THREE MEN DROWNED AT STORNOWAY

Information has been received at Stornoway of the drowning of three Harris fishermen in the Sound of Harris. John M’Leod, Donald Gillies, and Angus M’Swain, all fishermen from Stroud, South Harris, were returning on Saturday afternoon from the island of Hermetry, in the Sound of Harris, where they had been lobster fishing. Their boat was under sail, and it was blowing a strong gale at the time. The boat was seen to capsize and go down with the crew. M’Leod and Gillies were unmarried, but M’Swain was married, and leaves a widow and family.’
The Dundee Courier and Argus, Monday October 9th 1882
(I have left all the spellings as in the original – ‘Stroud’ for Strond is a surprisingly common error.)
Looking for these three men in the 1881 Census returns from Strond we find only four fishermen who fit:
John Macleod, 36, son of Janet Macleod, 79, Crofter, and brother of Peggy, 34
John Macleod, 25, son of Mary Macleod, 60, Weaveress, Wool.
Donald Gillis, 38, son of Kenneth Gillis, 60, Crofter
Angus MacSween, 50, husband to Mary, 40 and father of Ann, 13, Marion, 10, John, 1 and Mary Ann, 1 month.
We can exclude the younger John Macleod for he is to be found still fishing and living with his mother in Strond in the census of 1891 whilst Janet Macleod is there with her daughter, Peggy.
Further corroboration comes in the form of these two details:
Angus MacSween’s widow, Mary, was the youngest child of Angus Kerr & Marion Mcsween of Strond.
Donald Gillies was the brother-in-law of Flora Morrison, whose mother, Christian Kerr, was the fifth of Angus Kerr and Marion Mcsween of Strond’s eight children. Thus these two fishers were linked by family.

Christian would later join her sister Mary in widowhood for, on the 25th of July 1890 her own husband, William Morrison, was lost with two colleagues from the unregistered vessel ‘Jessie & Margaret’. Fishing was then, and remains now, a perilous occupation: http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/06/drowned-at-sea-by-upsetting-of-boat.html

We may also note that, despite the fact that they had been fishing for lobsters, none of the men who perished in this tragedy were specifically listed as Lobster fishermen in the 1881 census – http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/07/lobster-fishermen-of-harris.html
Notes:
1) Some observations regarding ‘Hermetry’ may be seen in this earlier piece: http://direcleit.blogspot.com/2010/11/john-lanne-buchanan-1768-1828-his.html
2) I will be able to confirm various details by searching the ‘Minor Records’, Marine Register’ section of the Deaths index at ScotlandsPeople but that will have to wait for now.

>A Small Boy in Aberdeen

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The 1911 Census marks a significant point in my researches because it is the first to include my Dad. There is something slightly strange about seeing one’s father listed as a 4 year-old boy and especially so as all my grandparents were already dead by the time I myself was 4 and hence, although I have ‘met’ them in the censuses, they exist only as shadows in my mind.
I do not intend to dwell upon the details of the household at 56 St Swithin Street (save to say that my dad’s two aunts were both Teachers and that the Boarder at his grandmother’s house taught Science at Gordon’s College), but look instead at the occupations of the neighbours at numbers 52 to 54:
We have an employer in the form of the Manager of a ‘Coal & Lime Importers, Oil Refiners & Grain Merchants Limited Company’; another employer who was a House Painter; a third employer who was a ‘Motor Car Agent’ and whose daughter was a ‘Clerk & Typist’ in the Motor Trade; and finally a ‘Retired Gilder & Picture Framer’ whose daughter was a self-employed Piano Teacher and whose two sons were employed as a ‘Dentists Mechanic’ and a ‘House Painter’.
So this was the neighbourhood that my Stornowegian grandfather found himself inhabiting 90 years after his own grandfather had been born in a house on the shore at Direcleit, a house that the sea was known to enter at particularly high tides.
I say ‘inhabiting’ but in fact he wasn’t there on the night of the census and, as the index at ScotlandsPeople does NOT include a field for the place of birth, I am not going to trawl through all the 36 year-old John Kerrs (at £1.17 each) in the hope of chancing upon him!
What is more disappointing is that, had he been there, I am sure that he would have continued his practice from the previous Census and inserted ‘G&E’ in the otherwise blank column recording Gaelic speakers…

