Your Lordship having remitted to us to prepare an exhaustive Report on the social condition of the people of Lewis at present as compared with about 20 years ago, and with authority to collect information from other public Departments, we at once took such steps as were necessary to carry out the remit. We communicated with the public Departments likely to possess such information as would aid us in our inquiry, and have to acknowledge the ready response made.
We have embodied the result of our inquiries in the following Report, and the appendices contain prints of most of the documents received from other Departments.
[Transcriber's note: Appendices have not been transcribed]
At the outset, it is proper to glance brieﬂy at the history of the island, as antecedent circumstances have had an important bearing on the conditions now prevailing.
In pre-Norse times the Island formed part of the territory of the northern Picts. The Dalriadic tribes from Ireland which swept over Argyll and the southern Isles do not appear to have ever obtained a footing in Lewis; and although various churches were dedicated to St. Columba there, its name does not appear in the pages of Adamnan. Indeed, the oldest Written reference to it we possess is in the Saga of Magnus Barefoot (1093-1103), where it is mentioned as Ljodhus. In a translation thereof we read :—
"Fire played ﬁercely to the heavens over Lewis. He (Magnus) went over Uist with ﬂame. He harried Skye and Tiree. The people of Mull ran for fear. There was smoke over Islay. Men in Cantyre bowed before the sword edge.”
Elsewhere in the Saga we are told that when he came to the Western Islands “he fell straightway to harry and to burn the builded country and to slay the men-folk.”
The practice of the Vikings appears to have been to slay the men and take the women captive.
The subjugation of Lewis by the Norsemen must have been complete, for in no other part of the Hebrides does the Norse element prevail to the same extent even at the present time. Of this element there are ample topographical, linguistic, and ethnological proofs. In the matter of topography the eidhs, laxays, bosts, dales, fjalls, kletts, sands, wicks, etc., all disclose their Norse origin.
The personal names are in many cases Norse, such for example as :—
Gaelic. = Norse.
Uisdean (Hugh). = Eistein.
Manus = Magnus.
Iver = Ivarr.
Leod (MacLeod). = Ljotr.
Ronald = Rognvaldr
Torquil = Thorkell.
Raonald or Raonaild (Rachel) = Ragnhildr.
The Lewis surname “ Macaulay "’ (son of Olaf) has its equivalent in the Shetland surname “ Ollason.”
The Norse domination of the Hebrides came to an end after the battle of Largs in 1263, and in 1264 the kingdom of Man and the Isles became a possession of the Scottish Crown. After that time the tongue (which probably had been the language spoken in Lewis for about four centuries) was superseded by Gaelic, but it has left enduring traces in the names of the hills and dales, the bays and headlands, the lochs and rivers, the townships and shielings of the island. It has also enriched the Gaelic vocabulary, particularly in terms relating to the sea and ships. Indeed we ﬁnd no reference anywhere to the ancient inhabitants of the Hebrides opposing the Norse invaders with their galleys, “ the fact being,” as Sir George Dasent points out in his edition of the Icelandic Sagas “ that the pure Celt has never taken to the sea, and “that the heraldic galley quartered in their arms ” by certain Highland clans “is a trace of their close connection with the Northmen.” A few specimens of Gaelic and Norse maritime terms may be given :—
Gaelic = Norse.
Birlinn (a galley) = Byrdingr.
Bata (a boat) = Batr.
Sgoth (a skiff) = Skuta.
Sgioba (a ship’s crew) = Skip (a ship).
Trosg (cod) = Thorskr.
Sgait (skate) = Skata.
Langa (ling) = Langa.
Lunn (launching roller) = Hlunnr.
Stiur (rudder) = Styra.
Ailm (tiller) = Hjalm.
Some Norse customs have also survived the decay of the Norse language, and to the present time several of the customs of Lewis are identical with those prevailing in Shetland.
