Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Dalmore. The Deserted Village

By 1852 Dalmore and Dalbeg had been "cleared" of its people and the sheep and shepherds had taken over.Between then and 1875,Donald and John Mackenzie held the tenancy of these two villages separately or together with,for example,a rent of £55.0.0 for Dalbeg alone in 1853, and £100.0.0 for Dalmore and Dalbeg taken as one tack for the period 1853-1860.The next good shepherd to arrive on the the scene was one John Sinclair,tenant of both dales initially from 1875 until 1887 at a rent of £102.0.0,and in 1888 this reduced to £90.0.0 because the South Shawbost crofters won back from him the grazings at the west end of Loch Raoinavat,which had been taken from them about 30 years earlier.This judgement in favour of the common people was due to The Napier Commission's Report which came out in April,1884 and generally sided with the crofters'case.See Dr.I.M.M.Macphail's book "Crofters War".John Sinclair and his son Peter Sinclair held sway in the "Dailean" until the end of World War One

Dalmore Church. Further Evidence

I am grateful to Mairi Macritchie of Urras na Gearrannan(The Garenin Trust)for the following information which helps me in my obsessive search for the truth about Dalmore Church(Ruins of),as I seem to be the only person ever to have been born on or in the church.Bodach Glass surely believed we stayed in the church,or at least within part of it.After all,it was built for him and he knew "from whence came its stones"
The minister who was transported from Keose in Lochs to take the services in Dalmore was the Reverend Robert Finlayson(Statistical Account of Scotland,Western Isles,1833),but only every 3 months.Dalmore was in the Established Church(ie Church of Scotland),and was in the parish of Lochs.Other than the aforesaid gentleman,Dalmore never had their own minister.This was strange since Carloway(nearby with no church)had in 1833 a population of 901.
The Disruption,when the Free Church came into being,happened in 1843,and only the churches at Barvas and Stornoway remained in the established church.All the others joined the Free Church of Scotland,accounting for almost the entire population of Lewis
The Free Church in Carloway was the first to be built there in 1884,or so I thought,but Mairi tells me that a Free Church was in fact built in Carloway in 1846(near the site of the present church).I don't know if they got their own minister from the outset,or whether they got a stand-in,like Mr.Finlayson,assuming he was now Free Kirk.
Now,we know that the roof timbers of Dalmore Church were removed and taken to Tolsta Chaolais in 1848,which is 2 years after they built the church in Carloway.The church in Dalmore could not now compete,if it ever could.It was a small building(only 60 feet long),out of the way,with only a few "proper"services a year.Its days were numbered in the year 1843.Did the church in Dalmore have elders,and if so who appointed them ? Did they take the services between times,or was Dalmore Church one in name only. Was the church really a big mistake from its inception, about which date I am still obsessing.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Gearraidh. Some other stories.

Allt na Muilne was better known to us as Allt a'Ghearraidh and drained from the northern end of Loch Langavat,between Cnoc a' Choin and Skorashal Mor(in Garenin village)across the green pastures of the Gearraidh,finally descending rapidly to the sea at Geodha na Muilne,a little sandy bay,as treacherous as it is beautiful.In the 1800s,there were three "corn mills" driven by this one river,and each of these are now referred to as Norse-type mills(more on these later).The best preserved of these mills is the one below Cnoc a' Choin,lying just inside the "Garenin fence".The channel can still be seen,where the river would be diverted through the mill, to rotate the blades, attached to the shaft passing through the the large circular grinding stone.I should point out that,whereas this is what one would have seen about 20 years ago,today those two beautiful millstones are in a local museum about a mile away,and cost the curator £20,at that time.Still, you can probably imagine where the stones formerly were placed.These stones looked like a quartz granite,and were beautifully fashioned by an expert quarry man or a skilled stone mason.The square hole in the centre of the stone required to be chiseled out by someone of considerable expertise.My grandfather,Donald Macleod("Glass")who was born in Garenin in 1860, used this mill to grind corn for his family.The mill was communally owned by the Garenin people,and each family would be responsible for its upkeep and would have access for its use.Glass would come across from Garenin to the mill with a horse and cart,loaded with bags of oats,barley or corn,and he was allowed the whole day there.They came prepared with their own victuals,and hopefully before nightfall they were on their way home with bags filled with flour,barley meal or oatmeal.
The other two mills are very near the sea,and it is these that give the Allt and Geotha their name.They lie on that part of the river which descends rapidly to the sea.They are located one below the other at a distance of 20/30 yards apart and were possibly operated at the same time,using the same sluice. They are in a fairly ruinous condition and the millstones were probably removed when the people set up other mills.I don't think they're in the museum.In later times the proprietor set up large mills throughout the island,and tried to persuade the people to use these "super" mills,at quite a cost.The people were very reluctant to abandon their own mills,but pressure was brought to bear.
The "iolaire"(golden eagle)often builds its eyrie here in the Gearraidh or further round the coast towards Dalbeg or in the other direction towards Garenin.The eagles have been known to take newborn lambs,and this was definitely the opinion of my old friend Alexan an 'Illip(Alexander Maclennan),an intelligent and erudite man, blessed with tremendous recall,and a sense of humour,to boot.He,my mother,Anna Glass ,George Macleod((No.8 Dalmore)and a few others were those who enthused me with the the stories of long ago.
Always, on my first visit to see Alexan,when home on holiday,I would ask him if he seen the eagles this year.He was in the scullery boiling some water on the Calor ring,to make tea for us with a slice of sultana cake.He stopped what he was doing,and turning towards me he said."Do you know,Iain? If there are two things which I hate,it's the golden eagle,and that Rab.C.Nesbit !" Only Alexan could have juxtaposed that majestic bird and a wastrel in a string vest.

