The following is a short history of the Pairc District, South Lochs, written by Donald Mackay in 1958.

Boundaries and Physical Features

South Lochs is a peninsula formed by two arms of the sea, Loch Seaforth and Loch Erisort, and it is joined to North Lochs by an isthmus which is approximately three quarters of a mile in breadth.

The whole area of South Lochs or Park is 68,000 acres of which 42,000 acres form the deer forest of Park. The district is dotted with lochs in most of which trout are to be found, and with hills, the highest Beinn Mhor (1,870 ft.) lying within the deer forest.

All the villages are situated along the seacoast and this is where all the cultivated land lies, the interior being heath and moss.

The villages as from the isthmus are – Seaforth Head (on Loch Seaforth), Shiltenish (On Loch Erisort), Habost, Kershader, Garyvard, Caverstay, Torostay, Cromore, Marvig, Calbost, Gravir, Lemreway, Orinsay.

History of the Local Community

Park appears to have been the home of deer for centuries. Martin, in his account of the Western Isles about the end of the 17th century states: “There are abundance of deer in the Chase of Oservaul which is 15 miles in compass, consisting of mountains and valleys between them. This forest, or so they call it, affords good pasturage for the deer, black cattle and sheep.”

The name Oservaul, which was the original name of Park, is obviously derived from the Norse, austr (east) and fjall (mountain) meaning “eastern mountain” in contradistinction with the fjalls of Harris lying due west of it. There are no trees to be seen today growing in any part of the district except those planted by crofters near their own houses, but that the district was well wooded at some time in the past is evidenced by the numerous roots and stumps which are met almost everywhere in the soil at various depths. Trunks of pine in excellent condition have been found embedded in peat-banks at considerable depths.

At the time of the First Earl of Seaforth the whole of the district that is now known as Park was a deer forest and certain tacksmen of Uig used to graze their cattle there in the Summer time. Domhuill Cam had a shieling there (Airidh Domhuill Chaim). Subsequently this was a clachan.

In the course of the 18th century one of the Mackenzie possessors of Lewis erected a dyke across the isthmus between the west end of Loch Erisort and the head of Loch Seaforth, the remains of which can still be traced. This dyke was known as Garadah an Tighearna (the chief’s dyke). The dyke was for the purpose of confining the deer to the peninsula, which gave the name ‘A Phairc’ (park) to the area.

In the judicial rent of the Parish of Lochs taken for the Forfeited Estates there are to be found but four names of tacks in Park; Donald Mackenzie, Seaforth; Alexander Mackenzie, Hawbost Alexander Mackenzie, St. Columbs; Kenneth Mackenzie, Siant Island.

Shortly after 1800 the area that was then known as the farm of Park was taken over by two partners, Lachlan Mackinnon of Corrie, Skye, and one Stewart who had a An t-Eilean Riabhach near Glenelg before coming to Bhalamus. The farm was then known as Fear an Eilean Riabhach. The boundary of the sheep farm then was a line from Loch Bhrollum to the head of Loch Shell and up the glen to Loch Seaforth, but by 1837 the boundaries had been extended to include Shiltenish and Chleiteir at the head of Loch Erisort.

In 1800 there were a large number of settlements round the coastline from Lemreway to Seaforth Head. Some of these were clachans with one, two or three crofters, while others were townships with nearly a score of crofters. They lived in comfortable circumstances but this life was doomed to a cruel end through the machinations of one Donald Stewart, a “hireling shepherd” from Perthshire who became manager for the partners who had obtained the lease of Bhalamus. Clearances or the crofters soon began and by the time the Stewarts left Bhalamus for Aline and Eilean Ensay in 1842 practically all the crofters had been evicted from the area. This Donald Stewart later became factor in Harris, settled in Luskentyre and cleared it as well as most of North and South Harris. He became a drover and later a breeder of Highland cattle. He was descended from the Stewarts of Overblairey, cadets of the Stewarts of Grath and had royal blood in his veins, being descended from the Wolf of Badenoch, Alexander Stewart, son of Robert II, King of Scotland, or as he was known in Gaelic, Alastair Mor Mac an Righ.

As regards the townships cleared in Park, varying figures were given by those giving evidence to the Napier Commission in 1883-28, 30, 45. When the crofters of a township were given notice to leave, usually 48 hours, if they were not away at the time stipulated then the fires were drowned on the hearths by the officers of the estate and the displaced persons were fined £50, which usually meant being deprived of their livestock.

There is no record of any of the island ministers of the time ever raising their voices in protest against the inhumanity meted out to these helpless crofters.

