My fascination with this particular expanse of water shows no sign of ebbing so I was delighted to discover two new (to me!) aspects that have been mapped:
NetSurvey’s High Resolution Seabed Mapping is stunning in its detail and especially interesting as it extends close to the Harris coast between Rodel & Strond.
The oblique view (3rd image from the left ) indicates how Port Eisgein offers the only haven in the South-East corner and suggests to me a site ripe for marine archaeology to explore.
Scottish National Heritage supply us with this PDFon Biotope mapping which is a highly technical document that I do not pretend to completely comprehend but which includes many interesting & attractive maps.
Finally, I heard today from Mapyx QUO that on the 28th of February they are releasing digital versions of UK Hydrographic Maps. No prices or other details have been announced but this is a welcome addition to their collection which is already an excellent and affordable mapping resource.
Using the technique as described produced the following returns:
Loss + Minch 2,440
Loss + Stornoway 1,090
Loss + Sound of Harris 129
Loss + Coal 2,320
Loss + Coal + 19thC 1,910
Loss + Lime 237
Loss + Salt 510
Loss + Cement 50
Loss + Oats 145
Loss + Barley 141
Loss + Turnips 18
Loss + Carrots 3
Loss + Carrots + Turnips 2
Loss + Schooner 5,370
Loss + Brig 2,000
Loss + Ketch 317
Loss + Clipper 18
Loss + Minch + Coal + Schooner 17
Much care has to be taken for there are many factors including multiple recordings, the occurrence of words elsewhere on the returned page that my not be applying to the particular vessel, etc; but I think these few examples demonstrate that the technique has some potential as a research tool?
I left my account of the previous year’s voyages with the arrival of the Crest in Belfast on the 23rd of January 1899 .
Aboard were her Master, Alexander John Kerr, and his crewmen Donald Macmillan, Malcolm Munro and John Macleod who had joined the ship at Oban following the death of Alexander’s father, Malcolm Kerr.
On Feb 1st she sets sail for Larne which she reaches on the 4th. The figures for her draught and freeboard suggest that she was unladen. Having loaded their cargo, the men leave Larne on the 1st of March and arrive in their home port of Stornoway on the 10th. As usual, Alexander John doesn’t specify his cargo but lime would be a reasonably likely commodity at this time. The men spend a fortnight at home before the unladen Crest sails for Larne on the 24th of March. She doesn’t arrive until the 10th of April but whether this was because of the weather or, perhaps, ‘other reasons’ is open to conjecture!
Once loaded, they leave Larne on Mayday and reach Gairloch on the West Coast of the Scottish mainland on the 7th of May. They return to Stornoway on the 19th, crossing the Minch on the same day. In Stornoway John Macleod is discharged, Alexander John rating his conduct and ability as ‘Vg’. Oddly, the date of John’s discharge is shown a week earlier on the 12th of May but I am pretty sure that this is just another instance of the retrospective nature of the form-filling. On the 22nd of May John’s replacement appears in the shape of Donald Macdonald, a 43 year-old from Lochs who is a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer’s.
The Crest is loaded, perhaps with Herring, and on the 25th she departs Stornoway and arrives in Castlebay on Barra on the 26th of May. Cargo safely delivered, the empty vessel leaves on the 5th of June and makes Larne on the 10th. Loaded, she leaves Larne on the 26th of June and reaches Stornoway on the 29th, suggesting that this 47 ton ketch was no slouch even when loaded to the gunwhales. On the 7th of July Donald Macdonald is discharged with Alexander’s inevitable ‘Vg’s.
I do not know precisely for how many years Alexander John and his father had worked the coastal trade together but these voyages were the first such set that he undertook on a vessel that he owned without his father’s presence and it must have been a poignant moment when he completed the Crew Agreements without putting ‘Malcolm Kerr’ in the first space beneath his own name.
Significantly, none of the seamen of 1899 are given the status of Mate or Bosun that Malcolm held.
On the 12th of July 43 year-old Alexander John and 55 year-old Malcolm Munro are joined by 60 year-old John McRae from Habost in Lochs who joins fron the ‘Mary Ann’ of Stornoway. The crew is completed by an 18 year-old ‘Boy’ called Alexander John Maciver from Stornoway. He is the Master’s nephew and my own grandfather’s Half-Brother. He bears his Uncle’s name and would serve in and survive WWI .
The 17th of July see the laden Crest setting sail for Carloway which she makes on the 1st of August. It was whilst making this same journey in January 1890 that Alexander John Kerr had lost the ‘Spanker’ in the Sound of Harris in the vicinity of An-t-Ob.
There are four more voyages for 1899, in each case the Crest appears unladen, and they were from Carloway to Stornoway on from the 12th to the 13th of August, Stornoway to Portree on the 12th to the 13th of September, from Portree back to Stornoway from the 7th to 8th of October and finally on the 2nd of November from Stornoway to Loch Eshart, reaching there on the 18th of November.
Whilst in Stornoway, John McRae left on the 11th of October but wasn’t replaced until the 1st of November when John McDonald, a 48 year-old from Harris, joined the crew. He, together with both the Alexander Johns, stayed with the ship in Loch Exhart but on the 22nd of December Malcolm Munro left them. It is unfortunate that, whilst new crewmen had to give the name of their previous vessel, those departing do not record the next ship (if they had one) so we cannot tell how Malcolm Munro returned to his home in Stornoway.
The Crest ‘Remains in Loch Eshart’ and, until I purchase the Crew Agreements for 1900-1903 when she was wrecked on the 18th of April 1903 , that is where we shall have to leave her…
I was hoping that following these two Royal Navy Survey vessels might assist with my research into the work of Lieutenant FWL Thomas who in 1845 was appointed as Master of the Woodlark.
