Harris Roadwork(er)s


A list of those appearing on the census records, arranged alphabetically by location:

1841
Norman Mackenzie, Airdhang, Road Constructor

1851
John Macleod, 29, Ardhasaig, Road Labourer
Roderick Mackinnon, 18, Cluer, Road Labourer
Alexander Mackinnon, 14, Cluer, Road Labourer
Murdo Macdonald, 20, Cluer, Road Labourer
Murdo Maclellan, 30, Cluer, Road Labourer
Neil Maclellan, 48, Cluer, Road Labourer
Donald Macullip, 20, Cuidinish, Road Labourer
Alexander Macullip, 20, Cuidinish, Road Labourer
Donald Macleod, 21, Direcleit, Road Labourer
Angus Campbell, 20, Direcleit, Road Labourer, Visitor
Ewan Maclellan, 17, Direcleit, Road Labourer, Lodger
Roderick Mackinnon, 55, Flodabay, Road Labourer
Peter Macaskill, 20, Kyles Scalpay, Road Labourer
William Mackinnon, 18, Leaclee, Road Labourer
Donald Mackinnon, 18, Leaclee, Road Labourer
Norman Macleod, 22, Leaclee, Road Labourer
Neil Macleod, 19, Leaclee, Road Labourer
John Morrison, 37, Manish, Road Overseer
Peter Macdonald, 24, Meavag, Road Labourer
Angus Macdonald, 17, Sradabay, Road Labourer
Murdo Macauly, 15, Scradaby, Road Labourer
Alex Grant, 37, Tarbert, Road Contractor, Lodger
Donald Macdermid, 17, Tarbert, Road Labourer, Lodger
John Macdonald, 50, Tarbert, Road Labourer
Angus Macdonald, 25, Tarbert, Road Labourer, Lodger
John Macdonald, 20, Tarbert, Road Labourer, Lodger
Norman Macaskill, 20, Tarbert, Road Labourer
Donald Mackay, 20, Tarbert, Road Labourer
John Mackay, 30, Tarbert, Road Labourer, Lodger
Norman Macleod, 50, Tarbert, Road Labourer, Lodger
Donald Macleod, 45, Tarbert, Road Labourer
Finlay Macleod, 20, Tarbert, Road Labourer
Angus Macleod, 19, Tarbert, Road Labourer
Angus Martin, 42, Tarbert, Road Labourer, Lodger
Donald Mackinnon, 20, Tarbert, Road Labourer
Kenneth Morrison, 48, Tarbert, Road Labourer
Allan Morrison, 37, Tarbert, Road Labourer
Allan Morrison, 23, Tarbert, Road Labourer, Lodger
Duncan Morrison, 19, Tarbert, Road Labourer, Lodger
Angus Morrison, 17, Tarbert, Road Labourer
John Paterson, 30, Tarbert, Road Labourer, Lodger
William Fraser, 20, Urgha, Road Labourer

1861 (none discovered)

1871
Norman Mackenzie, 80, House at Carragrich, Road Contractor
Roderick Ross, 48, Geocrab, Road Contractor

1881
Donald Mackenzie, 55, Carragray, Road Contractor
Murdo Mackenzie, 40, Carragray, Road Contractor

1891
Donald Maclennan, 45, Scaristavore, Road Foreman

1901
Donald Kerr, 38, Bernera, Road Labourer (b.Strond)
Macdonald, 52, Kintulivig, Road Contractor

The 1851 Census was taken on the night of 30th/31st March.
Quite why it records such a vast population of road workers, including no less than 20 living in Tarbert, is explaine by this:

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…



Ref: http://www.witpg.org.uk/articles3.htm

My suspicion is that the census happened to take place at a period of unusually vigorous roadworks and the proportion of those listed as lodgers lends credence to this suggestion.

If I am correct, then travellers in Harris that Spring were probably a tad more sympathetic at being inconvenienced by the roadworks they encountered than would be the case today for these were connecting communities with proper, passable, paths perhaps for the very first time.

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Harris Masons or Who Built the ‘Golden Road’?

