>Bald’s 1805 Map of Harris – A Summary


I think it sometimes helps readers if I provide a page of links to pieces on a particular theme and in this instance have decided to collate my research regarding this wonderful map, the image of which can be explored on the National Library of Scotland site: http://maps.nls.uk/counties/detail.cfm?id=660
I have put the links into six separate groups but all the pieces are interrelated so, depending upon where you choose to start and which aspects you find interesting , you will find yourself following your own meandering path through them.
Asbestos & William MacGillivray
The Revd. Bethune & other people
Annotations including, perhaps, some by the 7th Earl of Dunmore?
Bald’s Map & FWL Thomas’s Chart
Togail Tir
The only previous research into this map of which the NLS & I are aware was that performed by James B Caird, published in 1988 in ‘Togail Tir’. If any reader happens to be researching the map, and especially if they have knowledge of this copy’s whereabouts between its creation sometime in the 19thC and its surfacing in 1988, then please do get in touch.

>Enumeration Districts of Harris in 1911


I have previously written of the useful information to be found lurking in the Header pages of Census images that one views on ScotlandsPeople as may be seen in these pieces relating to 1851 and 1871.
The 1911 header pages unfortunately do not appear to have maintained the previous practice of allowing the Minister of the Parish space to make his (often extensive & always interesting) comments.
However, the Headers do include useful Summary pages and continue the practice introduced in 1891 of including data on Gaelic and Gaelic & English speakers.
I am looking at the data from just three of the Enumeration Districts (purely because the people whose records I have had cause to investigate so far all lived in just these three areas).
Enumeration District 2 South Harris – includes Strond
357 people, 156 male, 201 female (43.7% male, 56.3% female)
Gaelic 91, G&E 247
338 speakers (94.7% of population) of whom Gaelic 26.9%, G&E 73.1%
Enumeration District 5 South Harris – includes ‘Kylis’ & Kintulavig
298 people, 142 male, 156 female (47.7% male, 52.3% female)
Gaelic 81, G&E 188
269 speakers (90.3% of population) of whom Gaelic 30.1%, G&E 69.9%
Enumeration District 4 North Harris – includes ‘Kendibeg & Dereclet’
156 people, 80 male, 76 female (51.3% male, 48.7%female)
Gaelic 25, G&E 122
147 speakers (94.2% of population) of whom Gaelic 17.0%, G&E 83.0%
I am reluctant to draw strong conclusions from just three samples but the broad similarity for the Gaelic/G&E figures in the two Southern districts certainly contrast with that from their Northern neighbour. Many factors will be at play here including the age distribution (especially the proportion of people of school age pre & post the 1874 Education Act), the location of the schools and the ability for the children to have attended both for financial and physical reasons. The island’s teachers from the previous decade are to be seen in this piece from my series on Education in Harris. Also, does the lower proportion of ‘speakers’ in District 5 as compared to the other two districts indicate a greater proportion of pre-verbal infants there, perhaps?
A complex topic and I hope that this brief incursion into it has been of some interest.
Finally, an illuminating extract from the Description page for District 4 of North Harris:
‘A road leads from the foot of the Leachan Road to the little pier at east loch Tarbert in front of the Old Post Office in the March between North Harris and South Harris, the said house being in South Harris though it is in the Registration district of North Harris, the same road leads to the little pier at West Tarbert, it pass in front of the new post office, which is also in South Harris though in the Registration district of North Harris. The Old Post Office and the new Post Office are in South Harris, though in the Registration District of North Harris.’
The Enumerator who wrote that paragraph was Mr Finlay Macleod and we can only guess at the point he was making to his census superiors by including it as his only comment on the roads etc of this District!

>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 Wordsmiths

I thought that I would start a list of Harris folk who have contributed to the artistic cannon in words
(& music!) and welcome any additions:
Mary MacLeod 1615-1706
Born in Rodel. Died in Dunvegan, Skye
John Morrison/Gobha na Hearadh 1790-1852
Born in Rodel. Died in Leac a Li. Buried St Clement’s Church
Poet, Blacksmith & Evangelist
James MacLeod 1880-1947
Murdo MacLeod 1881-1907
Hector MacKinnon 1886-1954
Iain Archie MacAskill 1898-1933
Joan MacKenzie 1900-72
Roderick MacLeod 1903-1965
Kyles Stockinish
John Morrison 1914-
Poet & Composer
Ian Paterson 1916-1990
Rev. Colin N MacKenzie 1917-94
Domhnall R MacGillemhoire / Donald R Morrison 1919-
Poet & Shopkeeper
Malcolm MacDonald 1922-
Finlay J MacDonald 1925-1987
Author, Broadcaster & Co-Founder of Gairm
‘Crowdie & Cream & Other Stories’

From Donald Stewart, Esq. J. P., Factor, Harris Edinburgh 13th January 1824

As I am just now in this city for a few days, I cannot leave it without expressing to you, and through you to the Directors of the Gaelic School Society, my unqualified approbation of the conduct of your teachers in the Island of Harris.

It is now about five years since your first teachers got a proper footing in Harris they had many prejudices to encounter, but these were at last happily overcome, and through your bounty we have now seven of your schools in the parish of Harris, attended by nearly five hundred scholars besides one school belonging to the Education Society!

