2427: Steimreway, Lewis

Steimreway is a substantial village on Loch Shell, long deserted, on the east side of Tob Stiomrabhaigh. It benefits from a beautiful setting and good inshore fishing.

In 1807 Old Steimreway Tack was broken up and divided amongst four tenants: John Macinish, Alexander Macrae, Malcolm Macdonald, and Roderick Mackenzie’s widow.

By 1814 Old Steimreway village was once again part of a Tack, leased with Old Lemreway to Kenneth Macleod.

There is a list of kelp workers, dating from 1820, which also has four names: Kenneth Mackenzie, Rory Mackenzie, Donald Mccraw and Malcolm Macdonald.

By 1825 there were ten households in Old Steimreway: it is not clear how many were sub tenants and how many were cottars.

In 1834 Old Steimreway was cleared of its subtenants, under the dubious accusation of sheep stealing, and the township was let to new subtenants in 1835. A list of these new sub tenants is used in Croft History volume 14 for Old Steimreway.

By 1841 the tacksmen were Lewis Nicolson and Neil Nicolson, and Old Steimreway village had eleven households: seven sub-tenantsand two cottars. 

The nearby villages of Lemreway and Orinsay were cleared in 1843 to make room for “the tide of sheep” at Park Farm, under the tenancy of Walter Scott. Old Steimreway was not cleared at the time, but was an isolated village inside the boundaries of the farm.

In 1857 the farm changed hands as the crofters at Old Steimreway gave up their leases to settle at the deserted village of Lemreway. Some twenty families left Steimreway and took up seventeen crofts at Lemreway; the remaining fourteen were occupied by people from other parts of Pairc. The expansion of the farm to Steimreway was the last such wave of sheep. When the farm became a deer park in 1886, Steimreway and Orinsay were given to Roderick Martin, farmer at Crobeg, for grazing.

The village was, like Orinsay, schedule for resettlement under the Small Holders’ (Scotland) Act of 1911, but the First World War intervened. After the war, the new proprietor, Lord Leverhulme, resisted the relotting of Steimreway and other farms. Landless cottars, many returned from service overseas, prepared to raid the park. Leverhulme eventually withdrew his opposition and plans were made to resettle the village in 1922.

Five Calbost families were among those planning to move to Steimreway but an accident at sea, while building materials were transported to Loch Shell, resulted in the death of two young settlers and all but one of the five families withdrew; only Donald Morrison, 9 Calbost, persisted. Four families from Lemreway also settled. These settlers were consider raiders, never recognised as crofters, and not in receipt of the usual financial assistance. Neither was there a road or footpath built to the village, and the school was four miles away at Lemreway.

The settlement lasted barely twenty years. By 1939 only the Morrisons and Carmichaels were left in Steimreway; Donald Morrison, widowed during the war, was the last to leave.

Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc, the local historical society, offers a number of publications on this and other villages; see the society’s webpage for contact details.

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