Rev David Watson’s Boundary Dispute

David Watson was ordained as minister of Uig in 1845 but as the congregation had mostly migrated to the Free Church, his Church remained largely empty. He was at odds with the people and the estate, as the following notes in the 1851 diary (published by Acair) of the Chamberlain John Munro Mackenzie attest:

Thursday 13 February

Walked to the Manse of Uig and found Mr Watson busy planting potatoes and clearing his arable land of Stones with a number of men employed. Went to the Parish School [at Taigh Chiosamuil] & found it quite crowded there being more than 40 scholars present, and on enquiring the cause was told that Mr Watson gave notice to the people that unless they sent their children to school he would pindfold every sheep & cow of theirs he found on his grass – He expects to get the parents to attend his Church in the same way but I fear he will be disappointed.

Monday 24 March

Went to office and was engaged meeting parties viz… Rev Mr Watson regarding claim for damages for not clearing his farm of Mr Mitchell and small tenants at Whitsunday last, tho’ he agreed and wished to accommodate Mitchelll – Got him to sign a Minute drawn up by Mr [Donald] Munro agreeing to withdrawing his claim & promised to give him the small place of Miavaig which lies into his farm, there are three small tenants here at present occupying it who can be removed to Carishader in place of those going to America.

Thursday 15 May

Went to office and was engaged meeting & paying Ministers Stipends & Schoolmasters salaries — The Rev Mr Watson produced a most extraordinary a/c of £31 made up of various idle claims for damages for mans not being repaired, damages to pasture etc etc which I denied & refused payment in toto and stated to Mr Watson my surprise at his presenting such an a/c – He replied that he would not have done so but that he was hard pressed for cash, having to pay the whole of his stipend for his stock, I offered to give him some delay in the payment of £20 to £30 if he withdrew the a/c which he refused but wished to refer it which I refused as I considered the whole to be absurd –

Tuesday 22 May

Had meeting with the Rev Mr Watson Uig who objects to paying rent, saying that he did not get possession of his farm, Mitchell & his sub tenants not having been removed – These parties got notice of removal but were allowed to remain Mr Watson having arranged with them, and even took rent – Mr Watson offers to pay his rent & admit that he got possession if I agree to give him what he calls good marches, I refused to make any conditions with him till he paid his rent, and threatened to sequestrate if he did not pay at once –

Monday 28 July

Meeting various parties from the country, Rev Mr Watson Uig regarding alterations of boundaries asked by him for his farm, and stated that he would not pay his rent till the marches were altered. I told him that nothing would or could be done for him till the rent was paid, and then if it was found that the marches could be altered without injuring the neighbouring farms the matter would be considered – He still holds out against paying his rent.

Monday 11 August

Met the Rev Mr Watson who came to complain of Mitchell not keeping his cattle on the part of the farm allotted to him by Mr W – Told ground officer to warn Mitchell that if he did not attent to Mr Watson’s instructions he would lose his holding being Mr Watson’s subtenant.

Wednesday 17 September

Proceeded up Loch Roag by boat to Ceann Langabhat, walked to the Parish School House where we got rooms and put up there not being on very good terms with Mr Watson, besides we will have more time to ourselves & be less disturbed here, and as we have carried our own provisions with us and pay for any trouble we give we can be more at ease than living on Mr Watson who grudged the expense we put him to.

Saturday 20 September

Mr Watson having expressed a great desire to arrange matters amicably & stated that he would sacrifice £40 for the sake of peace – I wrote out a minute which I got him & Mitchell to sign referring the valuation of the portion of the farm occupied by Mitchell & payable by him to Mr Watson to Mr Cameron and John Macrae, Mr Mitchell ceding all right to the Island of Vaxay and agreeing to crop no part of the farm, Mr Watson giving him 5 acres in the glebe park for that purpose and wintering on the Glebe for his young Cattle stock. Mr Mitchell to leave the farm at Whitsunday 1852 if required to do so by Mr Watson – both parties seemed perfectly satisfied with this arrangement and Mr Watson agreed to withdraw all claims for damages on account of the farm not being cleared on the arrangement being carried out by Mitchell – I promised Mitchell a small holding elsewhere if he performed his part of the Contract.

