27900: The Postal Service in Bernera

We have become so accustomed to having our mail delivered daily and on time that if that “little red van” is as much as thirty minutes later than usual we grumble and moan. We should spare a thought for our grandparents and indeed “fear a phuist” who wouldn’t have made a fortune on his wages.

From 1855 there was a ‘messenger’ carrying mail between Uig and Stornoway once a week for a payment of 6/- weekly. It is believed that until 1874 he walked the route, and that after this date he was called a ‘carrier’ and used a horse and cart. He was paid an allowance of one shilling (5p!) per year to cover the cost of wicks and oil for the cart lamps. Between 1880 and 1891 the pay increased from 6 shillings to 7 shillings a week.

The first Post Office in the area was at Garynahine and operated there from 21 February 1873 until it was removed to Callanish in 1884. The main contractor carrying the mail from Garynahine and later from Callanish to Bernera between 1883 and 1905 was a Donald Macaulay.

The first Post Office in Bernera opened in June 1880. Before this any mail for Bernera was carried by the Uig messenger and left at the Keepers Cottage at Kinlochroag to await collection. One can only assume that the Bernera folk heard of a letter waiting for them by word of mouth – maybe someone looking for sheep on the Bernera moor or at a fank, who would call in at Kinlochroag on the off chance although in those days there would certainly not be many letters.

Deliveries within Bernera started in 1898. They were three times a week and the pay was 5/- a week. A once weekly delivery began in Earshader in 1898 at 1/-, and when Crulivig was included in 1899, this rose to 1/9. In 1905 the delivery in Bernera was divided into two posts known as Tobson and Hacklete. The Hacklete post included part of Breaclete, Kirkibost and Hacklete. Tobson included the rest of Breaclete, Croir, Tobson and Valasay

In 1901 the mail was brought by ferry from Callanish to Kirkibost and thence by foot to the Bernera Post Office. In 1905 the ferry came to Bernera Road End at 11.15/- a quarter. An allowance of 3/9 weekly was made for conveying the mail from Road End to the Post Office. The ferry run was extended to Miavaig when the payment was increased to 20 per quarter. The sea service ceased in 1926 when the mail van was introduced. The mails in Bernera were carried by various means: handcart, horse and cart, on foot and bicycle until all the mail between Garynahine and Bernera were delivered by the same postman by van.

Bernera Historical Society

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