Fishing Boats in Uig

no images were found

Many thanks to Donald J Macleod of Enaclete and Bridge of Don for his research into the fishing boats of Uig. He adds that these boats used lines and not trawls to catch white fish. It was the end of March and beginning of April that was known as the ‘Hungry month’ in Gaelic as fish did not take the bait. See the chart. I’m not sure where this leaves our Rose (above), apparently SY 47 – more research required.

The following Uig fishing boats were registered between 1900 and 1912:

Maggie SY 417, owned by W. Matheson and others, Kneep.
Clan MacAulay SY 496, owned by Donald MacAulay, Islivig.
Florence SY 750, owned by J. MacRae, Timsgarry.
Julia SY 384, owned by J. MacLennan and others, Valtos.
Pride of Harris SY 620, owned by A. MacAulay, Valtos.
Mabel Scott SY 594, owned by A. MacAulay, Valtos.
Brothers SY 754, owned by M. Buchanan, Valtos.
Maggie Jane SY 664, owned by Hector Matheson, Valtos.
Lord Lothian SY 251, owned by D. MacKay, Crowlista.
Admiral SY 492, owned by Malcolm MacLeod and others, Crowlista.
D. MacLeod SY 598, owned by D. MacDonald, Crowlista.
Stephanus SY 161, owned by J. MacDonald, Crowlista. He was drowned in the Iolaire disaster on 1 January 1919.

There were also many small family boats and though fishing they were not registered, for example Enaclete and Ungishader had eight boats between, belonging to Donald MacLeod 1 Enaclete, John MacDonald, Croft 1a Enaclete, Donald MacLeod 3 Enaclete, John MacRitchie 4 Enaclete, John MacDonald 6 Enaclete, John MacLeod 1 Ungeshader, Malcolm Morrison 1b Ungeshader, and Peter MacLean (Coll) 3 Ungeshader. These boats were not registered but fished with lines and herring nets.  During WW2 I remember herring being fished in Little Loch Roag, and Loch Drovernish had a small sweet herring that was very popular.

Some of the boats were built locally and others were bought. Before the Clearances there were a number of boatbuilders in Uig including John MacLeod, Carishader, MacDonald, Enaclete and the renowned MacLeans. Donald MacLeod, 1 Enaclete, bought his Zulu designed boat from an East Coat fisherman at the Flannan Isles and sailed the boat to Enaclete.

There were many netmakers in the parish though a number of nets were handmade in the homes from hemp yarn. These were eventually replaced by less bulky cotton machine-woven nets, which were deeper and longer. Rev Hugh Munro, states in the first Statistical Account about 1795 that there were 275 netmakers in the Uig Parish at that time. To have this number of netmakers gives us an idea how heavily populated Uig was before the ethic cleansing of the population by the Clearances.  The second half of the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries (before the heavy Clearances) were prosperous times in Lewis when cattle, herring, dried salted fish, dogfish oil, blanketing and hides were exported to the mainland and to the European continent. Ships from Lewis used to sail directly to the continent.

Heavy losses in WW1, the Iolaire disaster and emigration resulted in the virtual demise of the Uig fishing fleet, as by 1924 there were only two fishing boats registered in Uig:

Mairidh Bheag SY 306, owned by Norman Morrison, Valtos.
Johanna Macleod SY 1159, owned by Malcolm Smith, Valtos.

In 1926 there were two other boats registered: Johanna MacLeod SY 1159 (Ex-Valtos) now owned by Malcolm MacLeod, Crowlista and the Bosta SY 1171 owned by Donald MacLeod who may also be from Crowlista.  Murdo MacSween, Valtos, also owned a boat that fished in the 1920s or 1930s.

In 1940 the only registered fishing boats in Uig were in Valtos:

Flora SY 34, owned by D. MacIver.
Annie SY 178, owned by J.MacDonald.
Annie Lowrie SY 207, owned by A. Morrison, previously owned by K. MacDonald. (possibly should be Annie Lawrie)
Rose SY 281, owned by G. MacLeod.
Mairidh Bheag SY 306, owned by Norman Morrison.
Olive SY 342, owned by N. Morrison.
Rosebud SY 552, owned by D. MacLennan and others. This was the largest of these boats at 8.17 tons.

In 1951 there was only one Uig boat fishing out of Stornoway, the Kilda SY 346 owned by Kenneth J. MacKay, Valtos, and others. Another member of the crew was Donald MacDonald, Reef. They fished for white fish. Kenneth J. MacKay, a noted footballer, later emigrated to Australia with his family.

©Donald J. MacLeod, ex 1 Enaclete, Uig.  January, 2009.