I opted to search the records for Masons working in Harris. The results are presented, as usual, with the normal caveats and abnormal spellings. The are arranged by family name, first name:

1841
Alex Mcleod, 35, Strond, Mason
Alex Patterson, 20, Strond, Mason
Malcolm Patterson, 30, Strond, Mason

1851
Peter Kerr, 55, Kentulavic, Dry Mason
John Macaulay, 40, Sradabay, Dry Mason & Dyker
Donald Macdonald, 35, Port Esgein, Mason
Donald Maclean, 30, Borve, Farmer’s son, Mason & Labourer
John Macleash, 60, Borve(?), Mason
Alexander Macleod, 47, Farm of Strond, Port Esgein, Mason

1861
John Maclean, 40, Aidive, Mason
Alexander Macleod, 58, Strond, Mason
Kenneth Macleod, 30, Eilean Allanby, Mason
John MacQuish, 74, Borve(?)r, Mason
Archy Ross, 24, Glebe, Mason

1871
John Macaskill, 53, Dry Mason

1881
William Gillis, 30, Strond, Mason
Donald Macaskill, 45 North Harris, Mason
John Macaskill, 70, South Harris, Formerly Mason
Donald Macdonald, 66, Ardasaigh, Mason
John Macdonald, 23, North Harris, Mason
Alexander Mackay, 50, North Harris, Mason
John Mackinnon, 60, Ardasaigh, Mason
Donald Maclean, 49, South Harris, Mason
Hugh Maclean, 26, South Harris, Mason
John Macleod, 23, North Harris, Mason
William Macleod, 40, South Harris, Mason and Militiaman
Alexander Morrison, 47, Ardasaigh, Mason
Donald Morrison, 26, South Harris, Mason (Out of Employment)
Murdo Morrison, 31, East Tarbert, Mason

1891
Kenneth Cunningham, 60, Geocrab, Mason
William Gillis, 43, Steps Strond, Stone Mason
Donald Macaskill, 44, East Tarbert, Mason
Donald Macdonald, 74, Ardhasaig,Mason (Formerly)
John Macfarlane, 40, Leakin, Mason
John Mackinnon, 48, Little Urgha, Mason
John Mackinnan, 80, Ardhasaig, Retired Mason
Murdo Mackinnan, 56, North Harris, Mason and Crofter
Donald Maclean, 58, Little Borve, Stone Mason
Hugh Maclean, 37, Cuidinish, Stone Mason
William Maclennan, 48, Flodibay, Stone Mason
Finlay Macleod, 22, East Tarbert, Mason
John Macleod, 33, East Tarbert, Mason
William Macleod, 54, Ardow, Mason
Donald Morrison, 34, Berkasar, Mason
Murdo Morrison, 40, East Tarbert, Mason and Crofter
Norman Morrison, 60, Kyles Stockinish, Mason
Murdo Shaw, 18, Big Urgha, Mason Labourer

1901
William Gillies, 52, Strond, Mason
Norman Macdonald, 60, Rodel, Mason
Donald Maclean, 74, Cuidinish, Mason
Hugh Maclean, 46, Cuidinish, Mason
Donald Macaskill, 63, North Harris, Stone Mason
Donald W Macaskill, 19, Apprentice Mason
Murdo Macdonald, 40, Kyles Scalpay, Mason
Donald Macdonald, 39, North Harris Mason’s Labourer
John Macdonald 30, Bernera, Stone Mason
Murdo Macdonald, 30, North Harris, Mason’s Labourer
Roderick Mackinnan, 20, North Harris, Mason’s Labourer
John Macleod, 42, North Harris, Stone Mason
John Macleod, 25, Leacin, Mason’s Labourer
Hugh MacQuish, 21, North Harris, Mason’s Labourer
John Macsween, 33, Strond, Mason
Malcolm Macsween, 68, Strond, Mason
William Macsween, 29, Strond, Mason
Archibald Macsween, 23, Strond, Mason
Norman Morrison, 63, Stockinish, Stone Mason
Murdo Morrison, 50, North Harris, Stone Mason
Donald Morrison, 45, Ardslave, Mason
Angus Morrison, 39, Drinishader, Mason

It is particularly annoying that the results for 1871 are, with one single exception, currently unavailable because of the doubling in Masons occurring between 1861 and 1881.

The 1851 return of a ‘Dry Mason and Dyker’ suggests that there was a distinction between those particular skills and those of a mason using mortar. Was that a long-standing distinction or one that indicates the emergence of specialisation within the occupation?

Similarly, whilst masons might more usually be thought of as constructors of buildings they were also the builders of roads.

What is known form neighbouring Lewis, is that whilst the design of ‘blackhouses’ remained fairly constant (albeit with variations between the islands) from at least the 1850s, ‘improvements’ in their design became increasingly implemented during the 1880s and beyond. Masons would have been pivotal in all this.

The closing decades of the 19th Century also saw an expansion in road building and again masonic skills would have been in greater demand, particularly given the nature of the terrain and the need for stone bridges to be constructed.

So, whilst these are partial results, it seems to me that the rise in the number of masons that is seen here reflects a real outcome of changes made to the built environment of Harris.

The fact that all the masons in 1841 and 1851 are found on the South and West coasts of the island yet by 1891/1901 we see several dotted around the West coast’s ‘Bays of Harris’ speaks volumes and reminds us that the ‘Golden Road’ that links Tarbert to Rodel was completed in 1897…