An further extract from the unpublished memoirs of Rev Col AJ Mackenzie, born Kinlochresort in 1887. Here he tells of how the family came to be at Kinlochresort, and also how they left it for the gamekeeper’s house at Uig Lodge. His account of the pleasures of Traigh Uig is here.
My father was a gamekeeper who worked on the Gruinard Estate (Wester Ross). It happened he had made the acquaintance of two brothers named Paget who were impressed with his qualities both as a keeper and an all round estate worker. They had taken the fishing and shooting of Barvas, in the Island of Lewis. Dissatisfied with the amount of sport they obtained and knowing that it was capable of much better showing, they asked my father if he would consider coming to Barvas with a view to trying to improve its fishing and shooting. It did not take long to make the necessary arrangements and one day the little family with all their worldy goods and chattels embarked on the good ship Ondine for Stornoway. In due course they found themselves at Barvas and settled in a modest thatched cottage there being no lodge or keeper’s house available. For five years they lived there. It was here the life long friendship began with James Young who leased the bag net fishing rights in several parts of Lewis including Kinresort.
The Pagets ultimately severed their connection with Barvas but the Lewis Estate retained my father’s services and offered him the position of keeper at Kinresort where there was a house that would more adequately meet the needs of the increasing family. The house, unfortunately, would not be available for a year. In the meantime there was the problem of where to live. This was solved by their old friend James Young who offered them accommodation in a house which he owned in Carloway in connection with his salmon fishing. Taking a few necessary pieces of furniture with them and storing the remainder in one of Young’s store house at Barvas, they proceeded to Carloway where they resided a whole year before they finally settled in at Kinresort. It was during this stay at Carloway, that the disastrous fire occurred in the store house at Barvas in which all their furniture was destroyed. The friendship with James Young continued at Kinresort.
The Education Act of 1872 was now in force and large well equipped schools with highly qualified teachers were available in many districts. One of these was in the vicinity of the extensive fishing and shooting of Uig. The head keeper here had no family and when my father suggested to him that they should together approach the Lewis Estate with a view to exchanging spheres, he readily agreed. The proposal was put to the chief authority who was known by the imposing title of the Chamberlain of the Lews.
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
1. John Macdonald Geshader
2. Donald Maclennan Cliff
3. Wm Macrae Miavaig
4. Malcolm Macleod Crowlista
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.
Rev DA Macrae was born in Miavaig and lived latterly in Harris. He was interviewed by Maggie Smith in November 2004, and died in July 2005.
Our home Miavaig House was built in 1855 for my grandfather James Macrae, who was the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and was also an Inspector of the Poor. He was responsible for the Parish of Uig which in those days reached as far as Carloway. At this time there was great poverty and the Destitution Board sent a boat into Loch Roag to deliver meal for distribution amongst the poor. There had been widespread potato blight and I’ve heard of one of the Destitution roads built at this time, in Geshader in this district. This was known as Rathad a’Bhuntata as those building the road were paid in potatoes.
I remember a jetty in front of Miavaig House; this was used to offload the supplies for the destitution stores. The meal store was part of Miavaig House. As the years passed the house was being flooded by the tide, it was eventually knocked down and today Miavaig House is higher up the shore. At low tide the old jetty, used to unload the stores can still be seen today. But in my young days a relative of ours, Duncan Macrae from Callanish had the first motor boat I ever saw, and he brought stores and people to Miavaig pier about three times a week. In those days the Uig people travelled by sea to Callanish if they were going to Stornoway, or any other part of the island, as it saved the very long walk to Garynahine.