‘Ancestry of the Present People of Park’

Visiting the online Angus Macleod Archive at http://www.angusmacleodarchive.org.uk/ one is presented with a list of 14 topic areas listed at the left of the page.

Selecting the second item, ‘History of Pairc, Lewis‘ takes us to a list of 35 documents.

But it is within the in the easily-overlooked item that precedes that list, ‘Notes for Reference on the History of Park ‘, that another dozen treasures are to be found.

Choosing the first of these will download the pdf file ‘Ancestry of the Present People of Park ‘ which is the best short summary of the history of the area that I have seen.

I have presented this piece in a series of steps in order that it functions as a simple guide to exploring the online Archive and I hope that you find it helpful.

There is always the Search facility (which is excellent for discovering documents in the Archive) but, once found, the only option is to download the document rather than opening the page on which it is located, making accurately citing the source, or exploring other pieces in the same section, a tad difficult.

Three Turners of Stornoway

Pigot’s 1837 Directory lists three Turners in the town:
Donald McRae, Bayhead St
John McRae, Bayhead St
James Young, Keith St
I couldn’t find James Young again in Stornoway, but Donald & John McRae each appear in the 1871 census where they describe their occupation as ‘Turner’ and from those two entries I was able to compile the following information about them and their families:
Entries in bold indicate a man who appears at least once as a ‘Turner’ in the census records.
The figures in brackets are there as an aid to tracking individuals down to the third generation.
Donald McRae, 35, Joiner, Bayhead St, b. Ross & Cromarty (1)
Margaret McRae, 25
Jane McRae, 5
Mary McRae, 3
Catherine McRae, 6 months
John McRae, 25, Joiner (2)
Donald McRae, 50, Joiner, Bayhead St, b. Barvas (1)
Peggy McRae, 38, Wife, b. Stornoway
Jane McRae, 14, Scholar, Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Mary McRae, 13. Scholar, Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Catherine McRae, 10, Scholar, Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
John McRae, 8, Scholar, Son, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Helen McRae, 6, Scholar Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Margaret McRae, Daughter, b. Bayhead, Stornoway
Kenneth Cameron, 30, Joiner (Journeyman), Boarder, b. Fodderty, Ross
John McRae, 54, Wheelwright, Keith St, b. Stornoway (2)
Archibald McRae, 20, Wheelwright, Son, b. Stornoway (2a)
Mary McRae, 18, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Donald McRae, 16, Son, b. Stornoway
Roderick McRae , 14, Son, b. Stornoway
Jane McRae, 12, Daughter, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 10, Son, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 6, Son, b. Stornoway (2b)
Hector McRae, 2, Son, b. Stornoway (2c)
John McRae, 60, Wheelwright, 51 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2)
Ann McRae, 55, Wife, b. Stornoway
Donald McRae, 26, Baker, Son, b. Stornoway
Roderick McRae, 23, Joiner, Son, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 29, Baker, Son, b. Stornoway
Jane McRae, 21, Dressmaker, Daughter, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 16, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway (2b)
Hector McRae, 13, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway (2c)
Ann Morrison, 82, Crofter’s Widow, Mother-in-Law, b. Stornoway
Isabella Finlayson, 82, Seaman’s Widow, Lodger, b. Stornoway
Donald McRae, 70, Joiner, 38 Bayhead St, b. Barvas (1)
Margaret McRae, 57, Wife, b. Stornoway
Catherine McRae, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Margaret McRae, 22, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Isabella McRae, 14, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Donald McRae, 17, Joiner, Son
Isabella MacKinnon, 2, Grand-daughter
John McRae, 71, Turner, 51 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2)
Ann McRae, 67, Wife, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 28, Baker, Son, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 27, Joiner, Son, b. Stornoway (2b)
Hector McRae, 22, Turner, Son, b. Stornoway (2c)
Christina Smith, Domestic Servant, 23, b. Uig, Ross-shire
John McLean, 78, Visitor, b. Lochs, Ross-shire
Archibald McRae, 40, 51 Keith St, Turner & Blockmaker, b. Stornoway (2a)
Annabella McRae, 27, Wife, b. Stornoway
Mary Ann McRae, 4, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Mary McRae, 2, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Annabella McRae, 4 months, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Archibald McRae, 50, Joiner & Blockmaker, 51 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2a)
Annabella McRae, 37, General Servant, Wife, b. Stornoway
Mary McRae, 12, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Annabella McRae, 8, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Hector McRae, 6, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Ann McRae, 4, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Alexander McRae, 3, Son, b. Stornoway
Christina McRae, 10 months, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Christina Murray, 16, General Servant, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 36, Joiner, 51 ½ Keith St, b. Stornoway (2b)
Mary Jane McRae, 29, Dressmaker, Wife, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 6, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Jessie Ann McRae, 4, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Hector McRae, 3, Son, b. Stornoway
William McRae, 1, Son, b. Stornoway
Archibald McRae, 60, Joiner & Turner, 65 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2a)
Annabella McRae, 47, Wife, b. Stornoway
Annie McRae, 14, Monitor, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Alexander McRae, 13, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Linna McRae, 10, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Archibald McRae, 9, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Jeanie McRae, 7, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 43, Turner, Keith St, b. Stornoway (2b)
Mary McRae, 39, Wife, b. Stornoway
John McRae, 16, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Jessie A McRae, 14, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Hector McRae, 13, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
William McRae, 12, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Roderick McRae, 10, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Kenneth D McRae, 9, Scholar, Son, B. Stornoway
Ann J McRae, 4, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 3, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Archibald McRae, 70, Joiner & Turner, 65 Keith St, b. Stornoway (2a)
Annabella McRae, 57, Wife, b. Stornoway
Annie McRae, 24, daughter, b. Stornoway
Lina McRae, 20, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Archibald McRae, 18, Son, Apprentice Joiner & Turner, b. Stornoway (2a1)
Jeanie McRae, 17, Daughter, b. Stornoway
James McRae, 54, Spinning Wheel Maker, 62 Kenneth St, b. Stornoway (2b)
Mary I McRae, 48, Wife, b. Stornoway
Hector McRae, 23, House Carpenter, Son, b. Stornoway
William McRae, 21, Carter, Son, b. Stornoway
Kenneth McRae, 19, Butcher, Son, b. Stornoway
Annie I McRae, 14, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
It is not too surprising that a ‘Turner’ of 1837 would, at various times, describe themselves as a ‘Joiner’ or a ‘Wheelwright’ but James McRae’s move into specialising as a ‘Spinning Wheel Maker’ (he is one of only two such people that I have discovered) came as a pleasant surprise!