Monday, 28 January 2008

An Ghearraidh. Dalmore's hidden jewel.

I know the Gearraidh like the back of my hand, as I was there at least twice a day with our cattle or fishing for saithe from its rocks.Until recently,I did not know what the word "gearraidh" meant,and sort of confused it with "garadh"(garden),but the fertile nature of the place would justify my confusion.Dwelly's Gaelic Dictionary(the Big One)gives the word "gearraidh" as a point(jutting into the sea),green pasture land about a village,the land between the machair(shore) and the monadh(moor),etc.These accurately define the Gearraidh which I knew so well, which intrigued me,but which had about it an air of foreboding,even malevolence.It's not the place in which I would elect to spend the night.And yet, it is truly a beautiful area - green,green pastures with a small river meandering across its plain,before it tumbles at speed into a very bonnie little beach.
This is the land between Dalmore and the boundary fence of Garenin village, a place with fascinating names like Cnoc A' Choin( Hill of the Dogs ),Allt na Muilne( River of the Mills ),Rudha na Trilleachan( The Headland of the Oyster Catcher ).There is much evidence that the Gearraidh was occupied over hundreds of years - the large number of lazybeds,the remains of houses,walled enclosures and "torran poll",the circular beds in which the seaweed was kept to use as fertiliser in spring.A man named Neil Maclennan( Niall Ban )and who had a son,Murdo,is said to have lived in the Gearraidh around 1820-1830,but the story goes that he only lived there one or two years,because, being in such an exposed place,especially in winter,he gave up because of the constant presence of sea-spume.If Niall Ban threw in the towel after such a short time,then who built these structures? Whoever was there ,stayed there for some time.There was a whisky still here,as one might expect,and with all that sea-spume,who could blame Neil for taking a few sniffters.The "gaugers"(customs/excise)would occasionally drop by and one had to have a place to secrete the whisky and the "copper".Neil had 24 bottles of the "hard stuff" hidden under the thatch of the roof.When the gaugers asked Neil if he had any whisky,he immediately replied that,yes,he had two dozen bottles buried in the thatch above their heads.Maybe it was,the way he said it, because one of the excisemen replied."If you had that much whisky,you certainly wouldn't be telling us".
They left, and Neil might have had a dram to calm the nerves.
Whenever they did leave,these Maclennans went to stay in Back,on the other side of the island,and had the nickname of "Fortie".Another person said to have lived there was one Murchadh Macaoidh(Murdo Mackay),but nothing else is known about him.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Dail Mor. Bliadhna na Chaoraich Mhor.

Dalmore(and its beautiful neighbour,Dalbeg)had by 1852-1855 been cleared of its entire population,with 26 people left with no option but to emigrate to Canada'and a further 41 relocated to other places on Lewis,where Sir James Matheson had no immediate plans for a sheep farm or a deer park.This was the "year of the big sheep" in Dalmore and other parts of Uig Parish.The "Big Sheep" which came with the Highland Clearances was the Cheviot,a breed of sheep from the Scottish Borders,which eclipsed the indigenous Black Face,in size,weight and wool growth.In time the "Caora Dubh" would be cleared.Of course Matheson was intent on boosting estate revenues like the other British gentlemen he'd meet in the clubs of London or Edinburgh.These people looked on themselves as farmers on the grand scale,and readily adopted the latest farming methods which they would discuss among themselves.Because of the nature of the Lewis terrain,Matheson knew that sheep,deer,salmon and white fish were to be his estate's principal commodities,and efforts would be made to establish these "industries" as soon as possible.As we know, the lands and rivers were let to tacksmen(tenants)"from a'the pairts" at very attractive rents(well,Sir James thought so).One can still examine the rentals for this period. Dalmore's rent was at this time £115-5-0 which was high compared with land of a similar acreage in another part of the island.The Cheviot was a voracious eating machine,wasn't particularly fussy,but would do so much better on the lush pastures of Dalmore and Dalbeg.
So, from a village of 20 houses and 87 people in 1841, 20 years later in 1861,we now have only John Mackenzie,described as "shepherd",aged 43 years,his wife Mary(40) and a daughter Helen(8),and even they were incomers from Leurbost.I think their house was in at the sea.Surrounded by "thoosans" of sheep, the Mackenzie marriage must have been sorely tested by the noise of the sea,the ever present spume and the mass choir of the Cheviots.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Dalmore. Clearance and Emigration.

