Calum Mòr’s Family

William Matheson, Mac Gille Chaluim, wrote extensively of his own family in Uig:

Malcolm Matheson [a younger son of Donald Ruadh (or Ban) Matheson, of Kneep and Valtos] known as Calum Ruadh or Calum Mòr, was tenant in Carnish when John Nicolson was tacksman.  In his time the population of the townlands of Uig was increasing rapidly, with the result that what were previously summer pasturages came to be occupied permanently by some of the tenantry.   Thus it was that Calum Ruadh, although a tenant in Carnish, actually lived at Ard Bheag on the shores of Loch Resort, at leat during part of his life.  He married Mary, daughter of Norman Morrison (Tarmod Caol), Brenish.

Calum Mor was a man of impressive proportions, while his wife could only be described as diminutive.  There is an amusing story which illustrates their disparity in this respect.  She became ill and required medical attention.  The two doctors in the island were resident one in Stornoway and one in Tarbert, Harris.  Calum met the situation by slinging his wife on his back in a creel, and so she was conveyed all the way from Ard Bheag to the doctor’s consulting room at Tarbert.

Among their sons was Norman, Tarmod Beag, who lived at Carnish and was a merchant.  For a time he was in partnership with Malcolm Maclean, brother of Rev Peter Maclean, as joint owner with him of a vessel in which they made trading voyages north and south.  Tarmod Beag was a good piper and in consequence was much sought after for the army.  The attempt was made several times to impress him.  Once he was waylaid at Oban and only made his escape through the good offices of a merchant of the town, Alexander Sinclair by name, who kep him in hiding until the danger was past.  He called his eldest son after this Alexander Sinclair.  Norman lived during the latter part of his life at Aird and was married to Christina, daughter of Angus Macritchie (Aonghas MacFhionnlaigh) Carnish and had a large family.

Another son, Donald, Domhnall Ruadh Beag, had an adventurous career.  In early life he was press-ganged and thereafter apparently spent a number of years in America.  Having eventually found his way back to Lewis, he married and settled down in Pennydonald, where he appears as a tenant in the rental of 1823, but between 1825 and 1828 he removed to Carishader.  There is a saying about him in Uig, “Domhnall Ruadh Beag a chuir eagal a bheatha air Mac an t-Sronaich.”  It appears that on one occasion, as he was making his way across the moor to visit his brother Norman, he was espied at a distance by the outlaw, Mac an t-Sronaich.  The day was warm and Domhnall Ruadh Beag was walking through the knee-high heather in his drawers with his trousers draped round his head and shoulders.  The outlaw made to intercept him, but on nearer view, unable to see how the squat, fore-shortened weirdly-garbed figure could belong to the world of men, he ignominiously turned and fled.

Another version of this story in circulation in Uig tells that Donald was heading over the moors to Hamnaway with a rolled-up fishing net on his shoulders, also with bare legs, and Mac an t-Sronaich took fright when he couldn’t make sense of this large black figure with bare white legs.

Donald and his wife Catherine Cambell (1796-1885) had several daughters and two sons, Murdo and William.  William was renowned for his strength and was reputed to be the last man in Uig able to perform the task required of the banaichean Mhicleoid (Macleod’s bodyguard), namely with his bare hands wrenching off below the knee the leg of a slaughtered cow.  One of the daughters was lost in a snowdrift near Loch Resort in 1864.