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.

Photographs from the Estate of Mary MacIver

The enclosed photographs are from the Estate of Mary MacIver, Verdun, Montreal ( Mairi Anndra) of 15 Gravir. Most of the photographs seem to be taken in Gravir and include family and neighbours.

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.

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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.

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The Royal Mail came by creel

From an article in Tional – May 1992
The history of the delivery of mail in Pairc is a story of considerable achievement by the handful of men and women whose determination, vigour and sense of purpose enabled their small, remote communities to receive the advances in communications offered by the Post Office in the second half of the last century.
The role of the redoubtable Ishbel Nicolson, Calbost, in pioneering the postal service in Lochs as it opened up new frontiers to reach more and more people stands out as a tribute to her resourcefulness, enterprise and ingenuity at a time when women were not generally expected or encouraged to play a prominent part in the day to day life of their communities.
Mail Deliveries in Pairc

Much more so than nowadays, women were left to tend to the family’s needs, rear children, manage livestock and perform some of the more burdensome and unpleasant tasks associated with the crofting way of life.
Ishbel, or Belle as she was known, was the daughter of Murdo Nicolson (Murchadh Dh’ol Thormoid), of Calbost, and she had gone over the Loch to Crossbost in the late eighteen sixties on her marriage to Kenneth MacKenzie (Coinneach Ledidh), 28 Crossbost, who had recently returned home from service with the Hudson Bay Company in Canada.  Over the Loch (null air a loch, or thall air a loch) were commonly used phrases of the day which have now fallen into disuse, signifying the close bond of friendship that existed between the inhabitants of the villages that existed on both sides of Loch Erisort and the harmonious social interchange that prevailed when only a short sea crossing separated them, compared with the long, winding stretch of road that served to isolate the communities from each other from the late nineteen twenties onwards.

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Roads in Pairc,1900

A report of a meeting about roads in the Pairc district, held 15 January 1900. From the Stornoway Gazette, 27 January 1900.
A large meeting of crofters, cottars and fishermen from the townships of Lemara, Gravir, Calbost, Marivig, and Cromore in the district of Park was held on the 15th inst. in the Cromore Schooolhouse. Captain Macfarlane, Marivig, was in the chair. The meeting was opened with prayer by the Rev. J. Macdougall. The Chairman, in an able and clear speech, stated that it was a well-known fact to them all that the Lewis District Committee have unanimously been of the opinion that the best way of making roads in the Park district was to construct a main road from Cromore to Gravir, with the intention of ultimately extending it to Lemara, with branches to Marivig on the left and Garyvard on the right. It was also stated that the District Committee were fully under the impression that they had the unanimous consent of the people in favour of the above route, until they heard from Colonel Gore-Booth recently that a numerously-signed petition had been sent out from certain townships against the route proposed by the Committee, and in favour of another route along the coast from Cromore and passing through Marivig and Calbost to the lower end of Gravir, and recommended by Captain Andrews as the result of his visit to the place last harvest. It was explained to the meeting that the main object of their being called there that day was to find out whether the petitions referred to by Colonel Gore-Booth were genuine or not.

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MacRath Mòr in Caversta

Caversta’s claim to fame centres round the Rev John Macrae, minister of Lochs from 1857-1866.
MacRath Mòr, ‘Big Macrae’, who was a physical and spiritual giant was a household name in Scotland in the latter half of the nineteenth century , having ministered at Cross (1833), Knockbain (1839), Greenock (1849), Lochs (1857) and Carloway (1866) before retiring to Stornoway in 1871 where he preached regularly after his retirement.
Lochs (Crossbost) at that time was a congregation of around 5000 people. There were no Free Church buildings at Kinloch or Pairc in these days and with roads being few and far between in what was a large and widely dispersed area. It was with this in mind that the people of Snizort in Skye presented Macrath Mór with a yacht, The Wild Duck which was sailed to Lewis by his good friend Rev Roderick Macleod of Snizort.
This is where Caversta comes to the fore. Because of its central location ‘Gob Chabharstaigh’ became a meeting place and whenever Rev Macrae was to preach there, people came by boat from Kinloch, North Lochs, Cromore and Marvig while those from Gravir, Lemreway and Orinsay came on foot.

It is very likely that the ‘tent’ or portable pulpit, at present in the museum at Gravir was used there and there is part of a wall at number 3 in an area known as ‘Tobair na Tent‘.
Macrath Mór’s wife was Penelope Mackenzie, daughter of Captain Thomas Mackenzie, tacksman at Bayble. She is buried in Eilean Chalum Chille where the inscription on her gravestone is still legible but Macrae himself was buried at Greenock.

