Borve, Harris, Post-Clearance of 1853

Following the 1839 clearance of Borve, it was resettled by the new Factor in 1847 only to suffer a second clearance in 1853.

In 1851 there were 138 people living in Borve but the1861 Census lists a mere 74 people in 14 Households in all three parts of Borve:

Big Borve
Kenneth Macdonald, 43, Sheep Farmer Employing 6 Labourers, b. Applecross, Ross
Margaret Maclellan, 57, Cottar, b. Harris

Middle Borve
Finlay Mackennon, 48, Grass Keeper, b. Harris
Marion Kerr, 70, Weaveress, b. Harris
Christy Campbell, 60, Pauper, b.Harris

Little Borve
Kenneth Macrae, 57, Sheep Farmer, b. Kintail, Ross
Alexander Macrae, 45, Sheep Farmer, b. Dornie, Ross
Hugh Munro, 31, Shepherd, b. Lewis
Joseph Allen, 36, Butler, b. England
Malcolm Kerr, 30, Joiner, b. Harris
Duncan Maclennan, 75, Cottar, b. Harris
Christy Macleod, 60, Cottar, b. Harris
Kenneth Macdonald, 48, Cottar, b. Harris
Angus Macdonald, 42, Cottar, b. Harris

In another 20 years the Farmer Kenneth Macdonald would add ‘Factor’ to his occupation but even in 1861, just 8 years after the Clearance, we can clearly see the effect of replacing these three human communities with sheep.

Three Sheep Farmers, one Shepherd, a Green Keeper and a Butler, but not a crofter in sight.

Just 5 landless Cottars, a Weaveress, a Pauper and a Joiner are all that remain from the previous population on some of the most fertile machair on Harris.

Not forgetting the three sheep farmers ‘imported’ from the Mainland…

(Crowdie & Cream Note: The Joiner was ‘Ayatollah Kerr’s’ father, the Weaveress his Grandmother)

Church Beadles of the Western Isles

Today I came upon a phrase previously unknown to me – ‘Church Beadle’.

Apparently, in the past it was the Beadle’s role to take the Minister’s Robes from Manse to Church, assist with the seating of the Parishioners, ensure Order was maintained during the Service, and then return the Robes to the Manse.

There are over 100 Church Beadles recorded in the Scottish censuses of 1841-1901, including 7 women, but only 2 in the whole of the Western Isles:

1851
John Mackay, 28, Church Beadle, Scarista, Harris. b. Harris

John would therefore have been a visitor to or, perhaps, (as seems more likely to me) a resident of the Manse at Scarista which is known today as Scarista House:

http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/10545/details/harris+scarista+house

http://www.scaristahouse.com

He was also one of Finlay J Macdonald’s Great grandfather’s, being the father of Margaret (Peggy) Mackay who was the mother of Finlay’s father, John Macdonald.

1871
Angus Macdonald, 67, Free Church Beadle, South Dell, Barvas, b. Cross, Ross-shire

One of only 3 Free Church Beadles recorded in the censuses (the others being in 1851 & 1891 and on the mainland) Angus was serving the Manse and Church both built in 1850, 7 years after the ‘establishment’ of the Free Church.

An interesting account of Barvas from 1845:  http://www.c-e-n.org/census_1845.htm

Adele and the ‘Ayatollah’

I am choosing to start this particular story with a marriage.

It is the 30th of April 1918 and we are in St Thomas’ Church, Rutland Place Edinburgh where a wedding is taking place ‘after Banns according to the Forms of the Church of England’.

Adele, the 36 year-old daughter of Elias Le Couvey, a Fundholder, and his wife, Francoise Bourget, is currently residing at 16 Dryburgh Gardens, Glasgow West.

John, the 58 year-old son of Roderick Kerr, a Building Contractor, and his wife, Christina MacLennan, is normally to be found at The Manse, Harris, Inverness-shire but is presently living in Rouen, France.

All four of the parents are already dead.

John Kerr was born in 1857 at Borve on the Isle of Harris. This future Minister is the son of a Carpenter according to the record of the 1851 census.

It is 1861 and 6 year-old John, the eldest of two children, is living in Little Borve where his father works as a Joiner. It is easy to imagine him playing with his 3 year-old sister Rachel in this idyllic spot, sitting in fertile machair land, bounded inland by the craggy outcrops of time-served Gneiss and on the other by Atlantic-swept shell-sand beaches. A decade later and this small family remains in Borve.

