An impressive illustrated new publication about the history of the Eishken estate in Pairc, Lewis, written by well-known historian David Jones, was launched by Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc at Orinsay Village Hall recently.

The huge extent of the peninsula of Pairc, which but for a narrow neck of land between the heads of Loch Erisort and Loch Seaforth would be an island, together with its remoteness from main population centres, and dramatic mountain and coastal scenery, have always marked it out as special. There is now growing evidence that Pairc was the private deer park of the owners of Lewis from an early date, a fact which almost certainly explains its name. The population of this vast area was probably relatively sparse up to the late 18th century when kelp and fishing began to take on greater economic importance and led to landlords encouraging local populations around the coastal fringes, perhaps for the first time. But the collapse of the kelp industry in the 19th century, together with the high rents available for a time from sheep farming, followed by the fashionable interest in deer forests during the Victorian period, transformed the position as people once again became expendable.

Read More»

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.

Read More»

Eiskein outing 27th June 2009

A great turnout at the Deer Park Raiders monument and a beautiful sunny day – John Randall spoke of the history of the deer park raids and Angus Macleod’s role in commisioning a series of cairns to commemorate the land struggles. The next stop was at Seaforth Head where Ken Roddy Mackay spoke on the history of the area and his own memories of the place. We then moved on to Eiskein and enjoyed a barbecue and a further talk on the history of the estate by John Randall. This was followed by a walk further into Eiskein estate.

Here are some photos of the day. Note that it is better to click on individual photos rather than use the slideshow

Eiskein Outing on Saturday – Latest update

Come and join Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc at our annual outing which is to be at Eiskein this year. Assemble at the Deer Raiders memorial cairn at the Eiskein road end at 10.30 on Saturday 27th June. The format will be a brief talk on the history of the Deer Raiders and then a stop at   SeaforthHead to hear about the history of that area and then on to Eiskein. There will be  a barbecue at the boathouse around 12.45  followed by a walk into the estate. We have just had confirmation that it will not be possible to go to Steimreway by boat from Eiskein as had previously been a possibility. Everyone is welcome and there is no charge. You will be advised on the day about car parking arrangements and a minibus will be available to take people in to the estate.
See you there.

Cuidich 'N Righ – The Seaforth Highlanders Crest

The small crofter settlement of “Brinigil” or “Bruinigeal” not far from Seaforth-Head, on the shores of inner Loch Seaforth, is noted in local tradition as the place at which the incident or legend which gained its crest for the Seaforth Highlanders Regiment.

In confirmation of this local tradition it is maintained that a painting could be seen hanging in one of the rooms of Brahan Castle, when it was occupied, depicting the king in the act of rising from the ground while close behind him a bare-armed kilted figure could be seen holding a stag by the antlers, and in the background a lady was seen to be calling “Cuidich ‘n Righ“, {Help the King}.  At the foot of the picture was the locus of the incident given as “Brinigil” on the shores of Loch Seaforth.

The Riot in Wick -1859


The Wick riot which took place in August 1859 between Lewis fishermen and East coast fishermen was a ‘free for all’ that lasted a whole week.  Although perhaps relations between East Coast fishermen and Hebridean fishermen may not have been too good, it was a dispute between two lads over an apple, a lad from Wick and one from Lewis that started the “Sabaid Mor
Police apprehended the 14 year old Lewis lad, Malcolm Macleod “Calum Alastair“, 2 Habost, Lochs who was helping in his father’s boat.  Skipper Alastair had moved from Balallan to Habost to take the place of a family that was evicted and moved away to Harris by the notorious factor Donald Munro.
Hundreds of people were engaged on each side in the fight and some Lewismen were arrested and taken to jail and this action by the police aggravated the situation. Domhnull Ruaridh Mackenzie, 10 Laxay,  assisted by his crew and others removed the mast from his boat and used it as a battering ram against the jail door and released the prisoners.  Almost every village in Lewis were represented in the riot and some of the men were stabbed and many hurt while some on both sides were given a ducking in the harbour.
An unusually strong man from Keose played a prominent part, Rob MacDhòmhnaill 12 Keose “Mac Domhnuill Bhan“, one of his roles was to provide ammunition for the rioters by breaking up barrels and supplying staves.  In the end the local authorities called in the military and Rev George Mackay of Tongue and peace was restored just before the end of the fishing season. A warrant was issued for the arrest of the strong man from Keose, Robert Macdonald and in order to evade the police he fled immediately first on foot,  but he had not gone far when he was overtaken by a carriage and pair. MacDonald’s signal for a lift was ignored and as a consequence he ran after the carriage and jumped in and ejected the driver and his passenger and left them by the roadside.  By the time the horses became exhausted he was near Poolewe, where he got the ferry “Mary Jane” to Lewis but the Lewis police were informed and Macdonald had to go into hiding with friends in Cromore until he thought the furore had died down.  Back home in Keose he soon joined the other youths who used to gather in the manse kitchen with the servants. One evening the Stornoway police turned up and arrested Rob and handcuffed him to one of the officers.  Near a Loch outside the village Rob said he was not going any further and asked the police to release him, when they refused he threatened to drag the officer to whom he was handcuffed  into the Loch.  After a brief struggle the officers felt they were no match for Rob and decided to release him to the delight of his friends, a large number of whom had gathered to give moral support to Rob. Knowing that he was a marked man he decided to leave via Tarbert to resume his seafaring career, this time in the Merchant Navy.  Alas a few years later he was lost in the Thames Estuary.