Dalmore's fate was sealed by 1851,but three years earlier, what happened then did not auger well for Dalmore.A few years earlier,the villagers of Tolsta Chaolais asked Sir James Matheson(that's what you did) for permission to build a school/religious meeting house,and permission was granted.Matheson also granted them permission to remove the roof timbers from the old church in Dalmore that they might be used in the new building at Tolsta Chaolais.They carried the timbers on their backs from Dalmore,and the building was completed in 1848.Now,anyone who regularly accesses this blog(viz,Shelley from Boston,Mass,)will have noticed a discrepancy in dates referring to the church.In a blog earlier,the stripping of the roof was given as 1858 instead of the correct date of 1848.I don't even think that Sir James would see the church roof removed over the heads of its churchgoers.It was more likely that the church could no longer field a minister,such was the reputation of Dalmore.
The 1851 Census gives the population of Dalmore as 66 and already we see how Matheson's plan was biting.In that year,1851,26 people emigrated on a ship named the "Barlow" anchored in East Loch Roag.It was a June day when 400 Lewis people(mostly from Uig)bade farewell to their homeland on a ship of deaths bound for Quebec.In 1855 another emigrant ship with many more Leodhasich on board left from the same spot in the month of May(Aird na Moineach,Tolsta Chaolais).This boat too was going to Canada.
The people from Dalmore forced to emigrate( Sir James' 1st Class)
were :-
House No.2 Macdonalds. John(13years),Ann(10),Kirsty(8).
House No.3 Macdonalds. John(50),Jane(40),Bella(10),Catherine(10),Ann(5).
House No.4 Morrison. Donald(35),Kenny(13),Norman(10),Donald(5),Murdo(3)
House No.5 Macleod. Alex(60),Kirsty(65),Margaret(15),Calum(12)
House No.11 Morrisons. Donald(33),Ann(28),Catherine(2),John(25).
House No.16 Macdonalds.Donald(40),Angus(14),William(9),Neil(6),Jane(10).
House No.18 Maclean. John(64),Catherine(64).
House No.20 Macdonald. John(61),Mary(61)
House No.10 Maclean. Malcolm(?),Jane(22),Isabella(0).
Once again,planned(ie.forced)to emigrate from Dalmore(1851)were 26 persons. Others who did not need to emigrate but were cleared to make way for sheep moved to other parts of the island such as North and South Shawbost,Upper Carloway,Laxay(Lochs) and beside Sir James in the town of Stornoway.
At this time in Dalbeg,people here were being "moved".One of these was the oldest man in the village.His home was at Cuil a Mhullach(it lies between the present Dalbeg and the quarry) and he was being carried from his house by four men using a bed cover.When they were leaving the village,he asked the men to stop,and to turn him around to face the Cleit(Dalbeg's highest hill)where he had spent his youth.Looking at the Cleit,he addressed the hill thus.
"How I envy you.At least, they will never be able to remove you !).

Dalmore. Sir James has a plan.

In the last 5 years of the 1840s,successive bad harvests had given rise to famine in Dalmore,and throughout most of Lewis.At this time, John Munro Mackenzie was the factor to James Matheson,the proprietor of Lewis who used £190,000 of his Chinese opium money to buy the island from a bankrupt Seaforth in 1844.In 1851,Matheson had a baronetcy conferred on him.In honouring this new-made knight,the castle and all of the houses in the harbour area were illuminated,with the exception of a John Reid Mackenzie,"who is always an exception to every general rule,however proper it may be".There's always an awkward bugger,to be sure !
So, in the very year of his elevation to Sir James,our "duin'-uasal"has a plan to help the poor and hungry in his domain.To help those in debt(mainly rents),Sir James instituted "work schemes", thereby "giving work to the natives" in order that they might repay their debts.No cash was paid to the tenants,but a little was shaved from their rent arrears.Dalmore and the district of Carloway in general had little in the way of potatoes and fish left(other areas were a bit better-off).They could not feed themselves,never mind address their rent arrears."The people of Carloway are very poor and much crowded",observed the factor,Mr Mackenzie on the 17th January,1851.
Sir James has another plan,now that he sees the original failing.He would have his ground officers suggest to the people that they might volunteer to emigrate to another country as a means of eliminating their debts to the tacksmen,and indirectly to Sir James, the erstwhile drug baron.Sir James now fleshes out his plan a little and suggests two classes who might be volunteered to emigrate.
Premier class :- "Bad payers" "say,those in two years of rent arrears,able bodied,with no reasonable grounds of excuse for their arrears"
Secondary class :- " Whole townships,not conveniently situated for fishing(eg. Dalmore),and can be converted into grazing".The plan is now making sense,and who among "Na duine bochd" (the poor people) could stand up to the factor and his ground officers.Dalmore and many parts of the parish of Uig would be the first areas to look at, for clearance or emigration in the Spring of 1851.Their stock would be sold to offset the cost of their passage to the Americas,and to address their debts.The prospect of sailing to a far distant land,and enduring a frightening journey in a hell ship must have been unbearable.These poor souls were being literally dumped in foregn parts,with no hope of return and no idea how they would survive,if at all.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Dalmore. The Gathering Storm.

