>These four pages, complete with several unique photographs, make for an interesting read regarding Harris Tweed.
>It is inevitable that, in this year which see celebrations of the centenary of the first Clo Mor to bear the Orb stamp, my thoughts should turn once again to the story of the early origin of Harris Tweed.
It is a topic that clearly exercised the late Angus Macleod too, for his archive is full of notes on the subject and these have been particularly valuable in guiding my research, although whether he would accord with my conclusions or not is quite another matter.
>I have made reference to Harris Development Limited in previous posts but, somehow, have failed to examine one of their Projects despite it being of particular significance regarding the story of Strond.
It is the first three of these (STF1, STF2 & STF3) that I wish to focus upon for they record two slipways, including possibly Port Ungasto, and a wall that may be part of Dun Boraigeo. I have shown the location of the possible site of Port Ungasto on this map where the symbol of a telephone indicates the location of the old Strond Post Office and it is between there and Borghasdal that the ruins of the dozen-and-a-half houses that, I believe, were ‘Port Esgein, Farm of Strond’ in 1851 are found.
So we have a port, defended by an adjacent dun, with a small settlement on farmland bounded by a hill behind with a well-defined track to Rodel and another to the Carminish peninsular and the dun the protects that part of the coast with its natural ‘harbour’. My earlier impression that these coastal duns might have been both symbols of power & ownership as well as places of safety when danger was signalled seems perfectly plausible and I think it highly likely that the relatively modern group of houses from 1851 were displaying a continuity of use from the days of the duns. As I have made clear before, the earliest accurate map made by Bald in 1804 (and having georeferenced it to Google Earth I can attest to how remarkably accurately he performed his duties as a surveyor) clearly places Strond in what we know as Borghasdal and equally surely shows little sign of significant settlement along the coast until we reach Carminish.
I may well be wrong but, if not, then it seems even more certain that the Paisley Sisters were living in 1851 in what is now one of the ruins near Borghasdal and that the plaque commemorating them is either indicating another place that they occupied at some other time or it is possibly in altogether the wrong location.
Note: I first suggested this a year ago in ‘A Stroll From Strond To Rodel Across The Decades…’ where the connection between the ruins and the records is explained in more depth.
It appears that this institution was the likely link between Harris and Herts. and I have uncovered a reference in ‘Womanhood 6’, the publication edited by Ada S Ballin, which states:
‘At the British and Irish Spinning and Weaving School, in New Bond Street, with its branch school at Bushey…’
In 1902 Volume 8 of this publication would refer to:
‘The stall for Harris goods, superintended by Mrs. Thomas…’
which I think was in regard to an Exhibition of Home Industries that had been held in Scotland and which links Fanny Thomas to the island and to Home Industries/Arts & Crafts almost up to the time of her death and certainly during the period when the School in Bushey was opening & operating.
A friend alerted me to this piece and I thought that my readers would like it too:
Thus wrote the Reverend John Lanne Buchanan of Captain Alexander Macleod Captain Alexander Macleod in his 1793 publication ‘Travels in the Western Hebrides’. The ‘village’ was ‘Roudle’, which we are more familiar with as Rodel/Rodil, and the Captain himself had died three years prior to the book’s publication.
John Knox also referred to a ‘fulling mill’ in his book ‘A Tour through the Highlands of Scotland, and the Hebride Isles, in MDCCLXXXVI’ which had been published in 1787. Knox wrote, ‘He brought with him the model of a press, corn, and fulling mill, to work under the same roof ; the two latter to go by one water wheel. He also brought the iron work for these machines .’ Clearly the intention was to have a corn mill and a fulling mill powered together but the tone of the writing suggests to me that they were perhaps yet to be built and no such structure appears on Bald’s 1804/5 map of Harris. .
The censuses certainly record millers at Obb/Obe in the years 1841-61 but I believe there’s was a grain mill.
‘Piscator’ in his account of a visit in 1787 appears to firmly locate all the Captain’s activities at Rodel, although the mysterious author (I think it was John Knox!) only speaks of spinning wheels, with no specific reference to water powered machinery.
The point of this slightly convoluted contribution is simply this:
Had Captain Macleod succeeded in establishing a ‘woollen manufactory’ in ‘his village’ then, quite simply, Harris Tweed as we know it might never have existed for, as the 1993 Act puts it, the cloth must be ‘…hand woven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides…’ and certainly not in any water-powered factory!