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. 

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