>The Remaining Kerrs of Stornoway in 1911

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These two families are those of my great granduncles Alexander John and Malcolm.
They, together with their older sister (my great grandmother Mrs Annie Maciver) were the surviving children of Malcolm Kerr of Direcleit and Mary Macdonald of Orinsay.
51 ½ Bayhead St – 5
Alexander J Kerr, 55, G&E, Dock Labourer, b. Stornoway
Mary, 44, Wife, G&E, b. Stornoway
Married 7 years, both children still living. Of the four children from Alexander John’s first marriage to Margaret Macarthur (1858-1902), the eldest, Donald, was in Canada whilst the youngest, Alexander John, can be seen below. The eldest of the two girls, Catherine Isabella, had died of tetanus aged 6 but 18 year-old Mary was also still in Stornoway.
Alexander J, 14, Son, G&E, School, b. Stornoway
Murdo, 6, Son, G&E, School, b. Stornoway
Margaret, 3, Daughter, G&E, b. Stornoway
29 Bayhead St – 6
Malcolm Kerr, 52, G&E, Cooper, Fishcuring Yard, b. Stornoway
Margaret, 41, Wife, G&E, b. Stornoway
Married 3 years with no children, these four being Malcolm’s from his first marriage to Marion Macleod (1867-1905):
Mary, 15, G&E, Domestic Servant, b. Stornoway
Malcolm, 13, G&E, School, b. Stornoway
John, 11, G&E, School, b. Stornoway
Duncan, 9, G&E, School, b. Stornoway
One thing that slightly mystifies me is why Alexander John was working as a Dock Labourer at this time for, according to his Obituary in the Stornoway Gazettee , he had owned & sailed the ‘Lady Louisa Kerr’ following the loss of the ‘Crest’ in 1903.
I can only assume that, by 1911, the competition from steam ships had already proved too much and that even then ‘the picturesque sailing coaster has been almost completely squeezed out of existence.’…

>1911 Census – Initial Overview of the Kerr (& Shaw) Islanders

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I thought that on this, the day that sees the release of the 1911 Census on ScotlandsPeople , I would begin by looking at some overall figures:
KERR DATA & (VERY!) BRIEF ANALYSIS
HARRIS 4849 people, 2238 Male, 2611 Female ie 53.8% female, 46.2% male
Harris 15 Male 5 Female 10
Harris – decreased from 18 (9 of each gender) to 15 ie by nearly 17%
There were 6 Kerr births between 1901 & 1911 inclusive & 6 deaths.
Further examination is required to explain the decrease.
LEWIS
Stornoway 17 Male 9 Female 8
Lochs 17 Male 9 Female 8
Lewis Total 34 Male 18 Female 16
Stornoway – increased from 11(6 male & 5 female) to 17 ie by over 50%
There were 3 Kerr births between 1901 & 1911 inclusive & 3 deaths.
Further examination is required to explain the increase.
Lewis – increased by 13 from 21 ie by 62%
(inc the Lochs population which increased from 9 to 17 ie by nearly 90%)
INVERNESS-SHIRE 59 – 27 M, 32 F
Inverness-shire – decreased by 1 from 60 ie under 2%
ROSS & CROMARTY 26 – 13 M, 13 F
Ross-shire – decreased by 11 from 37 ie by 30%
ARGYLL – increased by 7 from 196 ie by 4%.
SUTHERLAND – decreased by 17 from 159 ie by 11%
SHAW OVERVIEW
HARRIS – 61, 26 Male, 35 Female – decreased by 19 from 80 ie by 25%.
There were 11 Shaw births between 1901 & 1911 inclusive & 11 deaths.
Further examination is required to explain the increase.
LEWIS – 3, decrease by 5 from 8ie since by 68%
3 in each of Lochs & Stornoway, in 1901 these figures were 0 and 8 respectively.
Between 1901 & 1911 inclusive, 1 Shaw was born in Stornoway & 1 in Lochs & 1 died in Stornoway & 1 in Lochs.
Further examination is required to explain the overall decrease.
SUMMARY
It was pretty surprising that in each set that I have examined, the births & deaths balanced each-other out hence the observed changes must be due to the movement of people.
However, the figure that stands-out the loudest to me is that by 1911 there were only 5 males called Kerr left living on Harris.
Of these, the youngest was 9 and he was the only boy aged 0-14, 2 were aged 15-29, none were 30-44, 1 was 45-64 & the oldest was 68.
As for the 10 remaining females, the youngest was 16 and she was one of only 3 aged 15-29, 1 was aged 30-44, 2 were 45-64, 2 were 65-79 and the eldest pair were 80 and 82 years old.
Within a little over 60 years since my great, great grandfather Malcolm Kerr had first emigrated to Lewis (He considered his ‘Nationality’ to be ‘Harris’!), there were for the first time more people in Stornoway bearing the name Kerr (his descendants) than Kerrs left living on Harris…

