Recipes from Pairc from the 70's

A new addition to our publications, this recipe book was originally compiled by Pairc Community Association in the late 70’s and is now reprinted by Pairc Historical Society.

  The book has 44 pages of recipes including a small number in Gaelic. The recipes relate to a time when there were far less choice of ingredients that we have today. Recipes include Ceann Cropaig, stuffed fish heads, Marag Dhubh and many other local delicacies.

Curing the Herring

When the British herring fishing industry was at it’s height it was reckoned that for every drifter that went to sea about a hundred jobs were provided on shore. We do not know how accurate that statement was but certainly the herring fishing provided a lot of jobs ashore, not least the thousands of herring gutters in every fishing port round the coast ever since large scale gutting began in Scotland early in the 19th century.
It was the Dutch that originally devised the technique of removing the gill and long gut from the herring before curing them in barrels with layers of salt between each tier of fish. That secret enabled them to monopolise the whole European herring trade throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
The main market for Scottish herring before the 19th century was in the West Indies where fish was in great demand as a cheap food to feed the Negro slaves on the plantations and the quality of the cure for that market was not important. When slavery was abolished by the acts of 1807 and 1833 the West Indian market for herring declined and eventually ceased altogether, hence the necessity to seek new outlets for Scottish herring.

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Calum Nicolson (Calum Beag)

AIG AN OBAIR – From an article in Tional April 1994
When I left school in Lemreway in 1934, I got a job as a postman, delivering letters to thirty-two crofts in Lemreway, thirteen crofts in Orinsay and four crofts in Stiomreway.  This was a departure from the accepted custom as boys usually took a job in a fishing boat on leaving school.  There were plenty of opportunities, as there were nine boats fishing our of Lemreway at the time, all requiring a crew of five adults and a boy.  The boats left Lemreway on a Monday and were based in Stornoway until they returned the following Saturday morning.
Delivering the mail to Stiomreway was quite an arduous task.  It was over two miles from Orinsay over rough moorland and around lochs.  In those days, most of the mail comprised of catalogues and parcels from J. D. Williams and similar mail order firms.  The catalogues were often ordered for the girls in the Village by boys under pet names and I became quite expert at spotting the fakes and most of them found a resting place at the bottom of the loch about a mile out of Orinsay.  Stiomreway was eventually abandoned in 1941.
This occupation was only available when the regular postman was on holiday or ill.  Between times, I found work at one of the road building projects going on at the time and soon felt I was well on the way to becoming a millionaire.  With our newly earned wealth, five of us ordered brand new bicycles from – wait for it – J. D. Williams, of course.  They cost £5 each and we paid them up at ten shillings per week or 50p in to-day’s currency.  They were called ‘Flights’ and we were very proud of them.  We collected a few cuts and bruises before we mastered them, but we soon got the hang of them and felt very proud of ourselves riding to Church at Gravir on Sunday, scattering the rest of the congregation as we sped by on the four-mile journey.  I suppose we were as popular as the Red Arrows are to-day.

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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.