As to the ethnology of the Lewisman, Dr. John Beddoes says:
“ The Outer Hebrides (the Long Island, as they are collectively called) have a population doubtless diﬁering much in its several divisions, which has been much studied by Captain Thomas and Dr. Mitchell. My personal knowledge of it is conﬁned to Stornoway and the immediate neighbourhood, and to a few photographs from other parts. Two or three strongly contrasted types are met with in the Lewis. There is the large, fair, comely Norse race, said to exist almost pure in the district of Ness, at the north end of the island; the short, thick—set, snub—nosed, dark-haired, often even dark-eyed race, probably aboriginal, and possibly Finnish, whose centre seems to be in Barvas; and the West Highland type, which has gradually ﬁltered in, and is usually characterised by an athletic ﬁgure, of medium size, a bony face, long sinuous pointed nose, grey eyes, and dark hair. On the whole, I think the Norse type still predominates at Stornoway, though its language was swamped by the Gaelic centuries ago. The incongruity of these types comes out in my Stornoway observations, the Ness type appearing in the abundance of fair hair, the Barvas in that of black, and perhaps also in that of red hair, the union of both in the great number with hazel or brown eyes and brown hair.” [The Races of Britain, p 240].
After the Norse occupation Lewis became part of the Earldom of Ross, but the principal possessors were Macleods. The internecine struggles of that period may be passed over, but the efforts made to colonise and civilise the island deserve
On 19th December 1597, the ﬁfteenth Parliament of James VI. passed an Act calling on the proprietors of the “ Hielandes and Iles ” to “ compeir before the Lordes of his Hienesse Checker at Edinburgh and to produce their infeftmentis, richts and titles” between the said date and 15th May 1598, and then to ﬁnd sufficient caution for “ yeirly and thankful payment to his Majestic of his yeirly rentes, dewties and service.”
Mr Donald Gregory considers that “ this Act was prepared with a view to place at the disposal of the Crown, in a summary manner, many large tracts of land ; affording thus an immediate opportunity to the King to commence his favourite plans for the improvement of the Highlands and Isles.” [Western Highlands and Islands, page 277].
How many of the proprietors “compeired” we do not know, but this much is certain, that many territories in the west were held to be at the King’s disposal, among these being the Island of Lewis and Rona—Lewis, and the district of Tronterness in Skye.
The lands named were in 1598 granted to a company of gentlemen known as the “Fife Adventurers,” and consisting of Patrick, Commendator of Lundoris, James Learmonth of Balcolmy, and nine others, for the purpose of improving and colonising the same, according to plans suggested by the King. In the Act granting the lands of “ Lewis, Ronalewis, and Tronterness,” it is set forth that “ his majestie considering and
perfytelie vnderstanding that the saidis landis and Iles ar be speciall providence and blissing of God Inrychit with ane incredibill fertilitie of co-rnis and store of ﬁscheingis and vtheris necessaris surpassing far the plentie of ony pairt of the Inland, And yit nottheles the same ar possest be inhabitantis quha ar voyd of ony knawledge of God or his Religioun and naturallie abhoiring all kynd of civilitie, quha hes gevin thame selﬁs ovir to all kynd of barbaritie and inhumanitie, quha vtteris daylie the effectis thairof not onlie be thair treasonable practizes and attemtis aganis his majestie, his estait and quyetnes of his Realme bot be maist odious abominable murthuris, fyres and depredatiounis maid amangis thame selﬁs extendit maist vnmercifullie to all aiges and sextis quhair thay can ﬁnd thame maisteris of their awin revenge, occupying in the meintyme nd violentlie possessing his hienes proper landis without payment of maill or gressum thair foir.”