Stornoway Harbour – Surveyed 1846 by Commander HC Otter

This chart was published in 1849, by which time my great, great grandfather had remarried and moved to ply his seafaring trade in Stornoway, and is the earliest of Admiral Henry Charles Otter ‘s charts of the Western Isles. He would have been in command of HMS Porcupine, one of several survey ships that he and Captain FWL Thomas used when creating these cartographic masterpieces.

Several features are worth remarking upon: Stornoway Meal Mill and the other Mill , the Ropewalk with its Ropemakers , the Jail with its occupants , Sandwick Widow’s Row , and the Gas Works with its Plumbers .

The one that is most useful, though, is seeing the location of the ‘other mill’ with the associated Castle Stables for this suggests that the Carding/Sawing Mill was indeed located in the Castle Grounds and thus my conjecture that the address of the Miller, John Munro, being termed the ‘Nursery, Bayhead’ might suggest a link to the later ‘Nursery cottage’ seems to be given additional weight?

The chart is very beautiful and I’d like to think that a certain shipmaster in his late-twenties was able to purchase a copy in 1849 to assist him in the harbour, or just to have with him as a reminder of his wife who was pregnant with their first child back in Stornoway!

Lews Castle – Future, Present &…Past

As plans are in place for the restoration of Lews Castle in Stornoway, I thought I would bring together these pieces that relate to this building:

In 1851 we have these visitors at the castle and the situation that led to their presence is described here .

In 1861 the Matheson’s were in residence (Sir James’ Widow and her daughters were, too, in 1881) but it is ‘Stornoway House’ in London in which we find them in 1871 & 1891.

Other buildings in the Castle grounds were the Porter’s Lodge , the Boatman’s House , Nursery Cottage and the Gardener’s Cottage , whilst the man credited with the design of the grounds is Charles H J Smith .

These pieces on Pigot’s 1837 Directory , including the name of the Manager of Stornoway Distillery ,whose workplace was replaced by Lews Castle, hopefully complete the picture.

