Memories of the shieling and the village he left behind – written by Donald Maclennan, Dòmhnall Mhurchaidh Dhòmhnaill a Sguthair, 24 Valtos, who emigrated to America.
A h-uile latha chì ‘s nach fhaic
‘S a h-uile latha chì sinn
Deoch-slàinte mo chaileag nì mi òl
A h-uile latha chì sinn
Ag cuallach bhò air cùl nam beann
Gu cridheil, bàidheil, sunndach
Bha Sìne, ‘s Seonag ‘s Oighrig ann
‘S mo Mhàiri laghach bhòidheach.
Bu shona bha mi là ‘s dh’oidhche
Nam shìneadh ri gach nìghneag
Le Anna bheag ‘s Màiri Bàb
An airidh bheag na Trianaid.
An nochd bu mhiann leam a bhith ann
Air gleann Scanadail a’ còmhnaidh
Ag èisteachd òrain ‘s puirt air beul
Cairistiona, nighean Iain Dhòmhnaill.
Photo by rojabro.
This isn’t strictly an Uig tale, though one episode takes place on the Flannans, and there is a suggestion that Macpherson may be the grandfather of Kenneth Macpherson the catechist from Bayhead, who married Ann Smith from Strome and Valtos and lived in Ness. It’s offered in the hope that someone may be able to shed some light on the story, identify the house of the Misses Crighton, confirm or (more likely) dismiss the connections to the Bayhead family, or identify the source, which is presently unknown. And it’s a good story.
MacPherson was from the East of Scotland, a wheelwright to trade, but he at times followed the sea and took some trips to Greenland as a whale fisher and those trips to the northern seas made him a little money. Mr MacPherson, owing to his trade, was advised by some Lewis gentlemen to come to Stornoway and commence both wheel making and spinning in a factory.
MacPherson decided to come to Lewis but at this time he had previously agreed to go on one more trip to Greenland as harpooner for a season. The ship sailed and the wheelwright/harpooner sailed with her. Some days before they arrived at the fishing ground they noticed a very large whale on the surface, which seemed to be asleep. The captain held a consultation with the ship’s company and said that if they were so successful as to kill that large whale and get her on board they might then return home, for she appeared a big enough whale to make a complete cargo for the ship. But the prudent captain also said that he would leave the decision to the ship’s company. The harpooners, nine in number, unanimously resolved to launch their boat and make a daring effort to kill this monstrously large whale.
They so far succeeded as to strike her with some of their harpoons and as soon as she had dived and they had paid out all their lines, they had to return to their ship with all possible speed. There they awaited impatiently the rising to the surface of the whale. But half an hour passed before she made her appearance and this she did on the very spot where she had disappeared. Her ferocious appearance now made the captain sing out to the crew to cut away all the lines and get clear of her as soon as they could, for her movements were awful and terrible. All hands were now at work, getting the ship clear of this awful monster of the deep, this formidable enemy. But the ship’s crew, with the exception of MacPherson, were to meet their destiny at this spot of water and, to accomplish the melancholy doom, the whale came close to the ship and by one tremendous stroke of its tail, she smashed the ship to pieces and so terrible was the shock that the monster gave to the ship that she sank in a few moments. All the ship’s crew, with the exception of MacPherson, went to a watery grave. MacPherson in his perilous situation, shipped himself on a large piece of the quarter deck and as he found this raft separate from the rest of the wreck, he salvaged some provisions which were floating upon the water. He also obtained a boat’s oar which he used to steer the raft, having lashed himself for safely.
A large number of Lewismen settled in Duluth, Minnesota in the 1870s and 1880s, many becoming prominent citizens in the town. The first was William L Maclennan (1834-1888), son of Donald Maclennan. This family seems to have originated in Kintail or Lochalsh; in 1841 Donald was a shepherd in Bunavoneadar, Harris, and soon thereafter became a small tenant at Kinlochresort, Uig. The family emigrated to Bruce County, Ontario in the 1850s. The following appeared in the Stornoway Gazette in the 1940s:
It is uncertain who were the first Lewismen at the Head of Lake Superior or when they came. It is a well-known fact that in the early days of the Hudson Bay Company, they preferred to recruit men for their service in the Isle of Lewis, as Lewismen were found to be very hardy and able to carry on in the severe work of trading, and it was also found that they were more capable of making friends with the Indians of Northwest America than was any other group of people. It is known that Morrison County, in the central part of Minnesota, was named for a descendant of the last Brieve of Lewis.
However, the first Lewisman who made his permanent home in Duluth was William L Maclennan, whose home in Lewis was near Loch Hamnaway. His family emigrated to Ontario in the ‘fifties. After a short period there, Mr Maclennan conceived the idea that there might be better opportunities for a young man in the United States, so he moved to Duluth in the late ‘sixties. Duluth was then only a small pioneer town on the outskirts of civilisation. He went into several lines of business in the new town, principally contracting and real estate. He was the builder of the breakwater in Lake Superior that formed what was then the outside harbour of Duluth before the canal was opened to the main harbour.
After settling in Duluth, he brought Miss Julia Macleod to this country in 1872 to be his wife. She was a daughter of Roderick Macleod, a well-known builder in Stornoway at the time. Shortly after they were married, Mr Maclennan became one of the organisers of the first bank in Duluth. After organising the bank, the promoters were looking for a capable man to manage the new bank. Mrs Maclennan suggested Mr AR Macfarlane who at that time was in a bank at Toronto, Ontario. Mr Macfarlane, a native of Stornoway, got his early training in the banks there. Mr Macfarlane accepted the new position, and under his guidance the American Exchange Bank of Duluth grew to be one of the largest in the Northwest. Mr Alexander M Morrison of Stornoway, an acquaintance of Mrs Maclennan and Mr Macfarlane, moved to Duluth in the early ‘seventies. He entered the grocery business and made a success of it.