In the last article,we saw how the land near the shore was quickly taken,being the most fertile.Expansion out the village followed quickly on both sides of the glen,but these houses were built high up the valley side where the bens afforded some shelter and where the slope helped in the drainage of their lands.There is evidence of outbuildings and small enclosed fields.These houses high on the sides of the "beinn" went much further out than the limits of today's village(above the Mullach Mor on the north side,below Beinn Ia'Ruadh on the south side).The ground further down the slope ,near Allt Dhalamor would be a marsh and incapable of supporting the growth of crops.What these crops were would be pretty limited.The main crop would most certainly be barley.Potatoes and corn(do not confuse with maize)would also have been grown.Barley grew well here,and would be used to bake "aran eorna"(barley bread),to brew ale,and with a precious copper "worm", make a drop or two of the mountain dew.Corn straw could be used as winter fodder with the barley.I was told by an old timer who was often given aran eorna well into the 1900s, that "it tasted bloody awful". Fish from the sea would not usually be available(certainly not in winter)but might be so, if they had access to a boat at Loch Carloway,for example.They had a surprising number of animals in the village,as evidenced by the list of cattle and sheep given for Dalmore in September,1824.
Cattle - 81 Sheep - 278
The cattle would provide milk,and from that, cream,butter,cheese(including crowdie) and finally beef and hide.The sheeps'wool would be spun and used for knitting and weaving(the early Harris Tweed),and finally it would provide them with the original"Antartex coat".Every part of the slaughtered sheep was used in Lewis cuisine from haggis,black and white pudding(marag)and sheeps head and trotters.
As already stated,the population of Dalmore in the 1841 census was 87 persons.
By name the population consisted of ;-
Macleod - 31 Macdonald - 23
Morrison - 16 Maciver - 6
Macneil - 4 Matheson - 4
Maclean - 2 Beaton - 1
A few notes on the above.
1. No.1 Dalmore, at this time,was the land beside the cliffs on the north side of Dalmore bay.This was worked by William Macdonald(65 yrs.) and his wife Marion in 1841,but these people were gone by the next census in 1851.They had seen better times,because in 1814,Wm. Macdonald had been tacksman of both Dalmore and Dalbeg,paying a rental then of £115-5-0.
2.The oldest person on any of the three censuses(1841,1851,1861)was one John Macleod,aged 98 years,who would be around at the time when Bonnie Prince Charlie was feeling not so bonnie hiding from the Redcoats on the Arinish Moor.He finally left ,this great old bodach, to see out his days in Upper Carloway.
3.Of those who chose to emigrate from Dalmore,when the time came,6 people were in their 60s - very sad,I think.
So,this was Dalmore in the 1840s,,living and loving(definitely).growing their crops,tending their cattle and sheep,grinding their barley,having a party,going to church,looking for a minister.With 87 souls in the village,Dalmore was a lively place,yet not recommended for women ,nor the "unco guid". It must have resembled Burn's Mauchline during the Holy Fair.
Famine and eviction would bring their world to an end.Conversation and laughter would be replaced by the bleating of thousands of the caora mhor( the Big Sheep ie. the Cheviot).But Sir James Matheson,their new overlord and great opium trader had exciting plans for Dalmore and the rest of Lewis,his new domain.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Dalmore begins to grow in the 1800s

In the late 18th century,the population of Dalmore was small,and mainly confined to the land by the shore("The Old Houses").From around 1800 there was a marked increase in the village's population,mainly,I think,with people moving in from neighbouring villages.Information of names and numbers are not easily available for these times,and any thing that is recorded in documents(eg The Seaforth Muniments)gives an overall picture rather than details of the poor souls whose presence there was precarious at best.The Seaforth Rentals only record the tacksmen renting ground from the Seaforth Estates - the farmer class and whose subtenants were the poor families who had to find means of paying rent to the tacksman.From the Seaforth Rentals of 1766,we see that Murdoch Macdonald(Murchadh Ban) is named as "tenant of Dalbeg" in 1780 and "tenant of Dalbeg and Dalmore" in 1787.
Stock lists: Compiled from time to time for the Seaforth Estates.An example is:
1824 Stock List for Dalmore. There is a list of 11 subtenants holding stock.There are 4 Macdonalds(Norman,Angus,John,Murdo),2 Morrisons(Murdo,Angus),4 Macleods(including Angus,a pensioner and Donald the piper)and lastly one Maclean.I wonder if the old Macleod bodach "could live off his pension" in 1824.
Militia Lists: The 1757 Militia Act was passed, so that in the event of war with another country, local militias would serve in defence of hearth and home,with the army proper fighting abroad.Eligible men(age,fitness,size of family)in each parish were balloted,and the men chosen appeared on the militia lists.They were the R.N.R or T.A of their day!
Appearing on Militia Lists for Dalmore were:
1825: 10 men(incl.4 Macdonalds)and 1 Morrison(Malcolm)
1827: 10 men(incl.5 Macdonalds) and 1 Morrison(Malcolm)
1831: Donald Morrison,Donald Macleod,Malcolm Macphail.
The first all-British census took place in 1841.and reveals that in that year 1841 Dalmore had a population of 87 persons which would make Dalmore a fairly populated glen.The favoured spots to inhabit were near the sandy beaches and machair where windblow has provided a natural blend of peat annd sand.The ruins of these peoples' homes can still be seen on the lands occupied by the present crofts 1,2 and 3.The large area of lazy-bed cultivation on Croft No.1.can best be appreciated on top of the adjacent beinn at sunset.Croft No.2.has as many as four ruined houses.Part of Dalmore lies to the south of the village in a parallel glen,and very fertile.This area is known locally as the Gearraidh,and is the coastal area between Geodha na Muilne and the wild sea inlet called Sielligach(sp?).This area has a large number of lazybeds,many ruins(not all of them houses)and two Norse style mills on the same river(Allt na Muilne).We will revisit the Gearraidh at a later date.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