Spinning Wheel Makers of Stornoway

I mentioned in the previous piece on the ‘Turner’ men of Stornoway that there were two occurrences of ‘Spinning Wheelmakers’ in the censuses.
James McRae,who was born to the Turner & Wheelwright John McRae and his wife Ann in about 1845 became a Spinning-Wheel Maker by 1901.
His is not the earliest record however because in the census of 1891 we find 68 year-old Donald Macdonald, a ‘Spinning Wheelmaker’ living with his wife & family at 25 Bayhead St in Stornoway:
1891
Donald Macdonald, 68, Spinning Wheel Maker, 25 Bayhead St, b. Stornoway
Margaret Macdonald, 64, Wife, b. Stornoway
Bell Macdonald, 36, General Servant, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Murdo Macdonald, 34, Cooper, Son, b. Greenock, Renfrew
Aulay Macdonald, 27, Baker, Son, b. Stornoway
Donald Macdonald, 44(?), Apprentice Clerk, Grandson, b. Glasgow
Obviously I wanted to discover more about Donald and his family and this single record already provides additional information beyond names and approximate years of birth::
At some time around 1857 (and perhaps for a protracted period between 1855 and 1864) the Macdonald’s, or at least Mrs Margaret Macdonald, were in Greenock where their son Murdo had been born.
One of the children had moved to Glasgow and produced Donald the Grandson but this Donald’s age appears likely to be incorrectly recorded?
1881
Donald Macdonald, 57, Wheelwright, 19 Bayhead St, b. Stornoway
Margaret Macdonald, 55, Wife, b. Stornoway
Bella Macdonald, 25, General Servant (Domestic), Daughter, Stornoway
Murdo Macdonald, 24, Cooper, Son, b. Greenock, Renfrew
Colin Macdonald, 19, Wheelwright, Son, b. Stornoway
Aulay Macdonald, 17, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
So a decade earlier they were a few houses nearer to the centre of Stornoway with both Donald and a son who we hadn’t met before, Colin, working as Wheelwrights. Murdo was already Coopering.
1871
Donald Mcdonald, 48, Ship Carpenter, 18 Bayhead St, b. Stornoway
Margaret Mcdonald, 43, Wife, b. Stornoway
Isabella Mcdonald, 18, General Servant, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Donald Mcdonald, 18, Apprentice Turner, Son, b Stornoway
Murdo Mcdonald, 14, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Catherine Mcdonald, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Colin John Macdonald, 9, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Aulay Mcdonald, 7, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
So from this we learn of an older son, Donald, who was an Apprentice Turner whilst his father was working as a Ship Carpenter.
Isabella hadn’t yet adopted the diminutive forms of her name, Bella & Bell, but we now know that she wasn’t for example, an ‘Annabella’ and Colin was originally Colin John. Two small details but of the kind that can prove useful clues sometimes!
Note also that in this record, Murdo is erroneously shown as having been born in Stornoway and hence if I had been looking for Murdo Macdonald’s born in Greenock around 1857 he would have slipped through the net.
1861
Donald Mcdonald, 37, Carpenter, 11, Bayhead St, b. Stornoway
Margaret Mcdonald, 33, wife, b. Stornoway
William Macdonald, 14, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
John Mcdonald, 12, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Bella Mcdonald, 9, Scholar, Daughter, b. Stornoway
Donald Mcdonald, 7, Scholar, Son, b. Stornoway
Murdo Mcdonald, 4, Son, b. Greenock, Renfrewshire
Ann Mcdonald, 2, Daughter, b. Greenock, Renfrewshire
Colin John Mcdonald, 3 months, b. Stornoway
The family are even closer to town and, coincidentally, are in the house that my grandfather was born in some 14 years later. We see William and Ann for the first time and Greenock-born Ann lends credence to the whole family having spent at least a couple of years in Greenock around the year 1858.
1851
Donald Mcdonald, 28, Joiner, Bayhead, b. Stornoway
Margaret Mcdonald, 24, Wife, b. Stornoway
William Mcdonald, 4, son, b. Stornoway
John Mcdonald, 2, Son, b. Stornoway
Here we see the family in its infancy but in the street that they would live in for at least another 40 years.
1841
Isabella McDonald, 45, Mill St, b. Ross and Cromarty
Donald MacDonald, 19, Carpenter’s Apprentice, b. Ross & Cromarty
John MacDonald, 17, b. Ross & Cromarty
Colin MacDonald, 12, b. Ross & Cromarty
William Macdonald, 12, b. Ross & Cromarty
I cannot be sure that this is the correct family but, in addition to the young man Donald’s occupation we also have the names of his mother (presumably) and brothers, names that he would give to his own children and which are a hugely valuable indication that Donald Mcdonald, who became one of only two of Stornoway’s ‘Spinning Wheel Makers’ and spent his entire working life in Bayhead, began learning his craft when at the family home in Mill Street, that offshoot of Bayhead that I discussed in the piece on Stornoway’s Millers.
I am not attempting to track the whole family and, for example, there’s still the mystery of the Glaswegian grandson, but for the sake of completeness here’s what I have found for 1901:
It appears that Donald and Margaret had either passed-away or moved away from Stornoway.
Of the four children who had been with them in 1891, I have discovered the following:
Isabella/Bella/Bell Mcdonald isn’t to be found. There is one who at first sight appears to fit for she is living with her brother Murdo, but when we discover that their mother is a Christina Macdonald we can exclude them both. Bell may have married, moved or died young.
There is a Murdo Mcdonald who is a Cooper of the correct age living at 3 Laxdale, Stornoway with his wife Donaldina and their 1 year-old daughter Margaret. He is shown as a Stornowegian but there are none of his name who were Greenock-born to be found.
Aulay the Baker, now aged 37, we find visiting the Blacksmith’s House in Garrabost which is home to the Blacksmith William Mcdonald and his wife Sarah. I think it is reasonable to conjecture that Aulay has led us to his oldest brother who we last met as a Scholar back in 1861.
This is not by any means the whole story of this family but merely a beginning that I hope is of interest both for what it tells us about them whilst also demonstrating something of the higgledy-piggledy manner by which I meander along the genealogical way…