>’The Living Voice’


This is the title of Michael Robson’s brilliant essay in ‘Togail Tir ‘, the 1989 book that is a treasure for those of us with an interest in the mapping of the isles and matters arising from such mapping.
On page 102 of the book and with regard to the recording of placenames by the Ordnance Survey, he writes, ‘The islanders who helped were recorded by name, and it would be an interesting and worthwhile task to identify them all.’ which is precisely what I intend to do for one such individual.
Robson records ‘Angus Shaw, at Strond’ as the man who helped so what can we learn of Angus?
There are a few possible candidates for this man but the one who appears to be the best fit appears in the censuses as shown below (People in bold are those who appear more than once over time)
1841 – Strond
Angus Shaw, 25
Mary Shaw, 25
Christian Shaw, 1
1851 – Geocrab
Angus Shaw, 42, Gamekeeper
Una Shaw, 36
Christy Shaw, 10
Duncan Shaw, 8
Alexander W Shaw, 6
Donald Shaw, 4
John Shaw, 1
1857 – Charts of the Sound of HarrisSound of Harris (Otter) & East Loch Tarbert (Thomas)
1861 – Ardslave
Angus Shaw, 50, Gamekeeper
Winford Shaw, 40
Christina Shaw, 20
Duncan Shaw, 17
Donald Shaw, 13
John Shaw, 11
Anne Shaw, 7
1871 – Strond
Angus Shaw, 64, Gamekeeper
Una Shaw, 58
Duncan Shaw, 25
Alex Shaw, 25
Donald Shaw, 21
John Shaw, 19
Anne Shaw, 17
1875-77 Ordnance Survey surveying Harris
1881 – Strond
Angus Shaw, 70, Crofter
Ann Shaw, 60
Alexander Shaw, 34
Anna Shaw, 24
Donald Shaw, 32
Rachel Shaw, 12, Granddaughter
Angus Mackay, 10, Grandson
John McDermid, 80, Brother-in-law
1891 – Strond
Una Shaw, 79, Crofter
Alexr Shaw, 40
Anne Shaw, 32
Rachel Shaw, 22
1901 – Strond
Alexander Shaw, 45, Crofter
Anne Shaw, 36, Sister
Rachel Morrison, 30
Angus Mackay, 25, Nephew
Peggy Mcsween, 12, Granddaughter
I am sure that this is the same family, followed from 1841 onwards, and am reasonably sure that this is indeed the Angus Shaw who assisted the Ordnance Survey.
Whether his wife, ‘Mary’, died and he remarried Una/Winford(?)/Ann could be discerned from an examination of their Death Certificates, plus those of the daughter Christian and one of the later children, should one wish to do so.
However, I am happy to present Angus Shaw, born circa 1810, a Gamekeeper in South Harris and father of six, as my first contribution to this ‘…interesting and worthwhile task…’ !
Notes: Robson also discusses the roles of Alexander Carmichael and FWL Thomas and I remind readers of the gem that is Bald’s 1804/5 Map of Harris & of my less-shiny attempt at a prose-poem on landscape.

Gamekeepers of Harris

These are all the Gamekeepers found in the census returns for Harris.
I have separated them into South Harris and then North Harris and added notes for each decade:

Angus Shaw, 42, Geocrab, b. Harris

Finlay Macleod, 30, Visitor, Port Esgein, Farm of Strond, b. Harris

As Finlay Macleod is only visiting Port Esgein and is later found in North Harris he may well have been working on the latter Estate at this time. He and a Miller, John Macaulay, are at the home of the Shoemaking Kerr family with the ‘Paisley Sisters’ also living at Port Esgein at this time.

Angus Shaw, 50, Ardslave, b. Harris

Finlay Macleod, 44, Miavaig, .b Harris

We are awaiting the construction of the two castles of Harris in 1863 and 1867 but nevertheless it is surprising that these two remain the only ‘permanent’ Gamekeepers recorded.

Angus Shaw, 64, Strond, b. Harris

Murdo Macaulay, 57, Ardourlie Castle, b. Harris
Donald John Mackenzie, 45, House at Tarbert, b. Harris
James Robertson, 37, Main Road of Harris, b. Perthsire
Donald Scott, 28, Avensrudh Castle, b. Perthshire

Angus Shaw is still serving the South Harris Estate but we now have a Gamekeeper at each castle plus two more on North Harris.

John Finlayson, 28, South Harris, b. Stirling

Roderick Mackay, 32, Farm House, N Harris, b. Lochbroom
D John Mackenzie, 60, Stavke Loft, N Harris, b. Harris
Finlay Macleod, 63, Miavaig, b. Harris
Angus Macleod, 46, Luachair Keeper’s House, N Harris, b. Harris
Charles Macleod, 23, Bunamhewdara, N Harris, b. Harris
Murdoch Macaulay, 65, Keeper’s House, N Harris, b. Harris
Robert Macaulay, 25, (Unemployed), Son, Keeper’s House, N Harris, b. Harris
Frederick Macaulay, 29, 2 Ardvourlie, b. Lochs
Murdo Macfarland, 48, Assistant GK, 3 Ardvourlie, b. Ness, Ross-shire

John Finlayson has taken over the role at Rodel and we see 8 gamekeepers serving the castles and the North Harris Estate.

John Finlayson, 41, Rodel, b. Stirling
Roderick Macleay(?), 43, Hamlets Little Borve, b. Lochbroom
Donald Macleod, 47, Leaclee, b. Harris
Duncan Shaw, 45, Flodabay, b. Harris

Murdo Macaulay, 78, No 2, N Harris, b. Harris
Finlay Macleod, 75, Tolomochan House, N Harris, b. Harris
Charles Macleod, 32, No 2 N Harris, b. Harris
Frederick Maculay, 48, 2 Ardvourlie, b. Lewis

Borve Lodge, on the West coast, is represented now but the predominance of the North is still in evidence.

