Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Friday, 29 February 2008

Home At Last In Lewis,The Island Of Heather.

I should have mentioned that on the train journey north,quite a few people alighted at Glenfinnan Station,on their forward journey to Ardnamurchan ,to villages like Acharchle,Kilchoan and Strontian. Acharchle,means "the field of Haakon",where the Vikings were engaged in a large battle. Strontian gave its name to the chemical element strontium,first isolated in an ore found there. It was a beautiful sight to see the steamer down on Loch Shiel,tied up to the pier at the head of the loch. It awaited the passengers off the train. The romantics will know that it was at Glenfinnan that Charles Edward Stuart raised the Jacobite standard in the ill-fated rebellion of 1745-46. The voyage on the Loch Nevis was the last leg of a long,exhausting journey that began at 5.00 am and would end around 10.00 pm that same day - like a day's journey with the Israelites of yore. A good hour or more out of Kyle of Lochalsh,you would hear the ship's engines coming to a halt. Looking down over the starboard side of the ship,you would see a large boat manned by 4 to 6 strong men on the oars pulling alongside a hatch on our ship's side. This was the boat to meet passengers and cargo bound for Applecross(usually no more than 3/4 people and some goods from Glasgow). When I was young,the minister of the Gaelic Church in Partick,Glasgow was the Reverend Kenneth Gillies,a fine gentleman,and he was from Applecross. He officiated at my parents'wedding and at mine. I always wanted to visit Applecross,and this year I managed it, over that crazy zig-zag road which must be an old drove road. The crest is called "Bealach na Bo"( the pass of the cows). This was an unforgetable journey to an area of outstanding beauty. How the English sounding name Applecross came about,I've always found strange,when its proper name,in Gaelic of course,is "Am Chomraich" which means "sanctuary", altogether more apt than that other curious appelation,Applecross.
A few miles out from Stornoway,the poor people in the saloon would have heard that their travails were nearly over,and began to ready themselves and their children for disembarkation. Those on deck,even this far out,would smell the wonderful "reek" of the peat fires of the town,because in the late 1940s,even the "townies" had their peat cuttings on the bogs outside Stornoway. Sailing into Stornoway harbour,our excitement was palpable. We were "home",or very nearly so. The dockers helping us down the gangway all spoke to us in Gaelic, and appeared to me at any rate, as tall, strong and very weather beaten(but certainly not tanned). They all looked like elders of the Free Church,and probably were. Carrying our luggage and ourselves onto South Beach Street,we would be confronted with more buses than one would normally see in Lewis standing side by side, each with a different destination,but each spelling "home" for some of those from the "steamer". The names of the destinations on the front of each bus had a magic ring to them - Lemreway,Ness,Bernera,Lochs,Portnaguran,Harris,Uig and on and on. We quickly found our bus,the one for Carloway via Barvas and Shawbost and points west. As usual,our driver was "The Magaran",who had been through Carloway school in the same class as my mother. Contacts are important,even in Carloway,and a couple of half-crowns can, even here, make a hell of a difference.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Going Home. An Arduous Affair.

The evening before going "home" to Lewis,our house in Renfrew was a hive of activity - suitcases and cardboard boxes being packed and secured with nearly every stitch of clothing we had. When I say suitcases,I shouldn't use the plural. We only had the one,a large case that belonged to my father from his days in the navy. People from Goathill or Matheson Road had suitcases,we used large cardboard boxes with "Kelloggs" imprinted all over. Ah,but were they not expertly tied with special rope,using special knots by a very special seaman and helmsman,my dad,Big Alex Maclennan RNR? Walter Johnston's taxi (a beautiful black Humber Super Snipe)transported mum and the boys,the single suitcase and various massive boxes to Queen Street Station to connect with the 6.00am train(two steam engines pulling) to Mallaig,opposite the Isle of Skye.Known to this day as the West Highland Line,it has been voted one of the great train journeys in the world.The stations we stopped at,or passed through still evoke wonderful memories - Craigendoran,Arrochar,Rannoch,Carrour Junction,Spean Bridge,Glenfinnan Lochailort and Morar.The scenery was,and still is stupendous.The train crawled slowly through Lochailort,and I can still see in my mind's eye the exquisite display of rhododendrons of every hue which assailed my senses.At the port of Mallaig,my brother,Donald or me would be sent flying down the long platform to engage a porter with an enormous barrow. The promise of a couple of half-crowns saw us and our baggage on board the first of two ships we would take on our long sea voyage to Stornoway in the Isle of Lewis. If Lochailort assailed your senses,then Mallaig had an all too different effect.This thriving port was full of different sounds and smells - the raucous cry of thousands of gulls circling above or fighting for fish spilled from a creel,the shouts from seamen and fishermen and the overpowering smell of herring being unloaded from the many trawlers,and the smell from the kippering sheds across the way. The two vessels on these routes at that time were the "Loch Ness" and the "Loch Nevis",and in the absence of stabilisers,you were in for a rough ride.The "Loch Ness" was the first vessel(we called them "steamers"),taking us as far as Kyle of Lochalsh, where, to those travelling further on,the whole rigmarole of securing a porter,moving luggage and passengers had to be repeated all over again. Boarding the "Loch Nevis" for passage to Stornoway was always an unpredictable journey,as this stretch of water,called The Minch,could serve up very rough seas.
Mal de mer has never afflicted me,but if you were susceptible, The Minch and the "Loch Nevis" were sure to leave you prostrate on the saloon floor."Saloon" was a gross misnomer.This saloon was a floating vomitorium,and was equipped as such with a suspiciously large number of receptacles.The plight of mothers and children was heart breaking,the whole atmosphere was fetid and rancid,and the only way to avoid a similar fate was to drag yourself from this charnel house and make your way to the windy top deck.I always stood or sat amidships on the top deck,directly behind the funnel,where the roll of the ship was least. It could be cold but it was still preferable to the "saloon".Even on a moderately calm crossing,the ship still rolled and sea sickness claimed many passengers. It was a frightful journey and it would be some time before this ship reached Stornoway.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Highland Toffee and Baseball Boots

