Uig Transport in the 1930s-40s

To go with the picture of Sgail and his crowd of excursionists, part of an article from the Uig News:

In the 1930s there were four cars in Uig. The two ministers both had cars – one was a Vauxhall. The Doctor had a car and so did Norman Mackay, the Public Assistance Officer – he had a Ford 8.  There was also the Morris van that brought the mails.  Motorbikes were driven by Donald Macaulay, no.19 Brenish; he had an O.E.C. and John Morrison of no.20 Brenish had a B.S.A.  They were both joiners and had the money and the need to travel to their work.  Louis Macdonald of Ardroil also had a motorbike.

From the summer of 1941 until November 1942, there was a considerable amount of activity on the Carnish to Mealista stretch of road. Gravel was quarried at Carnish for the buildings at Geodha Sgoilte, Brenish and Mealista. All the heavy traffic on the roads, which after all were really made for a horse and cart, meant quite a lot of damage was caused.  The men and boys who had found work on the buildings continued in paid employment repairing the roads. It was all “1 RB” (pick and shovel) stuff, with much of the material for filling holes coming from the small quarry at the Mangersta shore road.

The money earned on this wartime work also opened up a whole new world to an almost 16 year old Iain Tobaigh.  He was able for the very first time, in 1941, to afford the bus fare to Stornoway. The furthest he had ever been was Valtos for his holidays, and occasional visits to his grandfather’s in Geshader. It was mid-June when he set off on Sgail’s bus, for his trip into the Great Unknown.  For two hours he was able to marvel at the new scenery and then eventually the bus arrived at the stands in Bayhead. He just stood transfixed; “Goggle-eyed! The people! The cars! Cor blimey, a country yokel found it hard to take in! Nowadays you go to Stornoway to be born.  I waited nearly 16 years before tasting the delights of the big city! But after that I went as often as I could.”

Sgail (John Macaulay of 8, Islivig) drove his Commer bus to Stornoway, two or three days a week.  He started the run in the early 1930s, taking over from Murdo Macaulay of 5, Islivig.  He was a man with a quick wit and an amazing ability to forecast the weather accurately.  He was a big man and he struck a splendid pose in his Harris tweed plus fours.  In 1944, due to failing eyesight, he sold the bus run to John Mitchell, who was always quick to spot a niche in the market.  When the boys returned on leave, they invariably sent a telegram ahead of them to the police, in the hope that an Uig bus would meet them from the boat. In wartime, of course, the timing of the boat was all over the place and all too often they would be stranded in Stornoway.  To cater for this, Mitchell’s bus left Brenish at 1pm, arrived in Stornoway at 3pm and waited for the boat, before returning to Brenish.  This service continued until 1947, driven from 1945, by a very young Norman Macaulay.

Dave Roberts/Iain Macdonald