Weddings – Old Style

Customs associated with marriage continue to evolve and fascinate. The following extract is taken from the writings of the late Angus ‘Ease’ Macleod of South Lochs and describes typical rural weddings in the early part of the 20th century.  .
“Weddings were one of the highlights of the winter social round.  Most of the weddings were celebrated at home with an all night barn dance.  Sometimes the dance was held in the school if it was convenient.  The wedding celebrations extended over a period of weeks, beginning with the betrothal party (reiteach) or engagement party at the home of the bride.  Then the preparations for the wedding feast, when all the neighbouring women and some of the men were on hand to carry out any chores that were to be done, including the preparation of large quantities of food for the wedding feast.  After the wedding was celebrated in the time-honoured fashion, there was the house warming party (banais-taigh), which was exclusively for the neighbouring senior citizens.
Some weddings took place at the east coast fishing ports.  Practically all the young people, male and female following the herring fishing found it convenient to get married at the end of the fishing season.  On occasion, boy met girl at the fishing for the first time and one of the parties might be from another area of the island or further afield.  On one occasion in the early 1850s three men from Marvig married girls from Sutherland at the Wick fishing.  They married in Sutherland at the end of the summer fishing season and the brides came home to Marvig along with their husbands on the fishing boats.  At that time it was customary for Lewis fishing boats to go to the Caithness herring fishing every summer.  The three girls married were Barbara MacDonald from Bettyhill who married Donald Maclennan of 6 Marvig who moved to 26 Lemreway later on, and her sister Betty MacDonald, who married Alistair MacFarlane of 10 Marvig.  The third girl was Jean Munro from Melvich who married Roderick Finlayson of 8 Marvig.  They all raised large families in Lochs.

Read More»

Cailleach an Deacoin, an Entertainer From Gravir

Murdo Matheson from Gravir, South Lochs was well-known throughout Lewis as the entertainer Cailleach an Deacoin.
Listen to the Cailleach entertaining the crowds at Stornoway Town Hall :
The name Murdo Matheson doesn’t instantly conjure up any particular images in the mind, but mention the name ‘Cailleach An Deacoin‘ and you can be assured that a smile and a chuckle of remembrance will emerge from your audience.

The Cailleach in all her finery
Born on the 4th January 1904 Murdo Matheson was the seventh child of a family of 13, in the village of Gravir, Pairc. He went to school like most of his contemporaries at that time where he faired averagely. He left at the age of 14 to seek employment. Between the ages of 15 and 18 he held a variety of jobs including kipper making and road building.
Around 1925, Murdo decided to emigrate to Canada and was due to sail on the ‘Marloch’ but contracted measles which delayed his passage. Luckily for him he was able to travel a fortnight later. Several years were spent there where he laboured on farms. However, his luck was to change when he heard that there was good money to be made working on the production line of a motorcar company called ‘Briggs Bodies’ in the American city of Detroit.

Read More»

Kershader man shot

Attacked on Street
Murdo Macleod, a native of Kershader Lochs, who for some time was employed in the Labour Exchange at Stornoway, and is presently a supervisor in the Castleford Labour Exchange, was last week shot in the thigh at Leeds, and had to be removed to the General Hospital there. In connection with the affair, Frederick Darbyshire, miner, was arrested, and was afterwards charged with shooting Murdo Macleod, with intent to kill.
Superintendent Fairburn related that at the sub-office of the Exchange at Whitwood there was some altercation between Macleod and Darbyshire. The police were called in, and Darbyshire left the premises. Later Macleod and other members of the staff were standing outside the building waiting for a bus to Castleford, when Darbyshire came up, produced a German automatic pistol, and shot Macleod.
Darbyshire is an ex-serviceman and an unemployed miner. Short of stature, but sturdily built, he stood to attention before the magistrates at the Castleford Court while he was being charged with shooting with intent to kill Macleod.
Macleod, who was operated on for a fractured thigh, is progressing favourably, but will not be fit to resume duty for at least a couple of months.
Extract from Stornoway Gazette 2nd December 1927.

The GAMA Award, 2009

The Gatliff Trust and the Angus Macleod Archive have combined forces to establish the GAMA (Gatliff Angus Macleod Archive) award, offering funds to a student or researcher at a British college or university for the summer of 2009.
The purpose of the award is to encourage research on an aspect of history, geography, culture or environmental studies, relevant to an appropriate area of the Western Isles. One successful applicant will receive a stipend and accommodation at one of the Trust properties and the resulting work will be published. For details and to apply, see the GAMA Award website; deadline for applications, 31 March 2009.
Herbert Gatliff (1897-1977), a pioneering member of the Outdoor Movement, was keen to see people, particularly the young, visit the Outer Hebrides. This enthusiasm led him to establish, in these Scottish islands, a network of crofters’ hostels which continues to thrive. Angus Macleod (1916-2002), born in Calbost in the South Lochs area of the Isle of Lewis, created a remarkable collection of material relating to many aspects of local life. This is now stored in the Angus Macleod Archive, housed at the Ravenspoint Centre, Kershader, close to his place of birth.

© Copyright Comunn Eachdraidh Pairc - Theme by Pexeto