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.

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Launch of Eishken Estate publication

Title: Launch of Eishken Estate publication
Location: Orinsay Hall
Description: A New Publication on the history of Eishken Estate written by David Jones will be launched. David will also talk about the history of the Estate. All welcome.  Refreshments
Start Time: 7.30 pm
Date: 2009-11-24

Eiskein Photos

I have just added several new photos kindly provided by Kenny Maciver to the gallery below. The feedback on the day has been excellent and many thanks to all those who made donations on the day. It is greatly appreciated.

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.

Hudson III plane crash at Mulhagery

Hudson Bomber crashes in Southern Pairc during the war.
In 1942 a Lockheed Hudson bomber crashed in Southern Pairc close to Mulhagery. The bomber flew into the rocky hillside at Fiar Chreag while flying in over the water in foggy weather. Had the plane managed to climb another 10 feet they would have cleared the top of the hill. Fiar Chreag rises very steeply from close to the sea and would have come up very quickly if they were flying blind in fog.

A Hudson bomber on Atlantic patrol
The RAF knew that the plane must have come down over land but despite spending over three weeks searching from the air they failed to find the crashed bomber. At that time there were Walrus Seaplanes based at the airfield in Stornoway and these flew over the area but without any success.
Nearly four weeks after the crash the crew of the regular passenger flight from Glasgow to Stornoway spotted something glinting in the sun and reported this when they reached Stornoway. The passenger service plane at that time was a Dominee bi-plane which carried only 10 passengers.

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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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The Fireman in Southern Park, 1887

by Angus ‘Ease’ Macleod, Calbost and Marybank.
Even now, more than a century after the event, the people of Lochs still talk about the body that was discovered in Southern Park on 2nd August 1887. The body, and his grave, are normally referred to as that of “the stowaway” or “the fireman” to this day, and there are only a few people still left in Lochs who know the story of the stowaway.
However, his death is registered and there is no doubt that such a person existed, even though the details of who he was or where he came from is not known. His death is noted in the register on January 1888 as an unnamed man about 30 years old whose body was found at “Colbal Hill” in Southern Park on 2nd August 1887. He is referred to as “the fireman”.
At that time people were under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that the law of the land required that human remains be buried near where they were found. Probably that is why there are single graves to be found here and there. There is a grave on the writer’s croft called “Donald’s grave” and no one knows who Donald was.
It is said that Joseph Platt who took over the tenancy of the sporting estate of Pairc in 1886 when the Park Sheep farm was converted into a Deer Park, made enquires with a view to identify the remains. He approached the Federation of Shipping to see if they knew of any ship that might have been in the vicinity of Pairc at that time.
They were not aware of any ships being there and in the circumstances Mr Platt provided a coffin for the remains and gave it a decent burial where he was found, not far from Buthinish/Gearraidh-Riaghsaigh near the southern shore of Loch Shell, not far from the Black Burn. The grave is marked with two cairns of loose stones, one at each end of the grave. The place is well known to gamekeepers and others who move about that district.

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Donald Maciver at Lemreway School

The Lemreway school existing before 1881 was established by the Ladies Highland Association. The teacher was known as Murchadh Ban, a godly man from Uist. He was followed by Donald MacKay who afterwards went in for the ministry and served for many years as an evangelist in the Highlands and Islands. The public school opened in 1881.
The first headmaster was Donald MacIver (Domhnall Ruadh a Bhodaich Bhain), born in the parish of Uig in 1857. He left Lemreway in August, 1883 when he was appointed headmaster at Breasclete, where he remained for thirteen years. Following Breasclete he went to Bayble in 1896 and stayed there until his retirement in 1922. He is remembered today as the composer of the Gaelic song An Ataireachd Ard.
When Mr MacIver came to Lemreway he brought his sister, Margaret with him as housekeeper. His father, Am Bodach Ban, a retired teacher with the Gaelic School Society also joined them and became a leading member of the new Free Church at Gravir which opened on the first Tuesday of November 1882. Margaret later became the second wife of Kenneth MacMillan (Coinneach Dhonnachaidh). They were the parents of Angus MacMillan “The Hero of Buzancy” whose life story, written by his son the late Rev Kenneth MacMillan was published by the Historical Society in 1993.

