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Kenneth and Donald Smith, Fishcurers

Kenneth and Donald Smith, Fishcurers

The family, life and works of Kenneth Smith JP and Provost Donald Smith, merchants and fishcurers of Stornoway

Kenneth was born at Carloway in 1823 to John Smith 1797-1878 (mac Mhurchaidh) originally of Garynahine Farm and Christina Maclean 1794-1887 (nighean Aonghais).

He was the eldest in the family of eight with the second son Murdo born in 1824 dying young. He had three sisters. Mary (1826) married Kenneth Maclean from Stornoway; Margaret (1827) married Murdo Mackenzie of 9 Grimshader and they settled at 23 Knock, Carloway; and Catherine (1833) married Murdo Maclean of 38 Callanish. His three brothers were Murdo (1830-97) who was unmarried; Donald (1835-1924) who married Ann E. Maclean of Tobermory Manse and lived in Stornoway; and John (1839-67) of whom little is known.

It was said that Kenneth moved at an early age with his parents to North America and there he was engaged in the lumber trade with one of the largest Liverpool firms, which had an agency there. Shortly afterwards, during the height of the gold fever in the 1849 gold rush he moved to San Francisco where he soon amassed a small fortune. He returned to his native isle, animated with a desire to do all that was possible to ameliorate poor conditions that islanders had to live with. With high aims he embarked extensively into fish curing and planted fishing stations all round the coast from Scarp in the west to Loch Shell on the east. In the early 'fifties a large amount of his capital was expended on boats and gear for the development of the fishing industry. In those days there were four premier fishcurers, James Methuen from Leith, David Davidson from Strath, James R. Maciver and Kenneth Smith who outlasted them with his brand stamp of "K.S.S."

The statement above that his parents moved to America may not be entirely correct but by 1853 they were certainly back in Lewis and moved from Garynahine Farm to take over Dun Carloway Farm. In 1873 they were ageing and moved to Stornoway to live and the farm was broken up into 23 crofts and a small farm was retained (No 24 Dun Carloway).

Donald Smith was seen throughout Lewis and the North of Scotland as having great business abilities, punctuality and an uprightness of character. He was a devoted Christian and was one of the moving spirits and last survivor at death of the formation of the United Free English Church in Stornoway. He was an Elder for 30 years from 1875 for what became Martin's Memorial Church of Scotland. At his death he was also the last survivor of the original Stornoway Burgh Commission, and had been Chairman of the Lewis District Committee in 1889 at the passing of the Local Government Act of 1889. He was for several years a member of the School Board in Stornoway and was heavily involved with the debate between the Mathesons and the Stornoway Pier & Harbour Commission with regard to the 'foreshore question.'

Kenneth was living at 12 Lewis Street when elected to the Burgh Commission in 1864 and was married twice, firstly to Eliza Jones and secondly to Mary Macaulay of Stornoway. He had three daughters and two sons. The elder son Dr James Smith won the DSO at the defence of Kimberley in the Boer War but did not live to receive it, predeceasing his father by three years. The younger son John Smith also fought in the Boer War and at the time of his father's death was in the Transvaal.

Kenneth's brother Donald, was definitely at the gold rush with Kenneth and was known as "Domhnuill California." He was also a fishcurer and built the house that still stands at the corner of Matheson Road and Springfield Road and was the first Provost of Stornoway in 1892.

Kenneth died in Stornoway on 30 March 1905 aged 82.

Stornoway Historical Society


Title: Kenneth and Donald Smith, Fishcurers
Record Type: Stories, Reports and Traditions
Gaelic Name: Balaich Chalifornia
Type: Personal History
Record Maintained By: CECL
Subject Id: 45988