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.

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

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.

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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 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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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.

Lemreway and the Puffin Hunt, 1958

by Donald Mackay, Kershader, in 1958-59
Lemreway was one of the villages affected by the Park clearances. It was resettled in 1861 when those who were removed from Brollum to Stiemreway were in that year removed to Lemreway on the outskirts of the Park sheep farm. None of those who had originally been evicted from Lemreway in 1841 returned to it in 1861 except one man, a Macaulay from Crossbost. There are no Macaulays in Lemreway today but certain Nicolsons are descendants of the Macaulay mentioned. The population of the village is 150 persons normally at home and of those there are only four males between the ages of 18 and 30 years.

At one time the inhabitants of Lemreway and other neighbouring villages made visits to the Shiant Isles for puffins. The grounds of the Shiants is pockmarked with holes, the nesting place of the puffins, and the villagers used to bring home boatloads of dead birds which were valued for their feathers. They also enjoyed big pots of boiled puffins as a welcome change from their usual fish diet.

A day was chosen when there was a strong breeze blowing against the steep braes where the puffins nest and breed. The young men lay down on their backs on these slopes, holding up by the butts fishing rod lines of 9 or 10 foot in length. Holding them with both hands they whacked the puffins as they flew past them, quite low, in their hundreds. Whether the puffin was killed outright or merely stunned, it rolled down the steep slope to the shore or to the sea, and the rest of the crew were kept busy gathering bodies into the boat. The spreading of a herring net over the nesting ground was another method used. This custom has not been engaged in now for many a year.
There are a total of 46 houses (thatched 10, two rooms 2, three rooms 4, four rooms 23, five or more rooms 7.) One house has been built by government grant since 1918.  The school is attended by Lemreway and Orinsay children. There is a headmaster and one female assistant. The number on the roll is 35. In 1914 the number was 84. The West Coast Mission established a mission station in Lemreway shortly after 1900, and in 1938 the station was taken over by the Free Church, to which all the villagers belong.

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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Kristine Kennedy delivers 5th Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture

Kristine Kennedy from 13 Orinsay was the star of a sensational evening on Thursday 23 October when she delivered the 5th Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture in Pairc School, Gravir.
Speaking in Gaelic on the subject Phairc – Sealladh Pearsanta (Park – A Personal Perspective), Kristine looked back at her childhood in South Lochs, both the hardships and the privileges of being brought up in a close-knit Gaelic-speaking community. She reviewed, with humour, songs, and personal stories, the profound social changes which have occurred over the last 30 years, one indication of which is that this article is being written in English. Here is an extract:

‘B’ e a ’ Ghàidhlig cànan na coimhearsnachd agus gu dearbh cànan na h- eaglaise. ’ Se an eaglais gu ìre mhòr a chum a’Ghàidhlig a’ dol fiù’s an uair a bha foghlam a’ cur cùlaibh rithe. Agus cha b’e bloigh Gàidhlig a bh’ innte air chor sam bith ach Gàidhlig ghlan, làidir a’ Bhìobaill. Sin agaibh dìleab phrìseil na h-eaglaise agus ann an cur a- mach na loidhne.
Luiginn aghaidh m’athair a bha na fhìor phrecentor agus aghaidhnean gu leòr eile a tha air falbh fhaicinn nam b’urra mi innse dha gun do chuir mi blasad dhe na seo air a’ CD mu dheireadh a rinn mi (CD – Dè?) agus gu bheil mi air a bhith a’ toirt an ‘style’ seinn seo air feadh na dùthcha ’s a dh’Eirinn ’ s bho thòisich an ùidh eadar-nàiseanta cuideachd air a thoirt gu ruigeas NewYork agus Alabama! ’S dòcha gu robh còir agam a ràdh cuideachd nach robh e ceadaichte neo cò-dhiù cumanta do bhoireannaich a bhith a’ cur a- mach na loidhne ged a tha cuimhne agam air ‘Small’ agus ‘AnnaDan’ ga dhèanamh corra uair mura robh fireannach a làthair sa choinneamh sheachdnach as a’ bhaile da b’ aithne seinn.
Tha an dòigh seinn seo gu mòr glaiste nam anam ’s nam chridhe ’s chaneil mi chaoidh gu bràth a’dol a dh’iarraidh leisgeul dhaoine airson a bhith a’ brosnachadh chan e mhàin fir ach caileagan gus an neamhnuid luachmhor seo a chumail beò.
Cha dean mi diochuimhn’ air a’ chiad turas a chuala mi fear dhe na h-èildearan san eaglais an Grabhair ag ùrnaigh sa Bheurla – bha mise air imrich an ceann mo chosnaidh ach a-stigh air saor-làithean. Cha robh mi riamh air facal Beurla neo seinn Bheurla a chluinntinn san eaglais againn roimhe seo ’s bha e dìreach cho coimheach dhomh – cha ro fiù’s fhios agam gu robh comas facal Beurla aige. Tha e do-dhèanta dhomh dealbh choilionta a dhèanamh air – bha an cànan fuadain seo cho mach às àite am broinn na h-eaglais seo. ’Sann ag iarraidh gu gàireachdainn a bha mi chionns’ bha suidheachadh cho annasach ’s cha b’ urra mi dìreach a thoirt a-steach.’

English Summary

Gaelic was the language of the community and indeed of the church. The church to a greater or lesser extent was central to the continued survival of the language when areas such as education turned its back on it. This was no pidgin Gaelic but the strong rich Gaelic of the Bible. That and the tradition of precenting the line is a gift of the church to us.
I would love to have seen my father’s face – no mean precentor himself – and that of many others if I could tell them the many shores to which that gift has taken me, be it Ireland or New York or Alabama. I should probably add that it was not permissible or at least not common in their time for a woman to precent the line although I do recall the odd occasion when Anna Dan or “Small” as she was known led the praise because there were no gifted singers amongst the men present at the weekly meeting.
This style of singing is close to my heart and soul and I will never apologise for promoting it amongst young boys and girls so this priceless jewel can be preserved.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard one of the elders in the church in Gravir praying in English. Having left home to earn my living I was visiting on holiday. Never having heard a word of English or of singing in English in the church before then made it a truly alien experience – I didn’t even know the gentleman in question had such a grasp of the English language. It’s difficult for me to describe the enormity of hearing this language echoing around the walls of this particular church. My instinctive reaction was to laugh… I just couldn’t take it in.
This was a speech which had it all – from Ministers to Cailleach an Deacon, “Beaver”‘and “Peggy Diry”, from the Stornoway school hostels to the Stiomrabhagh fank. And at the end of her address, Kristine looked ahead to the sort of community South Lochs is today, and what kind of community she would like it to be in the future.
Whatever lies ahead I hope that Pairc will be a community with Gaelic at it’s heart. A warm, welcoming and successful community – a place where people and young families live, work and grow up. A growing, united community, a place of natural beauty, songs and music, stories and wit, faith and freedom.

Some 100 people, locals, others from all parts of Lewis and Harris, and some who had come specially from the mainland, packed into the school on an evening of gale-force winds and horizontal rain. There was no question in anyone’s mind that it had been worth it, an evening that will live in the memory for many years.
Our thanks to everyone, too numerous to mention individually, who contributed to an unforgettable occasion. The full texts of Kristine’s lecture in Gaelic (and a summary in English) are available price £5 from Margaret Macdonald at Ravenspoint (tel 01851 880737).

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