Lochs, 1791-1799

The parish derives its name from the numerous harbours, in this country always referred to as Lochs. The name could also be derived from the innumerable bodies of fresh water in the moor, also called lochs.  The coastline is 90 miles long. The coast looks rocky and steep; the interior consists of soft, flat moor. The inhabitants have put some of the soil into cultivation near the seashore.

Rose (erysipelas), colds, rheumatism are the most common; epidemics of infectious diseases sweep the country, ending the lives of many.

Of cod and ling, 24 tons are caught annually. Cured ling sells at £15 10s a ton and cod at £10, to merchants at Stornoway. Their season is February to May. 45 to 50 tons of kelp is manufactured on an annual basis. The principal harbours are Loch Seaforth, Loch Shell and Loch Erisort. The main headlands are Keback Head and the point of Rairnish. Between Lewis and Skye sit the Shiant or Holy Islands. On Moair or Mary's Islands is the remains of a Popish chapel. Black cattle roam all three islands as do sheep. One family resides on the largest island, to tend cattle. They have lost the wife, a son and a daughter through falling from a steep precipice.

The parish is inhabited by 1,768 of which 845 are male and 923 female. In 1755 their number was 1,267. Longevity occurs; one woman died aged 104. There are 366 families. There are 38 kelpmakers, 16 weavers of coarse cloth, 2 boat carpenters, 3 tailors and a blacksmith; the majority of people are fishers and netmakers. They all are with the Established Church. Their language is Gaelic, with many of the names derived of Danish and Norwegian origin.

There are 2,488 black-cattle, excluding calves: 4,000 sheepand 348 horses. Little corn is grown here, sown in April or May and reaped in September and October. Fish is their primary sustainance.  The landrent of the parish is £1020 5s.

Ecclesiastical matters
The value of the minister's living is £80, including the glebe. The minister is Alexander Simson, who has been there for 3 years. He is married and has 3 boys and a girl. A new manse, two churches and a parochial schoolhouse were built last year. A Society schoolhouse was built 3 years ago.

There are 58 poor people, who receive the proceeds of church collections, with 5 guineas from the proprietor and money raised from fines upon delinquents.

Other subjects
Fuel: peats. No plough; the ground is tilled with spades. There are 70 fishing boats, and people are accustomed to living at sea. Females are encouraged to spin flax, supplied to a trustee by merchants at Aberdeen. There are two spinning schools in this parish, paid jointly by the proprietor's wife as well as the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The trustee is paid by the Society and the proprietor's wife.

To encourage the young women to acquire the perfect knowledge of spinning there is an annual competition at each of the schools, and premiums given by Mrs Mackenzie to the best performers, for the purpose of exciting a laudable emulation. The premiums are held out to all the taught spinsters in the island. The encouragement thus given to promote the industry, the improvement and consequently the real happiness of so many of our fellow creatures, who, from local circumstances are secluded from the more cultivated part of society, unquestionably reflects a high degree of honour on the worthy person by whom it is so generously bestowed, and shall infallibly prove a source of unspeakable consolation. The memory of the haughty, and, of course, the cruel-hearted daughters of dissipation shall be utterly forgotten, or if mentioned, shall be mentioned with abhorrence: whilst that of the generous, whose kind efforts are well directed for the permanent good of mankind, shall be blessed on the earth for many succeeding ages. 

Barvas, 1791-1799

Any observations made about this parish are limited in scope. It measures 24 miles east to west and 9 miles across. The coastline is some 30 miles long with a tremendous surf in a west or northwesterly wind.  There is not a single harbour and only a few inlets for boats to land.

There are a few hills, far from the sea, and a few small valleys. In places, there is so much stone that the ground cannot be ploughed. The district of Ness has better soil which yields reasonable crops.

There is less rain here than in the mainland or adjacent parishes, due to the remoteness from any high hills. Frost and snow are not as severe as elsewhere. The air is moist, giving rise to much rheumatism. Fevers are common, and many infants die of a disease on the 5th night of their life.

The whole parish is devoid of trees or brushwood. Although there are some lakes and streams, none of the latter merit the description of a river. Fishing comprises cod, ling, haddock, but mainly dogfish. These yield oil, of which 8832 Scotch pints (1104 Scotch gallons or 3319 Imperial gallons, or 15,000 litres) are manufactured and sold at 6d to 8d per pint. Few accidents occur, in spite of the state of the sea and the coastline. 42 boats, measuring 16 to 19 feet keel with 6 or 8 oars are involved, only using a handline with two large hooks.

