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The Reef Incident

The Reef Incident

It was in 1893 that the islanders of Berneray, frustrated with the continuing existence of Borve Farm, decided to express their views forcibly, by waylaying tacksman Roderick Campbell's cattleboat. They stopped his boat, travelling from Harris to Berneray, at the Great Reef.

As Alick Morrison relates in the book An Ribheid Chiuil:

Malcolm Morrison, who had decided to participate in the affair, was anxious to learn the attitude of his cautious cousin Donald Shaw. With his coat under his arm, he passed close to the latter's house. The eagle-eyed Donald Shaw soon noticed him, and what was more, guessed what was the matter, "Càit a bheil thu dol mar so, a Chaluim?" he enquired most innocently.

"Tha, a bhalaich," replied the other, "far am bu chòir dhuitsa a bhith dol."

"Od, od a dhuine, od od, 'nann mar so a tha."

A vigorous argument ensued with the result that Malcolm Morrison was persuaded to return home. Before he retraced his steps, however, he flashed back " 'S e so a bhalaich, comhairle bu sgriosail a thug thu arm aiamh."

For cutting down the sail of Campbell's boat, four of the islanders - John MacLeod, Alexander MacDonald, Donald MacLeod and Alexander MacKillop - were imprisoned at Inverness. However, the incident did focus public opinion on the situation in Berneray. When Campbell's seven years' lease expired in 1900, the proprietor allowed the tack to be broken down into crofts for 23 tenants.



Title: The Reef Incident
Record Type: Historical Events
Type: Land Issues
Date: 1893
Record Maintained By: CEBH
Subject Id: 73820