After the Second War ended in 1945,almost everything except carrots was severely rationed and required the appropriate coupon(s) to accompany the money.Even with enough money,a pair of trousers would use up a family's clothing allowance for months ahead.What naturally excercised me was my weekly sweetie allowance,which ran to a bar of MaCowan's Highland Toffee,every Saturday.One of the few things that eased the strictures of rationing was the large war surplus which helped to clothe me and a million other kids.The Royal Navy had zillions of navy blue balaclavas in surplus (no other colour),and all the wee Renfrew boys and some extrovert girls scoured the streets like a band of tiny bank robbers.A brilliant thing my mother bought me was a First War cavalryman's cape.It buttoned right up to your chin,had side pockets which allowed access to the Highland Toffee,and it happened also to keep out the wind and rain.With the balaclava pulled right down and the cape buttoned right up,I stood out in the school playground as some one to be reckoned with.Later still came the US surplus bonanza especially the US flying jackets,leather outside,wool inside and zip fasteners everywhere.I had never seen a zip until then.That jacket would be worth a bit today.To go along with that,there was the leather pilot's helmet.We were in our glory ! I used to tell my children about this pilot gear and that their Uncle Donald even had the goggles which he wore to school.I never disabused them of this until they were in their twenties.
Irrespective of other received knowledge,for my mother(and by association her children),summer began on the 1st of June each year and there was no discussion.It must have been an old Lewis ceremony like Beltane,when the sun first appeared over the moors.This notion was reinforced by our old neighbour in the close(tenement building),Old Bodach Goodfellow, who advised my mother thus."Annie,remember.Ne'er cast a cloot till May be oot".For us,the boys,June the First was a red-letter day,not the Queen's Birthday nor Battle of Britain Day.Still, my mother held to this adage till the dying hours of May the 31st.You see,on that June morning we laid aside the tackity boots,the wellies.the semmit and our vast array of Harris jumpers.On went the Sloppy Joe(T-shirt) and the baseball boots or black sandshoes.We became proxy Yanks in the land of the free.We could now run faster and jump higher than before,and that's probably why sports days in Renfrew were held in June.
June was my favourite month,because better was still to come.From the first day of July a grand migration of the Gaelic speaking exiles got underway.Whole families packed their things and returned "home" for the duration of the summer vacation.The Gaels and their offspring left the towns and cities for their Hebridean villages,in many ways like the wild Atlantic salmon making their way back to the river where they were born.And I would be part of this great exodus.

PS. I hope that Shelley in Boston can understand "English" words like "cloot","semmit"and "wellies" !

Friday, 22 February 2008

Not Just Any Old Blogger

One would have to agree that the word "blog" is a most unattractive neologism.Some would say "A neologism is an even less attractive word".The computer literate tell me that "blog" is an abbreviation for "weblog".So why did they feel they had to abbreviate "weblog" ? It sounds better - more technical ! Anyhow,as a Johnney come lately to webs and blogs,I am truthfully very grateful to Google and its blog for allowing me to record the history and stories of Dalmore,insofar as they were told to me, or which I researched myself.Much of the material was recorded over many years on various bits of paper or documents were photocopied,especially where names or dates might be lost.Many of the stories were passed on to me by people who were the "seanachean" during my youth,those skilled in retelling tales of the past.I was an eager listener and fortunately my memory was good.I was getting increasingly afraid that the large plastic bag at the bottom of my wardrobe would never see the light of day,and if it did,few would have been able to sort out this very mixed "bag" of notes.I know that I was the only person left who knew the history of Dalmore,and I did not want it to die with me.So God bless the "blog" and God bless my son,Alasdair,for making his dad into a blogger.
Future articles will record my experiences as a boy/youth when I went "home" to Lewis,during my long summer holidays from school in the city (Renfrew was a city to me ! ).

