What do you know about land settlement in ORINSAY, STEIMREWAY or GLEN GRAVIR between the WARS?

Much has been written about the Highlands and Islands clearances which took place mainly from the late eighteenth century through to the mid nineteenth century.  By comparison very little research has been published on the creation of new crofts and the enlargement of existing ones during the inter-war years between 1919 and 1939.  A considerable number of these so called “land settlement” schemes have been undertaken on the island of Lewis.  In South Lochs there were three such land settlement schemes between the two World Wars.  Two of them, at Orinsay and Glen Gravir were recognised as official schemes, and the one at Steimreway was not.
Orinsay, along with Lemreway, was cleared in the 1840s, and fourteen new crofts were created there by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland (BoAS) in 1922.  These remain today.
By contrast, Steimreway has been uninhabited since Donald Morrison became the last resident to leave in the 1940s.  The land was raided and subsequently “unofficially” settled in 1922 by four families from Lemreway and one from Calbost.  By 1939 only two families remained.   Today, unlike nearby Orinsay, Steimreway is totally deserted.  Interestingly, Steimreway was occupied until the late 1850s, long after Orinsay and Lemreway had both been cleared, at which point families were moved from there to occupy seventeen of the cleared crofts at Lemreway.  They had their land at Steimreway on a long lease direct from the estate and therefore could not be easily evicted.  However, following a change in the tenancy of the Park sheep farm in the 1850s they accepted an offer from the estate to give up their leases in return for croft land at Lemreway.
Glen Gravir is a scheme undertaken by the Department of Agriculture for Scotland (DoAS), the successor body to the BoAS, in 1933 to provide fifteen house sites and allotments for fishermen living in the township of Gravir.  The DoAS acquired on feu approximately sixty one acres.  Each of the fifteen holdings was approximately four acres in size.  In 1933, individual loans of up to £200 were made available by the DoAS to any tenants at Glen Gravir who required financial assistance to build a house.  Seven loans were given, each of £200.  In 1937 DoAS building loans were offered to some of the other tenants, though, so far, research efforts have been unable to uncover to how many and the sums involved.
The Glen Gravir scheme is interesting because it is one of a relatively small number of inter-war official land settlement schemes specifically for fishermen, arising from the Congested Districts Act of 1897.  Most inter-war fishermen schemes under this Act were on the island of Lewis.  The others were at Lower Bayble in Point in 1921, Cross Skigersta near Ness in 1923, Knock in Point in 1925, Leurbost in North Lochs in 1927 and Sandwick Parks to the east of Stornoway in 1932.  They are an important but overlooked part of land settlement activity.  Little appears to have been written about them and, so far, research has not unearthed much information about them.  In total these six schemes on Lewis provided 233 small holdings though these are not crofts in the legal sense of the fourteen crofts which exist at Orinsay.  There are two inter-war land settlement schemes close to South Lochs at Keose Glebe and Aline.  However, little or no information has been found so far on the Keose Glebe scheme from the government department files at the National Archives of Scotland. Similarly so for the fishermen scheme at Leurbost which consists of approximately thirty five acres of common pasture resumed as feues to provide twelve allotments.
Some aspects of the Orinsay, Steimreway and Glen Gravir land settlement schemes have been well documented in the excellent “History” series produced by the Pairc Historical Society.  However, much of their story and that of other Lewis land settlement schemes remains, as yet, untold.  Bob Chambers, who retired last year and is now a PhD student at the Centre for History of the UHI Millennium Institute, the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands, is currently undertaking research into the planning, process and legacy of inter-war land settlement schemes throughout the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Raasay.  This includes all of the above mentioned schemes.  Bob attended a meeting of the Pairc History Society at the end of September to explain his research and ask for help on further information that anyone might be able to provide on any of the South Lochs schemes or any of the others on Lewis.  When Bob’s PhD research is complete, in two years time, he intends to make available to the Pairc History Society (and any other organisation who wants it) the information he has collected.  In addition he will contribute to any updates of relevant existing publications in the Pairc History Society series and help with any appropriate new titles.
Bob is hoping that Pairc History Society members and other readers of the Society’s Tional newsletter who might have any information, including maps and plans of any of the schemes or photographs, will contact him.  Also, if members know of other residents who might have relevant information, Bob hopes that they will be told of his research and encouraged to contact him.  Bob will make further contributions to Tional over the next couple of years if new information comes to light from his research.  Bob can be contacted as follows:
Bob Chambers, 2 St George’s Road, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 2HG. Tel 01434 605846
E mail: bobc1951@greenbee.net
Alternatively, if anyone prefers, this can be done instead by initially contacting the chairman of Pairc History Society, Donnie Morrison at Pairc House, Habost, Lochs, Isle of Lewis HS2 9QB tel 01851 880480 or E mail: donnie@cepairc.com
In addition, Bob would be very interested, next year, in speaking face to face with any family members of the original land settlers at Orinsay, Steimreway and Glen Gravir, particularly in the case of Orinsay and Glen Gravir if they are living on or working the family small holding.  Oral history is a rich source of information for the sort of research Bob is undertaking.  It also provides an opportunity for the voice of the crofter and settler to be heard to help balance the views from official sources.  In order to capture these views for posterity, where individuals are willing to do so, Bob would like to record his conversations with family members.  But this isn’t essential if someone is willing to speak to Bob but does not wish the conversation to be recorded.  If you, or another family member, or someone else you know would be willing to speak to Bob in relation to any of the three schemes, on whatever basis, on his visit next year, please get in touch with him direct or through Donnie.