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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Shoudie. His Exceptional Strength.

My paternal grandfather, Alexander Maclennan came from Garenin,the son of Murdo Maclennan, from Bosta on the island of Bernera,and known as "Murchaidh Drobhair" (his people had been cattle drovers). He married a Garenin girl,Mary Maclennan(b,1826),known as "Mairi Alasdair",and Murdo came courting his true love by rowboat across the salty waters of Loch Roag(weather permitting). This is not the case of consanguinity it might seem. Although all these Maclennans came originally from Bernera(Bosta/Kirkibost),Mary's people came to Garenin by way of a couple of generations' stay in Tolsta a'Chaolais. So,we have a Maclennan married to a Maclennan,albeit involving a slight separation of a couple of generations. Mary had a younger sister,Catherine(b.1837),who for some years(c.1860)was maid in the manse on St.Kilda,the "island on the edge of the world". When she returned home to Garenin,she was known as "Mairi Hirta". Hirta is the Gaelic name for St.Kilda. Mairi Hirta was my grandfather Maclennan's aunt,and it is he,"Shoudie",that is the subject of this letter. I've no idea how he came to be called "Shoudie",but I do know of two other Maclennans, also known as Shoudie,one living in Shawbost,and another in Point. Strange,wouldn't you say?
My grandfather had worked in one of the Glasgow shipyards for a time,and while there,had sustained multiple fractures to one of his legs,when a heavy steel plate fell on him from a gantry above. The way his fractures were set left Shoudie unable to straighten that leg for the rest of his days. It seems that in his youth, Shoudie had a "set-to" with a very powerfully built tinker from Stornoway called Seamus Drummond. A great many years later Drummond called at Shoudie's house to repair or sell tin utensils,and was invited in,not knowing whose house it was. Drummond,peering through the smoke,saw a man wearing a bonnet, at the upper end of the "being"(bench)lying stretched out with one leg bent,touching the clay floor,the other stiff and straight, resting along the bench."Shoudie,is that you,man? Is this truly the man I tussled with all those years ago?" I'm sure that they had much to talk about.Shoudie was not "big-made" but he was known for the exceptional strength in his arms and wrists. One day in Garenin,a group of young men were involved in a "contest" of strength to see who could lift a cart's axle,with the two large wheels attached. They all had various attempts,but no one could raise the wheels above the grass. An older man who had witnessed this trial of strength saw Shoudie come "hirpling" in the road,and baiting the youths,said that the man approaching could do what none of them had managed. They laughed at this and accepted the man's wager of a pouch of tobacco(Shoudie smoked a pipe). The man pointed to the cartwheel and axle,and told Shoudie "there's a poke of tobacco in this if you can lift that lot off the ground". Shoudie took up position and,with one hand,raised the "competition piece" clean off the ground.

1.My stupid error. It was Mary Maclennan's sister Catherine(Catriona),who had been maid to the minister in St.Kilda(Hirta),and on her return to Garenin was thereafter known as "Catriona Hirt"
2.I recently bought Calum Ferguson's exceptional book,"St.Kildan Heritage" (Acair 2006),and it was there I learned some information that was important to me,but would be the cause of this second error.
In Calum Ferguson's book,amongst a great deal of factual information on St.Kilda,he includes the 1891 census,which is of course the official Government Census initiated in 1841 to cover every part of Britain.
In House No.1(ie.the Manse), we have

Assuming the accuracy of the census details,if Catherine MacLennan was aged 43 years in 1891,then she must have been born in 1848,and not 1837 as in my blog. Again,she could not have been a maid to the minister in c.1860,being then only 12 years old.

Although my dates were a bit awry,I did know that my ancestor,Catriona Hirta was in St.Kilda "away back then" as maid to the minister. But her name is absent from the 1901 Census! For me it places Catherine in a different era,and persuades me to find out a bit more about her time on Hirta.

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