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Tell a story about Bernera - part 2

Tell a story about Bernera - part 2

Translation of an article that appeared in Gairm magazine - written by Peggy Morrison

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On another day, during the sermon, an unusual noise was heard coming from the sea. Mr Hugh asked one of the men to go out and see what it was. Word came back that the porpoises were going past. Mr Hugh took one leap to the door shouting;

"Out with you, you can get a sermon any day but it is not everyday you can get porpoises"

Everything went topsy-turvy. The commotion that followed was worse than if forty Alsatian dogs were at each other's throats to see who would get the best bite of a two-year old wether.

Mr Hugh, like every other minister, held a baptismal service every now and again. One day he had eight children to baptize - seven boys and one girl. He baptized the boys first and then when he came to the girl he started; "I bapize you in the name of the father etc" but he finished "you were born never to be without a man"

After a while Mr Hugh and some of his congregation fell out. Mr Hugh didn't think he got the respect due to his profession - and maybe he didn't. He didn't ever keep communion from anybody, but it was only two people in the parish of Uig that the next minister saw fit to sit at the Lord's table. Let that be as it may, what I say is that many a hearty night went by in many houses listening to Tomod Dhaibhidh (deceased) telling stories about Mr Hugh.

I don't know where Mr Hugh went when he left Uig - but it was said that it was from the Isle of Skye he came. It was also said that he was closely related to Kenneth Stewart who had the tack of Hacklete. I know full well that Kenneth Stewart came from the Isle of Skye at the end of the 18th century. Certainly one of his relatives came with him and he was a minister - the Rev Hugh Macleod - is this Mr Hugh?

Kenneth Stewart's house in Hacklete was where Seoras Chaluim an Taillear's house is today. Kenneth was a good farmer and he married Mary Smith "Mairi nic a Ghobhainn" from Earshader. They had a big family but none of them stayed in Bernera but one daughter called Catriona. This was Catriona Stewart who married 'an Domhnallach (John Macdonald) a' Chaolais. This was around 1844. 'an Domhnallach built Tigh a Chaolais in Croir before he was married because he had Croir and Little Bernera. It was in Tigh a' Chaolais that his children were brought up and it was there he died in 1880. It was 'an Domhnallach that was King of Borva in the book A Princess of Thule and it was one of his daughters, although none of them were named Sheila, that was "Sheila" in the book.

William Black who wrote the book lived at one time in Tigh a Chaolais. It was around 1870 - three years before the book was published - that he made his last trip there. It was very difficult to get to the Caolas and William Black himself said it was easier for him to go to Iceland. It is because of Thule the old name for Iceland and the name of a town there even until today, that the book was named. It is Bosta that is Borvabost in the book. William Black was in Bosta many times. He would be going with 'an Domhnallach's daughters over to Bosta to visit Aonghas Mairi and Aonghas Buidhe.

Tigh a Chaolais still stands just like it was over 100 years ago. It stands at the mouth of Kyles of Little Bernera in Croir, and at the end of the house the road to Bosta goes to the left. It is Iain Maciver "Iain Thormoid Bhig" who has the house today.

There is nobody from the family of 'an Domhnallach and Cathriona Stewart in Lewis today apart from two families of great-grandchildren - a family in Kirkibost and a family in Carloway. 'an Domhnallach himself, his wife and four of his children are buried in a chapel in the graveyard on Little Bernera. This graveyard is on a little hill above the beach - Traigh an Teampull (Temple beach) where Gealchos many years ago was gathering shells. On their deathbeds all of 'an Domhnallach and Catriona Stewart's family was wanting back to Tigh a Chaolais where they were born and raised. Because of this, three years ago, there was a memorial of the ones not in the chapel put on the chapel wall. One of the sons wanted a hole left in the chapel wall so that he could watch the boats go by.

Although I'm not in Little Bernera
Don't believe it's not my wish
I'd rather be now facing
And watching the stones of the stack

There you have the end of the story!

Title: Tell a story about Bernera - part 2
Record Type: Stories, Reports and Traditions
Type: Magazine Article
Record Maintained By: CEBL
Subject Id: 41352