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

John Macleod - How The West Was Won.

My great great uncle,John Macleod,arrived in Quebec Province in 1837,aged 22 years,and found employment with the Hudson Bay Company,as many emigres from Scotland had,and would do so in the future.He was put in charge of all the company boats plying the southern Hudson Bay,which for a Leodhasach was second nature.The Company had plans to establish a presence west of the Rocky Mountains,where others,including the Russians were already involved in the fur trade.John and two other employees of the Hudson Bay Company were chosen to "go west" and establish the company's presence on the Pacific Coast.Men like these who undertook massive journeys into the unknown, fraught with hardships and danger,would be immortalised on the silver screen as heroes and pioneers of the "West".
They chose their own route westwards,and where possible used their small light canoes to carry them and their packs to the foothills of the Rockies.Here they had to abandon the canoes,and the party started across the high mountains on foot,with no beaten trail to guide them.They eventually reached the shores of the great Columbia River on the western side of the Rockies,and here they built boats strong enough to navigate this powerful river.
The 1838 trip,at least the portion down the Columbia River,is well documented in Hudson Bay Co. papers and correspondence,and by the accounts written by the first two Catholic priests to arrive in the Pacific Northwest.The two priests were travelling in the same group as John Macleod,at least from Boat Encampment,the first station west of the Rockies,where they started down the Columbia River.At a notoriously dangerous stretch of the Columbia called the "Dalles of the Dead",their boat capsized with a total of 26 on board,17 men,3 women and 6 small children.12 people were lost and only 3 bodies of children were recovered for burial.The priests had gone ahead in the first group,with two boats.Then one boat had been sent back from Upper Arrow Lake for the rest of the people and supplies.It was clearly overloaded when it was wrecked,and of those saved,most could not swim,including John Macleod who held on to pieces of flotsom.Those who tried to swim were carried to their deaths in the vicious currents.There were two English botanists on board,both of whom drowned.The wife of one of them,Maria(Simpson)Wallace,half-Indian,was reputed to be the daughter of the Governor,Sir George Wallace.She also drowned.
For John Macleod and the others the remainder of their journey was one of self denial and hardship.When he arrived in what is now the great city of Vancouver,the only evidence of humanity which John could see was a small Russian trading post.He went to Fort Nisqually and worked on a boat called the "Beaver" for the Hudson Bay Co. This boat plied between Fort Nisqually and Sitka, the Russian trading post,the future Vancouver.
John married a native Indian woman of high status in the early 1840s.My mother used to say that her great-uncle married a "Red Indian Squaw".She was a lady named Claquodote,the daughter of Chief Scanewah,who was chief of the Cowlitz Indians,their name derived from the river of that name.They only had one child,a daughter named Catherine.In 1849,John left for California to make his fortune in the so-called "Gold Rush" - a Lewis Miner 49er.He stayed for two years,but there would be no fortune.When John came back to Fort Nisqually,he was surprised to find that Claquodote,his erstwhile wife was now wedded to a man of her own tribe.Scanewah,the chief and her father, had decided that Macleod would not be coming back.Anyway,who's going to argue with the Chief? So John picked another Cowlitz "gal".During the early 1850s,when the "Indian Outbreak" occured,John was suspected by government soldiers of aiding the Indians,and was kept in prison for several months.Later in time,Claquodote's husband died,and as if it were fated,John's second wife died.John married his beloved Claquodote and they were together until she died in 1889.
His only child,Catherine, married one Daniel Mounts and together they had a large family.John died in 1905,a few days short of his 90th birthday,and is buried in the Masonic Cemetery at Stellacoom,near Tacoma,Washington State.There were obituaries of John in all the newspapers of the area."one of the earliest pioneers","one of the oldest white people in Washington","he preceeded civilisation" are some of the more colourful aphorisms.
Although John never returned to Lewis,he sent many letters home to Garenin,and each year sent £10 to each of his brothers and sisters,a considerable amount in these days.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

John Macleod. Glass's uncle leaves for America.

