1989: Reef, Lewis

The township of Reef, situated on machair and rocky headland on the Valtos penisula in West Uig, was cleared of its inhabitants to make way for a sheep farm, under the ownership of Sir James Matheson. Eviction notices were issued in 1848-9 by Factor John Scobie; the people resisted, but were finally cleared by the next factor, John Munro Mackenzie.

In 1841 the population was 186; by the time of the 1851 census, there were only the shepherd John Mackay, his wife Peggy and their five children; and a widow, Mary Mackenzie, and her visitor.

Reef was scheduled for resettlement from 1896, and an attempt made in 1908, but the plan abandoned for fear of erosion on the machair. Reef was also raided by would-be settlers in 1913. The raiders were imprisoned but released early after a public outcry and returned home as heroes. Finally in 1921 the farm at Reef, supporting at the time only 170 sheep, was relotted into 15 crofts and resettled largely by ex-servicemen from Valtos (including Reithmir) and Kneep.

Crofts 1, 2 and 3 are on the machair. Crofts 4 to 13 face the south and are irregular in size and shape (from 2.9 to 13.25 acres). Crofts 14 and 15 are small but on level ground on the machair, and shared the old farm house (at the east end of Traigh na Berie) as the dwelling. Until 1956 sheep and cattle from Reef were grazed on the Flannan Isles.

Of particular significance are the submerged broch by Traigh na Berie in the machair near 15 Reef; and Dun Barabhat and its associated mill system in the hills above the village. There is also a “tooth-ache well” nearby, on the shore near Linish.

The people listed below are mostly from the earlier settlement of the township, ie before it was cleared and before the current croft numbers came into effect. For the more recent inhabitation, see under the relevant croft number, also listed below.

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