A Brief History of Donald Smith, Cromore

An extract from our ‘Aig an Obair’ series published in our newsletter,  Tional and based on an original recording in Donald’s own words.
Here is a brief history of the life of Donald Smith, 15 Cromore.  His father was Finlay, son of  ‘Big John Muldonaich’, and his mother was Ishbel, daughter of Roderick.
“I was born in Cromore in 1907 where I went to school at five years of age.  The headmaster was Mr Duncan.  Many people made out that he was no use, but looking back I am not of that opinion.  It is said that his predecessor, Mr Bruce, was good at teaching Gaelic.  When Mr Duncan came he was of the opinion that the children were fluent enough as they naturally spoke in Gaelic, but they were in need of being taught English.  When the Gravir minister came to give us a test he didn’t agree.  There were only two or three able to read and write Gaelic, and he was wild.  The two fell out, and the headmaster ordered the minister to leave.  When the argument was over, Mr Duncan said, “Well, if that man is in Heaven, I’ll walk out.”  Mr Duncan was good at teaching us psalms.  I learned more English psalms in the day school than I did in Sunday school.  I still remember five or six of them.  There was one that our Finlay always requested when the headmaster gave us a choice of which one to sing, and  this is it: –
‘When he cometh, when he cometh
To make up his jewels
All his jewels precious jewels
His loved and his own.’
I was about seven years of age the first time I went to Stornoway by boat.  There was no road round the loch then.  We slept in the home of Donald, Kenneth’s son of 19 Cromore.  At that time they were living on Mackenzie Street.  We came home in a small boat belonging to Alastair the Tailor.  We left from the Battery in Stornoway with my father and another two or three men, rowing to Cromore.
When I left school I worked at home on the fishing, the croft and odd jobs round about.
When they started building the Nurse’s cottage in Gravir they took a lorry from Stornoway to take supplies from the quay to the house.  My father thought it would be handy to have one based in the community. And that was what happened.  He brought over a one tonne truck from Callanish.  She arrived in Cromore on the boat ‘Good Hope’.  She was put ashore at the point where the quay is now.  My father steered her home up the hill.  He would let me drive her.  It wasn’t long before I wrecked her.  I would go round the district with her, but since the road was not complete, I couldn’t go past Habost with her.  I remember going to Kershader to take people to Lemreway for the wedding of Iain, son of ‘Domhnull Chalum’ and Mary, daughter of ‘Domhnull Bhig’.

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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.

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Herring Girls

This unidentified photograph is in the Comunn Eachdraidh collection; it’s obviously taken away at the fishing, and there should be at least one Pairc girl among them.  Can anyone identify?

Witness to Tragedy in Loch Erisort

On 7th December 19061 witnessed a drowning tragedy in Loch Erisort. It was during the mid-day interval at Kershader School as we gathered on the hill in between the school and the shore to watch the “TRANSIT” steaming up the Loch against a strong westerly gale force wind.
The “Transit” was a paddle driven steam pleasure-boat owned and used exclusively by the shooting tenants of Park Deer Forest and their guests. A small boat was launched from the “Transit” and it came ashore at the small jetty at the foot of the school playground One of the boatmen came ashore and called at the school-house while the other two chatted to the children.
In a few minutes the third man returned from his visit and the boat moved away from the shore to return to the “Transit”. Meanwhile, the “Transit” was slowly running before the wind heading out the loch, but the small boat was making up ground fast, driven by the strong winds.
For a few minutes we watched it tossing and diving among the waves until suddenly it disappeared out of sight. Shortly afterwards we saw an upturned boat drifting close by the steamer. Almost simultaneously we saw three men running towards the shore, carrying a pair of oars. When they arrived at the inlet where the boat was berthed they surprised the fisherman owner who was mending his nets and was unaware of the accident that had just happened out in the Loch.
The boat was launched and soon arrived at the scene of the disaster. They were able to save one of the crew while another man was rescued by a lifebelt thrown from the steamer. Despite a thorough search of the area no trace was found of the third man and it became apparent that he did not surface after the boat overturned.
During the time the searches for the men were taking place the strong winds blew the boats down the coast, past Ravenspoint and out of view of the children and adults gathered in the school playground. We followed them for a while but eventually returned late to school, although we were not punished in view of the sad and tragic event we had just witnessed.
It is ironic that of the four men who went to the aid of the stricken boatmen, only one, Donald Macleod, remained in Europe at New Year, four weeks later. John Mackay was farming in Prince Albert, Canada; Allan Macdonald was a shepherd in Patagonia and Duncan Mackay was living in Dunedin, New Zealand.
It was established later that the disaster had been caused by the boat colliding with the steamer paddles.

Rockfishing in Calbost

Written by Iain Sheonaidh Alasdair (John A. MacKenzie), Calbost. Photo by Iain MacArthur.
Rock fishing loomed large in our childhood and teenage years in the long summer and early autumn weeks that seemed to last forever.
Growing up in Calbost in the 1940s and 1950s, we got to know intimately the rocks and perches stretching north and north-west from the mouth of Loch Odhairn to Mol a’ Gho.
The catch depended on a good bit more than chance. The state of the tide, the time of year, the set of the wind were all factors to be weighed in the balance. Also, the kind of fish one optimistically hoped to catch was another consideration in deciding the rock to try on a particular evening.

