Schools in Uig before the Education Act

From Sanais, 1988, with some additions.

The first school in the Western Isles was founded shortly after 1610, when the Seaforth Mackenzies gained possession of the island, and in 1680, a report by ‘Indweller’ says that the Seaforth school had done much good, not only for Lewis but also for the adjacent isles. Other schools followed.

From Sanais, 1988, with some additions.

The first school in the Western Isles was founded shortly after 1610, when the Seaforth Mackenzies gained possession of the island, and in 1680, a report by ‘Indweller’ says that the Seaforth school had done much good, not only for Lewis but also for the adjacent isles.  It was the ‘the great good of gentlemen’s sons and daughters and to the comfort and good of the people’.  Martin Martin reported in 1695 that English and Latin were taught.

In 1743, the Established Church Presbytery of Lewis considering the want of schools, resolved to use all proper means to resolve the grievance and in 1753, the parishes of Barvas, Lochs and Uig agreed to pay 10 shillings each towards the provision of schools.

By the beginning of the 19th century, such schools as there were in Lewis were the Parish schools, the Adventure (private) schools and the spinning schools.  The latter were established in 1763 by Mrs Mackenzie to teach the girls to work flax, a recently reintroduced crop, and in spite of early popular resistance, grounded apparently in the fear that girls who attended would be spirited away to Virginia, they were successful in imparting the necessary skills in a few months.  There were three such schools in Uig but they had disappeared from Lewis by 1833.

During the 18th and 19th centuries several charitable and religious organisations set up schools in Lewis.  These were the SSPCK (Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge), founded in 1701 by a group of Edinburgh philanthropists to teach in English; the Gaelic School Society (founded 1811) which established stations for teaching the reading of Gaelic scriptures, and after the Disruption of 1843, the Free Church Ladies’ Association.  The SSPCK schools were never very popular and the Bernera one closed after 27 months with no pupils, but the others were well supported.

Of the schools founded by the Gaelic School Society, the earliest recorded in Uig is at Valtos in 1815, one of eight such in Lewis and the only one without a teacher.  In 1816, Murdo Morrison was appointed as teacher and in 1819, the Valtos school was discontinued.  The Gaelic Schools were intended to be short term affairs, teaching for a few years in a township before moving on.

In 1821, a survey was carried out to determine the future placing of these schools.  This survey gives the population of the parish of Uig as 2875, the number of families as 1592 and distinguishes between those over 12 who were educated and those who were not.  There is no indication of the level of education and those who are listed as educated are clustered in two areas:  Timsgarry and district, which had an SSPCK school in 1797 (at Taigh Chiosamuil, it seems, where the first teacher was John Macaskill, a relation of Mrs Munro of the Manse) with schoolmaster Donald Morrison and 30 pupils, and Valtos which had its Gaelic school in 1815.

After the survey of 1821, schools were placed where needed and moved according to demand and some villages, on the removal of their schools, employed teachers without financial help from any agency.

In 1822, there was a school at Brenish, taught by Neil Murray, and at Capadal in 1824, with an unnamed teacher.  The year 1826 saw schools at Capadal and Mangersta, at Baile na Cille (taught by William Urquhart), and Kneep (Donald Mackinnon).  In 1828 the Kneep school was closed and its teacher moved to Valtos, and Donald Macdonald was in that year placed as a teacher at Carnish.

In 1831, the only Gaelic Society Schools in Uig were at Capadal, Enaclete and Little Bernera, and in 1832 Brenish reappears in the record.   In 1836 Hector Morrison is at Brenish and Donald MacFarlane at Capadal; in 1837 there is a first mention of a school at Crowlista, which may not have continue after 1838, in which year there were five schools in total:  Crowlista, Enaclete, Carnish, Brenish and Reef.  The last three continue to 1842 and the last year recorded was 1844, when there were schools at Loch Roag (Malcolm Morrison), though where is not specified, and Brenish (still Hector Morrison).

By 1825, there were 19 schools in Lewis, nine run by the Gaelic School Society; the number rose slowly until there were 13 in 1865, but they had moved about regularly – 52 times between 1811 and 1837.  These schools were known as Sgoiltean Chriosda (Christ’s Schools) and they exercised great influence over the people, paving the way for the religious revival of the land 1820s.

The Rev Alexander Macleod came to Baile na Cille in 1824 and immediately set about establishing Sunday Schools and strengthening existing schools.  by 1827, 600 pupils attended a network of Sunday Schools, organised in every hamlet.  Among the teachers in Uig in the 1820s were John Macrae (Macrath Mòr), John Finlayson, Peter Maclean and Alexander MacColl, all of whom became ministers in the Free Church.

From the beginning the Free Church was involved in education and the first schools supported byt he Free Church Ladies’ Association in Lewis were opened in 1854 in Gravir and Uig.  The Uig Sgoil na Leddies had 66 pupils and in a year the number rose to 91.  Five more schools followed, situtated at Brenish, Loch Roag, Valtos, Crowlista and Crulivig, with the last opening at Scaliscro in 1885.  By this time the Education Act (1872) was in force, public schools had been opened in Brenish, Crowlista, Valtos and Lochcroistean, and the Ladies’ schools were restricted to isolated places.  The last in Lewis was at Seaforth Head and closed in 1901.