John Finlayson, 51, Rodel, b. Stirling
Roderick Macleay, 53, Little Borve, b. Lochbroom
Duncan Shaw, 52, Flodabay, b. Harris

Murdo Macdonald, 86, 2 Gamekeepers House, N Harris, b. Harris
Donald Macdonald, 22, 5 Solomochan cottage, N Harris, b. Kilmonivig, Inverness-shire
John Macinnes, 40, 2 Bunavoneadder, N Harris, b. Harris
Angus Macleod, 66, 1 N Harris, b. Harris

Samuel Morrison, 35, Laxdale(?), b. Harris

The previous pattern is maintained but whether the apparent drop from the 1881 heights is a true reflection of sporting activity or merely an artiface of the peripatetic nature of Gamekeeping is not known.

Anecdotally, one of my English Gamekeeping ancestors appears in one Census in a large group of Gamekeepers staying in a barn! They were clearly engaged in supporting a hunt away from their families at the time.

The other surprise has been to see that throughout the years a Gamekeeper has resided in the Bays of Harris, initially in isolation but then latterly accompanied by a colleague living in Rodel.

I have not yet established a construction date for Borve Lodge, today still in private ownership but now within the area administered by the West Harris Trust which combined the estates of Luskentyre, Borve and Scaristavore.

A Victorian Gamekeeping ‘Dynasty’

My great, great grandfather, George Ashby, was born circa 1813 in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire. Even today, it is a sleepy, ‘unspoilt’, one-pub village, accessible solely by single-track roads yet lying only a few miles from the busy town of Welwyn and the A1(M). One thing that has changed is that the humble, ancient cottage that George was born in (which I identified by walking in the footsteps of the Census enumerator) would probably cost a cool three, four or five-hundred-thousand pounds today…

By 1841 George had moved to Kent and was married to Jane Wood with whom he produced no less than eight children between the years 1836 and 1860. Their four sons were Joseph, William, Charles, and Alfred Edwin.

The 1841 Census shows that there were several Gamekeeping Ashby’s still living in this part of Hertfordshire and, given that this was a profession that was handed-down the generations, I am quite certain that they were related to George, either as brothers or as cousins.

Having moved to Kent, where his wife was born, George spent the next 50+ years living and working at several locations but all within a small geographical area and on one, or at most two, estates.

1841 Park Barns near The Hermitage, Larkfield, Aylesford, Kent.
There were two other Gamekeepers and a Bailiff, amongst others, in residence and, as Jane was elsewhere, perhaps they were engaged upon a hunt at the time?

1851 Hermitage Woods, Aylesford, Kent.
George, Jane and their five children are recorded living here. Although the precise location remains unknown it appears to be part of the same Preston Hall Estate of Edward Ladd Betts where George was working a decade earlier.

Edward Betts was a railway engineer who’s first project was the Dutton Viaduct which he undertook with George Stephenson. Preston Hall became a hospital and is at the centre of the Royal British Legion Village

1861 Tyland, Boxley, Kent.
The family has grown by one but perhaps the most significant addition is that George’s eldest son Joseph, aged 24, is now also a Gamekeeper. They are living in a semi-detached house with the farmer (probably a tenant of the estate) as their neighbour. You imagine my surprise when, upon visiting Tyland Barn (HQ of the Kent Wildlife Trust) earlier this year, I was shown the very house that my great grandmother (then aged 3) was living in! Tyland was part of the Cobtree Estate owned by the Tyrwhitt-Drake family.

1871 Cobtree, Sandling, Boxley, Kent.
Only George, Jane and my great grandmother Kate are listed at this address which is a mile or so South of Tyland and now home to The Museum Of Kent Life. This open-air museum is a collection of Kent buildings that have been rescued from destruction and rebuilt. It owes its existence to the generosity of the last of the Tyrwhitt-Drake family who bequethed the whole of his estate to the people of Maidstone.

Son Joseph, now aged 33, is a Gamekeeper in Blyth, Nottinghamshire.
Charles, aged 23, is a Gamekeeper lodging in Wateringbury, Kent. The Head of the household he lodged with was also a Gamekeeper. Sadly, William had died in 1867 at the age of 22 so I have no written evidence that he was ever a Gamekeeper but the chances are that he was!

1881 Cobtree, Sandling, Boxley, Kent.
The widower George has with him his Gamekeeping son Joseph (and his wife) together with George’s 21 year-old son Alfred Edwin who now is also a gamekeeper. Charles, George’s second son, is still a Gamekeeper but now living at Larkhouse Cottage, Hempstead, Essex.

1891 Cobtree Cottage, Nr Tyland, Kent.
George is still a Gamekeeper at the ripe old age of 79 and with him is his sister-in-law Esther and a boarder, Arthur G Jeffrey, who is also a Gamekeeper but some 60 years younger than George.

Joseph, aged 50, is a Gamekeeper living in Moreton Green, Moreton Cum Alcumlow, Cheshire.

1901 Mill House, Sandling, Boxley, Kent.
George is listed as a Gamekeeper Retired but the word ‘Retired’ is crossed-out and the word ‘GameK’ has been added so maybe the old man was still practising the art?

Joseph is now a retired Gamekeeper living in Congleton, Cheshire. I can find no record of him having any children and, as Charles became a publican in Long Melford, Suffolk, and, as Alfred Edwin died in 1883, I think that this was probably the end of this particular Gamekeeping line.

1904 The Old Mill House, Sandling, Boxley, Kent.
At the age of 92, George, after a minimum of half-a-century of Gamekeeping, and having spawned at least three Gamekeeping sons, is laid to rest.