You are probably aware, that the parish and island of Harris is about forty-five miles long by twenty-five broad, exclusive of many extensive Islands; population exceeding four thousand souls, only one parish minister, and one missionary on the royal bounty, and one parochial teacher. Before the introduction of your schools, the Island of Harris was in a most deplorable state in regard to the means of religious instruction. I shall mention a few facts. I had a concern in a very extensive sheep farm in the island of Lewis, bordering on Harris, and I generally calculated, that about four hundred sheep were stolen each year. Cursing and swearing prevailed to an alarming extent throughout the island, and the disputes among the people on the Sabbath, particularly among those who could not go to the parish church on account of its distance from them, was so general, that much of my time was taken up as a Justice of the Peace in settling these disputes. The case is now altered, for the last three years very few depredations indeed have been committed in stealing sheep, cursing and swearing, and profaning the Lord’s day are now at an end, and hardly any disputes occur among the people to occasion my interference in settling them. This very desirable change in the conduct and morals of the people, under the blessing of God, I attribute solely to the effects of your Gaelic Schools.

Your school in the island of Scarp is now removed to Ranigadle. The poor people in that island have derived much benefit from the labours of your teacher, and they have now employed James Fraser to carry on their education both in Gaelic and English. They are very poor and have no money ; but they have agreed to give this teacher a little of the produce of their small farms to support him and his family. If you could give him a small donation of encouragement to assist him it would be well bestowed. The people, including a farm opposite the island on the main land of Harris, are about one hundred and thirty, and attend pretty regularly, notwithstanding the access is difficult on account of the dangerous Round of Scarp. It is distant above thirty miles from the parish church, and I do not suppose they have heard above three sermons for the last ten years.
With every good wish for the prosperity of the Gaelic School Society,
I remain, &c
Letter in ‘The Tenth Annual Report of the Society for the Support of Gaelic Schools 1821’
Let us start with the facts that Stewart provides regarding schools in Harris: There were 7 of the Gaelic Society’s schools educating nearly 500 children plus one ‘Education Society’ school. The Gaelic schools had grown in number since gaining a ‘proper footing’ in about 1819. These are useful an interesting facts.
Stewart then continues by painting an, in my opinion, wholly fictitious account of the people of Lochs, Lewis who had suffered his reign of tyranny before he transferred himself to applying the lessons he had learnt to amass his personal fortune at the expense of the people of Harris. He claims that some 400 sheep were stolen each year and puts the reduction in this, and in other aspects of the peoples behaviour, solely down to the influence of the new schools. It should be remembered that nearly all other commentators on the people of the Long Island, portray them as being especially moral and upstanding, long before either Stewart or the Society gained their footings, whether ‘proper‘ or improper, on the isles.
Stewart then concludes with a request for the Gaelic Society to regarding James Fraser who the people of Scarp have employed as a teacher ‘to give him a small donation of encouragement‘. All that preceded this request, from one of the wealthiest men in the Western Isles, is a preamble.
One other piece of information is tucked away in the book, for it lists all the Society’s schools and also those schoolmasters who were in place ‘at the commencement of 1821‘:
Tarbert, Angus Macleod
Island Ensay
Caolisscalpa (Kyles Scalpay)
Caolisstockinish (Kyles Stockinish)



Bernera, James Fraser

1 Fleoideabhagh (Flodabay), Isle of Harris

I was perusing the records of British Listed Buildings within the Parish of Harris and alighted upon this one whose ‘Listing Text’ grabbed my attention – with references to Finlay J Macdonald, Masons and Ardvourlie Castle it was bound to do so! I suggest taking a look at the Google Streetview (it appears as a tab from the above link) to see for yourself what we are told is possibly the first house of this kind to be constructed in the Baighs (Bays) area.

The one part of the entry that is slightly confusing to me is the final sentence in the ‘Notes’ because I cannot discover a Donald Macaulay who fits the description. I am not questioning the facts as written, merely saying that I was hoping to find this Donald Macaulay in the censuses in order to perhaps add a little extra information but, alas, am unable to do so on this particular occasion.

Finally, I have discovered two John Mackinnon’s living in Flodabay in 1841 & 1851 and, in the case of the younger one, in 1861 too. However, each was a Farmer by this time and the censuses make no reference to the military past of either of them thus I am unable to tell which it was who had the house built 170 years ago.

Note: The birth years of the two men are given as 1781 & 1786; and 1801, 1797, 1796; respectively in the censuses and the wife of the younger one is shown as Christian, Christy & Christina. I mention these variations to demonstrate the type of difficulty encountered regarding names and dates when undertaking Genealogical research.

Ciorstag (Chirsty) Mackinnon illustrates what happens when an English ‘equivalent’ of a Gaelic name is attempted, particularly at a time when the Gaelic language was deemed to be inferior.

The reason for the variation in the birth year can be due to several factors but one aspect of the 1841 census that the example of the younger John Mackinnon demonstrates for us was the ’rounding-down’ of ages to the nearest 5 years. Thus he was likely to have been 44 at the time of the 1841 census and the Enumerator changed this to 40 hence it showing as 1801 for the year of his birth. This phenomenon does not explain the change we see in the dates given for the older man but an increase in the year of birth, with the implication that the person is younger than he or she actually is, is quite common for obvious reasons – maybe the architects of the 1841 census were being quite canny by building this feature into their census!

Iain mac an Tailleir’s Gaelic Placenames – The 5 files

Here are the 5 PDF files for all the Gaelic placenames collected by Iain mac an Tailleir:


And this is their page at Pàrlamaid na h-Alba (The Scottish Parliament) that contains several other useful links:

I hope that having all 5 files in one uncluttered place is of use to someone!