More on the Boer.

Calum Mackay,The Boer,came from Shawbost and got the croft at No.3 in a process of drawing lots(more on this later) in 1921.He
built his house and byre just below the road in sight of the trigh(shore).When building this taigh dubh(black house),the Boer came up with an innovation in chimney build.He decided it was not necessary to lead the smoke of the kitchen fire all the way up to the stack outside.(this would incur less stone,and some awkward work).Half-way up,the chimney was diverted into the bathach(byre),and the theory was that the smoke would be dissapated through the thatch and doors of the byre.Theory and practice are not always bedfellows,and when the wind came from a certain direction,as it nearly always did,the smoke was blown back into the kitchen in dense clouds of blue.The smoke from Calum's pipe added a certain aroma to the sweet smell of the peat smoke.As your eyes acclimatised,you would see the Boer with his head inclined to a radio,Calum's pride and joy.This was one of your "Marconi"jobs,which drew its electric current from lead-acid cells,rechargable at the "shed"(shop)in Carloway.This was the only radio in the village,and Calum was up to speed on everything.During the last war(1939-1945)all the men of the village would be in Taigh a Bhoer to get the latest news from his radio.During one report the name of Field-Marshall Goering kept cropping up.Finally the Boer said"Goering,Goering,I knew Goering,but the bugger is a damn sight heavier now than he was in these days"I think Calum may have been spinning a yarn here,but what a story!
The Boer was famed throughout the island for his expertise on sheep,and particularly rams,and because of this his opinion was often sought.when a ram was being purchased,an expensive item in these days.I think the Boer might have been an advisor to a "gentleman of means" from Shawbost,one Domhnull Goosie,who was married into the family who owned the tweed mill in Shawbost.He was tall,sported a military moustache.and was immaculately turned out in plus fours,hose and brogues.He had in more recent times been a Regimental Sergeant Major in the British Army.He often appeared in Dalmore in a beautiful limousine to pick up his friend the Boer to have a "look at some rams".They could sometimes be away for days on end.

Note : I discovered an interesting fact about Goring's father, Doctor Heinrich Goring, who was in the Diplomatic Service of the Kaiser's Germany in the late 19 th century. In the1880s, Dr. Heinrich Goring was appointed South West Africa's first Imperial Commissioner. This land (now Namibia) was the only territory which Germany acquired in the European "land grab" for Africa. Heinrich Goring's diplomatic career ended in1898 and he settled back in Germany. His son, Hermann Goring was entirely raised by governesses in Germany and could not have come across Calum Mackay during the Boer War. Still, it's tempting to speculate, and it is still a good story.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Calum Mackay - "The Boer" in South Africa.

As already stated,Calum Mackay(The Boer)was one of the "originals" who settled in Dalmore when the sheep farm of Peter Sinclair was broken up,and the land returned to the isles folk,60 years after the clearance of 1860.Calum had seen army service during the Second Boer War(1898-1902)in South Africa.He was designated "a wild horse trainer"and this,his main duty,was to break in horses for the cavalry and artillery.He had a way with horses,and this had been put to good use here,so far from his home in Lewis.Between times he had to care for the steed of a General Macmillan and to ride by his side during manouevers.Being batman to a general must have had its payoffs for Calum.During one such military manouevre,their cavalry troop had to cross a wide,fast flowing river.As Calum crossed at the side of the general,he noticed that a horse had lost its footing,and that its young officer was being swept away in the fast flowing current.Calum immediately swam to his assistance and they both made it safely to the river bank.The young man whom Calum saved was one Sublieutenant Mathieson whose father was Sir James Mathieson the proprietor of the Isle of Lewis.(This Highland battalion would have been raised in Lewis for the South African Wars). When Calum Mackay returned to Lewis,Sir James offered him a choice of many crofts in gratitude for saving his son.For some reason the "Boer" never took up that offer.If he had,I would never have met a wild horse trainer!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Dalmore. The Old Folks'Whisky Still.

