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. 

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