June 7th. 1881

This school opened today for the first time by Donald MacIver, Certificated Teacher of the Third Class. The teacher after spending most of the day finding out the extent of the children’s attainments, find that the work in future will be very elementary.Of the 25 present only 12 know the alphabet properly, a few of these can read fairly number 2 and number 3 Royal Readers. Only 1 boy and 2 girls can write and the acquirements in arithmetic are equally backward.

February 20th. 1882

Opened school as usual but only 12 children came. Advised during the day by Dr. Ross to close school as Typhus seems to be raging in the district.

October 13th. 1882

Compulsory Officer was in school on Monday. He does nothing towards bettering the attendance of the school so that as far as I can see, he is, in his capacity quite useless. Everything assumes an air of indifference as far as school matters are concerned.

November 24th. 1882

I am sorry to understand that one of the pupils has died this week of the whooping cough. Had a visit on Thursday from Mrs Platt, Eishken Lodge, who was pleased to give two sewing prizes to the girls. This lady takes much interest in the industrial work of the school.

December 4th. 1882

“These certify that I am of the opinion that owing to an outbreak of measles at Lemreway, the Public School ought to be closed for a few weeks” Signed Rodk. Ross, Medical Officer for Lochs
“These certify that owing to the prevalence of whooping cough in the township of Lemreway (almost all the children being affected), I am of the opinion that the Public School in said village ought to be closed from this date till the epidemic subsides”
Signed Rodk. Ross, Medical Officer for Lochs
SCHOOL RE-OPENED 5th. January, 1883

May 16th. 1883

Of the 59 pupils on the roll a week or two ago, only 19 put in an appearance today. It is probable that not more than 2 or 3 of them will be present tomorrow.The work is over for the season; the weather is good and I can’t account for my school attendance.

June 15th. 1883

It should be remarked here that the sewing always depend on the quantity of material at sewing mistress’ disposal. Girls could never be got to take any stuff to school with them for sewing.

August 31st. 1883

School closes for 5 weeks holiday. Present teacher has bidden farewell to the scholars as he is about to leave to another school.

Cocoa Scheme for Planasker School

Highland News, 1 February 1913:
Mr Kerr begs to acknowledge with thanks donation in connection with the cocoa dinner scheme for Calbost schoolchildren, from Mrs Platt, Eishken Lodge, Dr Murray MOH Stornoway, Councillor A Maclennan Stornoway, Messrs A and W Mackenzie, Point Street Stornoway.  Planasker School District includes the townships of Marvig and Calbost, the latter village being too far away for the children to get home in the dinner hour.  As pupils do not as a rule carry pieces in their pockets, many of the youngest children – mites between five and eight – suffered considerably during the stormy months of November and December.  Although the school was thrown open on every possible occasion, and the actual dinner hour curtailed to that the pupils might get earlier home, this plan sllightly interfered with the work of the school.
Mr Kerr, who takes more than a hireling’s interest in his “big family” was struck with the depression seen amongst the youngsters on stormy days and the idea of giving each Calbost child a hot cup of cocoa (and a biscuit where necessary) at the dinner hour has been set agoing.  Miss Zoe Kerr who has recently been appointed as temporary assistant, assisted by one or two senior girls, will see to the distribution and washing up.  Each child brings his or her own mug, jug or cup and these are stored at the school.
As the Board (Lochs) cannot undertake the responsibility of this dinner scheme, Mr Kerr will be please to receive further donations of cocoa or biscuits from any friends interested in the movement.  A beginning was made on Friday when about 40 children enjoyed their cocoa, and as many brought their own pieces the expenses connected with the biscuit supply are somewhat reduced, but no needy child will be refused a biscuit or its equivalent.  Dr Murray as medical officer for school children is taking a deep interest in the scheme.

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