Post Bus, South Uist

A stop at a Post Office in South Uist on my journey from Barra to the Butt by Bus. Driver Joe took me from Eriskay to Howmore collecting mail from every roadside post box enroute. It was a fascinating, if somewhat convoluted, excursion and Joe appeared quite glad of the company and I could not have hoped to have had a better guide introducing me to these Southern Isles. Thanks, Joe!

Post Runners of Lewis

These are the only four recorded Post Runners that I have found in the censuses:


Donald Kennedy, 21, Post Runner, Lochs, b. Lochs
(John Kennedy, 58, Crofter, Father, b. Lochs)

The Post Office in Lochs was home to the McPhail family, but no Post Master/Mistress is recorded. The Post Office in Carloway in 1881 was occupied, but again no Post Master/Mistress is recorded.

Angus Macritchie, 19, Post Runner, 35a Valtos, Uig, b. Uig
(Malcolm Macaulay, 37, Postman, Uncle, b Uig)

Murdo Macdonald, 17, Post Runner, Squatter House, Uig, b. Uig
(Donald Macdonald, 44, Fisherman, Father, b. Uig)

Donald Macualy, 58, was the Post Master in Mangersta.
Norman Maciver, 60, was the Post Master at the Postoffice House

Norman McDougall, 17, Post Runner, 54 Lower Barvas, b. Barvas
(John McDougall, 52, Crofter, Father, b. Barvas)

No Post Office is recorded in Barvas at this time.

It appears that, by 1901 and for reasons unknown, Lochs, Uig and Barvas first employed Post Runners. Appearnaces, however, can deceive and I think it is more likely that the earlier Post Runners performed that role as a secondary occupation that simply didn’t get recorded.

These four people remain as the only recorded census entries for Post Runners on Lewis and that is why they I have presented them here.

Irish in Harris

As today is St Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d look at people of Harris who were born in Ireland.

Betsy Kern, 36, Rag Merchant, Kentulavick, Visitor
(Household of William Macrae, 60, Shepherd, b. Bracadale, Inverness)

William Ferrier, 29, Rag Merchant, Obb
Betsy Ferrier, 39, Rag Merchant’s Wife
Sarah, 8, b. North Uist
(Plus a Messenger & 2 Domestic Servants)

Henry Galbraith, 45, Gardener, Obb
Mary, 37, Teacher of Embroidery
Elizabeth Henry, 66, Wife of an Excise Officer, Mother-in-Law

William Ferrier, 31, Pedlar, East Tarbert
(Household of John Morrison, 21, Hotel Keeper)

Arrabella Murray, 19, Servant, Ardoulie Castle

Betsy Ferrier, 60, Hawker, House at Obb

Henry Galbraith, 55, Gardener, Embroidery School
Mary, 47, Teacher of Embroidery

Henry Galbraith, 65, Post Master, Obb
Mary, 57, Wife
Johanna Morrison, 8, Visitor, b. Stornoway

William Ferrier, 58, Former Hawker, Obb
Ann, 50, Webmaker (Tweed), Wife
Ann Mackay, 28, Domestic Servant, b.Uig, Lewis

Mary Galbraith, 67, Post Mistress, Obb
Johanna Mackinnon, 34, Domestic Servant, b. Harris

Henry Greenwood Mahon, 31, Medical Practitioner, Obb, Visitor
(Household of John MacNab, 55, Medical Practitioner, b. Perthshire)

Mary Galbraith, 77, Post Mistress, Obb
(2 Domestic Servants)

James Hanratty, 20, Hawker, 66 North Harris
Stephen MacShane, 35, Hawker
(Household of Murdo Morrison, 50, Stone Mason, b. Duirnish, Inverness)

Jessie Morrison, 29, Wife, 34 North Harris
(John Morrison, 35, Blacksmith, b. Harris, plus 2 children)

Although small in number, what a fascinating range of occupations these Irish men & women followed. We have itinerant Hawkers, a domiciled Rag Merchant and a Gardener, a Post Master and Post Mistress plus a couple of Doctors. However, the one that stands out is the Teacher of Embroidery at the Embroidery School in, it appears, An t-Ob.

This school was established by Lady Dunmore in 1849 and we now know that in 1861 and 1871 it was Mary Galbraith from Ireland who taught in it. It appears that her husband ran the Post Office in 1881 and that she continued to provide this service in 1891 and 1901.

Master of the Harris Mail Boat

Occasionally you stumble across an unexpected delight.

I was looking through some records associated with boats and suddenly discovered that in 1851 (nearly 160 years ago) there was a Master of the Harris Mail Boat.