One summer's day my attention was drawn to a small wall structure on the opposite side of the road from the Old Houses,beside a stream in Murdo Mackay's croft at No.3 Dalmore. Murdo was the son of one of the original crofters from 1920-1923,Calum Mackay who was a soldier in the Boer War in South Africa around 1898. Not surprisingly his nom de "guerre" was The Boer,and his son was called Murdo Boer,corrupted to the "Bear". Looking at this small wall by the stream,my first thought was that it was a Norse style mill(for flour),there being many of them in the area.Murdo happened along at this time and asked what I thought it was."I would guess that it had been a mill",I said. The Bear replied that it had been a still for making whisky and operated by the men of the Old Houses nearby. It was illegal of course,but was one of many such stills in the district. Murdo then related the following story about this still. The men from the Old Houses cooperated in their whisky venture,drinking some of it,but the greater part of the distillate was each time poured into a large wooden barrel,and reserved for special occasions such as weddings or New Year.
Over in the houses,the womenfolk would be engaged in their normal activities of perhaps cooking,knitting or even having a good "blether". The women were all older with the exception of one young woman,a feisty lady unhappy with her present lot. "The men are overby,drinking whisky and enjoying themselves,and it is always the same! I'm going over there to join them". The other women said nothing,but their demeanour expressed disapproval,even fear. The young woman made her way to the still house to find, in the glow of some candles,that the menfolk were in a deep and drunken sleep,lying about the floor of the house,surrounding the large whisky barrel. The woman,small in stature,determined to get herself a good dram from the barrel. Picking up a ladel that was there,she leaned over the rim of this large barrel to find it half full of whisky. She struggled to reach the whisky ,but finally,with her waist over the rim,she managed to scoop up a little whisky,but in doing so,overbalanced and slid head-first into the whisky.The unfotunate woman,with no one fit to help her,was wedged in the barrel and drowned there.When the men awoke,they were confronted with a dreadful sight.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Dalmore - prior to 1840.

There is a lot of evidence of early cultivation near the beach and the lands adjacent to the cliffs,which were never used again once the village began to "move" out and up the glen(dale).This was "strip cultivation" in what are now called "lazy beds",presumably because these beds could be formed fairly easily using only a spade,when no one owned a horse for ploughing.Zig-zag beds were dug out following the natural course of contours of the river or stream,allowing maximum drainage.The earth thus removed was deposited beside each "ditch" to form the increased height of the lazy bed.They maintained in these days that the zig-zag beds prevented any malign witch from putting a spell on their labours(since a spell could only work in a straight line).The witches must have approved of the advances which came at a later period which saw the use of parallel and straight lazy beds,which were more easily managed and required a lot less toil These beds are still there but the witches have gone.The main crop would be barley which was used to make bread,ale and of course the "water of life"(Gael. uisge beatha).The word "whisky" derives from "uisge" meaning water.The fertiliser used was an excellent mixture of rotting seaweed,cow dung and soot-impregnated thatch.The seaweed was harvested through the year and kept in large stone pens called "torran poll".A new thatch was put on the house in spring,and it was this old soot laden material which was used as fetiliser,and contained many organic bi-products.When we come to discussing the construction of the "black houses" and the lives of the people who dwelt in them,we will revisit the stripping of the thatch exposing the"cabar suithe".The earliest houses of these "Lazy-bed people"can be seen at the turning point at the Dalmore road end at the beginning of the"passage" opposite the corner of croft No.2. "Na sean taighean" as they were called(The Old Houses)were confined to a relatively small area and a feature of these is the use of the common wall between"houses".This saved in building stone,but required you to pass through a couple of houses before reaching your home.One would need to be on good terms with neighbours or in-laws! A touching feature seen low down at the base of some walls is a small hole built into the wall between adjacent houses.One could speak through this gap,or pass to your cousin a jar of cream,a smoking pipe or a drop of the "hard stuff".I would think the people here were living around 1780-1830 but with little hard evidence,these dates can only be approximate.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Dalmore. A Very Old Place.

