Comann Eachdraichd Uig

Origins of the Smiths

From Rev William Matheson (Mac Gille Chaluim), Families of Lewis (1959) in the Stornoway Gazette.  Rev Matheson begins by explaining how he reckons the Smiths of Earshader (from whom are descended the Smiths of Strome, Valtos, Laxay and Keose) were Morrisons sometimes known as Mackinnons, before they acquired the surname Smith in English.   He continues:

If we may take it that the clan surname of the Smiths of Earshader was Morrison alias Mackinnon (the latter representing Gaelic Mac Cianain and not Mac Fhionghuin as in Skye and Mull) we are not without some traditional information as to how the first of them came to the parish of Uig. In the Morrison manuscripts there are a number of traditions about a noted character whose career began as a personal attendant to Donald Cam Macaulay. His name calls for some comment, for it was misunderstood by Captain FWL Thomas [who wrote on the history of Uig families]. He calls him John Du Chroig, and explains this as Big-fisted Dark John. But the Gaelic for that would be Iain Dubh na Croige. The reading in the Morrison manuscripts is in fact “John du Chraik” and, better still, the tradition Gaelic form is still known in Uig and is Iain Dubh Chraidhig. This last word must be a place-name, but unfortunately we cannot identify it. It may be in Harris or in Uist. [A subsequent letter to the Gazette suggests it may be in Barra.]

The story in the Morrison manuscript is that the Lewis clans were concerned in the capture of a fully armed ship in Barra, sent, as was thought, to subjugate the Long Island. All the crew were killed, except a man with his wife and child, who were discovered to speak Gaelic. The child was Iain Dubh Chraidhig.

Matheson suggests that this story may relate to a historical event in 1610, from a letter written by Neil Macleod of Berisay, a close ally of Donald Cam.