John Macleod(Iain mhic Iain 'Ic Iain) was born in Garenin on the 4th May,1815(confirmed by church records at his birth place) and was my grandfather,Donald Macleod's uncle (ie.Glass,5 Dalmore).Before crofts were lotted,Garenin was a small hamlet of houses occupying an area below the present road called the "Sithean",and the people were almost all Macleods.John Macleod did what many others did,in making illicit whisky for personal consumption and possibly resale.In this endeavour he had a partner,a tinker from the shore encampment in the village.Their operation was located on the open moor on the Dalmore side,where it would be easy to see the "gaugers"(excise men)from along way off.They had a couple of peat fires burning,one under the large cauldron of boiling barley mash,the other heating the copper still to which the "worm" was attached.
John and his tinker pal(at other times he worked tin)used to help themselves to the first liquor dripping from the copper coil,and a powerful sensation that was,especially out there on the wind blown moor,with a scattering of snow on the ground.They began to argue over something(perhaps something relating to the business),but crazy with drink,they fought furiously,until John lifted the tinker bodily and threw him into the boiling cauldron of mash.The poor man managed to climb out of the pot and began to roll himself on the snowy ground.Pieces of his skin were later seen at the site of the affray.John must have sobered enough to realise what he had done and,running down to the village,he told his people.They immediately left to see to the man,and carried him home to their house in a blanket.They treated his burns by smearing butter over extensive areas of his body and with their ministrations they saved the poor man's life.He was never again fit to work,but my family looked after him and his family in their tent by the shore.
John must have thought that the tinker would die,that day, and that he might be charged with murder.He was told that the police would by now be on their way over from Stornoway,and was advised to quit Lewis that very night.He never saw any police as he left the island for the last time,and travelled to Stromness in Orkney,where he signed on with the Hudson Bay Company. He shipped out for Canada on the "Prince Rupert IV." in 1837 arriving in Quebec,aged 22 years. He never did return to Lewis again.

Monday, 18 February 2008

John Macleod. Soldier in the First World War.

John Macleod was the younger brother of Donald(RNR) who died in 1916 as an internee in Holland.John was born in Garenin in 1896 and attended Carloway School,and later the Nicolson Institute,Stornoway.He had just started his M.A.course at Glasgow University when,like many at that time,he was conscripted into the Army.He became a signaller with the Ross Mountain Battery attached to the Seaforth Highlanders and saw service in different war theatres during 1914-1918.He was at the Dardanelles Landings(Gallipoli) in April,1915 when the Turkish forces took a terrible toll on the lives of the Allies,especially the ANZAC troops.My Aunt Dolly had on show on one of the dressers in 5 Dalmore "the last shell fired at the Dardanelles",a highly polished Howitzer shell case.This costly exercise,like the Antwerp debacle,can be laid at the feet of Winston Churchill.
John had various spells when his tuberculosis flared up.In March,1916 when his brother died of pleurisy in Holland,John was hospitalised in England,later recovered and returned to the fray.In 1917 John was a signaller in General Allenby's army fighting in Palestine,again against the Turks.Allenby had promised the British people Jerusalem as their 1918 Christmas present.It was while they were making a push through Gaza at the town of Beersheba that John was cited for the award of the Distiguished Conduct Medal(D.C.M.)He had twice before been mentioned in dispatches.The award was announced in the London Gazette.
Distinguished Conduct Medal
301422 Bdr.J.Macleod.

10th Mtn.By.,R.G.A.,T.F.(Carloway)

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.When in charge of the signallers during the recent operations he has performed excellent work in frequently laying and mending wire under heavy shell fire.He has shown great devotion to duty.
The citation was signed "General E.H.H.Allenby" and dated 3rd April,1918,although the action itself occurred in 1917.John had already been promoted to lieutenant and saw out the war with the 13th Mountain Battery Corps until March,1919.At the war's end he resumed his studies at Glasgow University,and graduated M.A.(Honours).He later went to Canada for health reasons,settling in Regina (Sask),where he was a teacher and later an inspector of schools.
My uncle John Macleod told me this story in 1955 while over in the UK recruiting teachers for Saskatchewan Province.
One Sunday in Garenin,when Donald and John were young lads and the rest of the family had gone to church,Donald came running home to tell John that one of their sheep had slipped and was lodged some distance down a sea-cliff near Garenin.John followed him with a rope and together they rescued the sheep.Being a Sunday in a strictly sabbatarian community,Donald made John swear never to tell "a living soul" about this event,it being on the Sabbath.John assured me he never mentioned it again.
During John's return to Glasgow in the early 1920s,and at least five years after Donald's death in Holland,John was wandering up Bath Street and he noticed that he was standing outside a Spiritualist Church,and being "inquisitive"(his own word)he entered and sat watching proceedings from his seat at the rear of the church.After some time the medium announced that "there was an unbeliever in their midst". The church members turned around to look at John,but not in a threatening manner.The medium asked John to stand,saying that she had a message for him from his brother Donald.
"Do you remember the Sunday that you and I rescued the sheep from the cliff?".

Thursday, 14 February 2008

My Uncle Donald dies in Groningen,March 1916.