Some of the rocks were relatively easy to get to, others were not. You could more or less walk onto the Creag Ruadh (just north of Mol an Eich) but to get onto the Corran (the northern point of Bagh Mor an Eich) was a different kettle of fish altogether.
As you descended to the Corran, you had to negotiate a steep slope, overlooking a fearsome, vertical drop of many metres into the sea, made slippery and treacherous by grass and loose stones. To pause mid-way down to look at the boiling sea below was not recommended. Once safely down, however, the fishing was often first-class. It was one of our great favourites for large lythe.
The tackle we used was, by modern standards, primitive but surprisingly effective. A bamboo rod (from Buth Thearlaich – Charlie Morrison’s) of 12-15 feet long, strong twine, nylon weed, swivels and either a haddock hook for fish like saithe or a much larger one for lythe. Bait was either par-boiled limpets or strips of mackerel or herring. Although the mackerel is more or less as oily as the herring for some strange reason, fish preferred herring.

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Fishing at Cromore

by Angus “Ease” Macleod, Calbost and Marybank.
Fish was the staple diet of Cromore people and this made the sea of prime importance. Inland lochs were used for trapping fish and it is believed that Lochs Beag and Mor nam Bodach were used for this purpose. Both lochs have stone dams and at high-water flood-tides, the sea brought fish into the lochs where they were trapped when the tide ebbed. On the seaward side (east) of Loch nam Bodach Beag, there is a stone wall built across that acts as a fish trap – known as a carraidh. You can wade in this loch at low tide and catch fish quite easily.With the introduction of nets, sailing boats fished the fertile waters of Loch Erisort for all types of fish. Herring was the most plentiful and easy to catch. Due to this, a herring curing station and salt house was set up on the foreshore. The men folk did the fishing and the women the gutting, salting and barrelling. The remains of the curing house at Buale Fhairinish can still be identified above the foreshore where there is a large and level area now covered in grass.

The cairn in the Crossland Island was used as a marker for the sail boats tacking into the loch and the bay was used as an anchorage for boats waiting to discharge their catch. Local tradition suggests that the island originally had a cross mounted where the stone cairn is today and that it was thrown into the sea when the area moved away from the Catholic faith.
Cromore Bay itself is a very safe harbour with the encircling arms closing the bay off, except from the north at the mouth of the bay. Flat and white fish such as plaice, haddock and whiting were fished on small lines baited with mussels found in abundance on the shoreline. Cod, ling and eels were fished on great lines, salted and dried on the flat rocks on the shore. Marker cairns were built on other hilltops and islands to guide boats home and to act as markers for the fishing grounds.
Shipwrecks and drownings were sadly very common, bad weather and the numerous reefs on the coastline being the chief cause. Brothers’ Reef is named in memory of three local brothers after their boat was wrecked there and all drowned. This was one of the most dangerous, as it is covered from half to high tide. The brothers’ bodies were later recovered and are buried in the Temple graveyard. Between the 1st and 2nd World War, there were two trawlers and seven drift net fishing vessels operating out of Cromore.
Over the years, the following boats fished out of the village:
Safeguard, skipper Murchadh Dhomhnaill Ruaraidh, Murdo Macleod (Dick), 26 Cromore.
Thistle, Iain Beag Iain ‘an Oig, John Macleod, 24 Cromore.
Kilravock Castle, Seonaidh Ruadh, John Kennedy, 4 Cromore.
Cherry, Domhnall Alasdair Mhoir, Donald Macleod, 11 Cromore.
Spray, Fionnlagh Sheonaidh, Finlay Smith, 15 Cromore.
Aurora, Iain Mor Sheonaidh, John Smith, 16 Cromore.
Ebenezer, Murchadh Fhearghais, Murdo Macleod, 21Cromore.
True Love; Dochas; Columbine; Star of Hope; Cailleach; Oidche; Constant; Good Hope; Dove; Violet; Village Maid; Isa; Wood; Spray; Ripple; Willena.

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