Comann Eachdraichd Uig

1800 - Beartas a’ Cheilp (1800-1820) – The Kelp Boom (1800-1820)

The kelp industry offered a lucrative opportunity for the Seaforth estate. Kelp was an alkaline seaweed extract used in the manufacture of soap and glass.

Kelping profits to the Lewis proprietor averaged £4000 per year between 1815 and 1820 – equivalent today to several million pounds. In the two Lewis kelping parishes, Uig and Lochs, labourers were paid between £1 and £2 per ton. It took forty creels of seaweed to produce a ton of kelp. Increased rents for the newly formed crofts could be met as long as kelping flourished.

The work meant that cereal crops were neglected. Seaweed could not be used as fertilizer and in Lewis meal was given as part of the kelping wage. The outcome was a greatly increased reliance on the potato as subsistence crop while other agriculture declined.