The following is a list of 37 townships desolated during that period, but the list is not necessarily complete:

Lemrabhagh (Lemreway), Orosaidh (Orinsay), Stiomrabhaigh (Stiemreway), Isginn (Eishken), Gerraidh Raisdeal, Ceanntigh-Shealg (Loch Shellhead), Gerraidh Reasaidh, Smuaisebhig, Ailltenish, Bhrollum, Bunchorebhig, Ceann Chrionaig, Gilmhicpharg, Bhalamus Beag, Bhalamus Mor, Caolas an Eilean, Bagh, Ceann Bhaighomohoir, Chuilebhreac, Aigherol, Ceannamhuir, Sgaldal Bheag, Sgaldal Mhor, Gleann Claidh, Airdh Dhomhunill Chaim, Brinigil, Shromois, Ceann-a-Carragh, Seafort, Shiltenish, Chleiteir, Acha Cheanntarbhaidh.

There were eight crofters in Shiltenish and Chleiteir at this time (1828).  Orinsay was let to a Miss Maciver who had sub tenants. Lemreway and Stiemreway were let to a Roderick Nicolson who also had sub tenants, and Park sheep farm was held by Archibald and Alexander Stewart at a rent of £326. The crofters of Eishken, 16 in number, were removed in 1823, the 17 crofters in Orinsay and the 7 crofters in Shiltenish and Chleiteir were removed in 1838 and the 20 crofters in Lemreway in 1841. There were 8 crofters in Steimreway at that time.

The other settlements listed had all been cleared by then with the exception of Bhrollum which was the last to be cleared and the crofters there were sent to Stiemreway which they held until 1861. They were afterwards removed to Lemreway.  Altogether it was estimated by one witness that about 108 households were evicted with an average of six persons to each family. Of these, 27 went to Crossbost which was then a farm, others went to Tong, Tolsta, Harris and some emigrated.

In 1842 the sheep farm of Park was let to Walter Scott, Hawick at a rental of £587. His lease terminated in 1857 and the farm was then let to Mr Mitchell Scobie. Mr Scobie made over his lease to Mr P.P.Sellar whose occupancy terminated on Whitsunday, 1883. It was then advertised but a tenant could not be found. It was then advertised as a deer forest and let as such to Mr Platt in 1886. Of the lands held by Mr Sellar, Seaforth Head and Shiltenish an area of about 5,000 acres was let to six crofters at a rent of £51 and Stiemreway and Orinsay containing about 3,000 acres with the Shiant Isles, was let to Mr Roderick Martin, tenant of Crobeg Farm. Eilean Iubhard was given to the crofters of Lemreway without any additional rent being charged. Messers. Scott; Scobie and Sellar when tenants had the shooting rights at a rent of £800 which they sublet for £1,000.

In 1878 the shooting rights were held by a Mr Bonham-Carter and when this term ended Mr Platt had it for three years due to the lodge being burnt. When Lord Leverhulme sold the island as estates Mrs Platt (her husband then being dead) bought the deer forest and it is now owned by her niece, Mrs Jessie Thorneycroft. The Platts and particularly Mrs Platt, were very kind hearted and generous to the poor and needy of the district during their own lifetime, and the present owner, Miss Thorneycroft, is highly respected and esteemed by the crofters in the area.

During the last war permission was given to crofters to graze sheep and cattle on the deer forest. The Kershader and Habost crofters put sheep on part of the forest in 1941, and then the Balallan crofters, and then parts were given to individual persons. No cattle have been put on which is to be regretted, as they would improve the grazing. There were martens and an odd polecat to be found in the forest at one time but they were easily trapped and no polecats were seen there after 1880. The marten survived a while longer, the last one being caught at Noster, across Loch Seaforth in Harris in 1912-13.


In 1833 there was a Parish School erected and four schools maintained by the Gaelic School Society in the Parish of Lochs, yet there were only 12 persons out of a population of 3067 who could write. After the distribution in 1843, the Free Church established a number of schools throughout the island and Sir James Matheson, after he became proprietor in 1844, also built a number where none before existed.

In 1865 there were ten schools with a total of 601 pupils on the roll in the parish of Lochs. Of these 109 took English grammar, 26 Latin, 7 Greek and 232 Gaelic.

With the exception of the Parish School in Keose, all the school in the parish were provided and maintained by voluntary benevolence until the passing of the Education (Scotland) Act in 1872. After the Act was passed the result of failure to pay school fees was to through the burden of maintaining the educational requirements on the parish rates. Grants in relief of fees were begun in 1890 and continued till 1900 when fees ceased to be levied.

In July 1881 it was decided to reduce teachers salaries from £50 to £40 per annum and the school fees of 1 penny per week were to be collected and retained by the teacher.

In January 1888 it was decided that free breakfasts of porridge should be provided to all children in the parish. To encourage school attendance it was also decided to give a pair of clogs to every pupil of school age who made 300 attendance at school during the year, providing the average annual attendance in the school reached 65% of the number on the roll. There was destitution in the parish in that year.

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