My uncle,Donald Macleod,gave up his chance for a higher education for a life at sea,but also to allow his younger brother John to take up a place at the Nicolson Institute,feeling he was the more studious,and acknowleging that his parents could only afford to put one of them through.Donald was quiet and unassuming,and in camp was seen as a diligent reader and student.He had for some time been been studying with Mr.Mulder's Navigation Class and was expected to go up soon for his Mate's Certificate.On the 5th january,1916,he was taken to the hospital in the town with a slight attack of pleurisy.The case did not seem serious.and early in February he was expecting his discharge.But,by the end of the month,he had a serious relapse and Donald died on Wednesday,March 1st 1916,aged 24 years.He died in the Academisch Ziechhuis attended throughout by the very competent nursing sisters,Zuster Dourna and Zuster van der Hoist.He was buried with full military honours at the Heerweg cemetery in Groningen,the service in Gaelic conducted by the Rev.D.Macdougall from Barvas in the Isle of Lewis.
As far as I know,the only person in our extended family to have visited Donald's grave in Holland is my daughter Carolyn Maclennan about 1985,while a medical student.

Interned in Holland " for the duration".

Wnen the 1st.Royal Naval Brigade crossed over the border from Belgium into Holland on the 10th. of October,1914,it meant that these 1500 men were out of the war,and would, by the existing rules of war,be interned in Holland(neutral in this war)for the duration of hostilities.After wandering in the Dutch countryside,the British were rounded up by the Dutch police,and ordered to lay down their arms.The 1st Royal Naval Brigade were finally led to a camp in Groningen,surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by police
There are conflicting opinions about conditions in the Groningen camp but the two words which continued to appear in letters home to Lewis were "acaras agus cianalas" - hunger and boredom.It was said that some men killed a sheep and were so hungry that they ate it raw.Others came across a solitary cow,killed and cooked it.The British Government had to make compensation for this.The men in the camp could earn 1 guilder per week(ie. 100 cents),and when they got"shore leave",they could go down into Groningen town,and buy some food and beer.The British lads were often entertained by Dutch families in their homes.and some romances grew between the Dutch girls and the bored British boys.There were also some who married,which allowed the man to leave camp and reside with his wife's parents.But inconveniently for the newlyweds a gaurd came to stay too !
A " Camp Magazine " details the various activities taking place in the camp just 18 months after arriving there. There were concerts,at which Madame Sorga entertained,singing songs "in no less than seven different laguages"; the Camp Follies doing vocals and instrumentals,with Seaman Linley deservedely praised for his rendition of the Drinking Song from "The Rose of Persia".There was the Camp Club down town at the Groot Markt where 50 cents could buy you "beef steak pudding,a rich gravy and a plentiful supply of potatoes" - not forgetting some tapioca pudding and then cheese.That would keep the "acaras" at bay - no need for raw sheep,now.For those that might be prone to ennui,there were 20 mile route marches,the Association Football Club,an Art Club,the Athletics Club.the Debating Society where in early 1916 "Women's Suffrage was affirmed in principle,with no uncertain voice".I have the feeling that these activities were organised by "chaps" with pipes and cravats.The various activities bring to mind those old black and white films like the "Wooden Horse",well in some ways,at least.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Lewismen help in defence of Antwerp (1914)

Domhnull Glass ( my uncle Donald )was born at No.4 Garenin in 1892,the eldest of a family of 9,my mother being the youngest (born 1911).From Carloway School he was able to progress to the Nicolson Institute,Stornoway."Doodles", as he was called,had his early ambitions of becoming a teacher replaced by that of a life at sea.He returned to Garenin and,like many other Lewis boys,trained with the Royal Naval Reserve ( R.N.R. ).Finally Donald went to sea,and in the early months of the First World War, he volunteered for the Royal Navy.Strangely(perhaps,not),there was an embarrasingly large surplus of RNVR and RNR on the navy's books.Winston Churchill was in 1914 First Lord of the Admiralty when he mobilised the navy,and decided to use the surplus of seamen by forming Royal Naval Brigades,essentially sailors to fight as soldiers.Donald was on HMS Benbow,which along with the seamen of the Collingwood and the Hawke formed the First Royal Naval Brigade (1st RNB ).The 1st RNB along with the 2nd RNB left Dover on the 4th October,1914 for Dunkirk,where they were "entrained" for their transportation to Antwerp to join the 3rd Brigade of Marines in the trenches.The Germans had already taken the outer forts of Antwerp,and the British Naval Division of 6,000 men had been brought up to help the Belgian forces hold the city port of Antwerp.Churchill thought it essential that Antwerp be held.The arms of the Belgian troops were old,the training of the British was inadequate while the German army was superior in number and their guns powerful and accurate.The situation in Belgium was now critical. Antwerp was lost,and it was decided to withdraw the R.N.Division from the line on the 9th October,to be once again "entrained" to Ostend.
The withdrawal was a disaster as 1500 men of the 1st R.N.Brigade were caught in the rear,having failed to cross the River Schelde in time to "catch the train to Ostend". They marched north and were ordered by their Commander Henderson to cross the border into Holland (a neutral country)where they would be interned for the rest of the war,or unless Germany invaded Holland.On the 10th October,1914 ,Antwerp's city fathers surrendered to the Germans.
A little late in the day,Winston Churchill said that the Royal Naval Division was "inexperienced,partially equipped and partially trained". 1500 men of the 1st Naval Brigade did in fact spend "the duration" interned in Holland,and 106 of them came from the Isle of Lewis.My uncle never came back.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Dalmore. A New Beginning.