Kirsty & Alasdair

Kirsty agus Alastair, Gubh Gradh Innleachd – as told by Angus Macleod, Calbost and Marybank.
Usually there was a moral to the stories told in the village Ceilidh House and romance had a prominent place on the agenda. The following story is true….
In the mid 1850s parents took a keen interest in their daughters’ choice of a prospective husband and if he did not meet with their approval, they withheld their consent to marriage, and very often nominated a candidate of their own choice. Usually the young ladies had no alternative but to suppress their amorous feelings and gracefully accept the choice of their more mature and wise parents? Obviously it worked well because divorce was unknown.
Some of the young ladies however, had a mind of their own and they were not always prepared to accept their parent’s choice. One such young lady was 21 year old Kirsty Macaskill, 17 Gravir, who was born in 1836 (Kirsty Dhomhnuill-a-Phiobair) she was not prepared to substitute her own lover, Alistair Macleod, Marvig for her parent’s choice of Norman Matheson, Gravir, nicknamed ‘Cigar’. Her parents, and particularly her mother, Anna Bard, who was a formidable lady, a daughter of Iain Mhurchaidh Bhard, Gravir, forbade Kirsty to associate with Alastair from Marvig anymore.
Undaunted by the opposition of her large family of both parents and her six brothers, (her two sisters, Mary and Margaret were on her side). She and Alastair set about secretly planning to elope and be married at the nearest Church at Crossbost in 1856. As there were no roads in Lochs at that time they needed to arrange for a boat and crew to take them to Crossbost.
Kirsty would also need to plan her escape from home without raising undue suspicion and it was here that she needed the cooperation of her 24 year old sister Mary who was unmarried and living in the family home. Her older sister, Margaret who was born in 1831, was already married to Alastair Maclennan, Alastair Dhonnachadh, 18 Marvig.
It was customary at that time for young folk to go to the peat banks on the moor daily, first thing in the morning to bring home a creel or bag of peats because there were no roads and no tractors. Kirsty and Mary were in the habit of going to the moor for creels of peats each morning, and they conspired to pass out secretly, some of Kirsty’s clothes through the bedroom window (unnag-na-culaist) each morning to the other girl who would hide the clothes in her creel and carry them out to the peat-stack on the moor, awaiting the appointed day of elopement.
When eventually, all the arrangement were ready, including Kirsty’s clothes, and a boat and a stalwart crew of young Marvig men, ready waiting at the departure point at Leck-Dubh with Marvig Bay, the girls got up early as usual and went off with their creels to the moor, ostensibly for the usual daily quota of peats, only this time they knew they were going to race over the moor to Marvig where Alastair and his team were waiting to whisk the Bride and Groom off in a boat to Crossbost Church to be married by Rev Robert Finlayson Free Church Minister of Lochs.

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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.

November Gales of 1881

From the Scotsman, 29 November 1881:

A Hundred Fishing Boats Destroyed in the Island of Lewis

Stornoway, Thursday night: – The weather still continues stormy here, with a good deal of lightening and heavy peals of thunder at night, and occasional squalls of hurricane force. This morning, between eight and nine o’ clock, a gale blew from the south-west, and a very heavy sea was raised in the harbour.
The vessels driven ashore during Tuesday’s gale have all been got off more or less damaged, except the schooner Burncoose, of Aberystwith, with oats, and the Telegram of Stornoway, both of which were driven very high upon the beach, and will be difficult to float. The Burncoose is being discharged. The German brig Anna Sophia, whose mainmast was cut away, was towed to the inner harbour, and will be discharged here in order to be repaired.
Reports from the country districts of Lewis and Harris state that the effects of the gale have been most disasterous to houses, stacked grain, and fishing boats. In Harris scarecely a fishing boat is left undamaged. In order to show the intensity of the gale there, it is reported that a large fishing boat was lifted by the force of the wind and carried across a loch half a mile broad, without touching the water.
Telegraphic communication is still interrupted with Harris and Uist. In Lewis the effects have been most serious for the fishermen prosecuting the cod and ling fishing, which is generally commenced about this time on the east coast of Lewis, and owing to the number of boats destroyed this important industry will be seriously crippled.
At Lochs scarecely a fishing village has escaped. At Crossbost, three large herring fishing boats were damaged by the wind and waves, one of them – a decked one – being smashed into pieces. Luirbost lost seven cod and ling fishing boats, one of them being carried out to sea.
At Marnish, five large herring fishing boats, which were lashed together, were carried for some distance into the sea, but happily a projecting piece of land kept them from being carried out to sea entirely. They were all damaged.
At Gravir, twenty miles from here, one large decked herring-boat, named the Ann More, valued at £180, was carried off the beach out to sea, and was not seen again; and nine cod and ling fishing-boats were broken into pieces.
In the Stornoway district the havoc among boats have also been very great. At Knock, three boats were broken into pieces; at Sheshadir, two were blown away and smashed; At Aird Point, four boats were destroyed; and at Portnaguran, fourteen miles from here, three boats were smashed, whilst at Shadir one, and at Ganabost two boats were destroyed and broken into small pieces.
On the north side of Broad Bay, the effects of the storm were also very serious – three boats and Tongue, three boats at Vatsker, and six at Tolsta being more or less damaged. The majority of them were broken into pieces. At Carloway, on the west side of Lewis, and twenty-four miles from here, three large boats were completely smashed. There are no accounts from Uig, but at Ness the boats all escaped.
In Lewis, close upon one hundred boats have been more or less damaged, and in the most of the cases completely destroyed. The Clydesdale steamer arrived tonight. Telegraphic communication is still partially interrupted between here and Inverness.

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