotland?
There are not less than 1000 horses in Harris, of very small size, but remarkably stout and hardy. Some of the gentlemen have larger horses on their farms, and a few asses have been introduced.
As with the cattle, the thought of 1000 horses (that’s 4 horses for every 3 houses!) is unimaginable nowadays and it would be interesting to know about horse ownership in the isles in earlier times.


>The Stewarts of Pairc, Luskentyre, Ensay &…Achintee


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!
Sources: Angus Macleod Archive http://www.angusmacleodarchive.org.uk/
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.
Source: ‘Highland Cattle in 1919 by James Cameron’ via http://www.cruachan.com.au/1919.htm
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:
1834 court action against Mrs Ann Campbell – http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/05/mrs-campbells-mill-at-t-ob.html

Dairy Maids of Harris

Here are the Dairy Maids on ‘mainland’ Harris from 1841-1901

Ann Mcpherson, 30, Rodel, b. Inverness

Flora Mcdonald, 25, Urgha, b. Harris
Marion Mackinnon, 46, Lukentyre, b. Harris
Effy Mackinnon, 43, Luskentyre, b. Harris
Christina Mcleod, 21, Luskentyre, b. Harris
Marion Mcdiarmid, 25, Nishishee, b. Harris
Cath Macdonald, 27, Nisshishee, b. North Uist
Cathi Maclennon, 27, Nissishee, b. Lochalsh, Ross-shire
Catherine Morrison, 28, Kyles Stockinish, b. Uig, Ross-shire
Ann Mclellan, 80, Pauper (Dairymaid), b. Harris
Mary Ross, 26, Rodel, b. Harris

Ann Mcdonald 20, Marvig, b. Harris
Effie Mckinnon, 57, Seilibost, b. Harris
Ann Mackinnon, 24, Big Borve, b. Harris
Catherine Mckennon, 18, Big Borve, b. Harris
Christina Morrison, 24, Glebe, b. Harris
Marion Maccuish, 20, Kyles (ED 4), b.?
Janet Mclennan, 30, Rodel, b. Harris

Rachel Mcleod, 43, (ED 16), b. Harris
Effy Mckinnon, ?, Main Road of Harris, b. Harris
Mary Macleod, 24, Rodel, b. Harris
Ann Macrae, 32, (ED 4), b. Glenelg, Inverness
(Anne Morrison, 24, Visitor (ED 4), b. Harris)

Margaret Mcleod, 23, Free Church Manse No 20, b. Harris
Ann Macdonald, 52, Nisebost, b. Lochalsh, ross-shire
Mary Mackenzie, 27, Big Borve, b. Berneray, Harris
Marion Mackinnon, 25, Big Borve, b. Harris
Isabella Robertson, 25, Kyles House, b. Duthil, Inverness-shire

Peggy Mcinnes, 21, Hamlets Scaristaveg, b. Harris
Marion Mackinnon, 27, Hamlets Scaristavore, b. Amhuinnsuidh, Harris
Williamina Macdonald, 28, Hamlets Glebe (ED 6), b. North Uist
Jessie Morrison 40, ?? (ED 6), b. Harris

1901 None on ‘mainland’ Harris

An interesting set of records that are quite informative. The apparently lone Dairy Maid of 1841 is an artifice of that particular census and I am sure that each of the established farms at that time would have had at least one woman whose role was that of the Dairy Maid. By the following decade we can see that the fertile farms of the West required no less than six ladies performing this task (seven, if we include the one living in Kyles Stockinish who would probably have been engaged by the farm of Luskentyre) with one each at Urgha in the North and Rodel in the South.

The pattern in later years probably reflects the trend away from cattle towards sheep until the only Dairy Maids in the area by 1901 are to be found on the surrounding isles. Rodel was joined by the farm at Kyles for a while but it appears that first Rodel, then Kyles, ceased to need a Dairy Maid and they disappeared from the landscape.

I must mention the Mckinnon sisters one of whom, Effy, appears to have been a Dairy Maid for at least the years 1851-1871 by which time she would have been well into her 60s.

That’s a long time to be performing the far from simple, effortless or safe duties of a Dairy Maid!

A couple of articles on songs sung by these women can be read here:

The Papar Project

I gave a link to this research in a brief note on Taransay but thought that The Papar Project should have a separate entry as the online pages contain a wealth of information from many disciplines, across both space and time, and are a fascinating and accessible read.

My interest lies primarily in the material on the Hebrides but the beauty of the Project is in contemplating the Papar places of Scotland as a unit whilst exploring the variations that exist between the different places.
It really is well-worth taking a look at, and not just for the entries on Taransay and Pabbay in Harris!

Seasonal Variations of the Eskimo:

A Study in Social Morphology
Marcel Mauss 1904/5

I recall being sufficiently fascinated by this Durkheimian piece of Sociology as to elect to write an undergraduate essay about it. The phenomenon that Mauss was examining was that of the people living in large communal houses during the Winter and then dispersing into nuclear family units for the Summer. The details of what he discovered are beyond the scope of this current piece, but  ‘A recent study of 183 societies supports the hypothesis ‘that different types of rites and the elaborateness of public rituals are determined by social density’ http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119434122/abstract

What I’m pondering at this moment are possible/probable Norse origins of ‘seasonal transhumance’ in the Western Isles (the use of summer shielings) and possible links to patterns of ritual behaviour that exist to this day.

Is the traditional pattern of biannual Communion services on the isles vestigial evidence of pre-christian rituals, one at the end of Winter and the other at the end of Summer, that were originally ‘determined by social density’ which varied during the year?

These ‘Communion Seasons’ are spread out over several days and are literally a ‘coming-together’ of families from all over the world to participate in a manner reminiscent of Mauss’s study.

That study of 183 societies suggests that we would expect to see some sign of seasonal variations in rituals on the isles, whether or not the communion practices are truly an example remains to be shown.