A terrible S.W. storm visited the Hebrides and north-western coast of the mainland of Scotland on October 1st, doing immense damage. At Stornoway it was destructive almost beyond precedent, and the barometer was lower than during the Tay Bridge gale. Every vessel in the harbour was driven from her moorings, and several went ashore. The sea covered South Beach street, flooding the houses and strewing the roadway with smashed boats and other wreckage. Throughout the islands great numbers of fishing-boats were sunk or smashed, and in some villages the inhabitants are thus deprived of the means of earning their living.
In Mull and Skye the damage done is about equally great. In the latter island no such storm is said to have been experienced since 1860. The damage to crops, houses, and other property on land is very large. At Portree alone nearly 100 trees were blown down.
Much commiseration is felt for the Lews crofters, as they were exceptionally unfortunate at the herring fishing, since which their potato crop has failed, and now this storm has come to fill up their cup of disaster.
This will be a suitable place to mention that last Saturday, the 14th, was the first anniversary of the terrible storm which caused such havoc to life and property on the Berwickshire coast. In Eyemouth and Burnmouth services were held in the churches, and in the former place the parish church-bell was tolled, and the shops shut during service, while the inhabitants donned mourning garb, and the fountains of grief seemed to be reopened.
Source: Otago Daily Times , Issue 6496, 7 December 1882, Page 3
National Library of New Zealand
One of those vessels ‘driven from her moorings‘ may have been the ‘Jessie‘ but, if so, she certainly survived to perform many more years valuable service.

‘…a most eventful voyage…’

This, originally from the Pall Mall Gazette of 1889, is truly tragi-comic:
The Welsh schooner Pursuit, Captain Williams, has had a most eventful voyage of nearly six months’ time from Weston Point, near Liverpool, to Carloway. The vessel left the Mersey laden with salt in the end of September, 1888, and put into Stornoway on the 23rd October. There she remained for some time wind-bound, and made two ineffectual attempts to make her destination, which is only about 50 miles distant. Ultimately she sailed from Stornoway on Sunday, 23rd December last, under charge of a pilot, but when near Carloway that evening she was caught in a heavy westerly gale, which drove her towards the Orkneys, and the master succeeded, after losing most of his sails, in getting her into Thurso. Unfortunately the mate, who had been most reluctant to leave in the vessel, dropped down dead in the height of the gale. After getting a new supply of sails from Wales the vessel left Thurso, and advices have been received at Stornoway that she has now arrived at her destination. It may be stated that the exact distance between the place of loading and discharging is only about 410 miles. (Pall Mall Gazette)
Source: Boston Evening Transcript – Apr 3, 1889