The parish has 90 ploughs, pulled by four horses who are led by the halter by a'driver', walking ahead. Only the minister has a cart. The most commonly used fertiliser is cow-dung and seaware as well as soot from the blackhouses. Crops are black oats, beer and potatoes, grown between April / May and September / October. There are some 1050 horses, 2670 black cattle, 3392 sheep. All these are smaller than found elsewhere. The sheep's wool is literally pulled off the animal's back. Horses sell at £2 10s, cows at £2 5s and sheep at 3s each.

The exact population in the past is not known, since no records have ever been kept.

There are 439 families with 2006 souls, 914 male and 1092 female.
Aged under 6, 334;
Between 6 and 14, 407
Between 14 and 60, 1067
Above 60, 198.
Two women are aged 100 or over.

The population in 1755 was 1995

14 weavers,
5 tailors
7 blacksmiths
340 fishers
1 miller
NO shoemakers; people make their own footwear
All the craftsmen also have farms

The inhabitants are all of the Established Church of Scotland. There are two churches, one, near the manse, is a ruin. The other is a Catholic Church in Ness. The parish rent is £900, besides kelp, which the shores will yield 60 tons in 3 years. The stipend was only 1000 merks Scots, and £5 for the glebe, to which the proprietor added £20. The present incumbent is Donald Macdonald, who settled here in 1790. The manse is small, was built 28 years ago. There is no parochial school, although efforts to build one are underway. There is a charity school in Ness, run by the Honourable Society. People are said to have a lamentable lack of taste for education. Only 20 scholars attend. In the absence of the minister, the schoolmaster takes over in catechising and reading to the people on the Lord's Day.
Two spinning schools were built by the proprietor's wife, with a salary of £6 to each of the mistresses. The Honourable Society pays half of the salaries. The girls are not charged for their education, and are paid 10d for each spindle spun, with their wheels at a low rate, the poorest getting them free. 2 lb of coarse lint are given to begin with and competitions are held as an incentive.

There are 80 on the poor roll, who support themselves by begging. Support from the kirk session is insufficient. £4 (from collections &c) is distributed among the poor annually, with 5 guineas from the proprietor's wife. In addition, she gives 3 bolls of meal annually as well as grain and feed . 

There are several Catholic chapels or churches in the parish. The largest is St Mulvay's [St Moluag's] at Eoropie in Ness. It is 50 ft long, 24 broad and 16 ft in the side walls. A little north of it was St Ronan's. Others include:

St Peter's, Habost
St Thomas's, Swainbost
St Clement's, North Dell
Holy Cross, South Galson
St Bridget, Borve
St Peter's, Lower Strather [Shader]
St Mary's, Upper Barvas
St John the Baptist's, Bragir

A large dun or Danish fort stands between Borve and Galson on a small eminence near the sea. A similar but smaller edifice sits in a lake, Loch Duin at Bragir. Three sit in three small lakes between Strather and Borve, with a causeway leading to each of them which is visible in dry weather. A large standing stone, Clach i Drushel, stands 18 feet tall and 14 feet in circumference between Barvas and Strather. The vulgar tradition concern it is too absurd and superstitious to deserve any notice.

North Rona
The island of Rona, 16 leagues from Eorapie Point or the Butt of Lewis, the furthest point northwest in Europe, is part of this parish. The island contains a temple dedicated to St Ronan. The island is rented by one of the Ness tacksmen at £4 per annum. Every year, he sends a boat with corn, butter, cheese, a few sheep, a cow, some wildfowl and feathers. There used to be 5 families in Rona, but nowadays there is only one, who are servants.

Sulisker lies 4 leagues east of Rona, and some people from Ness go there to take birds, which are so tame that they can be knocked down with sticks. Feathers sell at Stornoway at 9 to 10s per stone.

Other notes
No moles, frogs, foxes, weasels or (until recently) hares. Pleny of pigeons, plover, shipe and a large variety of wild geese and ducks. Swan, woodcock and green plover appear seasonally. Eagles, corbies and crows are plentiful, and are harmful to young lambs. The parish is suffering from a lack of roads. The 12 to 18 miles from Stornoway lead across a broken, swampy moor, which people have to cross on foot, with their goods on their backs. The proprietor has built about 5 miles of road. Only one tryst is held across the whole of the island each year, and until the situation of roads is improved, the parish will be held back.
However, there is a lot of peats near the houses, and plenty of fish. Not much snow falls or lies long. There is far more uncultivated land than cultivated. The common language is Gaelic, but the placenames derived from the Norwegian.

