Memories of Caversta

Reminiscences of Ruaraidh Rob Mackinnon, 2 Garyvard, who was born in Caversta in 1909. Translated by Elizabeth MacGowan from the articles in Tional in 1992/93
It was from Cluthar in Harris that the Mackinnons on my father’s side came. Domhnull Mhaoil Domhnaich came to work in Crobeg. At that time, Caversta, Torostay, and Orinsay belonged to Crobeg. When crofts were allocated in Caversta, one of Domhnull’s sons, Ruairidh (my grandfather) got No 4.
I remember an old ruin in Caversta on croft 2 that belonged to my grandmother’s family. It is known as “Tobhtag Nic Ailean”. Anna Macsween was her correct name. She also worked in Crobeg. She originally came from Harris. I remember the ruin still with a roof on it. Many an hour myself, Nobles and Louis Fhearchair spent there. It was there that the local bull was kept. Many a night I tumbled over him making my way home in the dark. If they had not brought him in, he would lie on the road that was going down to our house.
Anna Macsween was a poor woman. I remember my father saying that when the men were landing their catch from fishing, that her share would be allocated before the share of the crew. There was another lady in Caversta called Raonaid, but she must have been there long before Anna, as her ruin had fallen down in my time.
There was another man in Caversta called Fearchair. He had a big house. It was built during the time of the fishing. It was Ruairidh Cubar from Keose that built it. They had collected all the stones for it before they left for the fishing, and the house was built by the time they came back. He got paid around four pounds for building it. I have never seen such beautiful stonework; he was a wonderful stonemason. He was well respected in those days. The house was about thirty feet long, and had a stair in it as well. Fearchair had a big family of ten, and some of them are still living.
There were four families living on our croft, and it was like one big family. No one ever fell out. When I went to school in Kershader there was about eighty children there. There was at least thirteen from Caversta alone. Every house had a big family in those days.
When I left school the tar road was getting built through the villages. It was done in stages, and it was a huge job. There was not even a steam roller put on the first part of it, but on the last stage they used a horse to pull the roller. The horse belonged to a man from Stornoway who was living in Ian Mairead’s house. Some of the men lived in a shieling up at Allt Na Cloiche Uaine, and that is where they kept the horse. The owner of the horse would go home for the weekend. The first time he went away, Alasdair Eagann asked who would be feeding the horse while he was away. They told him it would be Tormod Ian Mhairead (Taffany). On hearing this Alasdair said that that man was not capable of feeding a hen, never mind that big horse. Alasdair was so sharp and witty that he would have an answer for anything.
A lot of people were working on the road, as there was not much other work for them. Myself, my father, Gibby, Nobles, Uilleam Lodaidh, Alasdair Ruairidh, Eagann, Domhnull a’Gharraidh, Alasdair Choinnich Bhain, Iain Dhomhnull Thorcuill, Ailig Mor, Am Balach Ruadh, Iain Dhomhnuill ‘An ic Choinnich, Murchadh Aonghais, Iain Mairead, Seoc, Ailig ‘An Thormoid, Alasdair Mor Mhaois, Aonghas Iain and Aonghas Mhurchaidh Aonghais all worked on it. I remember Seonaidh Alasdair and The Sabartach from Calbost being there, and I am sure there must have been others that I cannot remember. I am sure it was a lorry going to the nurse’s house in Gravir that was the first vehicle on it. The road was not actually complete then. We had to put planks across the big dip between Calum Ailig’s and Domhnull Angie’s house. The lorry was not carrying anything. It was going to be transporting things from the pier to the nurse’s house.
There was no doctor on this side of the loch at that time. The doctor we had was in Keose. When I was in school it was a Doctor Cameron that was there. He was from Lochaber, and used to be escorted over here by Iain Coinnich. After him came Doctor Campbell. After that it was my father and Alasdair Ruairidh that went for him until he got a Launch himself. She was very fast. She had a 12-14 Kelvin engine. The road was completed around 1928. We got the fishing boat “Try Again” in 1930. She came from Avoch. She was about forty feet, and had two engines – a 30-Kelvin and 22 Glenepher. Myself, my father, Ruairidh Alasdair Ruairidh, Murchadh Alasdair Ruairidh, and Seonaidh Ruairidh ‘An Bhain made up the crew. Alasdair Ruairidh was with us until Murdo returned from sea. Taffany was our first cook. We also had our own Angus and Dol Chalum a ‘Gharraidh. I am the only one left of the crew. We were fishing until the start of the War, but we did not make much money at that time. That was one of the worst times for the fishing ever.