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John (1848-1880), known as the Earshader Bard, was the son of Peter Smith who was Tacksman at Earshader, and Jessie Macdonald from Hacklete, Bernera. His parents were not married and John was raised in West Earshader with his father and looked after by Margaret Macleod (Mairead Iain Oig), a nurse-maid from Enaclete in Uig.
The following appears in the introduction to the John Smith Manuscript, held in Bernera Museum:
As a young boy at the local village school in Crulivig he showed exceptional academic qualities. Therefore his father sent him to Stornoway for further education.
These were the "Pre Nicolson Institute" days and classes were held in the building now known as the "Seminary" Keith Street. This school was run by a group of wealthy ladies in Scotland, hence the name "Sgoil nan ladies" by which the Seminary was known in those days. In this school John Smith's brilliance became still more apparent so he went to Edinburgh University where he became a medical student. There he was placed as the best Latin student of his year, but long studies as well as other hardships that the students of those days had to put up with took their toll of his health. At that time and for generations to come Tuberculosis of the lungs was the most dreaded disease of all and in his final year John Smith became victim of it. This illness terminated his studies at University but his mental capabilities seemed to shine even brighter. He came home where he spent the last three years of his life, an invalid physically but intellectually a giant. He believed in the equality of man irrespective of parentage, occupation, wealth or the lack of it.Knowing only too well that he would succumb to the disease from which he suffered, yet, he always appeared happy and was ever ready to listen to the ailments of his fellow men. When a younger man, some of his poetry was in lighter vein but towards the end of his life his works were profoundly deep in spheres where I am afraid the rising generation of today would be baffled. His unfaltering faith in the Most High is depicted in one of his last works:
Laoidh an Dòchais (last verse)
Ged a ghluaist an Cruinne-Ce
Tha dachaidh shuaimhnach againn fèin
Fada shuas os cionn na rèult
Seinnibh Laoidh an Dochais