This was the ship that he was using to survey the Western Isles whilst Captain Henry Otter had HMS Porcupine engaged on the same task. Prior to this, Fred Thomas had been surveying the Orkney Isles with his father, George Thomas.
Unfortunately the key records, those of 1851 are non-existent, but I think the two may have been in the Atlantic on work associated with preparations for the first Transatlantic Telegraph Cable. It has been pointed-out to me by my kind correspondent that there are letters from Captain FWL Thomas confirming the Woodlark’s presence in Alloa (a mere 10 miles upstream from Culross) in the late 1840s and 1850. Once again, I am most grateful to her for bringing the significance of this to my attention. Captain Otter was in Portsea visiting a Royal Engineer and as this was the branch of the Army that dealt with surveying we can assume that they were discussing matters relating to their work.
However, by 1861 an Orkneyman, James Sutherland, 44, was Master of the Woodlark and he, together with his wife and three children, were aboard her in Harris. This reveals not only a new Master but also her continued presence in Harris. Even better, he has his family with him showing us that Lieutenant Thomas having his wife Frances in tow was not unique. The Porcupine was in Portree with her two Second Masters aboard. Captain Otter was in England with his wife visiting his brother in Dagenham..
By 1871 the Porcupine is in Sunderland (the Woodlark elsewhere) and in 1881 both vessels are at Minster on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. In this year and in 1891 the Woodlark’s Master, Mark Aaron, has his wife and children with him continuing the trend that at least two earlier Masters had set.
Overall I think that these little snippets of information are helpful in giving us just a little more insight into the role of these vessels and the lives of those who were in charge of them – not forgetting the children who must have had a wonderful, if somewhat unusual, education!
NOTE: I have new information regarding these two vessels: This Woodlark was disposed-of in 1863 and the Porcupine in 1883. Clearly the Woodlark of 1881 and 1891 cannot be FWL’s ship, but I’ve left this piece as written not least as a reminder that there are still plenty of red herrings in the sea!
Roderick Kerr was born in 1845 at Direcleit to Malcolm Kerr and his wife Bess Macdonald. Bess died, possibly as a consequence of his birth, and Malcolm moved to Lewis where, three years later, he married Mary Macdonald of Steinsh. Despite searching Croft Histories and censuses, I have been unable to learn anything about Bess or her family.
Roderick was left to be raised by his grandparents, John the Tailor and Margaret, with whom he stayed until at least 1861. If the phrase ‘left to be raised’ sounds a little harsh to modern ears, it must be remembered that t was the usual practice in such circumstances in those days. It was also used sometimes to ‘hide’ ‘Illegitimacy’, a fact that can confound the family historian! Roderick became a fisherman and, despite his Uncle Angus being a fisher in Direcleit, made his home in An-t-Ob, the Sound of Harris being where many family members lived.
On the 2nd of February 1869, Roderick married Mary Morrison at Scarista. One of the witnesses was his cousin Rory Kerr, the Post Runner of Strond. The couple were living in the ‘Obe Shop’ in 1871, or rather were one of the 18 households with that address! They were predominantly fishers, a boat builder and Paupers, but the nucleus was the home of Roderick Macdonald, his wife Sarah (Grant) and their young family. Roderick was the son of the landlord of the Inn at An-t-Ob and had married the much-younger Sarah a few years earlier in Forres, Moray. Roderick the Fisherman and Mary had no children and she died before her 40th birthday.
On the 22nd February 1881, Roderick the Fisherman and widower married Margaret (Peggy) Maclennan at Scarista. Where Mary had been nearly five years his senior, Peggy was some fifteen his junior!. She came with a 2 year-old son, John Macleod, although she was a Spinster at the time of the marriage. The 1881 census shows us the new family in Obbe whilst along the road at Kyles House were the Macdonald family employing 8 people on their farm.
In 1885, Margaret gave Roderick a son of his own, Donald, and in 1889 their daughter Christy was born. So, in 1891, the family of five were in Obbe but with Roderick now working as an Agricultural Labourer and his step-son is now known as John Kerr. Up the road, the Macdonald family are still at what is now called Farm House.
By 1901, Roderick and Peggy’s family had grown with the arrival of Angus and Kate in 1892 and 1895. Still living in Obbe, Roderick was now a Farm Servant and Peggy’s son John listed as a Sailor. Donald, meanwhile, has moved and we find him at the Macdonald’s Farm House where the 16 year-old is ‘Herd Cattle on Farm’. At the house are Roderick (Farmer and General Merchant) and Sarah, their married daughter Margaret A Macleod, a Domestic Servant, a visiting Tweed Weaveress and a Shop Assistant, as well as young Donald. I believe Roderick to have been employed by the Macdonald’s too.
Sarah was the ‘Mrs S Macdonald’ who, as a member of the Scottish Home Industries Association, wrote the famous account of the origin of Harris Tweed and of the Stocking Industry. I think it important to point out that Sarah was only 26 at the time of her marriage in 1868 so, if her account is accurate and the industry was begun in 1844, she was born around the same time as Harris Tweed itself!
Peggy produced another son in 1902 and he was called John. Nine years later, Peggy’s Sailor son John died at sea and Roderick himself, in An-t-Ob, in 1919. Peggy survived him by some 30 years and Angus lived until 1963. Donald and John died elsewhere and at times unknown to me. What became of the daughters, Christy and Kate, is also a mystery for they neither married, nor died, on Harris.
So that is the end of this tale of Roderick and his family, including another of those coincidences that links, albeit tenuously, one of my relatives to the tale of Harris Tweed…