Parish of Uig, 1749

A letter from the minister at Baile na Cille, Norman Morrison, to a committee of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, dated 15th October 1749.

Reverend Sir,

In return to the queries sent to us from your committee appointed by the late General Assembly for preparing a plan for the augmentation of ministers’ stipends as far as they concern this Parish of Uig, the following report serves to inform you:-

First. That the stipends of this Parish of Uig amount to 800 marks Scots money, all paid in money – the one half at Martinmas and the other half payable at Whitsunday thereafter, by my Lord Seaforth, sole Heritor of the Parish. There is no allowance granted to the minister of this Parish for Communion elements, but 30 shillings sterling of these 800 marks of stipends are allotted for that use, as will appear from our general decreet of locality, dated 19th December 1722 (on page 27). The glebe as it is measured, and supposing it were set in tack, the yearly rent of it will only come to £30 Scots, and for grass distinct from the glebe there is no allowance granted in land or money, but liberty of the mountain which is of no value to the minister in any season of the year. The fuel in this Parish is more changeable than any that knows it now well readily credits, and is a considerable burden upon the 773 marks stipend.

Second. The Parish in length extends to 18 miles, from Mealista on the west to Dunmelassoe on the east side; and 10 miles broad, from Bailnakill, where the manse, church and glebe are, on the north side to Keurresord on the south, where it terminates with the country of Harris. In this Parish there are four islands – namely Berneray More, Berneray Beg, Wina and Pabbay. The passages of these are all the seasons of the year very dangerous, upon which account the minister, in order to discharge the duties of his function, lies under the necessity of keeping up and maintaining upon his own Parish charges, a large boat and a crew of six men, which every year stands him not less that 160 marks Scots money per annum. Two great arms of the sea divide this Parish – one of these called Loch Roag, 4 miles broad, running ten miles long within land towards the mountains in the bosom of which, near the wide ocean, lies the island of Berneray More, the second place of public worship where the minister must preach every third Sabbath; and Berneray Beg, separated by a narrow channel, both 5 miles in length and 2? miles broad, and inhabited both by 67 families and 180 examinable persons. And most of these islands, in the bosom of the said bay, lies Wina and Pabbay, separated from land by a channel 12 miles broad, and having 5 families and 18 examinable persons.

The other bay, dividing the Parish on the east side, called Kenhauluvig, 7 miles long running within land, and 2 miles broad, and both these large arms of the sea very throng inhabited on all sides and corners. In this Parish also there are three broad rapid rivers, seldom passable but in the summer time of the year. There are also in this Parish, including the inhabitants of the said four islands, 259 families and 1,247 souls, and of these 1,053 examinable persons; and of that whole number there are not eight souls, young or old, that can read the scriptures, and have neither school nor catechist, or never had in my time, amongst them, nor could I have obtained it, although I oftener than once made application for it, and this being the most remote Parish on this side of Scotland.

The case of these starving souls might challenge sympathy and charity at the hands of the managers of the Royal Bounty and the members of the committee for reformation of the Highlands and Islands, and propagating Christian knowledge. From Berneray Mor, the second place of worship in Uig Parish, there are 10 miles of deep mountain road, besides the bay of Kenhauluvig, and to Barvas, on the other hand, 15 miles; from the manse to Stornoway, the Presbytery seat for ordinary, 24 miles, besides Loch Roag bay; from the manse to Glenelg, the ordinary place of the meeting of our Synod, 24 miles by land and 26 leagues by sea; and from the manse of this Parish to Kinghorn, 300 miles sea and land.

Third. The tithes of the whole country, which are commonly paid in cows and sheep, distinct from land rent and tack duties, are all set in tack to one John Maclver, tacksman of Dalmore for which he pays 2,100 marks Scots money to my Lord Seaforth yearly, he being titular proprietor of all the tithes in the country, and the king patron of all the parishes in it, and of the said tack there are three years yet to run after Whitsunday last, 1749. The whole land-rents, and tack-duties of this Parish, distinct from the tithes and casualties, amount to the sum of 6,239 marks 12 shillings and 4 pounds Scots money. There are no vacant parishes in this country; all our parishes are planted.

Such members of this Presbytery as are resolved to make due returns to the queries of your committee by some means or other have such a grand difficulty to make their report, according to all the particulars demanded in the fourth query and its appendix, that the few reports that will be sent to you from us can be attended with no greater authority than every particular minister his own attestation; and as this is my case, the foresaid facts, in name and by appointment of the said committee as above, are given at Uig the 15th day of October, 1749 years, and attested by R.D.B.

From affectionate brother and most humble servant in the Lord.

(signed) Norman Morrison

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