The Baptist Magazine, Volume 19, 1827 and Harris

On pages 324-325 their is an article on the ‘Baptist Highland Mission’, and I have selected three pieces for perusal:

The following extracts are taken from the journal of Mr Campbell, one of the Itinerants employed by this important and useful Institution:

July 2nd, Sabbath day: Having, during the previous week, intimated as extensively as possible our intention to preach at Tarbert on Sabbath, a great number of boats full of people assembled from all quarters, besides many people who came by land. We both preached to an audience of about 350…

3rd – Travelled this day to Caolas: The road was the worst imaginable: indeed there was no track or road of any sort, but rugged rocks and moss, and lakes of water. At times we did not know whither we were going…


5th – Preached at Strand to 60, some of whom followed us for two days, and in the evening at Roudel to 35. Most of the inhabitants here were from home, as mentioned above, otherwise three times the number would have attended. Had a long conversation with a blacksmith, of the name of Morrison, a native of the place. He preaches to the people of Strand, and appears to be a good man, and well acquainted with his bible. It would appear he has been very useful in this place, both by preaching and writing. He is one of the best poets in the Highlands of Scotland,; his conduct exemplary; possesses excellent talents, and a sound judgement. The people told us, he can communicate his ideas with facility and force. They have built a large meeting-house for him, where he preaches three times every Lord’s day, and Wednesday evening. The people of the south would feel it not an easy task to attend his three lectures on Sabbath. We are told, he begins at seven, and continues till ten – again at eleven, and insists till five – lastly, at six, and concludes the services of the day between nine and ten. This is certainly going to an extreme; meanwhile it evinces the good man’s zeal.


There is much that interests me here. What a wonderful picture is evoked of an armada of boats arriving in Tarbert on that particular Sunday! It is also a valuable reminder of the transport of (somewhat limited) choice of the people, and the description of the journey to Caolas (which I think is Kyles Stockinish, not Kyles Scalpay) emphasises the point.

They preached at Geocrab, Manish and Finsbay before arriving at ‘Strand’ and their choosing the Bays of the East in 1827 reminds us that these were turbulent times in Harris. The phrase ‘some of  whom followed us for two days’ is simply stunning – they must have thought themselves on the shore of the Sea of Galilee rather than that of the Sound of Harris!

The phrase, ‘most of the people here were from home’ is somewhat ambiguous. Did he mean that they were away, perhaps engaged in fishing or at the sheilings, or did he mean that people hadn’t travelled to hear them preach? The answer would lie in ‘as mentioned above’, but for the fact that there is no such mention that I can discern.

Finally, we have a description of his meeting with ‘a blacksmith, of the name of Morrison’ and this of course is none-other than ‘Gobha na Hearadh’. For a missionary Baptist to describe John Morrison’s Sabbath activities as ‘going to an extreme’ certainly explains why ‘The people of the south would feel it not an easy task to attend his three lectures on Sabbath’!

Harris Catechists

These are the Catechist (Instructor in Religious Doctrine) records for the 1841-1901 censuses.

There is probably not much to be learnt from this particular group of records but I have included them for the sake of ‘completeness’ in composing an ecclesiastical account from the Harris censuses.

1841 – None

1851
Donald Mackinnon, 39, Catechist and Farmer, Obe, b. Harris

John Morrison, 55, Free Church Catechist, Leac a Li, b. Harris

1861
Donald Mackinnon, 48, Catechist, Obe, b. Harris

Neil Stewart, 70, Catechist, Diraclet, b. Kilmuir, Inverness-shire

1871
Donald Mackinnon, 56, Catechist, Smithy, Harris, b. Harris

1881
Malcolm Morrison, 36, Free Church Catechist, Meavaig, b. Uig, Ross-shire

1891
Donald John Maclean, 55, Catechist, Rushgarry, Bernera, b. Uist

1901
John Smith, 41, Catechist, No 80 Scalpay, b. Uig, Ross-shire

We know that John Morrison (Gobha na Hearadh) had to vacate An-t-Ob as a result of his Free Church adherence so it appears likely that Donald Mackinnon was working for the Church of Scotland.

The 1871 ‘Smithy’ is presumably that in An-t-Ob, rather than the one established in Tarbert by Ewen Morrison, a Blacksmithing Son of John Morrison, Blacksmith and Catechist!

Blacksmiths of Harris


This is another preliminary investigation into an occupational group on the Isle of Harris.

I have an interest in this particular craft due to my mother being descended from several generations of blacksmiths & ironmongers in South London & Kent.

I have listed Harris-born smiths working elsewhere in the Western Isles.

The majority of those working in Harris were Hearachs.

1841
Neil Morrison, Nishishee(!), 35
Neil Macaskill, Borve, 35
Kenneth Morrison, Geocrab, 60
John Morrison, Obb, 45
Malcolm Morrison, Tarbert, 45

John Morrison (1790-1852) was a Gaelic poet and this song-smith is buried in St Clement’s Church, Rodel.

1851
Angus Morrison, Obb, 26, Blacksmith & Miller (Son of John Morrison above)
Malcolm Morrison, Tarbert, 50, Master Blacksmith
John Macleod, Kyles Scalpay, 35

Harris-born Blacksmiths:
Neil Macaskill, Bernera, 46
Neil Morrison, Breanish, Uig, 40
Norman Macleod, Enaclete, Stornoway, 44
William Macaskill, Stornoway, 24
Murdo Maclennan, North Uist, 54

(John Morrison, 55, Free Church Catechist, Leac a Li, b. Harris – The Blacksmith/Hymn-Writer)

1861
Malcolm Morrison, East Tarbert, 56
Ewen Morrison, East Tarbert, 39 (Eldest Son of John Morrison)

Donald Maclennan, North Uist, 20

1871
Ewen Morrison, 49, Black Smith, Smithey Tarbert, b. Harris (Son of John Morrison)

Harris-born Blacksmiths:
John Morrison, Stornoway, 22
Norman Macleod, Stornoway, 66
John Macaskill, Stornoway, 21, Apprentice Blacksmith

1881
Donald Morrison, Gardener’s House, North Harris, 29
Ewen Morrison, East Tarbert, 57 (Son of John Morrison)
Alexander Morrison, East Tarbert, 23
John Morrison, East Tarbert,10, Apprentice Blacksmith
Norman Macleod, Finsbay, 27
Angus Morrison, Obb, 54

Harris-born Blacksmiths:
Neil Morrison, Breanish, Uig, 75, Master Blacksmith
John Macaskill, Stornoway, 30
Norman Macleod, Stornoway, 75

1891
Donald Morrison, North Harris, 39
Norman Macleod, North Harris, 38
John Morrison, East Tarbert, 39
Donald Morrison, Obb, 27

(Ewen Morrison, 68, Retired Black Smith, No 29 East Tarbert, b. Harris – John Morrison’s Son)

Harris-born Blacksmiths:
John Macaskill, Stornoway, 38

1901
Norman Macleod, North Harris, 41
Donald Morrison, North Harris, 49
John Angus Morrison, North Harris, 16, Apprentice Blacksmith (Donald’s Son)
Murdo Morrison, North Harris, 16, Apprentice Blacksmith (Donald’s Son)
John Morrison, North Harris, 35
Donald Morrison, Obb, 38

(Ewen Morrison, 80, Retired Blacksmith, No45, North Harris, b. Harris – John Morrison’s Son)

Harris-born Blacksmiths:
John Macaskill, Stornoway, 49
Donald Macmillan, Bernera, 30

It is clear that this specialised occupation was restricted to a very few families with those bearing the name Morrison dominating the field.

It would be interesting to investigate this further…