A Hundred Years On, or Lewis in the Age of Stubble

From Eilean an Fhraoich, December 1965

In April 1925 – a year late – the churches in Stornoway held a special service to commemorate the centenary of the coming to Uig of Rev Alexander Macleod, who, in the words of one of the speakers at the gathering, “was the first Christian minister in modern times who really brought the Gospel in its evangelical fullness to the people of this island.”

But the speaker, Rev Roderick Morison, went on to emphasise that the qualification “in modern times” was important. Too many people in Lewis seemed to have the idea that in celebrating Macleod’s advent to Lewis they were celebrating the very first blink of Gospel light in the island. There had been a continuous history of Christian teaching in Lewis, he said, from the early ages of Christianity in Scotland, and in more recent times the soil had been prepared for Macleod by other preachers who had set up schools in which the people were taught to read the Bible in Gaelic.*

As a result of the revival set in motion by Macleod, a crop of godly laymen grew up in Lewis. “I can remember some of them myself,” he said. “Broad-minded, large-hearted, intelligent, sunny Christians, not all of the same type, not all equally intelligent, but, taken as a class, incomparably superior to the generation that immediately followed them. It has been said, with what measure of truth it is not for me to say, that the three generations succeeding Macleod’s day are by comparison as gold, silver and bronze. Are we in the bronze age now? Or even lower still, at the age of wood, hay, stubble?”

The question was asked, but not answered in 1925. What age are we in now, in Lewis forty years later?

*It seems Rev Macleod would not have agreed with this, as least as far as his parishioners in Uig were concerned, as in his diary of June 1824 he wrote:

After discovering the gross ignorance that universally prevailed in the parish I found that I would require to begin the very first principles of Christianity with them, and to make it my great care and study how to come to a level with their untutored capacities, so as to render the truths delivered intelligible to them.