Wednesday, 20 October 2010

93 years ago

I've been scouring the Stornoway Gazette's archives for tributes to men from the island who had made the supreme sacrifice during the First World War. Apart from the sad litany of names, there are also unrelated articles about local news from the day.

From May 1917, I have a truncated article about a drowning at Lemreway. 9½ year old Norman Matheson had slipped in the waters of the harbour when he and some of his friends were playing with paper boats. It is thought he had climbed on an old hulk, and must have slipped. He was apparently not missed until nightfall - which is quite late in the evening in May. Bearing in mind the history of movement of people to and from that village, I wonder if the story of Norman's drowning is still around in Lemreway.

Messages in bottles have become somewhat rare, but in 1917 one washed up on the island of Coll, west of the isle of Mull. I copy the message: "Whoever the finder of this bottle may be, please notify Mrs Mackinnon, 42 Kenneth Street, Stornoway, that her nephew Alex. Mackinnon, with two shipmates, were wrecked on an island in one of the Canaries. He belonged to the four-masted sailing-ship 'Hague' from Rotterdam to Rio de Janeiro. He and his two shipmates are still on the island - 3rd Nov. 1916. May the blessing of the Lord be with us. A Mackinnon, D. Maclennan, E. Smith". The Gazette says: "The letter is somewhat perplexing as Mrs Mackinnon has no nephew residing away from Lewis, but has a brother, Alex, last heard of in Toronto. Inquiries are being made through the Custom Authorities".

I shall probably not come across the outcome of that tantalising tidbit from all those years ago. Fancy being stranded on Tenerife and only being able to communicate by message-in-a-bottle - just can't do it, can you?

Maritime safety

The Coastguard and Maritime Agency has announced that the tug Anglian Sovereign, which has been patrolling  the Minch in recent years, will be withdrawn from that duty next year. The tug was stationed in the waters between the Outer Hebrides and mainland Scotland for safety purposes. The Minch is often used as a passage by large vessels (e.g. oil tankers and bulk carriers) at times of adverse weather conditions, and the tug was posted in the Minch to be able to render immediate assistance if any of these ships got into difficulties. I recall at least one such vessel being kept off the rocks by the Coastguard tug in recent years, and I dread to think what might happen now.

This service cut is part of the Government spending review, announced today.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Anglian Sovereign leaving Stornoway on 4 June 2009"]Anglian Sovereign leaving Stornoway on 4 June 2009[/caption]

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


In the compilation of "Faces from the Lewis War Memorial" (which remembers the Fallen from the Isle of Lewis in World War I), there are quite a few names with very little information. It sometimes takes a little bit of effort to disentangle the web and let the light from the past shine more clearly. An example.

The Roll of Honour mentions an Iver Maciver from 9 North Shawbost, who, serving with the Canadians, died of wounds in 1916 at the age of 21. I just couldn't cross reference him - not with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, not with the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, and not with the CEF records on Libraries and Archives Canada either.

Until this evening. Looking at the page for North Shawbost again, it occurred to me that Kenneth Maciver, also quoted at 9 North Shawbost, might be the brother of "Iver". Kenneth Maciver is reported to have been born at Lochcarron, so I did a search on ScotlandsPeople for Macivers in Lochcarron around 1895 - and who came out but Evander Maciver. Born to the same parents as Kenneth.

Using the sources quoted above, I now search for Evander Maciver, dying in 1916 - and this was the result:

Last address in Lewis: 9 North Shawbost,
Son of John and Isabella Maciver, of Carnan House, Shawbost, Stornoway. Born at Lochcarron, Ross-shire.
Service unit: 52nd Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)
Service number: 440086
Date of death: 9 July 1916 at the age of 21
Died of wounds
Interred: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, grave VIII. C. 6
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Evander was born at Lochcarron, northeast of Kyle, on 9 August 1894
When he enlisted for service, in the Manitoba town of Sewell in Canada, he stood 5 ft 5 in tall.
He is described as of fair complexion and fair-haired with light blue eyes.
Evander was a Presbyterian, and a carpenter by trade.

Rest in peace.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Local loss

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Lewis resident Linda Norgrove, who was killed in Afghanistan today. Linda, aged 36, grew up in Mangersta, in the Uig district of Lewis. When I called into the shop at Timsgarry (Uig) this afternoon, I was told of the news, which had not reached me until then. The newsmedia were buzzing around the place, which must have made a painful loss that little bit more hard to come to terms with. The identity of the captive had not previously been released, although local news media in this island did intimate that she was from Lewis.