Parish of Stornoway (1831-1845) - Parochial Economy
Market-Towns.-Stornoway is the only market-town in the parish; the other towns or hamlets consist of tenants‘ houses built at the head of their lots.
Stornoway Proper is a burgh of barony, and contains a population of 1000 souls. Bay-head, Guirshadir, and Laxdale adjoining, contain nearly 900; on the north side of the town, Inailite, Sandwich, and Holm, quite contiguous, contain as many; Stenish, Culnagrein, and Cross Street contain a population of 130, which makes a total of almost 3000 in the immediate vicinity of the town, at no greater distance from the burgh than one mile.
Stornoway is the chief town in the Northern Hebrides. It has gradually increased from a paltry hamlet of a dozen houses, to the size and importance of a considerable town, containing several streets within the barony, namely, South Beach, North Beach, Point Street, Kenneth Street, Cromwell Street, Church Street, Kieth Street, and Francis Street, Bay-head, &c.
Sheriff and Commissary Courts, Bailie, Excise, and Justice of Peace Courts are here held regularly.
Means of Commmunication.-The nearest market-town is Dingwall, which is 120 miles from Stornoway. The means of communication are by vessels, and the weekly packet between Poolewe and Stornoway. There is one post-office. The average income of the post-office is L. 380. Government pays L. 150 per annum. The yearly proceeds would afford a better packet than the one
There are no turnpike roads. In the last Statistical Account, I find that road-making commenced in I791 and in 1796 four miles of the Barvas road were made. Though at that period the making of a road betwixt Stornoway and Uig, was supposed to require the labour of many ages," there is now a tolerable road made from sea. to sea, the distance of twenty miles and since that time, there are nearly 200 miles of road made by statute labour. Moss is found to be an excellent elastic foundation for a road, when covered with gravel and red clay till. They are in a shocking state of repair. A layer of nine inches of such road metal as is to be found here, is absolutely necessary to make them comfortable. There is not a stone bridge across a river in the island to my knowledge, though the waters are often dangerous, and lives are lost by the impetuous torrents. The principal harbour is Loch Stornoway, where there is safe anchorage for an indefinite number of vessels. There are several good quays along the North Beach. Ship-carpenters are daily employed; and each shipowner has his dock.
Ecclesiastical State.-The parish church is situate on Kirkhill, in the town of Stornoway. It is only convenient for the population in and near the town. From the farm of Tolsta, which contains 250 souls, the church is twelve miles distant; and six miles of a pathless moor are very rugged. Tong, where the manse is built, is by the new road four miles from church, and between the manse and Tolsta, there is a population of 1200 without a seat in church, and destitute of any place of worship, viz. Drum-bheag and Aird of Tong, containing 200 souls, Garra-Ghuism, 50, Upper and Nether Coll, 222, Vateikis and Back, 399, Gress, 122, and Tolsta 250, in all 1253 souls. The present church was built in 1794. It is mentioned in the last Statistical Account, thus: A very elegant church was lately built at Stornoway. The internal economy is very nearly finished.” Three years ago, the people of the parish became alarmed about the insufficiency of the front wall, and the weight of the roof,-when partial repair was given to it; but this did not remove the alarm, the front wall was still off the plumb line several inches; the wall receded from the seats in the gallery, and no consideration would make the people enter to attend divine service.
After the present incumbent’s petition was laid before the presbytery, the feuars in Stornoway, conjointly with the ministers, laid the proceedings of presbytery before Messrs Mackenzie and Cockburn, trustees for the Seaforth property. They agreed that all should be assessed, according to their several interests. The repairs there-upon commenced, and are now on the eve of being finished. When these are completed, the church will not be surpassed by any in the Western or Northern Hebrides.
The feuars generously and unanimously voted to the present incumbent, a session-house or Vestry adjoining the back wall of the church,-wherein he can rest, during the interval between the Gaelic and English services.
The original sum expended in building the church was L. 900; the present repair amounts to nearly L. 600,-to which the feuars contribute nearly one-half. The benefactions on record are four: Colonel Mackenzie, formerly mentioned, gave L. 100 Sterling, Miss Mary Mackenzie Cam, his sister, L. .140, Mrs A. Nicolson, L. 100, and Mrs Macaulay, South Carolina, L. 59 Sterling.
There is only accommodation or legal seat-room for 800 persons, though two-thirds of the examinable people between Tolsta and Stornoway amount to 2000. In Stornoway and its immediate vicinity, there are 2000 examinable persons that could attend, if they had room in church. From the manse at Tong to Tolsta, as above-mentioned, there is a population of 1200; two-thirds of the examinable persons amount to 500 entitled to legal accommodation in church,-but there is none for them. The minister used to preach, once a month at Back, a farm belonging to the district of Gress; but the preaching-house there was thrown down, rebuilt, and converted into a school-house, not capable of containing more than 200 persons crammed together. There can be no free sittings in a church, from which more than 2000 persons are excluded for want of room.
The present manse was built twenty-five years ago, during Mr M‘Kenzie’s incumbency the office-houses, during the late Mr Simson Fraser's. The roof of the manse is in an insufficient state; and during a storm, walls and windows admit rain.