10 thoughts on “Schools in Uig before the Education Act

  1. This is a truly marvellous resource website for anyone looking for their ancestors in the Isle of Lewis.

    I would dearly love to see the school registers for Enacete as well as other documents.

    I have traced my husband’s ancestors to Ewen Macdonald (Ship Master) and Margaret Reid who were both resident in Iniclet (sic) at the time of their marriage on 8/2/1832 at Stornoway.

    The only possible baptism record I can find for Ewen is the one given for Evan Macdonald 4/1/1806, father’s name given as Donald Macdonald sailor of Inaclaid (sic). Was there a place called Inaclaid or was this a reference to Enaclete? Was Iniclet also a misspelling of Enaclete?

    Ewen Macdonald and Margaret Reid had seven children in all. The first two, Joseph (b about 1833) and johanna (b about 1837) I can’t find the baptisms for; but the next three children were baptised at Stornoway and gave their residence then as Stornoway. These chldren were Barbara Morrison Macdonald c 14/8/1838, Donald Macdonald (c 11/7/1840) and William Morrison Macdonald (5/1/1847). By 1849 Ewen and Margaret had moved to Aberdeen where two more daughters were born. These were Margaret McKenzie McDonald (b/c 28/12/1849) and Susan Garden McDonald (b/c 3/12/1851). Contrary to the other baptisms on the pages, no name was given for the minister and no baptism date given either. Does anyone know why this might have occurred?

    On her marriage certificate in 19/1/1860, Barbara Morrison Macdonald gives her father’s name as Evan Macdonald (Mariner) which seems to verify the 1806 baptism entry.

    The 1841 census has Margaret Macdonald (nee Reid) and her children living at Keith St Stornoway; Ewen is absent, probably away at sea. Margaret is described as Independant.
    Also present in the household is Lillias Morison, aged 70 and Independant. Was Lillias Morison an older relative?

    I have since discovered from her death certificate in 1864 that she lived to be 100, and was a widow of Donald Morison, and daughter of Kenneth Morison and Mary McNeill.

    The 1851 census gives Ewen and Margaret with their children in Aberdeen,

    By 1861 Margaret is a widow living in Liverpool Lancashire with a couple of her children. Her daughter Joahanna has married and her surname is now Leslie. Another daughter Barbara Morrison Macdonald has married Augustus Barlow (Mariner).

    The 1871 has Margaret Macdonald still in Liverpool and living with her is a cousin Josephina Scarlett. This was Josephina McInnes who in 1841 was an 11 year old servant with a Reid family in Stornoway. The family she was with could have well been Margaret’s mother and other family members. They were Isabella Reid (50), Ann Reid (20) and Mary Reid 12. Ewen’s wife Margaret Reid, was the daughthter of Joseph Reid (shoemaker of Stornoway) and Isabella McKenzie daughter of Murdoch McKenzie (tacksman of Aird sometime before 1807 when his daughter Isabella married).

    I would love to trace the Macdonald family of Enaclete back further that 1806. Although your website only lists a few dwellings in Enaclete there were many in the 1841 census.

    Thank you and kind regards

    Carole Parkes

  2. Hi Carole

    On quick consideration your Iniclet sounds to me like the other Einacleit (various spellings) in Stornoway – now absorbed by the town, but home to mariners at the time. I’ll see if I can find anything to confirm this and maybe someone else will be able to comment.

    This may not be relevant to you now if it’s not the Uig Enaclete that you want, but the school records here date from 1881 when the school at Lochcroistean opened (serving Enaclete). There are no records surviving from the earlier Gaelic school, as far as I know.

    Thanks for your comments and for the info – I’ll let you know if we find anything to add.

  3. Hi Sarah

    Thank you for taking the trouble to answer my questions about Inaclaid/Inaclet. I would love to know more about these Hebridean ancestors.

    Regards Carole

  4. I’ve just searched for Einaleit on the internet and several websites say that this is the Gaelic name for Enaclete. I hope we can clear up this confusion.


  5. Yes, Enaclete/Einacleit/Inaclete are all variant spellings of the same name in 19th c documents. There’s no confusion, just that there are two places with that name, one in Uig and one in Stornoway. The usual spelling in English now is Enaclete in Uig and Inaclete in Stornoway but old documents don’t reflect this. There was much less frequent travel between Uig and Stornoway in those days so it’s usually clear in the research which one is meant, and with your family it seems like Stornoway to me, as there were no ships masters living in Uig*. Hope this helps.

    *edit – actually there was a Maclean who ran a ship to the Baltic.

  6. Thank you Sarah; this makes it much clearer to me. As Stornoway is not in Uig parish do you know of any websites covering Stornoway that are equal to your brilliant website?


  7. I am trying to find out information on the Rev Alexander Macleod, minister at Uig in 1824. I have read the information concerning him on this site and found it very helpful. However, there is one area that is not covered and that is his family. I know he was married to Margaret and had no children of his own, but there is a story within our family that he raised his nephew William (son of younger brother John, my G/G/G/ Grandfather), is there anything in the records you have, that may indicate whether this is true or not?

    Thank you

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