Scramble for Rural Houses (1949)

“The wanderlust of the Uigeach”, from the Stornoway Gazette, 30 December 1949.

Swedish timber houses allocated to West Uig are not to be built there. Owing to the depopulation of the district there is very little chance of finding tenants. When this news was given to the Lewis District Council by the chairman, Councillor John Maciver, there was a scramble by the other districts in the island to claim the houses. The houses had originally been allocated to West Uig in the hope that they would help to arrest depopulation, but it was not likely that they would ever find tenants for twenty houses in Uig, he said.

Rather than lose the twenty houses, he thought they should try to get them for some other district in rural Lewis. He recognised the congestion around Stornoway, with people coming in to find work in the mills, but he wanted ten of the houses for Shawbost, and he understood Councillor Donald Macleod wanted ten for Point. For the last four houses at Springfield, there were over 100 applications, but only nine of these had come from outside the burgh, although the houses were intended for Point, Back and the central ward of Stornoway.

“Where do you want these houses to go?” he asked.

“I think Councillor Duncan Maciver and I have the first say in that,” said Councillor Smith, Uig. “I think they should be erected near Stornoway, and priority should be given to the people of Uig when they’re finished, as the people of Uig had been chased out of Uig by the County Council and partly by the Lewis District Council. Today we haven’t got the young men and young women left there to occupy them. If they get married they have to go and live on the mainland.”

Councillor Smith went on to say the conditions under which they had to live were a disgrace to humanity, and he made a vigorous attack on the authorities for the neglect of the road.

“It is not my fault. I did my best to get you twenty houses in Uig. It was hoped it would arrest the depopulation, but there’s always a wanderlust in the Uigeach,” said the chairman.

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.

More Prizes at the Crofters’ Show

From the Highland News, 30 August 1913; we’ve already had the fundraising concert and the domestic prizes:

The West Uig and Bernera Crofters’ Show was held at Lochcroistean School on Wednesday the 20th August, under most favourable auspices, the day being sunny and warm and in every way pleasant for the great concourse of people who had assembled to witness the splended display of stock and work brought together. The judging commenced at noon, and th judges had an arduous task in awarding the prizes. This was particularly so in the three year old heifer section, which was an outstanding feature of the show, and whose beauty and true Highalnd characteristics were generally commented on. The show was opened by Dr Farquhar Macrae, from London, a noted physician and a native of the district. Dr Macrae, having oepned the show in a felicitous and appropriate speech, asked Mrs Mackenzie, Garynahine Hotel, to hand the prizes to the successful competitors. Mrs Mackenzie, in her usual pleasant and graceful manner, then presented the prizes as follows:

1. Alex Mackenzie Aird Uig
2. Angus Smith Valtos
3. Donald Macaulay Islivig
4. Alex Macaulay Cliff

Highland Cows
1. John Macdonald Geshader
2. Donald Maclennan Cliff
3. Wm Macrae Miavaig
4. Malcolm Macleod Crowlista

Murdo Crola

Crola from the Harris side

An account of the life of Murdo Macdonald, Crola, held by Bernera Historical Society (author unknown).

Although Murdo Macdonald was an Uigeach, born and bred, and of Uig parents, he was well known in Scarp and North Harris where many of his relations lived. His paternal grandmother was one of a well-known family of Macleans from Scarp while four of his father’s family (three sisters and a brother) married Scarpaich. These family connections caused him and his family to have constant intercourse between the two places.

Born on 13 January 1907 at Crola, Kinlochresort, son of Calum Macdonald and Catherine Maciver from Callanish, he was the youngest of the family. An older sister Kate, lived to an old age, while a brother Donald died in infancy. His father’s family originated from Skye and were said to be descended from the Macdonalds of Glencoe.

The Macdonald family were shepherds and were for some time employed at Bedersaig, North Harris. After one of the infamous clearances we find that John, Murdo’s grandfather, moved to Tealasvay in Uig, and afterwards to Crola, while his brother Donald moved to Luachair and afterwards to Cravadale as gamekeeper. The rest of the family left the district altogether.

From a very early age Murdo showed an exceptional ability for memorising anything he heard.

How the Doctor Got Around in 1912

Extracts from the Evidence presented to the Dewar Commission in 1912, regarding medical service in the Highlands and Islands.  Among the people interviewed was Dr Victor Alexander Ross, doctor at Garynahine who served Uig from 1900.  The commission was chaired by Sir John Dewar MP (he of Dewar’s whisky) and included Charles Orrock, Chamberlain of the Lews.  This interview took place on Saturday 12 October 1912 at the Garynahine Hotel; the questions are put to Dr Ross by the Chairman.

You might give us an indication of the extent of the territory you have to cover. Can you give us the acreage? – About 40,000 acres

The population is 4462? – Yes, of course it varies considerably at different times of the year.

Is it very much scattered, or are the people in townships? – In townships.

The townships, I suppose, are very widely scattered? – Yes, the farthest off one is thirty miles off.

Is that a considerable township or a small one? — A small one with about 200 inhabitants.

You are unable to give the proportion of patients at the various distances from you. Are there any within three miles? Have you a township within three miles? — Yes

What is the population of that township? — About 300.

Seòldairean na Bàgh

Taigh Eachainn, 10 Geshader

Verses about the boys from the Bays, by Donald Macleod (Dòmhnall Eachainn) of 10 Geshader, who was born in 1874 and spent his working life in Glasgow.  This hasn’t seen the light of day for some time; thanks to the family for providing it.

Bho Ghiosladh gu Gràsabhaig
‘S h-uile h-ait ‘s na cuiltean sin
‘S na seòldairean a’dol gu sàl
An uair theid each don cùlaisdean.

An teid thu leum do Bhearnaraidh
Gheibh sinn bùntata ‘s crùbag ann
An teid thu leum do Bhearnaraidh
‘S mo lamh gu dean sinn sùgradh ann.

Donnachadh Gioslaidh ‘s Iain Màsach
Am Brace is da shuil ùr aige
‘S Seonnaidh Gorabhaig sa mhàthair
Dol air sgàth na h-ùmhlach leotha