Donald Munro – The ‘Shah’ of Lewis

I gave a brief resume of Munro in an earlier piece: 
but thought that a complete list of his households plus a list of the others engaged in the legal profession in Stornoway might prove interesting.

Donald Munro, 37, Procurator Ross and Cromarty, South Beach, Stornoway, b. Tain, Ross
William Ross, 25, Procurator Ross and Cromarty, Cousin, b. Tain
Helen Ross, 32, House Servant, b. Eddrachillish, Sutherland

(Angus Macdonald, 28, Lawyer, Benadrove, b. Stornoway)

Donald Munro, 43, Chamberlain of Lews, South Beach Street, b. Tain, Ross-shire
Eliza R Munro, 24, Sister, b. Tain
Tina M Munro, 11, Scholar, Niece, b. Tain
Jane Macrae, 23, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
Margaret Macdonald, 24, Domestic Servant, b. Ness, Ross-shire
Catherine Young, 17, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
Robert Mackenzie, 21, Groom, b. Beauly, Ross-shire

(John Macdonald, 50, Lawyer, 57 Keith Street, b. Uig)
(Donald Maclean, 41, Lawyer, 52 Culngreen Road, b. Lochs)

Donald Munro, 56, Solicitor and JP, 13 South Beach Street, b. Tain
Eliza Munro, 34, House Keeper, Sister, b. Tain
Crawford Munro, 22, Factor’s Daughter, Niece, b. Tain
John Ross, 17, Clerk, Nephew, b. Inverness
John Macleod, 26, Groom, b. Tarbert, Harris
Eliza Sutherland, 23, Servant domestic, b. Farr, Sutherland
Marock Sutherland, 25, Servant Domestic, b. Farr, Sutherland

William Ross, 48, Solicitor, 11 Kenneth Street, b. Tain

Napier Campbell, 38, Solicitor or Procurator of Faculty of Ross, 40 Cromwell Street, b. Edinburgh

(Donald Maclean, 52, Lawyer, 8 Invers Beach, b. Lochs)

Donald Munro, 70, Solicitor and JP, 24 Kenneth Street, b. Tain
Betsy Munro, 42, House Keeper, Sister, b. Tain
William Ross, 24, Law Clerk, Nephew, b. Inverness
Jane Sutherland, 30, General Servant, b. Lairg, Sutherland
Rachel Morrison, 14, General Servant, b. Barvas

William Ross, 53, Solicitor and Procurator Fiscal, b. Tain

Napier Campbell, 48, Procurator and Enrolled Law Agent, Lodger, 17 South Beach St, b. Edinburgh

1890 – Death of Donald Munro

William Ross, 63, Solicitor, 52 Francis Street, b. Tain
John Ross, 32, Solicitor, Son, b. Stornoway

Colin G Mackenzie, 31, Solicitor, 2 James Street, b. Stornoway

Peter P Slater, Solicitor, Boarder, Royal Hotel, b. Shetland

Colin G Mackenzie, 41, Solicitor and Procurator Fiscal of Lewis, Park House, b. Stornoway
John Macdonald, 33, Depute Procurator Fiscal and Clerk to School-Board, 32 Keith St, b. Elgin

John Norrie Anderson, 54, Solicitor and Notary Public, Plym Nile, b. Stornoway

William A Ross, 36, Solicitor, 28 James Street, b. Logie Easter, Ross

The lack of any alternative to the Munro-Ross pairing is clear so that, even if their victims had been able to afford it, independent representation was non-existent.

What is also clear is that Munro lived surrounded by cronies (many of them related to him) but there is no sense of ‘family’, no feeling of ‘homeliness’ – one almost, but not quite, feels sorry for this evil, soul-less man…

Note: – It has been pointed-out to me that those who I have listed as ‘lawyer’ were in fact ‘sawyer’which makes more sense and explains their apparent absence post 1871. I have italicised these errors pending confirmation.

James Shaw Grant (22 May 1910 – 28 July 1999)

I have been intending writing about James Shaw Grant (JSG) and what he means to me for a considerable period of time. Unfortunately, every time I start putting fingers to keyboard I turn to a page of his writing seeking clarification and become immersed in re-reading his wonderful prose and hence distracted from my task.

