View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 27 May 2010


If you want to read a description of what poverty was like in the Isle of Barra in 1883, read this account by Allan McIntyre, aged nearly 60 at the time. Contrast that with the condescending attitude of one of the major farmers in the island, Dr McGillivray of Eoligarry comes out with this beauty of a statement in his interrogation by the Commission, only a few minutes before McIntyre's questioning.
10803. [...] Do you think there is more disinclination to emigrate now than there was at that time?
—Well, I think that if the people saw they were to be assisted they would go. The general impression now is that the population is getting thronged again.

10804. How is it getting thronged ?
—In the way I have mentioned, by their intermarrying, and not leaving the country.
It was perceived by some of the ruling classes that the sovereign remedy against overcrowding and poverty in their landed property was to get the people to emigrate. As the Commission correctly highlights elsewhere in Dr McGillivray's quizzing, many of the emigrants arrived in Canada in a state of destitution.

Don't forget to collect your jaw from the floor before you leave this blogpost. 

Thursday 27 May

Fairly bright day, but with occasional downpours - which include hail. That is not uncommon in Lewis at this time of year, and no surprise given the low temperatures (10C / 50F) at the moment. The rainfall radar shows a rash over mainland Scotland, so we're not doing too badly. Temperatures are set to rise into next week.

A few years ago, I came across a map of central Lewis, showing the division of an uninhabited area for the purposes of shooting and fishing in 1874. Shown on the periphery is the village of Callanish. As I continue my transcription of the 1883 Napier Report, this again demonstrates the gulf that existed between the ordinary islanders and the wealthy landowners. The former were scraping a living off some poor land, whilst the latter diverted themselves with the bullet and the rod.