On the 23rd May 1877, Roderick Kerr, a Joiner of Borve, Harris, succumbs to ‘supposed chronic and acute rheumatism’. He was 65 years old and it is the 20 year old John who witnesses the event with his ‘Mark’, an X. Now, I am as surprised by this as you probably are – How come a 20 year-old who is later study to become a Minister, is found to be ‘illiterate’? Well, the simple answer is that I’m not sure! However, I have checked, double-checked and then done a bit more checking, and this HAS to be the right person. The Marriage certificate, the census data and my database of all from Harris who bear the name Kerr convinces me of the fact. But I did do another check, just now, just in case.

1881 finds 26 year-old (actually he’s 24) John boarding at 33 Russell Street, Glasgow where he is a Student of Arts at the University. His future wife is still a couple of years away from being born. Back in Little Borve, his widowed mother, who was a Midwife, is living with her daughter Rachel Morrison and Alexander Morrison, a General Merchant. Little Roderick Morrison is 1 month old and we can presume that his Grandmother’s experience aided his progress into this World. I also wonder whether her knowledge helped limit her to only giving birth herself to John and Rachel?

It is now 1891 and our attention turns to foreign parts, but not the French mainland as might have been expected. 8 year-old Adele le Couvey, the middle of 5 children, is living at La Rue Faiveusaie(?) in the parish of St Saviour on the British channel island of Guernsey where her father works as an Agricultural Labourer. She had been born in Forest, Guernsey.

John, meanwhile, has moved to 479 St Vincent Street, Glasgow and is now a Student of Theology, but not of Arithmetic as he has shaved 4 years off his age, reducing it to 32.

In 1901 18 year-old Adele, is living at Le Bordage in the parish of St Peter’s in the Wood (which sounds much nicer as St Pierre Du Bois, but the enumerator clearly wasn’t going to allow more French onto his form than was absolutely necessary !), Guernsey where she is employed as a servant in the household of John G Lenfestey, a 57 year-old Grower. She is the sole servant to this family of 3 adults and 7 children.

John is working as an Assistant Minister in Dalavich, Argyll and gives his age as 36 which is a mere decade below the truth. Of course, it is just possible that I have been tracking the wrong person, but the number of John Kerr’s born in Harris who follow the path towards becoming the Minister living at The Manse, Scarista is unlikely to make this so.

At 9:30 in the evening of 1st April 1909, back in Borve, 85 year-old Christy Maclennan passes-away of old-age and the 52 year-old bachelor John becomes an orphan.

In November 1914 the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) began operating recreation centres for the troops in France and the Scottish Churches Huts Joint Committee of The Church of Scotland’s Guild established 25 centres, manned by 350 workers, in France and Flanders. In his Marriage Certificate of 1918 John is described as ‘Minister, Parish of Harris (Hut Worker YMCA)’. In Rouen, France.

Whilst it is easy for us to have an image of the ‘Ayatollah’ as described in the pages of Finlay J Macdonald’s books, I think one should also dwell upon the fact that this 61 year-old man had the compassion, the humanity and the decency to follow the many, many islanders who went to that terrible conflict and to provide such support and assistance to his comrades, in their home tongue, as his advanced years allowed.

The remains of this story are best left to be read in the place that led me to investigate this unusual coupling, namely in the pages of Finlay J Macdonald’s ‘Crowdie & Cream’ where the Minister appears, albeit posthumously, as ‘Ayatollah Kerr’ and Adele as the kindly, if at times slightly gullible, face of friendliness.

Notes:

The ‘Ayatollah’ was slightly more accurate with his Arithmetic when it came to his wedding because the 61 year-old reduced his true age by a mere 3 years. He was actually 26 years her senior!

John’s paternal grandparents were John Kerr and Marion MacLeod, a Weaveress, of Scarista. Their eldest son , John, was also Carpenter/Joiner who moved to Birkenhead, Cheshire.

You are spared one of my customary links to the ‘Ayatollah’ because, although there definitely is one, the precise location of our ancestral paths meeting is lost in time…

…but not in space, for it is certainly somewhere on Harris!

