Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A Scarp tragedy

The Stornoway Gazette writes on 27 December 1918:

A deep gloom was cast over the island of Scarp when the sad intelligence was received of the sudden death of Pte Donald Maclennan, Royal Engineers, on the 18th ult. Pte Maclennan had been ill for some time prior to enlistment and had only been five weeks in the Royal Engineers, stationed at Kingston-on-Thames. Great sympathy is extended throughout the whole township to his sisters in their sore bereavement. Deceased was of a very cheerful and obliging disposition, and was a great favourite among his wide circle of friends. He was the friend of everyone and everyone was his friend. Deceased was 43 years of age and was unmarried.

Pioneer D Maclennan
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Finlay Maclennan, of Scarp, Harris.
Regiment: Royal Engineers, Inland Waterways and Docks
Service number: WR/339099
Date of death: 15 November 1918 at the age of 44
Cemetery: Scarp Burial Ground
An image of his gravestone can be seen on this link, courtesy War Graves Photography Project.

Looking into Donald's family history, the 1901 Census sheds some light. The following individuals were found to reside at No 2 Scarp.

Finlay Maclennan, aged 56, crofter
Donald Maclennan, aged 25, fisherman
Euphennia Maclennan, aged 22, crofter's daur
Christina Maclennan, aged 19, crofter's daur
Mary Maclennan, aged 14, crofter's daur
George Maclennan, aged 12, scholar

The name Euphennia is probably mistranscribed from Euphemia; daur means daughter.

In the 1891 census, Finlay's wife, Catherine Maclennan, is mentioned with this family. There is also a son, Donald J Maclennan, two years younger than Donald, who is not present in 1901. The mother, Catherine, died in the early hours of the morning 14 November 1896, aged 51. She appears to have suffered a very serious accident; no doctor was present to certify her death which resulted from a fractured skull. The problems with access to Scarp led to the abandonment of the island by its last permanent inhabitants in 1971.

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