The grantees, who are referred to in the Act as the “ Grentilmen Adventuraris ” were empowered to erect as many Burghs of Barony within the lands granted as they might consider expedient; to create Bailies and other ofﬁcers for ruling these Burghs and with power to admit all tradesmen or craftsmen to the liberty of a free Burgh of Barony. They were also to “big and hald within the samyn burrowis tolbuithis, mercat croces, and oulklie mercattis at their plesour with frie fairis and priviledge thairof, and to erect as many sea—ports or havens as they might think expedient. And forder his Maiestie being maist cairfull that the foirnamit gentilmen, thair airis maill and successouris and vtheris, the Inhabitantis of the foirsaidis landis and Iles for the tyme sall nawyis be destitute of the comforte of spirituall pastouris for preicheing to ythame of the word of God and administratioun of the Sacramentis in all tyme cuming. His hienes be the said infeftment sall speciallie erect four sindrie peroche kirkis within the foirsaidis landis and Iles of the Lewis and Ronalewis and tua sindrie perroche ﬁkirkis within the foirsaidis landis of Trouternesh with ane rectorie, personage and ivicarage at ilkane of the saidis kirkis.” For Lewis, Ronalewis, and Ilandschandf the “ adventuraris ” were to pay an annual rent of "seven scoir chalderis beir ” between the “ feistis of Yuill and Pasche”; and merks for Tronternesh, commencing with the year 1600.
In order to support them in their enterprise a Commission was granted to the Duke of Lennox and the Earl of Huntly who in 1599 proceeded to Lewis with a force of 500 or 600 hired soldiers, besides gentlemen volunteers, and artiﬁcers of all sorts. They met with much opposition, however, from the Macleods, who had the secret support of Mackenzie of Kintail. Mackenzie himself, it was believed, had been anxious to obtain possession of the island.
The Adventurers endured great hardships during the winter, and many of them died. Passing over the numerous minor incidents of the conﬂict, it may be stated that in 1601 the Macleods attacked the invaders, overpowered their camp, burned their fort, killed many of their men, and at length compelled the leaders to capitulate—one of the terms of surrender being that they would never return to the island, and that they would give up their title to Tormod, one of the Macleod chiefs. For the performance conditions several of the ‘Adventurers were detained as hostages. But in 1605, the Fife men, armed with “ a commission of ﬁre and sword,” and asssisted by some of his Majesty's ships, made another attempt to take possession of the island. They again met with much opposition and, beginning to weary of their undertaking, they, in 1607, returned to their homes for good. The island then came once more into the possession. of the King, and in 1608 His Majesty granted it to three others, namely Lord Balmerino, Sir George Hay, and Sir James Spens. In 1609 Lord Balmerino was convicted of high treason and was thus precluded from taking advantage of the grant. The other two grantees went to Lewis, not only to set up their colony, but also to apprehend Neill, one of the Macleod chiefs. The latter was secretly backed by Mackenzie of Kintail, who instigated him to seize a vessel conveying food to the Adventurers. Failing to apprehend Neill, and suffering from want of food, they were forced to quit the island, leaving, however, a small garrison at Stornoway. Soon after their departure Neill Macleod surprised and burned the fort and took the garrison prisoners. These, however, he sent safely home to Fife, and thus ended in 1610 (after twelve years’ strenuous efforts) the attempts of the Fife Adventurers to colonise the island, cultivate its “fertile” soil and develop its “ store of ﬁscheingis.” In the same year the Fife men disposed of their title to Lord Kintail, who with his own followers and friends took possession, and the island continued in the ownership of the Kintail family down to 1844.
