An extract from the unpublished memoirs of Rev Col AJ Mackenzie, son of the gamekeeper Roderick Mackenzie. AJ was born in 1887 in Kinlochresort and moved with his family to the keeper’s house at Uig Lodge, where he began at Crowlista School.
In May 1892 after the spring holidays, I began my formal education. I had never been at school before except for one day at Kinlochresort when my mother sent me with the other boys thinking I would be happier at school, than alone by myself all day at home. I soon decided that I thought otherwise and as I did not show my enthusiasm to repeat the experience next day, I was not pressed to go any more. But now by law I was compelled to go to school and there was no evading it.
I set off in high spirits with the rest of the boys, buoyed up with their accounts of the joy of life at school. Hitherto I had only looked at the school from a distance and as I drew nearer I was conscious of a conflict of feelings. I began to feel that I was about to be swallowed up in something new and strange and that things would never be quite the same again. There were over a hundred pupils in the school at that time. It was in fact hopelessly over crowded, in the following year an extension was put to it, that was another thrill for us boys to see masons, joiners and painters at work.
I had never seen so many children together before, but what filled me with amazement was the amount of noise they made with their chattering. The master, obviously, had not come in yet. When he did, the scene underwent an astonishingly rapid transformation. He picked up a thick cane and gave half a dozen hard smacks with it on the blackboard. At that instance a dead silence fell on the school. I had never seen such behaviour before and I do not in the least exaggerate when I say I was not a little scared. It took me a little time to discover that our teacher, Mr Stevenson was not as terrifying a person as he appeared to be. The first day passed off uneventfully; the second was not so happy; and the third full of doubt and forebodings. The freedom I had so long enjoyed was gone unless I could do something to recover it.
The forth day was a historic one. I set out as usual with the others but when just out of sight of home I decided on my course of action. I sat down, and calmly announced to the boys that I was not going to school that day. Curiously they did not attempt to persuade me; they may have thought that a more effective authority would soon see that. The authority was soon forthcoming in the person of my mother. She evidently had a suspicion that I had something in my mind when I set out that morning, so she came out to see from the near hill if I was on my way over the moor path to school. Her unexpected appearance startled me, but in no way lessened my determination to make a bid to free myself from the obligations of school that day and for ever.
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.