Letter from Rev Alexander Macleod to his Benefactress

A rather long letter from Rev Alexander Macleod, Baile na Cille, to his “benefactress” Lady Hood, Mrs Stewart Mackenzie, written some six months after his arrival in Uig.

 Manse of Uig


30th November 1824


Honourable and Dear Madam,


It is time that I should acknowledge your very friendly letter from Brighton dated on the 18th July which I duly received a Cromarty.  As I do not apprehend that you have for once supposed that my long silence arose from ingratitude to so generous a benefactress and a valuable friend it would be doing us both a degree of injustice to offer any apology for my long silence on that score.  My being so closely engaged in the exercise of my Parochial and Sacramental duties since I came to the country have necessarily taken up so much of my time that I was obliged to limit the extent of my correspondence to pressing duties and urgent necessity.


You will be gratified to hear that the work of the Lord is still prospering in this island.  The thirst of the inhabitants for religious instruction is increasing daily and Gospel obedience and Gospel fruits as characteristic of those who profess the Lord, evidence that they are subjects of divine Grace.  I am convinced that you will also be interested to learn that we feel happy here though we miss considerably the good society that we left behind us in the east corner of Ross-shire.  The repairs and additions to the Manse and Offices are still going on and I trust that one our present inconveniences will be over we will comfortably situated.  My greatest regret and inconvenience now is the want of a church; the attendance at divine services is so regular and the population to great that up to this date I have not preached within doors but once since my settlement in the Parish; and though I was apprehensive that preaching in the open air might prove injurious to my health being not in the habit of it.  Yet blessed the God I feed no bad effects from it.  I am convinced that I would be disposed to put up with inconveniences to oblige you so far as possible but with many more from the consideration of being made the honoured instrument gaining souls to Christ, yea to go through any difficulty in the strength of divine Grace for the sake of preaching the Everlasting Gospel successfully to immortal souls; and for attending the Dominion of Immanuel’s Realm and sure I am to say the least of it, that no place in this kingdom stood in most need of hearing the Gospel trumpet than this corner.


Now on the subject of a new church, I think it quite unnecessary for me to say anything as I firmly believe that you and Seaforth are warmly disposed to promote Zion’s interest in this place and as this request of building a church with the least possible delay is so reasonable it being indispensably necessary and through confidence in your Christian zeal and humility, I would humbly suggest that I conceived, and do believe that you will deem it your honoured duty to meet the Lord’s work and people in this place by giving the accommodation so much needed.


The work of the Lord having been so deplorably neglected in this Parish there is no sacramental tables or cloth or any of the things needed on such a solemn occasion in the Parish so that I am much afraid that I will not be able to have the sacrament here next summer, God willing, which if I will not have matters arranged for that purpose will be a great disappointment and a matter of deep regret to myself and others.  My Glebe will not be fixed till some time next year as the people in the neighbourhood claim the first crop having not been warned in time indeed, if it should be as agreeable to the Proprietor I have no wish to have any of the lands in their possession included in my glebe seeing that some of them are foolishly disposed to blame me for their removal and fearing that this circumstance may render my Gospel ministration unsuccessful among those few of my parishioners.


I am at a loss for what of a few sheep for the use of the table and we would consider it a particular favour if you would take this circumstance under consideration and make an allowance, grazing a few sheep for that purpose anywhere in the hills near to the Glebe.  The Gospel has a blessed tendency of gathering friends often and from various places and the ministers of the Gospel are commanded to be given to hospitality.  I have no wish to be very particular on this subject or in stating how much we have to do this way as it will always be our delight to entertain the followers of Christ so far as we shall be able and enabled.


You will be gratified to hear that after stating the scarcity of the means of education in this Parish to the Directors of Edinburgh Gaelic Scottish Society, they have agreed to give us three teachers who have commenced their operations on the 1st of November.  I have also appointed another six promising young lads for teaching the reading of the scriptures in other small farms and have only a small trifle from the inhabitants for their services – the said Directors have also granted me 100 copies of the Gaelic Bible, 100 copies of the GNT [Gaelic New Testament] and 200 copies of Gaelic Scriptures extracts to be gratuitously distributed.  I have also received a number of Religious Tracts from Dundee.  I regret that I have not copies for distribution of Boston’s … of Dexters and Allans alarm in Gaelic as their perusal in this island have been already eminently useful and would be now extensively read with benefit had we more of them.  May we get more help and may all the means already employed by accompanied with the Excellency of the Power which is from the Lord.


The Parish never had a Catechist and I am to apply for one to the Directors of the Royal Bounty in Edinburgh.  I now humbly beg leave to acquaint you that my younger brother has been for two years past employed as Clerk in the Auditors office in Bombay.  When I was residing in Dundee I took the liberty of writing to the Honourable Stewart Elphinstoun in his favour who took so much notice of my letter at the time as to put down my brother’s name immediately in his memorandum book, and I now find by a letter from him that Governor had selected him on the 8th of September 1823 to be his Excellency’s Confidential Clerk.  As I learn that you have considerable influence with the Governor may I humbly request that you would condescend to recommend my brother, and he may find him deserving – which with other favours and obligations not to be forgotten will still sweeten their grateful remembrance.  Had I not every confidence in my brother as one whose uniform good conduct and respectable abilities will justify and application in his favour by, and to such distinguished personages as you and the Governor.  I would be the last that would take upon me to solicit your interest in his behalf but the Governor’s good opinion of him convinces me that His Excellency will have great pleasure in giving particular attention to your application in his favour and as my brother is so highly delighted with his Master’s conduct towards him he cherishes a sanguine hope that your interest will ensure him a long continuation in His Service.  I cannot be too grateful to His Excellency for all the kindness he has already shown to my most beloved and favourite brother.


Since writing this letter we have heard that that the Lewis Packet was put in to the Orkneys but this is no correct account as yet.  It is from confidence in your good wishes to me that I have used the liberty of making mention of my brother.  I have to make an apology for such a long Epistle I feel not a little ashamed at this moment for troubling you so much by stating so many things.


Mrs Macleod joins me in offering our most respectful regards to you and Seaforth and praying the Lord be with you, bless, direct and protect you in all your ways.


I am Honoured Dear Madam with much affection and esteem your unworthy correspondent

Alexander Macleod


PS… so that the parish of Stornoway is now vacant.  It is evident that no place in the Highlands has more need of a faithful minister than Stornoway and I most sincerely pray that the Lord may direct you to present one to this important part of your property who will have the glory of God and the good of souls at heart.  I rejoice to think that you and Seaforth will consider this opening as an opportunity afforded you to the more useful and honoured to extend the Dominion of our Immanuals Realm.  We are commanded to quit ourselves like men in the cause of Christ and to be valiant for the truth on the earth.  Ever Honourable Madam, yours most humbly

A Macleod


PPS It will be most gratifying to us however early you may find it convenient to humour us with a letter so as to hear how you and the children enjoy health.