The glebe is eight acres arable in extent, with a little rugged wet, deep, mossy moor. In the Statistical Account before me the glebe is valued at L. 5. The present glebe is an excambed one. The former glebe and manse were in Stornoway. That glebe is now feued and farmed;-bringing Mr S. M‘Kenzie annually an amount equal to the minister's stipend. The present glebe at Tong was designed on the 5th day of October 1759. By that designation and excambion, the grass glebe alone should support six cows coupled, and their followers till four years old, with four horses, making at least thirty head of cattle and horses; but the glebe enjoyed by the present incumbent cannot support the one-half of that number.
The amount of stipend paid by the proprietor is L. 99. The other sum is paid by the Barons of Exchequer, which brings the stipend to L. 150 Sterling annually.
There are no chapels of ease here. There is one Government church, built in the district of Ui, four miles from the parish church, at the extremity of the district, in the most inconvenient situation, for 800 out of a population of 1308. There are no missionaries, but one is very much required for the district of Gress. There is one catechist, employed by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge
There are no dissenters of any denomination. Many have attempted to establish meeting-houses, but were not successful. The people, though fickle, have an attachment to the Established Kirk. There is a local missionary society formed here, not subject to local authority.” The number of communicants at the last sacrament’ did not exceed 40.
The annual amount of church collections for religious and charitable purposes averages L. 30 Sterling.
Education.-The total number of schools is 13 one parochial school; one ‘from the S. P. Christian Knowledge; two from the Gaelic School Society one female school endowed by Mrs M‘Kenzie, and Miss Mary Cam, formerly mentioned. In this school, 60 scholars are taught reading, writing, and sewing, Mrs S. M‘Kenzie having sent the female teacher to Edinburgh, to learn the system taught in the School of Industry there; salary about L. 20, with free lodgings in the seminary.
There are two schools supported by the country people, in Knock and Melbost three supported by Mrs S. M‘Kenzie and the people conjunctly; three are unendowed, or chance schools. There was one upheld by individual subscription, in which the fashionable branches were taught to a limited number of scholars; salary L. 60, including fees. It was discontinued lately.
In the grammar and parochial school, all the branches constituting a classical education are taught. The parochial teachers salary is only L. 32. The amount of school fees does not exceed L. 20, and is seldom so much, as many are taught gratis, and the fees are ill paid. The parochial teacher has not the legal accommodation.
The annual expense for English reading, is from 10s. 6d. to 14s; for Latin and the higher branches L. 1, 4s., for each scholar. The number between six and fifteen years of age, who cannot read, is 586. The number upwards of fifteen who cannot read is 1265.
Literature.-There is one circulating library, established by Seaforth and his lady.
Friendly Societies.-There are two Friendly Societies and a Masons’ Lodge. The lodge existed since 1767, and in four years distributed L. 300. The Trades Society was formed in 1769 the Friendly Society, since 1801. Both give nearly 5s. per-week to each sick member.
The Hon. Mrs S. M‘Kenzie is very charitable to the poor, giving medicine, food, and clothing to the necessitous.
Bank.- There is a branch of the National bank in Stornoway.
Poor and Parochial Funds.-The number of poor receiving parochial aid is 219. The average sum given to each, is 5s. The average amount of collections is L. 30. The interest arising from legacies varies, together with the mulcts levied from delinquents; and out of the combined amount, precentors, beadle, session-clerk, and part of the catechist’s salaries are paid. The whole amount distributed in 1830 was L. 52 Sterling.
Prisons.-There is not one prison for a population of 14,000 in the island of Lewis.
Fairs.-Near Stornoway, there is a square mile of moor inclosed for an annual tryst or cattle-market, where several thousand head of cattle are exposed for sale, and two thousand at least change owners, in two days. The prices and demand depend on the southern markets. From 20 to 30 drovers or cattle-dealers come from the mainland, and some from England. The market or tryst always holds on the second Wednesday of July annually, by advertisement and the packet waits to bring purchasers across the Minch.
Inns-In Stornoway there are 18 houses regularly licensed for the vending of spirituous liquors. This number comprises four respectable inns, namely, the Royal Oak, Crown, Star and New Inn seven are shops, and the remaining seven miscellaneous; but which perhaps would be better distinguished under the appellation of petty public-houses, the pest of the morals of the people. The quantity of spirits imported last quarter, is 802 gallons, and the quantity brought in from the distillery in the neighbouring parish is 328 gallons. The stocks on hand are invariably very inconsiderable. These two quantities added together, and quadrupled, may be fairly estimated as the consumption for the year 1831, which, calculated at the present rate of duty, yields to his Majesty’s Treasury the sum of L. 753, 6s. 8d. The quantity exported per annum is about 300 gallons. Annual consumption 4520 imperial gallons.
Fuel.-The fuel consists of English and Scotch coal, and most excellent black peats. Coals are sold at L. 1, ls. per ton; peats, to those who have no carts to lead them home, are almost as dear as coal. The peat cutting season is one of joy and hilarity. Eggs, butter. cheese. and whisky are brought to the peat bank.
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