The ownership of the island since the same was acquired by the Mackenzies stands thus:—The ﬁrst Mackenzie was Kenneth, created Lord Kintail in 1608, and who in 1610 received a Charter of Lewis under the Great Seal. He died in 1611, and was succeeded by his son Colin, commonly referred to in West Highland tradition as “Cailean Ruadh” (Red Colin). On 3rd December, 1623, James VI. created him “Earl of Seaforth ” in the peerage of Scotland, and he is subsequently mentioned as “The Red Earl.” He died in 1633 without male issue, and was succeeded by his brother George as second Earl of Seaforth. George died in 1651, and was succeeded by his son Kenneth Mor, the third Earl, who died in 1678. On his death his son Kenneth Og became the fourth Earl. He was married to Lady Frances Herbert, daughter of the Marquis of Powis. According to Major Mackenzie’s genealogical tables of the clan Mackenzie Earl Kenneth was created Marquis by James VII. Another writer says he followed King James to France and was there created Marquis. He was also a Knight of the Thistle, and we ﬁnd him referred to by the Lewis tenants in 1718 as Marquis, while his widow is mentioned as Marchioness [At a judicial inquiry at Stornoway in 1718, Kenneth Mackenzie, Dalmore, deponed that he had a. tack from the late of Earl of Seaforth, William, yrin designed Marquis, as having right from his mother, dated in June. 1709. which he presented]. He died in Paris in 1701. The ﬁfth Earl was his son William, referred to in Highland song and story as “Uilleam Dubh” (Black William). He was with the Earl of Mar at Sheriffmuir in 1715, and was wounded at the battle of Glenshiel in 1719. In consequence of the part he took in the “rising” under Mar he was attainted and his estates forfeited on 7th May, 1716. For a time he lived in exile, but during that period the mainland rents and a certain amount of the Lewis rents were regularly remitted to him, the Commissioners on the Forfeited Estates receiving but a small portion of the sums claimed by them. Acting on his advice, his tenants surrendered their arms in 1725. At the same time they agreed to pay their rents in future to the Government, but on condition that they were discharged of arrears which had arisen during the forfeiture. To this proposal General Wade consented, and also promised to use his inﬂuence to secure the Chiefs pardon.
Wade appears to have fulﬁlled his promise, for on 12th July, 1726, George I discharged the exiled Chief “ from imprisonment or the execution of his person on his attainder,” and George II. made him a grant of the arrears of feu—duties due to the Crown out of his forfeited estate.
On 31st July 1730 the Seaforth Estates, including the Island of Lewis, were sold by public auction to Mr. John Nairn, of Greenyards, for £16,909 8s. 3½d., under burden of an annuity of £1,000 per annum to Frances, Countess Dowager of Seaforth, above referred to. The latter was estimated to represent £9,000, and thus making a total purchase price of £25,909 8s. 3½d. This transaction was understood to be in the
interest of the Earl’s son, Kenneth, Lord Fortrose.
In 1733 an Act of Parliament was passed to enable “William Mackenzie, late Earl of Seaforth,” to sue or maintain any action, notwithstanding his attainder, and to remove any disability in respect thereof, to take or inherit any real or personal estate that might, or should, hereafter, descend to him. He died in Lewis in 1740, and was buried in the old Chapel at Eye.
He was succeeded chief by his son Kenneth, who bore the courtesy title of Lord Fortrose. During the ’45 he was a staunch supporter of the Government. He died in London in 1761, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
He was succeeded by his son Kenneth, who in 1763 received from the Crown a charter of tlie Seaforth Estates. In 1766 he was created Baron Ardelve, and in 1774 Earl Seaforth in the peerage of Ireland. In 1778 he raised the old 78th Regiment, afterwards the 72nd, and now the 1st Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. Finding himself in embarrassed circumstances he sold the estates in 1779 to a relative, Colonel Thomas Francis Frederick Mackenzie—great—grandson of Kenneth Mor, the 3rd Earl—for £100,000. Colonel Thomas, on succeeding to his mother’s estate in England, assumed the name of Humberston. Earl Kenneth died in 1781 without male issue, and with him the title became extinct. The new purchaser, Colonel Thomas Mackenzie Humberston, died in 1783, and was succeeded by his brother Colonel Francis Humberston Mackenzie. He raised two regiments, mainly on his estates in Ross—shire, and these are now represented by the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. In 1797 he was created a peer of the United Kingdom under the title of Lord Seaforth and Baron Mackenzie of Kintail. He had been for a time Governor of Barbadoes. His four sons predeceased him, and dying without male issue in 1815 the title of Earl of Seaforth became extinct; but his successors in the property have continued to use the designation of “ Seaforth.” Sir Walter Scott refers to the circumstances of his death in the verse:—
“Thy sons rose around thee, in light and in love,
All a. father could hope, all a friend could approve;
What ’vails it the tale of thy sorrows to tell ?
