Comann Eachdraichd Uig

A h-Uile Latha Chì’s Nach Fhaic

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.

The Charge Sheet: We Have Waited Long Enough (1913)

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
Police Station
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.

The Lewis Colony in Duluth, Minnesota

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.

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.

Recruitment in 1793

From a manuscript by (as far as I can make out) Rev Col AJ Mackenzie, son of Roderick Mackenzie, gamekeeper at Luachair and Uig Lodge.  According to tradition, men were compelled to join the army when Seaforth was raising the 78th Seaforth Highlanders in 1793.  When he arrived in Lewis, the men of Uig took to the hills and established themselves at Cnoc a’Champ, near the site of Uig Lodge, and a boat rowed by women was sent to meet Seaforth at Callanish.  Seaforth was not best pleased and set off with the minister, Rev Hugh Munro, to speak to the men.  Rev Munro persuaded them to be more patriotic, and an assurance was given that only one son would be taken from a family, or two where the family was large.   The minister’s own son, Ensign John Munro, was enlisted in 1804 and subsequently killed at Java.  AJ Mackenzie here looks at the traditions surrounding the giving of the King’s shilling, particularly in light of the assertion by Chamberlain John Munro Mackenzie (grandson to Rev Munro and author of the published Diary of 1851) to the Napier Commission that enlisting was voluntary.

The primary object of Munro Mackenzie’s examination by Lord Napier’s Commission was apparently to discover what were the means employed by Seaforth and his officers in procuring recruits for his regiment – whether recruiting was by compulsion backed by threats of eviction, or by voluntary enlistment backed by promises of future reward.

This is a point on which I have never been able to find definite information. Mackenzie in his evidence was emphatic on the point that there was no compulsion of an sort, and so far as I know there was no recognised authority that could compel a man to join the army. Yet in the traditions of the people themselves there is the definite impression, whether mistaken or not, of a time when men were compelled to send their sons into the army. Again and again I have heard reference to a time when men were compelled by some authority to join the army – “an uair a bha iad ‘gan toirt air falbh do’n arm“. Four incidents bearing on this point occur to me.

There used to be pointed out on Fidean Eristeadh a remarkably wide ditch which was alleged to have been jumped by a young man of the village when pursued by soldiers who were seeking to apprehend him for military service. In this case, however, it is just possible that the man was a deserter, and that his pursuit by soldiers was in accordance with military law.

How the Doctor Got Around in 1912

Extracts from the Evidence presented to the Dewar Commission in 1912, regarding medical service in the Highlands and Islands.  Among the people interviewed was Dr Victor Alexander Ross, doctor at Garynahine who served Uig from 1900.  The commission was chaired by Sir John Dewar MP (he of Dewar’s whisky) and included Charles Orrock, Chamberlain of the Lews.  This interview took place on Saturday 12 October 1912 at the Garynahine Hotel; the questions are put to Dr Ross by the Chairman.

You might give us an indication of the extent of the territory you have to cover. Can you give us the acreage? – About 40,000 acres

The population is 4462? – Yes, of course it varies considerably at different times of the year.

Is it very much scattered, or are the people in townships? – In townships.

The townships, I suppose, are very widely scattered? – Yes, the farthest off one is thirty miles off.

Is that a considerable township or a small one? — A small one with about 200 inhabitants.

You are unable to give the proportion of patients at the various distances from you. Are there any within three miles? Have you a township within three miles? — Yes

What is the population of that township? — About 300.

Finds in 1915

A letter to the Gazette on 15 October 1917, by “DJM”, Donald J Macleod, Inspector of Schools (not DJ Maciver as previously indicated.)

‘Neiseach’ [from a previous correspondence] maintains there are no pre-Norse Celtic remains in our island. That is not so, I may be able, in a limited way to illustrate at first hand. In 1915, I was fortunate enough, with the aid of a friend, to recover certain articles of antiquarian interest from a Viking grave at Valtos, Uig. These included two large oval Scandinavian brooches of brass, a connecting chain of the same metal, an amber bead, a fairly large heavy circular bronze ornament with raised centre and surface decorated with incised looped cords characteristically Celtic, a Celtic penannular brooch of bronze, a buckle and belt mounting also of bronze, with what Mr Curle, of the Scottish Museum, to which they were sent for expert examination, termed “double interlaced knotwork typical of the Celtic manuscripts of the best period. Also an iron knife and socket spear-head much corroded. A full description, with figured plates, will be found in the last volume of the Transactions of the Scottish Antiquities Society. It will be noted that all (and only) the bronze articles are indubitably Celtic. Mr Curle places the state of the burial about 850, and the fashioning of the ornaments at a very much earlier date. Of course, if may be suggested that they were the spoils of a Viking raid in Ireland, but the much more probably explanation is that these ornaments were secured from some Lewis source, probably a native family of distinction. In any case they are remains of an early age, found in Lewis, and as Celtic as any ever discovered from Cape Clear to the Butt.