In 1918-1919,when the Great War ended,Dalmore was to be occupied once more by people, after more than 60 years,and the land there to be divided up into 10 crofts,each of approximately 4 or 5 acres in area.We have often heard the mantra "Homes Fit For Heroes",and that being eligible for a croft in 1920,one had to have fought in the Great War war,or a family claimed for a son lost in the war.I don't think that this was strictly the case,if it was the case at all.There were families who came to Dalmore who hadn't,or couldn't possibly have had a son in the war.Here was land up for grabs,and all interested parties submitted their names and a ballot was held.Sometimes more than one ballot was necessary,as in the case of our croft,No.5 .In the first draw,No.5 went to a man from Bragair,Iain Mhurchad an Gobha(John the son of Murdo Smith).The reality of the situation may have unnerved the man,and he eventually settled in Newmarket(Stornoway).My uncle John Macleod(Iain Glass),who happened to have been in the war,won on the second ballot and put the croft in his father's name,my grandfather, Donald Macleod(Glass).
The man who "won" No.1.(in at the sea cliffs)was a man from Bernera who was married to a woman from Shawbost(Piuthar Bean a'Shachead).Even after cutting peats(over the hill and above Taigh Shoudie),the Bernera man decided he wanted nothing more to do with Dalmore.What was going on ? Had he and the "Smitheach" been spooked or something ? The Bernera man and the "Shachead" (sp? The Jacket?)were married to two sisters from Shawbost,and it was to the Shachead he assigned croft
No.1 to do with it as he pleased,and for his own benefit. The Shachead didn't hang about and offered it to Donnachadh Dubh from Garenin in exchange for two wedders(or wethers - castrated rams).According to the Shachead,he only ever got one.But who would have argued with Black Duncan over one paltry wedder ? Not many!
Dalmore is not proving all that attractive,so far.Calum Dhomhnull Dhonnachadh from Upper Carloway actually drew No.9,but stll young and unmarried he went to Canada.By this time,one could sell the croft,which he did to my grandfather,Glass for £60,acting as proxy for my uncle John(Shonnie Glass).Peter Macaulay(Padruig Mor) from Carloway got croft No.7 which he kept for 30 years growing corn.In the 1950s he sold No.7 directly to Shonnie Glass,claiming he was to busy with his transport business.As far as I know,the remaining crofts were accepted on the first ballot.
In the early 1920s when the ten crofts were alloted,the land in Dalmore was not very fertile(sheep had been on it for nearly 70 years !),particularly the outer crofts Nos.8,9 and 10..These were essentially moorland ground covered in rushes.To compensate these people,they were given three one half acre strips of machair land down by the beach.And that still pertains to this day.
The only people who inherited a "walk-in"house was Shoudie,my paternal grandfather,his wife and his three sons(my father Alexander Maclennan was then a young man of 18 years) .Well, they had to put a roof on it,but the walls were sound.Nearly 70 years before,an amazing thing is said to have happened on the grassy mound outside this house.It is said that the woman of this house had gone mad(Dalmore,again)or deeply depressed,and that she was given to wander dangerously throughout the village,espcially near the sea.It is also said that her husband used to tie a rope round her waist attached to an iron stake driven far into the ground.This was to ensure his wife's safety,when his work took him any distance from home.People said she resembled a ram tethered to a stake,except that she didn't eat any grass.One summer's day,while tied to the rope,a massive cloud of midges descended on the poor woman,and attacked her mercilessly for some time.When her husband returned,he found his wife,her sanity restored.I wonder what she had to say to her husband about the rope around her waist?

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Dalmore.Bits of Crockery and Some Old Bones.

