The Valtos Smiths and Calum Olach

From Rev William Matheson’s “History of the Families of Lewis – Smith” published under the pseudonym Mac Gille Chaluim in the Stornoway Gazette in the late 1950s.  See a further story of Calum Olach here.

There was a noted family of Smiths of Valtos, Uig, for whom it has been claimed that they were of the Smiths of Earshader, but the connection is not clear.  [The supposed connection will be the subject of a future postng.] The first of them on record is Calum Bàn, who appears as tenant in Valtos in 1780 and for many years afterwards, and he was certainly an incomer – from Bernera, according to one well-informed source.

In the genealogical notes of the late Malcolm Macleod, schoolmaster at Crowlista, he is called Calum Bàn mac Iain Ghobha.  He may have been a son of John Smith, tacksman of Earshader, though not necessarily of his marriage to the daughter of Murdo Mackenzie, by whom he had Malcolm, tacksman of Laxay.

Calum Ban married Mary Smith, and their son, known as Calum Olach and Calum na Cearraig, was one of the most famous old soldiers of Uig.  He was in the battalion of the 78th Regiment (Seaforth Highlanders), raised in 1804, known in Uig as Saighdeirean Mac a’Mhinisteir.  Physically he was very strong, and though not a bully he sometimes came to blows with oppressors of the weak.

On one occasion he was hauled before his commanding officer, Col Patrick Macleod of Geanies (Mac Fear Ghainn) on a charge of assaulting a number of other men, whose countenances were well marked by his fists.  After he had given his side of the story, the only reprimand he got was, “A bhroiceasaich ghranda, carson nach buail thu mu’n bhroilleach iad?”  The gallant colonel’s chief concern was that his men’s faces should be presentable on the parade ground!

The military instinct remained strong in Malcolm Smith until the last.  Not long before his death a ship put into the roadstead at Valtos, and for some reason a bugle was sounded.  The old warrior reacted at once:  he got up and stood to attention.  His name appears among those who were awarded the General Service Medal of 1847, with clasps for Maida and Java.  He is buried in Valtos Cemetery under a flat stone bearing his initials and the date of his death, 26 May 1858.  He had reached the age of 78.  His wife was Annabella, daughter of Donald Maciver (Domhnall Bàn and t-Sroim) and his son John Smith, [first] schoolmaster at Lochcroistean, was the father of the late Angus Smith OBE, JP, Holm.