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 –
On the day in November 1913 when the Reef Raiders drove the stock from Reef Farm, the local Constable made the following report (the list doesn’t correspond exactly to the men identified in the photo):
Charge, Breach of the Peace
Miavaig, 28th November 1913
I beg to report to you that between the hours of 10am and 1pm on Friday the 28th day of November 1913, on Reef Farm, occupied by Alexander Macrae, Farmer in the Parish of Uig
1. Malcolm Macritchie (64), Married, Squatter, Fisherman, Kneep
2. Allan Morrison (56), Married, Crofter, No 3 Kneep
3. Donald Morrison (49), Married, Squatter, Fisherman, No 13 Kneep
4. Murdo Macdonald (52), Married, Squatter, No 2 Kneep
5. John Morrison (48), Single, “alias” Cooper, No 13 Kneep
6. Murdo Mackay (25), Single, (Angus Son), No 30b Valtos
7. Donald Matheson (54), Married, Squatter, Fisherman, Valtos
8. Alexander Mackay (41), Married, Squatter, Fisherman, Valtos
9. Alexander Macdonald (60), Married, Squatter, Fisherman, Valtos
10. Angus Mackay (26), Single, (Norman Son), Fisherman, Valtos
11. Norman Mackay (24), Single, (Malcolm Son), Fisherman, Valtos
12. Donald Morrison (23), Single (Malcolm Son), Fisherman, Valtos
13. James Morrison (20), Single (Murdo Son), Fisherman, Valtos
14. Donald Maclennan (18), Single (Widow John Son), Valtos
all in the Parish of Uig.
Did form in a body and forcibly and unlawfully enter said farm, there gathered together all the sheep about 200 in number, and 5 head of cattle, and drove them to the march stone dyke which they knocked down, and forced them over the broken wall, thereafter drove them together across the moor through Kneep and Uigen to Miavaig public road, thence along the road through Valtos Glen to Timsgarry Farm, occupied by John Macrae, Farmer, all to the terror and alarm of both farmers, and in breach of the public peace.
Highland News, Monday 13 October, 1884:
The Northern Chronicle publishes the following sensational statement which we trust is somewhat exaggerated:– Mr Wm Mackay, Chamberlain of the Lews, has for some time back been engaged in visiting the different parts of the island for the purpose of collecting rents. On Monday last week [30 September 1884] he left for Uig, the people of which district were expected, as customary, to come forward and pay their rents on the following day. The Chamberlain was at Miavaig on Tuesday, to which place a large gathering of crofters and young men marched in a body carrying two banners, on one of which was written “Down with the Landlords” while the other had inscribed on it a Gaelic motto to the effect that the people were stronger than the proprietors. These banners were conspicuously planted in close proximity to Miavaig House, while the people all clustered together on a hillock within a short distance of the road.
The crofters were repeatedly asked to come forward to explain the object of their demonstration, but none answered to the call, until Mr Mackay, recognising one of the men, called him by name, when he came forward and handed the Chamberlain a paper containing requests to the effect that they (the crofters) required all the squatters in the Uig district to be removed off their lands and provided with lands elsewhere; also, that statements be furnished accounting for the expenditure of the school rates, taxes, and road assessments collected for a number of years back; and further that the present holdings of the crofters be increased to the same extent as those occupied by their fore-fathers, and to be held at the old rents.