On my summer vacations in Dalmore(eight glorious weeks),it was one of my duties to take the cattle up over the hills to the village common grazings,most often to the Gearraidh,where the "grass was greener".Later on in the evenings I would fetch the cows for milking and shelter.The morning outing was a leisurely affair where the cattle were allowed to eat their first fresh grass of the day.Between Beinn Dhaile Mor and Beinn Bhrag ran a small stream called the Allt Garbh(rugged/harsh stream).I only know that name from an old map and it was anything but rugged in July or August.
The allt flows slowly until it reaches the brae overlooking Dalmore Beach,when it descends steeply to the golden sands.Heavy rains can swell this stream to a torrent,carving out large Disneyland sand structures on the beach.Often, when the cattle were drinking from the stream,my attention would be drawn to the iridescent film on the water's surface at the point before the stream plunges down to the sea.The oil here on the surface is caused by a blue clay found here and nowhere else along the river.It was easy to fashion into simple objects,and was similar to potter's clay.I was later to find that it was from here that my Auntie Dollag(Dolina)got the clay to line the fire and the "stacks" in our house.It traspires that others in the village knew of the blue clay at the Allt Garbh,but few could have guessed just how far back in time people were using this self same clay - but we were soon to find out.When I came down to where the allt reached the sand,there was a bank strewn with bits of bone,pieces of unglazed pottery and small pieces of quartz.To me,it was just a rubbish tip of stones,fine bones and "old crockery".In Renfrew I knew what a "midden" was,but what happened many years later here on Dalmore Beach would bring a whole new meaning to that word for me,and the wider world.
In 1978/79 there was a very bad storm, and fierce seas broke through woefully inadequate sea defences and threatened to wash away the southern part of the new cemetry,with all the goulish sights which that might entail.The Council moved fast to shore up the breach,bringing in diggers and other earth moving equipment.A little way into his job,a digger operator stopped suddenly,when he ex posed some readily identifiable ancient site,some meters down in the hard sand.Margaret Ponting(as she was then) and her husband,both respected amateur archaeologists and living at Callanish,were called to the site,and later university experts arrived.They were given six weeks to do some excavations before the shoring up work would resume.What they discovered was the remains of an oval building, hearth and yard,bone and antler tools,shards of pottery of the Beaker Period and earlier Neolithic fragments of around 2000 BC.They think that this was a site where the Callanish people(Megalithic) kept a workshop for making arrowheads from quartz pieces found on the shore.There was very little evidence of fish/animal bones or shells.They concluded that Dalmore was a specialised site,where groups came together in their activities.And they used the blue clay in their pottery !
The dig ended,the sea defences were repaired and strengthened and, should the sea break through again,further archaeology on this site will tell us more about the "Dalmore Workshop". Margaret Curtis(formerly Ponting) still has artefacts from the Dalmore dig of 1978/79 at her museum in Callanish.The major finds went to Edinburgh.The whole dig appeared in "Current Archaeology",Volume 8,No.91,pages 230-235.

Monday, 4 February 2008

The Dalbeg Land Raid of 1909.

From the time of the Napier Commission reporting in 1884 on Land Law Reform in the Highlands and Isles,crofters and smallholders in those parts were intent on bringing about reform as soon as possible,and not always in strictly legal ways.There had been land raids in different parts of Lewis in the past viz. Lochs and Bernera,but the Dalbeg land raid of 1908/1909 is of a later date,and possibly less well known.The Dalbeg Grazing Dispute of 1885 is fully described in an article of that name written by the late Dr.I.M.M.Macphail for the Stornoway Gazette in December,1978.Iain Macphail(Ph.D,Prague Uni.),Dumbarton, wrote an authoritative book on these matters,called the "Crofters'War".
The following account of the Dalbeg raid was given to me by my old friend Seoras Dhomhnull Chalum(George Macleod,8.Dalmore)whose own father,Domhnull Chalum was one the 6 raiders(and their families)from South Shawbost.This was not a dispute over grazing or cattle poinding;this was an attempt to take over the lands of the local tenant farmer,and to occupy them for a period of time.knowing that the law could not stand idly by,but conscious that the tide of opinion was beginning to turn in their favour.
In the spring of 1909, Peter Sinclair had more than sheep on his mind.He left the Dalbeg farm and its stock in the care of a herdsman as he had more weighty matters in hand.He was off to Stornoway to marry a rich widow who owned the "Square" farm in town.
The six South Shawbost men and their families occupied the Dalbeg Farm,but not the farmhouse.They built three different fires within the farmhouse building,and erected pieces of sailcloth to use as partitions.Where Peter Sinclair went to is anyone's guess(honeymoon cruise?),but he was not there to see the Shawbost people cultivate a piece of the machair,where they planted potatoes for them all.They were there long enough to plant in May and lift the potatoes in September.George's oldest sister,Annie was about 18 months old at this time,when a second sister,Ishbel was born there in Dalbeg,as verified in the register of births.Finally the law was brought to bear,and the raiders were arrested by police and sheriff officers and charged.Taken to Stornoway to attend court,they all decided that whatever the outcome,even a fine,they would go to prison,it being seen by them as a matter of principle.They were all convicted and fined 10 shillings.Four served one week in Inverness,while the other two,including Domhnull Chalum,served their seven days in Stornoway Police Station.They spent their time tidying the station's garden grounds.The police took a sympathetic attitude to their "prisoners" and made sure that they were looked after and well fed.They even allowed the men to go down town for their mid-day pint of beer.I think Donald and his pal could have stood another week of incarceration.During this period,they were all evicted from Dalbeg,and returned to Shawbost.
Some of the other raiders,according to Seoras,were(apologies for spelling) "Mahdi" Morrison,two men named Kenneth Macleod("Cruich" and "Gulidh") and Murdo Macleod (Murchadh Phadruig).

