Rev Aulay Macaulay and Tarmod Cleireach

The Reverend Aulay Macaulay was born in Brenish in 1669, son of Dugald, grandson of Angus Beag Macaulay, he of the big stone and the critical wife, and brother of Donald Òg.  Aulay started his career in Tiree and Coll and was minister at Scarista, Harris from 1712 until his death in 1758.   He was married to Margaret Morrison, daughter of Rev Kenneth Morrison of Stornoway, and they had fourteen children; one of them, Rev Kenneth Macaulay, Ardnamurchan, wrote an account of St Kilda, and another, Rev John Macaulay, Inveraray, was the father of the abolitionist Zachary Macaulay and grandfather to the writer and MP Thomas Babbington Macaulay.  Dr Johnson visited both John and Aulay on his famous tour of the Hebrides.

According to Capt FWL Thomas’s Traditions of the Macaulays “Maighstir Amhlaigh” was “much esteemed for his piety, benevolence and conduct” and very rigorous in his duties. Thomas relates several stories that include Norman Maciver, Tarmod Cleireach, who was his kirk-officer and a bard, and as another Uigeach, often accompanied Aulay on his journeys home, which would have been on foot over the hills. The following is from Thomas’s book.

When they were returning home to Harris [after a visit to Uig] they both got very tired with their long day’s travel, and towards evening sat down to rest by a spring on the hills of Luskentyre. They were both very hungry, and as Norman had some graddan [grain husked by briefly holding it in a flame, rather than in a kiln] with him in his bag, which his mother had sent to his wife, he mixed some with a little water and made two large lumps. They began to eat with much eagerness, and when Mr Aulay had made considerable progress with his cnap up jumped Norman and addressed some advancing travellers with “Your most humble servant,” and “How do you do?” Up sprang Mr Aulay in a hurry, throwing away the remainder of his cnap, but there was nobody there. Mr Aulay set off home as fast as he could, and the next day remonstrated with Norman about his tricks, but he excused himself by saying that he was afraid the minister was wasting time, and he wanted him to proceed on his journey.

There was a meeting of Presbytery at the house of Macleod of Bernera[y], Harris, which was attended by the Rev Aulay Macaulay and his faithful kirk-officer, Tarmod Cleireach. The ministers’ servants had a room to themselves and got beef and broth for their dinner. There was then the custom of Lettrimaid, that is, the beef and broth were both placed on the table together in the same large dish or bowl. It happened that Norman was one day late in coming to dinner and his greedy messmates had eaten all the meat, but they had not begun on the broth for it was scalding hot. Norman came in, and finding that his share of the beef had been eaten, he lifted the large bowl of broth and poured it over them. The screams of the scalded lads brought everybody to the spot, but Norman went off and hid himself under some hay in a barn. The next day Norman left his retreat, and defended himself before the assembled clergymen with so much spirit that he was excused. Mr Aulay was afraid he should still go on with his tricks, for, being born a bard, he was allowed to do almost anything he liked.

Tarmod Cleireach was retained as kirk-officer till Mr Aulay died [in 1758], and the minister on his deathbed desired that his much-beloved friend and servant should, when he died, be buried beside him; and the two rest together immediately within what was the door of the church, and on the right hand side as you enter.