Comann Eachdraichd Uig

Murdo Crola

Crola from the Harris side

An account of the life of Murdo Macdonald, Crola, held by Bernera Historical Society (author unknown).

Although Murdo Macdonald was an Uigeach, born and bred, and of Uig parents, he was well known in Scarp and North Harris where many of his relations lived. His paternal grandmother was one of a well-known family of Macleans from Scarp while four of his father’s family (three sisters and a brother) married Scarpaich. These family connections caused him and his family to have constant intercourse between the two places.

Born on 13 January 1907 at Crola, Kinlochresort, son of Calum Macdonald and Catherine Maciver from Callanish, he was the youngest of the family. An older sister Kate, lived to an old age, while a brother Donald died in infancy. His father’s family originated from Skye and were said to be descended from the Macdonalds of Glencoe.

The Macdonald family were shepherds and were for some time employed at Bedersaig, North Harris. After one of the infamous clearances we find that John, Murdo’s grandfather, moved to Tealasvay in Uig, and afterwards to Crola, while his brother Donald moved to Luachair and afterwards to Cravadale as gamekeeper. The rest of the family left the district altogether.

From a very early age Murdo showed an exceptional ability for memorising anything he heard.

An Dotair Ruadh

Valtos and Kneep

(picture of Valtos and Kneep by Chris Murray)

An Dotair Ruadh, Donald Macaulay, seventh in line from Dòmhnall Càm, was the son of Dòmhnall mac Sheorais, the tacksman of Linshader who himself became something of a legend because of his size and strength. His son has come down in tradition as equally renowned, but for being something of a chancer. He was a brother of Lily Macaulay who married Rev Robert Finlayson of Lochs, and it seems was also a cousin of Mac an t-Sronaich.

William Matheson reports that he was a small man in black with a red beard and a fiery temper. He studied medicine at Aberdeen but never practiced formally, apparently because he had been expected to succeed Dr Miller in Stornoway and when he was disappointed, he turned to farming instead.

He took a series of tacks, and seems to have made a practice of withholding the rent because of some alleged failure of the proprietor, and going to court over it.

An Saighdear Chaluim Bhain

Donald Matheson, an Saighdear Chaluim Bhain, was a son of Malcolm Matheson (Calum Bàn) of Valtos and Crowlista.  (Calum Bàn has some interesting ancestors who can be found by following the lines back via Hebridean Connections.)  Donald was born in the 1740s and joined the army, serving at the siege of Louisbourg in 1758, and later with the 78th Seaforth Highlanders in India and Ireland. He returned to Uig where he married Chirsty Macdonald and had a large family.

One of their children, also Donald, joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1815 and was offered land in Manitoba, but came back to Lewis in 1821.  He married Helen Maciver of Carnish and lived in Timsgarry until they emigrated to Nova Scotia; three of their children were born in Lewis and nine more in Canada.  After Donald Sr. died in 1831, his widow Chirsty joined the rest of the family across the sea.

The following song, An Saighdear Chaluim Bhain, is said to have been written for Donald Sr during his time as a soldier in Ireland, though whether by Chirsty is unknown.

Hi horaibhe hoirinn hoirinn
Hi horaibhe hoirinn ail
Hi horaibhe, och is eileadh
Leamsa b’eibhinn d’fhaicinn slan.

Chuir iad thu air tìr an Eirinn
‘S aotram bha do cheum air sràid
Chuir iad umad dèise an t-saighdear
Bu fhèin an diaman a-measg chàich.