Thursday 2 October

Went to the office and was detained there till 3pm endeavouring to arrange with the Rev Mr Watson Uig – when there he promised that if I would give him a little indulgence in the bill due by him for Stock he would pay part of it and part of his rent as he expected to receive money for Cattle and wool sold by him – HE today states that he has not recovered any part of his money an wishes to be paid his stipend, I offered him £30 or £40 if he paid the balance of a/c of rent and renewed his bill for one month – The bill was accordingly drawn out and signed but on my giving him the receipt for rent he would not receive it saying that he would not pay any sum to a/c of rent but that he would leave the money in my hands to his Credit without putting it to any a/c till his dispute with Mitchell was arranged and I put him in possession of proper Marches – I declined taking th emoney on these terms and told him he was in possession of his farm as Mitchell he predecessor had it – I went with him to Mr Munro and he & I did all we could to get him to terms and pay part of his rent reminding him of his promise at Uig and his agreement with Mitchell but to no avail – On that account I retained his whole stipend with his consent & placed it to Credit of the bill for Stock which reduced it to £10.

Wednesday 12 November

After arriving at Ceann Langabhat proceeded to the March between Timsgarry and Valtos where we met the Rev Mr Watson and the Tenants of Valtos – The disputed ground at this point Mr Watson admitted was not worth three shillings per annum – Kenneth Stewart pointed out the old March between both farms, and the new March or that fixed by Mr Alex Stewart Factor of Lewis in 1826. The old March goes by an old dyke to the East of Forsnaval, the new March is drawn in a direct line from the top of that hill to a red scar on the South side of Glen Valtos, giving a small portion of the pasture of Timsgarry to Valtos – Timsgarry at the time of the alteration was occupied by small tenants who ultimately agreed with their neighbours about this boundary tho’ at first they had some disputes. When George Mitchell entered the farms of Timsgarry and Erista in 1836 Kenneth Stewart then ground officer was sent to point out the boundaries to him he not knowing that the Factor had altered the March at this point pointed out the old boundary to Mitchell – He did not at this time walk over the other Marches of the farm but merely described them – The Valtos tenants all along disputed this boundary with Mitchell, but being of little value to either party it never was brought to a settlement farther than that Mr Knox referring to this particularly boundary told Mr Mitchel to keep possession of what he had got – We proceeded to the top of Forsnaval where Mr Watson for the first time told me that the Marches he now claimed were though held by the PO. Mr Munro and the old tenants of Timsgarry and Erista which included the Middle Hills and Kinresort – I replied that these Marches he would never be put in possession of, that the farm of Timsgarry was only let to him as held by his predecessor George Mitchell – We arranged to meet at the School House in the event to take evidence but some of the people having come to settle rents did not send for Mr Watson –

Thursday 13 November

Sent notice to Mr Watson that I intended to take evidence on his Marches and would be glad that he would attend – Mr Watson at once appeared and asked me before going farther to decide the March between him and Valtos which I had seen yesterday but which I declined to do till I had heard the whole evidence. He then stated that if I would not decide this point he would not wait, that he was fully determined to claim the old Marches held by Mr Munro and the tenants of Timsgarry and that he would hear of none else, on which he walked away notwithstanding my request that he should wait to hear the evidence. Mr Cameron took town the Evdience of Kenneth Stewart the late Ground Officer and George Mitchell the former tenant describing the Marches as possessed by the latter, and it was determined to perambulate these Marches tomorrow so far as not seen yesterday – Wrote Mr Watson of my intention that he might have an opportunity of accompanying us which he said he would…. Received four letters from Mr Watson which I answered in one –

On the following day they walked the Marches and confirmed that Mr Watson could not extend his claims beyond the previous boundaries. In the Diary there are two more brief notes of correspondence from Mr Watson before the end of the year.