Comann Eachdraichd Uig

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.

An Dotair Ruadh

Valtos and Kneep

(picture of Valtos and Kneep by Chris Murray)

An Dotair Ruadh, Donald Macaulay, seventh in line from Dòmhnall Càm, was the son of Dòmhnall mac Sheorais, the tacksman of Linshader who himself became something of a legend because of his size and strength. His son has come down in tradition as equally renowned, but for being something of a chancer. He was a brother of Lily Macaulay who married Rev Robert Finlayson of Lochs, and it seems was also a cousin of Mac an t-Sronaich.

William Matheson reports that he was a small man in black with a red beard and a fiery temper. He studied medicine at Aberdeen but never practiced formally, apparently because he had been expected to succeed Dr Miller in Stornoway and when he was disappointed, he turned to farming instead.

He took a series of tacks, and seems to have made a practice of withholding the rent because of some alleged failure of the proprietor, and going to court over it.

Petition for the Arrest of Mac an t-Sronaich, 1834

Mac an t-Sronaich was a notorious and shadowy murderer and robber of Lewis legend who was active in Uig in the early 19th century.  He lived in a cave behind Keose in Lochs that is still known as Uamh Mac an t-Sronaich and he was reputedly the first cousin of Lilly Macaulay Linshader, the wife of Rev Robert Finlayson, Keose Manse. On many occasions he found refuge at the manse at Keose and Lilly would leave food for him in one of the outhouses.  Tradition maintains that on occasion he slept in the manse, and the marks in the panelling above his bed show where he would stick his dagger overnight.  

When things got hot for him, he came to Uig:  “As long as I keep to the Uig hills, the Uig hills will keep me,” he said.

The only person reputed to have frightened Mac an t-Sronaich was Domhnall Ruadh Beag from Enaclete.  Mac an t-Sronaich was on the hill Mula Chaolartain and he saw something going down the side of Beinn a Deas, the route to Hamnaway. Domhnall Ruadh Beag was barefoot and taking a herring net on his back to Loch Hamnaway where there were huge shoals of herring being caught.  All Mac an t-Sronaich could see was this round black thing moving along on little white legs. He couldn’t understand what it was and came to the conclusion it was the devil himself.