Parish of Stornoway 1791-99

Proprietor is Colonel Francis Humberstone Mackenzie who resided for some years with his family. He was called away, at the commencement of the present war, to serve his King and country by raising two battalions of infantry for Government.

Main occupation is herring fishery, which yields some thousands barrels, and have about thirty-five vessels from 20 to 80 tons. In recent years, the fishing has failed, leading to a considerable decrease in their profits. The houses are built at a considerable cost, because all the materials are imported, the stones not excepted, and therefore such as are vacant must be let to tenants for higher rent than in most other places. Good houses are let at from £15 to £25 per annum, and rooms and lesser dwellings in like proportion. Some of the land about the town is let for 36s. per acre yearly.

There are two schools in Stornoway, one parochial, the other supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The master of the parochial school is paid £25 and his assistant £15. The master also has a dwelling-house and garden (rent-free) and some land. The quarterly fees are:
For English and writing: 2s 6d
For arithmatic and English: 3s
For Latin, writing and arithmatic together: 4s
Geography: 10s 6d
Navigation: £1 1s
Book-keeping: 10s 6d
There are 40 scholars.

The Society's schoolmaster is paid £17 10s and his assistant £8. His house is newly built with stone and lime, and slated, at the expense of the proprietor. The quarterly fees are:
Reading: 1s 6d
Writing: 2s
Arithmatic: 2s 6d
Book-keeping: 5s
Mensuration: 5s [Geometric measurements]
Navigation: 10s
There are 129 scholars.

There is also a spinning-school established by the Society with a garden and a slated house. The salary is £6 provided by the proprietor and £4 by the Society to the mistress. Two other such schools are now closed due to lack of pupils. The proprietor's wife has afforded encouragement to pupils and mistresses through various premiums.

The revenue amounts to not more than £20. There is also a King's cutter to prevent smuggling in the islands.

Packet and post-office
The government established a packet [mailboat] in 1759 which took mails, passengers, horses and cattle  back and forth to the mainland once a fortnight. An increase in business necessitated the purchase of a new vessel which goes for the mails one a week. It costs £130 a year, of which £70 is paid by the government and the rest by the proprietor as well as passengers, who pay 2s 6d to 4s 6d.

In 1791, £50 was paid for postages from Edinburgh to Stornoway, now increased to £90.

Population and other figures
In Stornoway and Bayhead, there were 139 families and in total 760 souls.

In Goathill and Imersligach [Newton], there were 130 families and 580 souls. These comprised of 229 males, 317 females [discrepancy noted]. Of these souls, 74 were aged under 6, 63 between 6 and 14, 319 between 14 and 60 and 90 above 60. There were also 79 cattle in these areas.

In parish and country, the rural area around Stornoway, there were 287 families with 1299 souls, of whom 625 male and 674 female. Of these, 218 were under 6, 225 between 6 and 14, 700 between 14 and 60 and 156 above 60. The area had 2361 cattle, 2576 sheep and 556 horses.

The overall totals stood at 556 families, 2639 souls of whom 854 were known to be male and 991 female; the balance is made up of the population of Stornoway and Bayhead, where figures for the genders are not quoted. Aged under 6 were 292, 288 between 6 and 14, 1019 between 14 and 60 and 246 above 60. The area held 2440 cattle, 2576 sheep and 556 horses.

Stornoway boasted of 67 slated inhabited houses, 26 of which were built since 1784.
Tradesmen: 11 joiners, 4 masons, 7 carpenters, 4 smiths, 11 tailors, 16 shoemakers, 13 weavers, 2 turners or wheelwrights, 4 gardeners, 8 shopkeepers and 5 innkeepers, totalling 85.

In 1792, 70 male and 65 female infants were baptised, totalling 135. Twenty marriages took place, as well as about 20 burials.

Between 1755 and 1796 the population increased by 827 from 1812 to 2639.

