• A Memorable Sunday in Lewis

    by  • 2 August 2010 • Featured Notes, Military & Police, WWI • 0 Comments

    Enthusiastic demonstration
    The Highland News, Saturday 8 August, 1914

    Last Sunday [2 August 1914] will be a memorable one in Lewis. During the night the Mercantile Marine authorities at Stornoway received instruction to mobilise the Royal Naval Reserve. On Sunday afternoon motor cars were dispatched to all parts of the island with notices summoning the men to report themselves at Stornoway, but earlier in the day the news had become generally known through intimations made from the pulpits of the various churches, all the ministers having been officially wired to, asking them to announce the mobilisation. The proclamation affected not only every hamlet in Lewis but practically every family in the island.

    How often have successive Governments been reminded in memorials from the crofters and fishermen of Lewis, as a claim to have their grievances remedied, that the “entire manhood of the island was trained to arms?” in this statement there was no exaggeration, for out of a rural population of 26,000, some 2000 men are connected with the Royal Naval Reserve, while about 1200 are enlisted in the Seaforth, Cameron and Gordon Militias, besides which the island contributes its fair quota to the regular Army and Navy.
    The commotion occasioned in the homes of Lewis by this unprecedented breach in the customary Sabbath calm may be imagined. The men themselves made a commendably prompt response, practically every available man having found his way to Stornoway by Monday evening.

    “And they left their nets”

    On Sunday the Customs officers and police visited the fishing boats lying at Stornoway and instructed all Naval Reservists, no matter where they hailed from, to report themselves at the Mercantile Marine Office, and about fifty men from the boats were thus sent away by the mail steamer that night, en route for Chatham. Many of the fishermen had to go leaving their nets on the fields where they had spread them on Saturday, while a number of the East Coast boats have to lay up here on account of their crews being depleted. As for the local fleet, with the exception of time-expired Reservists, hardly a fisherman is left.

    On Monday 430 men were sent on to Chatham where they will meet with hundreds more of Lewismen who were called up at Fraserburgh, Peterhead and other fishing ports, as well as Rosyth, etc.* The men who were conveyed across the Minch by the steamers Claymore and Sheila, had an enthusiastic send-off. The cheers of the large crowds which gathered at the steamers’ quay were joined by the sirens of the steam drifters and other shipping which kept up a deafening din till the steamers had rounded the beacon.

    The mobilisation of the Militias and Territorials, after the Naval Reservists, has practically denuded Lewis of its able-bodied male population. It is safe to say that no other district in the British Isles has contributed its manhood in such proportion as Lewis.

    * Those working at mainland ports such as Fraserburgh were not allowed to return home first, but were required to report immediately to the depot.

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