Parish of Lochs (1831-1845) - Civil history

Ancient History.-There is no account, either printed or in manuscript, of the ancient history of the parish of Lochs, excepting what may be in the possession of Mr R. Macaulay, preacher of the gospel, Stornoway,.who, I am informed, proposed to collect the traditions of Lewis, with a view to publication.

Traditions.-The traditions of this country present a crude mass of events, which refer more to the occasional exploits of the heroes of the Shenachies, than to the regular history of the Lewis. These traditions are nevertheless very interesting; but there is scarcely any of importance that refers to this particular parish of Lochs. The bards or shenachies of Lewis resided in the parishes of Uig and Barvas or Ness, as did also their favourite heroes.

Land-owner:.-The sole land-owner of this parish, and of all the Island of Lewis, is James Alexander Stewart M‘Kenzie, Esq; M. P., who succeeded to the estate, on his to the Honourable Lady Hood M‘Kenxie, widow of the late Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, and eldest daughter of the last Lord Seaforth.

Parish Registers.-No register was kept in this parish at any time, as far as known, until July 1831, when the present incumbent became parish minister of Lochs.

Antiquities.-The principal antiquity in the parish of Lochs is in that district called Carloway, which is situated on the northwest side of Lewis, separating the parishes of Uig and Barvas. This antiquity is a fortification of circular form. It was and is still covered with turf, and lined with a remarkably strong stone wall, which is, however, suffering decay. The lower part of the interior of this edifice was a place of residence, to which there was a subterraneous passage from an adjacent hill or brae. There was also an interior wall of stone, inclosing the more elevated habitable part of the edifice between which and the outer wall, there was a winding flight of stone steps from the top to the bottom, over which, there was a parapet four feet high. The interior of this fortification or down, (as it is named in Gaelic) is now in a stain of dilapidation. Its height when entire was about twenty feet. It was of that class of buildings well known in Ireland by the name of round towers, of which many were built there by the Danes, who also are said in the traditions of Lewis to have built Dun Charloway. This fortification must have been a place of considerable strength, when the javelin, the bow and arrow were the only implements of war. Tradition says, Dun Charloway was once taken by an individual notorious in the traditions of Lewis, named Donald Caum M‘Cuil, who, by means of two dirks which he constantly carried about with him, one of which he alternately stuck in the turf that covers the outer stone dike of Dun Charloway, raised himself up to the summit of the parapet, from which the inmates were wont to shoot their arrows at the assailing foe. Donald Caum, once in possession of the parapet, made the sleeping inmates easy victims to his resentment, during the darkness of night.

There are several ruins of fortifications of minor magnitude, but of a similar description, throughout this island. The only other in this parish, lies on a rock surrounded by the sea, at the entrance of Loch Erisort.

There is a ruin on the island of St Colin, in the entrance of Loch Erisort, which was once a religious edifice. The ground surrounding this ruin, is the only place of interment in the parish of Lochs. St Colm is the place on which the first factor sent to the Lewis by the M‘Kenzies, then of Kintail, resided. It is the general opinion, that the said ruin on the island of St Colin is the ruin of a place of ‘worship, erected in the’ days of Mac Mhic Mhoruchi, which was the patronymic of the first factor sent to this island by the M‘Kenzies.

Manse, &c.-The manse of Lochs stands on an eminence, on the north side of Loch Erisort. It is a commodious house, but very much exposed to the inclemency of the weather. It was built upwards of thirty years ago, and is, with the exception of the farmhouse of the Valimas, the only house in the parish of Lochs, which is built of stone and lime. There are three dwelling-houses in the parish built of stone and clay, which are occupied by farmers, and are comfortable considering their size,-of which only one is slated, viz. the inn of Lochshell, which is the only inn in the parish; it is a farm house also. The other habitations are wretched. They are built of stones and mess; but mostly of moss. Their walls, if they can be so called, are generally four feet high and from four to five feet thick. They are thatched with barley stubble. They are all built on declivities. Their upper ends are occupied by the families, and their lower ends by their cattle, without any purtition or division between them.

Mills.-The mills in Lewis are probably the greatest curiosity a stranger can meet with on the island. There is scarcely a stream along the coast, on any part of the island, on which a mill is not to be seen. These mills are of very small size, and of a very simple construction. The water passes through their middle, where the wheel, a solid piece of wood generally, eighteen inches in diameter stands perpendicularly. A bar of iron runs through the centre of this wheel. This bar of iron or axle rests on a piece of steel, which is fixed on a plank, the one end of which is fixed in the mill wall, the other in the end of a piece of plank, which stands at right angles with the plank on which the wheel tests. The upper end of the axle fits into a cross bar of iron, which is fitted into the upper millstone, the axle passing through the centre of the lower millstone, which is rested upon wooden beams or long stones. There is a purchase upon the end of the said perpendicular beam or plank, by which the upper millstone can be raised or lowered. There are nine pieces of board, eight inches broad, and a foot and half long, fixed in the wheel, parallel and at equal distances from each other, upon which the water is brought to bear; which, together with a few sticks for roof, and some heather for thatch, constitutes a Lewis mill.

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