My Grandfather

Although he was the reason for all this, and was my closest island ancestor, I’ve not yet told the whole tale of my Grandfather, John Kerr.
John was born at 11 Bayhead Street, Stornoway on the 5th of March 1875. His mother was Annie Kerr, a Dressmaker, and his father, who was identified on the 13th of July by the Sheriff’s Court as a result of Annie taking legal action against him, was a Tailor, Norman Montgomery, whose family originated from Leurbost in Lochs.
In 1881 the 6 year-old Scholar is living in Stornoway with his grandfather, 58 year-old Malcolm Kerr, Seaman, his grandmother, 58 year-old Mary (Macdonald) ,who was one of those who had been driven out of Orinsay in Lochs some 38 years earlier, his mother, Annie Kerr, who by now was a General Servant, and his two uncles, the 24 year-old Seaman, Alexander John Kerr and the 22 year-old Cooper, Malcolm Kerr. Lodging with the family was a 24 year-old Baker from Lochs called William Maciver.
By 1891, his education over, the 16 year-old is a Clerk living at 37 Bayhead Street with his grandparents whilst Annie has married the Baker, Williiam Maciver, and started a new family. They, too, are listed at No 37 as are her brother Malcolm and his wife. his other uncle, Alexander John, is with his young family in Keith Street and I often wonder whether the young John ever had the chance to accompany him on his sea voyages around the Western coast?
That is the last we see of John on the isles for come 1901 he has moved to the mainland and is now a 26 year-old Manager (Herring Fishing) boarding at 12 Millburn Street, Aberdeen. Three years later, on the 19th of October 1904 the 29 year-old Fish Salesman marries 24 year-old Telegraphist Alexandria Milne, the daughter of a Hatter, William Milne, at 56 St Swithin Street, Aberdeen.
On the 14th of August the following year the first of three children arrived with the birth at 3:45 pm of Elizabeth Isobel Kerr. Aunty Lizzie was born at her grandparents home in St Swithin Street whilst her father remained at his house at 14 Albury Place. Next came my father who was born at 46 Devonshire Road, Aberdeen at half-past three in the afternoon on the 5th of December 1906. This time John appears to have been in the family home at the time. Finally, shortly after midday on the 10th of July1908, Alexandra Jean Robson Kerr was born at 84 Ashley Road, Aberdeen. Aunty Jean’s birth was registered by my grandmother for John was away performing his role as a Superintendent of Fisheries for the Congested Districts Board in Ireland. These were a controversial attempt at combating poverty in areas such as Ireland and, in Scotland, several places including the Isle of Lewis. Superintendents were required to be skilled Coopers but I do not know at what stage in his life the 33 year-old from Stornoway acquired those skills.
What happened next is unclear but by 1922 John was living in Glasgow having left his family in Aberdeen and in that year a Divorce was granted. Six years later on the 7th of July 1928 the 53 year-old Cooper married a Newsagent, Jessie Cowie Perry who was ten years younger than him. This civil Marriage took place at 70 Hutcheson Street, Glasgow which, as far as I can tell, was and remains a public house. John’s address was 59 Edmund Street and Jessie’s 11 Ladywell Street which has now been redeveloped but back then was a small group of houses and shops.
John and Jessie had no children and in the morning of the 29th of December 1936 this 61 year-old journeyman Cooper from 15 Ladywell Street died at 122 Balornock Road, his heart having failed due to Myocarditis. The cause of death, an infection, and the place, on the road to Stobhill hospital, suggest that his illness had been diagnosed prior to John’s death.
My grandmother, who was to live for another 27 years after the death of he ex-husband, lived to see all her grandchildren born and did a through job in erasing all memories of my grandfather, whether written, photographic or oral, from the records. All I knew was that, according to my father, his name was John, he was born in Stornoway, became a Cooper and that his father was a Registrar! Clearly this last fact was either a coded, polite way of informing me that John was illegitimate or, equally likely, it was an invention of my grandmother’s making. Either way, it was his being born ‘out of wedlock’,  together with his mother’s apparent insistence that he kept her family name, that actually made my task in discovering John so much easier for Kerr was a very rare name indeed on Lewis, virtually all who were found there from 1851-1901 being members of my family and originating from my grandfather’s grandfather who was born in Direcleit and who thereby gave your author his blogging name!
One final thought. On the 3rd of October 1930 at 7:40 in the morning, John’s mother, Annie Maciver, died at 3 Westview Terrace, Stornoway. She was 76 years old and had been severely ill for the past ten days. I do hope that John had been able to visit his mother during her final days and, from what I have been told by my island cousins, he certainly did keep in contact with his family back in Lewis. This gives me some comfort for, although I never knew him or his immediate island family, from all that I have learned he and they were typical of much that is good about the people of the Western Isles…
John Kerr 1875-1936 RIP

Hebridean Light Railway Company

A piece on a proposal in 1898 to construct two railway lines on Lewis can be found here.
There are no ‘rail’-associated returns from the 1901 census for Stornoway so, even if the scheme was still ‘alive’ then, I can add no more information.

An industrial line was that associated with the earlier Peat Oil project of Sir James Matheson can be read here  In the 1871 Census, there was a 30 year-old Perthshire man, David Macgill, who was a ‘Railway Agent’ living at 3 Beach St, Stornoway. His two children, ages 1yr & 5months respectively, were both born in Moray so the family must have moved to Lewis sometime after November 1870. Whether his presence was in connection with the Lewis Chemical Works railway or, perhaps, a line that may have been proposed for the Brickworks is unknown but appears likely.