Hearach John Morrison, 38, together with his wife and seven children were residing at Port Esgein, a tiny inlet in the Sound of Harris and home to the Farm of Strond.

Port Esgein is significant as it is just a short walk from Loch Rodil and thence to Rodel Harbour

John would have kept the Mail Boat in one of these three locations, reminding us that it would be another 60 years before the ‘Soap Man’ decreed that Obbe was the perfect spot for a Great Harbour, despite local knowledge warning him otherwise.

What kind of vessel was Morrison the Master of?
Which ports did it serve, on the mainland and elsewhere on the islands?
How frequent a service (weather allowing) did it provide?
When did it start, and cease?

The only answer I currently have is, ‘I don’t know’, but it is certainly another piece of evidence that this now-tranquil South-Eastern end of Borrisdale, encompassing Port Esgein, the Farm of Strond and adjacent to Rodel, was once very much at the heart of Harris.

Harris Post-Persons

Strond Post Office (Far Right) on 23th May 2009

An image from 1996/7 can be seen here:

A list of those providing postal services to the population of Harris (with additional dates of significance):

1840 – Uniform Penny Post introduced in Great Britain

Kenneth Morrison, 40, Postmaster, Tarbert, b. Inverness
Norman Morrison, 50, Tarbert, Post

Roderick Morrison, 50, Obb, Post

1848 – Sunday Postal Deliveries stopped

Roderick Morrison, 59, Parcel Carrier, Obe, b. Harris
John Mackinnon, 37, Cluer, Letter Carrier, Visitor
John Macleod, 20, Strond, Letter Carrier
Master of Harris Mail Boat –

1855 – Construction of the road from Stornoway to Harris, through the parish of lochs, began in 1830. It was eventually completed in 1854, and though it was a road only in the vaguest sense of the word it was sufficient for the GPO to contemplate an expansion in the postal services.
It was proposed to run a foot-post from Stornoway to Tarbert twice weekly in summer and once weekly in winter, at a cost of thirteen shillings a week. Two runners were employed on this service: one messenger took the mail as far as Balallan and the other carried it from there to Tarbert. This service came into operation on 29th March 1855.


Roderick Morrison, 41, Obb, Post Runner
Roderick Kerr, 22, Strond, Post

1870 – Telegraph service starts in UK but see earlier piece on telegraph cables!

Roderick Kerr, 30, Strond, Post Runner

Henry Galbraith, 65, Obbe, Postmaster b.Ireland
Roderick Kerr, 40, Strond, Letter Carrier

1883 – Parcel Post begins

Angus Macdonald, 59, No.5 East Tarbert, Postmaster
Roderick Campbell, 40, Scalpay, Sub-Postmaster
Norman Macsween, 17, Scalpay, Post Runner
Mary Galbraith, 67, Obb, Post Mistress
John Macdonald, 26, Strond, Post Runner

1894 – Picture Postcards introduced

Angus Macdonald, 70, North Harris, Postmaster
Angus Macaskill, 20, North Harris, Post Man
Marion Campbell, 43, Scalpay, Sub-Postmistress
Kenneth Campbell, 22, Scalpay, Letter Carrier
Finlay Mackinnon, 34, Cottar’s House, Stockinish, Post Runner
Mary Mackay, 51, Manish Post Office, Assistant Postmistress
Margery Mackay, 80, Manish Post Office, Grocer
Mary Gilbraith, 77, Obb, Post Mistress
Malcolm Macrae, 22, Obb, Letter Carrier
Christopher Macrae, 18, Obb, Postman or Letter Carrier
Donald Macaskill, 27, Bernera, Post Runner
Helen Maclean, 52, Bernera, Post Mistress

I think there are several significant feature here.

The appearance in 1891 of the Postmistress in Obb suggests that prior to this it may well have been the case that whatever postal services were available were integrated into suitable pre-existing businesses in Obb.

Tarbert’s absence from these records after 1841,when is had a Postmaster, until 189, is at first sight slightly more surprising because if anywhere would have been expected to have shown the development of postal functions then surely Tarbert would have been it?

It is not until the start of the 20th Century that we see evidence of a system of postal functions covering the mainland of Harris and the outliers of Bernera and Scalpay too.

The role of Letter Carrier or Post Runner was often undertaken as an additional, secondary one and my relative’s appearance in the records is perhaps the exception that proves this particular ‘rule’?

Roderick Kerr, Postrunner, died at home in Strond aged 56 on the 3rd January 1891 of Chronic Bronchitis.