Mac an t-Sronaich, the notorious and shadowy murderer and robber of Lewis legend, lived in the early part of the 18th century in a cave behind Keose that is still known as "Uamh Mac an t-Sronaich". He was reputedly the first cousin of Lilly Macaulay, the wife of Rev Robert Finlayson, Keose Manse. On many occasions it is believed, he found refuge at the manse at Keose and Lilly would leave food for him in one of the many outhouses. This must have caused some discomfort for this well-respected Minister of the cloth to be so closely related to a man of violence. Local tradition maintains that on occasion he slept in the manse, and the marks in the panelling above his bed show where he would stick his dagger overnight.
The only person reputed to have frightened Mac an t-Stronaich was Domhnall Ruadh Beag from Enaclete in Uig.
It would appear he only feared two things – dogs and ghosts – but his presence on Lewis spread throughout the community a very real and justifiable fear of him. The dates of his criminal activity fits in well with Mr Finlayson’s time at Lochs. The Procurator at Stornoway in 1834 wrote:
"There being a man lurking about the Island of Lewis who is suspected of having committed some serious crime but for the present has evaded being brought to justice and he puts the inhabitants of the Island in fear of their lives".
It is believed that he was eventually captured in 1836. It is said that when asked as he went to the gallows if he regretted anything in his life Mac an t-Stronaich answered "only two things – the first that I have murdered a child and the second, that I did not murder the Minister".
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