Dalmore(and its little sister Dalbeg)has been a particularly desirable place to occupy throughout hundreds of years.Two of the most prominent owners of Lewis were the Macleods(for hundreds of years until 1610),and the Mackenzies(1610-1844),also known as the Earls of Seaforth,after their elevation to the British peerage.Through financial necessity,Stewart Mackenzie sold the island to Sir James Mathieson for £190,000(population of Lewis 17,037 in 1841).Mathieson of Jardine-Mathieson Hong Kong fame made his fortune selling opium to the Chinese.Later Lord Leverhume tried his hand at modernising Lewis.The feudal superiors would rent out large areas of the island to favoured clansmen,or indeed anyone willing to pay the rents of these "tacks",as these land parcels were called.Those who rented these areas were referred to as "tacksmen"(not to be confused with the Revenue men).Here are some early references to Dalmore.
1615. The Macleods around the Carloway area are descended from Tormod Uigeach(an illegitimate son).Tormod(Norman)held the"farm at Dalmore".He was given the Dalmore tack by Rory Mor,his father.Murdo,another bastard son of Rory,by the sister of Uisdean(Hugh)the Brieve was given the tack of Shawbost.It has to be said that these two bastards did all right for themselves.
1780. Murdo Macdonald held the Dalmore/Dalbeg tack from the Seaforths for a rent of £23.13.o(ie sterling,£/s/d)
1766. John Maciver held the tack of Dalmore(rent £9.10.0)
!823. "Dalmore - A list of people who cannot come to work at the kelp gathering". Norman Macdonald,Widow of Angus Macdonald,Widow of Donald Macleod,John Macleod.After this last name was written"make him pay his arrears".
Kelp - large brown seaweed,mainly wracks,of which there was and still is an abundance around the shores of Lewis.When the demand for wool declined after the Napoleonic Wars,the landowners turned to kelp which commanded high prices.The kelp was burned and from this soda and iodine were extracted.At this time the ordinary tenants gathered kelp to put towards the rents owed to the tacksman.
Dalmore would have been continuously occupied as a particularly desirable place for growing crops or for rich pasture land. 4500 years ago, a highly developed people must have found the place to their liking to stay there.These were the same people who helped erect the giant megaliths at Calanais.They worshipped at Calanais,but stayed at Dalmore.I'll explain the Dalmore/Calanais connection in a later blog.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Lewis.A trip back through time.

Some of what I write here makes no claims on historical accuracy, but should however impress the reader as to how far back human settlement on the Isle of Lewis goes, and Dalmore in particular.It has been said by archaeologists that this island will in time yield up some of the greatest finds we have yet to see.In saying that,what has been discovered is quite impressive! The various standing stones and stone circles of the Neolithic period(~2500 BC) of which Calanais is world famous,Iron Age houses,burial chambers and brochs(100 BC-100AD), of which the Dun Carloway broch is best known,Viking graves all the way down through clan histories to the present day.The have all left their mark on the island and in some respects the four and a bit centuries of the Viking occupation has left a more lasting effect than we sometimes avow.
To this day, the names of all the major physical features are Norse in origin,some identical to names still used in Scandinavia(and in the Orkneys and Shetlands).
Villages: Shawbost, Carloway,Kirvik,Breasclete,Crowlista
Lochs(lakes) : Loch Langavat, Loch Neadavat
Rivers: Grimersta,Heidagul
Hills: Ben Barvas,Ben Horshader
Islands: Bernera,Scalpay
Only smaller features away from the coast have Gaelic names,but Dail Mor is on the coast and that is a Gaelic name?If you visit Dalmore beach,magificent as it is,you will appreciate why it is nowadays a surfing venue,and not one that these intrepid Norsemen would choose for anchorage.So Dalmore did not merit a Viking name.
It has been suggested that the people north of the village of Dail Beag have strikingly Norse features(broad faces,high cheekbones,fair or red hair) and that the coast line here was suitable for settlement(eg Shawbost,Bragair,Barvas). Strangely,when we went fishing out of Loch Carloway into Loch Roag in the late 50s,the boys from Shawbost prized catching mackerel and the dogfish(a small shark).They said that they made for good eating,while we the non Vikings threw them back or used them for bait.So,south of the Mason-Dixie line ,so to speak,where the coast is dotted with many small creeks and islands,is to be found handsome people,blue eyed,dark hair and the remains of the Celtic people in places like Carloway,Bernera and Uig.There were seriously good harbours here,but the rocky coast here would not be suitable for settlement.So ,when the Vikings had finished there shift here,they would anchor their longships and make their way home to their wives in Shawbost!
No matter where you dig for peat on the island,you will, about 3 or 4 feet down, always come across the large roots of trees,perfectly preserved in the peat.The evidence is there, that the whole island was once covered in trees,but only their roots are left to us.So what happened to the trees - not a single one left?
Two theories have been proposed.
1.The Vikings set fire to the forest on the west coast and the prevailing west winds carried it across the whole island.Scorched earth policy? I hope they set aside their future wives,before striking a light and kept a few timbers for their roofs!
2. Climate change around 10,000 years ago. In that case the Norsemen would have to have carried all their wood with them to Lewis.
I now believe theory No. 1. having favoured theory 2. a few years back.The beautiful lady who is custodian of the Iron Age house at Bosta,and herself a history graduate,won me over to my original theory.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Dalmore Church. Part 3.