In the Spring time of youth and of promise they fell !
Of the line of MacKenneth remains not a male
To bear the proud name of the Chief of Kintail.”
He was succeeded in his estates by his daughter Mary Elizabeth Frederica, who had been married to Sir Samuel Hood, M.P. for Westminster. He died in 1814, and in 1817 Lady Hood married, secondly, James Alexander Stewart of Glasserton, who afterwards assumed the name of Mackenzie. He had been Governor of Ceylon, and Lord High Commissioner to the Ionian Islands. In 1825, the island, excepting the parish of Stornoway was exposed for sale judicially to pay the entailers debts, but was bought in by Mackenzie for £160,000. He died in 1843, and his widow in 1864.
In 1844, owing to the failing fortunes of the Seaforth family, Lewis was sold to Mr James Sutherland Matheson (afterwards Sir James Matheson) of the family of Achany and Shiness in Sutherlandshire, at the price of £190,000. He died in 1878, without issue, leaving the heritable estate in liferent to his widow, Dame Mary Jane Matheson, while the fee was settled on his nephew, Mr. Donald Matheson. Lady Matheson died on 19th March, 1896, and was succeeded by the said Mr. Donald Matheson. He died on 19th February, 1901, but sometime prior to that date the ownership of the island to his son Major Duncan Matheson, the present proprietor. [Transcriber's note: please note the date of the report, being 1902]
The Act granting the island to the Fife Adventurers referred specially to the condition of the inhabitants at that time and previously. We also obtain a vivid picture of the state of Lewis society at the beginning of the 17th century from another source. One of the ﬁrst acts of the new chief after obtaining possession in 1610 was to bring the Reverend Farquhar Macrae, minister of Gairloch, with him to the island to minister to the spiritual wants of the people. For 40 years prior to this visit no one in Lewis appears to have been baptised or married. The population, we are told, lapsed into heathenism, but Mr. Farquhar’s mission proved thoroughly successful. "Large numbers of the people were baptised, some of them being ﬁfty years of age and many men and women were married who had already lived together for years". Our author also says that the success of this mission went far to reconcile the inhabitants of Lewis to Lord Kintail’s rule. According to a Kintail tradition "the number of people that came to be baptised by Mr. Farquhar was so great that, being unable to take them individually, he was obliged to sprinkle the water at random on the crowd with a. heather besom.”
The Seaforth authority was absolute during the period of 234 years in which the island was in possession of the family, the chiefs word being law. An idea of that august influence of the family name in the minds of the peasantry may be formed from a remark made to one of our number by a primitive crofter in the Parish of Uig about ten years ago. Asked as to the ownership of the island before it was acquired its present possessors, he replied—“ We called the old proprietor ‘Seaforth,’ but I understand "the Prince of Welsh was his right name.”
Not only did the chief’s name inspire a sentiment of awe, but his subordinates appear to have exercised unrestricted powers. According to John Knox, who made a tour in the Highlands and Hebrides in 1786, Seaforth’s factor had a complete monopoly of the trade in cured ﬁsh and black cattle. In support of his statement as to the cattle trade, he quotes a document of which the following is a copy, addressed by the Factor of the time to a subordinate, presumably a ground officer :—
Copy warrant. Alex. ——, Factor to Seaforth.
Donald, You are to intimate to the whole tenants in your district, who pay rent to the factor, that they must sell no cattle this year, until the rents are paid, to any person who has not the Factor’s orders to buy; and if any one attempt to buy with ready money, you are to arrest these cattle, and not allow them to be carried out of the country until the whole rents are paid up. This, on your peril, I desire may be done immediately, and any person who dares to sell, after these orders are made public, you are to acquaint me thereof. Tell John Morison, in Nether Shathu [Shadder] that it is expected he will buy up a good many stots and droving cows this year for us. If he does, it will be obliging, and the service will not be forgot. Write to me when you have obeyed these orders. (Signed) Alexander —
Extracted by John Morison, late tacksman of Little Berneray.”