I first came across JSG as a result of his book ‘Discovering Lewis and Harris’ being one of the very few titles that appeared when I was looking for books on the ‘Hebrides’ to loan from my local library.

I was totally absorbed by the book. He wrote in a style both erudite and entertaining, combining his insider’s experience with the ability to place the islands within a larger landscape of both time and place. That is a very, very rare skill.

Today (and I do mean today), I happened upon a lodging house in Keith Street, Stornoway.
In truth, it was the family home of the Crichton family but in 1901 within its walls were also a couple of twenty-something male lodgers.

One of these was a gentleman called William Grant, a native of Inverness who was working as a ‘ Newspaper Reporter Teacher Of G Hand & Typewriting’. He was the son of a baker, James Grant and his wife Isabella Shaw and a decade earlier had been an apprentice Printer’s Compositor in Inverness giving him a grounding quite literally as a ‘hands-on’ journalist.

This William Grant was JSG’s father and the man who co-founded the Stornoway Gazette in 1917. JSG became it’s editor in 1932, following-on from his father. The story is told in article from that same publication that can be found here: Stornoway Gazette

‘Discovering Lewis and Harris’ has coloured all my thoughts and words on the islands ever since I first read it. I may look at the isles with my own eyes but it is always with the filter of JSG held firmly before them.

I am sure that William, as an ‘incomer’ to Lewis, was instrumental in helping his son hone his very particular approach to the islands and their place in Scotland, Britain and the World, as well as through their past, present and future.

There is an optimism in JSG that is typical of left-leaning writers of his generation. When he drifts towards sentimentality it is not syrupy but strong. When the going gets tough he discourages gloom with a witty and pithy observation. It is humane writing at its very best.

Philanthropists and politicians may come and go but the spirit of JSG, a true distillation of that rich, peaty, rocky, windswept, heady Hebridean brew, will outlast them all…

Highland Villages, 1977, Hale, ISBN 0709158866
The Gaelic Vikings, 1984, James Thin, ISBN 0950837121
Discovering Lewis & Harris, 1987, John Donald, ISBN 0859761851
The Enchanted Island, 1989, J. S. Grant, ISBN 0950837148
A Shilling for Your Scowl: The History of a Scottish Legal Mafia, 1991, Acair, ISBN 0861528980
Morrison of the Bounty: A Scotsman – Famous But Unknown, 1997, Acair, ISBN 0861521978

James Shaw Grant – A Shilling for Your Scowl – the Story of a Scottish Legal Mafia – Acair 1991

I first came across the work of late James Shaw Grant (22 May 1910 – 28 July 1999) when reading his 1987 book ‘Discovering Lewis and Harris’.

I was given ‘A Shilling for Your Scowl’ as a leaving present following my first visit to the isles three years ago. The lady who presented it to me said, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, “I think you’ll enjoy this.”

The story told is that of the multi-tasking Donald Munro, a man who used and abused the Rule of Law to bring terror to the inhabitants of Lewis for most of the second-half of the 19th Century.

In holding several incompatible public and private offices simultaneously, he was able to act as if he was above the law rather than being a part of it.

It would make a great courtroom drama, with the proceedings of his final denouement being interspersed with flashbacks to the multitude of dreadful deeds that he carried out under his cloak of many roles.

Perhaps there was local knowledge at play when Munro’s 1881 address, 24 Kenneth Street, was chosen for the site of the 2005 An Lanntair Arts Centre for if ever it was necessary for a man’s dark deeds to have a lantern shone upon them, it was those of Donald Munro, Factor.

Donald Munro’s Census Locations

1814ish – Birth, Tain
1841 – (Not Located)
1851 – Procurator – South Beach, Stornoway
1861 – Chamberlain of Lews – South Beach Street, Stornoway
1871 – Solicitor & I P – 13 South Beach Street (The Star Inn)
1881 – Solicitor & N P – 24 Kenneth Street, Stornoway (An Lanntair)
1890 -Death