The end of worship in Dalmore Church must have have preceeded the removal of its roof,or the congregation attended conventicles within its walls, like the covenanters of previous times who gathered at the Ard Mhor in Garenin. Old maps show the place as "Buaile na Covenanters".In an island with no trees,barring some wind battered willow,aspen and rowan,roof timbers were used,and reused in any new build,and transported miles if moving to another village.Large pieces of timber were a precious commodity since without them you had no roof! Such timbers were mostly acquired as jetsom,from ships,wrecks or large tree trunks from the Carribean or Canada.On seeing a large timber coming towards the beach,the young men would launch themselves into the waves and the first to touch the tree claimed it for his family.And so,in 1858 the long roof beam of Dalmore Church was carried away by men from Tolsta a' Chaolas to use in the roof of the church meeting room they were building there.Years ago I was allowed into this building,and there I saw tangible evidence of the "bad little church" that was Dalmore. It pleased and saddened me to touch this old piece of wood.So this is another historical marker.The main church(Free Church) in Carloway would not be built until September,1884.
Finally,a sad story of an event which is connected to the church! This is further evidence that the forebears of people living today in the area, attended the Dalmore Church. Donnachadh Mac Mhurchadh(Duncan the son Murdo) and his wife were at a service in Dalmore Church when they heard the news of their son Iain's death by drowning in a small loch far out on the moors.This loch is about 2 miles out from Dalmore, and is known as Feath Loch Ghleadhairean, near a small grassy hillock called Tom Liathbhrat,where our family had their summer shieling when we lived in Garenin. This tragedy,we reckoned, occurred about 1845/50.The man in the church (with his wife) was An Turna's grandfather.
Finally,finally - if anyone out there has any information relating to the church at Dalmore(especially its denomination,ministers,founding date),I would be very grateful.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Dalmore Church. Part 2.

Years ago,a friend of ours.Donald Alex.Maclean who was the local Church of Scotland minister at Carloway suggested that I contact Bishop Conti,then at Aberdeen for help with my enquiries.He told me that in the larger central libraries of Scotland(in the Reference Section) there were a series of volumes giving details of every ecclesiastical building ever built in Scotland. AND THERE IT WAS. "Dalmore Church.Rectangular in shape and 60 feet long". No dates,no attributions. Still,one piece of written evidence.We know from my grandad where the church was positioned.It started where our hen house was and ran at right angles to the top end of the house("the room") along the line of the hen run,as far as a grassy knoll called the "Creagan".This was not a particularly large church,but it was in existence long before the churches were built in the large township of Carloway.Without any evidence per se,I think the Dalmore Church came into being around 1820,attached to the Church of Scotland,during the time when the Earl of Seaforth owned the "Long Island"of Lewis and Harris.Now the Church has never sought ownership of the wee church in the Dailean,and the reasons may speak for themselves later in this narrative.They never had their own minister in Dalmore,but "borrowed" the minister from Keose in the parish of Lochs, on the other side of the island. A group of men would be sent to fetch the reverend gentleman.who was carried piggy-back by the men in turn across 12 miles of bog.You could not say that they were slack in their devotions.I believe woshippers in Carloway attended church in Lochs at this time, rather than cross the hill to Dalmore.They might have had there reasons for this!
In the year of the first British Census in 1841,there were 96 persons and 23 dwellings in Dalmore.That's a lot of people in one small glen. Dalmore strangely had a bad name,a place to visit only in necessity. Women, it was said,did not live very long in Dalmore. To be born illegitimately here was common,but a source of shame in any other village.The young man "responsible" was ordered to go away across the moor as far as he could,and there cut the largest "turf" he could carry, all the way back to Dalmore, and place it on the roof of the church as penance,and to help maintain the "fabric of the church" (thatch had not arrived yet).The roof is said to have fallen in a few times due to the inordinate quantities of turf placed thereon.
After the church service on a Sunday,it was common to see people selling whisky and tobacco to the villagers. Bad? This was as as bad as it gets,except for what was going on at the Creagan.Here we had young men arm wrestling and betting on the outcome.This was not the Calvinism that John Knox had preached and things would have to change.

Dalmore Church. Part 1.

On Ordnance Survey maps of the area,the site of Dalmore Church( Remains of) is still shown.I have a copy of the 1852 map that resulted from a survey by two officers of the Royal Engineers which shows"Dalmore Church".I am particularly interested in this church as I was born on the very ground on which this edifice stood.Note the use of the past tense,as there is now no trace whatsoever of the church.I have made many appeals for information,written letters to the local newspaper and to the church synod but hard evidence about Dalmore Church has proved elusive(over many years).But I do have good anecdotal evidence,and in this case,that must suffice for now.
My grandfather,Glass,with others,including a local stonemason,took two summers to build the dwellings at 5 Dalmore.Strangely, they first built the byre and barn, before completing the 2/3 rooms for the family.Not so strange when you think of it!They could house both their cattle and themselves,this way.The walls of the old church provided stones of the right size and shape (mortar was not used in these buildings).My people maintain that much more than half of the church walls had disappeared before they decided to use "some of the stones"After all,the old church was on our croft! In those days, there was no time for sentiment,or history or preservation.If it's plunder on the grand scale,have a look at the Iron Age broch at Dun Carloway a few miles up the road.Bodach Glass ("old man") had heard that the church had been ruined twice in the past and the third time it would be completely annihilated.There was only one window of our house which faced the sea,a single skylight,and during World War Two, Old Glass was just a little nervous at the naval activity offshore.With half the house coming from that "unfortunate" church and the possibility of a direct hit from the large guns of a German cruiser ,the bodach was in no mood to tempt fate and hasten our demise. A thick coat of tar was hurriedly applied to the glass,and there it would remain until the house was vacated,and the roof collapsed.