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John Macleod was a schoolteacher and preacher from Kilmaluag, Kilmuir, Isle of Skye. He was employed by the Gaelic Society and taught at Waternish before taking up a post in Lewis (variously reported as Galson and Uig, but perhaps both) in about 1820. He found the people poorly educated and with of a depressing spiritual condition, and was given to preaching to them. Preaching was expressly forbidden by the Gaelic Schools, whose main function was to teach the people to read the Bible in Gaelic, and John was at odds with both his employer and his minister.
The Gaelic Society dismissed John Macleod but a friend offered him the means to continue his missionary work amongst the people and built him a school at Galson. His message was clearly well received in the general spirit of revivalism of the time; 1822 became known as Bliadhna an Fhaomaidh, the year of the swoonings, from the reaction of the people to the ministry.