Parish of Uig, 1791 - 1799

Uig means in many parts of the Highlands a solitary place, away from the public eye. This seems appropriate to this parish as it is separated from the parishes of Lochs and Stornoway by a moor of at least 12 miles in length. The interior of Uig is hilly, but flat along the shore. Along the shore, the soil is sandy. Further inland, the moss has been cut away for fuel leaving soil which yields forced crops, assisted by seaweed.

The air is damp and healthy to the inhabitants. Rheumatism, erysipelas, cholics are the most common ailments. Infants aged 5 to 8 days can be affected by a form of epilepsy which is invariably fatal. It only strikes between the aforementioned ages and occurs all over this island, but not beyond.

There are many lakes and streams, containing trout. Flavour of these appears to be inferior to their mainland counterparts. Salmon are caught in four rivers. The coastline stretches for a total of 40 miles, including Loch Roag. Dogfish, cod, ling and colefish are caught. Over the past few years, uncommonly large herring have started to appear between 20 December and the middle of January. Ninety boats came to fish and bought from the country people at 9s to 12s per cran (a barrel). The gales of the past winter took several of the fishermen's lives. Forty years and more ago the Swedish bought the fish at 1s a cran. There is much cod here, sold at 2d each. Salt for curing is supplied by the proprietor. Muscles, oysters, clams and cockles are in plentiful supply. 140 tons of kelp is made in Loch Roag, of the best quality in Scotland.

Gallan Head is one of the main promontories, with the Flannans 12 to 15 miles away in the ocean.  They are uninhabited, used for rearing sheep. In distant times, religious men lived there, with some of their temples remaining. Eider duck are found in the Flannans. Loch Roag contains several islands, some inhabited, including Large [sic] Bernera.

Population, August 1792
387 families
1898 souls
898 males
1000 femals
314 under the age of 6
342 under the age of 14
990 aged 14 to 60
252 over the age of 60

In 1755, the population was 1312

The parish has
275 netmakers
299 kelpmakers
26 weavers
9 wrights
7 tailors
3 blacksmiths

641 calves rearing
914 milch cows
2007 cattle
5044 sheep
304 goats
682 horses
73 fishing boats

There are several who are aged 90 or over. People marry young, and usually have children. They live in small farming communities and fish in summer. Women do not go out fishing, but do go out to sea, and are powerful rowers.
When they go to the hills with cattle, all will angle on the freshwater lochs.
Woollen and linen cloth is spun and woven locally.
The whole island only has one doctor.
All people belong to the Established Church.
There are 4 or 5 boat carpenters.
Leather brogues are made by several people, tanned with tormentil.
Suicide does not occur.
Many are involved in the manufacture of kelp, others will go to Harris or Uist for the same purpose. There are no trees, but brushwood.

The parish cannot supply its own food requirements. Potatoes are increasingly being grown, and diminishing the amount of food needing to be imported. A little flax and hemp are grown. Three spinning schools have been put up in the parish. Black and small oats are sown in March and April and reaped in September and October; the earlier sowing is to be able to work in kelping as soon as possible. Barley is sown in May, reaped in late August or September. Oats are cut with the sickle, barley is plucked. The root makes good thatch for houses. Cabbage is not used here as they prefer potatoes. Seaware abounds in the more interior parts of Uig, but is scarce on the ocean side.

Gaelic is virtually the only language spoken. It is hoped that English will become more prevalent, now that two schools have been built. Place names originate from the Norwegian.

The minister's house and glebe, with a contribution from the proprietor, value at £80. The minister is Hugh Munro, he has been here for 15 years and has three daughters and a son; he was widowed. The manse was built some 14 years ago, and two churches two years ago.

There are 50 poor asking for alms. The proprietrix gives £5 per annum to improve their conditions, and the proceeds of fines are added to that. People are noted for their charitable disposition.

A boat carpenter is paid 1s a day and food, as does a mason. A male servant gets £1 a year with coarse shoes and his food; a female servant 5s to 10s per year plus shoes and food. There is no plough, but crooked and straight spades are used. No carts or waggons. Peat is used for fuel.

At Callanish, close to Loch Roag, there is a druidical place of worship. The stones are very large, standing on end some distance from each other. At Melista there is the ruins of a nunnery called Teagh nan cailiachan dou (the house of the black women). A Danish fort stands at Carlaway, with a double wall of dry stone. Very broad at the base, contracting to a pyramid to the top. It stands some 30 feet tall.

People are noted for their cleanliness and hospitality above all others in Lewis. There are more than 100 boats. Two or three boats each year go to Glasgow with salted beef, salted fish, tallow &c. They are thrifty and do not aspire to a military life.

Manufacturing would improve the condition of the people. Near the manse lives a woman with four breasts. She has several stout healthy children, and suckled each of them, as well as one of the minister's children. She has nipples and milk in each of the four breasts; the two upper are situated immediately under the arm-pits, and by being distended with milk, are very troublesome to her for the first 2 or 3 months after her delivery. Such a lusus naturae is very uncommon.

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