Morison, commenting on the foregoing, says:——“You’ll please observe, that there has been no arrears of rent in the island since the year 1752, so that there was no proper apology for granting such warrants, as it only meant to secure the cattle to themselves, having forbidden any other person to buy, even with ready money.”
It was probaby the same Factor at whom the tenants took umbrage some years before Knox’s visit. Thus we ﬁnd the following signiﬁcant passage in the Edinburgh Evening Courant of 29th September 1773 :—“ 840 people sailed from Lewis in July.
Alarmed with this, Lord Fortrose, their master, came down from London about ﬁve weeks ago to treat with the remainder of his tenants. What are the terms they asked of him, think you? ‘The land at the old rents, the augmentation paid for three years backward to be refunded, and his Factor to be immediately dismissed.’ ”
The Courant added that unless these terms were conceded the Island of Lewis would soon be an uninhabited waste! Notwithstanding the Seaforth inﬂuence large emigrations from the island took place at this period.
Another form in which the Seaforth family exercised their inﬂuence in Lewis was in recruiting. When raising their battalions in Ross-shire they found in Lewis a nursery of soldiers ; and beyond doubt the martial spirit is still a living force there. Such was the drain on the population by recruiting that the Rev. Colin Mackenzie, minister of Stornoway, writing on the question of wages in 1796, says :—
“By reason of the multitudes levied for the Army and Navy, the great number of sub—tenants, and the many hands wanted for the ﬁshing boats, labourers and farm servants are become very scarce and diﬂicult to be found.”
The Fife Adventurers, as we have seen, expected to ﬁnd great natural wealth: in Lewis, and the last Lord Seaforth, Francis Humberston Mackenzie, entertained similar expectations, for he caused the Reverend James Headrick, a Mineralogist, to write a report on the resources of the island. This was in 1800. Mr. Headrick describes the island mineralogically and geologically, and proceeds to make numerous recommendations, including the improvement of inuirs and mosses, the stopping of blowing sands, the making of roads, the abolition of run-rig, the smelting of iron by peat, the making of glass from the alkali extracted from burnt kelp, the promoting of ﬁsheries, and the establishing of salt works, tweed manufactories, etc. No large undertaking, however, followed on Mr. Headrick’s recommendations. Nevertheless, steady progress was made, and the Seaforth family by precept and example endeavoured to better the condition of their tenants. Road making was begun in 1791, but the advance in this direction was slow, for the total length of roads made in the course of ﬁfty years was only 45 miles, or less on an average than one mile per annum. Great advances, however, were made during this period in establishing schools in the island, and Lady Seaforth became a pioneer in the promotion of Home Industries, particularly spinning and sewing. Her Ladyship distributed premiums among teachers and pupils on a liberal scale, visited the schools personally, and took particular cognisance of their proﬁciency in spinning and knitting. The minister of Stornoway, previously quoted, thus states the result :—“ She has now the satisfaction to ﬁnd, that
by her kind interposition and benevolent exertions to introduce and promote spinning of yarn in this island, many poor girls have been rescued from habits of idleness and vice, and trained to industry and virtue.”
But the Seaforth training was not destined to continue, for under the circumstances already stated, the island had to be sold in 1844.
The new proprietor, Sir James Matheson, spent much of his great wealth on the island with a lavish hand. His advisers formed the idea that the Lewis bogs and peat hags could be cultivated to proﬁt, and with the view of realising this idea he began to reclaim stretches of waste land. He also established chemical works for the purpose of extracting paraffin oil from peat, built lodges, farmhouses, and schools, and partly opened up the country with roads. When he obtained possession there were only, as we have seen, 45 miles of roads; and these but imperfectly formed. When he died in 1878 there were over 200 miles on which, and on the necessary connecting bridges, he had spent £25,593.
