51533: Lily Ferguson’s education

Lily Ferguson (Lily Mhorsgail ), now Mrs Macdonald, born 1918, lives at Kinlochroag in Uig. Lily was the daughter of Finlay Ferguson a gamekeeper who worked at Morsgail Estate for thirty years. She married Calum Macdonald (Calum an Dhol) and he also worked as gamekeeper for the Morsgail Estate for thirty years.

When I was born my father was underkeeper at Kinresort and by the time I went to school he had become gamekeeper at Morsgail. As there had to be three children to qualify for a side school and we were the only family there, there was no school at Morsgail. In 1923 I started school and went to live with my grandparents in Crulivig to go to school there. My grandparent’s house was just beside the school and our teacher there was Miss Macaskill from Stornoway. I have a school picture, a pupil in the front row is holding a slate on which is written 1923. There are twenty eight people in the school picture. Only Marion Smith (Mor Earshader) now Mrs Macleod living in Brue, Ishbel Macinnnes (Ishbal Blue) of Linshader now Mrs Smith Callanish, and I are living now in January 2006.

When my two sisters, Chrissie and Kenina were of school age, we got a side school at Morsgail. Our school, in a room in our home, was attached to Loch Croistean school and the headmaster Donald Macarthur (Domhnall Soup) originally from Carloway, came to set exams now and again.

Kirsty Mackay (Cairstiona a Rothaich) 21 Valtos was our first teacher. She was our teacher for 3 years before she went to the Bible Training Institute and became a lady missionary. She later married a minister she had met in our house. He was Donald Macdonald (Domhnall Uilleam Duin) from Harris. They spent seventeen years in Barvas then they went to Canada.

Our next teacher was Dolina Mackinnon (Doileag Ruairidh Hearaich) from Marvig, South Lochs. She later went and trained as a nurse.

I walked to Loch Croistean school to sit my qualifying and the bursary exam, when I was eleven. I passed the exams and gained entry to the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway. I left my two sisters behind and as only two pupils, did not qualify for a side school, my father asked the estate gardener, if he would be willing to allow one of his daughters to come and live with our family. Kenina Smith from Ungeshader was the third pupil for some time. Both my sisters Chrissie and Kenina went to the Nicolson Institute and went in for nursing.

Meanwhile in my Nicolson days I could only get home to Morsgail at the school holidays. I stayed in the ‘Uig Girls Room’ in the Louis Carnegie Hostel on South Beach Street. This was formerly the Imperial Hotel and seven Uig girls slept in what used to be the drawing room. I had the bed by the door and shared with Doileag ‘ic Creidheil, Murdag na Leididh, Babag, Peigi an Taillear, Kate Anna na Spaid and Shonag Ruadh. On our corridor there was the Ness girls room. I remember Peggy Gregor from Back who was Dux in the Nicolson that first year. Kate Ann Neil an t-Shailiairt from Carloway, now at Achmore, was in Class 5. I sat the Intermediate Exam in Class 3 and went to the Craibstone College of Agriculture in Aberdeen

After two years at Craibstone I went to Auchencrew in Edinburgh. When I was due to complete my course in Domestic Science, the supervisor said “I’m going to send you to Skelpick Lodge. You will be met at Kinbrace, a place near Bettyhill in the far north of Scotland, and you will cook for twelve cabinet ministers for a month”.

I was sitting on the floor of a drawing room in Skelpick Lodge on the 3rd September 1939 when war was declared. I returned to Skelpick Lodge in 2002 and sat in the same drawing room and thought about how life had changed.

But back in 1939 the lodge had been taken by Ardwell Sinclair to entertain the twelve cabinet ministers. My tasks in the kitchen ranged from taking delivery of not a haunch of venison, but a whole deer. Then an entire sheep carcass and plucking grouse for the table – quite an achievement for a 21-year-old girl from Morsgail.

When war broke out, I had completed my course, so I had to do war work. I had an aunt Christina Macleod, my mother’s sister from Keose, who lived in Cathcart, Glasgow, and I went to live with her. At the time they were looking for conductresses for the trams. I got the route No 1 Clarkstone as my duty. I was up at 4.15am every morning; fortunately I lived near the depot, as I had to report at 4.30am each morning. I finished at 11am and had the rest of the day to myself.

After six months I was promoted to a ticket inspector. Then I got a job in the head office in Bath Street engaging conductresses, supplying chits for uniforms, and organising medical examinations and I did that for three years. When the war ended the supervisor recommended I go to the Albion Motor Works.

I met my husband Calum at Dollag a Choisich’s wedding in 1947 in the Waverley Hotel and we got married in 1948. We lived and worked at Morsgail for thirty years and we moved here to our own house in Kinlochroag in 1978.

Interviewed by Maggie Smith

Hebridean Connections

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Related Media

Crulivig school pupils, 1923

Crulivig school pupils, 1923