The amount of herring sent away from Stornoway, either for export overseas or for use within the Kingdom, rose from nearly 4600 barrels in 1791 to nearly 11000 in the 1793, only to slump to just over 1750 in 1796.  The amount of cod and ling increased from 65 tons in 1791 to 137 in 1794 and held broadly steadily over the following two years.Salmon? 4 tons, in 1793 only.

The parish has 12 large farms. If occupied by subtenants of the tacksman, these pay £1 10s to £3 per annum as well as 12 days' service. They fish for ling, for which they are paid 5d each; work on the herring boats at £1 a month; making kelp at £1 10s a ton; road-making and other labour 8d a day. This generates the money to pay rent and have a decent living.

There are different soils in the island, all on top of an impenetrable layer of clay. As a result, the island's soil is  very wet and the spring and harvest tend to be late. The ploughs used are described as awkward, although the main tacksmen employ Scotch and English ploughs.

Horse-loads are carried in a creel either side of the saddle. Gentlemen use coup carts, drawn by larger horses than those commonly found.

The ground is turned by making lazybeds (making timidh). This involves two people, one either side of a ridge. Two cut and two lift the clods. The method is necessary for making the ground productive, lest it be washed away or swamped. Black oats and barley are commonly sown, from early May to late June. Since the mid 18th century, potatoes are planted, sold at 3s to 5s a barrel. These are planted from the middle of April until the latter part of May. Harvest is between mid September and November.

The produce of the parish is insufficient to sustain its population, necessitating extensive importation of meal.

The air is moist and the climate rainy. The rains often spoil the harvest. Nonetheless, people are healthy and sometimes live to an age of 90 or 100. Winter is usually more open than in the mainland, free of snow and frost. Spring is wet and cold, as is autumn.

New-born infants are often affected by a distemper around the 5th day after birth, which carries them off by convulsive fits. The frequency of this affliction is decreasing. Rheumatism is common. Inoculation is performed successfully by the local surgeon.

Ecclesiastical state
Colin Mackenzie is the current incumbent, admitted on 27 August 1789. He has been married for two years and has one son. He gets a living of £88 13s 4d with a manse and a glebe of 8 acres, worth £5. The first manse and glebe were at Stornoway, but a new glebe put up at Tong in 1758. This manse is now in need of rebuilding. A missionary is needed, as there are some 1000 souls who can only worship every 5th Sunday.

The Poor
There are 127 poor, 63 in Stornoway. They are supported by donations of meal from the proprietor and the church.

Labour and servants
Labourers and farm servants are becoming hard to find, as many hands are occupied as sub-tenants, fishermen or in the army or navy. Male labourers are paid 8d daily without meat; 6d a day with two meals of meat and a dram. Women 6d a day, or 4d with two meals of meat.
Other daywages:
carpenter and mason: 1s 6d with victuals
smith: 2s
tailor: 1s without, or 6d with meat
joiners: 1s 6d
shoemakers: 10d and 1s per day

Men servants for farmwork: £2 to £5 annually, and a pair of shoes at 7s
Women servants: 10s to 20s and a pair of shoes at 6s
Herds for looking after cattle from 6 merks to 8s and 2 pair of shoes, with other small perquisities.
Domestic servants receive broadly the same sort of wages.

Roads &c
Roads were only being made in this island from 1791, from 4 miles outside Stornoway across a deep moss over a distance of 10 miles to the other side of the island.

An annual cattle tryst is held near Stornoway, where hundreds are sold from £1 10s to £3 a head

Prices in Stornoway
Beef: 1½d to 3d per lb
Mutton: 5s and 6s per wedder
Sheep: 3s, 4s and 4s 6d each
Lambs: 1s 8d and 2s each
Butter: 12s and 14s per stone
Cheese: 4s and 5s per stone
Veals: 2s 6d each
Pork: 2d per lb
Fowls: 4d a cock and 6d a hen
Ducks: 6d and 8d
Geese: 1s 6d and 2s

Animals here tend to be smaller than found elsewhere.
There are no foxes or badgers; after Seaforth introduced hares, they multiplied to their hundreds.
Seabirds and other birds, similar to those found on the mainland are found, except for partridge, robin, rook or magpie. 

No useful wood grows here.  An effort by the proprietor to grow trees near his house has failed, except for the allar and mountain ash.

Close to Gress, a seacave exists from where a large number of seals were killed. Nowadays, that number is down to barely a dozen. The seals live in a beach far inside the cave, some 200 yards from its opening.