44869: Buth Thearlaich and Holy Alex

One hundred and forty years ago, Charles Morrison came from Dornoch to Stornoway as a young man and opened a ship’s chandler (Buth Thearlaich), which became a universally recognised institution, particularly among the fisher folk. When Charles Morrison came to Lewis, practically every house in Lewis was thatched and the thatch was held in place by sioman-fraoich, home-made heather rope. Charles Morrison introduced coir yarn which became known as sioman-thearlaich and it completely replaced sioman-fraoich in time.

The villages of Marvig and Crobeg in Pairc had a close association with Buth Thearlaich. About halfway through its life, Charles Morrison’s original shop fronting on to Bank Street amalgamated with the shop, Mackenzie & MacFarlane in the same building but fronting onto Point Street. An internal communicating door between the two shops was opened and from then on the two shops functioned as one retail shop.

MacKenzie & MacFarlane’s shop was originally set up by two men from Crobeg, Lochs. John Mackenzie (1836-1903) was the son of Coinneach Bad-a-Cro or Coinneach Crossbost, as he was the last Tacksman in Crossbost. John Mackenzie was brought up in Crobeg and mention is made of him in the Book ‘The Men of Lewis’ by Rev N A Macfarlane (who also resided at Crobeg for a while). He referred to him as being one of the saintliest men in Lewis at that time. His partner John Macfarlane was a cousin who resided in Crobeg as well, a brother of Rev N A Macfarlane.

A young man from Marvig became a shop assistant in MacKenzie & MacFarlane, Point Street, Alexander Maclennan, 6 Marvig, (MacAlastair Bhain). Alexander was popularly known as ‘Holy Alex’, probably because he was a pillar of the United Free Church congregation in Stornoway. Alex eventually became Proprietor of MacKenzie & MacFarlane and in due course Provost of Stornoway and County Councillor for Park, the district of his birth. After Alex Maclennan retired his shop was taken over by the Ship Chandler, Charles Morrison and continued in the same building fronting on to Point Street.

Sadly, the Stornoway Gazette issue dated 6 June 2002 reported the closure of Buth Thearlaich on Friday 31st May.

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