According to D Maciver, Place-names of Lewis and Harris, the name is probably Norse for ‘sea-dale’.
The whole peninsula to the east of Keose, although now empty, seems to have been subject to human activity for many hundreds of years. Local tradition holds that the area was populated by many “cleits” of which one was called “Streangall”.
The ruins of buildings can still be seen, peppered at various points. It was once a farm in its own right, until the middle of the 18th Century when the land fell under the control of the minister in the neighbouring village. This seems to have been a concession from the Seaforths in order to placate the ministers who wanted a Glebe for themselves, something the landowners were reluctant to give. As soon as a new incumbent was settled in the Parish, he would often lose any of the gains of his predecessors. In this fashion, Swordale was lost to the ministers after the death of Rev Alexander Simpson in 1830 and was not regained until the efforts of Ewen Campbell in the Court of Session in Edinburgh in 1875.
During the 19th Century, this area seems to have been populated by shepherds and farmworkers, more often than not in the employment of the minister. Many were transitory, maybe arriving for a harvest, or people who were part of the minister’s entourage from a previous congregation.
Swordale should not be confused with the settlement of the same name in the Point district, Lewis.
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