Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Monument to the Park Raiders of 1887

<![CDATA[ On my trip to Harris on Sunday, I passed the monument to the Park Raiders on the western end of Balallan. The text below is taken from the explanatory plaques in and below the monument.

This monument was erected in memory of the people of Lochs who challenged the authority of the state in order to focus public attention on the poverty and injustice they suffered under the oppression of heartless landlords who dispossessed their forebears from over thirty villages in Park.

Their inspiration was Donald MacRae, schoolmaster at Balallan, who committed his life to the Higland Land Law Reform movement and to the emancipation of the oppressed crofters and landless cottars.

Over a long period of time, Lady Matheson, the proprietrix of Lewis, ignored numerous pleas from landless families throughout Lochs for permission to return to some of the former villages in Park from which their forefathers had been evicted. Instead she converted the former 42,000 acre Park sheepfarm into a sporting deer forest in 1886.

On 22 November 1887, crofters and cottars from Lochs, having made their intentions public, marched into the Park deer forest, led by pipers and carrying flags. They confront Mrs Platt, the lessee, and her gamekeeper at Seaforth Head and continued past them into the deer forest.

The authorities reacted quickly, sending to Lewis a detachment of the Royal Scots and some Naval ships carrying marines. The raiders made their camp at Airidh Dhomhnaill Chaim by the shore of Loch Seaforth, where they assuaged their hunger on roasted and boiled venison.

Sheriff Fraser read the Riot Act at Ruadh Chleit, explaining its significance in Gaelic. By then the raiders felt that they had made their point and they began to disperse, having killed a large number of deer.

Six of the leaders of the raid were committed for trial at the High Court in Edinburgh. They were:

Donald MacRae, school master in Balallan
Roderick MacKenzie, 46 Balallan
Murdo MacDonald, 61 Balallan
John Matheson, 13 Gravir
Malcolm MacKenzie, 26 Crossbost
Donald MacMillan, 6 Crossbost

In January 1888, they were all acquitted of charges of mobbing, rioting and break the law of trespass.

The three entranes to this memorial Cairn symbolise the three communities that participated in the Deer Raid, Kinloch, North Lochs and Pairc.

The three projecting stones around the top of the memorial symbolise the three prominent events in the Pairc Deer Raid.

The eight points of the compass were taken from the homes of the six land raiders who were acquitted in the High Court in Edinburgh in 1888 as well as a stone from both the site of the reading of the Riot Act at RUADH CHLEIT and the raiders

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