During the years 1845 and 1846, when the Highlands were visited by famine, he imported meal and seed potatoes for the relief of his tenants, of the value of £33,000. About one half of this sum was afterwards refunded by them in labour on roads and other improvements, but the other half was gifted to them. He expended large sums in helping some of his crofter tenants to emigrate, and in the advancement of the condition of those who remained. Desirous of improving the postal facilities he acquired steamers, and for a number of years had the contract for carrying the mails from Ullapool to Stornoway.
The following ﬁgures illustrate the liberality with which Sir James spent his means on these and other objects:—
Castle buildings and oﬂices, including grounds and policies, £100,495
Buildings and land reclamation, — - — — — 99,720
Roads and bridges, — — - — - - - — 25,593
Brickworks, — - — — - — - — - 6,000
Patent slip, — — - — — — - — - 6,000
Bulls for improvement of crofters’ stock, — — — - 1,200
Fishcuring houses, - — — — — — — — 1,000
Quay for steamers at Stornoway, — — — - — 2,225
Chemical Works for. manufacturing paraffin oil from peat, — 33,000
Cost and outlay on shooting—lodges, - — - — — 19,289
Gas Company, - — - — - — — — — 350
Water Company, - - — — — — - - 1,150
Meal, seed potatoes, etc. (as above stated), - — — - 33,000
In addition to the foregoing, he laid out the following sums in connection with the island :—
Industrial and other schools, — - — — £11,681
Loss on steamers, - - - - — - - - 15,000
Loss on contract for carrying mails by steamer, - — — 16,805
Emigration of 2,231 persons in Lewis to Canada, - 11,855
Add. : original cost of the island, - — — 190,000
Total, - - - - - £574,363
We need not pause to discuss the wisdom of these vast outlays. Some of the intended improvements were of a permanent character and greatly beneﬁted the island others had a different result. Most of the experimental undertakings have long since been abandoned. But the expenditure was of the utmost importance to the population. No doubt large sums were paid to skilled tradesmen from other quarters,
and for materials imported, but a great part of the ﬁrst stated sum of £329,022 must have found its way into the pockets of the islanders.
With Sir James’s death the outlays indicated by the above ﬁgures came to an end. This was a serious calamity for Lewis. Years of adversity followed. The ﬁshing industry was prosecuted with indifferent success, the crops failed, and destitution became prevalent. Relief funds were raised to alleviate the distress. The winter of 1882-3 was, after 1846, perhaps the blackest in the modern history of Lewis. A gale on 1st October 1882 swept away the hay and corn crops, and the potato crap had been a complete failure. A public meeting to raise funds was held at Stornoway on 13th December following. Mr. William Mackay, the then Chamberlain of the estate, presided. Mr. Mackay, after describing the effects of the gale, went on to explain that many crofters had then barely suﬂicient potatoes for seed, and that some had used for food the little they had reserved for seed, while such as had not been eaten were diseased and unsuitable for planting. As regarded the grain crop, from one—half of the same in some districts, to three-fourths in others, had been lost by the gale, and not a few of the inhabitants were in absolute want. As to the ﬁshing, great numbers of the ﬁshermen had been unsuccessful at the East Coast, and returned home penniless; while the Lewis cod and ling ﬁshing had been largely a failure during the preceding two years. Accordingly, many were at that time destitute, “ particularly such as have no land and are wholly dependent on the ﬁshing.” An appeal for public help followed, and met with a ready response. The ﬁrst subscription list, published in March 1883, amounted to £3,858 13s. 3d., of which the Trustees of the late proprietor contributed £1,000, while Lady Matheson gave £500. The contributions of money came from many parts of the United Kingdom; and a Glasgow newspaper (The North British Daily Mail) also raised a special fund to purchase meal for distribution among the more necessitous of the people.
The land agitation, which began about this date, took a strong hold in Lewis. Lands were seized, and the authorities were obliged to call in the aid of the military to vindicate the law. So general was the poverty and destitution that from among 607 crofters for whom we ﬁxed fair rents during our ﬁrst visit to the island in 1888, there were scarcely a dozen who had not been recipients of destitution meal, or some other form of relief.
Such was the social and economic condition of the island at the date when our inquiry properly begins.