Friday, 1 February 2008

Sgorr Dhomhnull Duncan.

John Sinclair,the farmer of Dalbeg/Dalmore had two sons,Peter and Hector,and towards the end of the 19th century,it was Peter Sinclair who inherited the farm.The name "Padruig Sinclair" was,during my childhood,often mentioned in hushed tones as if his spectre was ever present.I should mention here that my paternal grandmother "Bean Shoudie" (1864-1945)worked for the Old Sinclair as a maid in the Dalbeg farmhouse around 1880.
In the hill above Tigh Glass(No.5 Dalmore) there is a large passage,caused by the rocks here having split an eternity ago.It was known as"Sgorr Dhomhnull Duncan"(Donald Duncan's Rock)and supposedly afforded one a shortcut to the top of Beinn Dhail Mor - it didn't.It was long and damp and the sides were covered in a cold green moss.Half way along the floor the level rose abruptly by about 2 feet,and then continued to the top.We were told that Domhnull Duncan was a shepherd for the Sinclairs, a godly man and possessing powers of the Second Sight.It was here within this large cleft in the rock that Donald went to pray.
One day,standing on top of the hill,he looked over the valley,and what he saw was field upon field of ripe corn and barley swaying in the breeze.Back at the farmhouse in Dalbeg,he told Mrs Sinclair what he had seen.It is said that she cried quietly,realising that their time here was coming to an end. Another example of Donald Duncan's power as a seer would at that time have been impossible to explain. He witnessed some people carrying the body of a drowned man from the beach at Dalmore out to a house in the village.As he watched those same people carried a large box back into the shore,where they left it.They then returned back to that same house in the village.Hard to fathom such strange behaviour unless we know what actually happened one beautiful day(around 1930?).Calum Dhomhnull Chalum(Calum Macleod No.8 Dalmore),a strong lad,and excellent swimmer was tragically drowned in Dalmore Bay.His body was taken out to his house in the village (not there in Donald Duncan's day).Later at his funeral,his coffin was carried into the trigh and left there.In 1912 a cemetery was inaugurated at Dalmore(not there in the seer's day) and it was there that Calum Macleod was laid to rest.

Dalmore. The Sound of Silence.

From 1852/1853 the people of Dalmore and Dalbeg had been "cleared" from the "dailean" to make way for the Big Sheep and a couple of shepherds.From 1853 until 1875,Donald Mackenzie and his son John Mackenzie had the rental of these lands,either singly,as in the case of Donald Mackenzie who rented Dalbeg(1849-1853)for £55.0.0 pa,or Donald and son,John renting both Dalmore and Dalbeg(1853-1860) for £100.0.0 pa.They were based in the farmhouse at Dalbeg(a great portion of Dalbeg had for some time operated as a farm),and they also ran the government licensed inn there at Dalbeg(I think the Mackenzie ladies were actually "mine hosts").Government inns had been set up in the "country" to cater for the moorland traveller.There were inns at Barvas and Garynahine(of which a tale of murder is still told).In the town of Stornoway at that time(1851)you could slake your thirst in any one of 11 taverns.
From the register of deaths for Dalbeg,we see that Donald Mackenzie's wife Margaret died in 1855 aged 61(born in Stornoway,daughter of Colin Mackenzie,shoemaker).Her husband,Donald died two years later in 1857,aged 66.He was the son of Roderick Mackenzie,seaman(revenue cutter)and Una Mackenzie from Sutherland.It seem that the last of the Mackenzies in Dalbeg,John had broken with tradition and had married one Isabella Campbell.His life and Mackenzie tenure in Dalbeg ended in 1875.He should have kept things within Clann Choinnich,like his predecessors - seems he spoiled a good thing !
The tack of Dalmore/Dalbeg in 1875 was now taken by a Mr.John Sinclair at an annual rental of £100.0.0(which was £25.o.o less than Mackenzie's last payment ?).In 1888 Sinclair's rental dropped to £90.0.0 but we know the reasons for this.About 30 years earlier,Dalbeg farm had "appropriated" the grazings to the west of Loch Roinavat,land traditionally used by South Shawbost.This was the time of the Napier Commission which was looking into land reform in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland,and which when it was published in 1884,came down heavily in favour of the crofters.The Dalbeg Grazing Dispute ended in the Stornoway Sheriff Court with the grazings returned to the people of South Shawbost,and £10.0.0 deducted from Sinclair's rent.Crofters were now emboldened to fight for their rights,and their actions in the different Lewis townships are well documented - except this one which happened as late as 1909.It's in the next letter.