379: Garyvard, Lewis

“A small village of straw thatched huts, built partly of stone and in pretty good repair, to which there is attached a considerable portion of arable land, but the inhabitants derive their chief support from fishing, the herring fishing is their great harvest. That fish being found in great numbers at the mouth of Loch Erisort in the months of May, June and July.”

So Garyvard was described in the 1850s, at the time of the first Ordnance Survey.

Gearraidh a’ Bhàird – Bàrd in Gaelic means poet. Bàrd or Várd in old Norse means a watch or shepherd, sometimes a cairn. Local oral tradition maintains that Garyvard is an ancient settlement. There is a map of about 1740 with the village marked, “Gearslbaird” and it seems to include an area of about the present size of the village. It would therefore be a tack probably at that time.

In 1830 there was a population of 38 people at Garyvard rising to a peak of 117 in 1921. The adjoining village of Caversta which included Torostay peaked at 78 in 1881 despite only having 4 crofts and another 2 in Torostay.

Extract from Dr Caird’s Research in 1957:

The population of Garyvard is 78. There are 24 houses, seven of four rooms, 13 of three rooms and four of two rooms. There are 11 crofts, 33 cultivated areas, 44 acres of grass, 23 cattle and 400 sheep. There are four weavers but no other local industry.

The people of Garyvard had more contact with Keose than their neighbouring villages. There was a lot of going and coming across the loch and they even used to shout to each other over the water. The main boat crossing (aiseag) across to Keose was from Garyvard and was used by all those going to Stornoway or to the doctor or Registrar who in those days were both located in Keose.

Various parts of the village have names of their own:

Ceann a Muigh: Crofts 7, 8, 9, 10
Baile Staigh: Crofts 1, 2, 3
Buaile: Crofts 1, 2
Tom Fraoich: Croft 4 (now Druim Froaich)
Garradh: site of council houses today, used to be a fank
Cnoc Comuinn: Lakeside and Riverside
Rubha Bhair: the peninsula between the two bays

Garyvard families lived on the following crofts:

Macaulay – 9

Macdonald – 18, 3, 5, 7, Southend

Macinnes – 9

Mackinnon – 1, 2, 6, Southend

Macleod – 1, 1a, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, Southend

Macmillan – 5

Macritchie – 1a, 9

Montgomery – 2, 11, Gate House

Morrison – 8

Campbell – 5

Mackenzie – 4, 7

Smith – 10

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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