Mrs Campbell’s Mill at An-t-Ob

On the 12th November 1834 the Court of Session heard a case brought by Donald Stewart, Factor of Harris, against a Mrs Ann Campbell.

In 1770 Mrs Campbell was granted a 42 year lease which would terminate in 1812 but in 1805 a new lease for 30 years ‘from and after 1804‘ was entered into. Clearly that was why the case took place in 1834.

This new lease stipulated that:

‘at the expiry of the lease the tenant should be entitled to such reasonable sum, by way of meliorations, as may have been already laid out under the former lease, or that may be laid out by them, during the currency hereof, in building or repairing proper dwelling-houses or office-houses on the said lands and others & etc’

A clear statement that whatever improvements Mrs Campbell made would be repaid to her.

The house and offices were erected during the former lease, and in 1813 they were completely repaired. The tenant had also built a mill, and in 1818 the proprietor wrote to her:


‘I this day received your missive letter regarding the mill you built at Oab, and hereby signify my full approbation of the sufficient manner in which it is built.


I accordingly hereby, by this my missive letter, bind and oblige myself, my heirs, executors or assignees whatsomever, to pay back to you the expense of building said mill, say L.230, at the expiration of your tack of the lands you hold from me, provided you uphold and deliver over to me the said mill in the same good order it now stands.’

So, sometime between 1770 and 1813 a ‘house and offices’ were built by Mrs Campbell and we may presume that they were constructed early in the lease as otherwise they would not have required to be ‘completely repaired’ in 1813.

Further, we see that by 1818 Mrs Campbell had also had a Mill built at ‘Oab’. I presume, therefore, that she held the tack of the Farm of Strond from 1770 until 1834 during which time she oversaw the establishment of the mill at An-t-Ob. It is known that a Mrs Campbell held that same tack in 1851 but whether she was related to this Mrs Ann Campbell I do not know.

The Court report then states:

The tenant…pleaded retention of the rent to meet these meliorations, and the Lord Ordinary found that the defender is entitled to the amount of the meliorations specified in the clause of the lease 1805.

So Mrs Campbell won but,

Finds, That the claim for the value of the mill erected by the tenant does not fall under that description.

It appears that the mill, despite the letter, was excluded from the settlement?

Judgment. And to this interlocutor the Court adhered.

The other point of interest is that this case took place in November 1834 and George Murray, 5th Earl of Dunmore, had completed his purchase of Harris in March of that same year. It would be interesting to know of the Earl’s personal involvement in cases such as these where his Factor is attempting to avoid to pay for ‘ameliorations’ made by his tenants but I suspect that Donald Stewart was pursing them purely for his own ends.

Either way, at least they allow us to glean information about the past that might otherwise not have been recorded.

Ref: Decisions of the Court of Session from 12th November 1834 until 11th July 1835

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Uig Millers

Here are the Millers of Uig, Lewis as recorded in the 1851-1901 censuses:

1851
John Macaulay, 50, Miller, Breasclet, b. Caoles Phas, Inverness-shire

(John Macaulay, 30, Miller, Visitor, Port Esgein, Farm of Strond, b. Harris – visiting his , Mother-in Law, Margaret Kerr)

1861
Marion Macaulay, 40, Miller’s Wife, Breasdale, b. Harris
(John Macaulay, 50, Corn Miller, Visitor, Obb, b. Harris)
Donald Maciver, 23, Miller, Breasdale, b. Uig

1871
Donald Maciver, 32, Miller, Breasclet, b. Uig

1881
Donald Maciver, 42, Miller, Miller’s House, b. Uig
Donald Macdonald, 17, Miller’s Servant

1891
Donald Maciver, 53, Miller, Breasclete Mill House, b. Barvas
(Mary Ann Maciver, 42, Wife, b. Stornoway)

Catherine Mackenzie, 65, Miller’s Wife, MIL, School house, Uig, b. Loch Conan, Ross-shire
(Ronald Macdonald, 37, Scholar Master, b. North Uist)

1901
Donald Maciver, 63, Miller, Mill House, b. Uig
John Maciver, 27, Miller, Son, b. Breasclete

It is clear that the two John Macualys and Donald Maciver were the principle millers at Breascleit (Breasclete). These results also confirm that the ‘Breasdale’ of 1851 is indeed Breascleit.

A fascinating contemporary account of milling on Lewis, especially regarding the imposition of centralised mills upon the populace, can be read here: http://www.ceuig.com/archives/1099

A photo of the Old Mill at Breasclete: http://www.breasclete.com/Villages/breasclete.html and another on the RCAHMS site: http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/156789/details/lewis+breasclete+millhouse/

Harris Millers

Here are the records of Millers as recorded in the censuses for 1841-1901:

1841
Donald Macaulay , 50, Miller, Obb, b. Inverness

1851
John Macaulay, 30, Miller, VISITOR,Port Esgein, Farm of Strond, b. Harris
Angus Morrison, 26, Blacksmith and Miller, Obe, b. Harris

1861
John Macaulay, 50, Corn Miller, VISITOR, Oab, b. Harris
(Wife, Marion( MS Kerr), at home in Breasdale, Uig, Lewis)

Angus Morrison, 36, Blacksmith, Oab, b. Harris

Matthew Macduley, 23, Miller, Kendebig, b. Harris
Angus Macsween, 33, Assistant Miller, Kendibig, b. Harris

1871-1901 – None Listed

Several questions immediately rise from these slim returns, including what were these particular men milling, where were their mills and why do they disappear after 1861?

John Knox, in  ‘A Tour through the Highlands of Scotland, and the Hebride Isles, in MDCCLXXXVI‘, records that Captain Alexander Macleod, when he was establishing the Harbour and House at Rodel, also constructed a ‘corn and fulling’ mill, with them both powered by one single water-wheel. There are other remains of water-powered mills on the island but it is also known that much of the corn-milling was done domestically by hand.

In 1841 and 1851 our sole miller is in An-t-Ob and then in 1861 we have just a pair of millers and they are in Ceann Dibig, the township adjacent to Direcleit in the Bays.

John Macaulay, the Miller from Breascleit, Uig, Lewis is the husband of Marion Macaulay (MS Kerr) and in 1851 is visiting his widowed Mother-in-Law at Port Esgein, Farm of Strond. His wife was the daughter of Angus Kerr the Shoemaker who a decade earlier was in the household of the Factor in Rodel.

Intriguingly, in 1861 John Macaulay is visiting none-other than Angus Morrison, the Blacksmith who a decade earlier had ‘and Miller’ appended to his occupation. He may still have been fulfilling that secondary role in 1861, hence this visit from miller Macaulay?

Angus Morrison, the Blacksmith and (sometime) Miller, was a son of John Morrison, ‘Gobha na Hearadh’, who had been the Blacksmith in An-t-Ob before Angus but had moved to Leac a Li at the time of the Disruption because his favouring the Free Church found him out of favour with the Church of Scotland establishment. John proved as good, if not better, at fashioning hymns out of words as he was at fashioning goods out of metal.