More on the YMCA and other volunteer agencies supporting the troops can be found here:
http://www.1914-1918.net/ymca.htm

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).

1891
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:

1901
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:

1901
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:

1901
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

Two Characters In Search Of A History

I am choosing to start this particular story with a marriage.

It is the 30th of April 1918 and we are in St Thomas’ Church, Rutland Place Edinburgh and the wedding is taking place ‘after Banns according to the forms(?) of the Church of England’.

Adele, the 36 year-old daughter of Elias Le Couvey, a Fundholder, and his wife, Francoise Bourget, is currently residing at 16 Dryburgh Gardens, Glasgow West.

John, the 58 year-old son of Roderick Kerr, a Building Contractor, and his wife, Christina MacLennan, is normally to be found at The Manse, Harris, Inverness-shire but is presently at Rouen.

We now jump back in time and in 1861 find 6 year-old John, the eldest of two children,  living in Little Borve, Harris, where his father works as a Joiner. It is easy to imagine him playing with his 3 year-old sister Rachel in this idyllic spot, sitting in fertile machair land bounded inland by the craggy outcrops of time-served gneiss and on the other side by the sea-swept shell-sand beaches of the Atlantic.

Come 1871, 16 year-old John is still living with his family, whose numbers have been swelled only by the addition of the elderley Catherine Macrae and the two 40-something Macrae ‘girls’. Their address is not given on the Ancestry.co.uk transcription but it is likely to have remained Little Borve.

1881 finds 26 year-old John boarding at 33 Russell Street, Glasgow where he is a Student of Arts at the University. His future wife is still a couple of years away from being born. Back in Little Borve, his widowed mother, who was a Midwife, is living with her daughter Rachel Morrison and Alexander Morrison, a General Merchant. Little Roderick Morrison is 1 month old and we can presume that his Grandmother’s occupation aided his progress into this World.

We reach 1891 and 8 year-old Adele, the middle of 5 children, is living at La Rue Faiveusaie(?) in the parish of St Saviour on the channel island of Guernsey where her father works as an Agricultural Labourer. She had been born in Forest, Guernsey.

John, meanwhile, has moved to 479(?) St Vincent Street, Glasgow and is now a Student of Theology – but clearly not of Arithmetic as he has shaved 4 years off his age, reducing it to 32.

It is now 1901 and 18 year-old Adele, is living at Le Bordage in the parish of St Peter’s in the Wood, Guernsey (which sounds much nicer as St Pierre Du Bois, but the enumerator clearly wasn’t going to allow more French onto his form than was absolutely necessary !). She is employed as a servant in the household of John G Lenfestey, a 57 year-old Grower and is the sole servant to this family of 3 adults and 7 children.

John is working as an Assistant Minister in Dalavich, Argyll and gives his age as 36 which is a but a mere decade below the truth. Of course, it is just possible that I have been tracking the wrong person, but the number of John Kerr’s born in Harris who follow a path towards becoming the Minister living at The Manse, Scarista is unlikely to make this so.

Now, at this point, I confess that I am unable to locate my source of John’s work in France during WWI but, from memory, he was tending to the troops. Bearing in mind that by 1915 he was 60 Earth-years-old (and thus 50 or less by his own accounting system) I do not know how typical this was. It might well, however, reflect the huge numbers, proportionately, of men from the Western Isles serving on the Western Front (and other ‘theatres’ of war).

The remains of this story are best left to be read in the place that led me to investigate this unusual coupling, namely in the pages of Finlay J Macdonald’s ‘Crowdie & Cream’ where the Minister appears, albeit posthumously, as ‘Ayatollah Kerr’ and Adele as the kindly, if at times slightly gullible, face of friendliness.

Notes:

The ‘Ayatollah’ was slightly more accurate with his Arithmetic when it came to his wedding because the 63 year-old reduced his actual age by a mere 5 years. He was actually 27 years her senior!

John’s paternal grandparents were John Kerr and Marrion MacLeod, a Weaveress, of Scarista. Their eldest son , John, was also Carpenter/Joiner who moved to Birkenhead, Cheshire.

You are spared one of my customary personal links to the ‘Ayatollah’ because, although there definitely is one, the precise nature of our ancestral paths meeting is lost in time…

…but not in space, for it is certainly somewhere on Harris!